Sometimes It’s the Small Pleasures


Many times it’s the small pleasures that really make a difference in life.  I find that same adage holds true when it comes to food.

When I reflect on our recent trip to Eilat, it seems that all of the destination meals were really mediocre in nature or marred by some happen stance that rendered them a bust – think really expensive meat over-cooked and the wait staff so inattentive that it was really too late to send it back because the kids were bouncing off the walls having finished their dinner ages ago (as was the case at The Ranch House housed in The Royal Garden, one of the many Isrotel hotels in Eilat).

What was memorable were three small distinctly pleasurable food moments that left me feeing satisfied and with happy memories.

Yotvata – Thirty minutes before you hit Eilat on Route 90 lies Yotvata.  Yotvata is a kibbutz that reportedly produces the majority of all dairy in Israel – including milk, Choco (chocolate milk), pudding, yogurt and many other products.  Yotvata’s roadside restaurant (or as we would know it in the states) “rest stop” is a huge tourist attraction.  We had hoped to get there in time for a tour of the Kibbutz but a late start got us there a little too late (promptly causing my six year-old to declare that it was the worst day of his life since he did not get to see how chocolate milk is made) but that was quickly made up for by a round of fresh ice cream for all.  Since the staff working the ice cream counter spoke great English, we were able to get a very thick  (and large) vanilla milkshake for Sammy reminiscent of milkshakes in the states.  I had a combination of pistachio ice cream and chocolate crumbles (somewhere in between cookies and cream and chocolate chips) and Jake had what I think turned out to be the best of the bunch – mango sorbet, which had an intense flavor that was creamy and tangy – truly delicious.  We ate these outside in beautiful sunshine”y” weather for mid-December, while the kids also climbed over the many black and white cow statues.  We left for Eilat sticky and happy.

The Camel Ranch – Who knew that I would have a great food experience at a Camel Ranch?  Jake, the eight year-old, constantly begged us throughout our stay to ride a camel.  We had gotten him one very short ride in a parking lot en route to Ein Gedi a few months ago, but this did not satisfy him completely.  So when we found that we could go on a camel caravan in Eilat, we signed right up.  The whole experience included the ride and hanging out on pillows in a Bedoin-like tent afterwards, where the proprietors served tea and bread that was cooked over an open fire.  As our guide, David, said as we dismounted from our camels “Now we will eat which is how all activities in Israel end.”

So, first we watched David chop wood, make a fire, brew tea, and prepare a basic bread dough from flour, water and salt.  And just as David was about to put the bread on the fire (flattened disks cooked over an overturned round pan sort of like a large wok), David brought out beautiful cheese platters – a triple crème or brie-like cheese, gvinah lavan (a basic soft white cheese that is served all over Israel) and labneh topped with olive oil and za’atar, as well as one or two others for good measure, along with an abundance of fresh vegetables.  Maybe we were hungry since we hadn’t really had a proper lunch or maybe it was just being outside with the cool air and the fire, but even the kids gorged on the fresh cheese and vegetables and we were all using the hot bread that came off the fire to lap up the labneh and gvinah.  The tea was also big hit too with all adults and kids – the Camel Ranch’s own special blend of herbs and spices that is sold on-site at their kiosk.  We left tired, full and happy.

Coffee & Chocolate Spa Treatment – We had planned on just hanging out by the pool on Shabbat, but when the weather threatened my tanning abilities, I went to check out the spa and see what else might be available to pass the day (at least for me).  And there it was – the special Coffee & Chocolate Spa Treatment.   Sorry folks, no pictures to go with this one but let’s just say that it included an exfoliating rub which included a totally invigorating and aromatic blend of coffee, sea salts, and mineral oil.  After the exfoliation and a quick shower, the aesthetician slathered a chocolate spread all over to moisturize (and yes, the chocolate was edible).  An hour later I left feeling relaxed, pampered and yes, craving a café mocha.

So, you see, it doesn’t have to be all about the famous restaurant or the big meal.  Sometimes, it’s all about those small pleasures.

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