My trip with the Jewish Women's Renaissance Program has ended, and I reunited with my Patrick last night, spending the night with Uncle Ilan in Petah Tikva. Aviyam came over at about 11 pm, and we sat around talking until after midnight. I couldn't keep my eyes open. He pulled out an old family photo album and we screamed with laughter over how dorky we all looked.
Up at 8 am and off to Nazareth by 9:30. We arrived ahead of schedule, and after some fits and starts, parked the car and walked up the Old City to our hotel, the Fauzi Azar Inn. It's a hostel here in town, with some nice amenities. It would be great in the winter. In the summer, I think most people like us would prefer a place with A/ C. At least the towels and the TP are soft.
Abbie Rosner, our culinary tour guide met us at noon. We took a short walk through the souk, looking at all the wonderful local veg- grape leaves are in season, as are baby okra. We moved on to a bakery named Al Mukhtar for the local specialty for which they are best known- Knaffe. It's a fresh pressed cheese topped with a shredded phyllo-type pastry and simple syrup, sprinkled with pistachios. I really enjoyed it because it wasn't as sweet as baklava, which uses honey.
Our next stop was Al Babour, which translates to the bubbling sound made by the steam vapor machine that used to power the Nazareth Mill. Wheat used to be a huge commodity around these parts. Al Babour is now an amazing spice shop. Spices and delicacies I've never had before- we bought some sumac (I love to add it into zahtar), some shredded halvah, some black cumin, some freeke (it's this toasted wheat similar to but not the same as bulghur) and the spice mix that goes along with the freeke. The smell of the shop was out of this world. It brought me right back to Nayphe's, this middle eastern food store that used to be in OKC. We would go there all the time when I was growing up, and Violet Nayphe would give me little tastes of halvah and olives. I loved her because she was only about 4 feet tall. Seriously.
From Al Babour we drove to Yodfat, to a completely-off-the-grid goat farm called Halav Im Haruach. I cannot begin to describe this place. In the middle of nowhere, they have goats, sheep, and cows, and they make goat cheese. I thought we were going to have a late lunch and maybe sample some fresh goat cheese. Shows what I know.
We started with fresh labneh, a very thick and tangy yogurt cheese with olive oil drizzled over it. It was so creamy. Then they gave us some ricotta. It had an awesome nutty taste, which was explained when they told us it was goat's milk- I've never had goat's milk ricotta before. Then they started bringing out salads- cabbage and veg salad with sesame oil, roasted eggplant with mint, warmed cherry tomatoes marinated in garlic and oil. I thought it was all incredible. Then he brought out another cheese called Isabella, and he explained it had been made only last night. It tasted a lot like Halloumi. I thought that was all the cheese, but then he brought out a plate with 6 cheeses on it (of various ages, flavorings, and styles), and yet another plate with two cheeses called Sfat cheese, one plain and one with black cumin (that was my favorite). So now we're up to 11 cheeses. It was so much more than I expected. The setting was beautiful, the food was simple and delicious. I wished I could have sat there all day.
We did end up sitting there for most of the afternoon, but it was still very hot when we left... about 37 degrees C. Supposedly tomorrow will be cooler... but I have learned their idea of cooler and mine are two VERY different things.
We'll meet up again with Abbie tomorrow morning at 9 am. I am sure she has even more wonderful things in store.
I hope all my friends from Minneapolis (and Cleveland, Atlanta, and Ottowa) who traveled back today are home safe and sound, reunited with their families. I cannot wait to come home and begin our work together. We really can change ourselves and, I truly believe in doing so, change the world.
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