(photo credit: Courtesy)
About half a year ago I visited the restaurant el Babor and fell in love. Chef Hussam Abbas succeeded in creating an experience on par with some of the best family-style Italian restaurants that I so fondly recall - only with a different cuisine. The array of meze salads tastier, fresher and more varied than anywhere else I've been. The meats were so flavorful that I shared them around the table with as much jealousy as pleasure.
But it was the lollipop lamb chops that truly captured my heart. They were handed to each diner individually, the bone wrapped in a napkin; there was no need for cutlery. My teeth sank into the tender, juicy flesh, so deliciously incapacitating.
Leaving the establishment in a self-induced food coma, I began counting the moments until when I would return.
That moment, I declare, has arrived.
This Tuesday, Abbas teams up with fellow chefs Meir Adoni of Catit, Daniel Zach of Carmela Bistro, Eyal Lavi of Rokah 73 and Elran Shrapler of Azura for a festive meal to raise funds for The Abraham Fund Initiatives' School-Pairs project, which brings together Arab and Jewish elementary school children within a framework of musical and environmental activities, sports and art. So, it's rather fitting that this stellar group of chefs should all head into the kitchen together to produce a hafla (a festive meal) using ingredients familiar to the Arab kitchen.
According to Abbas, The Abraham Fund came to him, asking for his help. He, in turn, turned to his friends. "I can't do this alone," he offered in a recent phone conversation.
This type of gathering is not a one-time occurrence. Top chefs in Israel frequently visit each other's kitchens, though this collection of culinary minds is particularly impressive, representing some of the country's best eateries.
Expected dishes include fish ceviche, calamari with lemon, stuffed vine leaves, grilled shrimp with rosemary sprigs and neck of lamb stuffed with almond bits and will conclude with delicacies such as knafeh, pistachio brulee, cakes, fruit salads and of course, Arabic style coffee and tea.
The hafla takes place on March 17 with a first seating at 7 p.m. and a second at 9 p.m. Cost is a donation of NIS 220. For reservations call (04) 611-0691. El Babor is located on Wadi Ara Rd. at the Ein Ibrahim Junction, Umm el-Fahm.