The Tastes of the Valleys Festival will take place January 14-26 in the area from Yokne’am to the Gilboa. It is a culinary festival that starts with an opening event on January 13 and continues with featured meals, winery visits, culinary tours, cooking classes, children activities and more. The festival, celebrating its 15th year, is an opportunity to visit the blossoming green valleys, enjoy art exhibitions, buy fresh agricultural produce and take advantage of local restaurant meals for a particularly good price.
Bella restaurant at Beit She’arim
The opening event will be held at Valley Museum in Kibbutz Yifat on January 13, amongst the exhibits from the beginning of the settlement. The event will feature catering stands of the restaurants participating in the festival, alongside tastings of local wineries and musical ensembles. A ticket to the opening night includes 10 dishes and five wine tastings, suitable for two to share, and goes for NIS 250. Then, for two weeks, culinary and cultural events will be held throughout the valleys in restaurants, agricultural markets, malls, coffee shops and nature trails.
During the festival period, special meals are offered in participating restaurants. The meals include a starter, main course, and dessert or a glass of wine of a local winery for a price of NIS 79-119. The participating restaurants are: Octagon, Bella, Gustino, Grove Cafe, Gilboa Herb Farm, Tanduka (Kosher), Limousine, Lalla, Marindo, Chef Tomer Bar Meir, Tishreen. The special meals are available on Sunday-Thursday, Friday until 4 p.m., Saturday from 6 p.m., Bella (Sun-Thu), Gilboa Herb Farm (Monday-Thursday and Saturday night from 7), Limousine (Monday-Thursday), Marinando (Sun-Wed). The full festival information and program is available on the website: teamim-baamakim.hafaka-ivrit.co.il
All the restaurants participating in the festival are well-known leading Israeli restaurants. I can personally recommend some of them
Bella is an Italian-Mediterranean chef restaurant located at the entrance to the cooperative settlement of Beit She’arim. The restaurant is shaped like a half horseshoe with windows facing a groomed garden, where people also sit when the weather is nice.
Bella’s festival menu includes starters such as creamy pumpkin soup, calamari, and arayes, and main courses like hand-made Mediterranean spaghetti, salmon and chestnut and truffle gnocchi. We tasted the gnocchi that was served with ample chestnuts and Parmesan and was superb. We also had a few other dishes here, including Italian artichoke and a fish and loved every bite!
As part of the festival, Bella will be hosting a skewers event with music on Monday, January 21, starting at 6 p.m.
Bella Restaurant, Beit She’arim, http://bellabaemek.co.il/, +972-4-983-0730
Tishreen at Dodge Center, Nazareth
Tishreen at Dodge Center is an Arab fusion restaurant. The well-known Tishreen restaurant from old Nazareth has opened a new branch with a scenic view of the city. The menu is blending new tastes to the classical Arab cuisine; plates like freekeh salad and shrimp tagine are offered as part of the festival menu. We had a rich chocolate pie made of quality chocolate with tahini ice cream. It is pure pleasure to end a winter day with warm sahlab in front of a view of Nazareth on sunset!
The festival features wineries from the valley that hold many events during the festival. One of them is the Jezreel Valley Winery located in Kibbutz Hanaton. The winery specializes in the production of wines from the local grape varieties that reflect the world of Israeli wine such as Carignan, Syrah, and Argaman.
During every Friday of the festival from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., the winery will host a bottomless wines event, in which guests can taste all the wines and drink as much as they can. Alongside the wine, special dishes of goat cheeses, breads and other treats will be offered. Price: NIS 50 per person for the wine (food from NIS 15-25)
Jezreel Winery (Kosher), Kibbutz Hannaton, https://www.jezreelwinery.com Tel: +972-4-8708701
Nature, sightseeing and outdoor events
Each year, the festival exposes travelers to trails and springs that are less familiar to the general public. For example, the Kishon River Authority together with KKL-JNF are working on rehabilitating the Jezreel Valley springs and making them accessible both to the general public and to people with disabilities.
As part of the activities of the Tzipori Stream rehabilitation, the Monks Mill, located near Kibbutz Hasolelim, was restored last year. This year, Ein Yivka (known also as the “Spring of Horses”), the section near the Kaaba, was restored. The site has a pool that was built during the Roman period to raise the water level and run it to the mill.
A protecting fence was recently built on the remains of a pool. The spring is beautiful and is a chill-off corner during the hot summer.
In addition to the above, a new walking trail suitable for hikers and cyclers was set up at Nahal Beit Lehem, leading to the new train station at Kfar Yehoshua.
It will be formally announced in an event on Friday, January 18, between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. with a guided tour, children activities and a farmers market. On Saturday, January 19, an Arab-Jewish event will take place at Ein Yivka between 9 a.m.-3 p.m., including shows and children activities, and art food stands.
The Coffee Trail and Fresco Cafe
As part of the aforementioned trails, a new initiative called the Coffee Trail is being developed to expose the coffee shops alongside these trails and in the valleys for travelers, cyclers and hikers. The stations are located in the most beautiful places in the valley, in the heart of the fields, with good observation points. One of them is the Fresco Culture of Coffee. Fresco is a small but interesting coffee business that roasts coffee from all over the world and makes unique blends. Their shop and coffee point is located at Alon Hagalil. During the festival they offer a double espresso or espresso + biscuit plate for NIS 15.
Fresco (Kosher), Alon Hagalil, http://www.frescoffee.co.il, +972-4-986-0156
Hotel Olive Gilboa
Hotel Olive Gilboa is a small boutique hotel built on the abandoned buildings of the summer ski attraction. Situated on the edge of the Gilboa overlooking the three valleys: the Valley of Springs, Harod Valley and Jezreel Valley, it enjoys a stunning view. It is located near the Gilboa in short distance from Afula and Beit She’an and has easy access to the nearby attractions including the Springs Park (Park Hama’ayanot), Gan Guru Australian Park and Hashlosha (Sakhne).
The hotel has 42 rooms and an exclusive eight-room villa. The rooms are spacious – they are studios with a sitting area and a small kitchenette. The interior décor is contemporary and is based on the structure of the original ski shops building. For example, high ceiling with wooden beams. The rooms are comfortable and are well-equipped for couples and families.
The rooms are organized in a semi-oval building around the pool and have a large terrace above it. It is very pastoral and relaxing to sit there, and seems like much fun in summer evenings.
The Herb Farm restaurant
I know the Herb Farm restaurant well. It is country-style with wooden décor, and an open wood fireplace. The restaurant has a beautiful view of the valley and mountains and it serves delicious Israeli and Mediterranean food made with the herbs from the farm’s garden.
Herb Farm, Road 667, http://www.herb-farm.co.il, +972-4-653-1093.
The writer was guest of the places mentioned in the article.
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