(photo credit: Courtesy)
If you want to enjoy the beauty and warmth of Galilee, and are in the mood for trying out a range of delightful delicacies, you might want to consider attending the third Kinneret Flavor Festival.
Organizers of the festival, which takes place during the next three weekends (from November 30 to December 15), say this is the best time of the year to visit the kibbutzim and communities around Lake Kinneret.
Journalists were recently taken on a preparatory tour and given a taste of the host of culinary and recreational activities on offer to families, couples and groups of friends.
Before you hit the road, take the time to choose from the festival's many options, make reservations if required, and remember that the area generally feels like spring rather than autumn at this time of year.
Israel's first kibbutz, Degania Aleph (which will celebrate its century in 2010) invites visitors to learn more about the history of the dozen pioneers who established the unique communal lifestyle.
The tour starts at Founders' Yard, which was built in 1912, and ends at what was once an Arab village called Um Juni on the Jordan River, where Degania began.
The tours are free of charge on Fridays at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., and on Saturdays every hour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m..
CafÃ© Rishonim, which is located inside Founders' Yard, offers a healthy, buffet brunch or just a snack and coffee in a pastoral atmosphere.
Still in Degania, you may be tempted by the chocolate workshop and sweet menu offered at Galita, a unique chocolate restaurant.
Dudi Bazliay, a young and talented baker from Ugata Bakery on Kibbutz Kinneret, will teach festival visitors how to make delicious quiches, breads and soups as well as a marvelous array of pastries and hot drinks.
If you appreciate a good brunch, you might want to try the deal offered by the Scots Hotel in Tiberias.
Located right above Lake Kinneret, the modern hotel is a newly restored, 19th-century basalt building which once served as the first hospital in the region, and boasts a panoramic view that extends up to the Golan Heights.
It now houses a well-known restaurant, a Scottish pub with music shows during the weekends, a wine cellar, a swimming pool, and a visitors' center.
The restaurant offers festival guests an-all-you-can-eat buffet brunch and a concert at the Scottish Church for NIS 125.
Besides the usual fare, the brunch includes a lamb pastry with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes, and the restaurant's now-famous Kadaif (a sweet Turkish dish) filled with goat cheese.
The brunch, which is not kosher, is served during the festival's three weekends on Fridays and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The musical program is performed by the Israel Kibbutz Orchestra-The Kibbutz Ensemble at 12:30 on November 30 and December 14.
If you want to learn an alternative way of cooking, you might make reservations at Tamar Ba'Kfar at Kinneret Ha'Moshava for "Matpune" lessons.
Matpune is a Samaritan and Nablus method of "underground" cooking.
The Goldstein and Schnaidman families will show you how to cook meat or chicken in a 200-liter barrel buried in the ground.
The meal will then be served outside on wooden tables, among the palm trees. The Matpune workshops take place on Fridays.
Eitan, the "sharing chef," promises to teach visitors cooking techniques to maximize the benefits of spices, vegetables and legumes. (Saturdays at noon and 2 p.m.)
If your children want to know more about fishing, the festival is a wonderful opportunity to take the younger members of the family to watch a fishing display from the deck of Kibbutz Ein Gev. There they can also hear local fishermen's tales and explanations, while sampling freshly fried sardines.
Visitors may sample the fishermen's latest catch at Ein Gev's Fish Restaurant. The menu also features home-made felafel and green tehina.
If you arrive at Ein Gev closer to sunset or later into the night, you might prefer the porch of the Argentinean cafÃ©-bistro-bar, Minus 200, or the adjacent ice-cream parlor.
Minus 200 offers a Tapas menu with special Argentinean dishes during the festival. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 5 p.m. to midnight.
The ice-cream parlor serves delicious shakes, drinks and splendid South American deserts. You might want to try the chocolate fondue or choros, an Argentinean donut.
Also in Ein Gev is Marinado, an Argentinean restaurant and meat shop where you can enjoy chorisos and empanadas, juicy asado, ribs, and entrecote, or any other chunk of well-marinated meat.
On the first Friday of the festival, visitors are invited to participate in a three-hour workshop on ways to prepare winter stews and casseroles, accompanied by a sampling of Golan wines.
If you want to cook your own meat, you can find all you need for an outdoor barbecue at the Marinado shop: a portable grill, good meat, spices, wines, disposable dishes and more. The restaurant is not kosher.
Visitors who would like to end an intensive day at a great restaurant that can serve as the setting for a romantic meeting or for a gathering of friends might want to try Tzel Tamar in Kibbutz Ashdot Ya'akov.
It has a refreshing selection of first courses, a large variety of main dishes, deserts and snacks, all at reasonable prices.
For the festival's full schedule of events, go to www.ekinneret.co.il (There are Hebrew and English sites.)
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