Grapevine- Food for thought

The French Embassy along with the French Embassy’s chef, is promoting a French culinary festival under the heading of “So French, So Good.”

chefs370 (photo credit: courtesy)
(photo credit: courtesy)
French cuisine is supposedly the best in the world. The French have done a remarkable marketing job on their cuisine, to the extent that anyone to whom it doesn’t appeal is reluctant to say so for fear of being classed as a culinary ignoramus.
The French Embassy, in collaboration with the French Institute, UBIFRANCE – which supplies the French Embassy – along with the French Embassy’s chef Thibault Bera, is promoting a French culinary festival under the heading of “So French, So Good.” Twelve celebrated French chefs arrived in Israel this week to work with Israeli chefs in preparing gastronomic delights and presenting master classes.
French Ambassador Christophe Bigot thinks that Bera is the greatest thing since sliced bread – or, in his case, a fresh baguette. He is going to have a chance to sample not only Bera’s culinary creativity but also the cuisine of some of France’s best and brightest chefs, who will cook with local chefs in hotels and restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and will also give master classes to professional Israeli chefs. In addition, they will participate in a culinary forum in which they will discuss their favorite topic – food.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem this week, Elysee Palace executive chef Guillaume Gomez joined Leonardo Jerusalem Plaza executive chef Shalom Kadosh in preparing a pre-festival VIP luncheon at which Bigot was one of the guests. Hotels go through changes of ownership, changes of management, changes of staff and even changes of name, but one thing that remains constant at the Plaza is the presence of Shalom Kadosh, who has weathered every change and remains the No. 1 chef. In fact, he oversees the cuisine of the whole Leonardo chain.
At the end of the year, the hotel is set to be renamed Herod’s. A second Herod’s hotel will be built on an adjacent site, said Jacob Sudri, business development and Jerusalem regional director for Fattal International Hotels and Resorts, which is the Leonardo and Herod’s umbrella organization.
The ever genial David Fattal, who heads Fattal Hotels, was also at the luncheon, as were visiting chefs and journalists specializing in food and diplomacy. En route to the hotel, the French chefs stopped in Sataf to visit the goat farm and taste the cheese produced by Shai Seltzer and his family and also visited the Castel Winery.
The French culinary festival is an outcome of an agreement between the Tourism Ministries of France and Israel as well as the Ministries for Trade and Commerce, said Lionel Corre, an economic counselor at the French Embassy who credited his colleague, economic attache Yoan Smadja, with having done most of the arranging. Smadja said that it was hoped that the festival would become an annual event. His next challenge, he said, was to persuade Yossi Gal, Israel’s ambassador to France, to organize for a reciprocal group of Israeli chefs to travel to France to share their culinary knowledge and creativity with French colleagues.
Since becoming part of the Fattal chain, the Plaza has undergone extensive renovations which are continuing. Before the luncheon, many of the guests were taken upstairs to the 19th floor for a small cocktail reception in a renovated luxury suite where the balcony looks out over the magnificent panorama of Jerusalem. Itamar Eichner, diplomatic correspondent for Yediot Aharonot, said that it was worth coming to Jerusalem just to see the view, which no one sees from the ground.
Gomez, 34, prepares traditional French delicacies not only for the president of France but also for all the VIPs hosted by the president, and is thus responsible for maintaining the reputation of French cuisine.
He certainly outdid himself with the delicious grouper filet that he prepared for the third course. He was working not only with Kadosh, who prepared the second course – a superb fusion of ravioli filled with Jerusalem artichoke, topped with a cream of soy beans and green peas – but also with other Israeli celebrity chefs Ezra Kedem, who wore his Cooking for Peace jacket, Moshe Segev, who prepared the main course of breast of duck in a palate-tingling wine and citrus sauce and Golan Israeli.
The occasion also marked the reopening of the hotel’s legendary Cow on the Roof restaurant, which was Kadosh’s brainchild and first opened in 1979, raising standards of kosher cuisine – and the service – to a new level. Haim Avisror, who was a waiter when the Cow on the Roof first opened and who is now semi-retired, though well past retirement age, was back in harness at the reopening with the same polite efficiency.
He now works two days a week.
The restaurant continued to operate until around 1993, after which it was closed but its facilities remained available for special private events. The restaurant has two dining rooms, one of which is totally private and which contains photographs of some of the dignitaries who have dined there.
Kadosh appears in most of the photographs with leading personalities such as King Hussein of Jordan, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Francois Mitterand, Ezer Weizman, Jacques Chirac, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Helmut Kohl, Shimon Peres, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Binyamin Netanyahu, Al Gore, Warren Christopher and Condeleeza Rice.
Sudri noted that Kadosh has so many close connections in the culinary world that he can invite any top-ranking chef from Europe, the United States or Israel to come cook with him and no one will refuse. When the chefs emerged from the kitchen to take a bow just before dessert was served, they were greeted with applause and a rousing cheer. Next time, said Kadosh to Bigot, “Don’t call it ‘So French, So Good.’ Call it ‘So French, So Very Good!’" ■ WHETHER IT was intentional or otherwise, Yair Lapid managed to steal some of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s media limelight on Saturday night by demonstrating yet another of his talents.
Not only is he a journalist, script writer, author, actor, athlete and television host – he also sings and plays the guitar. He performed a duet with his good friend, Rami Kleinstein, in the banquet hall of Kibbutz Netzer Sereni, singing the Beatles hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
The occasion was the celebration of his Yesh Atid Party’s triumphant results in the Knesset elections, scoring only one seat less than Likud. Lapid is not the only musician in his party. Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) Yaakov Peri head plays the saxophone and Shai Moshe Piron sings liturgical songs. Both were among the performers, along with professionals such as Einat Sarrouf, Zeev Nehama and Ethnix and comedienne Adi Ashkenazi, whom Lapid hosted on his television talk show early in her career. Also singing on the podium was Lapid’s son, Lior. Presumably, if Lapid joins the coalition government, he will be invited to the wedding of Tzipi Hotovely, who had her own celebration that night with the announcement of her engagement. Hotovely will not have to engage a band to play at her wedding; There’s enough musical talent in the new Knesset to provide all the entertainment required.
SHOULD OUTGOING governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer put Israel’s interests ahead of his own? It should be remembered that Fischer’s actual home and family are in the United States. While always supportive of Israel, he became an Israeli citizen only because the law demands that the governor of the Bank of Israel hold Israeli citizenship. He has made it clear that he will retain his interest in Israel, but that’s not good enough for a number of Israeli citizens, most of whom also hold American citizenship.
A petition initiated by blogger Sherwin Pomerantz and currently circulating via the Internet urges Fischer to reconsider his decision to resign and to remain at his post until the end of his term in 2015. The petition outlines Fischer’s invaluable contribution to economic stability and notes that “At this critical time in the history of Israel, when countries worldwide seek to isolate us from the world community, it is critical that we have as many competent, statesmanlike individuals in important positions who can provide the credibility needed in such forums which is critical to our long term viability.”
IN A span of more than three decades, Hillary Clinton visited Israel in a number of capacities, most recently as US secretary of state, a title that she held until last month.
On her first visit to Israel in that capacity in March,2009, her round of meetings included one with President Shimon Peres, whom she probably knows longer than any other Israeli officials she’s met over the years. The mutual affection was palpable and expressed by both in their statements to the media. When Peres greeted her, he not only kissed her cheek but also presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Last week, he wrote a moving letter to her, acknowledging all that she had done to make the world – and especially Israel – a better place.
Who knows, in four years he may be writing to her again to congratulate her on becoming the first woman president of the United States. Of course we don’t know in what capacity Peres himself may be writing then. When he was meeting last week with political party delegations, each of which was asked by the media before Peres came into the room who they were recommending to form a government, Raam Taal MK Ahmed Tibi, with a twinkle in his eye replied, “Shimon Peres.” In the end, noone was proposed by the Arab parties, leaving the field wide open for only one candidate, which Tibi termed “Israel’s Greek tragedy.” During Raam Taal’s meeting with Peres, the president commiserated with the group that it had one seat less than it had in the 18th Knesset. “The soldiers didn’t vote for us,” said Ibrahim Sansour.
“Maybe they will when I’m prime minister,” quipped Tibi with a grin.
■ NO ONE can claim that the life of a president or a prime minister is boring.
The variety of events that they have to attend in any given week – or sometimes any given day – boggles the mind. For instance, tomorrow, within the space of less than two hours, Peres will have two vastly different experiences: At the Gesher Theater in Jaffa he will receive the Man of the Decade award from Channel 9, the Russian-language media outlet that is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The event, which will include entertainment and speeches, will be attended by politicians, Russian Ambassador Sergey Yakovlev, public figures and leading representatives of the arts from Israel and abroad. From there Peres will make his way to the Nokia Stadium to watch the the national basketball cup finals and will present the trophy to the winning team – which is one of his presidential duties.
■ A FORMER cousin by marriage who loves to collect internet oddities and pass them on to relatives and friends sent an item about US president Harry Truman, who is important to Israelis because he was president when the State of Israel was born and, though initially reluctant, certainly had a hand in its birth. The Internet item does not relate to his political career, but to the man himself. With the formal installation this week of the 19th Knesset and negotiations under way toward a coalition government, it would be wise if our 120 legislators stopped for a minute to be inspired by Truman.
The only asset that Harry Truman had when he died was the house he had lived in, in Independence, Missouri. His wife, Bess, had inherited the house from her parents, and other than their period in the White House when he was president, the Trumans lived there for their entire married lives. When he retired from office in 1942, Truman’s income was reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his own stamps, granted him a retroactive pension of $25,000 a year.
As is customary in the United States, former presidents attend the inauguration ceremonies of their successors. Following the inauguration of president Dwight D.
Eisenhower, Harry and Bess Truman drove home to Missouri by themselves without being accompanied by Secret Service agents. When offered corporate positions by prestige companies, Truman declined saying, “You don't want me. You want the office of the president, and that doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the people of the United States and it’s not for sale.” In May 1971, when Congress was preparing to give him the Congressional Medal of Honor for his 87th birthday, Truman refused, writing, “I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”
As president, Truman paid for all his own travel expenses and for food. Modern politicians have found a new level of cashing in on the presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Truman may have been correct when he said, “My choices in life were either to become a piano player in a whore house or to become a politician, and to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”
■ THE WORD is out that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a bid to appease disgruntled Likud politicians who held portfolios in his previous government but are less likely to have the title of “minister “this time around, is going to offer them plum ambassadorial positions. Asked his opinion about such a move by Israel Radio’s Oren Nahari, outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who went in the opposite direction – from diplomacy to politics – did not rule out the wisdom of such a move, saying that a really good diplomat must also be a good politician.
Of course, it is important to learn the language and the customs of the country to which one is assigned, but there is no reason that a politician can’t be a diplomat, he said. There have been some politicians who have been very good diplomats, he observed, and others who’ve been very bad diplomats. There’s no hard and fast rule.
One of the most broadly knowledgeable anchors on radio and television, Nahari is far from being a typical abrasive Sabra. He is unfailingly polite and manages, without being aggressive or patronizing, to get interviewees to reveal much more than they intended. And no, he doesn’t come from British stock from which he might have learned his good manners. His forebears were among the founders of Rosh Pina.
■ VETERAN BRITISH immigrant Samuel Lewis, who is chairman of the Israel branch of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women was happy to this week to welcome a 15-member AJEX mission from the UK that includes Jeffrey Fox, the national chairman of AJEX from Newcastleupon- Tyne and AJEX executive director Jacques Weiser. The group met with British Ambassador Matthew Gould and with various current and retired IDF officers. Tomorrow they will participate in a memorial ceremony for fallen comrades-in-arms at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery on Mount Scopus in the presence of British Defense Attache Colonel Philip Stack MBE.
■ WHEN TELEVISION was first launched, there was a fear that people would stop going to movies. Then, when computers and their applications became more advanced, there was a fear that people would stop buying television sets. But most people prefer big screens to small screens and while there was indeed a period – certainly in Israel – in which many movie theaters were closed down, there is now a turn-around with more movie theaters opening up.
Pioneers in the resurgence of movie theaters are brothers Leon and Moshe Edry, whose Cinema City chain is spreading far and wide. Their Cinema City Glilot flagship is undergoing renovation and expansion at an investment of NIS 150 million. When the improvements are completed, the cinema bank will have been increased by nine additional theaters plus a much larger auditorium with seating capacity for 1,000 people. The cinema city concept has come a long away since it was first launched in Israel in 2002 and, according to Leon Edry, is aiming for much higher standards based on-ever advancing technology over the coming decade.
Edry is very proud of the fact that he and his brother were the first to introduce the cinema city concept to Israel, giving viewers multiple choices under one roof. Now that Israel’s film industry is flourishing, he said, there will be more screenings of local films alongside imported productions. The improvement and expansion plan will be carried out on a gradual basis so as not to interfere with the general operations of Cinema City. At the same time, the chain is completing additional Cinema Cities in Jerusalem and Kfar Saba, which should be open to the public some time in 2013, and is in the process of constructing Cinema Cities in Hadera, Netanya and Beersheba, scheduled to open in 2014.
■ SENIOR SPACE agency and space communication representatives who had participated in the International Space Conference in Herzliya were hosted by US Ambassador Dan Shapiro at a reception that he held at his residence in Herzliya Pituah.
Among those attending were Rona Ramon, the widow of Israel’s pioneer astronaut Ilan Ramon; Yossi Weiss, CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries; Shaul Elovich, who heads Eurocom Israel's largest privately owned communications company, David Pollak, CEO of Space Communications; and NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
Pollak recently entered into an agreement with Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), to launch Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Falcon 9 will insert the communications satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO), further enhancing Spacecom’s existing satellite fleet. The AMOS-6 satellite, to be built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), will provide communication services including direct satellite home Internet for Africa, the Middle East and Europe. AMOS- 6 will replace AMOS-2, which is expected to end its service in 2016. The AMOS-6 mission hopes to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida sometime in 2015.
Toward the end of the evening, Bolden, who is a veteran astronaut, presented Shapiro with the tag he had worn during the 1986 Columbia space flight.
■ THERE'S NO age limit on romance; certainly not as far as Miriam Milshtok and Yigal Arieli are concerned. He celebrated his 100th birthday on December 25. She’s 95. They’ve been a couple for 17 years.
They met at Beit Gil Hazahav in Tel Aviv, an upscale retirement home that provides numerous activities for its residents. Miriam moved in following the death of her husband.
Yigal, who was a devoted husband, moved in along with his wife when he could no longer care for her alone.
One day, following a fitness class, Miriam bumped into Yigal. He thought that he recognized her as a former schoolmate from the Gymnasia Herzliya. She told him that he was mistaken – she had been educated in Czechoslovakia – but they kept talking. Yigal asked her if she could read Hebrew. Not very well, she confessed.
Nonetheless, he gave her a book of stories that he had written. She read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Later they met again, discussed the contents and one subject led to another. They discovered in the course of conversation that they both had a mutual passion for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and went to a concert together.
It was the first of many. They also discovered other shared interests and soon became inseparable.
Some 250 people from Israel and abroad congregated at Beit Gil Hazahav to celebrate Yigal’s centenary. Among them was Tzipi Livni, whose late mother, Sara, was also a resident there and had been a close friend to Yigal and Miriam. Congratulatory messages from President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were read and Livni made a speech.
Yigal still has a full head of hair and all his faculties. He attends numerous courses and, until recently, engaged in daily workouts and was a spry figure on the dance floor.
House singer Ida Ben-Ami and the Beit Gil Hazahav choir serenaded him on his birthday and hope to do so again this December.
Meanwhile, he’s still attending lectures and courses and romancing Miriam.