Jerusalemites and visitors get a ‘Taste of the World’

The Taste of the World Festival, newly arrived to Jerusalem, felt similar to the Eurovision village in Tel Aviv for the international music festival earlier this year.

AN ACTRESS in Indian-style costume dances in front of a cardboard Taj Mahal. (photo credit: TZVI JOFFRE)
AN ACTRESS in Indian-style costume dances in front of a cardboard Taj Mahal.
(photo credit: TZVI JOFFRE)
As people from across the globe arrived in Jerusalem for Sukkot, a world of international food popped up along the walls of the Old City, representing culinary delights from the United States to India.
The Taste of the World Festival, newly arrived to Jerusalem, felt similar to the Eurovision village in Tel Aviv for the international music festival earlier this year.
The festival consisted of a multitude of booths representing different restaurants, wineries, bakeries and various culinary styles from around the world. The booths were grouped together near the Jaffa Gate, where a path adorned by multiple national flags led visitors to an international experience. The festival was split into three general sections, although they overlapped somewhat.
The first section of the festival, dedicated to American food, seemed to be the most widely addressed culinary style, with many American classics being represented. Booths representing restaurants owned by Israeli chef Moshe Segev sold both meatless hamburgers and “Crunch” hamburgers, which are topped with a crispy rice mass that looks like thin noodles. A Gordos restaurant booth sold over-the-top desserts including ice cream presented with an American-style doughnut atop. There was an entire booth dedicated to french fries, while another booth sold tortillas filled with entrecôte beef.
A large cardboard Statue of Liberty stood in the middle of the American section alongside a stage where Lady Liberty-attired artists and actors performed.
There was only one sukkah at the festival, and seating, generally, was relatively sparse considering the number of people who attended.
Similarly, the Indian food booths area displayed a large cut-out of the Taj Mahal, where Indian music could be heard, accompanied by costumed dancers.
France’s booth greeted you in European style with a tastings offered by the Adir Winery. Samples of their variety of wines included a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon was light and very smooth, a more pleasant quaff – to my taste – than many dry red wines. It perfectly complemented the arais from Rachel’s Kitchen, also located in the French-style section. Arais consists of a toasted pita stuffed with ground meat (lamb and/or beef) vegetables, herbs and spices. Initially, Rachel’s arais looked chaotic; the toasty pitas were stuffed with a mass of ground beef and a vibrant, colorful mix of so many vegetables and herbs that it was hard to believe that all the different parts could work together, but they did. Even for someone like me, who shies away from vegetables and large amounts of herbs, this was an exception: spicy, aromatic and delicious.
Continuing with Italian cuisine, pasta, cheeses, fish and deserts were on offer. Israeli Chef Meir Adoni’s Kitchen Bar booth featured dishes starring fish. I ordered a spicy fish shwarma swimming in white and red sauces. The spiciness of the fish balanced well with the softer flavor of the sauce, it was a relatively small portion but very satisfying.
The by now familiar festival cut-out motif appeared– this one the Eiffel Tower – was accompanied by French music and Napoleonic-costumed actors among the crowds.
A cut-out of a Russian Orthodox church signaled my arrival at the Eastern European section and Russian singers on stage. A Georgian-restaurant, Tash and Tash, sold khachapuri, a pastry filled with cheese, eggs and other ingredients. South American-style restaurants sold churros, a deep-fried sugared pastry, and grilled meat prepared by the El Gaucho restaurant. Nearby were the Israeli hamburger chain Susu and Sons and a falafel booth.
Of course, no meal is complete without dessert. A booth offering trdelnik (a cone-like pastry coated in sugar and reminiscent of a churro) and cookies and muffins was the perfect stop for a light dessert. I chose a dairy chocolate muffin coated in a sort of hot fudge. As an observant Jew, I ate it before any meat dishes so my dessert came mid-meal. It tasted like American muffins, hard to find in Israel, as they can be drier in texture here.
The interspersed costumed actors and national music added flare to the atmosphere. Attendees were charmed by the details of the costumes and many took photos with the exotically dressed characters. The international theme fit in well with the Sukkot holiday, as many visitors arrived from abroad, timed for the Jerusalem March during Sukkot.
One thing that really stood out was that all the dishes were Rabbinate kosher-certified, not a guarantee at food festivals, even in Israel. For observant Jews looking for a family-friendly event during the Sukkot holiday, this was a big plus, with food and fun in one event. All the offerings were reasonably priced at around NIS 38 per dish, making the event accessible for many.
Crowd control was an issue at the Festival. The area was relatively small, especially for an event during one of the busiest times of the year in Jerusalem. Seating was sparse, especially for those requiring a sukkah. Some booths were simply swamped by people attempting to order.
In response to questions about the overcrowding, one of the organizers of the event explained to The Jerusalem Post that this is the first time that the event took place and the organizers will definitely be reviewing how to improve it in the future.
Overall, the Taste of the World Festival seems to have been a hit. The food was outstanding and the atmosphere was fun and exciting. The variety of different flavors and options ensured that there was something to suit everyone. It was perfectly timed during the Sukkot holiday, when the focus is on outdoor activities, and the weather cooperated by staying pleasant. The only real issues were the crowding and the lack of seating. If those issues can be solved, then this new festival of booths should become a Sukkot tradition.