An appetizing adventure

The world’s most popular food bloggers were invited to tour the Holy Land and have a taste of Israel’s cuisine.

Taste of Israel (photo credit: Zohar Fischer)
Taste of Israel
(photo credit: Zohar Fischer)
“There are so many ways to tour Israel, but we have such great food,” says Boaz Melnik, director of Taste of Israel - an event that brought food enthusiasts from far and wide to tour Israel's world of culinary. He asks: “Why not take a journey of Israel through the plate?”
Cuisine is an important part of Israeli culture and six bloggers from around the world were recently selected and invited to the Holy Land by Taste of Israel to take a bite.
Bloggers taking photos (Zohar Fischer)Bloggers taking photos (Zohar Fischer)
Taste of Israel was created by a group of students from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzaliya called StandWithUs, which is an organization dedicated to Israeli advocacy and education.
“This year’s project was a huge success,” 25-year-old Melnik tells The Jerusalem Post. The student-run group takes a new project under their wings each year to help shape Israel’s image abroad.
“News is not the only reality of Israel and we wanted people to see a different side of it," explains Melnik. “There were many different ideas for this year’s project, but food is something that brings people together, it's something everyone can connect with.”
Bloggers learning about Israeli wines and cheeses (Zohar Fischer)Bloggers learning about Israeli wines and cheeses (Zohar Fischer)
After six months of volunteer work, fundraising and planning, the student group was able to make their idea a reality. They received funding from the Tourism Ministry and a few private donors.
Participants of this appetizing adventure were chosen based on the popularity and quality of their blogs, and included food-enthusiasts from the US, Singapore, and Spain.
Bloggers included New York native Carey Jones of Serious Eats who has more than 150,000 twitter followers, Amy Sherman for San Fransisco of Cooking with Amy, Spanish Francisco Baccero of Directo Al Paladar who has more than 140,000 twitter followers, and another Singaporean, Zing Yang of the lifestyle blog, ShennyYang.
Dr. Leslie Tay, creator of Singarpore’s most read food blog, ieatishootipost tells The Post in a phone interview that he never thought of Israel as a significant member of the culinary world, and admitted that he didn’t know what was considered "Israeli" cuisine before this trip.With an impressive 700,000 monthly page views, Tay is an important voice within Singaporean culture and lifestyle.
“There is only one kosher restaurant in Singapore as far as I know, and I have never been,” explains Tay. “I had no idea what to expect.” He adds jokingly that the only exposure that he ever had to anything Jewish was kosher salt.
The five-day long journey of Israeli tastes which began in Tel Aviv, brought the bloggers to restaurants throughout the country that were known for their food, as well as their history. The students had the guidance of cooking professionals such as chef Nir Zook, to help choose appropriate restaurants for the event. The bloggers also got to participate in a cooking workshop with chef Yair Feinberg.
Cooking workshop with Yair Feinberg (Courtesy)Cooking workshop with Yair Feinberg (Courtesy)
The students planned the tour specifically so the writers, who had never visited the country before, could learn about the history and culture of the country as they discovered all the delicious delicacies it has to offer.
A crowd favorite was ‘Israeli breakfast,’ which is a common favorite among tourists. Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy posted this mouthwatering photo on Twitter with the caption, “Israeli breakfast day 1.”
Their adventure included a trip to Nazareth, where bloggers enjoyed their first felafel experience. This Israeli diet staple introduced a new world of flavor to these adventurous ‘foodies.’
Joelen Tan of What’s Cookin’ Chicago, which was named one of the top 50 food blogs, called the infamous Israeli dish “a Middle Eastern version of the Chicago Hot Dog,” in her blog post after the second day of the tour.
“I was so impressed by the diversity of the food. It was truly a crucible for all different types of cuisine,” recalls Tay. The food is a true representation of every ethnicity that resides in the Holy Land; a mixture of Arab, Jewish, and many other cuisines, he explains.
Without hesitation he insists that his favorite Israeli dish was hummus. He even recreated the dish when he arrived home in Singapore, but with goma sauce (sesame based sauce) for an Asian twist, he tells The Post.
Hummus (Zohar Fischer)Hummus (Zohar Fischer)
At the end of the second day, after touring through Nazareth, Ein Kamonim cheese farm, and the Jish village, the team was brought to the shores of Lake Kinneret for a special treat.
The students prepared a Poyke dinner for the bloggers, a taste of casual Israeli life. Poyke is essentially a slow cooked stew type dish, and “could be anything including yesterday’s leftovers,” described Tay in his blog article.“Yes, I know what you are thinking, but it actually tasted pretty good!”
“It really symbolized Israeli culture more than anything else on the tour. Not only is it an Israeli tradition, but it represents the melting pot of Israeli society,” says Melnik. It is made with so many random ingredients that no one would ever expect to blend together, but it always ends with something very tasty, he explains.
Eating poyke ( poyke (
The group also toured Jerusalem with a visit to the renowned restaurant Mahane-Yuda, a trip to the Dead Sea, a tour of the Muni Winery, and much more.
Tay says that he always thought of Israel as a country of political difficulty, but now after this trip, he believes that with passionate young people such as those of StandWithUs there is a possibility for change.
“At the end of the day, I think everyone just wants to live in peace,” says Tay.