The gourmet Galilee

With its magical shops and cafes, a visit to Nahariya is like a trip down memory lane.

The Mosaic floor at Moshav Shavei Zion was uncovered in the mid-1950s, a remnant of a Byzantine church. (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
The Mosaic floor at Moshav Shavei Zion was uncovered in the mid-1950s, a remnant of a Byzantine church.
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
When I was a child, way back in the 1980s, I remember going for a family vacation in Nahariya.
In those days, the city of Nahariya was regarded by most Israelis as the classy, European-like resort town in Israel, with its expansive promenade and elegant hotels brimming with tourists. My wonderful memories of eating cream cake made me decide to take a nostalgic trip there, which despite its magical shops and cafes has not managed to restore its old charm.
As soon as I pulled into the city, I realized my memories of a bustling tourist town were far from the current reality.
The small number of people on the sidewalks and the old-style shops made me realize that time here has stood still. So I decided to venture into the old Rassco neighborhood, which reminds me of a quiet, quaint moshav with its eucalyptus trees and green fields.
There, I came upon the intimate Café Brioche at 17 KKL-JNF Street, which is owned and run by Hagit Stern. Stern opened the spacious café/bakery in the bottom floor of her home three years ago, after retiring from a successful career in the automobile industry. She learned the ins and outs of her new trade while traveling around Europe for work.
Café Brioche offers a kosher dairy array of foods, and everything is homemade on location. After I enjoyed a steaming hot coffee and French-style breakfast, I continued along memory lane to the famous Nahariya boardwalk.
As I had expected, the boardwalk had not changed much from the last time I had visited. The same cafes were still open, and the beautiful coastline still made me want to sit back and take in the winter sun.
I took a long walk along the length of the boardwalk all the way to nearby Moshav Shavei Zion, where I saw the ancient mosaic floor. This impressive, well-preserved mosaic, which was uncovered in the mid-1950s, is actually a remnant of a Byzantine church that stood there in 485 CE.
After walking along the sea, I decided to venture out of the city a little so I drove towards Mi’ilya, which is home to the Masada arak distillery owned by brothers Wadia and Jeryis Hadid.
They opened their boutique distillery two years ago, when Jeryis decided to carry out his dream of creating quality arak and dragged his younger brotheralong. Hadid learned the specialized art of distilling arak from a friend, Shukri Hayak, a former South Lebanese Army soldier; Hayak currently runs operations at Masada, which distills three types of the mehadrin kosher Lebanese-style arak.
Jabalna goes through one distillation, Kafroun two, and Alwadi, which most closely resembles the delicate taste of genuine Zahlawi arak, goes through three distillations. Arak is produced by using grapes and genuine anise seeds.
(For tours, call 057-576-0384.) After the alcohol fumes had gone to my head, I decided to move on to the neighboring village of Tarshiha, which has been known as the culinary center of the Galilee for ages. Over the last few years, a wind of change has swept over Tarshiha, and innovative shops and ice cream parlors have popped up next to the longstanding restaurants. Bouza, which means ice cream in Arabic, recently opened and has already drawn large numbers of tourists from central Israel; its young owners are Alaa Sawitat and Adam Ziv, a musician from Kibbutz Sasa.
According to Ziv, Tarshiha is the Tuscany of Israel, and I too had this feeling as I drove through its small roads and discovered the village’s authenticity mixed with innovation.
My culinary tour of the Galilee ended with a night at Bayit V’kayit, the guest house at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot. As I lay in bed, relaxing after a long but exciting day, I began fantasizing about the magnificent breakfast of fresh breads, cheese and antipasti that awaited me in the morning.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.