The 14th annual Ta’amim Ba’amakim Festival

If your idea of an exciting day spent out in nature revolves around two wheels, then you’ll be happy to know that there a number of cycling groups for beginners and experienced.

Octagon restaurant is offering gluten-free and vegan dishes, including mushroom falafel (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Octagon restaurant is offering gluten-free and vegan dishes, including mushroom falafel
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Now that a nice amount of rain has blessed our land, it’s time to get back out into nature and visit the valleys of Israel. Winter flowers are beginning to blossom just in time for the 14th annual Ta’amim Ba’amakim (Tastes in the Valleys) Festival. From January 28 to February 11, this popular festival combines magical nature, hikes, attractions and of course lots of good food made from fresh locally grown produce. This year, the festival is celebrating Israel’s 70th birthday along with seven decades of culinary achievements. To this end, each participating restaurant will highlight its flagship dish with an Israeli flag.
The juxtaposition of good food with history and nature is a great way to draw tourists to the region, stretching from Megiddo to the Gilboa. During the twoweek festival, thousands of Israelis and guests will flock to this area to enjoy the beautiful landscape, taste fresh produce and hike through the valleys. Meals at participating restaurants range from NIS 79 to NIS 109 (including a glass of local wine), and there are also excellent exhibitions worth visiting.
Among the restaurants participating are Octagon at Nahalal Junction, Bella in Beit She’arim, Gustino, Doron Bar On in Moshav Hayogev, the Spice Farm in the Gilboa, kosher meat Tanduka in Yokne’am moshava, Marinado, Limousine in Ramat Yishai, Lala Café, the kosher Rino Milano in Afula, Shalev Baya’ar, and Thai Chin.
Although the festival officially starts on January 28, a grand opening will take place on Sunday, January 21, at the Pioneer Museum in Kibbutz Yifat. Guests will be treated to 12 different dishes for tasting, which will be accompanied with local wine. On Saturday, January 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a number of Tu Bishvat activities will take place in Ramat Yishai. Tu Bishvat festivities will also take place in the Hutzot Yagur Courtyard.
The Ta’amim Ba’amakim Festival is a great excuse to get outside into nature for a bit, and the region is full of fun places to go for hikes. One of the most popular trails, Nahal Hashofet, is currently covered with gorgeous blossoms, as is the Alonim Forest, which is located near Beit Lehem Haglilit. Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund has also recently opened a number of new trails, such as the path to Shimshit and parts of the wheelchair-accessible path along Nahal Tzipori are also now open to the public.
A lesser-known option is the Cyclamen Trail near Rabin Park in Migdal Ha’emek, which is located inside a 60-year-old urban forest that has recently been reinvigorated by local residents. An endless number of cyclamen have recently bloomed there and the path that was reconstructed by schoolchildren makes for easy access.
On the other side of the road, you’ll find Rabin Park, which in the past was a waste site. Now there are picnic areas, walking trails, playgrounds for children and the dancing mushroom sculpture by artist Ruslan Sergeev. You can leave your car at the Rabin Park parking area, from which there is access to both the park and the Cyclamen Trail.
If your idea of an exciting day spent out in nature revolves around two wheels, then you’ll be happy to know that there a number of cycling groups for beginners and experienced riders that will be touring the region during the festival.
Ofek Bashetach will be holding a guided bike ride on February 2 at the train station in Kfar Yehoshua. The participation fee is NIS 15 (if you’d like to reserve a bike, the rental fee will be extra). There will be two trails: the first one, 17 kilometers, circles around the valley; a shorter one, five kilometers, circles around the Ramat David Airbase. Both rides will depart at 9 a.m. There will also be a guided spinning lesson, a graffiti workshop, magnet photography, a visit to the Emek Railway Station – and of course, lots of coffee.
Another great adventure that should not be missed is the Yotzrim V’Chakla’im Festival, which will take place on February 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Kfar Hassidim. Guests can ride on a cart pulled by a tractor, visit an artist exhibition, taste homemade delicacies and purchase fresh produce. One of the stops will be at Charag Farm, which has been producing olive oil for the last 20 years from five different types of olives. Guests will be given tastes of the olive oil and can also purchase bottles to take home. A second stop is at the communal garden in Kfar Hassidim, where kids learn how to grow organic vegetables. During the festival, guests are welcome to pick fruits and vegetables, purchase organic seeds and vegetables, and delight in green shakes.
Where to eat:
We can’t talk about a culinary festival without describing some of the participating eateries. Below is a closer look at three of the 12 participating restaurants.
The first one is Rino Milano, a kosher Italian restaurant in Afula that opened six months ago. Spread over two floors, this restaurant will make you feel like you’re sitting in a bistro in Italy. Owner Lior Bar has created a welcoming place with good food where you can actually watch how homemade pasta is made and how Neapolitan pizzas are cooked in a stone oven. During the Ta’amim Ba’amakim Festival, they are offering meals at NIS 79, NIS 89 and NIS 109. Meals include starters and a main course, and desserts cost an extra NIS 20. There will be lasagna, truffle polenta, minestrone soup, pizza, ravioli and salmon.
Location: 24 Rova Yizrael Street, Afula. Tel: 1-700-505-504.
The veteran Octagon restaurant will also offer meals at NIS 79, 89 and 109. Located in Nahalal, Octagon derives its name from the shape of the building in which it resides. Owners Ziv Ben Tov and Dudu Sasson are childhood friends and they opened their restaurant 17 years ago on land that belonged to Ziv’s grandfather. They are happy to cater to gluten-free and vegan guests. Dishes include liver pate, veal carpaccio, chestnut ravioli, beef bourguignon. A special NIS 70 dish to celebrate Israel’s upcoming birthday is a salmon ceviche with mushroom falafel. In addition, for NIS 89, vegans can also enjoy a special platter.
Location: Entrance to Ramat David Airbase, Nahalal. Tel: (04) 641-5333.
The third establishment is Marinado, which first opened its doors in Ein Gev in 2003, and just four months ago opened a second branch in the G Shopping Mall in Yokneam. Marinado is known for its quality meat from the Golan Heights, alongside wine and beer that are prepared especially for the restaurant. Some of the dishes include liver pate, barbecue chicken wings, lamb kebab, and sirloin steak. Meals include side dishes, and glasses of Marinado wine go for NIS 25. The special “70” dish features asado rolls made from spicy homemade lamb sausage, served with a glass of wine. Festival meals available Sundays through Wednesdays.
Location: G Shopping Mall, Yokneam. Tel: (04) 665-3290.
Meals in most restaurants will be offered Sundays to Thursdays, Fridays until 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 6 p.m.
All details can be found on the Festival website:
Ofek Bashetach: 052-266-2181.
Translated by Hannah Hochner