Friday, September 03, 2010

Time is fleeting

Time Out Israel - Sept 2010

Check out page 88 for my article on Jewish food in Tel Aviv. Here's the original copy:

Jews on plate

Eater Ari Miller hits up most of the Jewish food restaurants in Tel Aviv so you don't have to. That's not to say you shouldn't eat Jew food, just not so much, cause it's so very heavy.

The category alone is highly suspect. Jewish Food. Cuisine, from the street to haute, is not something for which the Jews are renowned. We're good at math, science and money and bad at drinking and avoiding national trauma. We gave the world matza and we have been punished accordingly.

Jewish food refers to what we nicked from the Eastern Europeans. And rightfully so. They owed us for all those pogroms and genocides and taxation without representation. This means chopped liver, gefilte fish, ikra, brisket, stuffed spleen, kneidle, kreplah, kishke and that all-glorious sabbath meal, chulent.

Often, upon mentioning my intent to eat my way through the Jew food restaurants of Tel Aviv, I was met with the query, “What about Arab-Jewish food”? To which I would reply, that doesn't exist. Food brought here by the Arab-Jews is always referred to by its geographical origins: Moroccan food, Tunisian food, Egyptian food and you get the idea.

First up on this culinary trail through the transplanted shtetle is Shmulik Cohen. Never, since my culinary awakening that began with food writing and continues with chef's training, have I had any regard for any kosher restaurant. Aside from catering, kosher is one of the worst words one can use to describe food. Yet, here we are. This glatt kosher institution was the best of the bunch. It makes sense, that if kosher's gonna be good, it should come from the grassroots; not from some perverted French menu.

Located on the Southern end of Rehov Herzle since it's beginnings as a workers kiosk in 1936, Shmulik Cohen engulfs you in a world of Jewish glory that makes you wonder if the Hasmoneans really had anything to offer beyond fried dough and bubbameises. The walls are plastered with brick-a-brack befitting a Semitic TGI Fridays. Were TGI Fridays any place that I'd ever want to be. There's a Kadishman on the wall, pictures of all the Tel Aviv branja of yesteryear - poets, writers, artists and musicians who'd mix with politicians, policemen and those ubiquitous security-types, who'd all gather at 6:30 in the morning, along with Shmulik, to start their day with some vodka. Their spirit still haunts the place and it makes you smile.

Food was served to us by Tomer, Shmulik's grandson, and prepared for us by Tomer's mom, Shmulik's daughter. This is a family business that has been preparing the same recipes since day one. And they're good recipes. There was shmaltz, that goose fat in lieux of butter, unseen at any other establishment. There was marinated herring and herring (NIS 28), both sporting the most delicate flesh and taste reminiscent of my Mommom's (my maternal grandmother) offering of my youth. The egg salad “seasoned” with grivalach (NIS 27) was so surprising for it's similarity to bacon and eggs. I realized that I'll never make egg salad again without some sort of fried meat product.

Let me say a word about gefilte fish. This is a disgusting food item and ordering it is on par with a diagnosis of psychopathy. The one served at Shmulik Cohen (NIS 24) was the tastiest of all sampled, but still, I just didn't “get it”. The reason, I'll supply, is that it is a dish made from carp, one of the least tastiest fish. If you've ever had superb gefilte, most likely it was made from cod, which changes everything.

My dining buddy and I also sampled the kreplach soup (NIS 32), the broth of which was so Jewish it's on par with ritual male circumcision. For our main dish we split the chulent and kishke (NIS 65), the most authentic I've had in town. We washed everything down with the homemade lemon vodka, also available by the bottle, complete with campy label, making the perfect gift for any kitsch-loving alcoholic.

Next up is Cafe Batia. Opened in 1941, this place felt most like walking into an American-Jewish Deli. Immediately I wished for my Mommom's presence. I got the feeling she'd really dig the spot. Starting with the ikra (NIS 21) it was nicely creamy but lacking in that wonderful fishy goodness that is the whole point of the stuff. The chopped liver (NIS 19) here was the best we sampled. Though it's usually more ground than chopped, at Batia it at least maintains some if its integrity. The gefilte (NIS 19) still had the marks of the hand it was formed in. Apropos my earlier statement, at least this dish conjured up some romantic notions of an actual human preparing it with love. On weekends, the place fills up to capacity with scenesters and oldsters clamoring for spots to dine on chulent. During the winters homemade corned beef and roast beef are available, for which I'll return.

Kiton is another establishment like the others. Opened in 1945, it's roots are also in a kiosk. Like Cafe Batia, it is not kosher, meaning open on weekends and milk products available but not necessarily mixed with the meat. We started with the kneidle soup (NIS 28), disappointing in how dry the kneidle was. The ikra (NIS 26) was the real treat, creamy and fishy and served with a fresh and fluffy mini-challah bread. Here was available stuffed spleen (NIS 29), a dish I love and happily ate. It was topped with some wonderfully deep-fried onions, also found on the chopped liver (NIS 26), not as good as the spleen.

The atmosphere at Kiton is what makes it most special. Upon entering I had the feeling of being back at my great aunt Edie and uncle Murray's apartment for Passover dinner, where I first fell in love with chopped liver lovingly prepared by the former. The art was also the same as that apartment of my early youth, consisting of Judaica kitsch that I'll never really get outside of nostalgia.

Our main course was chulent with kishke and meat (NIS 54), which lined our ribs nicely on a hot Saturday afternoon. The highlight was the apricot soda, mixed on premises and served in an old-timey, rubber-corked glass bottle.

Elimelec was the least exciting of all the places sampled. Though as far as atmosphere goes, this place rocks. A rather masculine environment, Elimelec is known as much for their slow-poured Goldstar as for its Jewish food. The theory behind this pour, which resembles that of a stout, is that the gas is dispensed in such a way that the imbiber can intake a few more beers than otherwise. Also, this was how it was done with the hand-pump taps of yesteryear. These days it's more of a gimmick, albeit a romantic one. The only point on food here is avoid the chopped liver and, if you order the chulent, get it without the meat, which was so dry it bordered on impressive. An interesting note, this place is kosher, but certified through an alternative organization that is not beholden to the state sanctioned rabbinate.

Honorable mention goes to the fish restaurant Hashaked. Opened in 1964 as a cross between a Greek taverna and Jewish food, it still gives nod to it roots with an awesome egg salad – brown and meaty, chocked full of friend onions, two amazing herrings – pickled or cured, an ikra worth eating if you're there, a mediocre chopped liver and a gefilte that you should order due to psychopathy.

Then there's La Maison, on page 96. If you haven't been there, get there. If you keep kosher, stop it! And get there. Original copy:


I am in love with two men and their meats. Specifically, I'm talking about Ben and Ilan over at La Maison, their new delicatessen where everything is made in house by their skilled hands. The two mastered their craft at the wonderful Yoezer Wine Bar, where they served as the previous head chefs. Opened three months ago, walking in is the perfect place to escape the heat – their a/c is always on full blast – or to escape the mundane local deli scene. From their copa to their bacon to the pickled herring to their sauerkraut, you will taste here what you can find no where else in Tel Aviv. La Maison is not just about buying your meats, be it the boudin noir or the suckling veal pate, and heading home. Rather, sit at the counter or an outdoor table and enjoy a plate of their charcuterie in advance of deciding what you take with. Or have a sandwich accompanied by a glass or bottle of Belgian beer or organic cider. Do yourself a favor and try the smoked pork neck in fennel seed. This is my favorite, having been whisked away in mind to the Italian market in South Philly. Totally awesome. Prices, of course, are not as cheap as the industrial equivalents, should there even be a local equivalent. But they're also not outrageous. NIS 35 for the best sandwich you can get in town is more than fair. Homemade sausages range from NIS 62-96/kilo. Cold cuts are NIS 12-28/100g. And, you'll have satisfaction in your stomach and soul, knowing you've supported one of the greatest food endeavors in Tel Aviv yet. Ari Miller

La Maison Rehov Tchernikofski 1, 03-620-6022 Open Sunday-Thursday noon till 20:00 and Friday from 10:00 till 16:00. Plans are to extend hours till later in the evening, coming soon.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Free T-Shirt Friday!

A lot of folks think that the only thing to do with an old, white, t-shirt is to turn it into a rag. You know, to clean your car, your bike or the rotting vaginal canal of your deceased beloved with whom you continue to engage in coitus. If you read the previous sentence and thought to yourself, "Wow, that's me!" it's time to learn something from Ari Lives in Israel – especially since I'm smarter, less disgusting and not as good looking as Ed Geines.

Here is the first installment of "Free T-Shirt Friday," which has nothing to do with Friday. This is a page from an R. Crumb comic, though I don't know which one (feel free to enlighten).

Instructions: get some iron-on transfer paper and follow the instructions that come along with it.

This graphic is a gem. I've been wearing it for years now. My favorite related moment was in the airport in Austin, TX waiting for my luggage. This bitchy looking woman kept walking past me and staring at my t-shirt. Finally, she garnered the nerve to approach and ask, "Is that supposed to be some kind of comic or something?" I replied, "yes."

Don't forget to send in pictures of you wearing your free t-shirt friday t-shirt. That's right if you submit such pixels, it could appear on this blog. Then, you'll be famous – anonymously.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Statistics made stupid

Here's some pseudo-interesting facts about this highly pixelated news service (sic). My comments are in red. Some of the results have been ommited due to boringness. Others were left in for me to make fun of. I think you'll enjoy the mix.

Last month thousands of our newsletter subscribers took the time to take an online survey about ISRAEL21c and our weekly newsletter, more than 10% of our total subscribers. (10% is an F) The percentage of the response is itself amazing, but what really pleased us is how much the ISRAEL21c newsletter seems to mean to our readers and how useful they find it (I'm as shocked as they are!). Here are highlights of the survey responses.

Results we are proud of:

- 90% of our readers think ISRAEL21c is making a difference for Israel
(First, that's 90% of 10% and that's still an F. Second, can something this vague have any meaning whatsoever?)
- Only 6% think ISRAEL2c is making little or no difference for Israel
(So they're like the fifth dentist who just doesn't get Trident gum?)
- 96.1% of the respondents read our newsletter every week or several times per month
- 74.6% read the newsletter every week
* 78.8% of the respondents read more than just the newsletter headlines
(Alright, these last three are boring figures. But funny because of the use of the decimal to give the impression that this survey is scientific and exact. That's some good PR, which is a good time to mention that's what ISRAEL21c is, a repackaged PR firm masquerading as a news outlet.)

That means that our command the continuing interest of our readers. (This is the sentence as it appears in their survey report. I don't know what it means.)

- In general, ISRAEL21c is delivering the information that people want to see.
(This is not a survey result but their own opinion. How very newsworthy.)

- Our readers do more than read (go on, I'm curious), they forward stories to a variety of people:
ISRAEL21c content is shared readers to a remarkable extent...
(This sentence is stupid for myriad reasons, all of them obvious.)

- 71% forward stories to friends
- 58% forward stories to family
- 23% forward stories to business associates
(that's business associates one would not consider a friend.)
- 8% forward to rabbis
(rabbis outrank teachers and doctors but still no word as how they relate to cops.)
- 7% forward to teachers
- 7% forward to doctors
(take that doctors, you lowly scum!)

- Our newsletter performs well above the national averages:
- 31% of our subscribers open the email and look
(or read? how do ISRAEL21c readers fare as regards the national average for literacy?) as opposed to a 24% national average for non-profit newsletters (that's a rough category. i'd read more non-profit newsletters if only i had the time. or cared.)

Results that surprised us:

- Some 40% of our newsletter readers don't know all of our stories are archived at a website where they can find any story, any time and much more information
(so while they click on headlines, they don't really e"explore" the site?)
* Some 70% of our newsletter readers don't know about our award-winning blog, Israelity focusing on the reality of daily life in Israel
(but they know about blogs right? i mean they're reading this, right?)
* Some 80% of our newsletter readers don't know about our YouTube Channel, which is the #1 most-viewed and #1 most subscribed non-profit, Israel-related channel on all of YouTube
(you got me. i think this factoid is the reason why i was so moved to post this utter waste of time. are they fucking kidding me/us? this idiotic piece of information is giving me brain cancer the longer it floats around my head. get it out! get it out!)

We need to work on getting you, our readers, directed to more information and news about Israel from these other sources. After you read this email, click on one of the above and see what you've been missing! (how many people do they think read this survey all the way to this point? remember, i've cut the most boring tripe out.)

We're listening to your comments: because of you, here are some improvements you
can expect to see:

1. We are upgrading our website and our newsletter format to make both easier to
understand, easier to use and easier to navigate. Changes will be in place in by
April 30th.
(as of today, April 30, their website is and remains at least as inaccessible and jumbled as The Jerusalem Post's. hold on a tic? easier to understand? oh, you mean dumbed down for the idiot masses? that's good pr!)
4. We will be expanding our effort to educate our readers about our three different
products: our "Innovation News Service," our "ISRAELITY Blog" and our "ISRAEL21cdotcom" YouTube Channel.
(i'd rather they provide universal healthcare.)
5. We're increasing our effort to create, sustain and grow vibrant ISRAEL21c communities on Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter.
(on both sides of the online-social-community green line.)

ISRAEL21c, now in its 8th year, is moving ahead with the times. We continue to create quality, original news content for our website and newsletter and now we're blogging, creating multi-media content and establishing a major presence in what some people call "new" media, but we call "now media."
(again, is this an education firm, a pr firm or a news agency? you can't be all three and they're all rather different constructs. oh, i see, they're a "now" media outlet that has tapped into the high-energy world of blogging. holy shit they're hip.)

We very much appreciate our loyal readers taking the time to let us know what they're thinking
(i'm an anomaly. i am not a loyal reader. i've written for ISRAEL21c and Israelilty in the past - their blog is not new. But I'm happy to let them know what i think.), we're making changes to satisfy many of the suggestions and we're working hard to keep ISRAEL21c at the cutting edge of "now media" even as we continue our efforts to place positive (this word is subjective and a news agency would know that, so i guess we can cross that option off the list.) stories about Israel in the traditional media.

We welcome your comments; Write to (or just blog your comments like me. that's as now media as you can be.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sometimes people don’t live in Tel Aviv.

After almost three years in Tel Aviv, I briefly entertained the notion of leaving the white city. Not to “abroad” of course. That would be reasonable and enjoy the support of both family and friends there who, after nearly a decade of residence in Israel, still entertain the idea that I just may return to the US. They attribute this undying hope of theirs to a glimmer of sanity that they insist still sparkles in my eyes. Well, that’s what they tell me anyway. My friends here nary use the word sanity when describing me – bastards.

As for a potential move I had two major criteria in choosing a new address – a) in Israel and b) not in Tel Aviv. Well, to be certain, three criteria with c) being nothing in a settlement. That must be the sanity my friends abroad were talkin’ ‘bout.

Now, I have already lived in Beer Sheva and, without the cover of studentry, there is no way I would be returning. Also, I have already lived in Jerusalem. While it’s a lovely place to visit, pass the beer nuts.

Additionally, I have spent a decent amount of time on a few different kibbutzim. The first two were religious in nature and, being that I have grown-up since then, I have no real desire to subject myself to a similar theo-fascist agricultural regime. The third kibbutz I stayed on is one of the richest in Israel. Most likely due to their huge plastics factory that operates through the sabbath – all the sabbaths, our and theirs. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there but half a year of picking bananas with a machete hanging from my belt and pruning ten meter high palm trees with a chainsaw in hand no longer seems the viable career choice.

As for new places to explore in this god-forsaken country, I thought of a potential suburb. But the short list f potentials proved moot upon recalling my having grown up in a suburb thus knowing the anti-social horror of such an existence. The answer was an immediate “NO!” Then I thought, “what of the urban suburb option?” But, since you can’t spell urban suburb without the word suburb the answer again was clear, an unequivocal “NO!”

Ah yes, Tel Aviv. I couldn’t remember why I had been looking to leave it in the first place. Just because it’s in Israel? It turns out that I don’t need a theologically based nationalistic identity to live in this city. It’s just a fucking cool city with some fucking great pubs to take refuge in. And that’s enough for me.