Thursday, March 24, 2016

Celebrating Food and Arts in Tel Aviv

I was up early at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv for another busy day on my press trip with Israel Tourism.

After breakfast, I met with the rest of the journalists and our guide, Carmela, in the Executive Lounge at the hotel with our luggage. 

We were heading to two more hotels in Israel before we would be back at this one.

Since most of the group had arrived later than me, they were all heading to the Bauhaus area I had toured on my first day.

I decided to check out some of the boutique shopping area around Sheinken Street in Tel Aviv with another journalist, Jo Piazza.

We stopped first at a café for some coffee. As interesting as the pastries looked, we had just finished a big Israeli breakfast, which focused on the sweets.

As we walked through the blocks we noted that they all looked simple and understated from the outside, despite the fact that most of the clothes and shoes were high-end.

I window-shopped while Jo picked up and dress and then we headed to the Levinsky Market to meet the group.

This market was quite different than the Carmel Market I had been to a few days ago.

Instead of booths, there were more permanent stores, though a lot of the food and products looked the same.

Our driver brought the bus to Levinsky to pick us up and take us to the Tel Aviv Art Museum.

It was a big and beautifully designed building and extremely modern.

Inside we found most of the art to be Israeli, although it spanned different eras.

Before we left the museum complex, we went to eat and greet the chef at its restaurant, Pastel.

I sipped a mint tea, which in Israel includes large mint leaves in the water.

Most of the food was fish based and not kosher, so I couldn’t eat very much. I did have some warm rolls and salad.

The chef brought us into the kitchen for the making of the desserts – a giant Rocher-like chocolate ball filled with hazelnut. It was delicious.

Since we had just had lunch and no one was in a rush for dinner, a couple of the writers suggested we head to the Florentin neighborhood, which had recently been called by Thrillist one of the hippest in the world.

I definitely felt it was eclectic, a little bit Brooklyn and meat-packing in one, with everything from art galleries and trendy restaurants to furniture stores and whisky bars.

There were also cats everywhere and I have to say they made for some great Kodak moments.

We walked for a while and Carmela said it wasn’t far to the restaurant so we decided not to get back on the bus.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t true. It was actually about two miles. Everyone was tired and hungry and my back was aching.  It had been a long day.

We arrived at Social Club for dinner and it was a set menu. I had pasta and cheesecake, which was pretty good.

The plan was to continue on to an Israeli dance performance. 

My back was still bothering me from a very long day of walking.

A few of the others in our group were also exhausted so half of us chose to go back to the hotel

I heard it was actually a Bollywood show no one liked so I didn’t miss anything.

I did get to check into an amazing room at the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzeliya, a suburb of Tel Aviv.

The bathroom was loaded with first class amenities and the staff had left me flowers, wine, fruit, and chocolate.

What a wonderful way to end the day in Israel .

Friday, March 18, 2016

From the Mediterranean to the Vineyard in Israel

I was in Israel for the first time since I was a teenager on a press trip with Israel Tourism.

Since we just ended up with a private guide with us since no one from the visitor’s bureau or public relations had joined us, and there were some mix ups in the schedule, we decided to fill in a bit of what each of us wanted to do for our stories.

I woke up fairly early at the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv. I knew it would be a long day and I was ready to get started.

Despite the fact that I had a full dinner the night before, I couldn’t wait for another Israeli breakfast. 

I anticipated it would be as good as the Dan Panorama in Jerusalem, and I wasn’t disappointed.

My sweet tooth was more than satisfied. It took a lot of self-control not to totally fill my plate with luscious desserts!

I managed to collect my favorites into a fairly well-rounded plate of fruit, cheese, tomato, halvah, a cheese blintz, a small raspberry tart, and a sliver of my favorite breakfast food – cheesecake.

After breakfast, we took a tour of the hotel and saw photos of many celebrities who had been there recently, such as Richard Gere.

We also learned that Dan Hotels are Israel’s leaders in luxury hotels, and Americans are their most frequent customers.

The Dan Tel Aviv was after all in the perfect location – steps from the beach and in the city.

We finished the tour in the executive lounge, which had a breathtaking view of the beach.

The plan for the morning was to head to the Gindi Fashion Week shows. A few of us did not do any fashion writing and decided to skip it.

I went for a walk along the beach with my friend and fellow writer, Karen Tina (KT) Harrison.

Tel Aviv is such an ideal vacation spot with both the city and a spectacular beach in one spot. It was clean and not at all crowded, with the crystal blue Mediterranean Sea and a well-kept promenade to walk along.

Walking is just what we did, for about an hour, before heading back to our rooms to get a little work done.

In the afternoon, KT and I went to Tishbi Winery, along with another writer, Jo Piazza, who was the Managing Editor of Yahoo! Travel.

It was about an hour and a half away from downtown Tel Aviv, but well worth the trip.

My cousin Marge had arranged for us to tour the winery and it turned out to be a most memorable experience.

Everyone was incredibly welcoming. We had one of the best meals ever and every wine we tasted at Tishbi was fantastic.

I especially loved the Tishbi Brut Sparkling and the Viognier. As for the food, we sampled nearly every fresh and delicious dish on the menu and I don’t think I could distinguish a favorite.

Everything we ate was from fresh and local meat and vegetables. The fish was straight from the Red Sea.

We were all quite impressed with the whole operation at Tishbi , which also included a bakery and chocolate shop.

We finished in the tasting room, where we went home with wine and treats (I love their Mango Chardonnay Jam in my baked brie).

It was tough to leave Tishbi, but we had to go return the car and meet back with the group a few hours later for dinner at Dr. Shakshuka Restaurant in Old Jaffa.

The restaurant, a popular one for locals and visitors, was quite good, but it was hard to top our afternoon.

The dishes served here originally came from North Africa.

We sampled a little bit of everything from salads to dessert. They didn’t stop bringing out dishes from the moment we all sat down.

After dinner, we walked through Old Jaffa. Our guide Carmela showed us the old soap factory, which has become a favorite hiding place for the local bats.

KT and I finished the night with drinks at a very busy and colorful nightclub, the Flamingo Bar at the Brown Beach House Hotel.

We met up with the public relations reps from the hotel for a nightcap from their eclectic menu.

I settled on the Green Crush, Bombay gin with cucumbers, mint, verbena (a flower), and ginger ale.  It was pretty good.

We stayed about an hour. It had been a very long day and it was a bit crowded for our tastes, though younger crowd seemed to love it.

It was just a short walk back to the Dan Hotel Tel Aviv. I was so tired I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.