The start of our food market tour.

The start of our food market tour.

After a short, silent bus ride from Yad Vashem, our group ended up at the market. Not just any market. It’s called Mahane Yehuda. And it’s also known simply as “The Shuk.”

We handed ourselves, and our stomachs, over to Tali Friedman. Tali is a well known Parisian-trained, Israeli chef with a culinary studio located right in the middle of the market.

And she was our guide for a few hours as we got to smell and taste our way through the crowded market. She had a few rules for us. The most important was that we were not to think about calorie content. And we were to try everything.

I loved Tali from that point forward. Her enthusiasm for the vendors and their offerings. Her enthusiasm for food in general. My kind of person.

I mean, I’m someone who can spend hours in a grocery store in another country. Or in Las Vegas’ Chinatown. I married my husband because he owns a restaurant. And is the best Iron Chef around. I really like food.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Tray of bourekas, after 60 seconds

Tray of bourekas, after 60 seconds

Our first stop was a storefront that sold freshly-made bourekas. (I’m kicking myself for not writing down the name of this place.) Bourekas are phyllo dough pastries that can be stuffed with anything. We were given a tray of them, stuffed with spinach and cheese, which our group descended upon like a pack of hungry animals. Oh, they were so good. Flaky and hot. Served with two dipping sauces and some hard-boiled eggs. A great way to start the tour.

Heavenly Halva at Halva Kingdom

Heavenly Halva at Halva Kingdom

From there, we left the street and headed in to the indoor market with aisles and aisles lined with vendors selling anything from housewares to fish to halva. Yes, halva. The best halva I’ve ever had. Melt in your mouth, unique combinations, fresh-tasting. A completely different breed of halva than what I grew up knowing about. This is not Joyva.

Machne Yehuda

We also tasted granola with freshly made yogurt, sampled all kinds of cheeses, watched the kids go nuts at the candy stall, drank pomegranate tea and smelled the most fragrant spices. It was all amazing.

But we weren’t done yet.

Our last stop was at the fishmonger’s stall where Tali pulled out a piece of tuna and started to thinly slice it, put it on a platter and dress it with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs and dried cherries. We then followed her a few steps to her studio where she opened a couple of bottles of Riesling, served up some fresh bread and invited us to enjoy the tuna and the wine while we took in the view from her studio.

Tali studio

Our day was only half over. Hard to believe, I know. We headed back to the hotel for some down time, which meant me watching the kids rough house in the pool. Not sure where all of their energy came from but it could have been that they didn’t have any Riesling. After an hour or two, we continued our touring with a visit to the Israel Museum where we learned more about the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls. I love the history but I also loved the architecture of the building that the artifacts are housed in.

Lid to an urn or a “boob”?

Lid to an urn or a “boob”?

When the kids were asked by Hillel (our amazing guide, more on him later) what the structure reminded them of, the almost unanimous answer was, “A boob.” A proud moment for me and I’m sure for all of the grandparents. It is actually the top of the building and is supposed to replicate the lids of the urns that the Scrolls were found in.

Arcadia

Our day ended with a lively dinner at Arcadia, a farm-to-table restaurant hidden down an alleyway, where we had a lot of laughs and some really amazing food. We started with a really fresh tasting cold yogurt and mint soup. And moved on to fish carpaccio, homemade calzone, tender chicken and the most wonderful grilled bread served with different spreads.

I think we all slept great that night. Which was good because the next day, we were going to be archaeologists, digging for artifacts and crawling through caves on our stomachs.