Make it. Eat it. Love it.
We called it our ‘babymoon’. Not my husband and I, but rather my best friend Katherine and I, because as we saw it, best friends need time before baby arrives too. We had a little two day adventure up to Northern Israel to discover Caesarea, Acre and Tsfat, three spots that steal my heart each time I visit. And, we spent the night in the most lovely bed and breakfast, Casa Caesarea.
We joked as we pulled into the large gated community that we had somehow been transported to Florida. Neatly manicured properties with gorgeous homes and the only full sized golf course in all of Israel, reminded me of the sunshine state which I spent my University years. Pulling up to Casa Caesarea, we were greeted with the big beautiful smile and open arms of our host, Anne Kleinberg. Anne, a former New Yorker and interior designer turned writer and major foodie, has a novel, Menopause in Manhattan under her belt as well as a cookbook, Pomegranates: 70 celebratory recipes, and another one in the works. Anne is now living her dream of having a boutique bed and breakfast in her home in the most gorgeous of locations, Caesarea, Israel.
The wrought iron gates opened and Anne handed us the key to the guest entrance. Up a flight of stairs a living area with french doors on either side let light shine in. A bottle of wine and homemade cookies that were simply divine, sat waiting for us. Talk about a warm welcoming! A small kitchen nook equipped with everything you could need for a comfortable stay sat outside the bedroom. The bedroom was fit for a princess. A huge inviting bed and a large door that opened up to a huge wrap around balcony with glorious views of the golf course. Downstairs, a beautiful patio overlooking a large pool was serene, peaceful and inviting and where we were to have a leisurely breakfast of yogurt, granola, croissants, lemon curd, cheeses and fruit before trying to tear ourselves away from our little oasis before continuing our travels.
Besides being a perfect little getaway for friends or families, a romantic retreat for a couple and a golfers paradise, Casa Caesarea is a foodies dream (even if you just spend your time drooling over Anne’s amazing kitchen!). Having your B&B host be a foodie and cookbook author not only means delicious meals, fabulous restaurant recommendations and wonderful food talk, it also means having the opportunity to be apart of the gourmet culture club where foodies, photographers, writers and bloggers alike can enjoy courses like the upcoming wine and dine shoot. The wine and dine shoot is a food photography course with Dan Lev where not only will he be teaching invaluable food photography but where you will actually be cooking (and eating) the food you photograph! Seriously, what more could a foodie want out of a bed and breakfast? Oh and it’s only 5 minutes from the beach!
Casa Caesarea: casacaesarea.com, tel: 04 610-0228 or 054 543-0228
Peeling ourselves away from the peaceful paradise of Casa Caesarea was no easy thing, but we made our way to the beautiful ruins that Caesarea is famous for. Set on the shores of the Mediterranean this ancient port city was built by Herod the Great in 25-31 BCE and many people have come through leaving their mark from the Roman Empire to the Byzantine era to the Crusaders and the Ottomans. What’s left today are remarkable ruins to explore, including beautiful mosaic floors, ancient bathhouses, a huge Roman amphitheater where concerts are still put on to this day and a large hippodrome. Take a stroll on the shores and you are likely to find some Byzantine glass pieces and ancient pottery remains.
Steps away from the ancient ruins of Caesarea sits an array of seafood restaurants. Taking a recommendation from Anne, Katherine and I sat overlooking the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean at the Crusaders Restaurant. The menu was large and filled with every type of seafood imaginable. Our eyes went to the mixed seafood platter that was filled with crab, shrimp, mussels and calamari covered in a light buttery garlic sauce. We savored every bite of the delicious and fresh shellfish. It has been a long time since we have delighted in these sea creatures as it’s hard to find fresh seafood in the desert and living in a country that is mostly kosher, it’s always a treat to be able to enjoy a good platter of crabs and shrimp. As if this seafood platter wasn’t enough, we had a side of mezze which included everything from tahina to eggplant, olives to a mayonnaise and roe mixture, all served with a beautiful foccacia bread, perfect for dipping in that buttery garlic sauce our shellfish sat in!
Crusaders Restaurant: Old Caesarea Park, Tel: 04-636-1931
North of beautiful Caesarea lays the ancient crusader city of Acre (or Akko). This fortified old city sitting on the Mediterranean has been conquered by everyone. The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Egyptians, Crusaders, Ottomans, and Armenians have called this city home and the massive stone walls that were built to keep invaders out still stand today and is a beautiful place to take in the scenery. An ancient Templar tunnel connects one part of the city to another, a gorgeous mosque stands tall in the center of the city and each turn reveals more hidden treasures. Fishing boats and small sailboats line the port, glistening in the late afternoon sun. We wandered through the cobblestone streets through the labyrinth of alley ways until finding the small shuk with stalls selling aromatic spices to syrupy Arab pastries, fresh sugar cane juice to beautiful copper cookware. A trip to a new city is never complete without a visit to their shuk.
One of my favorite restaurants sits in a 400 year old Ottoman building in the old city of Acre, Uri Buri. Walking by this modest restaurant one would never think that is the top restaurant in the area. Seafood is the focus of the menu and chef and owner Uri Jeremias never disappoints. Katherine and I sat down and forgoing the chefs tasting menu where servers keep bringing out dish after dish until you say stop, ordered 3 half portion main dishes. Our first was cod in a lemon butter and sage sauce cooked beautifully with a perfectly crispy skin, served with a creamy cauliflower puree. Next was a plate of shrimp and artichokes bathing in the most delicious lemony turmeric sauce. Lastly we dined on sea bass smothered in the most creamy porchini mushroom sauce, served with a bowl of vibrant roasted vegetables. Each dish divine and getting better as they came. Next time we will surely be coming with an empty stomach and indulge in the tasting menu. We passed on dessert as our stomachs couldn’t handle another bite, however, visiting Uri Buri in the past I must recommend trying their kanafeh as it was some of the best I’ve had.
Uri Buri: 93 Hagana, Akko, Tel: 04-955-2212
Our last stop on our small adventure up north was the mystical city of Tsfat. Home of Kabbalah, this small city is the highest city in all of Israel and is filled with artists selling their paintings and Judaica along the touristy main pedestrian street. The rest of the city is quiet and sleepy. Walking up and down the hilly narrow cobblestone streets lead way to tiny Tsfat cheese shops, old synagogs, gorgeous stained glass windows and doors, an ancient Mikva and the tomb of Hannah and her seven sons. Some of my favorite places in Tsfat are the overlooks that give breathtaking views of the Sea of Galilee.
Katherine and I stopped into my favorite cafes in the city, Mr. Lachuch, a Yemenite restaurant in the heart of the artist colony. This tiny cafe is owned by the chef, Ronen. He cooks up what he calls “spiritual soul food”. We munched on Yemenite bread called lachuch filled with different cheeses, vegetables and spices served with a spicy sauce and olives. Always comforting and never disappoints after an afternoon of wandering around this magical old city.
Mr. Lacuch: The main street of the artists colony