Category Archives: Food

Wine tour

If you are interested in seeing Israel and nature, wine making and tasting, I would be happy to arrange a wine tour. Today we toured the Carmel area and Lower Galilee with some great views of mountains and valleys visiting 4 wineries: TishbiAmphoraeTulip and Yiftah’el.


A wineries tour is a special way to experience a piece of Israel today and learn about Israel in the 1880s and the impact of the Baron de Rothschild on its development.

The Tishbi Estate winery is a family run business established in 1984 offering 4 series of wines: Special Reserve, Estate, Vineyard and Series. The business is based on a tradition going back to 1882 when Michael Chamiletzki arrived in Zichron, settled in the nearby town of Shefeya and started growing grapes commissioned by Rothschild. The winery also makes a fine brandy. There is a kosher dairy restaurant and visitor’s center that besides wine sells a line of fine foods by Oshra Tishbi: wine jellies, fruit preserves, honey, olive oil and tehina (also organic).


The Amphorae winery is situated by the Maharal River where it crosses the Shirr valley, part of Makura ranch that grows organic Merlot grapes, olives and lichee. The winery buildings of native limestone fieldstone were designed by well-known architect Diego Grasso who has designed wineries in northern Italy.

The Itzhaki family founded the Tulip winery in 2003 on Kfar Tikva, a residential community for adults with disabilities and special needs thereby making it part of a unique project to help enable these adults to reach their full potential. Tulip helps to support and contribute to the community. Tulip sponsored a contest for artwork from people with disabilities and the winning entry graces the label of one of their premier wines. Tulip is located next to Bet Shearim and the Sheikh Abrek ridge where the sculpture of Alexander Zaid, one of the founders of HaShomer (the Watchman organization), overlooks the Jezreel valley.


Yiftah’el grows its own grapes, more unusual varieties, Petite Sira, Shiraz and Sangovese and makes it wine on Alon HaGalil. The visitor’s centre, which also sells honey from wildflowers, citrus, plum, clover and carob, is housed in a small cabin that was imported from Appalachia by an American who shipped it to Israel when he made aliyah.

It is worth including a visit to Zichron Yaakov, the HaMizgaga museum where no less than Meir Dizengoff (later mayor of Tel Aviv) was in charge of the glass factory making wine bottles and the park at Ramat HaNadiv where the Baron and his wife are buried.

Jerusalem Restaurant Recommendations

As a guide, I’m often asked for restaurant recommendations so here are some suggestions for restaurants to try in Jerusalem. There are many websites with lists of restaurants, reviews, etc. – my idea is to recommend a few (I’ve listed about 30) that I feel are special in some way (ethnicity, atmosphere, cuisine, location, view, food) and that are likely to be close to where you are. Those marked [NK] are not kosher, usually means that they are also open on Shabbat.

If you’re at the Mabada theater check out the restaurants in the mitkham rakevet, the old train yards: HaSadna (NK), Hahatzer (meat/fish), Guta (French) actually close by on Derekh Bet Lehem. Try Terasa at the Begin Heritage Center or Lavan [NK] (same owners as Adom) a stylish bistro at Cinemateque that have a lovely view of the walls of the Old City.

Nearby on Emeq Refaim Street are all the restaurants and cafes of the German Colony: Luciana (Italian), Joy (meat/fish), Olive (meat/fish), Taiku (Asian), Ryu (Asian), Caffit (dairy), Masaryk (dairy), Coffee Mill and the list goes on and on and changes often – it’s hard to go wrong.

In town, off Jaffa Road at number 31 enter Feingold Court through an arched passageway and find a bunch of restaurants: Dagim B’Hatzer (fish), Eldad V’zehu, Sakura (Japanese) [NK], Barood [NK], Adom [NK].

In the Nahalat Shiva neighborhood there is Tmol Shilshom (dairy/fish) in the courtyard and others along the street; at the bottom on Hillel Street there is Spaghettim [NK] with more than 50 sauces.

Farther up Jaffa Road on the right take HaRav Kook Street and you can find Anna Ticho House, Darna (Morroccan); Moshe Basson’s restaurant Eucalyptus (Israeli fusion) has moved to Hutzot HaYozer below Jaffa Gate.

In the Mahane Yehuda area and along Agrippas Street down to Gan Sacher there are a wide selection of restaurants Topolino (Italian), Ichikidana (Indian vegetarian), Mizrachi, Azura, Rachmo, MahaneYuda (NK), Ima (Kurdish). To help you find your way around Mahane Yehuda check out my map.


Mahane Yehuda market

Mahane Yehuda, also just called the Shuk, is an outdoor, covered market (so you can visit even on one of those cold and rainy Jerusalem winter days) that sells fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, spices, halva, baklava, bread, pastries, chocolate, cheeses, salads, fish, meat, housewares, clothes, flowers – almost any food you could think of.

Mahane Yehuda Market

When walking around Mahane Yehuda you stimulate all your senses: sight – check out the arrangements and colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables, sound – listen to the vendors hawking their wares, Middle Eastern music on CDs, davvening/prayers, smell – fresh breads and pastry, taste – free tastes of halva, often new fruit in season, you can always ask if you can have a taste and touch.

Colors of Vegetables

Tropical FruitThe busiest times are late Thursday and on Friday when many people are buying things for Shabbat but if you don’t mind the bustle you’ll have a great experience. Invited to dinner, the shuk (market) is a great place to pick up something to show your appreciation to your hosts.

The Shuk is bounded by Jaffa Road on the north and Agrippas Street to the south; the 2 main streets of the Shuk are Mahane Yehuda Street and Etz Hayyim Street, with a number of smaller cross streets, named after fruits: Tapuah=Apple, Afarsek=Peach, Agas=Pear, Shezif=Plum, Shaked=Almond, Tut=Berry. If you agree to receive an email with my latest blog post I’m happy to email you my *FREE* map of Mahane Yehuda to help you navigate the market. If you’re interested in learning about the history of the market, discovering and experiencing its specialness rather than exploring on your own then contact me to guide you.

Wine, beer and liquor, both local and imported, are available at a number of stores, the drinking age in Israel is 18 – imbibe responsibly. Israel now produces many fine wines – besides the Golan and Yarden brands, there are smaller boutique wineries all over the country (Galil, Dalton, Yatir, Etzion, Tabor to name just a few) and the prices are a fraction of what you would pay back home. Another great idea is to visit a winery while you are touring Israel and are in the area.

If you’re going to pick up some Israeli wine then why not cheese and make it a party. When I lived in Cambridge MA the corner store we walked to was a Whole Foods and if you’ve ever been to one you know that their cheese department is incredible – it was one of the things that I knew I was really going to miss about living in Jerusalem. And then one day, while walking through Mahane Yehuda I discovered Basher’s, cheeses imported from all over the world (many are kosher, exercise due diligence) plus some fine Israeli cheeses; just for your information they also carry an assortment of artisan breads, fine wines and chocolates. Be careful as it’s easy to spend more money than you budgeted.

If you begin to feel a little hungry, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes where you can sit down and enjoy a meal from hummus and felafel to a full, multi-course meal. Two of my favorites are Topolino, a small, family-run restaurant at 62 Agrippas that serves pasta, pizza and fish dishes (kosher) and Ichikadana, an Indian vegetarian restaurant (kosher) at 4 HaEshkol Street – the cook and owner is originally from India (in either case, please tell them that Shmuel recommended them).

Mahane Yehuda is no longer just a fruit and vegetable market but has gentrified – today there are some fine restaurants and cafes, designer clothes, gift shops.


Teller now has a stall in the shuk in addition to the bakery on Agrippas which now is also a cafe.

HaEshkol Street has some unique eateries: Alfonso, a cafe with some organic items; Bistro Mimi run by a chef from France; Mousseline which may be the best ice cream in Israel and HaKhachapuriya, a cafe with Georgian specialties.

Another artisan bakery at 2 HaDekel, they also have a stall in the market.

Basher has opened a Wine & Cheese Bar at 21 Agrippas Street.

Finding a guide at the last minute

In Hebrew there’s an expression daka tish’im which means at the last minute. I’ve been able to help people who realized at the last minute that they wanted to see a particular site – the best way to do that is to hire a guide who can arrange everything. One couple hoped they would get to visit Herodium, King Herod’s palace/fortress in the desert but it was the day before they were leaving. They searched on Google and found an article I’d written and contacted me. I picked them up at their hotel, drove them to Herodium and guided them. This is what they had to say:

The tour of Herodium was awe-inspiring, largely because of Shmuel Browns, our guide. He is highly knowledgeable, and comes equipped with graphic documentation that fills the gaps of what one sees. He gave us a taste of the detective work of archaeologists. Further, Shmuel is very professional and a real “mensch”.

A businessman was flying to Zurich, Switzerland in the afternoon, but at the last minute he had the morning available so he contacted me to take him around the Old City before his flight (I ensured that we were back in time to meet his taxi to the airport; alternatively, after the tour I can take you to the airport, I’m a licensed chauffeur). So if you have limited time but want to have the fullest experience while here in Israel (good reasons for hiring a guide) I can guide you for as little as ½ day. The tour will be personalized to your interests and you can book at the last minute. If you’re staying in Jerusalem then phone me at 02 561-0785 or 053 280-6537 when you wake up and tell me what you’d like to do, then you can go for breakfast. If I’m available, I’ll meet you within the hour to start your tour.

Here is what one traveler who hired me shared on TripAdvisor:

First off, I made the very grave error of only booking a private tour guide for one day. That caused me a lot of stress while on vacation. I did a lot of research prior to my departure and based on the forum discussions I decided that one day of touring with a guide would be enough and decided that I was enough of a ‘seasoned’ traveller to be able to guide my party on my own.

The other reason I was swayed away from hiring a guide was the costs involved. I’ve used private guides in China and Africa and the costs for a private guide were very very inexpensive compared to guides in Israel – I had a hard time justifying the $500. per day.

Boy was I ever wrong and was I ever sorry for having listened to the feedback that you can do Israel on your own with a good guide book. This was not the case for me or my travel companions. We found we really needed the professional assistance of a guide for there is just so much a guide book can teach you. Few sights have good signage telling you where you are and what you are seeing or much historical reference. The cost of a guide definitely reflects what you get, an organized and informative visit to a land filled with a very rich narrative history!

If you decide at the last minute that you really do need a guide whether for one day or a week contact me. You can hire an expert, licensed guide at the last minute and for less than $500. per day.

Map of Mahane Yehuda Market

You can tell a lot about a city by whether it has an outdoor market and Jerusalem has a great market. In 1982 for a book called “Israel Sprouts: A Vegetarian Guidebook (to Israel)” I drew a map of Mahane Yehuda to help people find their way around. I scanned that map and added a lot of new information so that it better reflects Mahane Yehuda today – it’s not just a fruit and vegetable market with shops selling dried goods. It has gentrified and there are restaurants and cafes, designer clothes shops, health food stores, artisan bakeries, shops that sell imported cheeses, fine wines, chocolates, halva.

In the 5 years that the map has been on my website, it has been viewed more than 6,000 times. The map is © Shmuel Browns, you are free to use it for personal, non-commercial use as long as you do not modify it. If you have corrections or suggestions please contact me by email.

To help organize the information I’ve separated the information into 3 maps and color coded them, one for restaurants, one for gifts and one for food shopping. To get your FREE copy of the latest maps I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column under FOLLOW BLOG – then just send an email to at gmail dot com. With these maps in hand you’re ready to head out to explore the shuk on your own or contact me for an insider’s guided tour of Mahane Yehuda. Have fun exploring the shuq.

Some ideas about things to do with the help of this map:

  1. Mid-morning and you went out without breakfast – check out the health food stores on Agrippas Street, buy some fresh fruit, like pineapple, star fruit, kiwis, mangos; try a bureka, a filo pastry with cheese and/or spinach.
  2. Want organic? There is organic produce and products at TevaNet on Agrippas and an organic restaurant on #1 Agas Street, note that Agas is called Banai at Mahane Yehuda Street.
  3. Picnic? Head for one of the stores like Basher or Zedkiyahu and pick up an assortment of cheeses & salads. Get artisan breads at Teller. Wine? Fruit for desert. Walk down Agrippas Street (west, away from town) to the park, Gan Sacher.
  4. Snack – felafel (in our family, the favorite is the brothers Levi on the corner of Mahane Yehuda and Agrippas Street). For hummus try Rachmo, Agas 1 or Azura.
  5. Feel like eating something else – Ichikadana is a vegetarian Indian restaurant on HaEshkol Street, Topolino is a cozy, Italian restaurant, both are family run.
  6. Looking for a present for loved ones back home – check out handicrafts at Roza, pottery at Pri HaAdama, Moroccan crafts at Rika.

Fastfood Slowfood

I was doing some guiding in the Old City yesterday and as lunch time came around I began to think about a little fastfood, how about hummus, my favorite is with snobar, toasted pine nuts. Which hummus place should you choose? Everyone has their favorite so here are some of mine:

  1. Old City: a small place, there’s no sign but on the bill is written Cafeteria Ziad, on the right just up from Station VII of the Via Dolorosa (peek in and notice the column, in the exact place where it stood on the Roman Cardo). Lena is along the same street past Station VIII, on the left. Abu Shukri is on el Wad Street at Station V of the Via Dolorosa.
  2. Jerusalem: Pinati, on Melekh George Street corner of HaHistadrut (one block from the Midrahov, the pedestrian mall). Check out the photos of celebrities who have eaten there.
  3. Jerusalem: Rachmos, in the Mahane Yehuda market on 5 HaEshkol Street (see the map of Mahane Yehuda here). A lot of their clientele are still people who work and shop in the market.
  4. Jerusalem: Azura, in the Iraqi shuk area of Mahane Yehuda, a family-run restaurant serving hummus and meat dishes.
  5. Jerusalem: Hummus Bar, way down Agrippas Street, left side walking west, towards the park, Gan Sacher.
  6. Jerusalem: Hummus Ben Sira because it’s at 3 Ben Sira Street.
  7. Tel Aviv: On our way  to Jaffa we found a small restaurant, Aba Gil, that serves soups, salads, bulghur, and hummus, organic, with whole wheat pita. 55 Yehuda HaLevi Street, 03 566-3320 and even its own website here.

If it’s a special occasion you want something more creative, more unique as a repast, food prepared with intention – slowfood. Then the place to go in Jerusalem is Eucalyptus in Hutzot HaYotzer, the artists colony just across from Jaffa Gate, to have a taste of chef Moshe Basson’s Biblical cooking.

One afternoon, a Jewish chef and a Muslim chef got together to cook for peace. Moshe Basson of the Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem and Nabil Aho of the Restaurant Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center made a menu from traditional Biblical food, including green wheat soup and musakhan chicken with hummus (and let’s just say it was the best hummus I ever tasted).”