Monday, June 30, 2008

Gillis on the water - premier eatery in the port

If you like nice places, lots of fresh air, a great menu, head for Gillies at the Old Port in Tel Aviv (Tel: 03-6057777, Hanger 26, Tel Aviv Old Port). On Fridays and Saturdays morning it's short on elbow room but fun to mingle, and great to eat. All popular eateries in Tel Aviv with a good reputation tend to be booked up on these mornings. Gillies is a big restaurant specially when you count the outside deck. On a busy day they serve 100 to 120 people at a time. The menu is a mix of modern Israeli and international dishes. Breakfast and lunch on weekends are about the same, with the added lunch special once in a while. There is a fixed price breakfast with eggs, omelets, sandwiches, and a smoked salmon dish. All three of us chose a version of the breakfast, one the eggs, one the Shakshooka, and one the cured salmon in Tequila.

Gillies at the Old Port on a Saturday morning, a fine place to sit by the water.

The meal comes with fresh warm bread that can easily fill you even before the main dish. Together with the Champagne drink, you may want to skip out on the main event. But wait, no such thing. The eggs here are wonderful, although I would rate the Shakshuka "Ashkenazi". That's my description of a Shakshuka with not enough spiciness to make you order your own water jug. But that's not a fault of the place, it's probably just a consequence of the style and the regular diners. If you like your sauce spicy, ask for extra 'hot'. The cured salmon in Tequila turned out to be a great choice. I never imagined doing this with Tequila, so extra point of creativity to the chef here. The Champagne drinks were all good, we has a sampling of all three and they were excellent flavors as together with the breakfast dishes (orange juice, grapefruit juice, and creme de Cassis).

Breakfast half done, take a break and enjoy the sea view. Read More...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yakety Yack - the buzz around T"A

  1)   The International Herald Tribune last Friday (June 20, '08) ran a story by Michel Johnson that started with the intro: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse". We've all said it but now it's a reality. Johnson reports that horse meat is gaining popularity as the meat of choice in France, China, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. The yack-yack in Tel Aviv is horse meat. We don't eat horse in Tel Aviv. Beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and some pork - but NO horse meat - I say let's keep it that way, build race tracks and enjoy watching these beautiful animals run - like the wind...

Life's a beach! End of June in T"A beach, if your hot - get in the water

  2)   Hot Rock Hits Tel Aviv: The veteran rock band, Blondie is set to make its first visit to Tel Aviv. They are set to play their hit album "parallel lines" from start to finish. Blondie has been very hot in the US and Israel and the show should be a bit hit here. Check with your local ticket agent for dates, venues, and tickets. The music world comes to Tel Aviv -- enjoy retro rock.

  3)   Friday morning is "go out to breakfast day". You found the place, came early, and now the decision is where to sit. Some tables are round, some are square. Some chairs are big and comfy, some are normal. Better make a choice quick. The place is filling up fast. OK - square table, soft chairs, great view... BRING ON THE FOOD - Yakety yak!!

  4)   Sugar or NOT - Yakety yak! Ever notice the sugar choices offered at a restaurant? Several packets are real sugar. Some appear in long sticks. Some are white, some are brown, some a bit of a surprise. The substitutes are even more fun. Some taste just like sugar, some are bitter, some are... what is this??? Good luck, yakety yak ;8-)'
sam-D-man and Frakie too - from T"A

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fixing up Biyalik Street

Music center and library, renovated old Bauhaus building at the top of Biyalik street

One thing about the city of Tel Aviv, it has unbelievably beautiful old homes. From even before the city was considered a proper "city" in 1909, people here built with style. This means that some things need re-building once in a century or so. Biyalik street was probably called something else in the beginning. But Haim Nachman Bialik lived there for a long time, so it was named after him. Biyalik was one of the first famous Hebrew writers in Israel. He eventually became the national writer and kids have been reciting his poems ever since. Biyalik street is a small affair, something resembling a big alley more than a real street. For a long time it was in disrepair, probably because the city found much more important places to renovate. But the buildings on this street are beautiful example of 1920's architecture. Some are excellent Bauhaus examples, designed by the German Jewish architects who left their imprint on the city. Some are a mix of Arab and Turkish architecture that we call Mediterranean. But if you look carefully, they are quite unique. A blend of what at the time came from the history and tradition of the Arabs and the Turks with the knowledge and habits of the Jews from Europe, blend in a little "new-world" Jews who were not sure what would be their future in this land, but idealistic they were. So the building was half practical and half imaginative.

Biyalik street with old trees and 1920's Bauhaus architecture

On one side of the street is the Rubin Art museum. Rubin was an impressionist painter who captured Tel Aviv in it's early days with wonderful colors. Then there is the Biyalik house, a large building with the writer's work room preserved as it was used in his time. Today the Biyalik house is closed for renovation, probably taking advantage of the street construction. I have mentioned before how Tel Aviv fell into a bit of neglect in the 1980's and 90's. This was probably the doing of the hard economic and political times. With an intifada on one side and the tech business crash on the other, Tel Aviv was not in good shape. But today things seem to be a little better. These are not the boom days of the peak, but they are not low time either. With the stability and sanity of regular life, Tel Aviv is going about a huge repair effort. This little street resembles probably 10% of the city. Pavement and sidewalk that have not seen this side of a construction worker in 25 years (or more). Not to mention parking spaces and a bench to sit on. Biyalik street is getting a complete face lift. The street is now going to be one lane with marked parking on one side. The sidewalks are wide and newly paved with beautiful stones.
Biyalik house also being renovated

Biyalik street is only one of many in south Tel Aviv that needs a face lift. Repairing and keeping up a city is not a trivial task. It is also something that Tel Aviv has not done before. Cities like London and Paris have been keeping themselves re-newed for hundreds of years, Tel Aviv is just starting. But with what we have to start out with, the work is worth doing. It preserves our heritage and keeps us aware of how idealistic they were, in the "early years". Which sometimes we forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But than again, repairs to this wonderful old street is part of the hustle and bustle. Come visit Biyalik street in a few weeks, and you will get a nice street and two wonderful places to see, the Rubin Art museum and the Biyalik house. Read More...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Magic Burger on Iben Gvirol - not battling burgers

There is an old clipping from five years ago on the wall of Magic Burger (64 Iben Gvirol, T"A 03-6956782, 11:00AM to 5:00AM) about the battle of the burgers. This was all the talk of the town a few years ago, when "real burgers" came to town. I am not sure what makes a real burger, or really "un-real burger". I guess the McDonald's and Burger Ranch are not "real burgers". The Magic Burger is definitely considered "REAL". It is made from freshly ground beef or lamb. You get it made your way with a choice of toppings. There are about 10 sources to choose from... and, it is made right in front of you while you sit at the bar and chat with the guy next to you. Well, for most of us 'Anglos' this seems like the standard burger joint anywhere off the beaten track US of A. But for Tel Aviv this is a very special place. The burgers are really great! No question about it, quality of ingredients and attention to customers really counts. Specially in something as simple as a burger. Magic Burger is basically a bar with a few tables outside. When the weather is nice, you are in luck. But on a hot day, as we are getting into July and August, this is not the place to eat a burger comfortably.

Soldiers and students lunching on Magic Burgers
The burgers themselves come in 200, 300, and 400 gram sizes. Most people seem to order the 200 gram "meal" - which includes fries (deep fried and hot flat round REAL potato kind) with a soft drink. There are also a few beers to choose from. There are other things on the menu like salads, but I have never seen anyone eat them (they do send them out at night for takeout). Toppings are excellent but basic, tomato, onion, lettuce, pickle, fried onion, and hot peppers. Sauces are a nice touch here from spicy chili to mayonnaise, 10,000 island, to ketchup and BBQ. Takeout business is mostly in the evening when people stop by to take dinner home. But you do see the occasional secretary ordering 5 burgers for 'the boys'.
All eys on the fries - and the BURGER MAKER
The most interesting aspect of Magic Burger is the clientele. You will find the from delivery jockeys just off their Tus-Tus, to army officers, to slicked out corporate managers, to moms with strollers... you get the point. If you are used just to fast food crowed don't be surprised to find a few executives in the crowd. If you are in the Gan Ha'Ir / City Hall area, stop by a burger at the "magic" Read More...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dizengoff Food Fair - Just like mama use to cook

... well, not EXACTLY! but maybe? well YES! Tel Aviv culinary world has one of the most diverse cultural backgrounds you can find. The only problem is that you have to travel all over town to sample from African to American, Asian to European... except on Thursdays and Fridays when the food fair at Dizengoff center goes into action. Some 40 to 50 vendors sell from Moroccan and Libyan traditional dishes to Argentinian Chorisso and Empanadas, Chinese Dim-Sum to traditional eastern European Jewish delicacies. Add Sushi, fresh baked Druze pittas, American style baked potatoes, and various sweets like mini-pancakes and old fashion middle-eastern baklava in Iraqi style. Well, you get the point of the title, no matter where your 'mama' came from, you would probably find something traditional and familiar.

Freshly steamed Chinese Dim_Sum, absolutely wonderful.
On a recent Friday afternoon I headed to Dizengoff center for a snack or two. There are so many things here and some have become a favorite, that I have to admit of not sampling many of the stands. On the first floor near entrance #6 you have a small clump of stands away from the main push and shove center (that's on the bottom floor next to Ace hardware). Here I found a Dim-Sum stand with freshly steaming bamboo trays teaming with a dozen different dumplings (both vegetarian and meat). Right next to it is the baked potato stand with a large iron oven and rows of toppings. A few steps away is a cookie stand with a selection of fat free and sugar free cookies besides the traditional ones. Finally you find a cheese stand where you can buy about a dozen specialty cheeses, mostly European.
Dishing out some traditional north African comfort food
But the real action is downstairs. Here in a little corner of this vast cavern of a space are about 20 stands who serve north African (4 stands), Asian (3 stands), south American, fruit salads and shakes, deserts (3 stands) and various other ethnic creations. Most of the dishes are warm and just been cooked in the morning. The sushi is rolled right in front of your eyes and you can even choose the ingredients yourself. Juices and shakes are mixed to your taste. Basically you are not going to leave hungry ;8~)'' ~~ and if you don't want to heat here, just ask the vendor to pack-it up "TO-GO" and you are free from the toil of cooking this evening. Well, that's all for today...
Next: sampling the big-HEAVY dishes, because there is nothing like mama's cookin'
Next-Next: and let the sweet tooth decide, in search for the perfect small sweet...
Next-Next-Next: walking around the mall, the food all over the walkways - little surprises behind every turn... or something else. Read More...

Monday, June 23, 2008

If looks could kill... Baeuty City 2008 Fair

Looking good is important in Tel Aviv. This flies straignt in the face of the very confusing image of the rough and schlumpy Israeli woman. The image that Israeli women tried to portray in the 1950's was of pioneering all can do superwoman. Milk the cows in the morning, raise the kids in the day, guard the border at night. But the city reality of Israeli women was a little different. Fashion and beauty supplies came with Europeans very early on. Whatever Israeli women could not afford local companies made here. Jump forward 50 years to 2008 and the Israeli woman, a mix of every imaginable culture is very much interested in fashion and beauty. There are a dozen Israeli beauty supply companies, some with international reputation. Ahava started out as a Dead Sea specialty company, and Jade is well knows here but a bit of a 'hidden secret' outside Israel.

A crema counter with samples and plenty to buy.

Let's face it, Tel Aviv is not considered a fashion center. I would say YET! But if you are a woman, this city is nothing to laugh about. It's true that most Israeli designers have looked elsewhere to develop their careers and their businesses. But women still want to look beautiful and there is plenty of products and services to help them. In the beginning of June Tel Aviv hosted a Beauty City 2008 fair. About 30 makeup, hair, and fashion companies gathered at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds and showed off their "product". It turned out to be a mix between a fashion show and a 50% off sale. Let's face it, these little bottles of beauty don't come cheap. Some of the names in the makeup category: Estee Lauder, Lancome, Hugo Boss, Jade, Revlon, Ahava, L'Oreal, and Dove. In the hair section: Wella, Pantene, Nivea, Shuki Zikri, and Gillette.
The big practical attraction was the 50% discount on almost everything on display. This is a big deal for women who like good products but don't like to pay the high prices. The more expensive products from Estee Lauder, Shisheido, Lancome, and Jeanne Piaubert were discounted a little less, but still 20% to 30% was offered.
Beautiful in design, the Revlon booth.
The fair also offered a fashion show every hour or two. Cloths from Gucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, and Dolce & Gabbana were on display worn by about 25 young models. Beuty City 2008 showed also how Israel has grown up in the fashion and beauty area. There are still many international brands who consider this market small and in transition. This is simply the phase Israeli women are going through, both economically and culturally. But the women here definitely want to look and be seen as beautiful. So when the late comers look back at 2008 they may regret not making Israeli women beautiful today. But that again is just a speculation on the future. Read More...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer on the beach - sun, fun, refreshing

Summer is here! Get down to the beach. Get some sun, have some fun, and be refreshed. When the temperature hit the 90's (35 Celsius here) do as most Tel Avivians do, head to the beach. This is specially true on Saturdays, when tanning or playing "matkot" (Israeli specialty wooden racket game) is a long practiced tradition. The beaches are right here, just at the edge of the city. The most difficult part in the ordeal is probably finding a parking spot. But if you have a few spare shekels or don't mind a walk of a few blocks, you must partake in this ritual. The beaches stretch from the old part of Yaffo in the south all the way to the big hotels on Ben Guryon street. On good days choice spaces by the water go quickly and the beach is carpeted with oily bodies and umbrellas 40 to 50 meters deep. On the hot summer months, June to August, you will find vacationing high schoolers all week long. Fridays and Saturdays are the family days, you will see from singles with their friends all the way to 4 generations all clumped up around the cooler and the umbrella. Some bring almost nothing, literally, a T-shirt, flip-flops, and a towel to lie on. Some just about bring everything they can carry from their kitchen pots to their children's toys.

Bikinis in all shapes and colors, a refreshing dip is great on a hot June day.
If you are not the picnicking / outdoor type, no worries, the beach is dotted with cafes and restaurants which offer drinks and food. On a hot day I would recommend a large cold slice of watermelon with salty cheese cubes. Drink plenty of water or other refreshing fluids, it is easy to forget how quickly we loose fluids in the sun. Besides the sunning, ball playing, and bikini watching, there are kayaks and small sail boats to rent in the boat club at the end of Ben Guryon street. Bring games and sand toys for the kids, and a newspaper or a good book for yourself. And above all, ENJOY the summer! Tel Aviv beaches are a blast ;8~)''' Read More...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Nanny Interview - 5 Steps to Success

Editor: another great article in the nanny diaries by nanny Frankie ;-)

First impressions are one of the strongest ingridients for a successful ending between you, parents, and child. Does it sound like a recipe? It is a chemistry that explodes into success or explodes into "seeya letah". It is not an easy task to enter the home of a stranger and leave the home a needed and wanted employee. You must be prepared to look and sound confident and intelligent. They do not expect a rocket scientist. They expect a happy, loving, and enthusiastic individual to look after their child as if that child was your very own. There are 5 steps to climb to achieve this goal.
1) Appearance:
Present yourself on time and looking your best. No heavy make up. No dirty hair or messy cloths. No bad smells or food between your teeth! BE CLEAN, sweet, happy, and act glad to be there.
2) Meeting the child:
Do not "grab" for the baby. (if your mom is still pregnand simply ask how she is feeling and how wonderful she looks). Most interviews take place when the baby is very new. Show great interest, smile a lot, but do not push yourself too strong. If mommy wants you to hold their baby - do not refuse, please wash your hands first. Support the child's head and be confident about how you hold a new born. The impression of good hygene goes a long way.

Nanny interview... a great way to start!

3) Experience and Life Saving Skills:
Be prepared to answer questions about your experience. Be enthusiastic about your love of children. Have some knowledge about child development. Education can come from a paperback book or the net or from your own life experience. Just a little information can again make a successful impression. A course in C.P.R. is a MUST. A nanny must be able to do everything possible to save a child's life. The courses are available and not at all difficult. Everyone on the planet should have these skills!
4) Trust and Expectations:
Parents need to trust you not only with their child but with their home as well. Show them you are trustworthy, honest, and will keep "things" clean and in order. Do they expect more than childcare? Be sure to discuss what is expected of you. Some families are very organized and neat and some are, well? NOT! Be nice, but discuss the rules before the game starts. (Cooking, Laundry? Ironing? Dishes? Light housework, or just children.)
5) Salary Last - LAST - L A S T ! ! !
You are "on a roll". You look great, sound amazing and chemistry is on fire. They seem to like you and you feel good about them. The child is so sweet and already under your skin. The trust between you seems solid and now comes the $64,000 question. How much do you charge? Tip for the day! What is the average salary in this area? One only has to visit the area gardens BEFORE you interview and simply ask the nannies before hand. You will get a pretty good idea.
DO NOT SELL YOURSELF SHORT and don't be unreachable. Your recommendations and reputation can really help you achieve the salary you deserve. Again, educate yourself before you enter an agreement or contract. Don't forget hours, insurance, pensions, vacation time. The more you know all laws covering your work the better. The AACI can help answer any of these questions. Any lawyer and government agency will also have answers.
Good luck! Wishing you all the best! Any questions? -- e-Mail Frankie the nanny.

P.S. Did NOT like this family? Say thank your - Bye Bye - Be Nice -- TRY AGAIN!! Read More...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hebrew Book Fair - Country Wide

Well, this is an English blog about Tel Aviv, which may lead you to believe that Hebrew does not really matter. Well, it does. Actually, Hebrew matters quite a bit in Tel Aviv and even more in the rest of Israel. But let's get back to the event at hand, the Hebrew Book Fair (actually Hebrew Book Week, or month, depends who you ask). If you wonder into the main squares in the big cities in Israel: Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beer Sheva... and even the smaller cities: Ramat Gan, Modiin, Petach Tikva... you will see tons of books. For a country as small as Israel, there are so many books, both written in original Hebrew and translated from just about every language to Hebrew, than you can imagine. Tel Aviv probably has the largest book fair, in Kikar Rabin (city hall plaza at Iben Gvirol). But the Ramat Gan version was also a nice browse. The Hebrew book week is not just fairs in the cities and a sales frenzy, it is also book readings, radio and television programs, school programs, and a bunch of other interesting events. The Hebrew book week was started in Israel in 1926 when a few book publishers decided to put out their latest creations on a Tel Aviv street to encourage Hebrew book sales. Apparently until the 1940's there were not enough Hebrew readers.

Some excitement and some boredom... books for all tastes and types
Zoom forward 82 years and Hebrew readers seem to be doing just fine, no need for stimulation what so ever. On a warm Thursday evening a few hundred children, adults, and a few dogs converged on the book fair in Tel Aviv. There seem to be about 20 to 30 publishers, from small ones with one book (a few poets and self published writers) to the big ones with hundreds of new titles this year. Apparently there was a good representation of the 5,000 new titles published here every year, for me that was hard to judge. Most of the sellers were offering great "deals" from buy 1, 2, 3... and get one free, to simple 20% to 50% off the regular price. For an English reader this would not be an interesting event. I could not find anything interesting and the only English books seem to be the easy reader versions of the classics for school children (teaching aids). But there were lots of books for any reader, from the easy one (mostly for children) to the esoteric biblical studies.
Live Spanish music at the Nescafe booth
There was a nice Nescafe (from Nestle) booth with live music and coffee samples, you could also buy a good cup of coffee for 10 to 20 shekels. Sit at a comfortable chair and listen to music or just read your new book. The area has plenty of restaurants so food was not part of the fair. Due to the overlap with the food fair in the Ha'Yarkon park, this time they choose this location. I guess it is easier to get there, but there is not real parking to speak of in the center of the city in the evenings (parking on most streets is reserved to residents and Tel Aviv tickets and tows cars ruthlessly). But having a nice place to drink a cup of coffee or sit and have dinner before or after the fair is a nice change. So even if you are not a big Hebrew reader, go visit the book fair at Kikar Rabin. Read More...