Monday, March 19, 2007

B&B and Beyond

Had I known that, in Haifa, I'd be joining the owners of my B&B for Shabbat dinner, I would not have eaten the massive slice of cheesecake AND the Druze Pita earlier that day. Nearly stuffed to the gills, I continued my drive through two Druze towns, Daliyat el Carmel and Isfiya, whose stucco houses are built into the hills, eventually ascending Mount Carmel. Even though the clouds were thick I enjoyed some panoramic views of Haifa and its impressive port before dipping a bit into the city.

I arrived to my B&B on late Friday afternoon and met Edit, one of the owners, who showed me my high-ceilinged room. It was simple and clean, with a colorful coverlet on the bed and, most important of all, with a working heater! [so far, the heaters I've encountered here are large rectangular boxes, positioned near the ceiling, that plug into the wall and double as air conditioners in warmer months]. Edit turned it on, the roomed warmed up, and I sacked out. Virginia Woolf mostly got it right when she said a woman needs A Room of One's Own. Make that a heated Room of One's Own.

The Shabbat guests included three generations, with three of Edit's four children, a daughter-in-law, a grandchild, and two other guests besides myself. The fact that Edit and her husband are vegetarians did not make the Shabbat meal any less elaborate than the others I've experienced in Israel, and I was faced with the seemingly impossible task of eating a multicourse meal and expanding my stomache beyond any previously known capacity.

Somehow, I managed.

We started with an artichoke apiece, followed by a cauliflower and tomato soup, then enormous stuffed mushrooms, a vegetarian cholent (one of those East European dishes that defies a succinct description), fresh salad, a sweet potato dish, homemade wholewheat challah and, for dessert, a chocolate mousse artfully decorated with chocolate sauce and a wafer. The wine (a kosher Merlot - wish I could remember the name!) was excellent and at the very end of the meal I was treated to a taste of Tres Generaciones tequila, which had been brought back from the US for the foodie in the family, one of Edit's two sons.

The digestive requirements of the meal were so great that nearly all the blood left my brain, making it impossible for me to even attempt Hebrew. The entire family speaks excellent English (Edit was born in NJ) and, as it turned out, have spent some time in Boston. The foodie (a former Toscanini's employee), raved about an appetizer I should try at one of the Portuguese restaurants in Cambridge. I'm keeping it a secret until I get home. Meanwhile, I will try to save some room for it!

P.S. If you are wondering about the "Breakfast" part of the B&B, because of Shabbat there was none, which was beyond fine with me. I would not have been able to eat another bite.

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