Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dying for Dessert

The food at the Ulpan is plentiful, colorful, mostly healthful and occasionally beautiful. It is served buffet style, with an area for hot food and a large round table on which cold foods are arranged.

Last night there was new addition to the table, whole roasted red peppers snuggled on a square platter bordered by precisely placed semicircular slices of lemon. I was thrilled by the shapes and colors and by the fact that someone in the kitchen had taken such care with the food. Another visual and edible treat is the frequently served salad heaped with ribbons of purple and white cabbage, yellow peppers and carrots.

The Ulpan mostly does not attempt dessert and probably should not even try. For some reason, it hasn't occurred to them to just serve fresh fruit every day. Today's pareve concoction at least had aesthetic appeal - individual cocktail cups filled with a dark chocolate substance, somewhere between a custard and a jello, topped with pastel dots of sugar - but it lacked depth. The poor thing, made of water and cocoa powder, would simply never have the richness of a true pudding. Other dessert flops that have made appeared so far include a foil wrapped cone of faux chocolate covering an air-whipped ersatz cream center, and Hoodsie-style tofutti of a dubious shade of taupe.

Baruch hashem, as it's said here ("Blessed is the Name"), there is a sleek cafe within a 20-minute walk that serves small cheese pastries dusted with confectioners' sugar. They are more refined and delicate than American cheese danish, and their shape and construction remind me of Hungarian turos taska ("cheese pouches"), with pastry folded over the four sides of a sweet cheese center. At two shekels (50 cents) apiece, they are an affordable indulgence. Wait - make that an affordable necessity. For the non-kosher amongst us, who can enjoy these after a meat meal, they are a mechaya (lifesaver!).

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