Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"...where everybody knows your name..." #2

Yom revi'i, 17 Shevat 5769.

I am a serious carnivore.

When the waiter asks me how I like my steak, I always say, "As rare as the halacha allows."  This means that "still mooing" being usser, I will accept my steak still dripping with very juicy.  (That euphemistic correction was for my vegetarian readers, and for those indulging in coffee and breakfast cereal while they are reading.)

I share this little culinary detail with you to underscore exactly how impressive it is that my favorite restaurant on the planet is Gavna.

Gavna specializes in dairy and fish dishes, excellent beer on tap (in the summer), herbal teas, and the best ambience the Dearly Beloved and I can remember in many years of dining out all over the world.

On our latest Sunday sojourn, my husband took me out to celebrate living in Israel another day.  Gavna is situated on a steep hillside, overlooking a huge and beautiful valley, just outside the fascinating community of Bat Ayin.  The winding, bumpy road to the restaurant has lost a little of its drama.  Since it has been graded and partially paved, one no longer completes his visit with the thrill of realigning the front end of the car, or replacing the axle.  Well, progress must necessarily remove some of the quaint charms of life.  The place was pretty quiet, which suited us just fine.  Gavna is owned and run by a couple of brothers from Bat Ayin, with whom we have developed a warm friendship.  As usual, there was excellent music playing on the sound system.  The proprietors' tastes run to old rock 'n' roll, jazz and folk from several countries and eras, and the occasional youthful techno weirdness, that thankfully doesn't pop up until we were leaving anyway.  
We asked Uria what he recommended today.  He was especially pleased with a rice and lentil side dish, served with tiny red currants, and his spinach and leek quiche.  When the very patient waitress, Tal, came to our table, we got further advice (and a little help with our Hebrew).  The sweetness and savlanut of these young people makes us feel very welcome and at home.

I started with the delicately-breaded and fried eggplant, topped with pesto and parmesan cheese.  It had been beautifully plated with a sweet-and-sour chili sauce, edged attractively with balsamic vinegar.  Lovely, and delicious!

Avi had a creamy orange soup, and some of the "fresh artisan-baked bread" for which Gavna is famous.
We really need to learn to stop at the appetizers, which are a meal unto themselves.  But, hey! -- it was a celebration, after all.  I decided to try Uria's quiche.  Again, it was very beautifully presented, with a delicious salad on the side.  Even the sprouts are lovingly produced at Gavna; and the lettuces are all clearly chosen for color, taste, and quality.

Wow!  The cheese was terrific; and the blend of the leeks and spinach was perfect.  But the best part was the delicate and flaky crust surrounding this excellent quiche.

The Greek olives and gently-roasted red pepper added to the color and taste, and made me feel like I was doing something very healthy for my body, while making my palate happy.

The herbal tea -- verbena, I think -- was a perfect complement.

Avi had his favorite Gavna dish, which was presented more attractively this time than ever before.  The teriaki sauce on the delicately-grilled salmon was just right; and the roasted vegetables were so appetizing, Avi found himself happily munching even the beets.  The peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash were up to Gavna's usual superior standards.  These were complemented with the rice and lentils (mostly polished off by yours truly) and a small green salad.
I have mentioned before that one of the ways that Israeli dining differs from American dining is in the pace.   Dining in the US is a business.  When you are finished, the waitstaff is instructed to hustle you out as quickly as possible, to make room for the next diners.  Consequently, your bill is on the table next to your coffee, before you have quite finished eating.
Israelis take their time over their meals; and this does not seem to disturb either the restaurant owners or the waiters.  If you want to leave the place, you may have to go and find your waitress, and suggest to her that a bill will be helpful.  (While her service may have been very attentive during your meal, paying is your problem!)  During the wait for our bill, we decided some movement might be a good idea, to begin the arduous process of working off way too many calories.  ("I told you to stop at the hors d'oeuvre!"  This is my brain talking to my taste buds, which are not listening, as they do not speak French.)
So we looked out the panoramic windows at the incredible view.  The second longest zip line in the world stretches across the valley near Gavna; and the Judean Hills and highways are a pleasure to observe, throughout the whole year.

When our bill came, we were reminded of how well one can live in Israel, even on a budget:  our sumptuous meal came to 130 shekel, which -- at the current exchange rate -- is just over 30 bucks.  A feast for two, at an affordable price!

Please come and celebrate with us, as soon as you can.  We have so much for which to be grateful, and such a wonderful gift from Hashem to share with each other.  We have our own country, filled with interesting, talented people with fine Jewish midot.

"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came..."  

-- from the "Cheers" theme, by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy

halacha:  Jewish law
usser:  forbidden
techno:  music that makes one want to run over small animals
savlanut:  patience
Jewish midot:  good character traits, particularly compassion, generosity, and embarrassment when faced by the inappropriate 


Charlie Shrem said...

You know, whenever you write these wondrous beautiful, well written posts I always start to tear.
Only 2 weeks ago I was in the holy land and I was taken back to Galut- not in chains by babylonian soldiers- but by the Mephistopheles we call El AL.
Anyways, I miss you guys and still envy you every second- its a god envy, one that makes my aliyah push stronger.
When I finally make aliyah, you should know that you and your family played such a major role in it that I pray to the man upstairs that he should bless your family with health, wealth, happiness and most importantly a good seat in Olam Habah.

Good night

sandra said...

Yummmmm........I wish I got that when we dined together. Now I know what to order at our next evening of fine cuisine. Nice pics, and always a pleasure to read. If this doesn't bring the folks running to the Holy Land, well, then, I don't know what will. Lots of love and satisfaction knowing you had a nice evening with your beloved. ooo..no..xxx

Anonymous said...

Dear Ruti,
Thanks for the great review...on our next visit please bring us to Gavna. And OK...we are now 3 inches closer to coming for good.
Sara and Nosson

Jack Steiner said...

Yum, I am hungry.

Baila said...

Jews like to eat. Posts like this one will keep 'em coming in droves.