The rural food festival in Mate Yehuda, which will be held this year for the 23rd time, is much more than a culinary celebration – it is a great opportunity to enjoy the pastoral landscapes of the region (it is no coincidence that the festival takes place in March, when the green hills of the region are covered in gorgeous blossoms), patronize small local businesses and enjoy the gathering With the local chefs, everyone makes dreams come true (some throughout the year and others only during the festival).
There are no major attractions in Mate Yehuda, and this, to a large extent, lies in the area’s charm. Instead of running from one site to another attraction and marking a V, in Mate Yehuda you can slow down and breathe. Enjoy the views of the green hills, covered in carpets of lupines, sip a glass of wine (Mate Yehuda is a declared wine region, the first in Israel), eat good food cooked with a lot of love and have a conversation with the people behind all of this. Tourism in the area is personal, sometimes in the backyard of the house, in the literal sense of the word. The festival began as part of an initiative to find a livelihood for local cooks. They were taught to turn cooking into a livelihood, they started cooking for people at the festival, and some continued to make a living from cooking all year round. Unlike the prevailing trend in the world, here the adults attracted the young. The young people saw that it was good and began to start their own culinary initiatives. Today the festival is a success story, attracting every year crowds of visitors from all over the country, who fall in love with the area, its residents and of course the food. The festival has 77 participants this year, 20 of them new. Here are our recommendations:
Brunch on the purity of slow food in Yad Hashama
The Logos hotel in Yad Hamona overlooks a pastoral landscape of mountains and forests, and its wooden cabins are immersed in vegetation and greenery (with many cyclamen peeping from every corner in the winter months). Besides the view, the peace and quiet, one of the main attractions of the hotel is the brunch that takes place every Friday between 12:00 and 8:00, and not only during the festival. The brunch, which is open for a fee to the general public as well and not only to hotel guests, is one of the most unique, delicious and healthy brunches in Israel, and all based on the purity of slow food. The brunch is operated by Louisa Catering, whose chef, Nadav Melin, is the representative of the Slow Food movement in Israel. Accordingly, all its ingredients are made on site – from the dips, spreads and sauces, through the granola to the breads that are baked on site. In accordance with the principles of the Slow Food movement, all ingredients are seasonal and fresh, free of chemicals and produced and supplied with an emphasis on production and fair trade.
The buffets have a creative, healthy and happy abundance that you won’t see anywhere else – the hot dishes section, including, for example, masbah, mushroom and blue cheese galette, filo pastry with Georgian cheeses, pumpkin-based sugar-free kegel, chickpea flour and mushroom-based vegan pastry, chard sambosk and chickpeas and more. In the salad section, you will find, in addition to a fresh pattoush salad and a tangerine and fennel salad, a butter potato salad with cashew cream and a quinoa salad with chestnut pumpkin. and what else? There are dried fruits without sugar and fresh fruits, great gluten-free crackers from teff flour, dairy products and cheeses from local dairies, vegan labneh based on fermented bulgur and more. There is also a stand where eggs are prepared to order, and a particularly tempting dessert bar, with apple galette, apple pie in wine, wonderful chocolate tarpaulins, New York cheesecake, vegan apple crumble and more.
In honor of the festival, and as part of the collaboration with pastry chef Ruth Oliver as part of the fight to save Israeli garlic, Melin and Oliver concocted some special dishes based on the purity of Israeli garlic, which will also be served at brunch. Among other things, you can taste here garlic focaccia, garlic spread (Scordalia), green garlic pesto, white with garlic or fermented black garlic butter.
Brunch meals are served every Friday at the Logos Hotel. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 02-5942000
Wine and pastries in Tzuba, in front of the view
The Mate Yehuda region was declared, as mentioned, an official wine region in Israel, and the Tzuba winery, which has 450 dunams of vineyards that supply grapes to the region’s vineyards, has a part in this. The winery produces, among others, Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Shiraz and Chardonnay, which every year wins a gold medal. At the on-site visitor center you can enjoy wine tastings in front of the gorgeous view of the vineyards all year round. A tasting of four wines is offered at the place, and these are accompanied by food that goes well with wine such as cheese platters, pizzas and stuffed vine leaves.
As part of the festival, Noa and Haley – confectioners from Kibbutz Tzva will be hosted on Fridays. All year round on Fridays you can enjoy a cart with their wonderful pastries (including a wonderful puff pastry with sweet potato and caramelized onion, puff pastry with roasted peppers, pistachio croissant and more). At the festival, they also offer a special serving menu, including soup served with puff pastry sticks, personal quiches in a variety of flavors, a small personal salad of seasonal vegetables, a glass of red/white wine and a sweet brioche pastry wrapped for dessert. All this for NIS 200 per couple, and there is an option to convert the dishes into vegan dishes.
When? Fridays during the festival between 14:00-10:00.
Prefer meat? On Thursday evenings, during the festival, the winery will host Meat Time from Evan Sapir for a meal that includes six courses of grilled and smoked meat, accompanied by grilled vegetables and fresh salads.
More details by phone 02-5347678
Ethiopian meal at Bar Farm
Havat Bar in Kibbutz Tsera is an ecological educational agricultural farm, where students from around the council learn agriculture, environment and sustainability, get to know animals and plants and connect with nature. The farm has beds of vegetables, spice plants and also ancient species of wheat, greenhouses, a water pool, a spice maze and a wild area that attracts many animals. In this unusual location, Bishao Tesfai hosts meals based on Ethiopian cuisine. Tesfaye has a captivating smile and a fascinating life story. He was born in Ethiopia, immigrated to Israel as a child in Operation Solomon and later was a member of the Israeli athletics team and lived at the Wingate Institute. Life at the boarding school made him want to engage in education and youth guidance, and that is what he is doing today. During the festival he finds time for his other love – the Ethiopian food he grew up on.
Ethiopian cuisine is considered one of the healthiest out there. It is full of vegetables, legumes and herbs and is gluten and sugar free. The dominant flavors in it are the spicy and the sour, while the sweet is almost non-existent. The Ethiopian meal is a social experience. Injera is placed on the table – a flat, soft and sour Ethiopian bread made from fermented teff flour, surrounded by legume and vegetable dips. The injera is both the bread and the plate, and the dips are loaded onto it with a wiping and folding motion. Tesfai’s meal includes injera with a variety of dishes and dips, including Shiro – the Ethiopian hummus, bean stew, sweet potato stew, purple cabbage stew with pickled lemon, boiled and seasoned chard leaves stew, lentil and tomato stew, and more. This is a great opportunity to get to know new flavors and also the Ethiopian culture. All around there are Ethiopian handicrafts, a tabon like it was in almost every courtyard in the villages in Ethiopia, and explanations about village life in Ethiopia. The meal ends with the traditional bona ceremony, which includes coffee roasting, grinding and drinking, with each step having a unique blessing.
A Cochin meal at Esther and Ofira’s in Kfar Oriya
Another place to try food that is not very familiar to the Israeli palate is Kfar Oriya, where Esther Eliyahu and her daughter-in-law Ofira prepare delicacies from the Cochin cuisine. Many in Israel are familiar with Indian cuisine, but the Cochin cuisine from South India is almost impossible to eat in restaurants in Israel, but only in the homes of Jews from Cochin. This is exactly the house of Esther, who immigrated to Israel from Cochin in the late fifties. Esther took the recipes passed down in her family for decades and upgraded them. Her daughter-in-law, Ofira, of Libyan origin, fell in love with this kitchen and today the two of them cook together the wonderfully spicy and delicious Cochin food.
A meal for two includes a table full of delicacies. There you will find masala dosa – a kind of gluten-free Indian crepe made from spelled flour and filled with potatoes, ground coconut sauce, ginger, mustard seeds and coriander; Traditional fish dish with yellow sauce based on coconut and onion, gluten-free orange lentil meatballs, Bunda – a dough shell filled with potatoes or meat and pine nuts (reminiscent of Cuba in taste), Indian snacks based on lentil flour, coconut and onion, biryani – seasoned rice, hummus stew With mustard and fela (a cochineal spice), lentil and zucchini stew and more flavors. For dessert there is paysum – tapioca pearls with coconut cream, cardamom and cashews, and it is surprising how delicious it is.
The meal is served every Friday during the festival, from 16:00 to 10:30 as part of a musical Shabbat reception, which includes a performance by the musician Maor Madmon who combines Indian tables and songs from Cochin with western and ethnic musical instruments. On Saturdays between 13:00-11:00 there will be a rhythm activity for families, combining percussion instruments and body drumming, which will be accompanied by light entertainment of Cochin pastries and traditional snacks.
You must order in advance by calling 052-3000995, 052-5544478
Sitopia: hospitality, cuisine and good deeds
The last stop we will recommend is the Sitopia accommodation complex. Even before the food, it is a beautiful Tuscan-style boutique accommodation complex, which opened a few months ago in Kfar Oriya. It is a large stone house with four suites, each with a separate entrance. The suites are tastefully decorated, and each one is dominated by a different dominant color. The guests of all the suites enjoy access to a beautiful inner courtyard that looks like it was taken from a design magazine, in the center of which is a swimming pool (heated in winter) surrounded by a wooden deck with inviting sitting and swimming areas. This complex also has a sauna. The breakfast is based on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. It includes sourdough bread from a homemade bakery, dips and spreads that Tessa makes, homemade granola, yogurt, fruits dried on the spot and more.
During the festival there will be a special event – the complex will host pastry chef Ruth Oliver and master chef graduate Tair Mordoch for the closing event of the festival on 31.3. The event will include lunch, fine wine and a lecture by Teir Murdoch on making dreams come true. At the event it will be possible to hear about the project “their own kitchen”. This is an extraordinary cookbook that is the result of a collaboration between the book’s editor, Yael Kaleb, and the Association of Assistance Centers for Victims of Sexual Assault, and contains recipes by 50 leading female foodies in Israel, all proceeds of which are intended for the prevention of sexual violence in Israeli society through education and advocacy.
Reservations must be made in advance by calling 054-9949300
|The 23rd Rural Food Festival of Mate Yehuda will take place over three weekends, Thursday-Saturday, March 9-April 1. The festival will take place in restaurants, in the homes of local chefs, in wineries and in special locations in nature, and will include special chef meals, hospitality in homes, picnic baskets, brunch meals, picking tours and culinary tours, a night market, wine tasting, special workshops (such as a vegetable pressing workshop or a for making cheeses), meals combined with musical performances and more. All details bMate Yehuda tourism site.|
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