It’s funny . . . at home in the US, I stay up half the night and frequently awake at crack o’ noon. Breakfast, needless to say, is out. It was out when I was a kid, too: as a professional violinist, I grabbed a peanut butter shake or a breakfast bar or a food stick (miss those!) and called it a day. But when I’m overseas — a little out of jet-lag, mostly out of foodie curiosity — I’m willing to wake at ungodly hours for the often luxe spreads that the hotels put out in the morning! I was recently in Israel and was happy to be hosted to experience it.
The hotels in Israel keep Kosher dietary laws, including not serving meat with milk. So breakfasts are dairy only — fish is allowed at all meals.
Prima Kings in Jerusalem isn’t fancy, but their wonderfully personalized service was as fine dining as could be. We merely had to think of something — more juice, another napkin, top off coffee — and our kind, attentive older server had it at the ready. They also had a chef making omelets to order. It was there that I had some Israeli breakfast specialties that would be ubiquitous at the other places I stayed: “Israeli salad” with tomatoes,cucumbers and sometimes scallions, green peppers and green olives; feta cheese; labneh; dishes of the tangy and bitter spice za’atar; fresh seasoned olives, and a new to me delicacy called “shakshuka”. Shakshuka is simple but oh so good! It’s eggs barely baked in a spicy tomato sauce. I’m going to be trying a New York Times recipe for it this week. If all goes well, it will be a regular on my weekend brunch or vegetarian dinner night rotation.
I was very pleased with the glamorous Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa, so much so, I could barely wait for breakfast. They’re a hotel that has 24 hour room service . . . to a point. In the middle of the night, the choices are salad and well, salad. The front desk receptionist was eating a snack of cake and offered me a tasty piece! That’s pretty funny, now that I look back on it. When breakfast time finally came, I chose to take mine out to their beautiful pool patio. While I had seen evidence of it before, I realized there for sure the Israeli’s love of sweets at breakfast. This goes way beyond American love of danishes. Here, you’ll see a plethora of halvah, pastries, even cheesecake! The Dan Carmel has a person making cappucinos, which is extremely popular.
My first morning at the Metropolitan in Tel Aviv was during the Sabbath. Never having been in such a situation before, I didn’t know if there would be breakfast or what. There was breakfast on Saturday morning, but it was pared down, served in a different room — a conference room — with simpler plating and cutlery. There were a number of white cheeses: Israelis love fresh, white cheeses. Israeli salad and couple of other things were also set out. For their religiously observant guests, they have a Shabbat (Sabbath) elevator, non electronic room key and private synagogue.
The next day, breakfast was served in a cafe’ setting with many more offerings.