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The Bible describes Israel as the land of milk and honey. I would add cinnamon and chocolate to that description. I’m not sure if it is because I grew up with them, or if I just really love the flavor profile of Israeli sweets, but I was literally as happy as a kid in a candy shop in Israel. During my ten days traversing the country, I gorged myself on cinnamon buns, rugelach and ice cream…and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!

Chocolate Pastries

Chocolate Pastries

A sweet tooth traveler’s first stop in Jerusalem should be Machane Yehudah. This covered market has more than two hundred stalls, many of which are filled with freshly baked goodies. Because the market is closed on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath, Friday mornings are a great, but very busy, time to visit. You’ll see soldiers, rabbis, little kids, old men, and everyone in between rushing to get ready for the Sabbath. My favorite stall was Marzipan, where trays full of chocolate and cinnamon rugelach were waiting to be baked. If you haven’t heard of rugelach before, allow me to introduce you. These traditional Jewish sweets are sort of a portable strudel. They have a flaky yeast crust and are usually filled with chocolate, cinnamon, poppy seeds or nuts.

Rugelach waiting to be baked

Rugelach waiting to be baked

Another very traditional sweet you’ll find in the market is halva. I have to confess that halva is not my favorite. It is a sesame paste candy that is served all over the Middle East and Northern Africa. Although I find it a bit too dry for my liking, I was very impressed that Halva Kingdom that had more varieties than I even knew existed!  In addition to the standard halva, they served pistachio, cashew, coffee, chocolate and peanut butter flavors.

Halva Kindgom

Halva Kindgom

 

Jerusalem does not have the market cornered on sweets though. The word for “ice cream” in Hebrew is glida  (pronounced glee-dah). Growing up, my sister and I would shout: “I need-a, I need-a, I need a little glida!” Perhaps it is less cute for a 30-year-old woman to be shouting that, but nevertheless, Israel was happy to comply. Of the embarrassingly-large sample size, my two favorite ice cream places were both in Tel Aviv. The first is called Leggenda and had deliciously creamy gelato. They had more than forty flavors to choose from, including Belgian waffle (with real pieces of waffle inside!); berry cheesecake;  and the old standby, chocolate hazelnut. They did not skimp on their portions either. 

The second, equally-amazing gelataria is called Gelataria Siciliana. I’m torn between what I loved most about this place–the flavors or the decor. It is just so charming! That said, the mango gelato was probably the best I’ve ever had.

 

Delicious Gelato

Delicious Gelato

 

Gelataria Siciliana

Gelataria Siciliana

 

If you’re in the mood for chocolate with a side of chocolate, you can’t miss Max Brenner in Tel Aviv. My friend Sarah and I shared the fondue, which came with two large pots of melted chocolate; fresh fruit; mini-muffins; marshmallows; and meringue. My husband got the “ice cream bar,” which was vanilla ice cream on a stick, served with melted chocolate; and white and milk chocolate balls. The idea was to dip the ice cream in the melted chocolate to act as a glue for the other chocolate balls. It was fun and tasty!

Max Brenner's Ice Cream Bar

Max Brenner’s Ice Cream Bar

 

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One Comment

  1. adenaNo Gravatar
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    drooling….as usual. I want that chocolate.

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