Monday, 1 July 2019

Vegan Tel Aviv

Some months ago, when my good friend in the UK told me that she was coming to Israel for the Eurovision Song Contest, I suggested to her that we do a Tel Aviv vegan tour together. I had read about the tours a long time ago but Mister Handmade in Israel is neither vegetarian nor vegan, so I knew it would be wasted on him! Fortunately my friend was keen to join me - and even better, she suggested it would be a nice birthday treat for me!
We took the TLVEG Vegan Tour of Tel Aviv run by Be Tel Aviv Tours last month. It was a lot of fun and rather yummy to boot. The aim of the tour was to expose us to the best vegan places in the city and break all the myths about veganism. Whilst I am not a vegan - I am a pescatarian - I did not feel judged at all and we learnt so much about veganism and vegan food in Israel.
Israel has the highest percentage of vegans globally, with an estimated 5 to 8 percent of the entire population being vegan, an estimated 400,000 people and growing. Many of these vegans live in Tel Aviv and the city is ranked in the Top 10 Cities for Vegans according to Happy Cow, the online service that lists sources of vegan, vegetarian and healthy food. There are over 50 fully vegan restaurants in the city, mostly concentrated within a 1-mile radius of the city centre. Most of the restaurants serve a combination of Israeli / Middle Eastern / Mediterranean cuisine with some western influence. Our tour saw us visiting three of these vegan restaurants, starting with a breakfast menu and ending with dessert. In each place we tasted a few yummy vegan dishes and moved on.
Our first stop was at Zakaim, considered one of the top vegan places to eat in the city, with a menu featuring Persian and Middle Eastern fine dining. Opened by the two sisters and one brother of the Zakaim family in 2013 and under new management since 2017, the restaurant offers kosher food made from local and seasonal products. The restaurant is an ecological space where all of the materials, dishes and furniture are secondhand. We tried the hand-torn chips and a wonderful vegan shakshuka. It was a great way to start the tour.
Our next stop was at Citizen Garden, a superfood boutique café. Whilst Zakaim served typical Israeli dishes, all made from scratch at the restaurant, Citizen Garden felt more like a trendy cafe serving complex super bowls combining different flavours. It was also buzzing on a weekday morning! We tried the Waldorf Skordalia toast made from a creamy almond paste with apples, walnuts, celery and pineapple, and the Salmani's bowl with sweet potato, broccoli, edamame, kale, carrot, cabbage, radish, cherry tomatoes, hazelnuts and tahini. It looked beautiful! If you like vegetables and fruit in a pure and natural form, this is the place for you.
Our final visit of the day was to Meshek Barzilay, an organic vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Tel Aviv's Neve Tzedek neighbourhood. When I walked in, I realised that I had in fact eaten there before but, no matter, with our guide teaching us about the food and what we were tasting, it was a different experience altogether.
Meshek Barzilay is regarded as one of the leading organic vegetarian restaurants in Israel and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We sat in the restaurant's sunlit patio and enjoyed the most incredible mushroom risotto made with a chestnut and walnut cream sauce and forbidden rice, also called black rice. In addition we were served a delicious bulgur salad, which I frankly could have kept picking at all day!
We finished our tour with vegan cheescake in honour of the forthcoming holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot is a holiday​ celebrating nature, agriculture and typically dairy foods. The cheesecake we enjoyed at Meshek Barzilay was made from coconut milk amongst other ingredients and was out of this world! It was a fabulous way to end our tour.
My friend and I both really enjoyed our vegan tour. The food was wonderful and our guide, Yaniv, was very pleasant as he explained about the food, restaurants and the area. There was no judgement - though vegan himself, we did not get the impression that he was trying to turn us vegan. The tour was simply a celebration of vegan food and a lesson in veganism and the philosophy behind it.
Instead of committing to a full meal at a single restaurant, we had visited three foodie hotspots for each of the three courses and had eaten a full lunch. The quality of the food had been incredible and we left feeling very full. It was a good thing that we had come hungry!
An interesting aside, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) is considered to be the most vegan army in the world, with 1 out of 18 soldiers declaring themselves as vegan, according to Army Radio. It provides vegan meals, wool-free berets and leather-free boots and helmets to vegan soldiers. In addition, international pizza delivery service Domino's offers vegan cheese at all of their branches in Tel Aviv
and throughout Israel.

* This post has been shared on The Good. The Random. The Fun.Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday), Our World Tuesday, Tuesday's Treasures, Travel TuesdayCommunal Global and My Corner of the World.

25 comments:

Kippi O'Hern said...

I could be vegan too if I knew how to make those delicious dishes.
Happy 4th of July,
Kippi

Miss Val's Creations said...

I would love trying these restaurants. I am vegetarian but enjoy vegan options too. I did not realize Israel has the highest percentage of vegans. These dishes look incredible! What an awesome tour that can really open people's eyes to healthier food options.

Catherine Lanser said...

All of this food looks so good! I don't think I'll ever have a chance to visit Tel Aviv, but if I do, I would definitely do this tour. #MMBC

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

A food tour sounds like the perfect way to spend time with a friend and catch up. The vegan twist adds another layer to share. #MMBC

Deborah Brooks said...

I am a huge fan of Israeli foods! Making falafel this week myself. Thanks for linking up and hope you will check out some of the hosts posts as well

Becca | Rabbit Food Runner said...

I love the idea of a food tour to introduce diners to vegan dishes! I am a vegan and love giving my friends mini tours/recommendations, but have never been on one myself. How fun!

Sarah said...

The cheesecake looks delicious, as does the bread (what kind is it), and everything. I'll have to look up that holiday, sounds interesting.

Cerys said...

That food sounds amazing. I've never ever done a food tour, but I love food and I love to travel so I think I'll look for one. The dessert though that I want to make and eat it looks amazing. #MondayEscapes

NCSue said...

I generally think of vegan cooking as being tasteless, bland, and inedible. It doesn't appear to be the case with the meals you've pictured here!
Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/07/color-guard.html

VeggieMummy said...

I think Israel has just moved to the top of my holiday destination wish list! xx

Marja said...

Oh that all looks and sounds delicious We have many vegan and vegetarian cafes and restaurants in Christchurch as well. Great to see that they are rising up everywhere

Tom said...

...this diet would take a lot of getting use to for me. Your pictures do look yummy.

Klara said...

wow, I had no idea that veganism is so spread in Israel. I will surely try some if I visit Israel (as I hope I will).

Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness said...

I didn't realize that Israel has so many vegans...That's awesome! I'm vegetarian, mostly vegan, and I get so excited when I get to go to restaurants & participate in foodie events where I can fully enjoy the entire thing. Sounds like a fun tour!

betty-NZ said...

It's great to have a friend that will be adventurous with you!

Thanks for making 'My Corner of the World' a success this week!
My Corner of the World

Katherine said...

I had no idea that Tel Aviv had such a high number of vegans, and now I'm kind of curious to find out how they get those numbers. I've eaten at vegan restaurants a couple of times and while they're usually pretty tasty, I do miss "real" cheese. #WanderfulWednesday

Pieni Lintu said...

Looks very delicious!

Sharon said...

This would be so great for me because I'm vegetarian. Sometimes it's so hard to figure out what to order in a restaurant. I should visit you!

Rhonda Albom said...

I can definitely see why Israel has such a high concentration of vegetarians/vegans considering the Kashrut rules, and the great vegan staples that are everywhere. Felafel, hummus, and tabouleh rank high amongst my favourites.

April J Harris said...

My husband and I have visited Israel many times, Lisa, and I'm always so impressed with the food - particularly the vegetable and fruit options. Your food tour looks amazing, and I'm so glad you had a wonderful time with your friend. I'm looking forward to our next visit to Tel Aviv which will hopefully be soon. Thank you for sharing, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

Jayne said...

Everything looks so delicious on the vegan tour and what a lovely way to have a catch up with your friend.

Have a fab weekend. x

philandgarth said...

Looks fabulous! We love food tours, and are getting into Vegan food too, don't know much about Israeli food, so this would be a perfect way to discover some dishes! Thanks for sharing will pin for ref.

Shona Grant said...

What a great way to experience both Vegan dishes and a variety of approaches. It all looks delicious and I'm sure tasted that way too. I'm impressed the Israeli Army go so far as to provide vegans products to soldiers. That's very cool.

handmade by amalia said...

Just the sort of food I like, everything looks amazing. I've been to Meshek Barzilay, I'll make a note of the other places. Belated Happy Birthday wishes are in order?
Amalia
xo

MrsS said...

Everything looks delicious here, and loooove the sound of the vegan cheesecake! Thanks for linking up to Monday Escapes!

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