Friday, October 24, 2014

Israel 2014 Day 5: Tel Aviv's epic hummus

Israel 2014 Day 5: Tel Aviv's epic hummus

The first couple of days in Israel were life-changing, and today was also going to be momentous, for a tastier but less weighty reason. Today we went to... the one... the only.... Abu Hasan Hummus! (Actually, I think they have a couple of branches!) It was THE BEST. I'm serious. It was INSANELY GOOD. Today, was alllllll about the epic hummus. It was smooth, it was warm, tangy but not sour, smooth but not watery, packed with olive oil but not oily, it was perfect... but more on that in a moment.

Today we got up early and headed off to Tel Aviv! We dropped off the car in an all-day lot and walked passed a closed McDonald's. As you know if you ever read my travel blog, I really love visiting McDonald's in foreign countries, as I always find it hilarious how they localize their menu to fit the new country. Here, in Israel, apparently the Egg McMuffin is new? And of course, no ham in this one... a tomato instead.

McDonald's in Tel Aviv!
Egg McMuffin... New!?
Weird but funny random character wearing a huge Chai necklace
We started the day meeting Michal's friends at Brasserie. They had nice breads and muffins there. I got scrambled egg, with cheese and feta on the side. I ordered a "Cafe Filtre" -- a French press! Michal's friends were awesome and told us about the green bikes that were available all over town for grab-and-go rentals by the 30 min. Super straightforward. They gave us great advice and we chatted nicely over a great breakfast. We parted ways and headed to the car and got our first of many green bikes for the day. It was only ₪17 (17 Shekels) for the day (about $5 or so). Amazing deal.
Tel Aviv Beach!
Time for a passionfruit popsicle and a Hebrew Coke Zero
Bike rental for the day
We biked first to the Tel Aviv beach and it was glorious. Along the roadways there were really fun juice stands, and you could bike along a center island in the roadway which was for pedestrians and bikes specifically. The Mediterranean was beautiful! We decided to drop off the bikes and wander for a bit... but had some trouble locking the bikes at first. Michal called the hotline and sorted it out quickly with their great customer service, rattling off a bunch of questions in pitch-perfect, fluent Hebrew. Sure is good to have a "tour guide" like her around :)

After a tasty passionfruit popsicle to cool down in the hot sun (eat it quick, it melts fast!) and a funny Coke Zero with Hebrew letters on it, we biked to the village of Old Jaffa. First up was a Farmer's Market-type place, which had local beer on tap! I got a small glass of the wheat one, and it was very refreshing. They also had cool housewares with Hebrew writing on them, like a jar for coffee, tea, and sugar! That was SO cool. I am going to have to pick up something like that during this trip, for SURE.

Local craft beers
Spreading my wings
From here, we walked to the LEGENDARY Abu Hasan / Ali Karavan hummus shop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh my G-d. :) This place was truly glorious, in all senses of the word. It was just perfect. They only sell one thing: hummus. We got there, and it was packed. Apparently your timing is important: early in the morning it's busy, as the local Muslim folks in the area tend to like to eat this hummus earlier for breakfast. Then there is a gap for an hour or two in the late morning, and then a lot of local Jewish people tend to come for a late lunch. I guess that's a cultural thing, I hadn't heard about hummus being a breakfast food before, but honestly I could eat this all day and every day, it was absolutely amazing. If you're a tourist, there's a sweet spot right in the middle of the day, between the two rush hour meals. This place is so good it's incredibly popular. It was described to us as more of a "Muslim-style" hummus, a little lighter than hummus I'd had ever before at home. I could see from the consistency why it would be great as a breakfast dish.

The WORLD FAMOUS Abu Hasan (Ali Karavan) Hummus shop
Old Jaffa
We sat down and the guy said, "Hummus? 1 or 2?" There is no menu, only hummus. Exactly my kind of place. They make one thing, and they do it better than anywhere in the world. Pita was just included, and the guy came out and dropped a bunch on our table. There are drinks if you want, and if you flag down the waiter. It also came with a weird palate-cleanser thing, raw white onions in a vinegar sauce! That was funny, I wasn't sure how to eat that part!

Oh... maaaannnn....
The best hummus, literally, IN THE WORLD
Cleaning the plate
The hummus was truly epic. It was warm! It was very creamy, a very smooth flavour, with some chunkier elements. It was almost like cottage cheese! So different. MAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!! That was SO freakin' awesome. I absolutely crushed it, powered through almost the entire thing by myself. That was the most awesome thing ever.

From here we walked past the flea market, and then biked back along Tel Aviv Beach. We checked out the Neve Tsedek art street, and walked to Nachalat Binjamin market, which was awesome. They had really great arts and crafts there, Mezuzahs, cool artwork, signs with custom Hebrew writing, and lots more. I got a tasty melon + mint smoothie, and then bought my parents a stained-glass hanging artwork from a really good artist working in the market.
Square in Old Jaffa
Fun area that used to be a train station
Halva Gelato
Glorious day
Lots of mezuzzahs
More gelato
Awesome artist making stained glass at the market
Awesome :)
We spent a while in the market and I really enjoyed it, there was so much cool handmade Jewishy stuff there... it was so perfect for gifts. From there we took a short stop at the Shuk ha Carmel, an open-air food market. It was mostly touristy stuff, but I did find a really cool Hamsa there for my Dad. They had silly shirts too. After walking through it for a bit, we saw a cool spices area and, even better, found the largest and most juicy Lychees I've ever seen! Huge! I bought a whole bag, and since Michal doesn't like them that much, I proceeded to eat the entire bag.
HUGE Lychees, I ate the whole bag
Walking towards the mall, we saw some of the very funny to watch and joyous group of ultra-Orthodox Jews called the "Na Nach" Hasidim. They are a subgroup of Breslover Hasidim, and their goal is to spread joy and happiness. Good goal :) Here's an interesting NPR article about the Na Nachs:
"Rabbi Nachman says that when you're happy, you keep the Torah better," says Zohar Ginsberg, a 24-year-old member of the sect. "So you have to do whatever you can to be happy. Dance. Sing. Jokes. Nonsense."
I've certainly never seen a shofar (the ram's horn) blown for an event not in a Synagogue, so this was quite a hilarious and funny thing to watch. We watched for a little bit, and these dudes were certainly happy and excited folks. This was great.

We walked a bit further and went inside to get some AC in the Dizengoff Center. It was an odd mall, and we saw another McDonald's in there which is always fun to look at. They had some funny stuff like a "Chicken Mix" and, most awesomely, the "Mega Big America" burger, apparently based off some World Cup Soccer thing. Hilarious.

At McDonald's: "Mega Big America" burger?!?!
After a long day of walking, we found a small booth area with "Reflexology", called Happy Feet Foot Massage! We decided to try it out for fun, and it was great.

Biking back to the car after this was great with our relaxed feet :) We dropped off the last set of bikes for the day, and GPS'd to Ilanit's house, Michal's really awesome cousin. We got there and asked "Who's coming over?" I should have known the answer, "Everyone!!" Haha. Awesome. The dinner was very tasty, and Nir and I talked about craft beers and he very kindly offered me some of his Glenfarclas 15. When he comes to visit San Francisco, I will have to return the favour!

After a lovely evening of chatting and good food, we drove back home to Ra'anana, having a nice long deep conversation (as we do!) Great times.

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