By Paige Ekert

A Picky Eater’s Guide to Tel Akko

By Paige Ekert.

Being a picky eater is occasionally problematic. I have learned to survive on a handful of food staples and have developed a fairly good idea of tastes and textures that I will or won’t like. I have places that I frequent at home and at school, and when in doubt, there are always chicken fingers from the children’s menu.

Being a picky eater while abroad is a daily struggle. Most foods are, or at least appear, unfamiliar to me. As a self-proclaimed “reverse pescetarian” in a coastal area, I avoided many of the restaurants in the Old City. I don’t speak the language well enough to convey my multiple needs (“I want this but without X, Y, and Z”), and even with English menus, a full description of each food item was not guaranteed.

But fear not! By adhering to the following tips, even the pickiest of eaters are sure to survive, and even enjoy, their culinary experiences in Akko.

Never Skip Lunch                                                             

Lunch is, without a doubt, the best meal of the day. As the daily “meat meal”, lunch often consists of some type of chicken and multiple types of carbs. Though you may be tired after being at the tel all morning, this is not a meal to miss! Lunch always consisted of rice, chicken schnitzel, and potatoes, and the occasional pasta or other meat dish made special guest appearances throughout the week. This is the meal most likely to fill you up for the day, and besides, why would anyone ever miss a meal where chicken fingers are being served?

Ice Cream Is Always A Good Idea

It isn’t hard to find ice cream in Akko as it is literally being sold on every street corner. It would be practically impossible for anyone to walk away from one of these ice cream carts without a frozen treat. Nestle and Magnum both sell products in the ice cream cases on the streets and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pints are sold in grocery stores throughout the city. Additionally, the same ice cream carts exist all throughout Israel, so the same ice cream you would get at 7 Days can be found in Caesarea and Jerusalem as well. Trust me, if you are in Israel during the summer, don’t pass on the ice cream.

My Market Is Truly Your Market

Even when food is being provided for you, it is generally a good idea to explore the local grocery store and pick up some quick snacks. My Market is a large, nearby food store that is home to all sorts of food items and other necessities, should you need them. In my trips to this store, I brought a box of cereal, ice cream, cookies, crackers, and other small snacks that can easily be packed for either our Saturday excursions or for the bus ride to the tel in the mornings. Whether you’re looking for sunscreen, orange juice, a pack of gum, or dried apricots, My Market has it!

Bread Will Always Be There To Welcome You Home

If you’re like me, you have learned to ignore your grandmother’s advice about ‘not filling up on bread before meals’, because for me, and many other picky eaters, the bread is our meal. The good news is that bread, in some form or another, is present at every single meal. Whether it is pita bread, a dinner roll, or a slice of sandwich bread, bread is guaranteed to have a place at the table and butter, jam, or chocolate spread is never far behind. Seriously, there will always be bread. It’s truly wonderful.

Brand Names Are Your New Best Friend

It doesn’t matter what you eat at home, when you’re abroad, you will cherish any familiar logos you can find. If you are a picky eater who can’t read Hebrew, you are going to fall in love with Pringles and Oreos and any other brands that are recognizable and give clues as to what you are actually eating. While American name brands aren’t available for every food item, you will be grateful for the ease of shopping for brand names and the familiarity of eating a snack that was probably a staple from your childhood.

You Won’t Die If You Try Something New

While it is easy to write off many different and new types of food, the truth is, trying new foods is actually a really great experience that will only enhance your adventures while abroad. Against my initial wishes, I tried several types of food while in Akko, and even found some that I liked! Even though halvah “tastes like nature and has the texture of sandstone” (verbatim Paige Ekert, circa 2018), I am glad that I was encouraged to try it. Besides, if it wasn’t for trying new things, I never would have discovered shawarma, which is more or less an Israeli taco, and is quite delicious. The moral of the story is, you never know what you like until you try it, even if you’re 19 years old and pretty set in your ways. There is a great big world out there full of different types of food, so get out there and try something!

 

 

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By John Michael Gurklis

Open Your Mouth

by John Michael Gurklis.

 

After a long day of digging on the tel, the only thing that I can think of is food. Food is fuel and intrinsic to survival, and here at Akko I eat so that I can dig. The specified feeing times at Akko are integral to the day: you must eat food or you will not be able to swing that makosh. Life at Akko is regimented and starts when the sun is still asleep, so I decided to ditch the watch and instead use my stomach as a way to measure the time—it’s quite accurate. Pre-breakfast breakfast, tel breakfast, lunch, and sad dinner keep my inner clock in rhythm as, instead of the watch, raw cucumbers and peppers alert my body to morning, meat to midday, and a sad dinner to the evening. Yet, our relationship to food is much more than eating to survive, we eat to indulge, to taste, to communicate, to experience with one another, and a plethora of other reasonings. Together, these elements give much more context to the food I eat and to when I eat; making a simple mechanical process into a much more fulfilling and integral part of my life.

My tastebuds have aligned themselves to this Mediterranean diet that, for the most part, is lighter than a “typical” American diet. Fresh, raw vegetables and fruits line the table, and various dips and breads add texture and flavor. The flavors, textures, and colors of food here intrigue me and make me try new and exciting foods. Outside of the Nautical College walls exists a city that has a surplus of delectable food. I rely on my nose  to guide me. The new city has a plethora of restaurants that sell falafel, hummus, pizza, etc., but my nose often takes me to the old city when a dinner of cucumbers and peppers is all that is offered. The twisted streets hold an uncountable number of pita stands selling fresh made falafel and shawarma that warms one’s stomach up. Going to the old city is akin to a pilgrimage for me—just for my gastrointestinal system. And while there are many stops along the way, Uri Buri is my “Jerusalem”.

Tucked away towards the north of the Old City is a small, minimal restaurant called Uri Buri. The windows face out towards the Mediterranean, and the food follows the example as chef Uri focuses almost entirely on seafood. Here, for the rest of the blog, I have tried to summarize my experience of the tasting menu in ways other than “so good.”At Uri Buri you can order individual plates or you can get the tasting menu in which plates are chosen for you and you tell them when to stop. The tasting menu is what you should get, of course.

First round: Seared scallops on pureed Jerusalem artichoke. The scallop was meaty and the artichoke gave it a richness, but I don’t remember enough taste wise. Alongside was bruschetta with a burnt eggplant spread on top which gave it a beautiful charred taste. A top of that was cold fish of some sort. The contrasts in texture and flavor were wonderful, and the eggplant taste carried the dish.

Second round: More appetizers: octopus, ceviche, sashimi salmon. The octopus was my first attempt ever and was far too good. The meat had a charred smoky taste, yet it was not overbearing. It felt butter smooth and not rubbery. The best part however might be what they did with the zucchini, which was by far the best I have ever had, with its  strong flavor and undertones of butter and smokiness. The ceviche was wonderful. Lime and lemon/olive oil/capers came together to make an amazing taste, mixing together to be complex. Every bite was savored. The pickled red onion atop was essential, it gave it a different taste lens and also added some needed texture. Last was the sashimi salmon with a soy sauce/wasabi sauce of some sort. This was so interesting as the salmon packs its own unique flavor, while the soy and wasabi play a devilment balancing act. The wasabi is pungent, yet the soy sauce and salmon balance it out, you get the full taste and burn—but only very briefly. I enjoyed this.

Round three: The intermission coconut curry/basil/fish soup was served in what looked like a slightly larger espresso shot glass and it was just perfection. The curry was hot and came up in the upper portion of the taste buds while the basil/coconut were more mellow and filling. The fish added texture.

Round four: Entree number one was shrimp and artichokes served on black rice noodles with a lemon butter sauce. The sauce was rich, but not in an over indulgent way due to the lemons’ sharpness. The shrimp was the best shrimp I had ever had. It being chewy but not too much and had a hearty taste. Artichoke hearts were good.

Round six: entree number two. My personal favorite: tuna on yogurt with chili oil, olive oil, and peppers/onions. The best thing I have ever eaten was the seared tuna, good on its own, and best eaten with a bit of everything as each part plays an essential role. The tuna plays the main melody, but is not the first that hits you. Instead the chili oil/hot peppers hit first, but quickly the mouth soothing elements of tuna/olive oil/yogurt mellow it out to a tasteful level. Its hot but its not. Fantastic.

Round 7: Desert. We got ice cream, three flavors; mint, chocolate, salted caramel. It was ice cream, it was good. The mint ice cream especially, however, was fantastic as it tasted wholly of mint leaf and cream.

My pilgrimage to Uri Buri illustrates the complex relationship to food which we have: fuel, culture, taste, skill. As much as Uri Buri represents immense skill and craftsmanship in their ability to make high quality food, in the end I went there partially because I was hungry and because I wanted to stop that feeling. Yet in many ways my trip to Uri Buri was just as much about food as it was about me learning from other cultures and other people—a theme held throughout the Tel Akko experience.

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By Trevor James Hale

Bon Akkoetit

By Trevor James Hale

To me, there is no greater way to experience a foreign culture and all its richness than through their food. The recipes, flavors, and various culinary traditions of a nation are a palatable history presented neatly on a plate. In my two and a half weeks living and working in Akko, I have had plenty of time to sample the local flavors of the Levant. While I do not claim to be some sort of  expert on  fine foods and delicacies, I know good food when I see it. And I can assure you, Akko has no shortage of appetizing oddities. So, let’s take a savory journey to my personal favorite eateries of Akko.

 

 

Soul Burger:

I’m a simple man of simple tastes, and few things taste better than a good burger. Soul Burger, a tiny burger bar just past the entrance to the Old City, is an Israeli take on the classic American sandwich. The word that resonates most with this place is: fresh. Ground beef made fresh every day before opening, onion rings and fries scratch made, a variety of spices and toppings bought daily from the Turkish Bazaar. Their signature dish, the Soul Burger, very well may be the single best burger I’ve had in my entire life.

 

 

Bilal Fish and Seafood Restaurant:

While I have always loved seafood, living in rural Pennsylvania means my access to it is rare and expensive, but for a seaside city like Akko, a fish dinner is as easy as walking to the docks and casting your rod in. Bilal Restaurant, resting quietly beside the Old City harbor, specializes in all things seafood. Masterful in their craft and easy on the wallet, Bilal is a must visit for seafood lovers.

 

 

El Marsa Restaurant and Bar:

Another Old City eatery, this bar overlooks the sea and the city of Haifa across from it. A more formal establishment in the restaurant part, El Marsa also has a more casual bar in the back. If you’re a fan of Arak, you can get a decent round of shots for a relatively cheap price.

 

 

Tenshek:

Are you a fan of shawarma? If so, “Tenshek” (or so I believe it to be) is the place to go. A short walk from the nautical college, this little eatery is perhaps my favorite place in the whole city. From freshly slicked chicken shawarma to grilled kebab, Tenshek provides a variety of delectable dishes. What’s more, most dishes are within the 20-30-shekel range, an absurd deal for such good food. Do yourself a favor and get the kebab pita, it’s well worth it.

 

 

Hummus Issa:

Lauded as perhaps the single best hummus restaurant in Israel, people from all over the nation travel for a meal. But with the long lines and odd hours (6 AM to 2:30 PM), does it really live up to its own hype? Yes, yes it does. Warm, fresh pita served with dishes of spectacular hummus, Hummus Issa just may be the pinnacle of hummus. You know the food is good when the locals love it just as much as the tourists.

 

 

Hummus Said:

The crown of “best hummus in Israel” is hotly contested. In defiance of Hummus Issa is Hummus Said. Within proximity to Issa, Said is similarly lauded as the peak of hummus and pita eatery. While I am no judge of hummus, I will admit that Said has better hours.

 

American Pizza:

Another Israeli twist on a favorite American dish, American Pizza dishes out pies like no other. Featuring both more traditional toppings, as well as some more interesting local flavors, American Pizza is as tasty as it is affordable. While it’s no New York bistro, American Pizza can serve a slice of home for anyone missing the simple delicacy of pizza.

 

 

Uri Buri:

Voted best restaurant in the Middle East in 2016, Uri Buri is a sort of site of pilgrimage for the students in this program. As close to heaven as one can get in a culinary sense, Uri Buri provides course after course of lavish foods prepared lovingly.

And of course, no review of the Tel Akko Total Archaeology program would be complete without a review of…

The Nautical College Dining Hall:
The site of most of my meals, the dining hall at the nautical college serves surprisingly good food. While dinner may seem meager to someone used to a more American diet, the wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and assorted foods makes up for it. Lunch is often the best meal of the day, as well as the special Shabbat dinner. If you want to save money and still have a good meal, don’t hesitate to chow down in the dining hall!

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A Picky Eater’s Guide to Tel Akko
Open Your Mouth
Bon Akkoetit