Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best Places to Find Books in Jerusalem

Luckily the capital city of the people of the book features a number of options to score good books, whether you're looking for the latest fiction or the oldest, rarest book on Israeli history. And that means books in numerous languages: usually English, French, Spanish and Russian, in addition to Hebrew.

You can find the latest releases in two stores with locations all over the city: Tzomet Sfarim ("Book Junction") and Steimatzky. Some locations feature many books in English. However, you won't find everything you're looking for--these are small stores and nowhere close to the size of American bookstores like Barnes & Noble or Borders.

There are a handful of used bookstores in Jerusalem that feature a large selection of books in English. The best by far is the Book Gallery, located a few blocks from the center of town (right off King George Street). The Book Gallery features over 40,000 used, rare and antique books, in over 40 languages from Yiddish to Japanese. According to their website they are the largest used bookstore in the country.

The atmosphere is quite homely. The owners play classical music, and you can pull a few books from the shelves and read while lounging in sofas that look like they were plucked directly from your local Goodwill. Prices are generally quite cheap (between 20-40 shekels, sometimes less), and I guarantee you'll find at least a few books you'd like to read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Volunteer for the Zoo

I found out that you can sign up to volunteer for the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. But according to this website volunteering costs $1200 for two weeks. I suppose you are basically making a donation to the zoo and getting a firsthand experience with its operations as part of the deal? It's probably just some referral company that you should avoid; it's always better to go direct.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Mexican Fiesta in the Heart of Jerusalem

Hope is not lost. I just discovered something new on the Jerusalem culinary landscape: Yaacov Yehuda Stanley, a Breslover chef from Colorado trained at the Jerusalem School of Kosher Culinary Arts, otherwise known as the man behind "Jerusalem Taco."
Apparently he's been trying to make a name for himself over the last few months as a Mexican-Kosher caterer. Luckily I don't have to hire him as a caterer to see whether his Mexican fare could break the dearth-of-decent-Mexican-food curse that plagues the otherwise holy land. Just 2 days from now he's holding a big public event in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem: the Mexican Fiesta Night.

He'll be preparing beef burritos, roasted chicken tacos, "phatty" veggie burritos, and churros. Some microbrewery guys will also be selling home-brewed beer and margaritas. If you want to check it out head over to 39 Betzalel Street between 6 and 10pm on Monday. Also take a look at the facebook event for more info.

Mexican Food...in Israel part 2

So obviously my search for Mexican food in Israel has not come to an end. Recently I checked out Mike's Place in Jerusalem. They have a number of Mexican-American choices on the menu like burritos, tacos, fajitas, and nachos. I've known this for awhile, but Mike's Place closed their location in Jerusalem, so I never got a chance to check it out. Their new Jerusalem location opened last month and has succeeded in attracting a lot of tourists and expats very quickly. They are now located on Yafo street near Kikar Tzion, i.e. in the center of town.

So I visited and gave it a try. The service was nice although the waitress was clearly inexperienced and a little overwhelmed. Everyone who works there speaks English very well (with many native speakers). Their menu is also exclusively in English, which is a little weird for a restaurant in Israel, but hey, it's Jerusalem.

I ordered a chicken burrito and a beer. They didn't have the beer I ordered, but unfortunately I did receive my "burrito." It's sad but Mexican food is so rare in Israel that even a completely American place with a menu full of supposedly Mexican-American options falls way, way short. My "burrito" tasted like a bunch of Shawarma chicken meat wrapped up in a tortilla. On top of that, since Mike's Place in Jerusalem is actually a kosher restaurant, they tried to be innovative by adding some sort of soy "sour cream." Needless to say, it didn't hit the mark, and they would have been far better off leaving out any dairy substitutes. You don't need dairy or dairy substitutes to make a good burrito.

I guess I can't really complain since Mike's Place is mostly a bar and not known for food. Nevertheless I wouldn't recommend it for anyone seeking out Mexican food, although maybe if you drink enough the burritos will start to taste good.