The gourmet adventure began with Shira and Polina selecting fresh herbs and vegetables plus an array of spices at Tel Aviv’s Nachalat Binyamin market. We then all headed up to Tsfat to prepare a feast.
As soon as Shira arrived, she set to work arranging the foods and utensils in special areas of the kitchen. Aromas wafted from the stove where pots simmered and pans sizzled. The windows were soon bathed in steam, transporting us all into a world of fine food made with loving care.
Polina made the challot while Shira continued to cook and create. We were mesmerized by the dedication being invested into the ingredients and could barely keep track of the spices being tossed into the various creations.
They worked right into the night and Shira woke up several times to check on dishes that were simmering all night long.
And if that were not tantalizing, Friday offered even more fascinating food experiences. We woke early and drove to nearby Machanaim where we met Lilach, a local food forager and owner of Bat Kayma . She introduced us to a world of healthy ingredients right below our feet.
Walking slowly and mindfully, she introduced us to delicious pickings including mustard sprouts, sorrel, mint and thistle. She showed us how to strip a stalk of nettle and eat it. We nibbled on mallow and crunched away on fennel stalks. My son Shaya picked, nibbled and grazed, uncovering his inner cow.
Lilach explained that she never picks twice in the same area but frequents different parts of the forest and riverbanks so as not to impact the plant life. She advises against pulling plants from the roots unless they are found in abundance, such as white mustard greens.
A visit to a local winery
If mustard sprouts were for breakfast, cheese and wine soon became lunch. We then drove to the nearby Dalton winery for a wonderful tasting. We sat at a table laid out with a cheese plate and wine glasses and were poured a wonderful selection of Dalton’s signature wines.
Feeling a little light headed, we returned to Villa Tiferet where Shira once again took up her helm in her apron. Smells of freshly challah soon filled the house, while songs from their pre-Shabbat playlist echoed up to domed ceiling.
We felt humbled by what was being created here and set to preparing the Shabbat table. The Shira-Polina team was so professional, there was little for us to do but be amazed.
After lighting Shabbat candles, we headed to the roof to view a crimson sun setting behind the Meiron Mountains, then retreated to the living room where huge logs burned in the fireplace. Flames threw shadows across the stone walls, bathing the room in warmth.
At first we were silent, taking in the splendor of Shabbat, feeling its tranquility, its dreaminess. By the fireside, we sang Kabbalat Shabbat then sat down for a festive, delicious meal.
After the food was plated, it looked so beautiful, we did not want to eat, simply staring in awe. As it was Shabbat we could not take pictures so tried to appreciate this edible artisanry.
A Friday night dinner to remember
These dishes graced our table:
Delicious home made challah drizzled with maple syrup
Marrow soup with cannelloni beans, Swiss chard and parsnips
Braised lamb shank au jus served on a pistachio tapenade with Kaboocha squash and beet leaves
Acorn squash served with stewed red onions, lime segments, honey and chili
Spinach with avocados, pumpkin seeds tossed in a cashew dressing
Braised chicken thighs marinated with dates, thyme, prunes, capers served atop a sweet potato puree
The ancient wheat grain faro tossed with mushroom ragu, kale, miso, kombu, lemon rind and nori
With these incredible tastes, the echoes of our nigumin reaching up to the stone domes, and the warm feeling of being in Shabbat, we all felt as if we had entered another realm.
And then it was Saturday. Shira prepared a delicious Shabbat lunch, again, each dish lovingly assembled and beautifully presented. Even mustard sprouts from our foraging found their way into the spectacular salads.
Shabbat lunch at Villa Tiferet
For lunch, we were spoiled with the following incredible dishes:
Red leaf lettuce salad with baby beet greens, raw beets, watercress, radicchio, fennel, hazlenuts tossed in reduced pomegranate juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar
Raw Tuscan kale salad served with pomegranates and drizzled in a pistachio lemon dressing
Orecchiette pasta served with heirloom tomatoes, walnuts, lemon, charred scallions, parsley leaves tossed in a pea pesto
Roasted chicken thighs served atop a sunchoke herb puree with garlic confit, roasted pine nuts, figs and braised artichokes
Can I call food breathtaking? It was. Is it sacrilegious to call food divine? Maybe on Shabbat we can as it heightens our Shabbat experience.After the sun set, we sang Havdalah, watching the candle flame dance across the stones. We were sad to see Shabbat depart, yet we took so much away from this experience. A special essence was created in this house over Shabbat. It was magical, sensory, maybe even extra-sensory.
On one level, the villa’s professional-style kitchen experienced the hands of a true chef. And if we search deeper, our senses were tantalized, voices harmonized and the stone walls echoed with beautiful song. Friendships were forged.
Shira and Polina took us along for a test drive of their vision to bring people together for an unforgettable, exalted Shabbat. I hope they continue to bring this magic into many people’s lives.
We look forward to seeing them back at Villa Tiferet, where they take the Shabbat experience to the next level. And we hope you can be there too!
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