Gourmet grazing, Israeli style
If there is one thing the shopkeepers at Tel Aviv’s Shuk Hanamal Farmers Market share — apart from a love of good food, obviously — it is a passion for what they do. The indoor market — Israel’s first commercial green building, costing seven million shekels — opened in November 2010. Since then, locals and tourists have been enjoying a food shopping experience which is on a par with London’s Borough Market, The Ferry Terminal in San Francisco and Barcelona’s Boqueria. Latest figures show that 20,000 people visit every weekend — a huge number for Israel.
Adi Black owns The Fishing Zone with his partner Omri Lotan. It’s a small, white-tiled shop, where customers place regular orders for freshly caught fish and more unusual sea food. “I know we were right to have chosen the best location in Israel for launching our new business. It’s very exciting to feel the buzz of the market and to have such a mix of customers — local Tel Avivis, diplomats and visitors who have heard about us.”
Friends from childhood, they grew up on Kibbutz Mevo Chama in the Golan, and as teenagers worked in the kibbutz fishponds.
Adi’s brothers, Assaf and Omer help out. “My parents are originally from north Manchester.” Adi says. “My father’s great-great-uncle, Israel Cohen, sold fish from his horse-drawn wagon. The Fishing Zone is popular with Anglo-Israelis who appreciate the friendly Manchester service.”
Lior Dotan, a kibbutznik from Kfar Shmuel runs Fromagerie. He is the third generation of Romanian cheese makers. “I stock hundreds of different cheeses from all over the world but am happiest introducing customers to my homemade ricotta, labane, goats cheese and yoghurt. They’re all made to traditional family recipes.” Lior’s grandfather taught him how to make cheese. “When I was younger, I wasn’t that interested, but now I’m really excited about everything I make.”
Housed in a renovated warehouse, in the bustling Tel Aviv port area, Shuk Hanamal — with its solar panels and wind power — is a 21st-century covered market. On Tuesday and Friday more farmer’s market stalls are set up outside.
You can find the best coffee, organic vegetables and papayas — delivered daily from a moshav near Rishon — artisan breads and pastries, pasta, boutique wines, American deli food, kosher charcuterie and a huge variety of herrings.
Jana Gur, founder and chief Editor of Al Hashulchan (On The Table) Gastronomic Monthly, Israel’s leading food and wine magazine, is a regular visitor. “Tel Aviv is a trend-setting city whose young chefs have been trained all over the world. They want top-quality ingredients for their dishes. Israelis really love to cook and discuss food. When Israeli Masterchef was on television, it achieved the highest TV viewing figures ever.”
Shuk Hanamal has become popular mainly by word of mouth as a place to browse and meet friends. There’s a kitchen shop, library and a restaurant — Kitchen Garden — which serves innovative dishes. The menu is based on whatever is available in the market that day. Like most of the customers, Jana Gur appreciates the opportunity to taste new things. “From olives, crispy baby cucumbers and tiny tiger tomatoes to unusual flavoured halva and exotic juices — the atmosphere is fantastic.”
Noa Aloni who lives in Herzlia, has been shopping at Shuk Hanamal since it opened. “I’m no longer jealous of my London friends now. Everything here is fresh and beautifully displayed. I appreciate the advice from the sellers. The Charcuterie is one of my favourite shops. It’s run by a family who come from five generations of French sausage makers who started out in Paris. There’s nothing else like it in Israel, and it’s all kosher!”