Let's Eat

Hot news on picnics this Pesach

Goodbye pulverized matzot; farewell limp salad


For Brits, a matzah ramble generally involves refreshments of matzah, cheese, a hard-boiled egg, a fishball iif you are lucky, almond macaroons and chocolate. Pretty modest fare. Not so for Israelis.

When you encounter them on the next picnic table, you are bound to feel inadequate. They come with tablecloths, cool boxes of chilled drinks, more salads than you can count, home-made schnitzels, meat dishes and dips. There always seems to be a huge steaming pot of hot food and you can never work out how it got there to the middle of the forest (by crane?) and how it is still hot.

Crunch, crunch, we Brits go, chomping on our matzah, as they are tucking in with relish on the next table, throwing pitying glances.

Want more of an indulgent picnic? Try combining your matzah ramble with a foodie shopping trip. Israel's best food markets, such as the Carmel in Tel Aviv and Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem are open on the intermediate days of Passover. You can make yourself a mobile cheese board and pick up the finest Israeli olives and pickles. Or go down the meaty route, with cold cuts smoked by a master butcher.

You can also go for the ultimate outdoor dining experience. Chef Meir Karnash has designed and built a kitchen-on-wheels that he drives to anywhere in Israel. Put to work, the kitchen has everything he needs to cook a gourmet meal for up to 50 people.

"I love it because it gives people a chance to experience Israeli nature with fine food," says Karnash, who studied Cordon Bleu cuisine in Sydney and has worked as a chef in France. His unit is eco-friendly. Karnash calls his business Chefnoded (in English, the Wandering Chef) and cooks in private homes as well as in his mobile unit. He has made meals for small parties - he recently cooked for a couple who met him out in the countryside, arriving by helicopter - and big groups such as barmitzvah parties. Locations have included very isolated spots. "People have said: 'we want to eat next to Masada', so we open up the kitchen there."

Karnash's menus include toasted crostini with layers of aubergine and courgette on coriander cream; fresh corn polenta with butter, stir-fried wild mushrooms and pickled lemon and filet mignon in kalamata olive marinade on root vegetable cream, asparagus and merlot gravy. He can work with all-kosher ingredients, but his mobile unit does not have kosher supervision.

His meals may be outdoors but there is no expectation for diners to rough it. He sources furniture, waiters and waitresses, to create the full dining experience. "It's not a picnic but rather a restaurant in the middle of nowhere," he says.

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