As the clock struck 9, Eilat Lieber swept into the Crusader Hall, a cavernous 900-yr-vintage chamber, and strode swiftly toward the top of a long table set for a banquet.
The walls, stacks of large, historic stones, rose to giddy heights. Even when illuminated using lamps, tea candles, and the flash of some photographers, the vaulted room retained its gothic color. At the center, a sea-blue linen tablecloth collapsed in pillowy piles along the entire length of the desk. White plates dotted each facet, and a jungle of greenery spouted along its median. The setting loomed like an offering watching for a queen.
On cue, a procession of contemporary culinary royalty commenced circulating for the whole salvo of Celebrity Chef Birthright, a sumptuous six-day tour organized via meals festival impresario Herb Karlitz. The aim is to convey attention to Israeli delicacies taking part in a moment of global popularity. Thus, the title becomes a sly nod to Israel’s “Birthright” tours for younger American Jews.
Jonathan Waxman, the silver-maned prophet of California cuisine and owner of New York eating places Barbuto and Jams, escorted Nancy Silverton, the groundbreaking chef, baker, and proprietor of the Mozza Restaurant Group in Los Angeles, and meals critic Ruth Reichl to their adjoining seats at the middle of the hall.
The trio, who have known every other for greater than 30 years, are key gamers in the history of twentieth-century American delicacies, with a blended thirteen James Beard Foundation Awards and greater than 1. Five million social media followers. Seating the two women, each of whom had formerly visited Israel, Waxman exuberantly declared: “Not me. I’m a virgin.”
The castle in which all this happened, the Tower of David, dates to the fifth century, however “this room changed into constructed in 1099,” said Lieber, director and chief curator of the website, “when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem, and it served because of the king’s palace. But, more importantly, Melisende, the [12th century] queen of Jerusalem, dominated here, literally, from this place.”
“Who knows,” Lieber mused, “if in her time there weren’t meals served right here just like the one we are approximately to sit down to.” Finally, after years of organizing the extravaganza, Ido Zarmi, the chef who partnered with Karlitz and who hosted Monday’s 12-course meal, stood equipped to undertake his mission, wherein the first-rate Israeli substances served in the maximum lavish Israeli placing, organized by the satisfactory-educated Israeli fingers, might be offered to the journeying American luminaries.
Politics, for trade, could be set apart. “We’re now not doing politics,” Karlitz insisted. “We’re doing what this usa has executed approximately meals, which is top-notch.” Israeli meals, like that of each immigrant tradition, are famously difficult to describe. Zarmi said his method is to apply the finest neighborhood merchandise and introduce his visitors to a way of lifestyles he came to appreciate and define throughout the eight years he studied and worked in New York. “Israelis have a subculture of existence that includes ingesting, that is exceptional,” he stated. “It’s that lifestyle that visits right here a laugh. You cannot restrict it to a signature dish.”
In October, the French newspaper Le Figaro listed Balagan, owned through Jerusalem’s Machneyuda Group, to satisfy 15 excellent Israeli restaurants in Paris. “Everybody talks approximately Israeli or Middle Eastern meals,” said New York chef and “Chopped” judge Amanda Freitag, however, the Israeli food created in America, she stated, is “muted, its flavor dwindled,” a truth she attributed to the absence of sparkling, specific Israeli components, occasions she in comparison to making Italian food in America “earlier than you could get actual Italian burrata.”