I'm sitting at a beautiful cafe having what I have come to refer to as "linner" - the late afternoon lunch that will also serve as dinner - enjoying a most beautiful view of the ocean on the boardwalk in the port area of Tel Aviv - not to be confused with the marina, which is near where I used to stay when I was "hotelling" in Tel Aviv (a very expensive activity here in Tel Aviv...think New York rates and you get close).
I’m feeling the brisk breeze coming off the ocean as I sit here typing having just come out of the warm sun as I had walked the boardwalk. Although there would have been plenty of reasons to walk the boardwalk on this gorgeous day, it happens to also be one of the only (if not THE only) place in town that has shops open where one can buy clothes today…as in the case of someone who may have just had their luggage lost by the airline…not saying any names…but….It is Saturday. Shabbat. The “day of rest” for the Jewish. I’m in Israel after all, so traditional Judaism is very alive and well here. By the way, to any of my fellow travelers out there, I think without question the worst day to travel to Israel has to be Thursday, arriving on Friday evening, the beginning of Shabbat. Note to self…try VERY hard to NEVER come on this schedule again…
After leaving the US at 5:40pm on Thursday, I arrived in Tel Aviv on 4:45pm local time on Friday (35 minutes late arrival BTW). And, after waiting around until what seemed like the end of time to hopefully see my luggage drop onto the baggage carousel, I filed the report of lost luggage with Air France and proceeded out to the arrivals hall to the ATM machine where I get my cash for the cab ride and other needs for the week along with a local cell phone. Well, after 3 different ATM machine attempts I get the cash, but the mobile phone counter is (still) closed with a sign “I’ll be right back”…clearly they have a different interpretation of “right back” than I do…After waiting around for 15-20 minutes (facilitated by my 3 ATM machine trials and a nice line of people at each one), no phone counter attendant returned. Unfortunately, I was on a deadline…I had to get to the apartment I rented as close to 6:30 as possible at the latest because my very sweet apartment owner who was giving me the keys observes Shabbat and needed to be home by 7:10pm. It was 6pm. By the time I got through the very long cab line it was 6:20. The cab driver so graciously said to me as he put my laptop bag in the trunk, “Is this all you have?!” Yes…unfortunately it is…don’t remind me….I did make it to the apartment and she did the quick tour and “how-to’s” and she was out by 7pm and felt she would be home by her deadline. That mission accomplished.
So, back to the present moment …It is now Saturday and given that there is no one working on Shabbat in the lost luggage department and I have in my possession only the one outfit that I have worn for more than 24 hours now, I was in desperate need of some additional clothing. Some good food was certainly a bonus too (another item you don’t always find on Shabbat – from Friday sundown through Saturday sundown it is hard to get a decent meal in Israel unless you cook it yourself). I find a shop open with some women’s clothing of all sorts – casual to somewhat dressy…and they’re having a 30% off sale! Bonus! I walk out with a few outfits, some shoes, underclothing and some body wash & spray. Yay!
I decide to stop by and get some “linner” on the walk back home at a nice café overlooking the ocean. Luckily most people do speak some level of English in Israel, and the waiter told me of some specials that, while they sounded good if you used your imagination more than your language skills, were not nearly as good sounding as they were looking and even better tasting. I ordered an appetizer and entrée from the specials described to me by the waiter. The “starter” was described to me as a “white fish burnt with avocado and a spicy sauce”, it being a small 4-5 inch block of meat as he put his hands together to show me the amount of fish on this “starter” when I asked. Well, that doesn’t sound too appetizing to most people, but my interpretation of this was a blackened trout-type fish that was served with some avocado with a Cajun-like spice to the blackening spices. Well what I got was so much better than even my interpretation....I unfortunately dug in before snapping a photo, so you’ll just have to use your imagination, but it looked like sushi-grade tuna, seared only with what looked like poppy seeds and black sesame on top with a very nice creamy Cajun-like dipping sauce spread on the plate with some chopped avocados. OMG was that good.
I thought that dish was waaaaayy too good for this waiter to be describing it as “burnt white fish” – no English speaking person would want this and that would be a travesty. So, thinking I was helping the waiter find the right English words to describe this dish better in the future, I say to him with enthusiasm like I had just discovered gold when he comes to check on how I like the dish... “This is seared sushi-grade tuna…it’s wonderful!” Then comes MY lesson…he says “No, it’s Kingfish. It is red just like tuna”…What?! There’s another fish out there that looks and tastes like tuna and you eat it like sushi too?! Wow…I LOVE IT WHEN I LEARN NEW THINGS LIKE THIS!! I had heard of Kingfish, but never seen or eaten it. So WTH was he doing describing this as “whitefish”?! That was the sort of thing you think of when you think of the fast-food version of a fish sandwich...the ubiquitous "white fish" whoever knows what that really is...
Anyway…so I enjoy that immensely, and then comes my entree off the specials. He had described it as a “whitefish with shrimp, calamari and mussel sauce with roasted vegetables over gnocchi”. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was FABULOUS…The “whitefish” was cooked perfectly and was the consistency and flavor of something close to a seabass. A lot of fish & veggies w/a little bit of homemade gnocchi (instead of little bit of fish & veggies & a lot of gnocchi that you might find in many restaurants in the U.S). The moral of this story is don’t always take the descriptions literally in restaurants where the waiters aren’t speaking English as a first language! Take a little risk. Trust your waiter.Aaahh, what a great day…sitting on the ocean boardwalk having just bought a cute new blue dress (and don’t forget the cute little blue shoes to go with it!) for a very reasonable price, eating a