Thursday, December 24, 2009



Once upon a time, a long time ago, in the beautiful city of Jerusalem, there opened a restaurant called "La Rotisserie" at the Notre Dame Monastery.

It was such a long time ago that there weren't many world-class restaurants in Jerusalem. True - there were many restaurants in Jerusalem, but only a small handful which were really "must eat at places".

"La Rotisserie" stayed open for several years. The food was excellent, the service all you could hope for, the place welcoming - in short, a restaurant we often visited.

Then the intifadas came. People were afraid to go into East Jerusalem and almost all of the restaurants which catered to the Israeli Jewish customers and to the tourists went out of business. Among them "La Rotisserie".

Then, a few weeks ago there appeared in the weekend edition of HaAretz a short article by Ronit Vered about "La Rotisserie" which had just re-opened under the aegis of a Cuban/Spanish chef by the name of Rodrigo Gonzalez-Elias.

According to Ms. Vered "...the name Elias appears in population registries in the Caribbean as far back as the 17th century - an apparent remnant of a Jewish forefather who converted to Christianity, along with others in the group referred to as Marranos. After Castro came to power, the family scattered all over the world. Elias himself grew up in Madrid....." While Ms. Vered states in the article that Elias was born in Cuba, he told us that he was actually born in Pennsylvania(!).

To further quote Ms. Vered, "The result sounds something of a joke: a restaurant in premises owned by the Vatican, in the Holy City, run by a Christian Spanish chef of Cuban background, who is decended from a Marrano family".

Yesterday, my great foodie friends, Yoav and Ernesto, treated me to lunch at "La Rotisserie". And what a lunch it was. Ernesto suggested that we each order different starters and entrees - and share. ( By the way - don't you just hate people who won't share their food?)

And so we shared - mostly sea food and fish dishes because that's what we like and it's something not easy to come by in Jerusalem. We ordered one roast chicken dish which piqued Yoav's taste buds because it came stuffed with white truffles - and was partnered with grilled asparagus and a stuffed zucchini blossom. Can you describe chicken as ethereal?

We ate monk fish - the first time ever that I've seen this in Israel - sided with rice cooked in squid ink. Monk fish is sometimes described as "the poor man's lobster" because it has the same taste and texture as a lobster tail. And even though it is a fish as opposed to sea food - it isn't kosher - it has no scales. We had several shrimp dishes - all cooked to perfection - and each beautifully garnished. And we had pulpo (octopus) which was absolutely tender - which isn't always the case with octopus - sided with roasted potato cubes.

The desserts were imaginative and whimsically named and presented. We only ordered two desserts as I'm not much of a dessert person - but I tasted, you can be sure. Soooo good.

For those who are willing to eat in a non-kosher restaurant but not eat shellfish - there are many other offerings - such as a beetroot risotto, meats and fish. I can't imagine that the other dishes offered are any less wonderful than the ones we ate.

Now - here's what you have to do. Although the restaurant is still called "La Rotisserie" - it isn't a grill-restaurant at all. For some technical reason having to do with the Church - they are prohibited from changing the name of the restaurant that once existed in that space. Also - and more important - the Church prohibits them from advertising a commercial enterprise. So you will see no advertisements for the restaurants. You have to help advertise this restaurant by word-of-mouth.

At the moment the restaurant is not filled to capacity. I want them to succeed - when you eat there you will also want them to succeed. If you don't want to go for a full dinner - go on a Saturday evening to the bar - have a few drinks and order a selection of tapas (those little h'ors d'oeuvres that are famously served in Spain). It sounds like great fun.

Their phone number is 02-6279114. Go - enjoy - and tell me how you liked it. In fact, if you call me I'll go along with you. Can't wait to eat there again.

Yalla, Bye.

Sunday, December 06, 2009



"I'm going to the gym." Five words that I never, ever thought would fall from my lips.

They not only fell from my lips - I'm really going to the gym. I can't believe I wrote that. "I'm going to the gym." But today was the second day that I went. What a way to begin the week.

I don't actually understand women who say - happily -"I go to the gym every day." - "I feel so good when I go to the gym." - "Going to the gym is an important part of my routine." Are they crazy?

But - not only am I going to the gym - and plan to do so on a regular basis.... I've signed up for a whole year. Am I crazy?

I'll tell you what's happening. I always write to you about the wonderful dinners I cook at home for my friends. I always tell you about all the restaurants I eat at - the new ones that have to be tried out and the old stand-bys that I love to re-visit. I tell you about the delicious recipes I've experimented with. I tell you about the friends I visit and the affairs I go to. Do you notice a common theme here? Everything has to do with eating. And eating puts weight on you. Duh!

So - the time has come. It's not that I'm fat - but I'm no longer slim either. My clothes still fit me - but only just. And so I've decided that the time has come to get back in shape. Of course, as my partner-in-crime, Marallyn, says - "Round is a shape, too."

Recently my friend, Riva, began going to "our" gym - notice how I'm already a partner? - and she looks marvelous. She hasn't lost any actual pounds but she's looking firm and terrific. (She's also one of my good eating and cooking buddies.) And she's also a good enough friend that she brought me an introductory discount coupon to the gym - a nice way of saying, without actually saying it, that I need to do something serious.

Then my friend, Joey, went to a dietician, lost heaps of weight (he's also one of my serious eating and cooking buddies) - and looks great.

Last week I began with the gym. Tomorrow morning I'm going to Joey's dietician! But - I'm not doing all of this all alone. My partner-in-crime is going along with me. We eat together - we diet together. That's only fair. Once a year Marallyn and I go on a diet - which is our only saving grace in the weight department. That keeps us from actually getting fat. But the truth is that we've lost - and gained - the same fifteen pounds year after year. Enough already. Her son, Joe College, said to her "Why do you go on that diet each year? It doesn't work." It works - we don't. Slowly, slowly we go back to our old eating habits.

Wish us luck. I'll keep you up to date from time to time. By this time next year I expect us to be svelte and gorgeous. Well - we're already gorgeous - it's svelte we want to be.

Lest you think that I've lost my mind entirely --- I just cut an article out of the weekend paper about a new restaurant that opened here in Jerusalem - I'll have to try it. I'll tell you about that, too.

Yalla, Bye.

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