Mateh Yehuda Food Festival connects history and food

Back in the year 2000 in the Mateh Yehuda region, a group of experienced amateur women chefs joined forces and began opening up their homes (and kitchens) to travelers. Now, 21 years later, what began as a small initiative has blossomed into a full-fledged food festival that brings together amateur chefs from a wide variety of cultures, ages, styles and communities, as well owners of wineries, olive presses and breweries.Now that we’ve survived this difficult year, the Mateh Yehuda Food Festival is proud to announce it will once again be taking place over four weekends from June 9 through July 3, with a few events taking place on weekdays as well, such as guided sunset culinary tours every Wednesday and Thursday night during the festival. During these tours, which will take place just as the sun is disappearing for the day and temperatures are falling to more comfortable levels, participants will meet an eclectic group of chefs and taste a variety of dishes made by residents of the region. Visitors can also participate in workshops conducted by some of the fascinating women who put together this awesome happening. Here are six suggestions for venues to check out during this year’s festival. Bon appétit!

1. MOSHAV NEHUSHA

Chef Natalie Abu-Fontana, a pastry chef with over 30 years of culinary experience, is offering a seven-course Tuscany-style meal at her home in Moshav Nehusha during the Mateh Yehuda Food Festival. Natalie prepares risotto, salmon with orange glaze, gnocchi with choux pastry and handmade petit fours, all served with locally sourced wine. Natalie, who made aliyah from France and studied at Le Cordon Bleu, built up a successful catering business in Israel. On the balcony of her home in Nehusha that overlooks Adulam Park, Natalie hosts up to 40 people for meals filled with dishes that hail from French cuisine, but with flavors borrowed from Italy, too. All year long, Natalie offers her famous brunch, as well as customized picnic baskets prepared for take-out.

Price: NIS 450 per couple.Pre-registration required: 055-667-0749

2. BRADLEY BAKERY, MOSHAV SRIGIM (LI ON)

Mateh Yehuda is an area with a plethora of exceptional boutique culinary enterprises. One such place is Oren Shmueli’s bakery. A psychotherapist by profession, Shmueli found his way to the world of bread baking purely by accident when he met a German baker and asked to learn his technique. What began as a hobby slowly turned into a genuine business, and five years ago, Shmueli traveled to the Netherlands to learn organic baking. Many of us changed our eating habits during this past year during the pandemic, and as a result, Shmueli’s business really took off. On offer currently at Bradley Bakery, you will find sourdough, spelt, whole grain, French baguette and even Greek bread. Every Thursday, Shmueli bakes Neapolitan pizza.

On Thursday and Friday nights during the festival, Shmueli will be preparing Turkish Focaccia, and guests are welcome to participate in pizza and focaccia workshops, that will be followed by luxurious and massive carb-loaded meals. Price of workshop: NIS 175.Location: 9 Kramim, Srigim.Pre-registration required: 050-575-3548

BRADLEY BAKERY, MOSHAV LI ON (MEITAL SHARABI)BRADLEY BAKERY, MOSHAV LI ON (MEITAL SHARABI)

3. YAEL’S KITCHEN

Near Bradley Bakery you will find Yael’s Kitchen, which offers an assortment of goat cheeses, cakes, jams, spreads and crackers. On weekends, Yael makes sourdough bread and holds wine tastings. Guests are welcome to partake in the good foods, which are offered by self-service, and payment is carried out on a trust method, where customers leave payment at the checkout station for the items they’ve purchased. There are picnic baskets imported from Morocco, which you can fill with all the items you’re planning on purchasing. Yael’s Kitchen is open 24/7.Location: 6 Hagfanim, Srigim.Details: 054-598-7231

4. BRUNCH AT MOSHAV AMINADAV

At Moshav Aminadav, among breathtaking views of the Judean Hills, you’ll find the home of Livnat and Avi Ohayon. For years, this lovely couple had been active in the textile business, but recently they decided to shift their energy to the hospitality industry. Nowadays, the Ohayons are happy to open their charming garden to guests who come to enjoy Turkish brunch-style meals. Every Thursday and Friday evening during the festival, the Ohayons will be hosting visitors from the late afternoon on with brunch-style meals that include a variety of handmade (by Livnat) pastries, salads, Skordalia garlic dip, Turkish salad, Swiss chard salad, roasted peppers, eggplant in cream sauce and cabbage steaks, to name a few. At the end of each meal, guests will be served cheese and orange semolina cakes, coffee and tea. Alcohol lovers will be happy to taste the watermelon, arak and refreshing mint cocktails.

Price: NIS 280 per couple. Picnic baskets NIS 200. Pre-registration required: 054-286-8162 / 054-288-6816BRUNCH AT MOSHAV AMINADAV (MEITAL SHARABI)BRUNCH AT MOSHAV AMINADAV (MEITAL SHARABI)

5. MOSHAV ZACHARIA

At Moshav Zacharia in Ella Valley, hiding out in the fields and chicken coops, you’ll find lots of fun and challenging activities for the whole family, including riding on electric EZ Raiders through the tomato and pepper fields and visiting the greenhouses. Guests are welcome to taste any of the vegetables that are currently in season, and even stop for an impromptu shakshuka meal made with the vegetables you’ve just picked.

Regular tour: 1.5 hours, NIS 190.Shakshuka tour: 3 hours, NIS 270 per person (minimum 10 people).Location: 34 Harakefet, Moshav Zacharia. Pre-registration required: 050-991-9932

6. SPHERA WINERY

In Givat Yeshayahu, you’ll find Sphera Winery, a boutique winery that is known for its excellent white wines. Sphera was founded by winemaker Doron Rav Hon and his wife Sima, and together they manage the winery with their family. Sphera focuses on their White Concepts line, which includes Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Riesling 2020, Chardonnay 2020, and First Page, which is a blend of Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne. The wine tasting at Sphera also comes with cheese and vegetable platters, alongside an assortment of breads, all made locally. Picnic baskets are also available.
Price: NIS 125. Pre-registration required: 02-993-8577The Mateh Yehuda Food Festival will take place on June 9-July 3.

Details: tour-yehuda.org.il
Translated by Hannah Hochner.

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