By Marika Sboros
Israel may be one of the world’s vegan capitals. It is also a global pomegranate paradise. During my last visit to the Israel recently, I drank deeply of the juice of one of the country’s oldest indigenous fruit species.
Pomegranates are embedded in Jewish tradition. They are mentioned in biblical praise of the Land of Israel. Folk lore has it that they are chock-a-block with healing properties, particularly for heart health and blood circulation.
It’s difficult to go anywhere in Israel without finding stalls selling freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. That helps the fruit retains all the nutrient value.
A sip can feel like an instant immune booster injected straight into your veins, which may not be that far from the truth. Apart from exceptional clarity of the crimson-coloured juice, pomegranates are brimful of vitamins including A, B, and C. The juice is also a good source of essential minerals such as iron and calcium.
There’s some evidence to show that the juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries, according to scientific research. Researchers at Haifa University say that pomegranate juice is good for cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Other Israeli research suggests that it can ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
An Israeli wine farm takes the juice of the fruit a step further and is the first to produce fine wine successfully from 100% pomegranate, without added sugar. Research is mixed on whether this wine is any better than wine from grapes, or whether it retains all the juice’s well-researched health benefits.
However, wine experts say that fermenting pomegranates may not necessarily boost health benefits. That’s because, as with red grapes, the most nutrients are in the fruit flesh, juice and skin.
The family-run Rimon Winery is named after the Hebrew word for pomegranate. It nestles in the tranquil and instantly destressing splendour of the hills above the Sea of Galilee. On its own, that makes it well worth a visit.
And of course, pomegranates are just one of many ingredients that put Israel firmly on the global gastronomic map. World-renowned Israeli celebrity Yonatan Roshfeld is the draw card.
Among his many claims to fame, Roshfeld has developed world-class kosher cuisine at his flagship Herbert Samuel restaurant in Tel Aviv.
He has also taken it into the Herbert Samuel restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel that opened in Herzliya in November 2013. Thus, that was the international chain’s first kosher restaurant worldwide.
The dinner I had put paid to any lingering impressions I had about kosher foods, health and fine dining being mutually exclusive.
In a rare interview with the Jewish Chronicle online, Roshfeld says Israeli cuisine follows the international trend towards a healthier and lighter gastronomy.
The food on our menu proved that and more. It was like manna from fusion heaven. It was a delicious, delicate blend of East, Middle East, and West cuisine. There was enough on offer to feed the souls of Banting enthusiasts, vegetarians and even vegans alike.
Click here to read: Kosher low-carb lifestyles: beginner’s guide
The dessert menu, while not particularly healthy for blood sugar levels, was an epicurean delight. It ended off with a chocolate melting masterpiece enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth of the most unrehabilitated chocoholic. And to get chocolate’s famed feel good endorphins coursing through the veins at first bite.
How Roshfeld achieves such healthy gastronomic wizardry without a drop of dairy is beyond me. But then he is clearly a master of his craft. He understands the boost to body and mind of a true dining “experience” in the restaurant’s elegant, minimalist setting.
The open-plan, quiet kitchen allows guests to enjoy watching chefs at their craft preparing meals. The seasoning is delicate, with magnificent views of the marina and the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean ocean.
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