By Marika Sboros
Israel is one of the world’s vegan capitals. It is also a pomegranate paradise. During my recent visit to Israel, I drank deeply of the juice of one of the country’s oldest indigenous fruit species.
I also gained first-hand experience of just how delicious and innovative a kosher fine-dining experience can be.
But let’s start off with pomegranates that are embedded in Jewish tradition. They are mentioned in biblical praise of the Land of Israel. Thus, it’s difficult to go anywhere in Israel without finding stalls selling freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. It’s also on the menu at fine-dining restaurants and other culinary establishments across the country. Drinking it freshly squeezed means that the juice retains all the nutrient value.
Folklore has it that the fruit is chock-a-block with healing properties, particularly for heart health and blood circulation. Research backs it up.Just a sip can feel like an immune boost injected straight into your veins – it may not be that far from the truth. Apart from exceptional clarity of the crimson-coloured juice, pomegranates are brimful of vitamins A, B, and C. The juice is also a good source of essential minerals such as iron and calcium.
Pomegranate juice for hearts
There’s some evidence to show that the juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, blueberries, and cranberries. Researchers at Haifa University say that pomegranate juice is good for cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Other Israeli research suggests that pomegranate juice can ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
An Israeli wine farm takes the juice of the fruit a step further. The family-run Rimon Winery takes its name from the Hebrew word for pomegranate. The wine farm nestles in the tranquil splendour of the hills above the Sea of Galilee. On its own, that makes it well worth a visit.
The Rimon Winery 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 the wine offers all the juice’s well-researched health benefits.
Wine experts point out 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.
Global gastronomic map
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. That made it the international chain’s first kosher restaurant worldwide. The dinner I had put paid to any lingering impressions that kosher foods and fine dining were mutually exclusive culinary concepts.
And these days, says Roshfeld, Israeli cuisine doesn’t just follow the international trend towards a healthier and lighter gastronomy. It leads the trend.
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 that was enough to satisfy the sweetest tooth of the most unrehabilitated chocoholic.
How Roshfeld achieves such healthy gastronomic wizardry without a drop of dairy when required is beyond me. But then he is a master of his craft. He also understands the boost to body and mind of a true dining “experience” in the restaurant’s elegant, minimalist setting. The dining room benefits from magnificent views of the Herzliya marina and the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean ocean beyond.
The open-plan, quiet kitchen allows guests to enjoy watching chefs at their craft preparing meals.