Our month in Austin is coming to a close far too quickly. I only have two more nights left before we pack our bags and head north. I kind of want to throw a flailing fit about it. “It’s not fairrrrrrr!”
I haven’t crossed off all the restaurants and activities on my Austin bucket list, so I’m feeling some intense pressure to take advantage of every minute left. It always kills me to leave a place without seeing it all. I just want to cross off one place on my list so I can move on to the next, but that’s not going to happen with Austin. It rarely happens that way. I almost always want to go back! There’s always more to see and do, isn’t there?
I feel the same way about Austin as I do about my trip to Israel last fall. I’ve been meaning to tell you more about it since my pomegranate salad post, but it was such an overwhelmingly fast and beautiful eight days that it’s been difficult to put the experience into words. Sharing my experience is made even more challenging by the political situation in Israel. I’m not qualified to explain it and even if I were, I certainly couldn’t sum up millennia of history in one blog post. I can only tell you about my experience, so keep reading if you’d like to hear and see more.
I have so many photos to share that I decided to break up the trip into a couple of posts. First up? Tel Aviv, Israel’s colorful city on the Mediterranean Sea, which is where we spent the majority of our eight days in Israel. The weather was warm and sunny, which was much appreciated after a week in Portland. It’s a healthy, active city with an impressive variety of vegetarian/vegan restaurants. One of my favorite experiences was our private yoga session on a rooftop!
Tel Aviv’s climate and general atmosphere reminded me of Barcelona and Rome. It’s a beach city that never sleeps and the people watching alone is reason to visit. My big head of curly, dark hair camouflaged my American roots so well that I felt at home over there.
Western and Eastern cultures collide in Tel Aviv with fascinating results. It’s a modern city, founded just over one hundred years ago near the ancient port of Jaffa, which contrasts sharply with Jerusalem. (Or so I’m told. We didn’t get to visit Jerusalem due to the recent violence.)
Many big-name tech companies, like Google and Facebook, have research and development facilities in or near Tel Aviv. The city is full of start-up companies, too, and we got to meet a few of them at a bustling co-working space. Israelis embrace innovation and technology. They don’t judge “failed” companies harshly like Americans tend to do. Instead, they embrace failures as part of the learning process. They inspired me to try to do the same.
Of course, the food and dining options in Tel Aviv are incredible. We ate so many fantastic meals over there that they’re all a big blur. The markets are bursting with fresh produce and plump dates. Restaurant highlights included Village Green, which is a family-owned vegetarian/vegan restaurant (check out the meals I photographed against the white picnic table) and Nanuchka, a Georgian restaurant that literally went vegan overnight.
One of my other favorites was Café Louise, where we must have sampled just about everything on the menu. They handed out tiny tahini-date-banana “shakes” to enjoy before the endless dinner options started passing by. I loved that shake! I’ve since recreated it at home a few times. It’s rich and creamy, featuring nutty tahini and sweet dates, two of the Middle East’s most beloved ingredients. I’d definitely call it a milkshake over a smoothie, since it’s such a decadent treat. It’s a little on the unusual side, but I hope you’ll give it a try!
Tahini Date Shake
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Total Time: 5 mins
- Yield: 2 small shakes
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Creamy, dairy-free shake made with tahini, dates and bananas. This rich smoothie would be a lovely after-dinner drink or afternoon treat! Recipe yields two small shakes.
- 1 cup almond milk or milk of choice (nut-free if necessary)
- 2 sliced and frozen ripe (but not overripe) bananas
- ¼ cup tahini
- 4 Medjool dates, pitted and torn into pieces
- 1 drop of real vanilla extract
- Pinch cinnamon
- Optional garnishes: pinch of cinnamon and/or sesame seeds
- In a blender, combine the milk, frozen banana slices, tahini, dates, vanilla and cinnamon. Blend until smooth. Taste and add more vanilla or cinnamon if desired. If you’d like to lighten it up, blend in some ice as well. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Disclaimer: My trip to Israel was provided by Vibe Israel, a non-profit group that hosts small groups of media professionals at a time and shows them around the country. I’m sharing the experience because I found it so inspiring. Opinions are my own, always!