Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

You won't be so lucky to find a Starbuck's here in Jerusalem, but they do have The Coffee Bean, a staple coffee shop popular in California and New York. During my time in Dallas, I learned that the Coffee Bean was unfortunately not a chain spread across the entire country. I can still recall the unknowing looks I received when I asked if the city had one anywhere. You guys don't even know what you're missing! So, for those of you who don't know Coffee Bean, you will have to take my word for it that it's just as big as Starbuck's in the places where it  does exist. That's why I was so excited to discover that they had a Coffee Bean here a few years ago. As expected, the popular American chain here in Israel is teeming with Americans expats who are craving a little home away from home. Locals instead prefer the more popular Aroma Cafe, of which I too am quickly becoming a fan. It's hard to believe I never even used to drink coffee a few years ago! I was sickened at the sight, smell and taste of it. Now, I can't get enough. Here is a picture of the Coffee Bean in central Jerusalem on busy Ben Yehuda Street:

Can you find Rafi in this picture?
My delicious cappuccino at Jerusalem's Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
Across the street from Coffee Bean is the popular restaurant Cafe Hillel
So, how does it measure up, you might ask? Well, you know when you go to a McDonald's abroad and it's just not quite the same as back home? Come on now, you've all eaten there at least once or twice when there was nothing better to eat abroad. Although you can't put your finger on it, it always seems to taste just a little bit different; and often, you even discover new items on the menu. Well, that's also how it is at the Coffee Bean(s) here in Israel. Though they do make a killer cappuccino, the white chocolate mocha is...interesting, with a real piece of white chocolate chunk dropped into the bottom of the drink. Additionally, forget iced lattes and iced mochas; ask for one and you'll end up with a frappuccino instead. That reminds me of the story my mom tells of when she was pregnant with me, visiting France, and all she wanted was an iced tea (which they apparently do not or did not serve at the time). After several failed attempts to have a cafe prepare an iced tea, she demanded a cup of hot tea and a glass of ice with a side of lemon and sugar. With baffled waiters watching, she made her very own iced tea. You can't stop a pregnant woman with a craving, I guess! Though I don't feel the need to go that far to get my iced cafe latte, it's just an example of how odd people think those types of drinks are here. As for the differences in menu items, here in Israel you will find that your staple Coffee Bean muffins and cookies from back in the US have been replaced with cheese barekas, Israeli pastries and kosher treats. Here's now a look at that popular joint, Aroma, which is Israel's version of Starbuck's (but oh, so much better):

Aroma Cafe Jerusalem
A typical espresso bar at Aroma Cafe
They offer a full cafe menu (though I heard Starbuck's is also stepping it up by adding alcohol to their list of beverages, turning into a true "bar" type of setting). As for Aroma, it's really the best there is in Israel, so if you're ever here, make sure to make a pit stop. Luckily, there are also various Aroma's throughout the world, including (surprisingly) Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Romania, Cyprus, Canada and the good old USA.  So, New Yorkers and Floridians, go have a taste for yourself some true Israeli coffee and food.

Back to the subject of muffins (we mentioned how Starbuck's muffins are replaced here by Israeli pastries), another thing that humors me is that Israelis think that cupcakes are muffins. On a quest to find a local cupcake shop to soothe my recent sweet tooth, I searched on the Internet (to no avail) and then began asking around. After getting some blank looks in response to my cupcake search, I showed a few people a picture of a cupcake online. Their faces would fill with recognition and I was immediately hopeful. "Ah yes", they said to me, "a muffin!" To which I replied, "No, no, no! It's not a muffin at all!!" This was obviously going nowhere. It was like asking a caveman for directions. As people continued to assure me that there were many "muffins" in Israel, I was thinking (or maybe screaming) in my head that it couldn't be further from the truth! They've got it all wrong. How would I ever find a cupcake? I was determined to find one to satisfy my craving taste buds, especially after my good friend Kate had visited my favorite dessert shop in Dallas, Creme de la Cookie, which has the best of the best. I had just about given up last week when I walked by this shop:

Roy's Chocolate, Jerusalem


Chocolate Pops at Roy's
Tasty chocolate morsels at Roy's
Chocolate flower bouquets, yes they're chocolate!
A decadent chocolate dessert at Roy's
Alright, I know all you see is chocolate, but what I saw was a chocolatier, specializing in desserts. It couldn't hurt to go in and implore. I pressured Rafi to go inside and ask for me. So in we went. Rafi asked away in a jumble of foreign Hebrew words, from which all I understood was the word "cupcakes" in the middle of his question. With a puzzled look on the cashier's face, she said something to Rafi in Hebrew and signaled that she was going in the back to take a look. Thank goodness we went in, because just a minute later, out came the cashier with a tray full of luscious, frosting-topped "muffins": 



My heart leaped, I had to have one! I picked out an espresso flavored cupcake (geez, what's with the coffee obsession...) and gobbled it down. "Well", Rafi asked, "How is it?!" Between curious bites, my initial response was: "It's cold". You just can't serve a cupcake cold. Right?  It just doesn't work. It satisfied my taste buds momentarily with a sweet dollop of frosting, but the search shall continue onward. Hey, at least it's a start. After doing a bit more  exploring online, I discovered that there are in fact three cupcake shops in Tel Aviv, and one in particular with great reviews that I can't wait to try:

I ♥ Cupcakes in Tel Aviv, Israel





Considering the cupcake craze that's taken a hold of the US in recent years, it's shocking to step into a country that has been relatively untouched by this phenomenon to the point where people don't even know what the item is in the first place. Folks, I am sorry to tell you, but, muffins are not cupcakes. Regardless, the novelty of this sweet treat has gotten the wheels in my head turning. What a wonder it is to live in a place where the market is open and has yet to be saturated by products that are already popular abroad. In a way, if feels like you're stepping back in time. What a foreign concept it is to think that opportunities abound. Possibilities exist here. Maybe I should think about opening a cupcake shop (I know my mom would be beyond thrilled) before the secret gets out. Same thing holds true with the field of play therapy (my true love from graduate school). It's a completely new field here. The list of products and fields is endless. People break their heads open and clean out their life savings back home solely in a fruitful attempt to find a minute opening in which they can compete amid the busy business world of the US, while simultaneously, the market is untouched (in some regards) here in Israel. How truly ironic this is. Quite possibly, if there's somewhere you want to get started with a new business, whether it be cupcakes, play therapy or fill in the blank, Israel may just be the place to do it. 

4 comments:

  1. Open a cupcake shop!! Your pictures have made me salivate :) Love your blog!

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  2. You are meant to conquer the cupcake world in Israel...it is your purpose Rayzee :). But you better serve coffee too because you know I would take a cup of coffee over a cupcake anyday!

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  3. Caryn, come to Israel and open it with me! Oh come on, those SMU students will be fine without you! ;)

    Erin, no cupcakes for you? Que pasa?! Did I not know you weren't a cupcake eater?

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  4. No Coffee Bean in Dallas! I never realized that :( I agree, you definitely need to open up a cupcake shop, you could do it out of your apartment!

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