Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cupcake Craze

When I first moved to Israel in November 2010, cupcake shops (aka my weakness and an American staple) were nowhere in sight. Especially not in Jerusalem. If I showed a bakery a picture for fun, the staff would say to me, "Oh yes, a muffin!! We have those." No, no, no. It's not a muffin. Not at all. For someone who had never encountered a cupcake before, there was little use in trying to explain to them what it is. They just didn't get it. Really, do these look like muffins to you?

Via Sprinkles.com website

Via Sprinkles.com website

Magnolia's Cupcakes via google.com

Magnolia's Cupcakes via google.com

However, over the last year, I have seen cupcakes popping up in strange places. First, it was at farmer's markets where the treats didn't sell well. No one knew what they were. Then, in Tel Aviv (of course in Tel Aviv, that's where you'll find anything remotely close to what you'll find in another country) I began seeing cupcake shops opening up in various places in the busy cafe-stricken center of town.

Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv via google.com

So, now, I know exactly where to get my sugar fix if I'm in the mood. If you're heading to Tel Aviv, I'd suggest a trio of options for you to sample out:

I Love Cupcakes

Located at 114 Ben Yehuda Street, this American style cupcake place seems to be closely modeled after the wildly successful Sprinkles chain. Tasty, but you simply cannot compare it to Sprinkles. The ambiance and decor, however, will pull you inside as will the colorful array of cupcake options on the menu and in the window.

I Love Cupcakes via their website

I Love Cupcakes via their website

I Love Cupcakes via their website

Red Velvet

My personal favorite in the Tel Aviv scene, Red Velvet is at 9 Ibn Gvriol Street and seems to me be modeled after New York's Magnolia Bakery, replete with the black and white checkered floor and the neighborhood feel of the place. As you might guess by its namesake, the Red Velvet is the most delicious cupcake choice if you ask me. It's my bakery of choice if I find myself in the streets of Tel Aviv. Other concoctions will whet your palette including an enormous oreo style cookie sandwich with white frosting filling as well as other baked treats. It's the kind of place that just makes you smile when you walk in its doors.

Red Velvet, Tel Aviv via google.com

Red Velvet, Tel Aviv storefront via google.com

Red Velvet, Tel Aviv via google. com

Red Velvet, Tel Aviv via google.com

Red Velvet, Tel Aviv via google.com

Viola's Cupcakes

Last but not least is Viola's Cupcakes, which I have yet to sample out. Located at 154 Dizengoff (I don't know how I could have missed this on Tel Aviv's busiest shopping and cafe street), Viola's Cupcakes is smack dab in the center of town. I cannot comment on the taste of their little treats, but I will let the pictures do the talking. A mini cupcake will cost you 8 shekels and a regular sized cupcake will be 15 shekels. Of course, you can always box them up in multiples for a special price.

Viola's Cupcakes, Tel Aviv via their facebook page

Viola's Cupcakes, Tel Aviv via their facebook page

Viola's Cupcakes, Tel Aviv via google.com

Viola's Cupcakes, Tel Aviv via their facebook page

If you have any suggestions yourself of delicious places for sweets in Tel Aviv, feel free to comment. I'm always eager to try new places, especially ones that have been recommended. Be kind to yourself and go grab a sweet treat sometime this week!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

McCain Sighting

It's always exciting to see a political figure - or anyone famous for that matter - whether you're a fan of them or not. Last week, while waiting outside the gorgeous David Citadel Hotel, I was standing with a friend when no other than Senator John McCain (as in the man who vied for the presidential seat against President Obama) walked out of the hotel with his entourage to await transportation. After we recognized excitedly who we were looking at, we of course fumbled to decide whether to say something to him, to greet him or to try and take a picture. We did none of the above, he was absolutely surrounded. But it was so exciting to be just a few feet away to this unexpected encounter.

After he and his entourage were whisked away into a large suburban (on their way, I'm assuming, to dinner) I quickly got on my blackberry to google his visit. Sure enough, McCain was in town to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in order to discuss US-Israel relations in connection with the current nuclear threat from Iran. To read his statement, click on the following link here. The gist of his speech enforces the notion that the US and Israel ought to work together as allies against the Iranian regime. Here are some more images from his visit to Jerusalem:

For someone like me, a generalist with a vested interest in all topics, foreign policy is no exception. When you think about it, Jerusalem is quite the place to be if you want to surround yourself by international politics and foreign affairs. We receive visitors on an almost daily basis from political parties around the globe. And when they come to Jerusalem, they're most likely staying here, at the David Citadel Hotel (if not the King David):

So the next question, of course, was where did they go to dinner? When famous people come into town, I'm always curious to know about their itineraries. Martha Stewart made it public that she sampled out the hard-to-get-a-table Mahaneyuda near the Jerusalem shuk. Ever since, I've really wanted to dine there. My other guesses are perhaps the Colony Restaurant in the Talpiyot area or maybe the rooftop of the Notre Dame. For now, I'll never know. But chances are if you hang out for a day at one of Jerusalem's finest hotels, you're bound to see some major celebrities or politicians here for a quick visit:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bus Revolution

Word around town is that there has been some current talk of the possibility of the buses in Tel Aviv running on Shabbat. In most major cities, the buses and public transportation shut down as soon as the sun goes down on Friday evening and then for one full day until Shabbat ends, there are no running buses on the streets. Kind of kills the idea of getting away on your free day. It sort of leaves you stranded unless you have a car, which the majority of people really don't have (it's sort of like New York in the sense that sometimes it's more complicated to have a car).

Now, in cities like Haifa, the bill has been cleared so that buses and public transportation currently do run on Shabbat. It's amazing. If you ever head up there for the weekend, you can actually get around. And places are actually open. The religious people get to stay indoors and participate in their practices and then the secular people do not have to suffer at their sake. It seems it should be this way in every major city in Israel, but it's not.

Doubtful that I'd ever live to see the day that buses ran on Shabbat in Jerusalem. It just seems antithetical to the notion of living in a holy city. But, to tell you the truth, for as many religious pockets there are in Jerusalem, there are also that many secular neighborhoods. And because they blockade off their neighborhoods to cars every Shabbat, the buses wouldn't even have to pass through there, they could take another route. So, in theory, it would really be nice if the secular half of the population had transportation options on the weekend.

From the looks of it, Tel Aviv might soon be adopting Haifa's ways and steering away from the the transportation blockade on the Sabbath. From my point of view, why should the secular people suffer due to the traditions of the religious. And besides, let's be honest, Tel Aviv is a hip, young and happening city that is largely populated by secular people. So, doesn't it make sense to let them have rides on the weekends? While many religious folk would provide a passionate argument about why it's not right, I have to say that my viewpoint sides with the secular. 



As this debate heats up, it will be really interesting to see what happens. You have to realize that Israel is still in its first 100 years of establishment, so there's bound to be several changes that happen over the years as the people gain power and a voice to speak up about what they want.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Summer Concert Lineup

It might not be summer just yet; in fact, it's not even spring quite yet. But, that doesn't mean Israelis aren't already looking forward to the summer lineup of concerts that are coming our way. Just because Israel is halfway across the world doesn't mean that international artists forget to come perform here. Israelis have welcomed dozens of exciting musicians for major concerts over the years including Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Madonna, U2, Elton John, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, and many more. Here's what we have to look forward to this summer so far:


Madonna actually chose Tel Aviv as the kick-off city for her summer 2012 tour and she has not been a stranger to the city in the past.  This year on May 29, 2012 you'll have a chance to see her LIVE in Tel Aviv if you happen to be visiting the holy land. Check ticket prices here.

Next up, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will make their Israel debut during the international portion of their 2012 tour. On September 10, 2012 they will be performing here in Tel Aviv at Hayarkon Park when the weather is perfect for outdoor concerts. For tour dates and ticket information, check here.

And last but not least, Guns N' Roses will be making a return appearance to Israel where they will perform in Tel Aviv this summer, likely in July 2012. For specifics on tour dates and prices, check back on their website where details will become available as the date nears, see here.

So there you have it: Madonna, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns & Roses are all making an appearance in Israel during the summer months. And likely there's more to come as the summer calendar begins to fill up. There's nothing like the fun festivals and energetic concerts that fill up the summer months on the Mediterranean! Just a few more months to go before the fun begins.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stormy Weather

The threat of snow loomed large over the weekend as a winter storm rolled into Israel. Many Israelis will tell you that we got snow here in Jerusalem (there was all kinds of excitement about "it's snowing in Jerusalem right now!!" all over Facebook) but I can assure you that we got nothing more than heavy hail and heavy rain with freezing temperatures. Hail and snow are not the same thing, but sometimes I find that Israelis confuse the two. Despite the lack of snow in Jerusalem this weekend, there has been a history of snowy weather in winters past as these images will prove to you:


Just a few years ago, before I was living in Israel, my husband sent me some pictures from this very snow storm that befell Jerusalem. These images were found on the Internet, whereas his came from outside his apartment. Still so beautiful to see a desert city covered in snow:

And here are some more pictures of a snowy Jerusalem day at the Western Wall where people still ventured in the cold for their daily prayers (and maybe a snowball throw or two):

Around town, those desert palm trees were peppered with snow, such a strange sight to see. Jerusalem is a rare combination of being a mountain city (half a mile up in altitude) while still being in the middle of the desert.

Above, that's busy Ben Yehuda Street, covered in snow. Though, it's hard to tell with all that powder on the ground. Of course, up north in the Hermon region of Israel, snow falls every year. It's definitely not the Swiss Alps or Colorado skiing, but people are always surprised to hear that you can find snow here every year:

Last but not least, Tel Aviv definitely didn't get any snow this year (it's a coastal city, after all) but the heavy winds and rains swirled up quite a storm in the Mediterranean waters.

Here's to hoping that this storm passes by quickly and that we get the beautiful spring weather that is bound to head our way soon.