Swim and Dine
The redesigned Dan Caseara Resort is not your father’s straight-laced opulent hotel. It still a luxury property in the Dan Hotel tradition, to be sure; but following its recent extensive makeover, it has been transformed into a contemporary, family-oriented resort, with sprawling grounds and a huge pool promising unending activity for adults and children alike.
The new resort has also been participating in the hotel chain’s nationwide initiative to host famous guest chefs for weekends of culinary indulgence.
The success of these events has prompted the Dan Caesarea to extend the tenure of Nadav and Daniel, the chef duo who vaulted to fame following their winning stint on the television show MKR.
The couple is now cooking their signature Thai dishes several days of the week - including over Shabbat weekends - and is expecting to expand to evenings as well. On weekday afternoons, at least, the mouthwatering Asian dishes are served in an informal al fresco atmosphere.
The meals are paired with refreshing summer cocktails crafted by mixologists from the acclaimed Imperial Group of Tel Aviv.
We enjoyed two of the six drinks on the cocktail list: a frozen margarita -- which was refreshing, but somewhat lacking in tequila -- and the Made in Cuba: an intriguing blend of white rum, lime, mint and cucumber.
As we sipped our drinks, we munched on distinctive Thai nibbles: fried peanuts, cured watermelon rind and pickled vegetables.
The food menu, meanwhile, comprises five sections: Starters, Intermediate Dishes, Main Courses, Kids’ Meals and Dessert. The two appetizers we chose were the Thai Salad and the Watermelon Salad.
The former was by far our favorite: morsels of perfectly deep-fried white sea fish -- crispy on the outside, and moist and flavorful on the inside - tossed with rice noodles, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, Thai basil, chili, crispy garlic and peanuts.
When dressed with fish sauce and lime, the interplay of flavors, textures and even temperatures was magnificent.
The latter salad consisted of a generous mound of chunks of red watermelon, accompanied by flakes of crispy shallot and fried dried fish, as well as purple onion, cilantro, mint, Thai basil and fish sauce with lime. This is a rewarding combination for those who are particularly adventuresome.
We opted for fish once again as a main course: a whole steamed sea bream, topped with and served with a savory dipping sauce, leafy greens and sticky rice. The plump, succulent fish melted in the mouth and needed little help from the condiments.
We could not resist trying the only curry on the menu: Massaman Curry, with pullet, broccoli, potato, onion, peanuts, crispy shallots and Thai basil. Of all the Thai coconut milk curries, Massaman is arguably the most subtle and complex; and this wholesome, mellow version is among the finest I have encountered in Israel.
There is only one dessert, but it is ideal for an Israeli summer: a custardy coconut ice cream -- pareve, of course -- topped with tiny cubes of sweet pineapple, shards of toasted coconut and drizzles of lemongrass syrup. This cooling mélange of texture and flavors was a terrific finale for a memorable meal.
We made a mini-vacation of our day outing by combining this special, limited-edition meal with a long afternoon at the inviting pool, which is large enough for adults to swim and kids to frolic -- and equipped with partially submerged chairs and even a waterproof pool table.
With the purchase of a day pass, you receive towels and specially designed terrycloth covers for the chaise lounges; or, you may try to snag one of the canopied poolside day beds.
The Dan Caseara Resort (kosher)
Rothschild Boulevard 1, Caesarea
Turkish delight, carnivore style
An interesting trend of late has seen more and more prestigious Israeli chefs branching out from restaurants into the delicatessen business.
Yisrael Aharoni, for example, closed his Hiro restaurants altogether and opened a deli selling ready-made gourmet dishes to take home, while Avi Bitton of Cafe Popular has been expanding his chain of upscale Sulica delis.
More recently, Chef Yossi Shitrit (of Games of Chefs fame) joined the club, partnering with Hamezaveh, a boutique deli chain which has also been growing and now encompasses four stores strategically located in population centers in central Israel -- but outside the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv.
Hamezaveh’s claim to fame is its charcuterie, home-smoked meats made from the best cuts of beef. One of Shitrit’s first collaboration with the deli was to create specialty sandwiches using the chain’s cured meats, which are clearly in a league above what one finds in supermarkets.
The chef went on to create a line of co-branded sausages that are now being sold in Hamezaveh’s freezers. And now, his seasoning blend is being applied to the doner kebab -- Turkish shawarma, if you will -- that is at the centerpiece of the chain’s current pop up: the doner noded (or, “wandering doner”) food truck that is making the rounds of all four locations.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to taste the delicious shavings from the giant cylinder of well-marbled meat rotating on a huge vertical split. Suffice it to say that - whatever you want to call it, doner kebab or Turkish shawarma - this was the best of the genre I can ever recall eating.
The food truck bearing this grilled indulgence will rotate among the Hamezaveh locations on Fridays this month in accordance with the following schedule: Rehovot, 16.7; Netanya, 23.7; and Herzliya, 30.7.
There is a possibility the event will be extended after July; in the meantime, however, it is worth keeping in mind that the truck starts serving at 09.00, and portions disappear quickly. (On the day of my visit, the second service began at 11.15; I do not know if there was a third.)
Hamezaveh Boutique Delis (kosher)
Four branches in central Israel (featured outlet: Arik Einstein St. 3, Herzliya; Tel: 09-743-3772)