Monday, January 25, 2016

gnocch gnocch gnocch

We had grand plans. We were going to galavant and I don't really know how to galavant. Our plans for the day required two things: money and special cards to get us onto the light rail system, so off we went to the post office to exchange money (3.89 NIS per dollar) and the place for getting the "rav kav" cards (6.90 NIS per ride, but 10 rides for 55 NIS).

The light rail train in Jerusalem is interesting. First, you can get on in any door as long as you use the rav kav card to scan in. But no one is there to make sure you scan in. There is a strong honor system. I have heard that there are occasionally compliance people who check up on riders but while we were there it seemed completely based on the will of each rider. It was sort of nice, thinking that the populace is generally moral. In addition, there is a special button on the outside of each door. If you run up to the train and the doors have closed, you aren't out of luck; you push the button and the doors open up again. Imaging that -- a spiteful driver can't see you coming and zoom away. Again, power is in the hands of the riders. No one was standing at the stop pushing the button repeatedly, just to be a jerk. Heck, in New York they push people onto the tracks just to be a jerk. A button would be unthinkable. There is, also, just one line so it isn't as easy for me to get lost. Possible, but not easy. In the worst case, I could get on going the wrong way, and still just move to the other direction when I get to the end. The single line also means that the train doesn't go to many places. Short trips of a stop or 4 are more easily accomplished by walking and since every trip, no matter the duration, costs the same, it doesn't make financial sense to take a ride for only a few stops: save the money for long trips. Also, since the train only goes down a single street there are still many places not served by the train. We took a ride down a few stops but then had to walk back and across almost as much as we would have walked had we walked from the apartment in the first place. It reminded me of the T in Boston, only sleeker and with only one line and less vomit.

We ended up at Kodesh Patissiere, a small, quaint bakery-restaurant which opened in 1967. I got the sense that the main course was ambience and food was an afterthought. Julie and I got mini quiches (mushroom and leek) with a lovely salad. I didn't expect them to be mini but the flavor was ok so I wasn't too annoyed. Talia's onion soup was great but her gnocchi in a rosa sauce was beyond bland. I don't know what is beyond bland other than "really bland" but these were. Maddie got the Israeli equivalent of a grilled cheese sandwich, called "toast." Apparently, when converting sandwiches from US to Israel, the conversion rate changes the type of cheese and adds a hair. She was not happy. They exchanged the order for a feta on bruschetta which she ate some of. Just for the record, they exchanged the food (at no cost) simply because Maddie didn't like it -- she made no mention of the hair. The beet carpaccio was very good: topped with lemon juice, soy sauce and olive oil plus black pepper. Ambience, though, was still the main attraction.

I noticed that when we paid via credit card, the waitress didn't make anyone sign the receipt. I don't know if that is good or bad but it's a trusting country.

Mani pedi time for the girls. It is important when traveling to a foreign country to do something which can't be done at home, right? Mani pedi time...Female rituals confound me. We have three women using the shower in the apartment and we have 12 bottles of product plus 2 bars of soap. I know how to cut my own nails and pamper myself by using a bar of soap and a tube of shampoo, both of which I took from some hotel a number of years ago.

In order to kill time while the children inhale nail salon chemicals, Julie and I walked up to Ben Yehuda street and she bought cappuccino at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in order to warm up as the rain and snow began to fall. In Israel the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf store serves alcohol in the evening. If they did that in Paramus they wouldn't have closed. Afterwards, as the wind and rain were daunting, I bought a scarf. That fixed everything.

We stopped in a number of souvenir stores and bought little things for friends while Julie struck up conversations. Everyone is friendly and volunteers to help out with Maddie if she needs anything. I even get the sense that they are sincere; they hand us cards, give us phone numbers and really volunteer their time and resources to help her. If Maddie were to stop in to a store and say "My parents bought a shot glass here 3 months ago and I need a place to sleep tonight," she would be taken care of, no questions. Weird, but another sign of that underlying morality.

Julie then went into Aldo and got some dark chocolate and some coffee ice cream because 35 degrees and wet snow just cries out for ice cream. Because of the nut allergy thing, I can't even have the ice cream here. I heard someone suggest a fruit flavored sorbet but if that's what I am reduced to then I see no need to try anymore.

We found a cab who could take us to the neighborhood of (Hey, it's) Pat [pronounced "Pot" so that's no better...] to visit my niece and her husband and their baby, whose birthday is today. The cab driver had on a radio station marked "95.0 MHz. That's strange to me. Another station was displayed on his screen, "Echo99FM". Even in another country, a knowledge of English is essential. This is why I don't try to learn other languages. The apartment is very nice, if you like that sort of thing ("that sort of thing" being "apartments in Pat"). The baby was delicious especially compared to Israeli grilled cheese, and we caught up with the family, plus RachelL R. and Tara T. Julie napped on the sofa briefly until we promised that we would go find a creme brulee for her. So back into a cab and off to Chaba restaurant, right near Machane Yehuda.

There was some wait for a table, but it was worth it, mostly. Talia forgot her Lactaid so she shied away from most everything on the menu. I had a pizza and some Pecorino Cheese Fried things (there must be a technical term but I stopped at "Fried" and placed my order). The sweet tomato dipping jam really worked well. I avoided the salad because I feared it might have nut...rients in it. Julie had a sweet potato and chestnut soup that had way too much pepper in it so she couldn't eat it. Maddie chowed down on a large baguette with garlic butter and Talia had them take the gnocchi and hit them with olive oil, bay leaves and salt/pepper. It was pretty good. I ducked out as they ordered the mandatory desserts (so many restaurants are expanded makes me wonder why the same hasn't happened in the states) -- creme brulee and a tiramisu. I hear both were good. I walked over to the Swidler household to touch base and pick up an avocado while the ladies went to a local karaoke event (women only on Monday nights). It is midnight here now so I will turn in and prepare for an exciting day visiting Maddie's school tomorrow.

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