Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The finest dining

Some meals are fuel. Some are pleasant interludes. And then there are those that are memorable experiences in which the memory of the tastes lingers, and you dream of making a return.

Such was our visit to Auberge Shulamit in the northern Israeli town of Rosh Pina.

The restaurant and elegant guest rooms above are set in a historic house that, 50-plus years ago, hosted Israeli-Syrian armistice conferences. Stone walls give way to an enclosed terrace with views across a wide valley to the Golan Heights. As one of my companions put it, you could be anywhere … Monte Carlo, Cannes, even San Francisco.

The cuisine here is managed by the extraordinary palette of Lea Berkuz, who owns the auberge with daughter Ruth Bar. The specialty is smoked dishes: lusty ribs, delicious goose, salmon and trout served hot or cold.

Along with smoked meats, we tasted the cold borscht (worth the calories), the grilled Portobello (topped with marinated vegetables and almonds) and extraordinary grape leaves filled with spiced meat and pine nuts that were simply unforgettable.

If you’ve not heading to the north of Israel, change your plans. This is worth the drive … and only two hours from Tel Aviv.

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