Meet Delicious Israel Tour’s Inbal Baum
At Eat.Drink.TelAviv we are excited when we have a chance to share with you some interesting personalities in the food industry here in Tel Aviv be them chefs, restaurant owners, food stylists, photographers, food importers, and tour guides.
Eat.Drink.TelAviv’s Meet.Talk.TelAviv would like you to welcome Food Tour Guide and Entrepreneur Inbal Baum. Born in the United States to Israeli parents, Inbal grew up with a very strong connection to Israel. She would visit Israel often and recalls her trips to see family as filled with fun and filled with food. “The best kind of vacations!” she quips. I accompanied Inbal on one of her Levinsky Market tours, joining a group of elderly but energetic English speaking olim who have lived in Israel for about 25-30 years. They came from all over the country: Be’er Sheva, Rechovot and some from Tel Aviv. They were all former Young Judea participants from the 60’s who decided it would be a fun activity to explore and discover new and tasty treats in the south Tel Aviv food market. Inbal finds the group sweet and endearing, and is always surprised by the people on her tour. She’s done hundreds of them, even leading Chicago Mayor (and former Obama Chief of Staff) Rahm Emanuel and his daughter.
Inbal begins her Delicious Israel tour with her story and connection to Israel, speaking of a deep love she has, and a strong yearning to be in Israel. Two and a half years ago she started Delicious Israel tours, and has traveled the country introducing people from around the world the many edible wonders this small country has to offer.
To start the food tour, she pull out two ripe and juicy Jaffa Oranges and weaves a tale of the mysterious origins behind the delicious citrus. Once they have finished their first taste of Tel Aviv, Inbal leads her little ducklings into the buzzing belly of the Levinsky Market.
She takes the group to several shops that sell meat, spices, cheeses, and other fresh, dried and preserved foods. We taste samples of bourakas, beef and Israeli beers, nibble on Morrocan rice topped amply with Pereg spice blends, and whet our sweet tooth with marzipan at a Konditoria (Greek bakery/sweet shop) and more. A personal highlight for me was tasting refreshing old fashion artisanal “gassos” beverages from her “Gassos Guy” Benny at his Cafe.
Inbal’s easy going nature makes her a natural at ushering along these niche groups. She shares personal anecdotes, and cooking insights during each of the stops and lets some of the shop owners share their stories as well. The two and a half hours zip by and the women are ecstatic by the end of it. Holding little bags from some of the goodies they purchased along the way, they all smile and wave happily saying their goodbyes. Heading back home these local tourists will return with some fun and food filled stories to share with their loved ones.
Prof. NomNom: Hello Inbal! What made you decide to come to Tel Aviv?
Inbal Baum: I was an attorney in New York City and after doing it for a bit I realized I didn’t like or want that lifestyle. That was five years ago. I decided it was time to come to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is such an amazing city, I mean weather wise of course and of course the beach was an important factor for me.
Prof. NomNom: Why did you start the food tour business Delicious Israel?
Inbal Baum: I had moved here five years ago, and worked at a Start up with this entrepreneur. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. (Back in New York) I had this meeting with Ido Aharoni, the General Consul of New York, who was working on this Brand Israel project and I connected with a lot of what he was saying. He was saying “you don’t connect with people through trying to explain that picture in the media of kid throwing a rock at a tank. But with people’s hearts and what they are passionate about.” And for me I was loved niche tourism. I sat down and made all these lists about what I was passionate about and what I wanted to be doing every day and what I want my life to look like. It was going to be about people, my passion for Israel and my passions for food and wine. So I Started Delicious Israel (tours). I get to show the part of Israel that I love. I get to meet people and bring journalists and show them things that really surprise them. That’s a real bonus for me.
Prof. NomNom: What are some of the things people are surprised by?
Inbal Baum: I remember this mother and son who took a “Carmel Area” tour – this regional tour where we go to a Druze Village, winery, cheese farm and a spice farm and they didn’t expect ANY of that. They had no idea that this stuff existed here. They were shocked that there was good wine in Israel, discovered the existing Druze population, and the interesting organic movement that is happening. They wouldn’t have known about this otherwise. Journalists are interested in the authentic stuff, like in the Levinsky market where we were, and you see people have been here for generations, doing the same things and doing it well and seeing how integral it is to Israeli food culture.
Prof. NomNom: What do you think people will get out of a going on a food tour?
IB: I learned early on that people are looking for an experience. Everyone wants to feel excited by something. It’s never so much about what spice or this or that, I mean there are certain people that want to learn certain things. It’s more about the day. So for me it’s about building a day that people feel they get to understand Tel Aviv or Israel and its under-workings, the belly of the city. Literally. Markets are the buzzing belly. Time after time the feedback I get was the feeling they get was going around the city with a friend.
Prof. NomNom: What are some unknown spices or ingredients people should consider incorporating into their dishes?
IB: Doah from Egypt is something I wanted to mention and in the US it’s called Dukah. Its actually sold in Trader Joe’s (American Super Market Chain). I don’t know how it compares I’m sure it’s a little less intense or duller in flavor. It’s available here in the markets. It’s basically a mixture of different seeds and nuts and herbs, including coriander, sesame seed, sometimes walnut. It’s a blend and used sometimes instead of zattar.
Professor NomNom: That sounds really good.
IB: Sumach should get some real attention. Most people know of the bright purplish kind but the original sumach is a small berry that when you grind it, it almost has a maroon colour. It has a really amazing taste and is good with salads. I used it for cauliflower, sprinkle on some sumach and tahini and that’s it.
Captain Blarg: That sounds delicious!! We should try that for Shabbat.
IB: The teas here are fantastic. They usually get overlooked. Dried nana, or dried verbena. You can even use it in cooking. Cardamom is also a good way to make big impact with food. A little cardamom can go a long way and it’s soooo much cheaper than in the United States. Saffron is also much cheaper than in the United States.
Captain Blarg: I hear it’s picked by monkeys or something in the fields of India.
IB: (Chuckles) Ya?
Captain Blarg: (Blushing) well…maybe not.
Professor NomNom: What was the last Tel Aviv restaurant you were at that had a dish that really amazed you?
IB: I ate at Popina in Neve Tzedek (Ehad Haam 3 Neve Tzedek) and had their shrimp burgers. They were so, so good. They serve it as two little ones with carrot chips and mustard. I was eating it so slow because I didn’t want it to finish.
Professor NomNom: Top Tel Aviv Restaurants?
IB: Irit’s in Kerem Tamanim. She’s not a restaurant, she doesn’t have a sign, doesn’t have a menu. She makes the best shakshuka, and Yemenite la’chooch. She is just amazing!
Professor NomNom: How do you find Irit’s, is it on Google Maps?
IB: She is just in Israel. Call me.
Professor NomNom: Okay, I’ll call you. (Laughs) Is there maybe one Tel Aviv Restaurant we can find online?
IB: (Laughs) Hmm… a favorite. Sheila’s (Ben Yehuda Street 182, Tel Aviv) is always a hit for me. It’s been around for about 7 years and it’s phenomenal. That’s a safe one for a birthday celebration and for a great meal.
Professor NomNom: Hidden Gems you can share in the Tel Aviv or the Markets?
IB: The Gassos guy Benny in Levinsky Market. It’s a unique and Tel Avivy. You never get the same one twice. It’s a real treasure. And Mifgash HaOsher (The Happiness Joint) – my new falafel and sabich place. I think it’s 105 King George*. It is done by two trained chefs that decided to open a falafel spot. You can get a full, a half or a quarter. And it’s cheap too. *Address unconfirmed
Professor NomNom: Future Plans?
IB: I’m doing a lot of things for expansion! I want to develop a better way to search for new restaurants. I’m working on a product line for spices. And a “Shook and Cook” where we visit the market and go back to my place and cook. It’s good for local bachelorette parties, great for birthday gifts. And the other big offering is dinners for tourists, primarily Shabbat. EatWith style. A lot of tourists want to experience what is a Shabbat dinner and so this will give them the opportunity to do it at a home. Many end up having Shabbat at a hotel because they don’t have anywhere to go, so this will give them that opportunity.
Professor NomNom: This is very exciting.
IB: Yes, I think if there is anything I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur is that things are changing all the time and you start something and then there is a need for something different. This was filling a need that I found through my tours. I think it’s not necessarily about the food but about the experience.
Professor NomNom: Gary agrees, but with food it’s a much tasty experience.
Check out Delicious Israel Tours and stay tuned for more exciting food experiences!