Food bloggers show their worth
Tel Aviv eatery invites writers to put online recipes where their readers' mouths are.
Food bloggers who publish recipes, articles, reviews and recommendations on the Internet have turned into a driving force in the food world. Restaurant owners invite them to eat and companies send them products, so that a noticeable amount of commercialization has started to spoil the freshness of some.
The Cordovero Bar in Tel Aviv, which prides itself on its menus, has taken up the gauntlet and begun a project called "from the keyboard to the kitchen"; every Tuesday a blogger enters the bar's kitchen and serves diners a tasting menu. Prices are reasonable, from NIS 25-55.
The bloggers were chosen by Yonatan Heller, owner of the bar, and Ma'ayan Nadir, food coordinator at the Tapuz website and a blogger herself of a column that attracts 400 readers a day. "We picked those who had not gone commercial, and those with a broad audience," she says. Heller adds that "we preferred bloggers who cook home-style meals, not too complicated, but made with thought."
Amit Aharonson of "Mdaber mehabeten" ("speaking from the gut" ), who writes for the weeklies Kol Ha'ir and Hahi Tel Aviv, cooked the first blogger meal. She was excited when she arrived at Cordovero the day before her debut for a run-through in the kitchen. On the day she cooked, she brought her grandmother Rachel, 84, who prepared dessert pancakes made of bread.
Among the diners were blog readers, friends of Aharonson and bar regulars. The menu included shrimps on a bed of black lentils; Israeli sashimi in which we detected khreime, tahini and yogurt; polenta topped with meat balls and mozzarella; and for dessert, citrus fruit soup, baklava and grandmother's pancakes, served with strawberry jam and cream.
The tasting went well. Aharonson cooked for 70 diners, most of whom she knew personally. "I was nervous," she recalled, "but when we started to serve the dishes it was very satisfying. It was nice to feed people, although the event puts cooking as a profession in proportion."
Would you change sides?
"I'll consider it," she says diplomatically, "but it is physically hard work, to which you need to get used. I'd be happy to serve as a guest cook again."
The next meal was served by Merav Eliyahu, whose recipe and snack-rich blog is called CooknBake. Her menu is home-style: eggplant and pepper salad, chicken and artichoke balls, and cream of artichoke and broccoli soup. For dessert - a baked cheese cake.
Eliyahu too is not rushing to switch to the other side, after intensive cooking experience. Her blog is a hobby, and she earns her living designing stainless steel products. "Cooking in a [restaurant] kitchen is an amazing experience, encountering those large pots suddenly; the amounts confuse me. It is hard work, highly rewarding, and people enjoy it, but I don't know if it suits me now."
Last night Tsahi Cohen, known as Big Jack, and the author of the "Ohel v'hayot mibayit tov" ("Food and animals from a good home" ) blog, was the cook. He labored over shrimps in coconut milk, veal sweetbreads with olives and pickled lemons, ossobuco and beef in beer with Tripolitan khreime.
Next Tuesday, Yuval Shahori and Tal Sorosky of the "Shmanmanim" ("chubbies" ) blog will make roast pepper soup, bruscetta with salsa, quesadilla and artichokes stuffed with chile con carne. Dessert will be tapioca cream with dried fruits in liqueur, accompanied by zabaglione.
The final meal of the month and the blogger project will be prepared by Ma'ayan Nadir and Natalie Levin of the "Ugio.net" blog. The two will serve cream of eggplant soup with labaneh, chicken liver pate with cherry sauce, kubeh with tahini and yogurt, and lamb T-bone on a bed of black lentils. The dessert menu includes chocolate fondant, cream malabi, pistachios and tel kadaif, and almond cake with blueberries. Nearly all the seats have been reserved - showing that even purist bloggers exert a commercial pull.