“Rona Pollack makes all cheeses herself the old fashioned way. 'People are looking for cheeses that haven’t been touched by a thousand hands, that aren’t filled with preservatives, that come straight from the goats'...” Joshua Rosenstein heads to the Emek Refaim Farmer's Market one Friday morning and discovers an Jerusalem alternative to Machne Yehuda.
The Anglo community in Jerusalem has a delicious little secret. Every Friday (unless it’s raining) the Emek Refaim Farmer’s Market brings together a somewhat random agglomeration of organic produce, handmade puppets, healthy baked goods, crafts and preserves. The market takes place at either the Adam School (22 Emek Refaim) or the Mercaz Tarbut Yamim (12 Emek Refaim) year round between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Of the 100 or so merchants on the roster between 40 and 50 come to ply their wares on any given Friday. While it’s easy to be confused by booths offering everything from Tupperware to brooches, the Emek market boasts a selection of quality artisan food producers you can't miss.
Rona Pollack of Tsur Haddassah is the owner of Yotav Organic Goat cheeses, (www.yotav.co.il) in Nes Harim (outside of Jerusalem). Along with the help of one assistant and her two sets of twins, Pollack makes all cheeses herself the old fashioned way. “People are looking for cheeses that haven’t been touched by a thousand hands, that aren’t filled with preservatives, that come straight from the goats,” she said. She is able to offer her organic cheeses for the price of conventional ones due to her direct marketing channels. One of her flagship hand-wrapped vine-leaf cheeses goes for around 28 shekels. The semi-soft cheese is fresh tasting and not goaty at all, with an earthy tang to its creaminess. It is inspired by a French recipe and receives its special flavor due to the vine leaves in which it is wrapped while it undergoes a two-week aging process. Along with mixed cheese grilled sandwiches and cheese by weight, she offers a plate of assorted cheeses to nibble at the market for 20 shekels per serving.
Tali Keren of Yeshuvey Gderot (email@example.com) makes preserves packed with an artistic eye. On any given day she might have jam made of pomella or red grapefruit, kiwi or carrots (20 shekels), artichoke hearts preserved in lemon (28 shekels) and a variety of spreads. Her olives (which she picks herself before curing) are robust blacks cured in the Spanish style for 24 shekels.Keren’s flagship roast orange peppers in white wine vinegar with bay leaf and English pepper are flavorful and mildly sweet while her caramelized onion jam has a perfectly balanced sweetness that would compliment any cheese or preserved meat. “The thing I get most excited about is keeping my products in season,” said Keren, “I prepare whatever is ripe right now.”
Sarit Dayan Hafakot is the business entity behind the market. Dayan rents the space, pays for promotional signage and security and collects dues from vendors. While she did not invent it, Dayan took the market on seven years ago when it was an all-but-failed initiative. “It started as a commercial idea, but we immediately discovered that not only was the market a lot of fun, but it served as a great calling card for our business,” she said. “I get tons of emails from the States, great feedback, people are always telling me the market made their stay in Jerusalem so much better.”
While most people associate Jerusalem with the Mahane Yehuda Market, According to Dayan the Emek market fills a different niche. “The shuk has meats and bulk produce, we only have small quantities of hand-crafted products. People come here to taste, to nibble, buy a little of their favorite cheese and a piece of ceramics, then sit on the grass. It is a totally different experience.”
She also points out that the Emek market has chair massages and a house band, neither of which you might find at Machne Yehuda.
For more information call Sarit Dayan at 052-541-1541.