Greenery, clear mountain air, breathtaking scenery… this is the setting of our drive through the Gilboa on the way to Arucha Yeruka (Green Meal) restaurant. “Why travel abroad?” I find myself asking, “We have such a beautiful country.” The man by my side cracks a smile, having heard this line many times before. It is a sunny midday, flowers are in bloom, and we are off to Arucha Yeruka, an organic restaurant in the Galilee. I have never actually been to such a restaurant. As we approach, my curiosity grows.
We arrive at Arucha Yeruka, intoxicated by the scenery and the air. Gitti, the owner, greets us with a wide-smile and some steaming herbal brew. This is a simple and pleasant, as well as kosher, restaurant. The ecological ideology of the restaurant is evident in every corner. It is built out of recycled materials, and overlooks a beautiful vista (we just can’t get enough, it seems). This is a place which hosts many activities in cooperation with locals – musical performances in the great outdoors, nature walks, and bible stories, rock climbing, cooking workshops for healthy cuisine – covering everything from harvesting the vegetables at the beginning to the group feast at the end. We are content with a short hike through nature and with a relaxed and healthy meal, all in as pastoral a scene as can be.
The meal starts off with a lentil & orange-colored vegetable soup – a concoction rich in aroma and flavor, served with hot and fresh sourdough bread. The flavor is natural, and it is seasoned with only very gentle herbs. Each vegetable is distinct in its taste. “We want to provide our diners the opportunity to experience the natural flavor of the vegetables, as opposed to our interference with it,” explains Gitti, and I instantly understand what he is talking about.
Before serving the main courses, Gitti pours us an excellent organic merlot, courtesy of “HaBashan” winery, and made of grapes picked at an organic vineyard. We then happily turn to the main courses, lovingly prepared by Rinat, the feminine side of the restaurant. I am served lasagna, wonderfully made with whole wheat, filled with wild spinach and organic goat cheeses. On the side – fresh beans, recently harvested, and seasoned with dill. He is served a crispy-dough whole-wheat spinach pie with sesame, served with carrot salad, garlic, and coriander – simply yet triumphantly seasoned.
Also on the table are organic carrot juice and a salad of green leaves with sunflower seeds, delicious and so fresh that every bite comes with a crispy crunch and a burst of flavors in every leaf. “We want the food to be fresh and to be healthy,” Gitti tells us, “whatever is on the menu – is on the plate and of the highest quality.” We believe every word since the vegetables here stand out in flavor far more than what we normally buy for our home. “Perhaps we should plant an organic garden?” my man asks, reading my mind. “Sure, if we actually had garden space…” I answer, delighted by his question.
For dessert we are served rolled up dates and nuts, prepared with tahini and date-honey, covered in coconut – tastes like heaven. These are accompanied by baked apple with a cinnamon stick, sweet and sour, making for a light finish to our vegetarian meal. “We are not trying to make a big impression with complex dishes, but rather our aim is for enjoyment, happiness, and simplicity,” says Gitti, and indeed the meals are delicious. We leave happy, full, and yet still feeling surprisingly light.
D.N. Gilboa, Malkishua