We are well known market fans. With the medley of tastes, smells, textures and colours, the atmosphere of bargaining and selling, the scent of fresh baked goods, the stands winking at you to come and sample, the seller's voices exalting through the air – these are just some of the typical market experiences the world over.
In this case of our Middle Eastern country, the glory of the market cannot be measured – the market is like a microcosm, reflecting our society back to us. And it seems that there is no better place to examine this than the largest, most colourful and most famous of them all – the Machne Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
In the middle of the week we make our way through the market's narrow alleys, enjoying getting lost and finding yet another bakery full of fresh bread, strawberry stands and brightly coloured pastry shops. Along the way, we discover a true pearl, in the form of Café Emile: A welcoming little spot, done up in old style Jerusalem, with a patio enclosed by large picture windows through which you can keep an eye on all the market's goings on. We immediately threw our bags aside, took a load off our tired feet, and arranged our chairs on the wooden patio opposite the boisterous market.
We received our warm welcome from Avi and Ohalia, the owners of this family run café, which is named after Ohalia's grandfather, the third generation of market sellers, who was born and raised in the shadow of the market's stands and smells. Avi's daughter also works in the café, and the atmosphere is as warm and welcoming as a family living room. It seems that Emile is a unique bubble within the Jerusalem market; a dairy café, Mehadrin kosher, that serves breakfast, warm sandwiches, a selection of quiche and pastries, refreshing salads, a wide range of hot beverages and desserts. Health nuts will find healthy meals, muesli, and fresh herbal teas that are prepared on site.
We stared with the antipasti which includes grilled peppers, eggplant, sweet potato and zucchini, served with homemade labane and tehina and fresh baked bread. My male companion just had had to taste the hachapuri, a Georgian cheese filled pastry, which reminded him of his childhood in a southern seaside city. I chose the pazi, a Persian pastry made of spinach and feta cheese, which caused me to sorrowfully groan that I wasn't born into the right ethnicity…
Along with these dishes came a root vegetable and citrus salad which is comprised, like all the homemade salads at Emile, of ingredients fresh from the market. There was also our inspired order of fresh green leaves, green beans, carrot, feta cheese and oranges.
At this point, a couple mains and salads in, we were almost full, but not too full to try the melt in your mouth sweet potato and goat's cheese quiche, or the mushroom and cream quiche, both of which are served with pumpkin seed topped green salad in the house dressing and are not to be missed. My other half then insisted on the rich creamy shakshuka, made of potato and eggplant, which was apparently the best choice of all because he proceeded to lick his plate clean.
And then came the meal's crowning moment: Emilee’s special cheese cake – a rich and decadent cake made of white chocolate cranberries. Upon tasting it, we believed Avi with all our hearts when he told us that people wait in line outside the café especially for a slice. And that sometimes within a matter of minutes from opening, not a crumb is left to be had.
8 HaTut, Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem