If (hypothetically speaking) Israel was a normal, easy-going sort of country, I have no doubt Kfar Rama would get the respect it deserves. Centre of the Galilee, between a mountain and a valley, three religions, the most ancient and impressive of olive trees, the quiet of the countryside, a view of the Mediterranean and true culinary offerings that are proudly and intimately connected to tradition. We, fans of playing imaginary 'what if' games, hurried over to the village as soon as we heard a new restaurant had opened.
Usually, I don't like restaurants that are given foreign names (as 'The Olive Tree' is for Hebrew speakers), but due to the olive tree's welcoming nature and the universal message of peace it embodies, it actually seems like an appropriate name for this restaurant. The Olive Tree is an open, modern restaurant a few meters from the village's main church with a great big parking lot. When we arrived the tables were set with golden tablecloths and red cloth napkins arranged in glasses, the music was soft, there is a bar and, during the holiday season, a festively adorned Christmas tree. Our welcome was more than heartfelt and was also successfully attentive with professional and scrupulous waiters. The menu, we discovered, has got something for absolutely everyone. We found toasted sandwiches, pasta, stir-fries, as well as seafood dishes and even beef stroganoff and Rossini.
After the waiter asked us about our preferences, he discovered that we were only interested in local cuisine and in a matter of minutes turned our table into an amusement park of colors, scents, and flavors as he set down more than 10 types of palate pleasing dishes. In honor of the restaurant's name – 2 types of amazing olives, as well as a massive roasted pepper salad were served. There was also hummus with well-made lamb which, instead of being ground, was finely chopped, fried in olive oil and served with hot soft chickpeas. In addition there was chicory salad in green tehina and excellent home made wild spinach stuffed fatir, a sort of bourekas baked in the taboon. While we were still occupied with all the little dishes on our table, three more salads arrived. Lettuce salad with nuts in a Greek style dressing (vinegar, no lemon), an excellent delicately flavored tabouleh salad and a rich fatoush salad chock full of bits of crisp pita, pine nuts and shavings of a hard sheep's cheese.
For the mains course, we decided to share: a platter of stuffed vegetables for her and a selection of grilled meats for me. The stuffed veggies were great – beautifully spiced rice in delicate and soft vegetables that originated in the outside garden and included eggplant, zucchini, tomato and vine leaves. The meat platter arrived sizzling and containing a handsome selection of local specialties. Tender mutton chops, tender homemade kebab (cooked and spiced perfectly), mutton and spring chicken skewers and even a few pieces of grilled livers, gently spiced with black pepper. Along with the meat came a side of wonderfully full-flavored majadra.
For dessert we enjoyed a few types of cake from the Middle-Eastern style bakery next door, strong glasses of tea with mint and cups of coffee. One day, if there will be peace in this country, we could all sit under grape vines and fig trees together, eating local specialties, drinking local wine and we'll all simply just live – or at least live more simply. And until then I'm offering up a small olive branch to the ones who never stop dreaming.
The Olive Tree
Kfar Rama, Rama