Buffet of Dreams

“In a move that was anything but calculated, Inbal and I filled our plates with everything in reach: Zucchini & Yam antipasti; plump and tender grape-leave dolma; mushroom and corn quiches…” Shiri Tov started off Friday with a buffet courtesy of “Hataim Metukim” coffee shop in Tel Aviv

I was on my way back from a job interview, contemplating the ‘ifs’, the ‘whys’, and the ‘maybes’, when I found myself automatically dialing Inbal’s number. It was my second job interview this week, and making a choice was difficult. Inbal and I have a special dialogue in which I pour out information and she processes it, providing me with an output of risk-assessment, probabilities, pros, cons, conclusions, and an operating manual. “I’m a little busy,” she uttered sleepily on the other end of the line. “If you don’t mind, let’s talk tomorrow over breakfast at Hataim Metukim (‘Sweet Sins’). I heard they have a buffet every Friday morning.” I agreed at once, having never being one to turn down a sin, especially a sweet one.

We met at the entrance to the coffee shop. A quick glance inside gave us the impression of a store. The shelves were stacked with fine confectionaries in nice containers which seemed to wink at us. As I descended the stairs into the store, I felt a sense of euphoria. A parquet floor and the aromas of freshly baked pastries led me into the back of the store, to a table filled with fine foods. I looked at Inbal who was not smiling. She had scanned the room and processed the simple fact that it was full. “Darn!” she exclaimed, “I knew we should have made a reservation.”

The hostess who was scurrying among the tables, approached us, and apologetically informed us that there were no available tables inside, but pointed out a single table in the outside yard and offered it to us if we didn’t “mind sitting outside.” Even though it had rained only an hour before, and the tables and chairs were wet, neither of us even considered going someplace else.

Armed with plates, we went over to the buffet table, but the numerous choices left us debating what to get first and what to leave for round two. Inbal’s plate was also empty. Even a studious and calculated person such as herself could not quickly process all this new information: quiches, dolma, eggs, an assortment of cheeses and vegetables, breads, shakshuka, freshly-baked crispy burekas…

In a move that was anything but calculated, Inbal and I filled our plates with everything in reach: Zucchini & Yam antipasti which was a great and unconventional way to start the morning; plump and tender grape-leave dolma, which are unlikely to be found in a typical Tel Aviv breakfast; mushroom and corn quiches, both hot and delicious, and both capable of being a meal in an of themselves. The hostess poured us freshly squeezed juice into large glasses, and Inbal and I were off to round two. This time we focused on the fresh burekas, filled with pizza sauce, with cheeses, and with potatoes, and on the hot and tasty shakshuka. Feeling quite gluttonous after the second round, we decided that round three would be more focused on vegetables, assorted cheeses, and fine breads. The cheeses were not rare brands from the Balkans, but everyday cheeses, light, and palatable. Since I am not that much of a cheese-enthusiast to being with, this suited me just fine.

Round four, which was supposed to be a minor ending to a giant meal, turned out to be the highlight. The house confiture, fresh and sweet, was perfectly textured on the fresh challah bread. I have never enjoyed a jam more. We attempted to stop the energetic hostess, who was hopping frenetically from table to table, and ask her what type of jam this was, but we decided to give her a pass and go without the information.

When we ordered the coffee we were already exhausted from the meal, but another challenge surprisingly presented itself: the coffee was served with a selection of the house cookies, some soft, some crispy, some with vanilla, and some with chocolate, and each and every one was exceptional.

When there was no more eating to be done, and after we had met the eating challenges posed by “Hataim Metukim,” we felt the beginning of a cold breeze blowing in the small and stylish yard of 67