What I ate and drank on the 4th of July

"He is more of a Tzabar than a New Yorker. The burgers evolved into lamb kebabs, the hot dogs into mergez, the BBQ sauce into hummus and the buns into pita bread…" Yonatan Sternberg's 4th of July in Israel

The 4th of July always brings back childhood memories. While I have been living in Israel for many years now, I spent the first years of my life growing up in New York and July 4th was one day on the calendar that I genuinely looked forward to. The parades, the long weekend, the impressive firework shows held by the Far Rockaway boardwalk, the baseball games and most importantly the BBQ at my aunt’s house where we enjoyed vast quantities of burgers and hotdogs. Ultra soft buns, ketchup, yellow deli mustard (non of that fancy Dijon stuff), sauerkraut, BBQ sauce, sliced vegetables, baked potatoes and in the alcoholic beverage department - cans and bottles of my Uncle Steve’s favorite American beers, Budweiser and Miller.

This year, I was invited to a friend’s house in Jerusalem for his version of a traditional 4th of July cook out. His family relocated to Israel when he was only 2 years old and while he speaks fluent English, he is more of a Tzabar than a New Yorker. The burgers evolved into lamb kebabs, the hot dogs into mergez, the BBQ sauce into hummus and the buns into pita bread. Don’t get me wrong, the food was great and the two bottles of wine that I brought with me were also quite enjoyable, but I still did not feel the 4th of July spirit.

The next day, I decided to spend some time on line in search of other 4th of July oriented events or celebrations. The Mike’s Place is always a good place to go when you feel a need for some red white and blue music and food, several bars in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had various specials on the 4 B’s burgers, buffalo wings, beer and Bourbon.

One special that caught my eye was the American month celebrations at the Black Bar & Burger chain, an upscale burger joint with several locations across the country. Throughout the entire month of July, the Black will be offering special deals on Miller Beer, Jim Beam Bourbon (beer + a shot for NIS 21), as well as a new addition to the menu – the biggest HAMBURGER in the country. 1.1 Kilo (2.42 lbs.) of freshly ground beef are formed into a monstrous patty, grilled and then placed atop a large bun. While tempted, my girlfriend and I didn't feel that we were up for the challenge and ordered instead the dinner for two which consists of 1 first course, 2 mains and 1 dessert. For the first course we tasted the meat tortilla which was ok and went well with the light Miller beer. Don’t be deterred by the various dishes on the menu, the burgers at the Black are considered the house specialty, if you are looking for a HAMBURGER, this is definitely the real thing. If you fancy the Twiggy (160 gr.), Schwarzenegger (220 gr.), Yokuzuna (330 gr.) or one of the special burgers on the menu, from what I have tasted all are very good. We ordered the classic Schwarzenegger - 220 gr. of juicy red meat grilled to perfection, served on top of a fresh roll with an assortment of vegetables and condiments on the side. The second main is coined as the “three tenors” consisting of three mini burgers – classic, chicken and a spinach+ beef+ walnut burger that was surprisingly tasty. The wine menu at the Black is bit limited but the large assortment of beer, delicious cocktails, liquors and various whiskey options is more than enough to make sure that no one will go home thirsty.

Back to my friend’s BBQ, the two wines that accompanied our meal were the recently released White Franc from the Tulip Winery and the Galil Mountain, Cabernet-Shiraz blend.

A new attempt and interesting from the now kosher Tulip Winery, only 5,000 bottles produced, the White Franc, 2010 is a semi-dry blend based on 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Sauvignon Blanc. Bronze with orange reflections, the wine suggests aromas and flavors of strawberries, summer fruits and citrus blossom. Not a complex wine, and personally I would have preferred a bit more acidity for balance, but putting this aside, it is a fun and tasty wine. We served it well chilled along side grilled vegetables and fried barbunia fish and between the four of us, the bottle was finished in no time.

The Galil Mountain, Cabernet-Shiraz blend has always been one of my favorite wines to take to a BBQ. The price (~NIS 55) is right and the wine really goes well with grilled meats. The Galil Mountain, Cabernet-Shiraz, 08 is medium leaning towards full bodied offering generous aromas of blackberry fruits, plums, fresh herbs and a touch of smoky oak all leading to a pleasant finish.