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Benedict’s picnics, Josef’s Levinsky tasting menu: Good outdoor eating

SC 05/08/2021


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Israel is blessed with picnic weather throughout much of the year, but daylight saving time means there are that many more hours to enjoy sitting outside, especially during the cooler hours of the evening. Thus, Benedict – the restaurant chain known for its breakfasts served all day – chose mid-summer to launch its latest initiative: picnics in the park.
HQ central for Benedict’s picnics is Yarkon Park’s Ganei Yehoshua, opposite Expo Tel Aviv on Rokeach Boulevard – more precisely, an igloo in the vicinity of the TLV [stationary hot-air] Balloon and the lake. Once there, you may order from an extensive a la carte menu, or choose a prepacked basket. (Unlike in Benedict’s restaurants, there are no English menus at the site, although one is apparently planned.) 
But you need not go there to pick up your food: Benedict will deliver it to you in any green part of the sprawling park along the Yarkon River, from the area bordering Hadar Yosef and the Luna Park all the way to Ussishkin Street, west of Ibn Givrol Street. The latter sector is where Benedict’s roving golf cart rolled right up to our picnic table, bearing our colorful insulated picnic basket.

The Benedict picnic menu comprises four baskets: DIY (NIS 249/299), Classic (NIS 239/299), Vegan (195/245) and B’Ktana (NIS 109/159, for a smaller version). The higher price means you get to keep a handy, reusable, versatile basket, as well as the handsome checkered tablecloth (which can double as a blanket). Otherwise, a straw basket may be borrowed (against a deposit), or simply use a one-time cardboard box (sans tablecloth). 
Interestingly, there is no meat in any of the picnic basket versions, so there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Even gluten-free rolls are available upon request. 
Not surprisingly, familiar picnic foods like sandwiches and salads are at the core of the menus. But not content to rely merely on its creamy egg salad and hearty tuna salad, Benedict also offers such upgrades as a tasty lentil salad, enhanced with sweet potato. Additionally, you can build your own sandwich on a pretzel roll or croissant, or order a ready-made bagel sandwich – including the classy cream cheese and lox on bagel. 
All picnic baskets also include desserts and drinks. The former range from fruit salad to mini-pancakes, while the latter run the gamut from simple soda to fruit juices – even fresh-squeezed combinations – to hot or cold coffee.  
Benedict Picnic Park hours – for the time being, at least – are Monday through Thursday (10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.), Friday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) and Saturday (08:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.). The service does not operate on Sundays.
 YOSEF'S TASTING menu. (photographer: ANATOLY MICHAELO) YOSEF’S TASTING menu. (photographer: ANATOLY MICHAELO)

A proprietary tasting menu in Levinsky Market

Josef Hummus has quickly become a Levinsky Market institution, thanks to its popular “warm Galilean hummus” and menu innovations. Owner Josef Ganon took his own hummus recipe and parlayed his initial eatery in Pardes Hannah into a chain that has expanded to encompass nine outlets. 
Inspired by the proliferation of Levinsky Market tasting tours on his doorstep, Ganon recently decided to adapt the idea for his restaurant. This summer, therefore, he launched a tasting menu of nearly all the items on the Josef Hummus menu – and has given it an attractive introductory price of only NIS 69 (slated to increase to NIS 89 after this month). 
The fixed tasting menu – served outside on small regular tables or large picnic tables – consists of portions of no fewer than nine dishes, plus two desserts. The lavish spread includes burghul kubbe, piquant mashawsha hummus, chickpea sambusak, green falafel, beet kubbe, Druze mansaf (meat or vegan), hummus with fava beans, a market salad and pickles, finished off with malabi and halva. (Although there is no English description of the tasting menu yet, one is in the works.) 
All of this wholesome food is washed down with a shot of arak, and Josef’s signature “rimonada” – fresh lemonade with a splash of pomegranate juice. Turkish coffee with cardamom is an optional complimentary extra.      
At Josef, it is the attention to detail that makes all the difference: the crunchy, savory  falafel, for example, is deep fried in oil that is changed frequently, and never in the same batch used for frying the kubbe. Similarly, the house hummus is prepared in small batches throughout the day, yielding a creamy purée that is practically addictive. 
The tasting menu follows in the hospitable Josef tradition of a free refill with a regular order of hummus, and the concept of the “hummuson” – with any order of a different main course, you are entitled to a small order of hummus for only NIS 8. If the tasting menu at the Levinsky branch proves successful, it may be introduced throughout the chain. 
Josef Hummus is open during the day only, until about 18.00 each evening. Naturally, since it is kosher, it is closed on Shabbat. Benedict Picnic Park 
Not kosher (although there are no unkosher foods or meat) 
Ganei Yehoshua, Yarkon Park. Order picnic delivery via a dedicated Tabit app (Hebrew only) or by phoning the igloo at (054) 868-2189 
Josef Hummus 
Kosher. 39 Levinsky Street, Tel Aviv 
Tel. (03) 949-7341 
The writer was a guest of the restaurants. 

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Co-Host for Coffee Mouth Scarecrow Show. Retired NAVY Chief/Flag Writer Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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