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Dan Hotels hosts celebrity chefs for weekend food-and-culture festival

SC 20/05/2021 4


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As Israel’s hospitality industry adjusts to life in the immediate aftermath of COVID, some hoteliers are coming up with creative ways to attract local guests in the continued absence of foreign tourism. A prime example is the current initiative of the Dan chain of luxury hotels to sponsor a series of weekends featuring two crowd-pleasing events: a gourmet dinner by a famous guest chef, followed the next day by another special cultural or culinary program.
This ambitious Dan Hotel project has actually been going on since August, and is planned to continue throughout this spring, summer and holidays. The person tapped by the chain to produce these events is David Kichka (aka Kishka), a culinary jack-of-all-trades whom we last met on these pages as the local consultant for French food publisher Gault & Millau, and creator of their local tasting tour.
Over the years, the veteran Kichka has worked with many young chefs starting out in the kitchens of the prestigious restaurants he managed. Now, they represent the cadre of Israel’s leading chefs, and they are responding to his call to star in these special events. Thus, for example, chefs Yossi Shitrit (Mashya), Yuval Ben Neria (Taizu) and Sharon Cohen (Shila) have made guest appearances in recent months at Dan properties from Jerusalem (The King David) to Caesarea.
The last weekend in April was the turn of the Dan Accadia Hotel in Herzliya, and the lineup was star-studded: On Thursday evening, celebrity chef Assaf Granit transplanted the staff and menu of his acclaimed Jerusalem restaurant Machneyuda, complete with open kitchen, onto the grounds of the hotel. Then on Friday afternoon, the electrifying band HaDag Nahash performed on an outdoor stage in ideal weather.
These weekends are sold as packages that comprise a stay of two nights in the hotel (including breakfasts), a gourmet dinner by a famous guest chef, and the event the next day. At the Dan Accadia, other meals over the weekend were offered at discounted prices, and special perks – such as a yoga class and massages by the pool – were complimentary.
It is not possible to purchase the dinner and/or cultural event separately. “We are in the hotel business,” says Matan Lerner, general manager of the Dan Accadia. “We sell rooms, not tickets.” Prices of the Dan Accadia package started from NIS 4,225.
The evening of the Machneyuda dinner, the restaurant took over much of the swimming pool compound, where a close-to-capacity crowd of 300-plus guests – well lubricated by unlimited shots (“chasers”), cocktails and glasses of wine dispensed by two bars – sat down to enjoy an alfresco repast in perfect weather. A couple of hors-d’oeuvres circulated briefly, but their unremarkable nature assured that no-one would ruin his appetite for dinner.
The meal itself was divided into three courses – which the Hebrew-only menu called “rounds” – paralleling the bilingual menu of the restaurant itself, whose categories are To Begin With, Starters and Main Courses. Hotel guests were served three or four representative dishes from each category, in portions generous enough to share.

It is not possible to cross-reference exactly this special menu with the regular menu, since the ingredients used by the non-kosher restaurant frequently had to be modified in order to conform to the kashrut requirements of the hotel. This, of course, is one of the main draws of the Dan weekends: Traditional Israelis get the rare opportunity to experience food usually accessible only to non-observant patrons.
SPACE DOES not permit analyzing each and every dish we tasted, but I can certainly describe the highlights. The first star of the appetizers was the eggplant brûlée, a creamy eggplant mousse with the typical sugar crust of crème brûlée; the juxtaposition was enchanting. This was served with a basket containing two breads: a disappointing frena-focccia hybrid, and a fluffy kubana-style loaf, half of which was stuffed with tender, juicy, shredded short ribs.
There was one intermediate dish served between the appetizers and starters: the Damascus Gate Salad – an incredible mélange of fresh veggies, herbs, fruit and nuts that yielded salty, sweet, crunchy and sour flavors and textures all in one plate. I never thought I would say this about a multi-course meal, but if I had to order one dish from the evening again, I would pick this salad. (Interestingly, this is also one of the dishes that had to be pared down – eliminating dairy – in order to comply with kashrut restrictions.)
Other notable dishes among the generous array of second and third courses included Druze Moussakhan – mouthwatering chicken confit smothered in caramelized onion and draped with a thin Druze pita – and Golan Sirloin – small, thick slices of succulent steak drizzled with an exceptional demi-glace. (I can’t really blame them for the slight over-grilling of the meat or imperfections of the broccoli and potatoes; after all, cooking a mass meal is not the same as preparing individual dishes as they are ordered.)
Dessert was not on the printed menu – but that is probably because no single page would be able to contain all the options. Nor did diners have to choose among them. Rather, dozens of bite-side portions were spread out along three counters, decorated with flower petals and smoking dry ice. Desserts are often a vulnerable part of the menu in kosher restaurants, since one may not use milk or dairy cream; but there were only two sweets that suffered: the pareve Bavarian Cream, and the Ramadan Semolina Cake, which was still tasty, but lacked some of the rich moistness from the missing cream.
In addition to the massive buffet, three-tiered trays of desserts were brought to each table. Standouts of the meal’s finale were tartlets – fruit and nut – and chocolate mousse made with olive oil. If we were delightfully satiated after the first three courses, we were stuffed by the time we left.
Early Friday evening, with plenty of time before sunset and Shabbat, guests made their way to a grassy knoll at the south end of the Dan Accadia, where blankets and chairs faced a stage bristling with amplifiers. For nearly 90 minutes, the progressive band HaDag Nahash rocked the unusual venue, where there was plenty of room to dance.
Looking to the future, a virtual who’s who of chefs are slated to appear on different dates throughout the coming spring, summer and Jewish holidays. World-class chef Gal Ben Moshe of Prism in Berlin, one of the few Israelis to helm a Michelin-starred restaurant, is slated to arrive, while the Machneyuda Group’s Dekel Bar will present creative cocktails. A different sort of guest artist, vocalist Ivri Lider, will also perform.
Finally, there is another unique perk available even to ordinary Dan Hotel guests booking a minimum two-night stay: booklets of vouchers equating to free tasting tours of local outdoor markets: Mahaneh Yehuda in Jerusalem, Carmel Market in Tel Aviv or Wadi Nisnas in Haifa. In addition to compiling these booklets, Kichka continues to curate and lead food tours in Tel Aviv’s Levinsky and Carmel markets for the general public.

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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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