Earlier this week I spent a day in Tsfat. Sefad. Zefat. There are more variations on the name of Tsfat, but Tsfat is Hebrew, so Tsfat it is for me. The hot afternoon was softening into cool evening, and the light was perfect for me and my camera. I was tempted to show you everything I saw: the views of the Old City against the hills of Meron:
Or nature photos, like this 2000-year old olive tree growing in the patio of a girl’s seminary:
Maybe, I thought, I’d show some of the unique and whimsical things you come across in this town of artists, musicians, and mystics:
Or perhaps this junk shop in the Artist’s Alley, which has local antiques you can buy for an old song
I loved this contraption for salt, pepper, and maybe za’atar…
But this blog is supposed to be about food, so I thought, “Nah, I won’t show any of that…”
So I wended my way down the winding, cobblestoned alleys of the Old City,
searching for a food adventure.
It didn’t take long. Right by the medieval Abuhav synagogue, a series of little signs started appearing, leading me on past art studios, ruins left from the earthquake that occurred 100 years ago, and historic courtyards. The signs read, with a red arrow to indicate the way, “Zefat Cheeze.” Sometimes the signs were nailed onto posts:
Sometimes one was wound around a handy electricity cable, dangling under another sign reminding Jews to keep Shabbat – and a string of garlic against the Evil Eye.
Sometimes they were painted on stone walls.
The signs led me on and on, and I followed them trustingly, like Dorothy following the Yellow Brick Road, till I found myself outside the maze of the Old City and on its outskirts, almost falling into the wadi that runs towards Meron.
I turned around. Ah! There it was: Safed Cheese.
The owner, Kadosh, says that the dairy was started by his grandfather’s grandfather. Which would make the business about 200 years old. You can’t get away from history in Tsfat, not even when you simply want to eat cheese.
The Kadosh family is one of several that have lived in Tsfat since the 1500s. Today, this branch sells handmade cheese, olive oil, stuffed vine leaves, local wine, and mouthwatering halvah.
I ventured inside the quiet workspace. The cleanliness and light odor of fresh milk spoke of centennial expertise and devotion to the craft.
I had another food adventure in Tsfat, but this post is long enough as it is. Next week, part II. Then Sukkot! Meantime, here are the cheeses I brought home from the Kadosh dairy: a subtle riccotta; a cheese steeped in Merlot wine – and never have I tasted a cheese where the wine was so present, yet so delicate – and another whose name is simple Tsfat cheese, a little aged.