Wednesday, January 6, 2010

01/04/2010: Back in Tel Aviv again

The gates were closed when leaving the kibbutz and we had to wait for somebody else to come along and open it. Luckily somebody was leaving a couple of minutes after us -- otherwise we could've been stuck there all night ;)

On our first day back in Tel Aviv, we were invited to visit Leonid's business partner's offices and see what they are working on. It was neat to meet everyone and see the prototypes that become products assembled by Leonid's firm and then eventually components on airplanes.

Dave: Do you have a city map?
Olga: I have a city map, I just don't know which city.

Olga and I found ourselves not invited to an impromptu business meeting during this tour, which gave us an opportunity to explore downtown Tel Aviv. It didn't take long for us to end up at Max Brenner's Chocolate by the Bald Man, referring to the Israeli choco-restaurateur whose place we frequent whenever in NYC. We shared an affordable fun business lunch with onion soup, an Israeli "market salad", a mango froyo lassie drink, and a petit multi-layered crunchy chocolate moussey dessert.

We all met up at a smoothie place near the hotel with Olga's cousins Sasha and Dasha, then did some people watching and shopping on Dizengoff Street. Most of the stores there shoestores and bookstores, FYI if you find yourself in that part of town in need of good footwear and reading material.

Then back at the hotel for a rest (or in Olga's and Konstantin's case, a quick January dip in the Mediterranean), proceeded to dinner at Rustico restaurant for a reunion with about 12 members of the extended family. Now we have officially had Italian dinner more than all other types combined :) This was really cool meeting a group with such a range of interests and ages. We sat in mostly age order, so throughout the night there was anarchy and silliness to our right -- and discussions of the intricacies of marriage/divorce and secular living in a religious state to our left. And no Italian dinner would be complete without the final Israeli performance by the 3 tenors: Leonid, Phil, and Konstantin.

Mike, Olga, Konstantin, and I cabbed to the Dancing Camel, a microbrewery that is literally in an alley in an industrial area, where we met up with my cousin Ryan and his friend Greg. Despite being well hidden, this is a magical place. The manager Ari went to the same high school as Mike, Ryan, and me -- and graduated with Ryan and me. It was such a huge crazy coincidence that I had to quiz him on the layout of the school, common friends, etc before I could begin to believe it. Their Midnight Stout is very good - by far the best beer we tasted in all of Israel (including bottled Guinness Extra Stout at the sushi restaurant in Caesarea) - and their selection of handcrafted beers is excellent. They also make a 12.5% ABV called Blue Golem that is only served monthly on the full moon. Delish!

Things started to wind down around 1:30, and by this time Olga and Konstantin had turned in for the night and cousin Dasha came out to play. Our last full night in Tel Aviv, we weren't quite ready to give up so easily, so we headed across the street to a sub sandwich and hot dog stand called Soduch. This place is cool and serves the late-night crowd that is partying in this industrial-turned-club area of the city. Even this was not enough, and Ryan, a basketball player with an appetite to match, kidnapped and took us to Dixie Bar, his dad's favorite restaurant possibly in the entire world. They have a good draft beer selection and the pancakes were so fluffy and scrumptious, I think they may have been made from manna itself.

On our way back to the hotel late in the night, passed by Leonid and Konstantin as they were heading out to the airport to head back to Russia. The trip was officially winding down.

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