Every so often, us city dwellers get a craving for a little bit of country, and go scouring the countryside for a place that meets our bucolic idyll.
One such place is the Schwartzman family dairy on Moshav Bat Shlomo, a few kilometers north of Zichron Yaakov. The dairy sits in an 100-year-old stone house on South Bat Shlomo’s only street (one street!). You walk beneath the canopy of trees and enter an unassuming yard full of bric-a-brac, clay pots, Hebron glass and a chicken coop. There you’ll find a small store, and a little seating area for the “restaurant.” Massive clusters of garlic hang everywhere.
As soon as we entered the store, we were bombarded with little slivers of cheese — taste the sfatit, taste the aged goat cheese, here’s a scoop of labaneh and one of yogurt. After all, you’re probably there for the cheese, because this is a dairy, after all, and cheese is the main thing on the restaurant menu.
Our little party of four — myself, Eitan and our cousins — sat down at a wooden table, in the little tented seating area. We ordered the “large” cheese platter (you can also get the “small” platter or the even larger “special” platter), a wooden tray bearing around eight different kinds of cheeses, some homemade olives and sun-dried tomatoes, and grape leaves stuffed with cheese (what a fabulous idea!). Everyone liked the sfatit, which was silky, soft and creamy, as well as the cheese with herbs and garlic. The harder cheeses — Parmesan-style — were also quite notable.
We also had two freshly baked laffehs stuffed with herbs, a plate of labaneh, two salads and two drinks. The labaneh was surprisingly good, partly due to the herbs on top, while I admittedly couldn’t taste the difference between the fattoush salad and the jarjir salad — fattoush is supposed to contain crunchy crumbled bread, while jarjir tastes like arugula and grows wild in the area, we were told. (Further research showed that jarjir is just Arabic for watercress). To me, both salads tasted like baby greens with dressing. One contained dill.
We ate all of the above — sadly leaving a bit over — plus two hot drinks, and our bill for four came to about NIS 160. Definitely fun if you like cheese, and don’t mind sitting at a picnic table.
You can also buy souvenirs, er, food products including dried herbs, olive oil, olives, and of course, cheese. But I find it never tastes quite as good at home.
Schwartzman family dairy, South Bat Shlomo, fifth house on the right. Open 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. every day. (04) 639-0809. Cash only. No kashrut certificate.