Here we are at the end of another very successful and beautiful spring and wedding season!  I was so impressed with the team work and the way so many of our brides, grooms and parents wrote such glowing reviews.  From the Divine venues, to the Divine food, to the Divine Design, no one does Divine like A Divine Event!

Venue improvements continue.  Little Gardens has a lot more updates with fresh paint, carpets and furnishings, and in July we will tackle a complete makeover of the bar room.  The ops teams are diligently working on improvements at Vinewood Stables and we are working with our builder to get all the plans in place to condition the space in 2019.  Primrose Cottage will undergo a back porch redecoration this summer and Flint Hill’s Brides room is also complete.  Finally, after months and months, Cloverleaf Farm has a new bathroom remodel and addition!  The Farm also is getting more décor, thanks to our Design Studio, as well as new light fixtures in the Brides Room and a very cute Brides Maids dressing area.

We are staying true to our manifesto of “Constant and Never-Ending Improvement”!


                                                                                                      TRAVELING & TASTING
                                                                                ISRAEL – THE LAND, THE FOOD, THE PEOPLE

March found me in Israel and Jordan with my International Caterers Association colleagues.  Their program “ICA Culinary Learning Journeys” is a program I founded in 2005 when I served on the ICA board.  
The birthplace of the Jewish people is the Land of Israel.  There, a significant part of the nation’s long history was enacted, of which the first thousand years are recorded in the Bible.  There, its cultural, religious and national identity was formed, and there, its physical presence has been maintained through the centuries, even after the majority was forced into exile.  During the many years of dispersion, the Jewish people never severed nor forgot its bond with the Land.
In the modern era, as the Jewish people started, and continue to this day, to return to the Land from all over the world, they are bringing their food with them.  On this culinary journey we experienced the food traditions that these families brought back to the Land and this is what led me to join up on this journey…SHAKSHOUKA!  
Shakshouka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers and onions, often spiced with cumin. Its present egg and vegetable based form originated in Tunisia. It is popular in the Middle East and North Africa and Jews migrating back to Israel brought the dish with them.
First meal of the trip!

Our first dinner was at The Eucalyptus restaurant, owned and led by Chef Moshe Basson.  It serves a modern interpretation of biblical cuisine.  Chef Basson’s passions for biblical culture drove him to research and resurrect recipes, spices, and local and wild herbs that were part of the traditional cuisine, and were neglected and nearly forgotten for centuries.

Every dish has its origins in biblical scenes and all the spices and herbs used grow, as in ancient times, in the surrounding hills of Jerusalem and Judea.  Sort of a “Bible to Table” meal.


We had a morning visit to the Garden of Gethsemane and a champagne cocktail overlooking the Mount of Olives. I had the pleasure of spending time with three very renowned caterers, Heidi Vail, Mary Crafts and Joy Wallace!


We had a delicious lunch at Humus Lina in the Christian quarter of the old city.  They only serve humus and everything you can think of to spread, dip or schmear it on!

Our guided food tasting walk at the Machne Yehuda market involved visiting traditional market stands contrasted with  hip and trendy stands where we nibbled and learned about some interesting local ingredient combinations and famous dishes.


We had time to stop for a camel ride and a dip in the Dead Sea at the Ein Gedi hot spring.  The Dead Sea has the lowest elevation and is the lowest body of water on the surface of the Earth – 1,237 foot below sea level.


Traveling up to the Golan Heights, we stopped for a boat ride up on the Sea of Galilee, not really a sea but a lake, and continued on to a special event dinner at Levona Orchard. The orchard is located on a hilltop overlooking the tranquil waters of the Sea, the Old Synagogue, the Church of Capernaum and the western slopes of the Golan Heights.
We visited the home of Naseba Keesh Smara.  She is a Druze, a unique religious and ethnic minority of Arab citizens in Israel.  Naseba wants to be the next Food Network Star.  She entertains tourist lavishly in her home.  No health inspection necessary  


Golan Heights is the Napa Valley of Israel.  Golan Heights Winery was a major sponsor of our journey.  Leading the way in creating and nurturing the fine wine culture in Israel is more than just a slogan for them – it’s a way of life.  Planting their first vineyards in 1976, the winery was established by four kibbutzim in 1983.  We had a very elaborate wine tasting here and were entertained royally. 


We had so many great lunches and dinners, I can’t cover them all here, but I want to mention our dinner at Uri Buri in Akko, an ancient Mediterranean port city, just a few miles from the Lebanon border.  Chef Uri Jeremias, known to friends as Uri Buri, is easy to spot with his big white beard.  He is an explorer, salt of the earth and most famous chef in Israel.  Jeremias doesn’t believe in advanced learning.  In fact, his culinary philosophy is the opposite.  He’s anti-education and in favor of practical experience.  He espouses a more primitive, Buddhist-style quest toward achieving the sublime on the palette.

Our farewell dinner before departing for Jordan was at Hasalon, one of the most innovative restaurants in Tel Aviv, by Chef Eyal Shani.  Breaking down the biggest grouper I’ve seen, and roasting it in the wood-fired oven, we dined on hors and dessert right from the bar top.  Great party!

At the end of the journey, a dozen of us broke off to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The country has almost no natural resources apart from the Dead Sea, and approximately 80% of the land remains entirely unpopulated.  The contradictions between the old and the new in Jordan are astonishing, with ancient sites being contrasted with modern infrastructure, first class hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities.  Jordan is full of historical monuments, from ancient cities and biblical sites to desert castles, Crusader forts and Byzantine mosaics.

We traveled to Wadi Rum for an amazing jeep tour along the famous Laurence of Arabia deserts and included an authentic Bedouin lunch in a remote tent.  “Vast, echoing and God-like” is an accurate assessment of the moonscape terrain, which explains why Wadi Rum was also the location for the movie Martian.


A fun visit to the Petra Kitchen, all of my A Type Personality friends romped through a cooking class creating a bountiful Middle Eastern feast.  

The highlight of our Jordan visit was Petra, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea it has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans became during the Hellenistic and Roman times a major caravan center for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India.  It is a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.  Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges


As I ride my ass off into the sunset, I leave you with SHAKSHOUKA!!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 anaheim peppers, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño or habanero pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1.    In a large, deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and peppers and cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, vegetable broth, cumin, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper; simmer for 20 to 22 minutes or until thickened.
2.    Crack eggs evenly on top of sauce; cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until whites are set and yolks are thick but runny (if you like firmer yolks, cook for 1 to 2 minutes more). Sprinkle with parsley and feta cheese and serve with warm pita bread.

2018, Main BlogTori HannaA