Rai Restaurant & Winery - Kfar Rameh - Galil - Bulgarian Galiliean StartersArabic Food

Culinary Travel in the Galil: Tasting Galil Foods and Wine

Enjoying Local Galil Hospitality and Galil Foods

My friend Jenna and I love culinary travel and a recent visit to the Galil provided us with an opportunity to try some new Galil foods and experience warm Galilean hospitality. We spent two days traveling around the Upper Galil sampling local dishes, drinking Arabic coffee, tasting wine, and picking fruit. The highlight of the trip was the stunning views, especially from the Galil Mountain Winery in Yiron and Rai Restaurant in Rama. We left with satisfied appetites, full hearts, and plenty of goodies to take home. 

Galil Foods at Hunter House

Our trip started with a meal at Hunter House, a small restaurant at the entrance of Gush Halav (Jish), a village in the hills opposite Har Meron. The restaurant has a strange yet captivating American hunting lodge theme. It is decorated from top-to-bottom with various taxidermy and animal skins from the owner’s past hunts. Hunter House’s meat-centric menu focuses on local Galilean dishes combined with dry-aged beef, which is displayed in a large meat-aging fridge in the center of the restaurant. 

We began our meal with a selection of local dishes, including Jarjeer Salad, a Lebanese rocket (arugula) salad (NIS 35), Green Salad with tahina and cashew nuts (NIS 35), Lamb and Beef Arais topped with tahina and pistachio (NIS 38) and Merguez Sausage (NIS 36). Each starter was freshly prepared and full of flavor. 

Moving on to the main course, we were presented with a large portion of 50-day aged Prime Rib (NIS 30/100g), served with garlic confit,  herb dip, and roasted vegetables. Although we both would have preferred the steak to be less well done,  it was still enjoyable. Last but not least was our dessert—a  local specialty called Beirut Nights (NIS 35) which consists of a semolina-based pudding topped with cream and pistachios. The flavor of this dish was a unique treat, but the texture, which was overly soggy compared to other places, can definitely be improved.

Let’s get to the wine. Our meal was accompanied by the restaurant’s private-label wine, which is made at Mt. Zemer Winery in the nearby village of Dishon. We started with a glass of Viognier 2021 (NIS 130/bottle), followed by the Classic Red, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Barbera varieties (NIS 185/bottle). Both quality house wines were an enjoyable accompaniment and good value for money. Overall, we really enjoyed the concept and atmosphere during our meal at Hunter House, including the attentive and kind service. It’s a great local restaurant to enjoy while visiting the area.

Stay at Biet Em Fares in Gush Halav

We spent the night at Biet Em Fares, a small guest house at the top of the village run by Kamil Mansur and his family.  The beautifully renovated two storey stone house is over 250 years old and includes three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a spacious living room and kitchen area, a private courtyard, and an outdoor jacuzzi. Beit Em Fare provides guests with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, especially from Kamil’s roof, where he kindly hosted us for coffee upon arrival. Kamil’s family has lived in the village for over 200 years, and learning more about his family and community was definitely one of the highlights of our stay. 

Kamil greeted us in the morning with a delicious homemade breakfast delivered right to our door. After satiating ourselves with dips, cheese, omelets, and homemade bread we set out for a day exploring the surrounding countryside.

Fruit Picking at Sawana Farm

Our first stop of the day was at Sawana Farm for some cherry picking. The large pick-your-own-fruit farm, located just outside the village, is open from May to July. Visitors to Sawana farm can pick fruit from an abundance of cherry, mulberry, blackberry, and raspberry trees, depending on the season. All the fruits are available to purchase, as well as jams, wine, and honey which the farm produces itself. We picked a selection of cherries and mulberries, which were delicious.

Galil Winery Tour

A short drive north took us to the Galil Mountain Winery. Here, we took a tour of the winery’s wine-making facilities, followed by a detailed tasting of six wines served with a delicious platter of cheese, bread, and dips (NIS 130 per person). The picturesque landscape nestled in the Galilee Mountains provided the perfect backdrop for a relaxing afternoon sipping wine while overlooking the Israel-Lebanon border. 

Coffee & Cake in Hurfeish

We sobered up and continued our road trip, taking the opportunity to pause for a caffeine break in the Druze town of Hurfeish. As far as pitstops go, this one was as tasty as it gets (full of friendly people, too!). Here, we enjoy fragrant cardamom-infused Arabic coffee and a cheese pastry from Naseem Caffe. At this point, we were too full to try more than one treat, but we happily bought some boxes of biscuits to take home with us and they didn’t last long!

Dinner at Rai Restaurant in Rama

There’s no question that we saved the best stop for last, closing our culinary tour with dinner at Rai Winery & Restaurant. Located in the scenic village of Rama, the outside setting is surrounded by breathtaking views overlooking the Beit HaKerem valley. We made sure to get there in time to both appreciate the scenery in daylight and catch the sunset, which we enjoyed while sitting in the restaurant’s comfortable outdoor area.  

Rai Restaurant serves a combination of traditional Bulgarian and local Galil foods. The owners were happy to help curate our order without being too pushy and warmly accommodated our culinary preferences throughout the meal.  

We enjoyed the first course so much—we barely left room for the main dishes to come. One of our favorite starters was a dish all cheese lovers will truly enjoy, the Cheese Casserole (NIS 44), which is served in a traditional Bulgarian clay pot baked in a Taboon oven. The dish’s harmonious blend of flavors features a combination of tomatoes, red peppers, Bulgarian cheese, and the distinctive Kashkaval cheese. The Shopska Salad (NIS 45), which we learned is one of Bulgaria’s national dishes,  was a refreshing medley of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, onions, and roasted peppers. It was topped with shredded Bulgarian cheese for a salty taste and a delightful balance of flavors.

Kataif, a personal favorite, is normally a sweet food served for dessert—which is why we were thrilled to experience a savory take on the dish. Rai’s Kataif (NIS 65) was a fried and pillow-soft pastry) filled with shredded meat served on a bed of tahina, sour cream, tomato salsa, and pistachios before getting drizzled with olive oil. The contrasting textures and flavors of the tender beef, creamy tahina, and tangy salsa result in a mouthwatering symphony of flavors that will leave you craving more. The Fried Labneh Balls (NIS 48) were another unique twist on a traditional dish. Served with zesty tomato sauce and a hint of chili pepper, our taste buds delighted in the surprising transition from the crunchy exterior to the creamy, flavorful Labneh inside. Finally, we made it to the Kubbeh in White (NIS 62) which featured halved fried kubbeh immersed in a cooked yogurt and mint sauce. The restaurant’s main courses include numerous pork dishes, such as pork steak, ribs schnitzel, as well as fresh fish and a variety of seafood dishes. 

Despite having full bellies, we couldn’t finish our meal at Rai without something sweet. The friendly waitress recommended Pasha Lokmat (NIS 45), a Turkish dessert made with malabi, coconut, vanilla cream, and pistachio, served with a berry coulis. It was the perfect way to end our evening—not too heavy, not too sweet but just right (and incredibly tasty!).

Alongside our food, we sipped on delicious red wine, Lebanese-style Arak, and Bulgarian raki. All of these, we learned, are produced by the family at Rai on their own.  

All in all, our culinary takeaway is that Rai Restaurant has a fantastic selection of innovative dishes for a variety of tastes and ages. But if the setting, drinks, and delicious food weren’t enough, the owners and staff are incredibly warm and friendly. With a relaxed atmosphere, this is the perfect stop-off for a meal when traveling in the area—whether you’re on a culinary adventure like us, or need fuel after a hike!    

Thanks to Jenna for her co-writing and editing this article, it helps that she loves food, travel, and writing as much as I do.

I hope this post gives you some ideas for culinary travel and exploring Galil foods. As always,  I’d love to hear your feedback and recommendations for other foodie spots in the area. Please comment below or share a review in the Facebook group Restaurant Club Israel.

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