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Restaurant review: Lunch at Bat Shlomo’s Schwartzman dairy

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 [1], 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 [2] 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 [3] 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 [4] 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 [5] is just Arabic for watercress [6]). 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 [1], 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.