First stop was Seeds and Dried Fruit Meir (62 Jerusalem Blvd., 011-972-3-682- 2305), a 50-year-old, third-generation operation. Danny Azulay, 60, says, ``Whatever you see here, it is all made by us,'' as he waves his hand toward bins of freshly-ground spices, fruit leathers, just-roasted nuts and fava beans. Azulay showed us how he produces a dry-roasted bitter almond. The three-day process starts with apricot pits he imports from Turkey. (It's not a true almond, but it approximates the flavor). Getting a few bags to take home felt like a score.
Just down the street at a modest, open-counter storefront (94 Jerusalem Blvd.), Shlomi Levi, 33, handed us small cups of malabi, a cool milky pudding thickened with cornstarch and topped with a subtle rose-water syrup. The family recipe is Bulgarian, closely held and the best of the versions I tried during my culinary reverie in Israel.
A few steps in the other direction took us to Ravi and Avner's Balkan deli (70 Jerusalem Blvd., 011-972-3-682-9236). The narrow shop is crammed with shelves of canned and bottled goods. In the cases are several varieties of house-made Bulgarian cheeses, pickled and whole smoked fish, and an impressive case full of freshly made salads; on the day we were there, we counted 15 kinds of eggplant salads alone.
Last stop: a 35-year-old kosher bakery and cafe named Leon (11 Oley Zion St., 011-972-3-683-3123) that sells frozen sheets of phyllo dough. Danny Buena, 45, is one of three brothers in the family business. He showed us fresh sheets made with canola oil, water, salt and flour. It was easy to see why Gur makes a special trip to buy them. Held up against the afternoon sunlight, a single sheet had texture and a little heft. ``We make it thicker so it's easier to work with,'' Buena said. The dough is used in the cafe's savory and sweet pastries called burekas, and it bakes up delightfully crisp.
I was wishing the plane ride home had cold storage.
BY BONNIE S. BENWICK, WASHINGTON POST SERVICE