Shtisel’s Cheesecake: Part 2
I greeted Alfie as we entered the boutique hotel in Jerusalem. Alfie is a fairly conservative Jew whose family owns 10 hotel rooms on the third floor of an office building. We discovered it last year and have made it our “go to” place in Jerusalem.
“I don’t have the big room this week,” Alfie apologized, “but I do have a room ready.”
“No problem. All the rooms are nice. Thank you, Alfie,” I said.
We unloaded our things in the room and I began to make plans for our next 24 hours. John had a meeting to attend and I needed to do some research for future guests. We planned a meeting place and time and went our separate ways.
I had decided that I would first go to Yehuda Market. “Yehuda” means “Jew” or “from the kingdom of Judah.” This market is well-known as the place to go to try a variety of foods and cuisines. I set my walking app and headed that direction.
It was a short 15 minute walk before I arrived in the heart of the market. Booth owners were receiving deliveries, others were sweeping, sorting and preparing for the crowds to come. I decided just to take a walk through and see what I could find. Since it was early, the aisles weren’t crowded making the tour quite nice.
I happened upon a bakery that advertised cheesecake. Yes, it seems all roads lead back to this dairy delicacy. I decided to try some since I had not had any luck with the other place to this point. He asked how much I wanted. I said, “One piece.” He asked, “How big?” I responded, “Cheesecake-size piece.” He then pointed to a scale which seemed to indicate that I needed to purchase the cheesecake BY THE KILO! What?!
Through gestures I had communicated the size and he weighed it, bagged it and took my money. Once I had it, I decided right at that moment that I would do a side by side comparison with the SHTISEL CHEESECAKE. Brilliant!
Yes, I was back on this kick again and immediately mapped the route to see how far away I was. Only 20 minutes walk! Well, by Bathsheeba’s Belt, I will make my way there!
I exited the Yehuda market and began walking toward Brizel’s Bakery once again. This time, however, I was coming from a different part of the city which led me through new neighborhoods. The app told me to take a right and soon I found myself in a narrow alley with tall Jerusalem stone walls. A gate swung open and soon Ultra-Orthodox men began pouring out, walking fast and looking shocked as we encountered each other. I knew enough to avoid eye contact and to keep a far distance from them so as to not create an issue. I passed without incident.
The alley led me into a neighborhood now filled with all types of Ultra-Orthodox men, women and children. I didn’t have my red raincoat on this time, but I did have some white capris which stood out against the sea of black. However, no one seemed affected and for this I was glad.
I soon reached Brizel’s Bakery and pulled on the door. IT WAS OPEN! HUZZAH! I walked in and as in the movies, the needle on the record scratched and all came to a halt as I smiled at the patrons. Men with tall black hats and payot were sipping black coffee and nibbling on pastries. A woman wearing a black beret and long sleeves attempted to pacify her toddler with a cookie. All stopped as I made my way to the counter.
A woman about my age, with a brightly colored scarf tied in her hair, greeted me in Hebrew. I responded in kind. This was going well.
I began to ask her about cheesecake, but in English. It seems that in my spontaneous decision to make a second run at this, I had once again forgotten to practice the Hebrew phrases necessary to complete this transaction. GAH!
She smiled at me and shook her head.
CHEESE. CAKE. CHEESECAKE.
She continued to smile. She pulled, who I can only suspect is her daughter, toward the counter and pointed at me.
The young woman smiled and asked, “What is it you want?”I pointed to the refrigerated case and said, “CHEESECAKE.”
The young woman walked over to the case and together we both stared at it. I did not see any cheesecake in there. She pointed to some small round pastries, but it clearly was not what I was looking for.
I pulled out my phone and entered “cheesecake” into the translation app.
“Oh, yes!” says the young woman. She tells her mother what I am looking for. The woman nods and begins to gesture wildly while telling me a long story in Hebrew.
I do not understand this story.
I ask questions to clarify.
Soon she and her daughter are both talking at once and as I can best piece together, they have invited me to return on Fridays when they make the cheesecake which is special for Shabbat. I was there on a Tuesday. Boo.
The daughter points to a shelf with some small pastries that have a sweet cheese filling and these serve as my consolation prize for the day. The other patrons in the bakery have not moved since I entered. They were still frozen in place.
I thanked the women who were patient and kind. I had a great urge to yell to the rest, “Back to your lives, citizens! Nothing to see here!” but I did not.
I found a bench on my way back toward the Old City and took a break. I pulled out the cheesecake from the other place and gave it a try. Dry as the Sahara. But maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be here. I don’t know for sure because, yet again, I will have to try another day for Jerusalem’s best cheesecake.