Category: Travel

Busy In Italy

Two years later, back at the Trevi Fountain!

Ever since my first trip to Italy in 2021, I’ve been dreaming about going back! I was over the moon when Judy Gruen Travel asked me to partner with her on a  Busy in Italy trip this summer and I counted down the days to my return.

Those of you that followed my travel nightmare with United Airlines over on Instagram know about the endless delays and my 36-hour journey to make it to Rome. I did end up missing two days of the planned itinerary but I still made it and I’m forever grateful to High Class Travel for moving mountains to get me there (business class, no less!).

Jewish Ghetto in Rome


For the sake of this post, I’m going to share the full itinerary even though I missed the first two days!

Tuesday, July 4th
The group landed in Rome and checked in to the hotel in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto. Everyone was greeted with a beautiful welcome packet with Busy In Italy aprons, a copy of Totally Kosher and a printed itinerary. First on the agenda was a Vespa tour of all the major tourist attractions in Rome – stopping for photos along the way. Everyone agreed that it was one of the highlights of the trip! I’m so sorry to have missed it. They completed the night with a traditional wood oven pizza and focaccia master class, followed by dinner.

Pizza ebraica – sweet Roman Jewish cookies!

Wednesday, July 5th
Following breakfast, the group took a tour of Jewish Rome with the amazing tour guide, Laura, followed by a stop for a Maritozzo sandwich and then lunch at Yotvata. They rounded out the day with a tour of the colosseum through Jewish eyes. I arrived in Rome just as the group was winding down their tour, so I checked in to HT6 – a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, and walked just a few short steps straight to my favorite place in the ghetto – Bona Pizza. I stopped at Kosher Cakes for a Maritozzo, and to the burnt cakes bakery for pizza ebraica, and then a quick stop at Roscioli for a shakerato. I ran into the Judaica shop to find some souvenirs and finally met up with the group for dinner at Casalino Osteria! We toasted on some Aperol Spritz, of course, followed by a delicious dinner of Italian specialities like Concia (marinated fried zucchini), Baccala (fried salted cod), Suppli (Fried tomato rice balls), and Fritti (assorted fried vegetables). Of course I had some Roman and Jewish artichokes and the most delicious calamarata pasta. Everyone was raving about the pistachio gelato from Cremeria Romana so I ran in for a scoop and then took a night stroll to Trevi Fountain so I could make a wish!

(You can find all the addresses for the above restaurants in this post and a reel of all the restaurants here.)

My favorite spot in the Jewish Ghetto, standing amongst the Roman ruins, an Israeli flag proudly displayed on a street lined with kosher restaurants and vibrant Jewish life, the greatest testimony to our survival and strength.

Thursday, July 6th
I woke up extra early to take a stroll through the ghetto, it’s so beautiful in the morning. We began the day at the Jewish archives where we got a chance to see many ancient books and historical documents. We bid farewell to Rome, but not before I did a quick run to Sant Eustachio Cafe, known to have the best coffee in the city. Get the espresso granita! We boarded a van to Florence, taking in the breathtaking scenery of Tuscany as we headed to The Designer Outlet Mall of Firenze. We then settled in to Hotel Orto de Medici before heading to dinner at Ruth’s! It was so great to see Simcha again, who remembered me well from my last trip! We had some fried anchovies, tuna pizza (my fave!), delicious caponata, tuna croquettes and the most delicious chilled white wine. I had never been a white wine drinker before but this trip converted me.

What a thrill to find my cookbook in the gift shop of the Florence Synagogue!

Friday, July 7th
We woke up to a glorious breakfast, catered by Eli of Cantina Giuliano! Delicious french pastries, jams and fresh fruit with bread and butter, plus some kumquats right off the tree on the hotel terrace. So good! We met our tour guide Antonella (remember her from my last trip?!) and headed to the Great Synagogue of Florence, the place that made me fall in love with visiting synagogues around the world! And I was over the moon to see my new cookbook in the gift shop! Of course I left a signed copy.

We continued our tour of Florence with a walk through the city, the famous Duomo Santa Maria, Piazza de la Republica, and all the city statues. We then took a tour of the Uffizi museum, world famous for it’s art collections. We went back to Ruth’s for lunch and winded down the day with a traditional Florentine ceramic class. I made a quick stop at Eataly with Judith Romano, who showed me all the Italian kosher products available (check it out on Instagram).

We headed back to the hotel to bring in Shabbos and enjoyed a delicious dinner catered by Cantina Giulliano and then off to a deep Shabbos shluff (rest).

Lunch at Ruth’s!

Shabbat, July 8th
We all took a much needed relaxing break over Shabbos, enjoyed a wonderful lunch and then a late afternoon stroll/hike to the Garden of Roses for spectacular sunset views of the city.

Sunday, July 9th
We began the day with an Italian coffee making and tasting class at the Espresso Academy of Florence. Followed by a delicious lunch at Ruth’s where they prepared sampler plates of their popular dishes. After that, we visited some local Florentine artisan shops for jewelry, leather goods, gloves and more! We rounded out the day (and the tour!) at Desi Nare cooking school for a traditional Tuscan dinner and pasta making class. We made eggplant stuffed ravioli with mint, rucola primrose, walnuts and lemon zest, handmade cavatelli with cherry tomato sauce and panna cotta with raspberries. The meal was paired with a special Chianti wine from one of the top Chianti wineries in the world! The fabulous class ended our trip on a high as we bid farewell to the group!

As the group left for Rome, I took a taxi straight to Terra di Seta winery in the Chianti region of Tuscany, in the hills near Siena where I stayed in one of the apartments on the property.

The vineyards of Terra di Seta winery

Monday, July 10th
I woke up to the smell of lavender and the sound of chirping cicadas on the beautiful organic farm/vineyard owned by Daniele della Seta and his wife Maria. Maria prepared me an espresso with some traditional Tuscan biscotti and gave me a tour of the restaurant garden. She packed me some lunch of cold pasta salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella, tomatoes and basil and I took a taxi to the nearby town of Siena. I visited the beautiful local shul, built in the 17th century, where I was so excited to find my new cookbook in the gift shop! I took a stroll through the town, and headed back to the winery for a dip in the beautiful infinity pool overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Found my cookbook at the Siena Synagogue!

As the night set in, and the temperature dropped, I joined a group at the winery for a tour of the vineyards. At Terra di Seta, they grow organic pesticide-free sangiovese grapes to produce non-mevushal/non-pasteurized delicious Chianti wine. The winery produces 6 types of wine and up to 50,000 bottles a year. They are one of just two wineries in Europe that produces wines from their own grapes. After a tour of the vineyard and property, we stopped at the entrance to restaurant where Danielle shared that when he was purchasing the property, he asked his uncle to come down and check out the space since he also owned property in the region, and his uncle recognized it from where he was hidden by non-jews during the holocaust!

Wine tasting at Terra di Seta

We entered the tasting room where we noshed on bruschetta and sipped the most delicious wines, while Danielle shared more about the wine region. After the wine tasting, we moved to the restaurant for an incredible al fresco dining experience. I was invited to a join a lovely group of women from New York who were celebrating a birthday, and we ordered almost everything on the menu, including, potato and onion flan with cream, Tuscan peasant tomato soup, crepes with ricotta and zucchini, tagliatelle with tarragon pesto, , roasted fish with seasonal vegetables and eggplant parmigiana with buffalo mozzarella. For dessert, the restaurant prepared a chocolate cake for the birthday girl which was rich and delicious! After dinner, I took a stroll under the Tuscan stars, which twinkle more brightly than anything I’ve ever seen, I’ll never forget it.

truffle hunting with Allesandro, Mocha and Freddy!

Tuesday, July 11th
I woke up bright and early to beat the heat for a special truffle hunting adventure in Siena with Siena Tartufi! I have always dreamed of going truffle hunting and I could barely sleep, I was so excited! I met my guide, Alessandro along with a translator and Freddy and Mocha, the dogs who help hunt for the truffles. They are of the Lagotta Romagnolo breed. We went deep into the woods with the dogs, hunting for black summer truffles. Allessandro let the dogs loose to roam and as they start digging, he runs after them to ensure that they don’t eat the truffle that they dig up! He yells BRAVO and rewards them with a treat as we start to fill our pockets with truffles. At $450 a kilo, black summer truffles are mild and less covetted than the pricey white winter truffles. We caught 7 truffles in all and headed back to the winery with a few for Maria to use at the restaurant. After an early morning under the hot Tuscan sun, I relaxed at the pool, took a long shower outdoors surrounded by bushes of rosemary, thyme and lavender (a dream!) and went to the restaurant for a lunch of Danielle’s freshly baked bread with house made olive oil, gnocchi with arugula and their incredible tiramisu.

For dinner, Maria worked some of the black summer truffles into her potato flan dish alongside some chilled zucchini (from the garden!) soup and cacio e pepe. I finished with some panna cotta.

Espresso Granita in Naples with Diego, the best coffee I’ve ever had!

Wednesday, July 12th
Tuscany has my heart and I was so sad to say goodbye, but I headed to the local bus station to take a bus back to Florence to catch the train to Naples. The bus ticket station was broken so I missed the bus, and asked a stranger to call a local taxi service because I was close to missing my train! Thankfully, I made it (by the skin of my teeth!) to the Santa Maria Novella train station and caught my train from Firenze to Napoli (I purchased my train ticket online at Italo website – make sure to book the express train). I met up with my guide, Diego Davide ( +39.3338127391) at the train station and stored my luggage at Kibag so we could head out on the town. We headed for the town center, had some espresso granita, which was legit the best coffee I ever had in my life. It tasted like chocolate! We walked around the town, through the Spanish quarter, Piazza Dante and Port Alba – an area lined with book stores. Naples has it’s own unique charm – like the old Italian’s you’ve seen in the movies. It’s not really aesthetically beautiful but it’s rich in culture. We stopped into a local produce shop that offers free cooking classes, they were mid-pizza-making and the smell of the simmering tomato sauce was intoxicating! We also stopped for a local lemonade drink that’s made of freshly squeezed Amalfi lemons mixed with baking soda so it explodes as you’re drinking it! After our short tour of the city, I went back to the train station to pick up my luggage and off to Praiano to my hotel on the Amalfi coast!

Dusk over Positano

There are lots of ways to get around Southern Italy, but I nixed the idea of taking a train and shuttle because my suitcase was large and heavy and it was so. So. hot! Diego was kind enough to offer to drive me (for the same fee as a taxi) so I took him up on it. The trek was about 2 hours, and we were lucky enough to catch sunset just as we drove into Sorrento. The view became more and more magical as dusk set in over the Amalfi coast, and we pulled over at various viewpoints to take it all in.

After driving along the coast of Positano, we finally reached my hotel in Praiano – a quaint, small town along the coast that is less touristy than other areas, and not as expensive. I stayed at Casa Stella Marina, which was a very basic hotel but a really good price for prime season on the Amalfi coast. Keep in mind that many of the hotels along the coast require hundreds of steps to reach (my hotel’s private beach club was just 400 steps down from the hotel!) and Casa Stella Marina was right off the road entering Praiano, making it easy to access after a long day of touring the coast.


Thursday, July 13th
I woke up bright and early to head to Positano to catch a ferry to the island of Capri. My hotel concierge recommended that I pre-purchase my ferry tickets (in case the ferry would sell out), so I purchased tickets on MisterFerry. I took a taxi to Positano and my driver dropped me off at the entrance to the town where I made my way down the alleyways and stairs to the port where I found MANY different companies offering ferry tickets to various destinations. If you purchase your tickets online, you need to locate the proper ferry office (kind of confusing!) and check in to get your physical ferry ticket and then wait on the assigned line along the dock to board the ferry. It might be easier to just head to the marina a bit early so you can just purchase ferry tickets directly in one of the offices there.

The ferry to Capri was about 45 minutes long and we arrived at Marina Grande. I shopped along the marina until my friend Nofar arrived (she traveled all the way from Rome to meet me!). We stopped for some lemon granita, because it was HOT and then we boarded the funicular (you can purchase tickets in some of the shops along the marina), which is kind of a cable car/train that takes you up into the town center of Capri (otherwise you can do the long and difficult hike up). We took in the beautiful scenery and walked through the town, passing many lovely boutiques and shops until we reached the Capri kosher restaurant. We enjoyed a lunch of some Italian classics and then headed for the Tiberio Palace hotel (formerly the site of the restaurant, but now just a hotel that accommodates and services Jewish travelers) for a quick tour of their garden, and some drinks at the bar with a magical view. If you have time in Capri, you can take a bus to Anacapri, which is a higher elevation on the island with beautiful views, or even take a cable car from Anacapri to Monte Solaro. Of course you can also take a boat out to swim at the famous Blue Grotto. We didn’t have time for that, so we took the funicular back down the marina, took a quick dip in the crystal-clear water and then took our respective ferries back! I headed back to Positano, and walked through the town to the city center, reached the taxi stand and headed back to Praiano.


I reached my hotel, totally exhausted and wiped from the day’s travels, when I received a DM from a follower who mentioned that she was staying in Praiano and maybe we could meet for a drink! Now I had been worried about my Shabbos plans (and shlepped Shabbos food back with me from Capri Kosher) and I couldn’t believe my luck when I mapped her location and she was only 900 feet away! Reuven and Ra’nana Stein had come from Chicago and offered up some Romanian salami – which I could not decline! So we met for drinks at a local “bar” (there isn’t much night life in Praiano – it was more of a market serving cocktails! You want to go to Positano for the nightlife!), sharing stories of our unexpected travels through the coast. It was a wonderful way to end a very busy and tiring day!

Lemon sorbet in Amalfi lemons in Amalfi!

Friday, July 14th

I had a tour of a Limoncello factory planned for Friday morning, but I could not, for the life of me, drag myself out of bed so early to make it! I decided to take it easy instead, and stopped off at the hotel main lobby to ask the concierge for some ideas. Some visitors were headed out and handed me a few extra bus tickets that they weren’t using, so I headed for the bus stop and took the local bus to Amalfi (Amalfi is both a town along the coast, and also the name used to refer to the entire coast). The ride was about 30 minutes, and I arrived at the marina, where I took in the local sites, did some shopping (most of the marina’s have similar souvenir shops selling trinkets with their respective town names on them), and had some the famous lemon sorbet inside a lemon (make sure to order sorbet and not gelato – most gelato has gelatin in it – and ask the shop for the ingredients – if it’s only water, sugar and lemon it’s ok). As I was heading out of Amalfi, I bumped back into the Stein’s and we decided to hop on a bus to Ravello. It turns out the buses are quite difficult to catch, and they don’t leave on time, so Reuven found us a shuttle headed in that direction. I am forever grateful for that, because of all the beautiful stops along the coast, nothing, NOTHING, compares to Ravello. Ravello is high up in the mountains of the coast, a town filled with beautiful gardens. As soon as you walk into the town square, you’re surrounded by the most magical view of the mountains and coast. We walked through the beautiful town, and headed to Villa Cimbrone Gardens which was recommended by the tourist office in the main square. It did NOT disappoint! We headed back to the city square where we took a bus back to Praiano just in time to shower and get ready for Shabbos. I realized I did not have any candles so I ran around our small town till I found candles at the pharmacy and matches at the tobaccaria (which is where they sell the bus tickets btw). I picked up some fresh produce and snacks at the local grocery and I headed back to my hotel room to bring in Shabbos!


Shabbos, July 15th
I slept in for a change (thank you Hashem for Shabbos!), and then took a long stroll to visit my new friends, the Stein’s, just a short walk but a few hundred steps up on the hill. We hung out for the afternoon, and took a stroll through our small town, a Shabbos nap and finally Shabbos was out. We had grand plans to head to Sorrento (to gelateria that sells kosher gelato) or Amalfi (for a refreshing lemon sorbet), but alas it was impossible to find a taxi, and we missed the last bus out because the tobaccaria was already closed and we couldn’t buy tickets. Moral of the story: plan in advance!

Amalfi Lemons

Sunday, July 16th
I took a taxi straight for the airport in Naples (of course I prebooked this time) – a total balagan over there, with no air conditioning! My flight was delayed and I was pretty hangry at this point (I forgot to mention that the food I had shlepped home from the Capri restaurant for Shabbos got spoiled so it had been a couple of days since my last meal!). Alas I boarded my flight for New York. Home Sweet Home! (Food!!!)

Takeaways: you already know how much I love Rome. Florence and Tuscany as I’ve been there before. I was so happy I got to experience both Cantina Giuliano (back in 2020) and Tera di Seta (on this trip) – both amazing experiences in their own right. Tuscany has my heart.

Leather sandal shop in Ravello! You’ll find sandal shops throughout the coast where they will make you custom sandals on the spot!

The Amalfi coast is absolutely magical but it’s a difficult trip, especially in the height of the summer heat. If you want to do it, I would recommend getting a boat for the day so you can travel from one marina to the next or getting a personal driver that can take you around. The shlep from shuttles to ferries to taxi’s, up and down hills with hundreds of steps is extremely taxing. You also don’t need to go everywhere. Positano is very touristy but also beautiful with great shopping and fun nightlife. Ravello is not to be missed. If you can sleep over in Capri so you have time to take it slow there, then I would recommend that. If you have time to book a private beach club along any of the marina’s, that’s a great way to spend a relaxing day. If you can get a hotel in one of the more exciting towns like Positano, go for it, I would not recommend Praiano unless you’re looking for a really quiet and small town vibe. I would also recommend bringing kosher food along for the trip as Capri is the only kosher available.

Amalfi Coast

Tips for traveling the coast:

Bring a carry-on only. So many stairs and cobblestone streets make it difficult to lug around a suitcase.

Always carry your passport, small change in Euros to pay for bathrooms (€1-€2) and wipes (most toilets do not have seats!).

Prebook your train travel on Trenitalia or Italo website. Watch the main board at the train station to check the platform for your train. Follow the signs on the platform to your coach section. Try to be early so there will be space for your luggage.

Look for hotels that are ground level, as many require hundreds of steps to reach.

When boarding buses or taxi’s that drive along the coast, sit on the side of the bus that will allow you see the scenic view instead of the mountain-side.

Ask your hotel concierge for a bus/shuttle schedule as local taxi’s are very expensive. Just keep in mind that they don’t really run on schedule. Alternatively, you can find some locals who will drive you around on a golf cart. You can also rent a car but beware that it’s very difficult to find parking and the drive along the coast can be scary/difficult. Some roads are extremely narrow and you can literally get your car stuck! (the Stein’s did!).

“Enjoy the good things when it happens to you”, Naples

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Shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial


Budapest was never really on my must-see list, to be honest, but for the past few months, I had been hearing miracle stories about the holy tzaddik, Reb Shayele of Kerestir. His great-grandaughter, Chaya Suri of Spice & Zest had shared about her trip to his gravesite in the Tokaj region of Hungary with me and I was intrigued. So on a whim, I posted on my Instagram story one day, “Anyone here from Budapest”? Not 10 minutes later, I received a DM from Sophie Bassman, who along with her husband Tzemi and their adorable baby, run the CTeen program for young Jewish teens in Hungary. Sophie is the absolute sweetest and she encouraged me to come for Rosh Hashanah to experience the 10-person choir in the 200-year old shul in her community.

I happened to be free for Rosh Hashanah so I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it! Sophie put me in touch with Avi Klein, a longtime resident of Budapest with an immense knowledge of Jewish history and culture in the region. Avi helped plan my itinerary, and three of my girlfriends decided to hop along for the ride!

View of the city from the Museum in Mad


THURSDAY: arrive in Budapest, drive to Kerestir to Reb Shayale’s gravesite, visit the surrounding area
FRIDAY: tour of Budapest with Sophie and a tour guide
SHABBAT: stay in Obuda
SATURDAY NIGHT: the Castle District
SUNDAY: Szentendre
MONDAY-TUESDAY: Rosh Hashanah in central Budapest
WEDNESDAY: Return Home

Winery in Mad in the Tokaj region


Avi picked us up from the airport and we began our journey to Kerestir (a 2 1/2 hour drive) as he shared with us stories about Jewish life in Budapest. As we neared Tokaj, the wine region of Northern Hungary, the view was breathtaking. We stopped in the city of Mad, which is filled with wineries, many of which used to be Jewish homes. We visited the 250 year old synagogue followed by the museum, right outside the synagogue, which is filled with historical artifacts. There is a hotel above the museum where you can stay if you are visiting. The views from the area are absolutely magical!

Synagogue in Mad

We then stopped by the gravesite of the Kol Aryeh, and the Jewish cemetery, which sits amongst the most beautiful vineyards.

We continued on to Reb Shayele’s house, the actual home of Reb Shayele, which now acts as a guest house for those visiting, offering food, accommodations, Shabbat meals, an active synagogue and mikvah.

Reb Shayele, Rabbi Yeshaya Steiner, served as the Rabbi of Kerestir from the end of the 19th century until his death in 1925. He was known for his great hospitality and charity. The “Malva Malka” meal, held on the eve of Shabbat, was always a large affair. They continue that tradition today, where a feast is held every Motzei Shabbat.

The operation in Reb Shayele’s house is impressive – you can visit Reb Shayele’s original kitchen where he baked challahs and the expansive kitchen (they are currently building an even larger one!) where they prep meals for visitors around the clock, continuing in the tradition of Reb Shayele.

We prayed in the study where Reb Shayele met with people and gave them blessings and heard the shofar in the synagogue next door. And then we sat down to a beautiful meal that was served to us in the dining room upstairs. Finally, we were off to Reb Shayele’s resting place, just a short drive from the house. We were greeted with Jews of many different denominations dancing together, it was a beautiful scene and a spiritually uplifting experience.

They say that when you ask Reb Shayele for something, you must return back to say thank you when it comes true, so I hope to be back soon!

Jewish Cemetary overlooking the vineyards in Mad

Places to stay in Kerestir:

If you are considering visiting Kerestir, there are both Reb Shayele’s House (Rubin) and Reb Shayele’s Guest House (Friedlander) which offer meals, accommodations, a synagogue and mikvah. For a truly unique upscale experience, stay at Reb Shayele’s Hotel which boasts a jacuzzi, outdoor oven, wine cellar, luxurious and modern accommodations with a kosher kitchen, they even have a sauna!

Gravesite of Reb Shayale of Kerestir


Separated by the Danube River, Buda and Pest form the two halves of Hungary’s capital, linked by the famous Chain Bridge since 1849, forming Budapest. Buda is the quieter, more residential side of the city and Pest is more of a tourist destination. For Shabbat, we stayed in Óbuda (literally Old Buda), the oldest part of the city, where Sophie lives (her apartment overlooks a Roman colosseum!). The Romans built their capital, Aquincum in Óbuda, and we actually stayed at the Aquincum Hotel (it comes from the word aqua, in honor of the numerous thermal springs that Budapest is so famous for). While the hotel itself is nothing to write home about, the thermal baths downstairs, along with the sauna and steam rooms are absolutely incredible.

The Aquincum is literally next door to the Óbuda synagogue, a 200 year old shul that was restored 12 years ago by Chabad of Budapest. It had been used as a news station by the Nazis.

The Óbuda Synagogue

After settling in to our hotel, Sophie took us on a little walk through the neighborhood and then to have breakfast at Brooklyn Bagel, a cute kosher bagel shop that is housed in a magnificent Chabad house in the city. From there, we headed to the parliament, one of the most beautiful buildings in Budapest, followed by the Shoes by the Danube holocaust memorial at the Danube River. The memorial was one of the most poignant ones I’ve ever visited, in memory of the 20,000 Jews who were shot along the Danube River. The Nazi’s used to tie groups of Jews together, so they could save on bullets, and they would shoot one, causing them to all drown together.

We then met with our tour guide, Benjamin Keszler, at the Dohany Street Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Europe and the third largest in the world! Benjamin shared a lot of Hungary’s Jewish history with us as we explored the the stunning shul, the burial grounds right outside the shul, where 2771 bodies had been dumped in a mass grave by the Nazi’s as well as the many memorial structures around the area. We then walked around the Jewish Ghetto, stopping by several sculptures and historical spots in the neighborhood.

The Dohany Synagogue

Over Shabbat, we were lucky enough to spend time with Rabbi Koves, the fascinating Hungarian Chabad Rabbi who has made it his life’s mission to reclaim all the synagogues in the area and restore them. We had meals at the Óbuda shul, where everyone was so welcoming and the food was delicious!

On Saturday night, we headed to the Castle District and Fisherman’s Bastion which is famous for its Medieval, Baroque, and Neoclassical houses, churches, public buildings, and monuments that date back to the Middle Ages. They are in the process of excavating the site of the synagogue of Buda there that was built in 1461! You can also find Houdini’s house in the area (did you know he was Jewish? His name was Arik Weiss!).

Fisherman’s Bastion

After the castle, we headed for some drinks to 360° rooftop bar, followed by a trip to the popular bathhouse Szechenyi, because the bathhouse experience is a must if you’re visiting. Just don’t go on Saturday night, trust me. You’re welcome!

We finished our night at Gozsdu Udvar, which is the main hangout area in the city (ironically found in the Jewish Ghetto) filled with gastropubs, bars and lots and lots of karaoke joints!

Street in Szentendre


After settling in to our beautiful Prestige hotel in central Budapest, we took a Bolt (Uber) to the artist colony of Szentendre. It was a rainy day, but nothing could put a damper on the cute and colorful town on the banks of the Danube. The town features many unique little shops, where I picked up the cutest gifts for my kids (I even found an apron with a goulash recipe written in Hebrew!) as well as the world’s smallest synagogue! We visited an award-winning potter, many lavender stores (the Tihany lavender fields are a popular Budapest destination), handmade jewelry shops, toys, trinkets and more!


It’s hard to put it into words, but the Jewish New Year in Budapest was a truly special and inspiring experience. It all felt so divinely orchestrated – where the holiday took us, the people we met and the places we visited.

On the first night of the holiday, we joined Rabbi Raskin of Keren Or Chabad for his festive holiday dinner at the Marriott hotel. It was filled with over 1000 Jews from around the world, mostly Israelis. At our table, there was a French businessman who had come in for work that morning, and an Israeli family on vacation. At the table next to us, sat a group of secular Israelis with mohawks and tattoos. Everyone was greeted with love and open arms, and we all did the seder simanim together and sang songs in Hebrew. It was so special and meaningful to be a part of it and to see the amazing work of Chabad, knowing that most of the people there would not have celebrated the holiday if not for them.

To me, it was a reminder that A JEW IS A JEW IS A JEW. When the Nazi’s rounded up the Jews on the banks of the Danube, they didn’t care how religious they were, or what sect of Judaism they belonged to. And being in that room, you could feel the Jewish pride and unity.

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

For the first day of Rosh Hashanah, we walked all the way back to Óbuda , an hour and 15 minutes each way, to experience the 10 person choir that Sophie had told me about and boy was it worth it! To be praying in a historical synagogue, with the most soul-stirring songs of prayer echoing around us, was truly special. I began to cry, and an old lady sitting next to me came over and gave me a hug. She told me how her grandmother had died in Auschwitz, and how she had no family left. “Don’t cry”, she said, “everything is going to be ok.”

On our walk back to Budapest, we stopped at the Shoes on the Danube memorial to do tashlich. What a touching experience!

The second night of Rosh Hashanah, we went to the Pesti Shteebel, with Rabbi Oirechman, who set up beautiful tent outside the small shul that had been vacant for 50 years! When they opened it, they found an open newspaper and a pair of glasses just sitting there. We heard a first person account from someone who had been raised as a catholic only to find that he was Jewish when his mother left her passport on the table and he saw a Jewish name. For years he refused to acknowledge his Jewish identity and he would go to the synagogue but leave whenever the Rabbi started to speak. One day, someone tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, why do you leave? He answered, I have 6 million reasons! And the man responded, Hitler is smiling right now. Right then and there, the man decided to become a practicing Jew. He runs the organization in Hungary that cares for holocaust survivors.

After an inspiring dinner, we headed to the Dessewffy synagogue, a small shteebel that is over 250 years old and hosts a karliner congregation.

Stumbling Stones, memorials marking the homes of Jews who perished in the holocaust

The 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah, we went shul hopping, starting off at the magnificent Rumbach shul, which was converted by the Nazis to their radio station headquarters but later restored. Just as we were walking in, the small group (just over a minyan!) was starting Avinu Malkeinu. We got a chance to kiss the Torah and pray with the grateful congregation. After that, we headed to the breathtaking Kazinczy shul which the Nazis converted into horse stables but was later restored. Just as we walked in, they began the blessing for blowing the shofar! We stayed for the shofar blowing in the mostly empty synagogue, taking in it’s beauty and Moorish design.

We finished our tour and prayers at Keren Or, where we joined Rabbi Raskin for the final holiday meal.

After the holiday, Avi took us for one last tour of the city, stopping at different memorials as well as the Anantara New York Palace hotel, where Titanic was filmed. We finished our tour back in the Jewish Ghetto, at Kazinczy street, where we checked out some of the Hungarian street food vendors at Karavan. Of course it wasn’t kosher, but it was interesting to see the different types of Hungarian food, including Goulash, of course!, Chimney Cakes (Kürtőskalács!) and Lángos!

Karavan, local food trucks serving Hungarian classics

The next morning, we headed to the airport, stopping just 10 minutes away at the gravesite of the holy tzaddik and Rabbi of Budapest for over 50 years, Rabbi Shimon Oppenheim (he lived to be over 100!).

While I only got to see a fraction of Budapest and it’s surrounding areas, I’m so grateful for the deeply inspiring and beautiful experience I had there over the holidays. If you love Jewish history and culture, it is definitely a worthwhile visit!

If you have some time, I would definitely recommend visiting Slovakia, which is very close by, as well as Vienna, just a short train ride away.

The Parliament


If you’re looking for help planning your Budapest trip, or visiting Kerestir, or you’d like to stay at Reb Shayele’s Hotel, contact Avi Klein +972 52-720-0300 or DM @reb_shayeles_kerestir

Kosher in Budapest:

Brooklyn Bagel, dairy, Újpesti rkp. 1 · In Zsilip Synagogue
Tel Aviv Cafe, dairy, Kazinczy u. 28
Hanna, meat, traditional Hungarian, Kazinczy u. 29
Carmel, meat, Middle Eastern, Kazinczy u. 31
Hamsa, new high-end restaurant 2 hours away, Debrecen, Piac u. 5-7, 4025 Hungary
Kosher market, very well stocked with dairy, meat, bread, and imported packaged goods, Kazinczy u. 28

Shabbat meals at Keren Or Chabad can be reserved at the Chabad House here.

How to get around:

There is Uber in Budapest – it’s called Bolt. Just download the app, it’s really easy!


You would be surprised but many vendors did not take credit card, so make sure to exchange money at the airport and have it on hand with you.

The Castle District

Some Main Attractions to Visit:

The Parliament
The Castle District
Fisherman’s Bastion
Budapest Eye
Széchenyi Thermal Bath or Gellért Spa
Margaret Island
The Opera House
Shoes on the Danube Memorial
A few of the grand synagogues (Dohany, Rumbach, Kazinczy)

Summer Scenes + Pack-and-Go Recipes

One of the perks of being a food blogger, is getting to really know my camera, and over the years my photography has steadily improved. Once you understand the basic principles of photography, you can take pictures anywhere, and of anything. I only shoot in manual mode and my favorite thing to shoot is MY KIDS. Every time the season changes, it’s like a whole new backdrop to take beautiful family photos. Here are some summer scenes for 2015.

This post may be dedicated to family but we still gotta eat, even at the beach! So, here’s a little roundup of the best BIB pack-and-go recipes, great for family trips to the beach, the park or anywhere on-the-go!

hummus with pita chips
yogurt parfaits with homemade granola
chili pie in jars
quinoa burgers
pesto chicken salad (add tomatoes and avocado to the chicken recipe)
curried chicken salad
sushi salad
tuna pasta salad
salmon pasta salad
roasted chickpeas
roasted edamame

What are you favorite on-the-go recipes and ideas? Share them with me in the comments below!

Other Summer Attractions:

Bushkill Falls
Governor’s Island
Kelder’s Farm 
Hershey, PA

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Passover in Aspen

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed where I ended up for Passover…Aspen, Colorado. I’m still pinching myself as I unpack my suitcases.

It was a week before Pesach, my upstairs was cleaned, and I was stressed. I’ve never made Pesach in my life. The kids were off of school, I had to shop for everything, and I had to tackle the kitchen and playroom. Dear G-d. I was kvetching to my mom, who was headed for Aspen as one of the guest speakers on the Prime Experience Program. Lets just say, a couple of hours later, she had pulled some strings and my family and I were headed to ski country! We booked our tickets faster than you can say “I have no idea how to ski!” and the rest is history!

I can never thank my mom enough for the unbelievable experience of Pesach in Aspen. We had the most amazing time relaxing, making new friends, taking in the most beautiful scenery and enjoying delicious Kosher for Passover food. The elaborate smorgasbords of salads, fruits, crudities, cheese, charcuterie and pastries spanned breakfast, lunch and dinner for a full 10 days. It’s no wonder I’ve hopped on the South Beach Diet train the minute I got back! I’ve never eaten so much in my life!

Luckily, there was a lot to take in around the city, so we explored the beautiful views on foot. Hiking the Rio Grande Trail, visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, and going 11,212 feet up on Aspen Mountain. And no, I did NOT go skiing. I’ve got four kids and I’d rather not hit a tree head on while I speed down a mountain uncontrollably (ok, I’m a chicken, I admit it!).

This was my first time on a Passover program, and I totally get the hype. You get to send your kids to daycamp, chill by the pool (I’ve never sat by a pool with evergreens and snow in view!), and enjoy lavish meals that someone else prepared. What can be wrong with that?! Well, to be honest, I have to say, that while the program was the vacation of my dreams, it wasn’t the beautiful family-oriented Passover of my youth. It was fun, relaxing and delicious but it lacked soul. Even with all the hard work and prep, there is so much beauty in a homemade Passover, and I look forward to giving it to my kids one day.

That’s not to say that if I have the opportunity to head to an exotic island for the holiday, I won’t take it up. Are you hearing me KMR, Kosherica, Prime, VIP Ram??? I won’t say no if you invite me!!

I love to travel, and if I ever have the opportunity to visit a place I’ve never been to, I jump on it. When I walked around Aspen, I couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous view, and everywhere I went, I just kept drinking it all in. I can’t believe that I’ve lived in the U.S.A. my entire life and I never knew that such a beautiful place existed just a couple of hours (planeride) away. Forget Europe and The Islands, we’ve got a goldmine right here in this country! It really made me realize that I’ve got to start exploring more of the States. Maybe even drive cross country in a mobile home (I’m pushing it now, aren’t I?).

Now that I’ve learned to take semi-professional pictures, I love to put together a family photoshoot with the beautiful surroundings. I took the most incredible photos of my kids with the most breathtaking scenery that I will treasure for a lifetime. I mean, how can you beat this?

I thought I’d seen it all until we hiked the Rio Grande Trail. O.M.G. Can I go back now?!

Photos along The John Denver Sanctuary, with poetry inscribed in the rocks….

And the drive along the Colorado River to Denver, wow! The red mountains, the beautiful land at every turn, it was beyond!

I’m so very thankful to have enjoyed Passover in Aspen. I have a newfound appreciation for this country and I can’t wait to explore more of it (hey hubby, are you listening?!)!

Have you ever been to a Passover program? How did you like it? Share with me in the comments below!

And don’t you worry, BIB is back next week with lots of new healthy and exciting recipes!

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Bushkill Falls + a Week of Crockpot Dinners

While many people in my community go upstate for the summer, I usually spend my summers in the city. I relish the quiet streets, Sunday farmer’s markets and the plethora of parking spaces that are suddenly available around the hood. I’ve done the country thing once or twice, and maybe I’ll do it again – but for now, I’m more than happy to spend time enjoying my neighborhood – especially with a mild summer like this.

To break up the summer, we usually take a few trips to some of our favorite places, like Hershey Park, Governor’s Island, and Kelder’s Farm.  This year, we headed up to the Poconos to load up on the sweet smell of grass – something we don’t get to experience much living in Brooklyn.

We stayed at The Villas at Tree Tops, an oasis of beautiful trees and greenery as far as the eye can see. The vacation village is packed with every imaginable activity – from ziplining to tubing and bumper boats, mini (and regular) golfing to horseback riding, as well as several indoor and outdoor pools and an activity center.

Just minutes away from The Villas, is Bushkill Falls, the Niagra of Pennsylvania. We’d never gone hiking with our kids before, so we were excited to take a walk high in the uplands of the Pocono Mountains, surrounded by streams of crystal waters and primeval rock.

We hiked along the “yellow” path, a popular route that takes 45 minutes roundtrip. There were lots of steps, but my kids trudged along like real troopers, basking in the beautiful greenery surrounding them.

The yellow path gave us severeal views of the waterfalls including the Main Falls, as well as Lower Gorge Falls, Laurel Glen and Upper Canyon.

After hiking, we ate lunch along the beautiful lake, and moved on to the playground. We visited the gift shops, checked out the mini golf course, and went paddle boating. We attempted to do the Mining Maze but the kids were spent!

With so many activities, Bushkill Falls can easily be a whole day trip – just be sure to pack along lunch and lots of water. If you don’t keep kosher, there are plenty of food options there, so come hungry!

For those who do keep kosher, Bushkills Falls and it’s neighboring area, do not have any kosher restaurants. The local supermarkets, like PriceChopper, have lots of kosher options, including a gluten free section with some great snacks. However, if you plan on staying for a day or two, you need to plan for breakfast, lunch and dinners.

Although The Villas included a nonkosher kitchen, which I could have koshered, I preferred to bring along my crockpot so I could spend the day outside, not having to worry about making dinner later on. Each evening, we entered our villa to the delicious smell of a hot supper, simmering away in the crockpot. My kids gobbled up their hot meals, and my husband decided it’s time for a slow cooker ebook!

Yes, my crockpot dinners, were THAT good, and I’m including them all here for you to enjoy! There’s just a short time left to relish the joy of summer, so go ahead and put up a slow cooked meal, and spend the day basking in the sunshine!

Other slow cooker recipes:

crockpot mushroom barley stoup
blogoversary BBQ brisket

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