Let’s start with the tahini. Warm, fresh tahini on a spoon, stone-ground from sesame seeds before his very eyes at Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market.

“This was far beyond the creamy sesame stuff I find in jars in America,” reported TV, travel and food personality Adam Richman. “Arguably one of the best tastes I’ve ever come across in my travels.”

The “Man v. Food” and “Secret Eats” host and author of such books as Straight Up Tasty: Meals, Memories and Mouthfuls from My Travels visited Israel for the first time in August with his mother, Sharon.

These Brooklyn residents were wowed by their 10 days of adventures, gastronomic and otherwise. And we at ISRAEL21c helped steer them in the right direction.

To life! To life! Tahini!This was far beyond the creamy sesame stuff I find in jars in America.This had levels of flavor, nuance, amazing texture and mouthfeel, and the flavors they had available were mind-boggling.They slow grind the sesame seeds to create the most rich flavor and most decadent, velvety consistency. A little goes a long way.Arguably one of the best tastes I’ve ever come across in my travels.Thanks to Arava, our guide & ISRAEL21c for leading us to this little magical food treasure!#OpenSesame

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Adam Richman‎‏ ב- יום שני, 19 באוגוסט 2019

After dining with hotelier and restaurateur Uri Jeremias at the latter’s renowned fish restaurant, Uri Buri, in Acre (Akko), Richman tweeted: “Spectacular meal last night with this culinary gentle giant! Thank you! Thanks also to @Israel21c for making this meal possible.”

Uri Buri was one of the places where Richman witnessed some awesome Israeli culinary innovation. “In his separate prep kitchen, Uri dehydrated watermelon over the course of quite a few hours to make one simple dish. That was pretty impressive.”

At their hotel in Tel Aviv, the Richmans arrived for breakfast one morning to find a delightful and innovative surprise.

“The staff liked my mother and me very much and they had put my mom’s picture in the foam on her cup of espresso,” reports Richman. That cool trick was no doubt courtesy of Israeli invention Ripples.

Along with the aforementioned “decadent, velvety” tahini, the Israeli food experiences that rate highest in Richman’s memory include:

Breakfast at the Efendi Hotel in Akko (also owned by Jeremias).

Schnitzel, shawarma and fried eggplant at Falafel HaKosem in Tel Aviv.

Yemenite lachuch bread at a little joint in Safed (Tzfat).

“The single best date I’ve ever had” at a produce stand in Machane Yehuda.

Daring pairings such as cauliflower with tahini, eggs with hummus.

Sitting on the floor dining with Bedouin hosts from a communal dish.

“I could do a whole show just on the street foods of Israel,” says Richman, whose “Secret Eats” is available on demand from the Cooking Channel.

Adam Richman enjoying falafel in Machane Yehuda, complete with fries and pickles. Photo via Facebook

What Mideast flavor does America need more of, in his opinion?

“Za’atar,” Richman replies immediately, referring to the aromatic dried spice blend typically containing thyme, marjoram, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. “It’s more complex than people realize, and it has more applications than people realize.”

Everything is so authentic

The Richmans’ maiden tour of Israel also struck emotional and spiritual chords.

The stunning natural makhtesh (crater) in Mitzpeh Ramon; the Masada fortress where first-century Jews rebelled against Roman invaders; the Rosh Hanikra grottos; climbing to the minaret of a mosque; encountering people of different faiths at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and exploring the Western Wall tunnels were among the “deep and profound highlights of the trip for both my mother and me,” Richman tells ISRAEL21c.

“Everything is so authentic. Every corner of Jerusalem has a significant piece of history that people live and work next to. I felt very connected with my Jewish identity and the obligation to support Israel as an American Jew. It put a living, breathing face on history.”

Attending the Klezmerfest in Tzfat “was like a fairy tale, different than any American music festival I ever went to,” he adds. “The sunsets in the Mediterranean are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And seeing the moon rise was extraordinarily special in its abject beauty.”

Sharon and Adam Richman at the Tel Aviv Port. Photo via Twitter

Richman relates that he was unprepared for the “profound degree of peaceful coexistence” he witnessed between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

“This notion of a bellicose, war-bound, angry populace is simply not true. You see people just living their lives in a warm, open, loving, inclusive society,” he says. “Israel is often unfairly maligned, and I want to dispel any negative notions people may have. That’s very important to me.”

Richman wants to come back and film a show in Israel to help “demystify this place.”

“It won’t matter if you don’t know a lot about Judaism or Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict because we will focus on great architecture, great street art, and great food. Anytime I can convey my passion in my work is when it ends up being the best.”