I love food. Yes, its imperative that we eat, but it never hurts to indulge once in a while (or whenever you bike past a bakery). So, I dedicate this entire post, these words, to the glory that is food, the cuisine I have found to be spectacular, and of course I can only sum up the places where I've tried out my palate!
This one is close, almost too close to call. Either or is a win, but I think I give the slight edge to Winkel up there on Noodermarkt. They are renowned for their taart, and for good reason. Its cinnamon flavored apples in a half baked (still doughy) pie with a crusty, delicious exterior. With a large dollop of homeade slagroom you have a slice of heaven. The line is always out the door, the pies are always fresh, and its in a prime locale to just watch people sort through cheese and clothing. But, it you want a low-key spot, Cafe Papeneiland is a nice substitute. I would argue that their slagroom is just beats Winkel's, a little creamier, a little thicker, but they have less crust, and not as much "doughy" pie that I crave. So this one needs further review, something I intend to finalize. (Below on the right and middle is Winkel and on the left is a slice from Papeneiland.
Now this was for a while a very troubling and difficult one to decide upon. But, after a short walk one day on a road that I typically bike, it was all but solved. A little place called Holtkamp possibly has the best pastries, cakes, and chocolates in the entire city. It's frequented by the queen, who likes the plain double chocolate cake (which is always sold out). But their pies/specialty cakes are where the magic is. Everything from chocolate mousse tarts to champagne-chocolate covered monstrosities, to a cake that looks like it's having an allergic reaction (bumps and bubbles...not itching and runny nose). My favorite this far (besides a below item) is a hazelnut tart that is covered in walnuts and buttercream icing. Can anyone say a 2 inch high by 4 inch long buttercream covered hazelnut bar isn't perfection?
This culinary delicacy is everywhere. Everyone has "this or that" stroopwafel, stroopwafel with little stroop cookies, cookies with little stroop wafels, and whatever. But That Guy on Albert Cuypstraat as I like to call him has the best. He makes and rolls the dough right in front of you and produces a warm, small plate sized wafel that is bending in your hand as you eat it because it's so fresh and warm. Its crumbly, gooey, and you can even have it dipped in chocolate. Only 1.50 Euros, so very close, and caramel filling---count me in.
MORNING PICK ME UP
Lanskroon. These ladies know what's up. They're always cheery, friendly, and will play along with your sometimes incoherent and drooling Dutch. They're known for their stroopwafels, but their relatively inexpensive, diverse, and delicious menu encompasses all that one needs to go to EU Law for 8 weeks straight. Personally, I find their poppyseed turnovers, espresso coffee, and hapjeswafels to be their best.
This one is not too close to call, it's to SOON to call. Pancakes Pancakes everywhere and I don't know what to choose! I'd have to say that my favorite pancake (the pancakey part) must go to Pancakes! op Berenstraat. It's done thick, crispy, and has a unique texture that is socially acceptable and filling enough to eat alone. But, my other place, Pannekoeken Upstairs has much better and interesting toppings. Plus, the atmosphere is found no where else in the world, and has much quicker serve-time. The guy is a pancake god. After more investigation I shall confirm the executive decision here. (the "bali" with banana, cream, coconut, and banana liquor vs. cardamom, chicory, ham, and rasberry sauce)
By a far margin, in fact, probably the biggest here, VleminckX de Sausmeesters win this. Double fried, hand cut potato fries that crunch on the outside and are soft patat in the middle. Then with about 20 different sauces to choose from, (especially the Zeeuwse mayonnaise). There is always a line, and seeing that most of these are locals, its ought to be good, and trust me, for 3 Euros you can be happy for quite a long time. I recently went to Belgium and had their fries, but the stall on Voetboogsteeg has the Belgians beat at their own game.
I have two categories here. First, my favorite market cheese dealer is Johan Kaas on Albert Cuypstraat. Yea the guy right before him has free samples, but is always angry and won't cut huge chunks up for you in case you hadn't felt like buying 300g of Maasdammer Kaas. Johan cuts, slices, and dices it up for you, his Boeren Kaas is creamy and soft, and its always on sale. He's a great guy with some great cheese, what can you say? Nextly, I really enjoy a cheese from Kaashuis Tromp op Utrechtstraat. They have everything, but their black truffel cheese is simply to die for. Its so perfect that I'm not sure you actually do anything with it, besides eat it plain. It's sample galore around this place, and is a cheesy site to see.
Simon Meijssen wins this one, though mainly because there are too many bread places to try, and not enough room in the stomach to do them all. But this place is local, has a few locations, and is a quick trip down Albert Cuypstraat. Though the morning crew is always a little testy with me, anything on the rack behind them will make up for it. Friesroggebrood is simply delicious, its raisiny, somehow crunchy, and a great morning treat. Then there's their croissants, the meegranen is probably the best multi-grain thing I've ever had, and don't even get me started on their corn-rolls and rozijn brolletjes.
The fact that this place lies not 20m from my apartment is dangerous. Doner kebab is on every street corner, they are like an infection that has spread all across Middle Europe. All it is is lamb, lettuce, tzatziki sauce on a bun. Or inside a piece of flat bread that resembles a tortilla, only drier and flakier. However, this place gets on the list not because of sheer geographic proximity, but because it is so damn good. Regardless of the hour, people are waiting in line, and I've seen it go halfway down the block to the grocery store. Once you get in, it's quick, and typically you get the joy of the employees take no enjoyment out of their job, they throw food around, throw knives to each other, and generally just don't care. But their spic lamb is sooooo good, and for only 3.50 Euros you get a whole Turkish pizza that rivals the Doner capital of Berlin.
FRIED THING---AND PLACE TO GET IT
I love kroketten. They are typically some mysterious ragout mixed in with some type of mysterious meat. They are a popular snack item that can be found at any self-dispensing FEBO. If I'm really hungry and want a cheap snack, I'll go there. But my Monday ritual takes me to Holkamp. The Queen's favorite bakkerij may be dishing out delicious taarten, speculoos, en chocoladen, but their crown-royale is their garnalen kroket. It's filled with garnalen (shrimp, though you can get just cheese or lamb) and deep fried in homeade batter. Its just that right bit of crunch to hold in the steamy spiced ragout that makes the start of the week all the more better. Paired with a usual slice of taart and I'm in heaven. Oh and it helps that these have been called the best kroketten in all of Holland, and that means, the world.
TO ALL THOSE HATERS
The Dutch do know what's going on. They have quite the cuisine, and I'd be hard pressed to find a better place than right here for bread, cheese, and speculoos. Not to mention a good old koffieverkeerd en warme chocolademelk. Will I bring home some A'dam with me on the plane that security can't take away? Most definitely, but part of the immersion experience is ingesting some of it!
It's that time of the year again, tests, papers, extra things that just bug the hell out of you. But, doing it in a different city is very nice. Fall is truly upon us, it gets almost to freezing, and let me tell you, coming from Pittsburgh certainly helps where wind is always moving over water. Those SoCal people however....The thing I love the most though, is when going out in the morning, or late at night after the boats have been docked up for the night. The water is completely still, and the ducks are all asleep, and there is a beautiful reflection of all the 17th century buildings. It really is something to see, and a sight that is practically endless in this city.
Fortunately I had the chance to climb the narrow, bell-filled cavity of Westerkerk to see an entire 360 degree view of the entire city, and the faint glimmer of Utrecht. Bells from before the true settling of America? A king's etching in the wood planks? Yea very cool. Not to mention that the entire thing is at a very nice lean west and is built on a "sliding frame" that is meant to absorb the vibrations of the giant. truck sized bells that get played from time to time. To see the city from many meters up was breath taking, and nothing says "hello" like freezing fall wind in one's face. But trust me, with what I was seeing, the weather was the least thing on my mind!
I must comment on this, that throughout this busy two weeks, full of midterm cramming and being highly efficient in getting stuff wrapped up, I managed to cross a lot of things off the list. First, I had a Dutch pizza, which is really just cheese, mushrooms, and ham on paper-like crust, its good, but I really could of used an appetizer to fill me up. Not nearly as good as Dutch stamppot of hutspot, which consist of mashed potatoes, saurkraut, endive, carrots, and always accompanied by a nice big stuk of rookworst. They say Dutch cuisine isn't very expansive or world class, but hell, give me a plate of mashed potatoes and meat and my inner Pollack goes wild.
I can also say that I ate Indonesian, Ethiopian, Japanese, and Turkish too all in one week. Talk about being multicultural! There is just a crazy amount of ethnic places to go around (plus the ethnic ladies in the windows down on Ruysdaelskade). This melting pot (yes lots of fondue here) is wonderful for me, you never know who you'll be talking to, and thus, helping to try and get them to the nearest tourist spot. Let's see, in my time here I've helped French, Dutch, Russian, Belgian, American, Canadian, and Taiwanese people get around. I mean I don't have blond hair, don't slick it back in the Duthc style, am not at all tall, and my Dutch is sub-par. Maybe its some boyish, innocent charm I have, or maybe its my bright green monstrosity that I ride around that alerts people to my presence. I really don't care though, makes me feel needed and real good that I can get people to where they need to be, and that I may leave them with a little memory that not all Americans are pompous, unhelpful idiots (though those British visitors are much, much worse, see we've been put in our place, but they are always too drunk to realize what is going on).
Well, its off to Brugge, or Bruges if you're French. It's a nice little UNESCO Heritage site that is still stuck in the 1200s. After the hell-week that I've had, its much needed. I can't wait to dig into wafels, praline-chocoladen, en poules moules, not to mention a nice dose of Vlammse brew. I think that Belgium may be the perfect place for me on paper, but Amsterdam will always be my home away from home. No sense getting all sentimental here, I got a great weekend planned, not too mention a national Bokbier festival on Sunday in the middle of OccupyAmsterdam protestors (anti-capitalistic group and seasonal beer, how could this get any better?). I think next week I need to give A'dam its culinary midterm quiz, and I revisit some of the favorites to get updated pics (its hard to take pictures when you're holding an entire bag of patat frites smothered in oorlog saus). So off to Vlanders, and back to A'dam to finish up October!!
Nothing says good morning at 7:30am on a Saturday like the prospects of going to a farm. This past weekend that is precisely what I did---dug into my genes and pulled out the dirt-lover inside of me and headed to Meppel for an excellent weekend at Het Blauwe Huis met Henk en Jan Kees.
Of course it rained. It wouldn't of been a true Holland experience without the ever-falling liquid from the sky. But, it really did add to the experience on the spice/herb farm. Upon arrival it was work time and it felt good to get the hand dirty again after a summer of no gardening. I helped to re-pot, pot, and cover plants for the weekend. Also, I helped move some plants around for the coming chilly season, and can say I took a little part in helping out quite a unique farm in Northern Netherlands. Oregano in Berghuizen? Who would of ever of thought it. Luckily I got to work with a local village girl, and we had quite the rousing conversation ranging from our distaste of listening to German, to the ever-prevalent Geert Wilders, to the possibility of me introducing "slakken" into the US. I thought it was real neat to be able to meet and converse with a local girl and to see how a slightly younger age group grows up in Northern Netherlands.I must say I am eternally grateful for Henk and Jan Kees allowing me to see the farm. They allow curious souls to venture out and experience their work, and I was both enlightened and had some curiosity fed during that weekend that I'll will be ingrained into my memory. Luckily though, working out on the farm was only the beginning.....
One of my goals here was to get into a Dutch Birthday Party. I've heard many-a-things about them, and I finally got to participate. Let me put them into perspective: pompoen soep, bacon-thyme-brie-honey pancakes, and a glass of a Northern Dutch liquid called Berenburg on the side. If one ever has the chance to experience this, please take it, you won't be let down. The family was a very close with Henk and Jan Kees, and very open to me. The fascination feeling was mutual. With quite a swath of ages, I had an entire spectrum of conversations, everything from about Pittsburgh, to my current relationship status, and to the finer points of Amaretto. When it was time to leave, it was quite hard for me to get out, they didn't want me to go by any stretch of the imagination. Food, drinks, and bedrooms were offered, but I eventually said by goodbyes and left with a smile on my face. The big question was whether I was ever going to come back, and after the royal-hospitality and wonderfulness of the entire family I'm glad my Block 2 frees up!
After sleeping in a barn full of spices (which puts one out like a nice NyQuil) it was Day 2. We had the ritual Sunday morning walk throughout the surrounding area with Henk and Jan Kees' dog Wortel and I got an interesting lecture on the Ice-Age geography and ice-skating friendly lakes that dot the landscape. After the morning walk I went out to see their horses, which are a smaller, Dutchie form of a Clydesdale. Powerful, yet for the most part very personable horses that can be ridden (like the one on the left here). After seeing (and getting bitten once by a little guy) it was off to see the local villages.
Naar Giethoorn! Known as the "Little Venice of the North" because of its ample canals, it truly was Amsterdam-rural. Everyone has a boat, and some homes are only accessible via waterway. Talk about total isolation! On my way here, I believe in Zwartsluis I found my retirement place. A little village with reed-roofed homes facing open pastures one way and the little busy center in the middle. Everything symmetrical and old, it felt like a fairy tale, and definitely great for those who want to GET AWAY. And one even has a choice, straight and narrow villages, or the circular, contained ones, your choice...what type of dirt and historical farming are you feeling? Decisions..Decisions.....Retirement plans aside, in Giethoorn me and Jan Kees saw the little canals of the town, and the hilariously high and narrow bridges that lead to everyone's home. Also, which was of astute interest was to see the reeds that are on people's homes. It literally looks as though someone took a marsh and dumped it on top of people's houses. Well, as with anything that happens in the culture, they've made an effective use of their surroundings.
The reeds are actually harvested, processed, and made into a "poor man's" roof. When water quality was at its finest they would stay waterproof and unrotten for up to 40 years. Also, the land surrounding the harvesting area is literally "floating" on top of the water due to the natural movement of dirt, debris, and plants, so its not exactly an easy thing to get together. After a wonderful tour of the "Venice of the North" it was time to head back, through the rain and lachenvelder filled fields to Het Blauwe Huis.
Who knew that a rainy weekend on a farm could be such a grand time. And only a 2 hour trip from Amsterdam and one is completely in an entire different place. Instead of people, cars, and buildings its all cows, tractors, and the inability to move on Sundays (religion is still HUGE up here). I can say I thoroughly enjoyed myself and on the spoor in Meppel I truly felt that I had an experience that will be with me forever. I am grateful for the weekend that I was offered, and hopefully the next time I go back won't be for my search for a retirement home.
Now that almost 2 complete weeks of cloudless, warm, and glorious weather, it has come to an end. I felt the heavens come upon me this eve, and the beautiful, gay weather has moved on. But, within that time span, I covered countless kilometers, saw many windmills, and yes, shared the experience of klompen maken with Japanese tourists.
Zaandam, a small, green (literally everything, even the grocery store was dressed up in its historical green) and gorgeous town lays right north on the Amstel River. Me and a good Spanish friend took the almost hour and a half trip north by bike to Zaanse Schans to see some good ol' fashioned Molen. With liquid blue sky, crystal clear water, and a seemingly endless entourage of Japanese tourists, the day couldn't get much better. Not too mention the cheese tastery, which I sampled heartedly, and the cleanliness of air made for a perfect time. It's good for one to get out of the congestion of Amsterdam to get some fresh air and some open road.
I am a big fan of wood working, I've made it all, pool table, fusball table, toilet paper holder, staggered rustic frontier planter, but never footwear. It is a process that takes under 5 minutes, all starting with a hand split block of wood, put into machines to be shaped and sanded down, then a little hand shaving at the end and "voila" you have yourself some traditional Dutch tree-footwear. But, me and my friend didn't even catch the demonstration, but knew something was up when we heard "ooooh" and "awhaaaaa" from a crowd of no less than 40 Japanese tourists. Simply mystified. That's all I have to say about that. After seeing how Holland's famous footwear was made, it was time to head back, and after a few Aaron twists and turns (who says a straight line is the fastest way home? Using signs? I frown upon that!) we ended the day with some stroopwafel ijs at Metropolitan Deli on Warmoestraat. Very good day, well over 45kms biked, and wij hebben veel klompen gezein.
My biking adventures were well from over. After an interesting interview with an ex-prostitute (for a research paper of course) and probably the best Bokbier that I will ever have (Texel Brouwerij) it was off to the fishing town of Volendam. I went with my homestay and her son, a fellow future political science phenom like myself with a taste for American politics (no thank you Remco, I'll stick with my frustratingly made IR). The bike ride was literally on top of water most of the way. Zee to the right, bedijkte water on the left, boats everywhere, it was straight out of the travel books. Upon arrival in Volendam, a town known for its: a)fishing, b)singers, and c)welcoming of tourists, I can say I witnessed all three.
I needed to have some type of zeevruchten. Needed something. So, after finding the perfect little vis stand I whipped out the Euros for a wonderful Eel sandwich. Or, a paling broodje as they say in Nederlands. It had a mellow fishy taste (much less than a Nieuwse haring) and had the consistency of Steak Em's. A definite must if one is presented the opportunity. But while eating, there were seaside pubs that blared traditional Netherlands tunes that ranged from Amsterdam's Jordaan sector to fishing songs of the old yore. Imagine a polka with Dutch, and you have the round-about idea. Its okay in small doses of no less than 10 minutes and can cause severe brain damage if left unhindered for more than 30 minutes. It was quite interesting though, as everyone in the bar seemed to be in their 20s. Can anyone name me the last time they saw 20 year olds listening to gentrified polka music that their great-great grandfathers made up in a modern day bar? Yea, only in Volendam. After the trip home, we had a nice Dutch meal of patat frites with my first encounter with a frikandel. Um....looks sausage like, with a pepper sort of rubbery texture....probably something the would never be able to make it through customs.
Busy, busy. busy. On top of this, lost my Kriek virginity from De Prael beer bar, along with an almond filled piece of gingerbread (gevulde speculass----zeer geweldig). And to top it off, to show why the Dutch are kings of the fryer, had a cherry filled concoction with real cherry sauce and double dipped in sugar.....W O W . A very good week, busy, but so many kms traveled and so many things seen.