Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Theme song: Bicycle Race, by Queen
Objective: Amsterdam is a hodgepodge mix and everyone seems to be there for far and varied reasons. Sure there are the bucks weekends which is a no brainer really because there is just so much sex walking around on legs of all shapes and sizes that it’s bound to be a good weekend. There are also hens weekends, which has me more perplexed. There are also the maryjane fiends, who giggle their way in and out of coffee shops. And there are the genuine architectural enthusiasts who are in awe of the canals and bridges ~ more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris, they say.
And then there is me. My objective? Eat Amsterdam.
I didn’t quite expect to eat as much of Amsterdam as I actually did. No one but no one (not even me) actually believes this but it’s the honest truth! I knew I had to have poffertjes, I knew there was a dinner at De Kas, but despite the fact that I had no other solid eating plans, the sheer amount of gastronomic goodness I managed to fit into my foodhole over the course of two days astounded even me. After arriving home last night and having a long hot shower, I announced to anyone who would listen Panu, “I’m clean! … And fat.”
Ain’t that the truth.
But anyway, dwelling on my metabolically challenged ass isn’t fun, so I shall submerge myself back into the throes of glutton heaven and give y’all catty’s quick guide to eating around Amsterdam. A number of people recommended a bunch of must-eats, and while I plotted everything on my eating map, I gotta be realistic. I eat a lot. We all know that, but there is a limit to the bottomless pit, sorry but there is. So thank you if you sent me recommendations, even if I didn’t get there.
Right let’s get on with business.
La Place Foodhall
La Place Foodhall is a bit of a minefield of amazing food. Fresh fruits, juices, sandwiches, baguettes, salads, pasta, pizza, even fresh off the grill meats and seafood ~ if the place didn’t have such good ventilation, I would have fainted from the sheer intensity of the frangrances wafting through the building. Take a stroll around the three levels before committing to anything because if you’re anything like me, you committed two steps into the building, and then oooooh the eye candy! Take in the offerings, the smells and colours, then bring your tray back and queue for the winner.
De Kas Restaurant
De Kas Restaurant deserves its own post… but I’m far too lazy.
Recommended by Malaysian/Dutch foodie Valisa, the whole concept of no-menu-you-eat-what-you-get appealed to me because I’m often limited by my own obsessive taste buds. De Kas grow their own produce and they serve what’s fresh that day. Period.
Located south-west of central Amsterdam (tram number 9 drops you at the doorstep), De Kas Restaurant is an overgrown greenhouse in a park, surrounded by beautiful lawns, lakes and their amazing fruit and vegetable garden. The dining and kitchen areas are all within the greenhouse, with the option to dine outdoors on balmier nights.
Once seated, we’re presented with a little bowl of the freshest tomatos imaginable, picked straight from the garden not ten meters away from us. The waitress explains that everyone gets five courses (with an option to add a cheesey sixth) ~ three starters, a main and a dessert. I’m excited.
Up first: a lettuce, potato and leek soup served with a juicy piece of lobster tail. The soup was surprisingly tasty despite me thinking processed lettuce?! and the lobster tail provided the perfect amount of saltiness and texture. Next we had a pretty little construction, consisting of two types of courgettes (yellow and green), topped with a crustini, jelly tomato and feta. We expected the courgettes to be plain (if cooked at all) but wow! I’m not quite sure what it was cooked with, but the courgettes presented a brilliant taste infusion when combined with the sweet jelly tomato and feta. The last starter I wasn’t super keen on. A salad consisting of aubergine, mushrooms, pickled onion and red cabbage… maybe it’s just me but I thought the cabbage was a tad lot too bitter.
The main course didn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary… at first. “Duck wrapped in vine leaves,” they said, “with a red pointy cabbage (which I thought was enormously cute), camarelised plums…. served on…. an American pancake.” Squiz me? Pancake? For realz? Yeh, for real. This lovely European meal, served on a pancake. I loved it. The idea, the presentation, the perfectly cooked medium-rare duck. I was in happy heaven til I started thinking about De Kas and their on site greenhouse. Did the little duckies come from the lake? Anyhoos…
Panu snuck in a cheese course before dessert, sampling three cheeses from The Netherlands and beyond. I didn’t pay attention. I think the blue cheese was the best. Sorry, attention span is restricted to those things that I like 🙂
Dessert! A cranberry spongecake, topped with glazed strawberries, served with strawberry & white chocolate ice cream. I don’t really need to say any more do I? It was scrumptious and the almond flakes and dessicated coconut tipped it over the scale.
I thoroughly enjoyed De Kas and have announced all over twitterverse that it’s one of the best recommendations I’ve ever had. The food was perfect, but more than that, the service and the concept ~ truly organic and home grown produce. We were even allowed to wander around the greenhouse after dinner and were sent off home with an apple each, picked right there from their orchard that very day.
With not one but two recommendations for Cafe Winkel‘s famous apple cake, we could hardly go wrong. It took us a little while to find the place in Noordermarkt (which is a square, not a street), but once we eyed the ample amount of apple cakes being served we knew we were at the right place. The standard order seemed to be apple cake and something that looked rather like a mojito, so when we sat (and after we’d pretended to browse the Dutch menu), I ordered a slice of apple cake (with cream, please) and uhhh, one of those. Oh mint tea? Oh is that what it is. Yes, please.
Strangely the apple cake came out before our lunch (maybe the Dutch do it this way?) so that technically became our starter but hey, when in the ‘Dam, do as the damned! The cake was ridiculously good ~ sweet apple and sultanas with a perfectly moist pastry shell ~ and upstaged the mains by miles. I had a tomato soup and Panu a nicoise salad, both a little salty.
Literally every table at Cafe Winkel had a serve of apple cake, so I’d say guys, if you’re after apple cake in the ‘Dam, don’t faff around, just go there.
Restaurant Haesje Claes
We stumbled upon Restaurant Haesje Claes while wandering around on Sunday. It looked crazy traditional with its dark woody interior and we thought we’d drop by later in the evening for dinner. I’ve no idea why but I ordered a boring old pan fried cod for my meal, so we won’t even talk about it. Panu on the other hand ordered a hotchpotch. A what? Turns out it’s a hearty Dutch dish, consisting of carrot and potato mash, beef stew, sausage and diced vegetables. We pre-quelled our mains with homemade pate for starters, served with a sweet onion relish. The pate was crumbly, but the flavour was good.
One slice of apple cake was not quite enough for one day, so we tried the Haesje Claes apple cake (and a serve of creme brulee, because that’s right when we go, we go the whole nine yards). It had nuthin’ on Cafe Winkel‘s.
Between the lunches and dinners described above, we had breakfast (traditional Dutch with meats and cheese), fries & mayonnaise (if you don’t try it for the taste, try it for the memoir that is the best line in Pulp Fiction), waffles (served with mountains of cream) and my favourite, my precious, poffertjes. I didn’t realise how rare they were (which made them all the more wonderful) but in all our trawling we found maybe three cafes that served poffertjes. I did eventually get some fluffy baby pancake goodness, covered in icing sugar, butter and ice cream. God I’d die to have some more right now.
And the rest of ‘Dam
Amsterdam is a beautiful city. We walked. A lot. We almost got run over by trams and bicycles. We did the local thang and had some space cakes. We even checked out the sex museum which was… educational. We wandered through the red light district, we checked out China Town, we did the canal tour – the canals are insanely peaceful and serene, despite our captain running our boat into the wall (slight glitch in the serenity).
The weather was a bit temperamental, starting with a lightning bolt striking our plane (no joke, but we’re all good) and flinging wildly between hot sunny spells, cold wind and even a monstrosity of a downpour on Saturday night. But it really didn’t dampen our holiday at all, me being perky and happy and all that. I told Panu I was a delight to travel with. He didn’t stop laughing for a long time.
By the way, you might have noticed somewhere along the way that I’ve picked up a new photo plaything. I’m giving Picnik a go, and first thoughts are that wow it’s good fun, but I’m not sure if I like this wonky photo thing I have going.