Month: April 2012

A Culinary Guide Through Amsterdam

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting what has become my favorite city while abroad thus far, Amsterdam. Now I know what you’re thinking- red light district and legal weed. But if you’ve learned one thing about me it should be that my first and foremost priority while visiting an unknown city is to scope out its food scene. And scope out I did.

The Dutch may be known for their pancakes, chips (or french fries in America), and cheese- and believe me we got our fare share of that- but Amsterdam has plenty of international cuisine to offer, too. Every meal was truly delicious, and I can only thank my lucky stars that I am not studying there for the semester, because I’m pretty sure I would be obese by now (half kidding…).

We arrived in a ravenous state and found a cute little lunch shop on one of the ‘De Negen Straatjes’ or Nine Streets, known for their shopping and restaurants. Mokka, as the sign suggests, serves coffee, lunch and lasagna. Perfect for starving tourists. Chelsea and I shared a beautiful salad of smoked chicken, tomatoes, avocado and pine nuts with a light yet savory balsamic-y citrus-y dressing.

Michelle ordered a sandwich on rich, sweet whole wheat bread with pesto, roasted red peppers, pine nuts, avocado and olives

Both dishes were delicious. Speaking of bread, Holland has this truly incredible bread called Waldkorn bread. It contains a ton of cereals and grains, and is dark in color, like pumpernickel. I had it as toast one morning and I have been obsessed ever since. You should google it and find out where you can buy it. I know I will. Moving on…

Now for some meals that are more familiar to Holland- omelets, pancakes and yes, those heavenly chips.

Amsterdam has pancake restaurants on about every street corner, but we were advised to go to Pancake Bakery by a friend who went the previous week. It is a very warm and welcoming restaurant with dim lighting and an open kitchen. The food goes along just perfectly with the atmosphere and we were definitely full until lunch. Chelsea and I shared a ham, cheese and tomato omelet (we have been craving omelets since we arrived in Spain!) which had the perfect balance of creamy, gooey cheese, sweet juicy tomato and salty ham.

We satisfied our sweet tooth with an apple and banana pancake covered in cinnamon and powdered sugar. Dutch pancakes are very, very thin- thinner than crepes! They are crispy and a little burnt on the edges (just how I like ’em) and go well with pretty much everything. The bananas gave the pancake the classic Jack-Johnson-Banana-Pancakes flavor and the apples were perfectly cooked and went perfectly with the cinnamon.

You also can’t cross many streets without encountering at least one chips stand, and we couldn’t resist the temptation (hey, when in Amsterdam, right?). These aren’t any ordinary chips, though. They are fat, juicy steak fries overflowing a paper cone, doused in whatever condiment of your choosing. From basic mayonnaise to more exotic toppings such as- well I’ll let the suspension hang for a little- anything you dip these chips in is superb, and somehow works wonderfully.  The first cone of chips we got had mayonnaise, onions and a curry ketchup. The ketchup was both sweet and savory, with a little spice from the curry and gave me a huge craving for Indian food. The mayonnaise was rich and creamy but not artificial tasting like we have in the States, and the onions- while I usually cringe at the sight of raw onions- were the perfect tangy bite.

The following day our chips craving was back. We kept passing people on the streets with purple paper cones of chips, so we sought them out, assuming they had to be the best. We assumed correctly. We chose the following condiments per the cashier’s recommendation: mayonnaise, onions and- wait for it- peanut butter! Strange, right? When the cashier first told me that this combination was their most popular, I made a face of disgust. However, after some deliberation and the reminder that You Only Live Once (my generation’s new favorite catchphrase, in other words, YOLO), we went for it. The sweet peanut butter worked so wonderfully with the creamy mayonnaise and spicy onions. It reminded me a little of a Thai or Chinese dish with peanut sauce. I know I tend to like really weird combinations of food (you’re talking to the girl who puts curry in her guacamole, scrambled eggs, chocolate!) but in all honesty, I think anyone would have liked this. I can only hope I will get another chance to eat these heavenly chips again.

So now that I was officially craving Indian food, we did some research and landed upon the most fantastic Indian restaurant in Amsterdam. Indian food in Amsterdam? I know it sounds a bit strange, but it was by far the best Chicken Tikka Masala I have ever tasted. It was nutty, but sweet, but spicy, but smooth. The chicken was tender and rich. Words do not to this meal justice. The meal was a bit pricey, but well worth it if you like Indian food. Now I would like you to take this opportunity to drool a little. (From the bottom left going clockwise: chicken tikka masala, basmati rice, naan bread, grilled vegetables, chicken curry)

By this point you’re probably thinking that I literally ate my way through Amsterdam, but we got some sight seeing in, too. Van Gogh Museum, Anne Frank House, Vondelpark and, last but not least, the Heineken Museum! This was my favorite tourist attraction, not just because of the culinary aspect but also because it was interactive, fun and came with three free beers! From learning how the beer is made, to seeing the actual vats and horses, to playing DJ cames and taking Face in Hole photos, the museum was fun and lively. I also learned a thing or two about beer, and have a new appreciation for Heineken (being newly 21 and all, how can I resist?).

This is a mixture of malted barley liquids and water, called wort. It tastes like liquid toast!

Heineken bartender pouring up the glasses!

And finally, two of my favorite foods from my favorite food group, dairy: cheese and frozen yogurt. Amsterdam was chock full of cheese shops, offering a wide variety of herbed, smoked, and pure goat, sheep and cow’s milk cheeses, and, oh yeah, TONS of samples. There was cheese…

On cheese…

On cheese

And we basically ate our weight in it. It was heaven.

Finally, after roaming the city for a good two hours, we found our beloved frozen yogurt at a shop called Frozz. The yogurt was tart and creamy, but not watery how you find it in some shops. They also had stroopwafel and carmelized, chopped nuts as toppings. If you have never tried a stroopwafel go to your nearest Trader Joes and buy them now.

Strawberries, bananas and caramelized nuts!

Altogether, my experience in Amsterdam was superb. The culinary scene exceeded my expectations and I hope to return soon!

Restaurant References:

Wok to Walk

Chipsy King

Memories of India

Pancake Bakery

Jamin

Frozz

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