Monday, March 27, 2017
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Monday, February 28, 2011
Saturday, August 14, 2010
After all, is there really such a thing as Dutch cuisine, or even GOOD Dutch food? The answer might be ... yes. If you're a roving foodie like David Latt, part of the journey to any destination includes unexpected surprises, and Amsterdam didn't disappoint. Read on to find what he uncovered.
In Amsterdam, restaurant food tends to be hit-or-miss. Most dishes are under-seasoned, but that doesn't mean you won't eat well.
The fact is, you're likely to have good cafe food; meaning great sandwiches, delicious cheeses, excellent coffee, and plenty of good breads and pastries. Meanwhile, Amsterdam's various ethnic offerings continually surprise new visitors. The trick is knowing where to find these spots and getting the local experience while you're at it.
EATING AND DRINKING WHAT'S LOCAL
Interestingly, some Dutch export products consumed at home taste much better when you're in Holland. Heineken and Grolsch, for instance, seem to have more subtleties and depth of flavor.
Gouda isn't generally regarded as a particularly interesting cheese, but stop by Kaasland Singel, west of Centraal Station, and have a sampling of the locally produced cheeses. You'll be surprised that the Gouda can have a creamy richness similar to French comte.
What's more, you know you're not in Kansas anymore when you taste Gouda made from cow's or goat's milk and flavored with any one of a dozen herbs and seasonings, including stinging nettle, cumin, pepper, mustard seed, garlic and onions, coriander, Italian herbs (garlic, sun dried tomatoes, and olives), walnuts, hot pepper, garlic, or basil.
Living on the edge of the North Sea, the Dutch have a love of seafood. Walk across the street from Kaasland Singel to the herring shack overlooking the canal for a uniquely Dutch experience: a plate of lightly pickled, raw herring.
Locals will tell you that the best herring is caught in the spring. Purists avoid the traditional condiments, onions and pickles, preferring to savor the fish au naturel. To eat them Amsterdam-style, order your herring whole, pick it up by the tail, tilt back your head, and let the fish descend into your mouth.
Don't miss David Latt's Amsterdam for Americans: In-Depth Amsterdam Travel Guide
If you want to continue sampling traditional Dutch food, head to Spuistraat and visit D'Vijff Vlieghen(aka, The Five Flies) and its neighbor across the street, Restaurant Haesje Claes and order the Dutch stick-to-your-ribs classic, hutspot: mashed potatoes, carrots, and onions served with smoked pork sausage, thick bacon, and a super-sized beef meatball.
If you can't get a reservation at either restaurant, the locals know that you can order from the Haesje Claes menu at De Koningshut, the homey workingman's bar next door.
Whatever you try from the extensive menus should be accompanied by large quantities of Dutch beer or, an Amsterdam favorite, Jupiler from Belgium.
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL, EAT LIKE A KING
A good friend who has visited Amsterdam many times says that the best way to experience the city is to rent an apartment, cook your own food and live like a local.
If you do that, then you'll want to shop at the open air markets - the famous Northern Market (Noordermarkt), New Market (Nieuwmarkt), and Albert Cuypmarkt - here you can buy high-quality cheese (domestic and imported) meats, poultry, seafood, baked goods, and farm-fresh produce. The Markt near Vondelpark, located at Overtoom 21 25, reminds one of a smaller, more intimate Whole Foods, with an excellent section of seafood, organic meats, fresh produce, wine, and baked goods.
For more foodie adventures, visit our Culinary Travel section.
For your morning coffee and pastry, you'll want to find a bakery like Vlaamsch Broodhuys on Haarlemmerstraat, between Singel and Prinsengracht, where you can sit quietly, read the paper and start the day as slowly as possible.
In the afternoon or early evening, when you need a coffee, sandwich, or beer, stop by a brown cafe-so called because their interiors are almost entirely brown. Originally, the cafes earned their distinctive color not from paint, but years of accumulated cigarette smoke. Today, however, smoking is restricted to outdoor patios and the coffee shops that sell marijuana and hash.
On the other hand, if the weather is sunny, you will probably want to sit outside and people-watch.
Rembrandt Square (Rembrandtplein) is favored by tourists, with its large, Parisian-style cafes, while Leidsen Square (Leidseplein) at the juncture of Weteringschans, Marnixstraat, and Leidsestraat near the Singel canal is preferred by locals. In the summer when it doesn't get dark until 11 p.m., hundreds of people fill the cafes.
There are also smaller but still crowded cafes at the New Market, and a collection of bars and restaurants with outdoor seating where Spui, Spuistraat and Singel meet in front of the American Book Center and the Athenaeum Boekhandel.
For more, don't miss the Off the Brochure Travel Guide: Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you tire of all the hustle and bustle, there is Crea Cafe, part of the University of Amsterdam's cultural programming organization. The cafe, frequented by students, has a narrow outdoor patio where you can enjoy a coffee and sandwich and watch locals row by in their small boats.
Brasserie Harkema is another oasis of quiet, just a few minutes walk from crowded, noisy Dam Square. The simple bistro menu features comfort food like asparagus soup with ham and open faced BLTs with lots of smoked bacon. The small outdoor brick patio is the perfect place to chill out and sample their extensive wine list, the quiet disturbed only by the sound of passing bicycles and the occasional horse-drawn carriage.
Desserts are widely available, as are chocolates. A particular favorite is Puccini Bomboni with two locations: Staalstraaat 17 and Haarlemmerstraat 12.
Here, the chocolates are laid out in great mounds, tempting innocents to lose their self-control. Anyone with a passion for high-quality chocolates should only enter the store with a companion whose assignment is to prevent excessive purchasing and consumption.
ETHNIC FOOD, AMSTERDAM-STYLE
If you're craving ethnic food, there are many Asian restaurants through out the city. Because of the Netherlands' colonial history, Indonesian restaurants serving rijsttafel (rice table) have long been popular. The always crowded, Restaurant Kantjil & de Tijger bills itself as an Indonesian restaurant, but the menu suggests a fusion of many Asian cuisines.
Zeedijk street, from Prins Hendrikkade in front of Centraal Station to New Market, along the western edge of the Red Light District, has dozens of restaurants serving the cuisines of many nations.
If you hunger for large platters of meat, there are Argentinean and Brazilian restaurants. For Asian cuisine, there is Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Many travelers I know insist on "going native," but sooner or later tire of the local cuisine and have an insatiable craving for Chinese food. Nam Kee is the most-recommended with its 17-page, encyclopedic menu offering rice, noodle, curry, meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. The waiters don't speak English, a rarity in Amsterdam, and they don't take American credit cards, which is true at most restaurants, so bring euros.
Besides the usual Mandarin and Cantonese menus, there is Suriname Chinese, another remnant of the Dutch colonial experience.
Ethnic restaurants are also found in De Pijp (the Pipe), especially on Albert Cuypstraat where you'll find the delightful Bazar. The Middle Eastern dishes are under-seasoned, but you'll spend hours happily talking and drinking, thoroughly enjoying the eccentric interior.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Besides being easy and quick to make, quesadillas are also a great way to use left-overs. Roast chicken, steak, fish fillets, and grilled vegetables work well under a thin layer of melted cheese.
By only using one side of the quesadilla, you save on calories and improve the flavor.
Open Faced Quesadillas
The basic quesadilla is a toasted tortilla topped with melted cheese, with hot sauce or salsa added for flavor. Kids love them, so do adults.
Yield: 4 servings
Time: 5 minutes
4 tortillas, corn or flour
1/4 pound cheese, cheddar, muenster, jack
2 scallions, washed, ends removed, finely chopped (optional)
Heat a frying pan or griddle on a medium-high flame. Cut each tortilla into quarters. Put each piece on the griddle, topped with thin slices of cheese. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil or a lid for 5 minutes.
Remove, sprinkle with chopped scallions (optional), and serve with hot sauce or salsa.
Quesadillas with Toppings
We've tried Italian sausage rounds, grilled vegetables (carrots, broccoli, and corn), shredded roast chicken, grilled sliced shrimp, thin slices of tomato, thin slices of steak... Just about any cooked meat or vegetable could be put on a quesadilla.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Last week I was in
time to sit in a cafe, enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and while away the day talking.
I knew I was going to bring back food that would memorialize the trip. Stopping in Randa's favorite cheese shop, I wanted to take arm loads of cheese, but I consoled myself with large pieces of Comté and Gruyère. From Le Bon Marché I bought two jars of Rillettes de Canard aux Olives and a large bottle of duck confit. From Goût, Thé et Chocolat near the Marché d'Aligre, a box of handmade chocolates.
Set up in the open-air courtyard of the Bel-Air Bay Club, the gathering was a celebration of fine food and wine. A who's-who of LA's gourmet chefs were there to taste generous offerings of foie gras from Rougié, Gourmet Imports amazing selections of cheese, smoked salmon and caviar from Universal Seafood, wines from W.J. Deutsch and Sons, Pommery champagne, and Yvan Valentin's petit fours and hand-made truffles.
Following Norm's lead, I filled my plate with foie gras in every form imaginable, duck prosciutto, smoked salmon with caviar, a piece of Puits d'Astie (a sheeps milk cheese from the Auvergne that Gourmet Imports ha
s just recently imported) and a slab of the very runny Snowdrop (a goats milk cheese from Boulder, Colorado
made by Haystack Mountain), petit fours, and handfuls of Yvan Valeni's truffles.
After we found a place to sit, Norm and I had the chance to enjoy the food, drink a glass of Pierre Sparr
Pinot Blanc from W.J. Deutsch and Sons, return for more samples of the foie gras and cheese, and because his good friend Pierre Sauveget (Executive Chef, Bel-Air Bay Club) had joined us, a parade of chefs stopped by to chat. Finally I was enjoying my Parisian experience, albeit only half a mile from our house.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We were enjoying lunch at his Brasserie Roux at the London St. James Sofitel and I had the opportunity to be introduced to him. He was sharing with a friend a samplings of his cheese and dessert service. I explained that I was writing about the Sofitel for Peter Greenberg and that I also had a food web site and enjoyed cooking. He patted my stomach and said that I still had some way to go. I didn't know if he meant that as a cook or as an eater-of-fine food. (I don't remember having a slight paunch when I left LA three days ago.)
Chef Roux's attention to detail has influenced many of the chefs who have worked with him, including his talented brother and son, Michael.
What I found so enjoyable about the meals we had at the Brasserie Roux and the night before at Heathrow, was his light touch. Freshness is all important in his cuisine. The preparation, presentation, and saucing of each dish is designed to pull the best from all the ingredients.
As a signature feature of the lunch service a 4 course meal is offered at all the Sofitel Hotels. Chef Roux's take on the meal is a French riff on the Japanese bento box. 4 plates share a tray offering an appetizer, 2 entrees, and a dessert. Our lunch had a perfect balance of rich (Ballottine of foie gras), spare (Scallops, pea puree), comforting (Guinea fowl with mushrooms and tarragon sauce), and sweet (Lemon tart). Just as the 4 dishes counterpointed each other, so the flavors within each dish were perfectly balanced.
The savory tarragon sauce with chanterelle mushrooms drifted down over the chicken breast and shared the bottom of the plate with a helping of mashed potatoes and sauteed savoy cabbage. After the fullness of the appetizer and entrees, the lemon tart finished the meal on the perfect note.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The last time I shopped at the market I was working for
For an appetizer Ron was going to barbeque skewers of
There were stand-outs at the market: large bunches of watercress from White Crane Springs Ranch, peaches and nectarines from Frog Hollow Farm, and Ella Bella Farm's broccoli di cicco (sprouted broccoli). We also bought corn, tomatoes, arugula, and Italian parsley. The market is such a treat. Even if you didn't need to shop, walking through the crowds and enjoying the visual experience of the waterfront setting is more than enough reason to come to the market.
Ironically we would have missed one of the best parts of the market if the forest fires weren't raging in
We hadn't planned to eat at the market because we were on our way to
Claire had patiently endured our extra time at the market. We owed it to her to finish shopping quickly. While she ate a breakfast muffin from Downtown Bakery, I picked up a chicken from the Golden Gate Meat Company and a piece of Capricious cheese from Achadinha Cheese Company.
Later that afternoon Ron, Michelle, and I cooked our dinner, which included grilled chicken, sausages, and vegetables; a summer drink of white rum, mint, and limes that combines the best of a Mojito and a Caipirinha; Ron's skewers of Wagyu beef and morels were amazing, the morels' earthiness perfectly complimented the meat's buttery sweetness; chopped liver and egg salad; grilled lavash; arugula and carrot salad; chopped salad; watercress with grated Capricious cheese; and the banana chocolate chip walnut cake.
Of all the dishes we made, what Marii liked best was the chopped salad with grilled vegetables and Italian parsley. There will be more about the rest of the dinner in subsequent posts, but I wanted to start with Marii's favorite dish.
Summer's Best Chopped Salad
A salad with an infinite number of variations.
Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes
2 bunches Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems)
1 large avocado (peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped)
4 carrots (washed, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs)
2 scallions (washed, ends trimmed)
4 ears of corn (husks and silks removed, washed)
1/2 pound broccoli (washed, ends trimmed, stems peeled, florets cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs; if using sprouted broccoli grill whole)
1/2 pound string beans (washed, ends trimmed)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Put the chopped parsley and avocado into a large mixing bowl. Heat a barbecue grill. Drizzle olive oil on the vegetables, season with sea salt and pepper. Grill 5-10 minutes until lightly brown. If you don't have a grill, you can accomplish a similar result in a 350 degree oven. Turn frequently in either case so the vegetables don't burn. Remove and let cool.
Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on a low flame until you have a quarter of the original volume. The vinegar will become sweet.
Finely chop the grilled vegetables, add to the parsley, drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic, season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Toss well and transfer to a salad bowl.
Keep the salad vegetarian and grill any vegetable you enjoy, like squash, asparagus, onions or mushrooms, chop, and add to the salad.
Add cheese such as crumbled feta, finely chopped comte, mozzarella, Swiss or cheddar.
Add chopped artichoke bottoms.
Add chopped hardboiled eggs.
Add homemade croutons.
Add chopped roasted beets.