Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis

Amsterdam Cheese Museum

Amsterdam
the new foodie capital of Europe.

From hand-held street food to Michelin-stared, white glove-reveal service,  Amsterdam is rapidly becoming the new foodie capital of Europe. Once  it was known as the Venice of the North and visited for tulips and  windmills, wooden shoes and cheese; Amsterdam has been inching its way  up the “food” chain as a gastronomic destination to attract a new breed  of travelers not so much interested in feeding their hunger for ancient  ruins and antiquities, as filling their bellies with great food.

Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

Of course Amsterdam is still the Queen of Museums with the world-class  Rijksmuseum filled with classical art the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer  and Rubens; and the Van Gogh Museum in honor of its much beloved native  son; or the Stedelijk Museum of modern art nicknamed the “bathtub” for  obvious architectural reasons. And Amsterdam still holds a “most  charming city” award for the 17th century Begemeester (merchant’s mansions) fronting the canals and it  has definitely replaced China for the most bicycles and if you value  your life beware... for bicycles have the right of way.

The country is officially the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Nether means low, so low lands) which gave rise to the fictional story by American writer Mary Mapes Dodge about the patriotic Dutch Boy who stuck his thumb in a hole in the dyke to hold back the sea. There is North Holland and there is South Holland, two of the twelve provinces that make up the  Netherlands, but often the name Holland is used to refer to the entire  country due to the fact that this region -- incorporating the major  cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague -- was in good part  responsible for the enormous prosperity and growth of the entire  country. Amsterdam is the capital, Rotterdam is home to Europe’s largest port, and The Hague is the seat of government and home of the King and  Royal Family (The House of Orange).

Amsterdam Museum of Prostitution

No more should one travel to Amsterdam simply to see the fields of tulips  of all colors and shapes which delight the senses and leave one  breathless with pleasure. No longer does one travel to Amsterdam simply  to walk the red light district or freely smoke a marijuana joint whilst  casually walking down the street. Today’s traveler seeks out Amsterdam  to eat... make sure you bring a wardrobe one size larger than normal and just give in...  you can lose it when you return home sated and with  memories to last longer hopefully than the extra pounds.

Amsterdam Bicycles and Canal

Dodge the bicycles and nibble as you walk along the streets sightseeing or  visit one of the Michelin-starred restaurants for a chefs tasting menu.  Amsterdam is challenging some of the well-known European capitals of  gastronomic excellence for memorable cuisine that is as creative, tasty, and pretty as a picture presentation as you can find. Go high or go  low, its all good.

Amsterdam Ciel Bleu Champagne bowl

Our eating odyssey began with a chef tasting menu at the two Michelin star Ciel Bleu (Blue Sky) in the Hotel Okura. The restaurant occupies the top floor of the hotel with an outstanding view of the city. This warm inviting  space was recently refashioned in soft elegant grey with the wait staff  outfitted in stylish grey suits coordinating with the décor. The food  delivery was white glove with silver-domes covering the tasty and  beautifully presented dishes with synchronized multiple-reveal for full  dramatic effect. The food and service were divine. (for further details  see Ciel Bleu in Restaurants)

Amsterdam Patisserie Anesta

Contrasting the exquisite experience at Ciel Bleu was our fun and funky Eating Amsterdam food lovers’ tour in the trendy Jordaan section of the city. We began at  Café De Prins with their famous poffertjes (tiny pancakes doused with  powdered sugar and syrup). While poffertjes are served all over the  city, they were especially light and tasty here. We moved on to another  sweet treat at Patisserie Anesta for French patisserie splendid in all colors of the rainbow.

Amsterdam Herring Platter

My personal favorite stop was at Vis Plaza, a fish monger par excellence for the national specialty of raw herring  fillet dipped in chopped onion and dressed with a pickle slice... it  tastes a lot better than it sounds. Fried battered cod was another  staple on this top of the line shop. On our own peregrinations we  stopped for this herring treat at Volendammer Haringhandel, a fish stand located in Centro. This stand has been passed down to  Jonk, the current owner, by his father and his grandfather before him  which is the only way this business can exist now. Years ago when we  traveled to Amsterdam and discovered smoked eel sandwiches and raw  herring tidbits sold at street stands, they were as numerous as hot dog vendors are in New York City, but nowadays Amsterdam has cut back on  issuing leases and you must seek your herring elsewhere in a more formal setting. 

Amsterdam Jonk's Fish Stand

Time for local beer and bitterballen (snack to go with drinks) and at Café De Blaffende Vis it was a local delicacy of smooth gravy encased in deep friend batter... crispy on the outside, creamy and savory on the inside. We next visited Butcher Louman for a taste of his great sausages, cold-smoked and grilled, plus ham. After the meat course, cheese of course, at Jwo Lekkernijen where the smells were as satisfying as the many different fresh and aged cheeses they specialize in.

Our next stop was at Swieti Sranang, a tiny shop featuring food from Surinam and Indonesia. This food was an acquired taste that my buds were not yet ready for.

Our final stop was Café Papeneiland, one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam and known for its amazing apple pie. This is not your Mother’s or Aunt Sadie’s apple pie, this was a whole other species and well deserved the title of amazing.

Amsterdam beef shop in the butcher street

Our guide for this foodie trek was the chatty and charming Aileen who  entertained us with stories and tidbits of information that added  immeasurably to the long walks between stops. Aileen had so many  delightful stories such as the beef shop in the butcher street with a  pig design prominently displayed outside the store. Before the  population could read, signs designated the purpose of each shop and  became an art form, with designers vying for the most charming or  descriptive logos. Years ago the pig store was sold to a beef purveyor  but he liked the pig art so much that he kept the sign, mooing in the  face of good business acumen. Foodie or not this is a must-do tour. For  information on all their tours visit www.eatingamsterdamtours.com

Amsterdam Sofitel Legend The Grand

We split our hotel stay between Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdamon the Oudezijds Voorburgwal canal which was once a royal residence, the  site of the Admiralty and eventually Amsterdam’s City Hall. Now it is a  hotel in the highest tradition of luxury; and the cool, new, modern Radisson Blu around the corner... a bridge away and stylistically centuries apart.

Bridges Amsterdam

The One Michelin-star Restaurant Bridges located on the ground floor of The Grand Hotel serves both an outstanding  breakfast and dinner par excellence. Bridges is a rather trendy  restaurant featuring seafood and fish and their motto is based on the  English writer Jonathan Swift’s quote: Fish should swim three times:  first in the sea, then in butter, and finally in good wine. (see also Bridges review in Restaurants)

Our wonderful meals there are a fitting ending to a tasty sojourn but  hopefully the herring and eels will still be running, on our next visit  to delectable Amsterdam.

For information on the resources mentioned above please visit:

www.iamsterdam.com/en/visiting
www.okura.nl/en/culinary/ciel-bleu-restaurant
www.sofitel-legend-thegrand.com
www.radissonblu.com/hotel-amsterdam
www.eatingamsterdamtours.com
www.swiss.com/us/en

 

 

 

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