I just got back from a six week holiday in Europe and am suffering from mild symptoms of post-holiday-blues. What better way of overcoming them than reminiscing about all the delicious food and great memories with a ‘stroop wafel’ in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, I thought…
There’s something about travelling that makes me come alive. I’ve put it down to the fact that I’m the kind of person who actually enjoys being out of my comfort zone, roughing it and possibly not finding all the familiar things I’m use to, those little comforts in life. I love to see how different people all over the world do simple everyday things, how they take their coffee, get around, spend their Saturday afternoons…
We planned our holiday around three home exchanges in Paris, Amsterdam and southern Spain. The most amazing thing about staying in someone’s home was really feeling like a local and getting a taste of what it would be like to live there. Just grocery shopping became an adventure; I’d spent forever browsing the isles looking at all the interesting products we don’t get in South Africa. And then there were the markets, probably one of my most fond ‘food memories’ was shopping at the beautiful organic markets in Seville, Paris and Amsterdam.
We actually ended our holiday in Amsterdam, but for some reason I’ll start there, possibly because it’s the most fresh in my memory. I’d been to Amsterdam ten years ago and remember being so enchanted by it, the funky people and great food scene, the countless bicycles… This time, we stayed in a very up-and-coming area, De Jordaan and just loved exploring the surrounds. The Noordermarkt was walking distance from our apartment, as well as some buzzing restaurants where the locals gather every evening. The Noordermarkt Bio Market (every Saturday) was quite a gem and I bought some dried nettle leaves (for nettle soup – I’d tasted in the French countryside), spekulaas spice for biscuits, chamomile tea, an over-priced nut bread which we savored every crumb of.
Another amazing discovery was a little corner cafe called “Winkel” (meaning shop) where we had the most delicious Dutch apply pie imaginable. (It’s on the edge of the square where the Noordermarkt is on Saturdays.) So good, that we went back the very next day because my husband said he needs to have a piece of his own! That day, we ordered one slice, thinking I’d just have a bite of his (he wasn’t very impressed by this arrangement) and the waiter gave us two slightly smaller slices for the price of one, which made my day!
The other absolute must, is to try the ‘bitterballen’ or croquettes. When I was there ten years ago my mum and I found this typically Dutch butchery that sold the most delicious fresh croquettes with strong mustard which was the perfect afternoon snack between sight-seeing. But this time, we happened to stumble across Cafe van Leeuwen that looked like a bit of an institution and sold great ‘bitterballen’, crumbed deep fried balls with soft beef and veal ragout inside. Great with an ice cold beer.
If you are a chocolate and pastry fan, and really, who isn’t, don’t miss Patisserie Kuyt! We happened to stumble across this gorgeous beautifully styled patisserie while strolling down the road, but it’s definitely worth the visit. They sell tiny little cakes, so you don’t have to sample just one! I bought two mango macaroons, as well as two little mouse cakes we had with our tea at home. This is a photo of their beautiful display in their window.
I really loved the food scene in Amsterdam, the people are very laid back and I think this comes across in most things they do. We found the service was great and the locals seemed to really celebrate their Dutch heritage. Amsterdam is very cosmopolitan, but I think that it’s an amazing foodie destination and would highly recommend it. Hopefully I don’t have to wait another ten years before going there again!