Travel makes a body thirsty. The entire time I was abroad, I felt parched and in need of copious fluids. In the morning, basins of cafe latte or cappuccino, and tall glasses of my beloved orange juice. (I was delighted to find, at a charming outlet of the chain called Le Pain Quotidien, fresh-squeezed OJ in 12-ounce glasses, even if the price was mind-blowing.) Fizzy Pellegrino at any time of day. And starting around noon, Heineken or Sauv Blanc, though I contemplated having both.
To an American eye, beverages sold in The Netherlands come in small sizes (think the difference between the old-fashioned glass Coke bottles and the monster ones of today). The Dutch have not embraced the concept of cheap, supersized sugary drinks, which together with their habit of cycling everywhere, keeps them a nation of healthy, slender folk compared to us. But it also means that if you’re thirsty enough to drink Lake Erie, you have to pay.
For breakfast we normally went to Le Pain and had a croissant or some yogurt with fruit. They also serve a variety of breads, so one day I asked for cheese (the eating of cheese at breakfast being one of my favorite aspects of travel to Europe.) The server said, “What do you want? We have Brie, and Old Cheese.” Old Cheese? Hmmm. Very interesting. It turns out (from what I was able to glean) that Dutch cheese is categorized by age. So, hoe oud is oud kaas? (How old is old cheese?)
While in The Netherlands, I became utterly addicted to oud kaas. Now that I’m home, I am suffering withdrawal pangs. We have what the stores call “aged Gouda,” but it comes in tiny rounds with a half inch of hard rind, not the whopping big wheels with the good, tender stuff in the center.
Amsterdam reminded me of other European towns in the people’s great love for sidewalk cafés and alfresco dining. It is very pleasant there because 40% of the traffic in the city is bicycles, so your meal is not seasoned with car exhaust fumes.
The Dutch have in common with Americans a love of fried foods. There are of course the friets, which are served as in Belgium with mayonnaise. Near our hotel was a shop devoted entirely to what we call “French fries,” and one could get them with truffle mayo, peanut satay sauce, or curry-flavored toppings. And then there are the bitterballen, little fried balls of breaded dough (usually with bits of meat and onion inside). Fortunately for us, the Brasserie de Joffers in Amsterdam had VEGETARIAN bitterballen courtesy of Chef Thor. They came in flavors of coconut/hot pepper, spinach curry and (yes) truffle.
Another fried food the Dutch enjoy is the “croquette.” I had a couple of cheese croquettes with bread. They were flavored with curry, which was unexpected but pleasant. One finds a surprising number of spicy flavors here because of the city’s past as a highly cosmopolitan (and colonialist) emporium.
We paid a visit to one of the more notable vegetarian restaurants in Amsterdam, De Waaghals (= The Daredevil). I had the timbale with creamy cauliflower and cheese, served with a chickpea pancake and plenty of lightly steamed veggies. Delicious.
The Long Suffering Husband had the African special of the day, which was an Ethiopian-style stew with rice.
And beside my bench, in a cozy corner of the restaurant, a sweet little friend was taking a nap.
I found myself so swept up in the excitement of Being There that I often forgot to take photos of the food. But I did manage to snap a picture of this intricate cake at a banquet dinner in our hotel.