For my first major stop, I wasn’t expecting foodie heaven, however Amsterdam was definitely the mecca of something else. From my conversations with locals and what I noticed, the capital of Holland’s food scene is pretty much a melting pot of migrated cultures combined with a few dutch twists or staples. You would think that the couples or families that moved over here came for the legal weed and party scene, but that’s not what it seems. It reminds me a lot of Vegas where the locals really don’t care about the strip which I could never wrap my head around. Why would anyone live in either place unless they absolutely loved that aspect of the culture? One other thing I want to mention is that I find it absurd that restaurants and convenience stores close so early, to a point where there is literally nowhere to go in the wee hours of the morning, literally nowhere! It’s incredibly ironic for the type of town it is and there is so much infrastructure for a bustling nightlife that it feels like a shame, but I guess that’s just the American in me.
Now onto the food. The first notable meal we had was a place near one of the many canals with a smorgasbord of dishes featuring hollandaise (the name of the restaurant escapes me, sorry guys). It was at that moment I realized I was in the birthplace of this fantastical sauce! Well actually, it originated in France by a Dutch chef, but this isn’t a history lesson. Similar to my other European experiences, the food was unpretentious, letting each ingredient serve its proper purpose for the overall dish. I had the eggs Benedict with smoked salmon and avocado. The eggs were adequately poached and salmon of high quality which allowed the hollandaise to really shine through. The hollandaise had a really smooth consistency and was more creamy than tart which paired perfectly with the savory yolk and salty lox. Furthermore, one of the great things about Europe is that fresh juice is easy to come by so you know I had me some OJ.
Later that night we ran into an American from Colorado named Jillian, renamed to Lillian forevermore (long story). She invited us to a music festival on the other side of town; being the concert junkies we are, we gladly accepted. The festival was across the river in an abandoned shipyard full of brightly colored graffiti that looked something out of a comic book. It was a surreal experience walking through the grounds hearing all kinds of different languages, I was definitely not in America anymore. The ironic thing was that the headliner Migos was from Georgia. Seeing the crowd of people animate from the bassy grooves of the hip hop trio made me proud to be American. We danced away the night, woke up late and took a trip to A’dam Tower, a spanking new building at the edge of the river, overlooking the entire city. The modern high-rise is filled with things to interact with and sights to see, so I definitely recommend going if your in town. As you can see above, my wife and I strapped ourselves into the perilous swing which ended up being way less scary than it appears to be.
Many pictures later our tummies were growling again, so we found a picturesque eatery on the edge of the river. Luckily we caught Restaurant Stork just before it closed. The menu was nice and small so it was easy to choose on an empty stomach. Tara and I both shared the bitterballen for the 1st course then I quickly moved on to the Halibut with prawns, beetroot pearl barley, and saffron sauce. Bitterballen is one of those Dutch staples I mentioned earlier. Typically served as bar food, in an upscale setting they seemed out of place but delicious none-the-less. We were only in Amsterdam for a few days, so we had to take our opportunities when they came. The Halibut, on the other hand, was just at home by the river where we sat. The beet pearls were something special for sure. I can’t really figure it out, but somehow the beets were transformed into a side that would rival mashed potatoes in its creaminess better than cauliflower or even leeks. With the Halibut and shrimp being properly cooked and very fresh, the only part of the dish that left me wanting more was the saffron sauce. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but the sauce just seemed mild and not really adding much to the overall plate. With that being said, the masterful beets are enough to make me want to return next time I’m in the area to see what else is going on in that kitchen.
On the final morning, we stopped in what seemed like a typical breakfast cafe, but what we weren’t expecting were what the Dutch call pankook (basically stuffed pancakes). These pancakes were anything but typical, easily the most indulgent thing I ate in Amsterdam…well food that is, there were other edibles that top a very different chart according to the other people in my troupe. Looking at the menu I was immediately overwhelmed, there were a wide array of fillings covering many different palates. Remembering my love for ham and cheese croissants, my decision was made. Luckily I had five other travelers that went in every direction, so I got to sample. Once the enormous platters arrive, I proceeded to smother mine with butter then dab with syrup. By the way, the tool for dripping syrup was one of those rustic wooden instruments you see on commercials (nice touch). The texture of the treat was more similar to a beefy crepe than a cake. Then, without hesitation, they were all gone, but boy did they sit with me on the plane ride to Barcelona and so did my memories of this unique and friendly city.
Below are several other pictures showing our other adventures in Amsterdam. Feel free to leave a comment or email us directly if you have any questions about any of the places we went to!