Watch Obama’s Inauguration in Amsterdam

On Tuesday January 20th, 2009 at 12:00 EDT Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.

Wondering where Amsterdammers who want to watch the event should head on Tuesday at 6pm? Here are a few options.

inauguration at felix meritis amsterdamMy plan is to follow the inauguration festivities at cultural center Felix Meritis on Keizersgracht.  Doors will open at 4pm for a “Yes, We Watch” party. The event will be shown live on a big screen and there are no reservations necessary. I would expect an interesting mix of people from the culturally literate regulars to canal belt expats looking for a venue last minute.

inauguration at boom chicago amsterdamThen there is an inauguration special party and show at improvisation theater Boom Chicago on Leidseplein. It’s a much bigger event starting with a live screening from 5:30 pm, then dinner, a re-run of the “Bye-Bye Bush” comedy and finally a big band playing from 10pm onwards.

inauguration at hard rock cafe amsterdamAssociation Democrats Abroad is organizing another big inauguration event in the Hard Rock Cafe on Max Euwe Plein. This event requires tickets and might be sold out.

If you would rather stay home and watch CNN, here is a minute-by-minute schedule with all details of Obama’s inauguration.

UPDATE: Just found out about another live screening event. The American Book Center’s Treehouse organizes a celebration with give-aways, live music and bubbles.

More Ripasso at

My overview of Ripasso wines in Amsterdam is missing an interesting lower price Ripasso. For only € 7,75 you can find a bottle of Cantina Valpantena Falasco Ripasso at Dutch online wine retailer Vindict.

cantina valpantena falasco ripassoI discovered the Ripasso – and the online retailer – at a wine tasting last night. The tasting was a private event that Vindict organized for us. Vindict served us nine wines. First four whites and then five reds, ordered from light to full bodied. I was not so impressed with the selection of white wines, a rather average choice of Sancerre, Chardonnay and Chablis.

The red wines were more interesting! We got to taste the Falasco Ripasso alongside the regular Valpolicella from the same producer. The difference is amazing. The Ripasso has so much more body and is much more balanced than the Valpolicella. Then we tried a Lebanese wine. The  Clos St. Thomas – Les Emirs not only looks a lot but also tastes a lot like a Bordeaux. And also the German Spätburgunder from wine maker Salwey was surprisingly good. Unfortunately it was also expensive at more than € 30 and is apparently so special that you will not be able to order it online.

Overall, the wine tasting was fun and informative. The sommelier gave as a lot of technical information about grape varieties, regions and wine making techniques. The same is true for the Vindict web site which presents color, intensity, nose, aroma, smell, flavors, taste, body, alcohol, sweetness, acidity and tannin. The well organized wine product sheets are a good way of discovering new wines that have similar characteristics than your favorites! And although I have not had a chance to try it out, I was pleased to find out that delivery options include evening service.


It was time for a trip to Feduzzi to get some of their own import Parma Ham, Parmesan and fresh pasta. When I ordered the Parma Ham, they suggested I try their newest offering – Culatello. It’s amazing! Like the fillet of Parma Ham.

I did some quick research and it turns out that Culatello is so prestigious that it only recently made it out of Italy. At least commercially. It’s the highlight of cold cut platters at NYC’s top Italian Babbo – even earning ingredient of the month honors.

As with many great foods, the production process does not lend anyone to believe that the end result is edible, let alone a delicacy. Making Culatello apparently involves tucking the meat in a pig’s bladder and letting it age for 12 months in a humid, dirt-floored cellar.

Only the small back side of the pig’s thigh is used, significantly less than for regular prosciutto. The result is magnificent – an intense, slightly salty flavor with an incredibly smooth, almost creamy texture.

At Feduzzi, sometimes criticized for high prices, Culatello costs € 37,50 per kilogram. Actually less than the rather average Albert Heijn Excellent Prosciutto di Parma Ham, which costs € 47,87.

Thai Bird on Zeedijk – Amsterdam

Speaking of bird, bird, birds… I have been meaning to post about the Thai Bird for a while! It’s one of my favorite places to eat in Amsterdam.

The Thai Bird is actually two places, located across from each other on Zeedijk near the Chinese temple. One is the Thai Bird Snack Bar, which dates back to the eighties when the Zeedijk still was dangerous and to be avoided. Undeterred, consistently good food at low prices lead to success and later to the opening of the much larger restaurant by the same owners.

The Zeedijk is the street that connects Amsterdam’s Nieuwmarkt with the Central Station. You can still feel that it must have been an important artery during the glory days. Bordering on the red light district, it was in disgraceful state in the early eighties, rife with criminality. It has made a roaring return since and today is a lively mix of Chinese shops and restaurants and traditional Dutch brown cafes serving Pils, Bitterballen and Jenever.

chinese temple on zeedijk amsterdamamstel sign on zeedijk amsterdamroasted birds on zeedijk amsterdam

Both the restaurant and the snack bar are about food, not looks. The snack bar is small, usually crammed with people and simple but clean. The restaurant is large, meandering up and down and left and right behind its small entrance. Don’t be turned off by the appearance. Do walk in and enjoy the excellent food, which is authentic, fresh and always well executed.

Thai Bird Restaurant on Zeedijk AmsterdamAlso don’t let yourself be turned off by the crowds. There is usually a line of people waiting at the entrance of the restaurant, especially on weekends. But somehow it seems to clear more quickly than you would think. The snack bar is the same. It always looks packed, but somehow the staff finds a way to squeeze in a few extra people.

Go to the restaurant if you are with a group. Otherwise go for the snack bar and try to sit on one of the high bar stools behind the large window and enjoy the steady flow of tourists and freaks!

Thai Bird Snack Bar, Zeedijk 77. Thai Bird Restaurant, Zeedijk 72-74.

Tarwebloem Schijven met Zeewolf

Yes, I am talking about catfish tacos. They are very popular in the US, found on many southwestern and tex-mex menus. I can’t recall having seen them anywhere in Amsterdam, so I decided to make my own.

Luckily there are plenty of recipes available online. I liked the catfish tacos with thai cabbage slaw by Whole Foods Market. The Thai slaw dressing with coconut milk and peanut butter is a nice twist. The catfish is grilled. And there is a nice video that explains very nicely how to make the catfish tacos.

There is no Whole Foods Market in Amsterdam, so I set out to procure the ingredients elsewhere. The good news is that everything is available in decent quality and easy enough to find!

The biggest obstacle? Finding out the Dutch word for catfish – zeewolf. I always struggle with translating and remembering fish names. When I have to, I turn to a handy brochure published by – a Dutch fishermen’s marketing organization – that not only lists all fishing companies but also has an extensive appendix with fish names in English, Dutch, German, French and Italian. Well prepared linguistically, I got some nice zeewolf at Marqt, expensive but very good in fish and herbs. I also got fresh cilantro there.

I wasn’t sure about availability of flour tortillas. But it turned out to be easy, too. Sandwich wraps are very popular in Amsterdam and all supermarkets carry soft tortillas nowadays. While at the supermarket I also picked up peanut butter and honey.

My Turkish corner shop usually has the best fruit and veggies and I went there for avocado, limes, red cabbage, carrots, radish and red onion. And the Toko across the street stocks fish sauce, sesame oil, red chili paste, coconut milk and red pepper flakes if you don’t have them in the house.

Here is a picture of my stash of zeewolf, tarwebloem schijven and more, ready to be turned into yummy catfish tacos.

catfish taco ingredients found in amsterdam

The recipe is quick and easy and can be done in less than 30 minutes if you are well organized. Make sure you have plenty of catfish so that the the flavor of the slaw will not be overpowering. And simply broil the fish at the highest temperature in the oven if you – like most Amsterdammers – do not have a grill.

With the tacos, we had a lovely bottle of the Pacherenc du Vic Bilh that we bought at Gall & Gall the other day. The pungent and mineral-flavored Pacherenc worked very well with the catfish and the Thai dressing.

Enjoy! Eet smakelijk!!

Turkey – the Bird, Bird, Bird ;-)

For thanksgiving I wrote about turkey. My point was that there are lots of turkey recipes and that everybody seems to have their own secret trick on how to prepare the perfect turkey. However, in the end it’s all about the turkey. If you find a good bird, your chances of a good thanksgiving dinner are high. If not, forget about it.

So basically, it’s all about the bird. The bird, bird, bird 😉

Coolio, of Gangsta’s Paradise fame, and currently venturing into cooking with Cookin’ with Coolio, has a hilarious video about cooking the bird. The bird, bird, bird.

It’s so fun. You must watch it.