Foodloversguide NL Published

Foodloversguide NL CoverThe Foodloversguide NL, a directory of the best food addresses in the Netherlands, was published a few weeks ago. The 320 page paperback contains lots of mouthwatering photos and more than 400 suggestions for foodies looking for the best restaurants and butchers, bakers and candlestick makers in the Netherlands. The Foodloversguide was published by Mo’Media, is written in Dutch and will set you back € 17,95.

I first read about the guide on Mevrouw Gerritsen blog. Turns out that it has been put together by a group of Dutch food writers and journalists, including bloggers Mrs Gerritsen and Petra de Hamer. Other than a few photos of sample pages and the usual marketing blurb, I could not find much information about the guide online. So I decided to order it and share my thoughts with you.

First thing to note is that the guide is written in Dutch, although I would say that basic knowledge of the language is sufficient given the many photos and its address book format. And as an additional benefit of ordering it in spite of the language barrier, you might pick up just enough foodie Dutch from it to bluff your way around Amsterdam’s food scene.

Foodloversguide NL Section on Noord-HollandAlso be aware that it’s a guide for the entire Netherlands. You may be disappointed if your center of the universe – like mine – is Amsterdam, and you rarely venture out to hard to pronounce places like Middenbeemster, Oosthuizen and Zuid-Scharwoude, let alone anywhere beyond the borders of North Holland.

The section on North Holland has several editorials on organic meat and bio fruits and vegetables. Along with the descriptions there are addresses of butcher shops, farms and markets where you can acquire the produce; some of them in Amsterdam. Foodloversguide NL Page on DuikelmanThere also are sections on cheese, bookshops and kitchen supply stores, which for example includes a good description of the authority in Amsterdam, Duikelman on Ferdinand Bolstraat.

Another feature of the Foodloversguide are best-of-lists. Among others, you will find the top 5 lunch places of Amsterdam, including my favorite Small World Catering on Binnenoranjestraat; a list of who makes the freshest bread with amongst others recently opened French franchise Le Fournil de Sebastian on Olympiaplein; or an overview of the Amsterdam Noordermarkt and other farmer’s markets.

The restaurants included in the guide seem to be the ones that purchase their ingredients from the food producers listed in other sections. For Amsterdammers, the guide recommends well-known high-end restaurants Le Garage, De Kas, and Altmann. I found two restaurants that I have not yet been to: Stylish and set menu only Beddington’s on Utrechtsedwarsstraat and A la Ferme, ominously themed after Matisse’s “luxe, calme et volupté” on Govert Flinckstraat. Neither would be high on my want-to-go list because – at least on first sight – they seem to put too much focus on appearance.

Other notable addresses in the Foodloversguide NL are local brewery and summer hotspot Brouwerij ‘t IJ as well as recently opened but expensive concept super market Marqt.

Overall the Foodloversguide NL is a visually pleasing food directory with many useful addresses. Personally, I find it too broad with its focus on the entire Netherlands and everything from far out eco farms to urban kitchen stores and from basic ingredients to high-end dining. I do think it’ll make for a nice christmas gift and will be useful for newbies who like to roam around.

Bussia – New Italian Restaurant in Amsterdam

restaurant bussia amsterdam outsideMid October, Italian restaurant Bussia opened doors in de negen straatjes (or nine little streets) of Amsterdam. There aren’t many good Italian restaurants in Amsterdam. A few good pizzerias but no restaurants that take Italian food up one notch. So I was happy to try out Bussia and was certainly not disappointed.

restaurant bussia amsterdam insideWhen checking out their web site, I was struck by the style, which is rural but in a very designed way. The home page shows a typical hilly landscape with vineyards and an Italian villa in the background – in black and white, with carefully selected fonts, a beautiful logo and all developed in flash. The restaurant is the same – a lot of wood, thick but plain white table cloths and large cutlery and wine glasses. Country style, but expensive and perfectly designed. To round it all off, there was modern jazz music in the background.

My first impression was good. A very friendly answer when making a reservation by phone. And as so often, the first impression proved to be a lasting one – the service at Bussia was very friendly and welcoming in a personal way.

restaurant bussia amsterdam business cardThe name Bussia stems from the Barolo vineyards in Piedmont, near Alba in northern Italy. The menu is very Piedmont style and uses many typical northern Italian ingredients such as truffles, porcini, plums, nuts and fontina cheese. The wine list is impressive and equally Piedmont oriented with a large selection of strong red Barolos and Barberas as well as many wines made from the Nebbiolo and Dolcetto grapes that are popular in the region.

restaurant bussia amsterdam cappellacciNext to being Piedmont style, the food at Bussia is distinctly “Slow Food” – an eco-gastronomic organization founded in Barolo in 1986 to counteract fast food, the disappearance of local food and traditions and people’s dwindling interest in how food tastes. Unfortunately we had plans later that evening and had to settle for main course only instead of going for the six course tasting menu.

restaurant bussia amsterdam wild duckTo start, we were served a quite extensive amuse of bisque and octopus crostini. We then ordered cappellacci and wild duck. The cappellacci pasta was perfectly cooked and had a pumpkin and amaretti filling that was nice and smooth with a subtle bitter finish. When the wild duck was served, I was warned to watch out for pellets when having a bite. I did not find any lead, but lovely, tender duck meat with a present game-like flavor. It was cooked perfectly, the meat pink in the middle.

For dessert we went with apple and almond cake that was served warm and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The obligatory espresso was short and strong and served with a lemon merengue cookie with passion fruit that had a wonderful sweet and sour taste.

Restaurant Bussia is located on Reestraat 28, in the negen straatjes, in Amsterdam.

Truffle Week at te Pas Amsterdam

restaurant te pas - business cardRestaurant te Pas is organizing a special truffle menu next week, December 8 – 14.

I went to te Pas for Restaurantweek 2007. It’s a small restaurant, located just off Leidseplein on Lijnbaansgracht 274 and quite stylish, especially compared to the tourist traps in its immediate surroundings. te Pas, which is Dutch for “appropriate”, is quite appropriately run by the te Pas family. Brothers Evert and Hugo serve French / international food – nothing special but well executed and in a friendly setting.

restaurant te pas - trufflesFrom December 8 – 14 they have a special truffle menu. te Pas will serve asparagus with ham or salmon and truffles, ravioli with a truffle and porcini filling, pork cutlets with kraut and truffles and several other truffle dishes. You can go for a 3, 4, or 5 course menu.

I will go and hope that some delicious truffles will make up for the short and slush snow filled days of early December in Amsterdam…

Where to Find Emile Henry in Amsterdam

emile henry quiche dishI love using Emile Henry dishes and have written about them before. They are great for cooking in the oven. They never stick, are easy to clean and get along well with ovens, microwaves, freezers and dishwashers. And they look great with their classic clean design.

The other day I needed a wedding gift for a couple that likes cooking and decided to give them a few Emile Henry dishes – I was thinking a few different sizes of oven dishes and also some more specific earthenware for quiche, lasagna or pie. So I was looking for a store in Amsterdam with a large selection of Emile Henry dishes in stock and knowledgeable service.

Through Emile Henry I got in touch with their Dutch distributor Interhal who were nice enough to send me a list of all shops in Amsterdam that carry Emile Henry.

Outside of the Bijenkorf – a large and touristy department store on the Dam – there are two great kitchen stores with a large selection: Deksels in the Jordaan on Haarlemmerdijk 129 and Duikelman in de Pijp on Ferdinand Bolstraat 68.

Duikelman is some sort of bare bones kitchen supply heaven. It looks more like a warehouse with simple shelves stocked to the max. It’s always packed and you will need to squeeze through lots of people in the narrow aisles. Their selection is just amazing – you will find everything from the sharpest knives to the shiniest espressos makers and from massive gas stoves to little jars for herbs and spices.

Deksels is smaller and caters more to people looking for quality kitchen gifts. It blends perfectly with the other boutique stores on Haarlemmerstraat and besides Emile Henry focuses on brands like Le Creuset and Cuisinart. I went with Deksels this time and they made a beautifully wrapped gift for the wedding.

Thanksgiving – Best Turkey in Amsterdam

Thanksgiving is less than a week away!

Thanksgiving is not the most popular holiday in Amsterdam. Actually everybody is talking about Sinterklaas’ arrival instead. Still you can find everything your heart desires for a great Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

There are more Thanksgiving turkey recipes online than bitterballen served in Amsterdam on Friday evening. So instead of adding yet another recipe, I will provide you with a list of ingredients, some hints on where to find them and a schedule for mastering the Thanksgiving cooking.

Let’s start with the turkey, which will make or break your dinner. A good bird should be tender, full of flavor and sweat little fat while roasting.

I don’t know very much about turkeys. To find a good turkey I rely on the expertise of a good butcher. Slagerij Zikking on Marathonweg 51 in Amsterdam is a great choice. It’s a small shop, off the beaten path and they don’t have a web site. But believe me. Owners Rob and Linda Zikking run a great butcher shop. They love their produce and can talk about it for hours. And they provide great advice on which meat is best for what dish and how to prepare it. When you go there, you will be amazed by how flavorful the meat is. It also looks distinctly different from supermarket meat – the colors are much darker and the texture much more noticeable. On numerous occasions, I have met people from Haarlem or Alkmaar in the store that had driven all the way to Marathonweg to stock up on high quality meats.

Make sure you stop by or call in a few days in advance to order your turkey. Let Rob know for how many people you are cooking and he will have the perfect turkey ready for you to pick up on Thanksgiving day.

Next to finding the perfect turkey, the timing of a Thanksgiving meal can be challenging. We had invited friends for 19:00 and wanted to have dinner for six on the table at 19:30. So we made the following little schedule to help us stay on time:

  • 15:00 Make stuffing.
  • 15:45 Turn on the oven and prepare the turkey.
  • 16:00 Place the bird in the oven, prepare the potatoes and make salad and dressing.
  • 18:30 Take the bird out of the oven and put the potatoes in oven.
  • 18:45 Make cranberry sauce.
  • 19:00 Make gravy.
  • 19:15 Carve the turkey.
  • 19:30 Dinner’s ready!

The rest is actually quite easy.

For the stuffing, start by partially sautéing 125ml of finely chopped onions and 800g of mushrooms. Then add 700ml of breadcrumbs, 1 beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, parsley, sage and thyme. Finally, mix it all together, adding white wine to moisten and pepper and salt to taste.

Next, stuff the turkey and wrap it with bacon. Place it on two carrots on the pan and cover with a tin foil tent. Place in the oven and roast at 220 degrees Celsius for 1 hour. Then remove the bacon and foil (but keep it for later) and continue roasting for 1 to 1,5 hours at 190 degrees. When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven, cover it with the foil and let it sit for 30 minutes.

For the cranberry sauce, heat 250 ml with 250 ml sugar, add one package of cranberries and cover the pot until all berries have popped (roughly five minutes). Take off heat and stir. For the gravy, melt two tablespoons butter in a pan and add three tablespoons flour while stirring vigorously. Add wine, stock, and turkey juices to liking. In between, you will need to prepare potatoes and a salad.

Was that a recipe after all? Oh, well. Hope you’ll have a great Thanksgiving meal!

Tempura – Best Bet for Sushi in Amsterdam

Tempura Restaurant is one of the better, maybe the best, sushi restaurants in Amsterdam. Unfortunately, good sushi places in Amsterdam are few and far between. If you do get that sushi craving, I recommend heading to Tempura near Artis. You may also want to try the expensive and Michelin decorated Yamazato in the Okura Hotel. Or make the trip to remote Amstelveen to sample also decent Tanuki.

Either way, don’t expect any extraordinary sushi. Japanese restaurants in Amsterdam tend to be very traditional, serving quality but ordinary food in an impeccable yet distinctly unstylish setting.

Restaurant Tempura Amsterdam - InsideTempura is no exception. The decor is very simple with bare walls, mostly white and brown colors and no adornments other then a few Japanese beckoning cats and lanterns in the window and an emergency exit sign above the door. The dining room does have a cozy feel. It is small with less than 15 tables and split into the main area in the front by the entrance, the slightly lowered back by the open kitchen and an upstairs balcony.

The somewhat quirky but always friendly service adds to the coziness. Tempura is always busy. And while small misunderstandings when ordering or making reservations can create a disorganized appearance, they always do so in a charming way. And the authentic Japanese hostess always makes me feel like a welcome regular, although I can never tell if she actually does recognize me.

Restaurant Tempura Amsterdam - SashimiRestaurant Tempura Amsterdam - MakiRestaurant Tempura Amsterdam - Yakitori

The food is very good. Sushi and sashimi are prepared well from fresh fish. The meat of the yakitori is tender and their sauce just sweetish enough. I especially like the duck and scallion yakitori. And – at least for Amsterdam standards – there are a few more interesting dishes such as large shrimp in a sweetened almond crust or the spicy shrimp tempura maki. Tempura has a decent sake, but do not expect to pick your favorite bottle from a sake list.

Tempura is located on Plantage Kerklaan 26hs in the Plantage Buurt – Dutch for Plantation Neighborhood – near the Artis zoo.