Just to try something different, we booked a 4-hour walk with Eating Amsterdam Tours, so this is a somewhat unusual post, taken up almost entirely with the cuisine of Amsterdam. Although they normally have a maximum of 12 people per tour, we were lucky enough to have just ourselves and a German couple. The tour guide was Rudolf, very knowledgeable about both food and Amsterdam, so we learnt a lot and had a great time doing it.
We met at 11am at Cafe de Prins, a canal-side “brown” cafe-bar (there are many such places in Amsterdam, so-called because of the nicotine stains on the walls, apparently) in the Jordaan area of the city. We began with coffee and poffertjes, delicious small pancakes with a sweet sauce and whipped cream. We were off to a good start!
Then we walked back down the street to Vis Plaza, a top-notch fishmonger, to be served at an outside table with marinated raw herring and then beautifully-battered kibbeling – fish with tartare sauce. Consensus at the end of the trip was that the herring was one of the standouts of the tour.
An unassuming takeaway place called Swieti Sranang was next, specialising in spicy food from two former Dutch colonies – Surinam and Indonesia. We were offered Broodje Pom (pictured) and Baka Bana, fried plantain with satay sauce. The Broodje Pom wouldn’t win any photogenic awards but it had a beautiful flavour – sweet and spicy. We loved it.
Next stop was Cafe de Blaffende Vis where we had bitterballen and beer. As in many European cities, boutique breweries are all the rage and our sample was a pale ale by the name of Funky Falcon. Note the depth of foam on the beer – it’s the way they drink it (although the English wouldn’t approve)! Bitterballen are fried and breadcrumbed meat/vegetable balls, very salty, served with a dijon mustard. Delicious again, but we do wonder about the average blood pressure readings of Dutch people as much of their food seemed to contain a lot of salt.
Appetites were starting to flag by now but we soldiered personfully on. We were taken to a famous butcher shop, Butcher Louman, which was founded in 1890 and has a reputation for great sausages. The size of the queue waiting never seemed to get any smaller – this is a very popular shop and by the sound of the voices, almost exclusively patronised by locals. We tried Ossenworst (cold-smoked beef sausage) and Grillworst (grilled pork sausage), both softer and less chewy than salami.
Just a few steps up the street, a delicatessen with an unpronounceable name, Jwo Lekkernijen, and three differently-aged Dutch cheeses to try. All good, all different, but the oldest one, called a “Jumbo” cheese, was superb.
We had long since reached the point where we were sampling the offerings rather than eating everything on our plates but there was still one more Brown Cafe to go. (I need to point out here that Pip had sensibly eaten only half of everything right from the start and declined the beers. I really should take advice from her more often.) This was Cafe Papeneiland, which dates back to 1642 and, as the English translation of the name – Papist’s Island – indicates, it was an escape route for Catholics via a tunnel under the canal at a time when they were forbidden to worship freely. Here we partook of apple pie and cream, the best in Amsterdam they say (which possibly means the best in the world) with another glass of beer amongst the centuries-old delft-blue tiles and fireplace.
Throughout the walk, Rudolf took us on little detours to see something of the hidden city in the gardens and squares behind the houses, so we learned quite a lot about how life was lived here in the past and about the architecture, which gave an extra very welcome dimension to the tour.
But above all, it was about food, and readers will not be surprised to learn that we skipped dinner that night.