Guest Post from Jesse Hartman: The food we missed in Amsterdam

The travel posts return after a long hiatus. Back with my brother, Jesse Hartman taking a quick trip to  Amsterdam from Tel Aviv, his current home base. He really did the food game right so visit my post here and combine for a complete travel plan for the proper Dutch culinary and cultural experience.

A cut-rate round-trip flight on Turkey’s finest offering, Air Pegasus, served as the perfect backdrop for a quick trip to Amsterdam, and the craziness departing from Ben Gurion Airport complimented the journey nicely. Shortly after learning that my roommate Aaron and myself would not be on the same first leg from Tel Aviv (though we were reunited in Istanbul several hours later), a wildly irresponsible fry cook at Burger Ranch decided it would be a good idea to start a grease fire in Terminal 3, delaying Aaron’s flight to dangerously close to missing the final leg from Turkey. With that behind us, along with a decent döner we landed and sped off to our hotel in the heart of Amsterdam.

Arriving around 11:30pm would usually pose challenges, but a quick check in and we were off to our first coffeeshop and food encounters. A quick disclaimer: I’m not going to sit here and bore you good reader with perpetual pot talk, nor would foul up a very nice blog, so it happened, joints were smoked, let’s move on. Just a 10-minute walk from our rooms was Burger Bar, part of a small chain that stays open until 3am! I went for the Angus burger topped with cheddar, mushrooms and jalepano, and of course their house sauce, complimented very nicely with a side of fries, that would be the first of many consumed throughout the trip.

Our first full day began with a quest to find a golden-brown holy grail of street food: the stroopwafel. A stroopwafel is basically a honey and syrup sandwich with two freshly griddled waffle cones as the bread. We strode over to Lanskroon Bakery where Aaron housed a normal offering and I sampled the coffee caramel version. On the back of the near diabetic shock and a pleasant cappuccino, we head off to Vondelpark for lounging and enjoying the mid-spring sun. Around the corner is Peperwortel, a small deli-like storefront with prepared foods that the cashier kindly heated for us. We enjoyed quiche, lasagna and some chicken wings on the side of the café, deliciously refueling for our next trek and a trek it most certainly was. At the end of the half-hour wind through the canals and beautiful architecture, we arrive at Brouwerij ‘TJ, a local beer maker housed in an old windmill. We each imbibed a flight and I thought the Columbus Amber Ale was the pick of the 5 from an interesting brewery that offers only beers that are unfiltered and unpasteurized and several organic options as well. After the beer, it was on to Skek, a cozy student-run bar, for amazing bitterballen (fried mince-meat croquettes) and delightful live music. The final nightcap was a stumble to the hilariously named Manneken Pis from Flemish-style fries, where Aaron went with a more classic sauce choice and I opted to combining saté and curry sauce.

Our middle day got off to another fantastic culinary start as we walked to Winkel Café for the best apple pie in Amsterdam. I had been on my first trip, but it was no less tasty the second time. Heading to Winkel put us in the hip and slightly less mainstream Jordaan neighborhood, where we each spent a wise 5 euros to spend some time at the Tulip Museum. After a quick and humorous discussion with a museum employee, Aaron and I were convinced to take a decently lengthy 90 minute trip out to Keukenhof, one of Europe’s largest flower gardens. Of course, we had to get properly supplied and quickly found ‘t Kuyltji, for one of the better sandwiches I’ve had the good fortune of tasting. Along the way, FEBO catches my eye- a Dutch fast-food takeaway shop where for a two-euro coin you open the display case and chow down on a small kroket or hamburger. Once at the gardens, we dove into our sandwiches. Aaron sprung for the pastrami and cheese, and I decided on the prime rib: Salty, simple and delicious, as well as filling for coming in a smaller portion. Upon our return, it’s another trip to Manneken for an afternoon snack of fries before some down time back at the room.

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On a recommendation from other American friends from Netanya, we attempted to go to Café de Klos for ribs, but were rudely greeted at the door. Look, I understand 90-minute waits happen, but at least tell us where to stand or get a drink or take our name down… This setback turns into an excellent turnaround as we decided on Sampurna for rijstaffel, an Indonesian cuisine consisting of several small plates fired out at us in almost overwhelming fashion. Roasted meats, fresh vegetables and different styles of peanut sauces all merged perfectly together as we plucked them off the hot plate. The evening only went up as we went to Bourbon Street for live jazz, highlighted by a superb rendition of “Get Down on It”. Some late-night pool and foosball back at the hotel was in order before recharging for our final day.

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With a pretty glaring hole in my food plans for a final breakfast, Aaron came through in the clutch by finding Omlegg, a small restaurant about 10 minutes walk away. After a quick wait, we ducked inside just before the drizzle outside turned into something more ominous. An omelet for Aaron and a croissant-egg sandwich for me and we were off to the Albert Cuypmarket, a large open-air farmers’ market brimming with food options and tchotchkes. I go in for a 3-euro open-faced smoked herring sandwich, which truly was one of my favorite foods of the whole trip and both of us couldn’t resist another crack at a stroopwafel. After a final burger at The Butcher, which honestly wasn’t spectacular- I thought Burger Bar was better, we head to the museums with a cold, gray day serving as the perfect motivation to do just that. We explored the Dutch arm of St. Petersburg’s famed Hermitage Museum and caught an exhibit on Spanish masters, including El Greco, Velasquez and De Goya. From there, it was on to the beautiful Jewish History Museum at the former site of the Great Synagogue and then to Amersterdam’s Museum of Modern Art which had bizarre monochromatic canvases side-by-side with more famous names such as Van Gogh and Mondrian.

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One final stop at Winkel and another perfectly convenient train ride and we arrived back at the airport to return home. It was a splendid trip; Amsterdam truly has a little bit for everyone. A few stones remain unturned; I’ve still yet to see the Van Gogh Museum or the Anne Frank House, and perhaps I can return again some time. Meanwhile I’ll have to settle for dreams of stroopwafel and street herring as I await my next traveling adventure.

It’s a Pizza Party!

For my first months living in DC I conditioned myself to accept the fact that I was never going to find good pizza, as I was told by everyone that it simply did not exist. While this fate seemed sad I accepted it rather readily until with fresh inspiration and new recommendations I went on a tour de pizza and actually found some delicious pies.

First stop: Wise Guy NY Pizza

I have to admit that my first trip to Wise Guy Pizza in Judiciary Square did not leave me wanting more and did nothing to satisfy my pizza craving that had now gotten to a point beyond control. I blame this on improper ordering and peer pressure to split a Baked Ziti Pie. Pasta does not belong on pizza and I should have known better. Bread and carbs are a wonderful thing but there is no reason for a pizza joint to cram mediocre Italian pasta on perfectly good New York Style Pizza dough. The lesson here was stick to what you are good at and don’t go for the turduckin of pizza. Round two was infinitely better and my faith in Wise Guy was restored. I ordered by the slice so I had free reign over all the options. I went with the a slice of the Wise Guy and Mushroom Truffle Pizza. Now that was some pretty good pizza. The slight New York pizza snob inside me would say that the ingredients really shined and came together nicely and the sauce and dough was good but not up to par. I would still recommend a stop by Wise Guy if you have a hankering for NYC pizza because it might be your best bet.

Second Stop: Pizzeria Paradiso

At Pizzeria Paradiso we turned to Italian style pizza in Dupont Circle. The restaurant felt like a cozy neighborhood joint and was buzzing with people. Before I even get to the pizze, I have to comment on the impressive beer selection that can be a bit hard to find in DC. More so then being a slight pizza snob, I am a Boulder grown craft beer brat so I always appreciate a great on tap menu. On to the pizza, my friend and I split the Bottarga with Paradiso Tomato, Minced Garlic, Parsley, Parmesan, Egg, and Bottarga. To be honest we both did not know what Bottarga was but we loved the sound of all the other ingredients and were feeling adventurous. I love to put an egg on almost everything that I consume because it adds an unmatchable rich and salty taste to any dish. Bottarga turned out to be a Mediterranean delicacy of salted, cured, fish roe. The creamy egg yolk that oozed all over the pizza combined with the salty textured Bottarga turned out to be an excellent combination. The sauce was also pretty killer and held its own against the other strong flavors. Stop by Pizzeria Pardiso for some killer pizza and a fantastic happy hour. 

Third Stop: Rosemary Thyme Bistro  

I’ll have to start my final pizza spot review with a disclaimer: Rosemary Thyme Bistro is NOT a pizza joint but is classified as Mediterranean, Greek and Turkish inspired. However, this little gem turned out to have quite good brick oven fare and I was pleasantly surprised after my partner ordered us the Quattro Formaggio Pizza. Rosemary Thyme also tricks you because the pizza has in reality, only three cheese, with one cheese served two different ways. The pizza starts with a classic tomato sauce base with mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top but then you are thrown fresh mozzarella, that gets melted and stringy, perfectly combining with the remaining cheeses, provolone and feta.  The pizza is topped with basil and tomatoes to make it an excellent spin on a classic Margarita. As I pursued the menu a couple of the more traditional Greek fare also jumped out at me. I will definitely be returning to Rosemary Thyme for more pizza and to try some other dishes as well.