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.

Latest, greatest, last post from our guest blogger, Jesse Hartman

Day 9-

Our third and final game day was an entire day filled with lacrosse activities. After another on-point Israeli breakfast, we had a small drive to Ashkelon. We split into three groups, each visiting a separate school to demonstrate lacrosse during recess and gym class. I went with three other guys to an all-boys school that had particularly at-risk kids. We taught them how to catch and shoot, and went around class-to-class telling everyone about the big event that night. This was by far the coolest part of the trip as the kids loved us, asking to see our muscles and sign autographs. It was another in a series of surreal moments involving spreading the sport across Israel. After the school visit, we went to another little mall area for lunch. I had one of the better shawarmas of the trip and was able to practice my Hebrew too as I took on the role of translator for the other 10 or so people also vying for shawarma and falafel. We arrived at the stadium, which was very nice yet still lacked lacrosse lines. The schedule for the night started with our girls playing, then youth girls at their halftime. Next would be a matchup between Ashkelon and Tel Aviv boys’ teams. It was fun to watch everyone and at 7:30 the lights came on and we were ready for our rubber match against the Israeli team. We ended up winning another one-goal game and went to The Jack, a regular bar for the lacrosse team in Ashkelon.

Day 10

We woke up to conclude our trip in a very similar fashion as the previous nine days. However this day had a rather special start. We took a visit to Save A Child’s Heart in Tel Aviv and played with kids that are flown in from 3rd World countries to have life saving operations. Most of the kids in this house were from Africa and they were absolutely adorable. Sadly, we did not have much time to play as we needed to tour Tel Aviv with Elad noting the first building ever in Tel Aviv and a beautiful mosaic depicting the history of the “White City”. We were given a ludicrous 3 hours for lunch and shopping around the Shuk at Megen David Square. I decided to hang with our medic Omer and our coach David. We went to Pasta Basta, a nice place with an awesome build-your-own pasta concept. I chose fettucini with a beet-cream sauce as my base and added goat cheese and mushrooms. It was very reasonable and extremely fresh, fast and delicious. I waltzed down the open-air market a bit, but for the most part sat at a café in the shade with Omer, drinking Coke to stay cool and people watch. Our last program was Independence Hall where we learned more about the historic formation of the State of Israel and had our own time for reflection as a birthright group. This trip was amazing and it was very nice to hear everyone’s personal thoughts on it. We finished up with pizza at the Lacrosse Embassy where I’ll be staying for the next month. It has a rooftop overlooking the beach, which is about two minutes away and we met the interns that we’ll be working with. I’m looking forward to working here, but I’ll also miss all the guys not interning. This was a remarkable experience and I’m happy to share to those readers via this blog. The next month should be crazy, and thus I’m not going to attempt to blog. Jesse Hartman, signing off.

Penultimate Post: Days 6 through 8 in Israel with Jesse Hartman

Day 6-

The morning begins with another average hotel breakfast. We toured the Old City of Jerusalem some more, stopping at King David’s Tomb and the Western Wall again. Jerusalem is beautiful and our guide Elad is as awesome and informational as always. I branched out this time at lunchtime going for falafel instead of shawarma. It was fantastic and the vendors are always pretty impressed that I can order my desired fries, veggies and hummus to go inside the pita. The major program for the rest of the day was Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. The whole experience was incredibly moving, and we also had a group discussion afterwards that was pretty intense. The evening took a turn for the more upbeat as we went on the light rail towards our familiar bar area in Jerusalem. Tonight the US played Portugal in the World Cup. Everyone partook in a very loud and lyrically accurate rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The cold air forced everyone into one bar, which made for a very fun time drinking Goldstar and dancing. We grew a bit weary of the scene eventually and returned back to the hotel just in time to see Portugal dramatically snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.

Day 7-

The conclusion of our stay in Jerusalem also marks the culmination of our trifecta of our emotional days with a visit to Mt. Hertzl the military cemetery. Seeing our visiting soldiers so affected by the gravesites was powerful stuff. Next we’ll be having a long drive into the desert towards the Bedouin tent where we’ll be staying the night. We stopped at a beautiful overlook in the desert that overlooked Kfar Hanokdim where we will be staying. As Elad says it’s not really rough camping, but it’s not like Disney World. We all will stay under one big tent that has outlets and running water. Before eating we do our camel and donkey rides, which consisted of a stroll of a few hundred yards, but it was still a hilarious and neat experience. Dinner was actually pretty delicious with lamb meatballs and fresh couscous and hummus. We had a lovely free night smoking hookah and playing guitar around the campfire. A few of our friends and I also went into the main tent to watch the Brazil/Cameroon game. After the game we stayed up to watch the beautiful stars as Aviel played his guitar for us. It was a very magical experience that again resulted in a distinct lack of sleep.

Day 8-

We woke up pretty early in the morning to hike up Masada. Breakfast was fairly decent with the typical cold items like herring and salad. Masada was amazing. Beautiful ruins and an amazing view from the top of the peak are well worth spending time in the sun for. We descended down the Snake Path (~2000 feet of stairs) to the bus to take us to lunch and the Dead Sea. Lunch at the Ein Gedi spa was truly wretched, but paid for by our program. The Dead Sea itself was absolutely phenomenal. It was an experience that cannot be replicated. The water was like a bathtub and stung like crazy and the mud was wonderfully to cake on from head to toe. We were a bit rushed as we had to head off to the Taglit Mega Event. Mega is essentially a giant party for nearly 4,000 Taglit participants. There was a concert and Prime Minister Netanyahu came and spoke which was incredible. On the way, we stopped at another mall for dinner and Billy and I decided to try Israeli McDonalds. The portions were much bigger and the food seemed fresher, but it was a lot more expensive than its American counterpart. At night we stayed at the Blue Bay Hotel in Netanya, where we checked out some beach raves that were complete with Israeli trance music and populated by high school graduates. We eventually got booted; Mt. surely we stuck out like sore thumbs, and went off to bed.

Sports Edition: Three more Awesome Days in Israel, including Lacrosse Highlights

Day 3 Continued-

We ended up conducting an impromptu youth lacrosse clinic due to the tardiness of the Israeli National Teams. It was amazing to watch kids who had never been exposed to lacrosse in their life pick the game up so naturally. It was a surreal moment. We proceeded to start our game after watching our women whip the Israelis. The field was scruffy, and our team equally so, we took the loss but managed to make it a one-goal game after a bad half. Not bad for players that have never practiced together. Afterwards we returned for our final night at the Kibbutz where we once again enjoyed the pub, this team with many of the players staying the night.

Day 4-

In the morning we wake up early to head to the town of Ramlah. It is in the center of the country and extraordinarily hot. Our game at 10:30 in the morning, on an artificial turf field gave us the thrilling opportunity to play in 100+ degree weather. I’m running long stick midfield (LSM) exclusively, which is exhausting, yet I seem to be one of the few guys in fairly good shape. The game was perhaps one of the most physically challenging things I think I’ve ever done, but we prevailed in a thrilling 12-11 victory in overtime much to the thrill of three Ramlah locals. Guys on our team were super dehydrated and dropping like flies, so after a short welcoming ceremony for Jerusalem we had some free time before dinner to rest. For dinner we had a very nice Shabbat activity and the hotel buffet was pretty solid. Just your usually meats in sauces, boiled assorted starches and of course fresh salad and hummus. Later in the evening, after some rambling, we found a lively bar district. It was an excellent night that included sampling another local beer called Tuborg and an anise liqueur called Arak. The Tuborg is lighter than Goldstar and very refreshing while the Arak was basically the essence of licorice, I liked it a lot but it wasn’t for everyone. Our first night in Jerusalem was a success.

Day 5-

Yom Shabbat lived up to its name as we were permitted to sleep in until 11:15 Saturday morning. The group gathered once again and we walked over to a different hotel to attend a seminar-like lecture on the state of affairs in Israel. Simon, a British ex-pat and to my delight a Tottenham Hotspurs supporter, did a wonderful job explaining the history of Israel and the current situation domestically and with its neighbors.  Then, we had a long walk to Old Jerusalem to perform our Havdallah, end of Sabbath, ceremony. It was very nice and at long last we finally went to the Western Wall. Seeing, touching, smelling and hearing this hallowed ground at night was simply stunning. I was crying with joy and I’m certain I wasn’t alone. A delicious and cheap shawarma cheered me up even though Alon and I agreed it was a little on the dry side. We had a sober night to prepare for Yad Vashem tomorrow but ended up having a rowdy sing-a-long that attracted another neighboring Taglit group and eventually hotel security.

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Guest Starring: Jesse Hartman in Israel

My brother has just left for a seven week stint in Israel and has graciously offered to guest write for You Are Here. This is fantastic because as work gets increasingly more hectic, I don’t want anyone to go on feeling neglected. Also, it’s Israel! The trip and my brother’s description of it will be humorous and succinct. He is a wonderful writer with a much different tone than me. Jesse’s trip will be broken up into two parts. He will begin on birthright for ten days then intern for the Israeli National Lacrosse Team. He will be a part of talks and clinics for aspiring lacrosse players all over the country. I am incredibly proud and jealous of what is to be an amazing journey. Enjoy his posts! His first three days are documented below.

Sibling Talk: Jesse Hartman’s 3-Day Recap

Day 1

The trek begins with a 5:00 AM wake-up in Denver. A not so quick skip to JFK and an even slower jump later we arrive in Tel Aviv. It should be mentioned that the food on El Al was fairly good. Chicken and rice for dinner was doused in a tasty sauce and the hummus provided on the side was actually quite delicious. After arriving and get orientation from Rachel the program director, we head north to Farod. Along the way we stopped at a gas station convenience store and I had the opportunity to sample some local Doritos. The flavor was “the worst kind” according to Elad our guide but I enjoyed the ‘Hot and Sour’ chips. Driving through the north of Israel is beautiful, very reminiscent of the American West, and the heat was just as stifling. When we arrived at the Kibbutz we were put into groups of 3 and I roomed with Max who I had met at JFK and Ben. Both real mensches. Dinner at the Kibbutz was rather disappointing pasta and meatballs but the fresh vegetables and hummus were lovely and refreshing. The night program was more icebreakers and talking about the trip. Afterwards, we enjoyed some duty free alcohol that was purchased and had some Goldstar at the pub. Goldstar is a macro-brew of Israel and it’s actually very nice, though the pub’s price of 28 NIS a beer was unfortunate. I’m still working on everyone’s names but so far, so good.

Day 2

The next morning we woke at 7 for breakfast and started the day. Israeli breakfast is really nice, with fresh vegetables, pickled herring and oddly enough chocolate pudding. We embarked up north the Tel Dan to go on a nature walk. Elad explained the importance of the stream there and that the ruins had evidence that King David had actually existed. After the history lesson we traveled to Mt. Bental, overlooking the borders of Syria and Lebanon. The story of the conflict with Syria was fascinating and thought provoking. Next we stopped for lunch. Some friends I’m becoming closer to (2 brothers, their cousin, and a former teammate) went to Café Café. It was pretty terrible. I had the ‘Fish Shwarma Wrap’ which was just bland whitefish and lettuce in a tortilla, and the small sample of the ‘Smoked Salmon wrap wasn’t good either. A corrective experience was needed and luckily we were off to a tour of a winery, which included a tasting. We sampled a Cabarnet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a desert wine. I thought all were pretty great, but the red was especially fantastic as was to be expected from the rich volcanic soil of the area. After the wine, we drove a bit more to kayak on the River Jordan. It was more of a lazy stream at this point, but fairly fun nonetheless. Dinner at the Kibbutz back in Farod was a very nice fried chicken, accurately described as “chicken parm without the redsauce”. Another night, another rambunctious evening drinking Goldstar and watching the World Cup.

 

Day 3

Tonight I will be playing in an exhibition lacrosse game with the rest of the group. All the members in this birthright group our NCAA athletes of varying abilities from Division 1 through 3. This, however,  didn’t stop us from touring our tucheses off. After a breakfast that saw more familiar faces and foods, we started off with a 2-hour downhill hike on the Nachal Amud trail. The views were beautiful and the hike gave us a chance to warm up our legs and of course learn more Israeli history. We then drove to the old city of Tzfat. At long last I got my hands on some very flavorful shwarma. It was fantastic. The laffa was fresh and hot, the sauces I added were perfectly spicy and of course the meat was well seasoned and freshly shaved. With full stomachs we toured Tzfat learning more about Kabbalah and Halacha, as we visited two historic synagogues. Upon our return to our last night at the Kibbutz in Farod, we rested and got ready for the game.