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Appetite for Amsterdam

In Amsterdam sightseeing and eating jostle for pole position. We attend to both needs by pairing the museum we plan to visit with a local eating experience we don’t want to miss. This approach provides us with a daily cultural and culinary fix.

Every city has plenty to offer diners without budgets to consider. However, one often has to do a bit of homework to seek out eateries that please the palate without wounding the wallet. We found that this paid off well over the course of a week in Amsterdam where we tried new foods in markets and ate well in family-friendly restaurants.

Finding ourselves one lunchtime at the Albert Cuypmarkt (see Markets) we noticed a small burger restaurant called Burgermeeseter (Albert Cuypstraat, 48). The room was lined with red leather booths above which hung pictures of happy looking cows. Presumably the photographer said ‘say moo’ not ‘burgermeester’. Translated as master burger, the kitchen had a lot to live up to and, if our empty plates were anything to go by, it did. An impressive list of beef, lamb, salmon and vegetarian burgers were on offer.











Customers choose between white or wholemeal rolls and can order either a full-size or ‘mini’ for those with smaller lunchtime appetites or for children (not mine!). The lamb burger with red onion confit was delicious as was the beef burger with dragonmayo, a wonderful Dutch word meaning tarragon mayonnaise. These were served with grilled aubergines and courgettes – a tasty addition.  Kids can watch their burgers being cooked on an open grill that runs the length of the room. The staff are very friendly, there are 3 branches across the city, and there is even a cookbook should you wish to recreate the experience at home.













Conveniently situated across the road is a magnificent bakery aptly named Bakken Met Passie which translates as Baked with Passion. What a cornucopia of baked delights! Chrismas brioches, Valrhona chocolate tarts,  fruit muffins topped with blueberries and raspberries, ice-white meringues just begging to be filled back home with whipped cream and soft fruits; spelt breads studded with seeds, fig breads, hazelnut breads, biscuits and éclairs.













And finally, what we had come in search of – the traditional Dutch new year treat – Oliebollen – a round, fried doughnut sprinkled with icing sugar, here filled with raisins and apple. I have eaten many of these before and often found them stodgy but these were light and hit the right note of sweetness as we disappeared into the darkening and rainy afternoon, licking every last sugary crumb off our sticky fingers.













Had we not just eaten lunch, we would have done so in the cafe section of the bakery, from where we could have watched the bakers in the open plan kitchen. This shop was established 11 years ago and I hope it keeps going until our next visit. Bakken Met Passie (Albert Cuypstraat, 53).

The next sugar rush took place at a chocolate shop called Puccini Bomboni.  The city boasts two of these and, while the outlet on Singel, 184 is simple in its decor with platters of chocolates displayed on a large wooden table, the shop on uber–trendy Staalstraat is unashamedly upmarket.  A magnificent display meets the eye as the olfactory senses go into overdrive on entering this chocolate heaven.













The small shop is positively bursting with chocolates that stretch the chocoholics imagination. And wallet. These chocolates don’t come cheap – around 17 euros for 6 bonbons – but then this is top notch. Displayed like jewels twinkling on their platters, the chocolates vie for attention and the choice, ranging from lemon grass to black pepper, requires careful consideration. Hence the queue that stretched out the door but the wait was worthwhile. We limited ourselves to 6 pieces and retreated to a nearby cafe to savour our booty over cups of cappuccino and camomile tea.













Slowly we tasted, eyes closed to focus concentration, soft moans escaping happy mouths. We worked our way through honey, coffee, tamarind, cranberry, rhubarb and calvados. Tamarind won the most votes with a rogue award going to honey. Excellent chocolate we all agreed but perhaps one piece each would have sufficed.  Took a long and much needed walk home! (Puccini Bomboni , Staalstraat 17).

Apple cake is to Amsterdam what cheese cake is to New York. It’s everywhere! But just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s always worth eating. At Winkel, however, the main concern is getting a table. Rest assured about the quality of the cake. We came across Winkel on a crisp Christmas eve morning, having spent a happy hour at the Boerenmarkt – an organic food market on Noodemarkt (see Markets).  Arms filled with organic produce we were much in need of a warm hearth and something good to eat. Winkel is easily identified by its cheerful green and white awning. Inside it is snug and cosy with wooden floors, beams and tables – what the Dutch call gezellig. A bar runs the length of the room at which lucky customers perch while they drink coffee, mint tea or a beer. At busy times expect to queue but it’s worth the wait.












The delicious apple cake has a crunchy crust that gives way to a filling that is slightly tart and just sweet enough, a few plump sultanas and a well judged note of cinnamon. It is served ‘with or without’ – a light cream. The slices are so generous that on our return visit we shared. Chatting to the staff I discovered that on market day (Saturdays) they sell up to 100 cakes, each sliced into 8. That’s a lot of apple peeling! A small lunch menu is available but everyone was tucking happily into apple cake. Do not return home without eating here. (Winkel, Noordemarkt,43).

One of my abiding impressions of Amsterdam was the proliferation of small shops and restaurants specialising in an item that is expertly produced. Whether it is a burger, a chocolate or an apple cake there is somewhere particular to go where you will find this made really well, simply and effectively presented by convivial staff, and, chocolate aside, at family friendly prices.

Copyright 2012, Madeleine Morrow

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