Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sweets on the Streets of Amsterdam - a very long post to wrap it all up!

As I've mentioned before, I inherited quite a sweet tooth from my mother's side of my family. While we ate lots of good savory food on this trip, many of the foods we went in search of were sweet, so pictures of chocolates and pastries certainly dominate. We had a jam packed bunch of days, and our 8 day trip turned into 12 due to the volcano in Iceland, so we got to do a bit more eating and walking than originally planned. This is a very long post, so if you just want to glance at the photos, or read snippets here and there, go for it!
So, on to the rest of the food on our trip to Holland:
Albert Cuypt Market:  a great daily (except sunday) open air market. Food, clothes, flowers, stuff. regular prices, not fancy, just fabulous.

Fresh Stroop Waffles at the market: check out my sister Kendra enjoying one!
French fries, typically served with mayo. we had ours with curry katsup, but dug in so fast we forgot to take a picture, sorry.

Ice Cream. Yscuypje:
A fabulous little ice cream/gelato spot on the canal Prinsengracht,  a block down from our hotel, so we sampled it quite a few times. A nice young guy opened the minimalist space 1 year ago and seems to be doing very well. He freezes everything fresh each day. This was yogurt ice cream with kirsch(cherry) syrup.

Now our search for chocolate was a serious preoccupation. A few months ago we visited my aunt Claire in Toronto when we traveled there for my cousins wedding. She had just returned from Brussels where her son and his family live doing international human rights work. She had about a dozen boxes of chocolate truffles from Belgium to share with the family. Each day she opened a new one, or sometimes two or three, and we sampled and discussed and sampled some more. This was an extraordinary and unique experience, as Belgium chocolate, if I were to generalize, is pretty much the best there is.  Since Holland is only a stones throw away, we figured we'd find some good stuff there too. I'd found a number of good spots mentioned online before we left, but we also stumbled across many little chocolate shops as we walked around the city. We had to bring some home to family and friends too. Somehow the search for good chocolate seemed to blind us to the need to take any pictures, so I have almost none of the actual bon bons, but I will say that out of all of them, the truffles from Puccinni Bonbonni were the best. Decadent, fluffy ganache, unusual flavors (anise, thyme, tamarind, pepper). Very good, not too rich, well balanced and delicious, although a bit large.

Indonesian, Rijsttafel (rice table):
Indonesia was a dutch colony. There are many restaurants around featuring Indonesian "rice table" meals. lots of little dishes with rice. Was good, not great, but worth the experience, and it was incredible how many words and foods my grandmother remembered after 60 years. 

Hip restaurant with kids playroom:
This large loft like restaurant had an entire room for kids to play in. They managed to walk the line between elegant, hip and playful quite well.  Food was good, not great, but the atmosphere was fabulous, and it made me really miss my kids and husband.
People continually recognized my Oma from the documentary about her and the Holocaust memorial that was on TV, and thanked her for her courage and strength during and after the war. It was really incredible how people all over Holland had seen this story of her life during the Holocaust. It makes you realize what some of the downfalls are to living in a country as large as the USA. The story of a WWII survivor would never have such a pervasive impact here.

Portuguese Synagogue: Amazing monument to what the jewish community in Amsterdam once was. Before the war there were 140,000 Dutch Jews in Holland, after, only about 30,000. Kids from a school group recognized my Oma as well, and she spoke to them a bit about the Holocaust.

Small plates restaurant called Envy. Very dark space, good food, very expensive, but beautiful refrigerators lining the whole side of the space (about 15 of them), all produce on display as art. Cool, but a little too precious.

Slow food pizza car:

Bikes everywhere!

Goodbye dinner
We were invited to an official dinner with Jet (pronounced Yet), the government minister who originally invited my grandmother and helped to make this whole project possible. Her department also sent Puck to Poland every three months to meet with the various governments involved in trying to create a better memorial at Sobibor, the Nazi death camp that my grandparents escaped from. It is the only camp where there was  a large and successful revolt and escape, but there is only a small monument there now, and no information to teach people about the history of the camp or the uprising. In the group picture are all the main people who helped make this project happen (I apologize that I don't know everyone's last name): Esmeralda from the national TV station NOS, Jet, Puck and another woman from the government, Ad Van Limpt the historian and author and also his publisher, and Dirk and Guido from the Westerbork Museum. An incredible group of people.

Flower fields:
How could we go to Holland in April and not see the flowers?! Off to Haarlem, to visit Puck, one of the amazing women from the Dutch Government who made this whole trip and project possible. She invited us to see the flowers and have lunch in her gorgeous home and garden. Very special.
A wonderful lunch at Puck's house overlooking her lovely garden with chickens wandering through.

 Aged Gouda and Gouda with Cumin which is everywhere in Holland, and my Oma's favorite.

So, this marks the end of my postings on the trip to Holland. There is so much more to say, but I think I gave a good glimpse into the food on the trip and a little of the content of the Holocaust remembrance as well.  Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below! Thanks for reading! -Tagan

Friday, April 23, 2010

Adventrues in Amsterdam

I'm not sure that I can even begin to recap the amount of things we did on this trip. The Holocaust memorials and events were incredible and profound. In my spare moments, I wandered the streets of Amsterdam, 11 pages of food notes gathered online in hand,  in search of good food and a little beauty to balance the seriousness of the trip. Two great English language resources were the blog Dutch Grub,
and ChowHound's Europe board. You can find most of the things I mention here on those two sites, or on google, but I linked them here to the dutch websites as well.

A fabulous little restaurant in an unlikely part of the bustling city center. Run by a couple who grow most of the food for the menu and clearly love what they do. they also have a beautiful new cookbook. We had an impressively good spinach soup, salad and took home a piece of marscapone and pear tart.

homemade crispy stroop waffles, which are thin waffle cookies with  syrup (stroop in dutch) inside. you can find these packaged everywhere, even in the U.S. at Trader Joes, but at this little bakery in the canal area near the 9 little streets you can get a special variety which are a little crispy, and you can choose from 3 fillings: fig, honey stroop or hopjes (coffee stroop). I went for the coffee one and it was fabulous!  They also have special whipped cream filled chocolates here called slagroom. When refrigerated the filling is hard like cold butter cream, but if left to come to room temperature they are a little more like whipped cream, or "slag". I also had one of these chocolates at a fancy goodbye dinner hosted by the government, and it was really like freshly whipped cream in the middle, yum!

Pankoken in dutch are like thick crepes with fruits or vegetables baked into them. They are everywhere, and they are delicious! we stopped at a popular spot in the nine streets area of Amsterdam for breakfast. I had apple with fresh slag (whipped cream) and my sister had lemon and sugar. we both had fresh mint tea which is also served everywhere in Holland.
We passed this little restaurant with outdoor seating. They had blankets on the bench in case people got cold!

The Jordan
a great neighborhood with little streets, nice shops, sweets, bars, restaurants and markets. While searching for an old sweet shop with dozens of kinds of dutch licorice, we found this delicious tiny pastry shop and this cute little car.  
My sister had the raspberry tartlet. This is typical french pastry, but it was fresh and done very well. Almond cake, framboise, buttercream and fondant. I had the Avocat which is a dutch custard with a strong liquor, delicious as well. 

There is so much more to share, especially chocolate shops and flowers, so check back soon for more pictures!


I have been hearing stories of Zwolle, the small city in Holland where my Oma (grandmother) grew up and where my mother was born since I was a little kid. My Oma's family owned a small kosher hotel next to a cattle market, and detailed stories from their lives there before the second world war, and most of their deaths in Nazi concentration camps have peppered my life leaving me with vivid mental images of what life there must have been like. It was amazing to walk into this world decades later with my grandmother, only a few weeks before her 88th birthday. What we found was a beautiful small city, one of the few that had not been destroyed during the war. Most of the old buildings were still there, and the brick streets of the town center, lined with stores and restaurants is closed to cars. 

My Oma walked through the town saying, "my friend lived there, I used to wait for her on those steps" or " that was the butchershop, and there was the drug store where I used to buy dropjes (licorice), and the harmony (music hall)" She remembered the names of most of the streets, back allies and shortcuts through town and endless stories about events during the war, like when she pointed to the home of the catholic priest on his bicycle who told her she needed a place to hide and returned later that day with a family to hide her away from her family and the Nazis. This was just the beginning of an incredible and emotionally difficult trip through Holland.

The Hotel Wijnberg, now has students squating in it, which is legal in holland. The first floor has a community art center run by two young artists. All the people living in the former hotel are pictured below with my Oma. We talked with the Mayor and also our family about the possibility of declaring it a historical building and helping to maintain it. we shall see....

We missed the old candy shop before it closed, but pressed our noses against the window and snapped one picture. Earlier, we had a quick lunch at a pub in town. Mustard soup served in little pots and great bread! The two kinds of gouda I bought at the organic farmers' market in Amsterdam the day before made a second appearance.
A family friend and Zwolle archivist Marco, took us around town and seemed to know as much about the Jewish history there as my Oma. People stopped my Oma on the street, they had seen her on TV and heard her story. We went to the old Jewish cemetery in Zwolle and found my great grandfather's grave, he died before the war, and it also had my great grandmother's name on it, saying he was married to her, so while she died in Aushwitz it felt as though she had a memorial place as well. We also went to Assen and found the old jewish cemetary in the woods where my great great grandparents are buried.
We also visited the old synagogue in Zwolle, where there is a memorial to the people from the town who died in the holocaust. the names of my Oma's mother, and 2 of her brothers are listed.

I know this post is not standard fare for a food blog, but it was so important, that I couldn't resist sharing the experience. Please let me know if you have questions or leave comments below.