The final stop on our cruise was Amsterdam and though we stayed a couple of days and I could have used a few more even if it rained all but 5 hours of our stay. Amsterdam has a wild food and beverage scene. From the streets, to the cafés, and “coffee shops”, there is so much going on. We learned quickly that “coffee shop” is a euphemism for hash or weed shop. If you actually want coffee you need to go to a café where you can also get beer, wine and some great snacks. What we found fascinating were the number of ethnic restaurants in the tourist corridor and the complete lack of Dutch restaurants. We saw everything from Turkish and Italian to Mexican and Halal eateries, but not one single Dutch restaurant other than the cafés.
Our hotel, the Marriott Renaissance, was centrally located in the downtown, tourist corridor. While it was convenient to everything we wanted to do, we wished it was a better hotel. For the record, we didn’t choose it. The lobby and public areas are contemporary and lovely, but the room was a major disappointment after the opulence and luxury of the River Princess. The carpet was stained in several places, one of the chairs had a tear, the bed was uncomfortable and the breakfast was atrocious. Thankfully we weren’t in an isolated area and could explore Amsterdam easily away from the hotel. The only bright side to the hotel was the café that had some great local beers and a friendly staff.
The Albert Cuyp Market in Amsterdam
After a morning including the happy accident of a Banksy exhibit at the MOCO Museum we decided to continue acting like tourists. In Amsterdam, near one of the seemingly thousands of canals, there is a daily open air market, the Albert Cuyp Market. Here you can find everything your heart desires from souvenirs and clothing to produce and ready to eat snacks. Even in the rain, it was a treat to walk through and check out all the stalls, vendors and food. The produce is glorious, the souvenirs as schlocky as you would expect and the clothes exactly what you would find at a swap meet. What we found really interesting were the cheese, fish and meat vendors selling fresh product to take home. And it wasn’t just tourists shopping at the market; there were plenty of Amsterdam locals who had favorite merchants there. Needless to say, I had a BALL! Of course Gouda (pronounced HOW-duh) was purchased and brought home. The merchant happily pointed out the “factory made” vs. handmade cheeses. Three guesses as to which ones ended up in my shopping bag.
Just Say NO! to Herring
And then of course there was the street food. I had to eat them all! I even tried the herring! It is known that if you are in Amsterdam, you should have some herring. John wouldn’t touch it, and after one bite, I didn’t blame him. I took a second bite, hoping for the best, but it’s just not for me. I like pickled herring and creamed pickled herring and this wasn’t like either of those. And it wasn’t the taste, it was the texture. I found it slimy and a little tasteless if I am being honest. Thank goodness for the dill pickle and the onions on the roll with it, or it would have had little to no taste at all. There is no photo because, well, it was gross and who wants to see that, or my face upon NOT enjoying?
Moving on to Tastier Things
I am not a fan of waffles in general, unless it is a waffle cone with ice cream inside, therefore I wasn’t entirely sure about stroopwafels. Let it be known, I am convert! They are thin (like a waffle cone), crispy, waffle sandWISH cookies with caramel smeared between the layers. The trick to eating them is to keep them in the paper wrapper because the caramel is like glue and will stick to every single thing it touches. Totally worth the trouble, believe me!
On board the ship the final night, one of the dessert offerings was poffertjes. We tried them, and frankly were a bit disappointed since we had heard and read a bit about them. So when we saw them being made in the market, we elected to give them another try. I am so glad we did! If you have ever been to an Italian style street fair, like San Gennaro, I hope you have had the good sense to eat “fried dough”. These little puffs of pan fried, yeasted batter taste similar, but they are tiny, coated in butter and powdered sugar (traditionally) and you don’t feel guilty for eating an order of 10! Check out the video of the vendor flipping them. On the ship they were cooked like waffles between two plates and were more like cake than dough. You can see the difference here in the video and picture. They puff up on the pan and then collapse onto themselves making layers of doughy goodness.
No, I Am Not Making That Up
Then we had the bitterballen. No, I am not making that up and get your mind out of the gutter. Yes, I know we are talking about Amsterdam, but this is about food dammit! These are our favorite of all the snacks we tried. So much so, that I am planning to make them at home. You know how when you chill gravy it turns into gravy jello? Ok, make the gravy even thicker, throw some finely chopped meat in (usually beef or veal). Then chill it, form it into balls, bread it and deep fry it. Yes, my friends. Deep fried gravy balls! We liked them so much that we had three different versions in 2 days and the “original” was our least favorite. They are always served with mustard, and it oddly works! The gravy never gets back to the liquid consistency, so they aren’t a mess to eat. They are just damn good.
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