A foodie tour of Amsterdam
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A foodie tour of Amsterdam

We head to the Dutch capital for a three-day gastro city break to sample some classic eats and drinks. From apple pie and liquorice, to herring and craft beers, there is something for everyone, reports Andrew Marshall.

“Welcome to the Jordaan Food Tour,” says Eating Europe guide Aileen Martinia outside Café Papeneiland (Prinsengracht 2 ) one crisp April morning. Just west of the canal belt and originally a working-class area, the Jordaan is now one of the city's most desirable and characterful neighbourhoods, packed with speciality food shops, cafés and restaurants. The 3.5-hour tour provides an excellent initiation into Amsterdam's culinary traditions and offers uniquely Dutch tastings from several foodie vendors interspersed with entertaining facts and tales en route.

Café Papeneiland is a great example of a traditional bruin (brown) café, and one of the oldest in the city dating back to 1642. The name brown café comes from the dark, but snug wooden interiors, and for many locals an Amsterdam brown café is an extension of their own living room. “I have been coming here every week for years to catch up with friends and enjoy some apple pie,” says Willem Alexander. The Dutch have been making appelgebak or apple pie since the 1500s, and Café Papeneiland is one of the best places in town to sample it, lovingly made from a closely-guarded recipe handed down through generations.

What separates Dutch apple pie from the others, is the really thick crust and spicy filling of cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins, to help soak up the juices from the apple as it cooks. One famous customer was Bill Clinton, who enjoyed his slice of apple pie so much, that he decided to take a whole one back home with him – and a letter from the White House thanking the staff is proudly displayed on the wall opposite the bar. We join the rest of the tour group around a wooden table in the corner of the café to enjoy a slice of this iconic dessert served with a large dollop of whipped cream, accompanied by a coffee. Absolutely heavenly. .

Just around the corner from Café Papeneiland is Swieti Sranang or 'Sweet Surinam' (Brouwersgracht 125), a humble-looking takeaway serving some great food from the former Dutch colonies. “Until a few years ago Dutch cuisine wasn’t terribly exciting, but people from Surinam and Indonesia have brought their amazing food culture with them and restaurants can now be found on many street corners in most neighbourhoods,” says Aileen. We all crowd eagerly inside to sample broodje pom, a Surinamese oven dish which combines three central ingredients: chicken, citrus juice and pomtajer (an indigenous plant) served in a bread roll, and baka bana, deep-fried plantain with peanut sauce.

Next on the agenda is Louman (Goudsbloemstraat 76), an old-fashioned butcher's shop which has been selling locally-sourced meat- particularly sausages for over 150 years. The ossenworst (raw, smoked beef sausage) and grillworst (grilled sausage) are popular choices. Close by is the top-quality fishmonger Urker Viswinkel (Tweede Egelantiersdwarsstraat 13 ) which features the Dutch favourite maatjes haring (fresh raw herring cured in brine) on its menu. The usual practice is to take your herring by the tail and toss it whole down your throat, with your head held back, but the faint-hearted may prefer them in a roll, or on a plate with chopped onion or gherkin. “There is a saying here, that if you don't try herring you will regret it, and if you try herring you will regret it,” says Aileen with a smile. If herring isn’t your thing, then try the superb, deep-fried cod bites in beer batter, known as kebbeling.

Another tour highlight is a trip through Amsterdam's World Heritage canals on 'The Tourist', a beautifully crafted salon boat built in 1909, where we sample three types of cheese from De Kaaskamer cheese shop (Runstraat 7 ) paired with a bottle of wine. Next up is a portion of the quintessential Dutch bar food bitterballen (golden, fried meat and potato balls that are much tastier than they look), alongside some superb local beers from the micro-brewery Brouwerij 't IJ. You certainly won't go hungry on a Jordaan Food & Canal Tour and my advice is to go easy on breakfast on the day of your tour.

Spirit of Amsterdam

In the afternoon we visit the amusingly named Wynand Fockink ( Pijlsteeg 31 ) to experience the Netherland's trademark spirit jenever, a fiery, juniper-flavoured drink not dissimilar to gin. Located down a narrow alleyway just off Dam Square, Amsterdam's best proeflokaal (tasting house) barely looks a day older than its 1679 origins. The quirky, cosy and atmospheric interior is a cross between an old bar and a chemist shop where antique bottles perch on crooked shelves and old wooden barrels line the walls.

“This is the oldest, still-producing jenever distillery and tasting room in Amsterdam,” says Brand Ambassador Joeri Remeeus as we survey the menu of more than 70 jenevers and flavoured liqueurs available. There are two types of jenever: oude (old) and jonge (young), and different grains such as wheat, barley and spelt are used in the production process. Jenever is traditionally served neat in a tulip-shaped shot glass filled to the brim, which obliges you to bend down to the counter to take your first sip hands-free or risk spilling your tipple. Open daily from 3pm to 9pm, make sure to drop by Wynand Fockink for a quick one, and don't be surprised if you find yourself leaving with a souvenir bottle or two.

A few streets away is Jacob Hooy & Co (Kloveniersburgwal 12 ), a marvellous store that began life as a pharmacy in 1743, and its beautiful antique interior of worn wooden floors and cabinets looks much as it did back then. Although it specialises in supplements, teas, homeopathic remedies and herbs, the best reason to visit, is for the excellent selection of Dutch liquorice. Aficionados of the black stuff will think they have arrived in heaven here, with sweet and salty liquorice available, both soft and firm in a variety of shapes. The Dutch refer to salty liquorice as zoute drop or dubbel zoute drop (double salted liquorice). On the wooden counter are some scales where the confectionary is weighed out 'pick and mix' style, then scooped into vintage brown paper bags in the age-old manner. Make mine a big bag please.

Market fare

The next morning we head out to the trendy De Pijp neighbourhood to visit Albert Cuypmarkt - the biggest and most popular outdoor market in the Netherlands operating since 1905. Over 250 stalls are set up down one very long street, selling everything from clothing and flowers, to fresh vegetables and a smorgasbord of Dutch specialities. Cheese stalls bulge with Gouda, Edam and Friese nagelkaas, a clove cheese that became popular when spices were first imported in the 17th century. Another stall sells poffertjes, a traditional Dutch batter treat dating from the Napoleon era. Made with yeast and buckwheat flour, poffertjes resemble small, fluffy pancakes and are typically eaten with butter and sugar.

While you wander the market (open Monday to Saturday from 9.am to 5.pm) keep an eye out for a food van with the sign “Goudse Stroopwafels” which sells another popular Dutch treat – the stroopwaffel. First made in the city of Gouda, a stroopwafel is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup in the centre, and Goudse Stroopwafels are meant to be the best in Amsterdam. Another top foodie market is Boerenmarkt, Amsterdam's organic Saturday 'farmer's market' , where to the accompaniment of some fine busking, you can cruise the various stands offering goat's cheese, Dutch meats, freshly-baked bread and fabulous fungi.

It's worth mentioning that close to the start of the Albert Cuypmarkt is Warung Spang Makandra (Gerard Doustraat 39 ), an authentic diner serving typical Surinamese and Javanese dishes. Try the roti chicken, Javanese soup (saotto) or the house special of fried rice, stir-fried noodles, chicken fillet in soya sauce, chicken skewer with peanut butter sauce, sliced Surinam long beans, fried egg, and deep-fried mashed potato ball with herbs. In the area is Afoe Censie ( Gerard Douplein 12 ) a Surinamese grocery bursting with exotic fruits such as durian, papaya, mango and coconut.

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Attached Files

A-foodie-tour-of-Amsterdam.rtf
A-foodie-tour-of-Amsterdam.rtf
“Beer selection- Brouwerij 't IJ. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Beer selection- Brouwerij
“Row of typical Amsterdam houses near the Centraal Station. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Row of typical Amsterdam houses near the Centraal Station. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“You cannot get fresher or more locally-sourced food than at the greenhouse restaurant De Kas. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“You cannot get fresher or more locally-sourced food than at the greenhouse restaurant De Kas. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Classic Dutch apple pie (appelgebak) accompanied by a large dollop of whipped cream (slagroom), is an Amsterdam culinary highlight and arguably the best is served at Café Papeneiland. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Classic Dutch apple pie (appelgebak) accompanied by a large dollop of whipped cream (slagroom), is an Amsterdam culinary highlight and arguably the best is served at  Café  Papeneiland. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Sampling herring on the Jordaan Food Tour. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Sampling herring on the Jordaan Food Tour. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Jacob Hooij & Co sells superb salty and sweet Dutch licorice. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Jacob Hooij & Co sells superb salty and sweet Dutch licorice. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“The Bistro Bij Ons (Prinsengracht 287) serves traditional Dutch fare. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“The Bistro Bij Ons (Prinsengracht 287) serves traditional Dutch fare. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Joeri Remeeus shows some types of jenever inside the tasting house Wynand Fockink. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Joeri Remeeus shows some types of jenever inside the tasting house Wynand Fockink. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“ Brouwerij 't IJ. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“ Brouwerij
“Cheese stall – Albert Cuypmarkt. Image credit: Paul Marshall”
“Cheese stall – Albert Cuypmarkt. Image credit: Paul Marshall”