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I found cheese heaven in Amsterdam

10:06 AM , , 5 Comments

Amsterdam and cheese farms are as iconic as pandan cake and Singapore. There are two famous cheese farms; Alkmaar and Henri Willig. The former only opens every Friday whilst Henri Willig is open nearly every other day. Enter the doors of every cheese lover's dream.

Greeted by a random rooster strutting around.

A dutch dressed in a dutch maid's outfit carefully explains the cheese making process.

Extracted from the Henri Willig website;

Milk is poured into a cheese tub and a bacterial culture is added to give cheese its special taste. After heating the milk to 29º Celsius rennet is added to help the milk coagulate. Milk becomes thick, like a pudding, and the milk is cut with special knives. The milk separates in two parts: a liquid part (whey) and a solid part (curds). Ninety percent is whey and ten percent is curds.

The curds are put in special cheese moulds. These moulds are placed under a cheese press before being pressed together for 2 hours to attain the traditional shape of cheese.  When the cheeses have been pressed, they are placed in a brine bathe to give cheese a natural rind, preserves the cheese and gives it a better taste.When the cheeses have absorbed enough salt they are put on shelves for drying. Two days later a coating can be applied to prevent the cheese from drying out.

Time for cheese sampling in every colour and flavour available. Cheese heaven it was, endless sampling and the fingers could not stop moving.

I probably got lost in all the sampling but for the interested, below's the full range they offer;

Natural Gouda
Herbs and Garlic
Cumin Seeds
Hot & Spicy
Smoked Gouda
Smoked Herbs
Smoked Goat

Polder Gold won big at the 2006 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison Wisconsin - Hard Goat's Milk Cheese. I was so smitten, I had to buy a chunk home, it's rich and unlike the other soft cheeses, it is hard. Not quite the kind to eat with bread but more to nibble on or for shavings on top of pasta.

A peek into the cheese prices but there were mad queues for them anyway. Of course, in true tourist fashion, we contributed a fair share.

Henri Willig

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Roadside Takeaway @ Volendam, Amsterdam

Even after a satisfying lunch, a crowded food stand like above still had the ability to tickle the palette. It was the most crowded in the row of street stands.

Take your pick from the disposable plates, a boggling display of "once friends of the sea"; from herring to oysters to salmon to cod. The lady would reheat it up upon order.

Unable to decide, we had the mixed platter at a whopping 5€. Fish fingers, squid rings, oysters, prawn cakes that were dreadfully greasy and soggy (from the reheating I suppose). The mayo could do little to help. I wonder where we found the appetite to clean off the plate but at the bottom, we were greeted by an unpalatable layer of oil. Sure looks better than it tastes!

At least we had a gorgeous Kingfisher for company! I wonder what it felt watching us eat its counterparts.


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De Lunch Haven Restaurant @ Volendam, Holland

The only conducted tour we joined in Amsterdam, to travel out of the city to the other cities. Volendam's one of the stopovers after the Windmill and Cheesefarm...for lunch! The tour guide recommended this particular eatery along the stretch that faces the sea. Normally I would not think too highly of recommendations made by tour guides in particular since the mentality is; they get a cut of the commission anyway!

Sitting in a cosy cafe for lunch has always been a luxury, being on a holiday materialised that. People watching is what I love, just sitting back to enjoy the activity inside the cafe and outside. 

Soaked in the atmosphere I did as I watched people furrow their brows over what to eat, waitresses taking orders, the kitchen frying up meals...

 Snert (5€) was recommended by the tour guide and true enough, nearly every table ordered it. It is a dutch signature, thick pea soup! Served with a slice of rye bread and smoked ham. Traditionall eaten in winter, the Dutch's way of measuring if it is a good soup -- " should be able to stand a spoon upright in a good pea soup".

 Loved every drop of it. Wholesome hearty soup with such thick consistency, ups the hearty factor by notches. Not quite a fan of rye bread but I chomped it down heartily. Does not hurt that the soup is packed with so many types of vegetables; peas, celery, carrots, onions...veggie heaven. :)

Kibbeling Friet (9,50€)

Another highly recommended, cod fish fritters with fries. Portions are good enough for three small eaters! Crispy cod fritters peppered with herbs and delish fries...I miss it already.

Appelgebak (2,20€)

Apple tart/pie/cake was on the agenda since they were listed on nearly all menus. The squirt of fresh cream made this old school but I am a sucker for such things anyway. Dense chilled apple pie on a chilly day, I enjoyed it immensely.

Pleasantly surprised with the affordable food dished up, we smacked our lips and tucked in heartily.

De Lunch Haven Restaurant
Haven 96
1131 EV Volendam

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Albert Hejin: Supermart dinner takeouts

Supermart dinners are so very common given the fact that by 6pm all shops (yes ALL) are closed! We walked for a good 2 hours trying to convince ourselves that it cannot be that bad but true enough, save for bars all sources of food were limited. Sounds quite like a dessert eh? Could be the area we stayed in as the next day's dinner near the main train station was bustling with activity. So back to Albert Hejin, our favouritest supermart (godsent!) in Amsterdam. They close at a familiar timing of 10pm. 

We managed to grab a few things before dashing back to the hotel to tuck in.

Potato Salad with Potato Bun. All the walking must have made us "gone potatoes". The large tub of potato salad was slightly over a euro...! It fed all of us to the brim, albeit very homemade in taste. Simply homemade this meal seemed but cosying up in the hotel eating this was strangely, really nice.

I could not give a miss on the various types of yogurt they had! We had rice yogurt, apple sauce and muesli yogurt.

Like rice porridge, this was totally bland.

Crunchy muesli to go with a tub of plain yogurt.

Of the three, apple sauce was the closest to what we imagined it to be. Verdict: The Europeans really are hard core healthnuts in this department. Locally, our yogurts have a tinge of sweetness.

Albert Hejin

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Bakkerij De Waal @ Amsterdam, Holland

A morning walk landed us at Bakkerij De Waal. Delifrance was sighted just a couple of doors away! The overload of bread so readily accessible makes eating easier than thought.

An attempt at Ham Kass Croissant (1,65€) to see if it could rival Simon's. Never in a million years. Buttery layers but lacking the oomph.

A Ciabatta Walnoot (0,95€) none of us could resist...the gorgeous shade of brown...chewy nutty bread stick I love!

Bakkerij De Waal
Along the lane of Sex Museum

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Dutch Waffles - Stroopwafels

2:36 PM , , 2 Comments

Loosely translated as syrup waffles, these are Holland's interpretation of the world famous doughy ones. A friend introduced these to me years back during her travels to Netherlands and the first bite shocked the molars - sweet beyond comprehension. First timers usually gawk at its sugar levels but subsequently, the battle is lost and I join the legions of fans in Association of Stroopwafel Addicts! Stroopwafels originate from Gouda in Netherlands and are sold in both markets and supermarts. It would have been ideal if I could spare time to drop by Albert Cyupmarket for fresh ones but beggars (really) can't be choosers.

The only ones I could find from Albert Hejin, a chain of supermarts in Amsterdam. Packed in tens, the wafer biscuits were honeyed with a layer of chewy caramel...yum yum yum...Stop at one? I could not find the heart to resist. I lugged back additionals but these were soon polished off as well.

A different interpretation of stroopwafels, a more biscuity version (think digestive biscuits) that crumbles so easily. Still prefering the original!

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Simon Meijssen Bakery @ Amsterdam, Holland

We bade Brussels a teary reluctant goodbye, boarded the Inter City Express (ICE) train for Amsterdam..the land of legal vices. Think smoking pot (There was one lone stranger almost dancing and singing Hip Hop on the streets, not exactly posing a nuisance but the police were called in), sex (alright, they are known for the red light district and the sex museum!), drink (Heineken my love!)...and of course, museums (Van Gogh!).

Call it lucky or unlucky but the 2 days we were spending in Amsterdam were right on the two days of the Euro D'Italia Race, a bike race the equivalent of F1 in Singapore. Roads get sealed, transport becomes a pain (the ONLY tram to our hotel was stopped for the day) and that was more or less how I ended up asking at least 6 people how to get to our hotel and was brought around Holland literally (the cantonese saying for the blind leading the blind!) and found the light at the end of the bleak tunnel in a post man on a bicycle!

That big hoola took an hour, at least...under the light drizzle. By the time we lugged the luggages to the hotel and plonked ourselves down, I must have walked enough to burn last night's calories too!

Sorry for the lengthy tale but that was how we ended up stopping by a bakery, Simon Meijssen's. I saw quite a few outlets throughout the city (at least around Leidsplein and Dam Square). Some history about Simon Meijssen, he picked a tip or two from French bakers and brought France to Amsterdam, literally.

Cupcakes to remember the bike race!

Cupcakes seen in Europe tend to have their paper cups folded outward...figure that makes eating easier?

Take your pick from the wide array.

Ham and Cheese Croissant sat lonely on the shelf, we requested for it to be reheated and it was the most incredible-marvellous-delicious croissant I've ever eaten.

Croissant baked to such crispiness without being flaky, cheese was generously strewn atop and embedded within. The roll of ham served its due purpose, tantalising the tastebuds further. I could not help picking at the burnt cheese bits and nibbling. I really could eat this everyday for the rest of my life.

How could I miss this! The cause of all the misery summed up in a cupcake. ;p

Totally girlie, totally pink, totally cute. Albeit ordinary looking, the cupcake was awesomely good. Soft, fluffy and well, wholesome.

Simon Meijssen's was so good, we returned the following day to pick up breakfast! I would never forget waking up bright and early, taking a stroll to a bakery to get breakfast despite the chill. Lovely memories...

White bread roll with such density and chewyness...I think this love affair with bread was reignited all over again.

Chocolate Croissant which we failed to get reheated, did not wow as much as the ham and cheese but still good!

Getting this was hilarious.

"Is this Dutch?" *points to cookie*

So there was it, I bought the cutest heart cookie in Amsterdam.

Made with a crumbly cookie base, smeared with berry jam ( a sweet-sour chewy combination) and melt in your mouth sides. Compared to Linzer Tortes that I've tried, the cookie version is drier but outstanding on its own. Fills you up quite considerably too.

Pecan Pie, yet another christmas personal favourite. Crunchy tart base with the scrummiest of fillings.

Hearty fare Simon Meijssen dishes up for everyone, both the budget conscious and the bigger pockets. I'm sure you'd be able to find something that fits the craving.

Simon Meijssen Bakery

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Pancake Corner @ Sky Sports Cafe, Amsterdam

6:39 PM , , 0 Comments

Dutch pancakes was on the list of to try, in fact Pancake Bakery was the intended place but somehow somewhere down the line the itinerary was changed and in times of desperation, anywhere is good. Leidsplein's one of those areas that actually open beyond the regular 6pm timing that most eateries close.

Pancake corner then! It is a sports bar that screens live telecasts of soccer matches, opens till of all, the tram stops right in front of it. Oh yes, the waitresses are hot babes, clad in mid-drift sports wear.

Within earshot whilst waiting for my takeaway...(blame the gossipy genes), I witnessed a newly single girl seeking solace in the company of several gentlemen. Her girlfriends barge in to "take her away" as they insist she just "broke up less than an hour ago." and she was on "rebound". No drama unfolds unfortunately as the gentlemen swear in God's name to bring her home safe and sound.

Shortly after, I was handed my piping hot takeaway.

Pancake Plain (5.9 )
William Pears (1.6 )

A huge thin pancake packed in an equally huge styrofoam box. Resembled a chewy minjiangkueh, only thinner. William pears tasted as if they came fresh from a can.

It was nice, just not as iconic as waffles are for Belgium. I had my pancake, ate it and satisfied I was.

Just a nugget of fun; Receipt reads "For Fun and Fun! Tips not included (10-15%)

Sky Sports Cafe
Leidseplein 11
1017 PS Amsterdam

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La Strada @ Shaw Centre 2

Recently I was invited to a friend's birthday dinner at La Strada. It was a special menu put together by Chef Darence Wee. For a start, I was not even aware La Strada provided private dining in a separate room...good enough for small parties to up to 12 people. So snug we were...away from the rest of the restaurant and boy did we make full use of the privacy. We had the privilege of a butler for the night who busied himself with the refilling of bread baskets, drinks and detailed descriptions of each dish.

Bubbly to start off the night!

I was most looking forward to these! Chewy pizza slices...simple bites of bliss. Toasty and doughy...mmmph!

The other complimentaries that kept me busy nibbling, parmesan cheese sticks and toasties. A different kind of bread basket at least, away from the usual onion loaves, foccacia or bread rolls.

Antipasti Misti
Selection of Antipasto

For the meal to commence, it took a while of self introduction by the butler (which I very embarrassingly forgot!), menu introduction then followed by round the table choice of doneness for the mains.

The antipasto platter arrived grandly, on a plate so huge...I nearly toppled over. The selection included parma ham and melon, smoked hams, grilled zucchinis and peppers, buffalo cheese and tomatoes, artichokes and olives! Definitely for the vegetable fans, given that the table had quite a few hardcore carnivores I had the luxury of most of the delish platter to myself.

I lost count of the number of times the bread basket appeared but these were sliced perfect for the soup course.

Guazetto di Vongole
Live seasonal clams, cooked in white wine

Truth be told I was expecting a clear broth given "white wine" so when it appeared, there was an element of surprise. Baby clams in a tangy tomato broth. Main grouse, this was not entirely a soup dish given the small portions which left me unimpressed.

Linguine al Gamberi
Live prawns with linguine pasta, prawn stock, light tomato

I've not attempted pasta from La Strada as yet and was most looking forward to it simply because my personal yardsticks of a good Italian restaurant are determined by Pizza, Pasta and Tiramisu. Two friends of the sea doused in gravy that looked like the continuation of the clam soup on a bed of pasta.

One twirl.

Two twirls.

Three twirls and a bit more. It was all gone, slurped clean. Handmade linguine with a bite, mega loving that! Oh...the prawns are fresh. Super fresh without a trace of bicarbonate. N-I-C-E. If only someone gave up his portion, I would have gladly taken over.

Bistecca al Fiorentina
Chef's special Australian grain-fed T-Bone steak, accompaniments

I had a good "laugh out loud" moment when the platter arrived. Remember the butler going round asking your choice of doneness? All was presented on a platter...and honestly, how would I know which was my preferred doneness?

 T-Bone steak...tender with natural juices but that was really it. That. Not the best I have eaten, not the worst just did not fulfil the "signature" category that it claims. The garnishing was deslish, roasted potatoes, tomatoes and of course, a squeeze of lemon is always welcome!

Panna Cotta con Vincotto
Vanilla pods infused "cooked cream", with vincotto

They wobbled like Jell-O when placed infront of me. I was expecting a whole lot of gelatin but this had an awesome creamy finish. Vanilla speckles made me doubly thrilled. If I return, this would be a must order. Vincotto was featured in the artistic sticky sauce on top, made of dark, sweet dense grape that hails from Italy. I found it slightly sour though.

The choice of tiramisu for the non-panna cotta lovers. Disproportionate portions of cream and espresso soaked sponge fingers.

Lunch at La Strada years back was memorable, fast forward to was less outstanding. I would have expected stellar execution for the steak though the pasta was mindblowing good. If a return is on the cards, I'll stick with the pasta and panna cotta.

La Strada
Shaw Centre

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