Food, Beer, and Travel

a dump from the mind of Jon Piper

Posts Tagged ‘brown cafe’

Amsterdam – ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

My wanderings on my first night back in Europe bring me to yet another clearly neighborhood brown cafe, ‘t Arendsnest Nederlands Biercafe. Sitting at the bar and looking at the taps and bottle list give a quite different impression than the last one, however. I look and look for a familiar name or label, but other than a couple Dutch macros and La Trappe, there’s nothing familiar. Wow, here’s a biercafe with a truly local beer list. Nothing from outside Holland’s borders. And thus, it gets much more respect than In de Wildeman. There seemed to be enough interesting offerings on the list to keep me sampling for some time.

I ask the bartender for something high gravity. He perks up, after some back and forth about what exactly that means (obviously not a clear translation) and offers me a Russian Imperial Stout. Funny – it was this label on the tap handle which had captured my eye: Brouwerij de Molen Rasputin.

Any future Amsterdam trip will surely find me here. It’s proximity to Central Station only make it more of a lock.

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Amsterdam – De Roode Leeuw

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

On the recomendation of the bartender at In de Wildeman Bier Proeflokaal, I walked to Restaurant de Roode Leeuw for dinner. I was looking for a typical Dutch dining experience.

Perhaps it’s the dark wood or the red velvet seats, but from the outside, this looks like a fancy establishment. When gestured to seat yourself and approaching the table with the paper placemat and thick paper napkins, a different impression is given.

I order the Stomppotten, a traditional Dutch stew over mashed potatoes and vegetables and an Amstel. The Amstel is much better than the light version available in the US, but still quite bad. The Stamppotten is clearly a modern interpretation of the traditional dish. The stewing beef had been removed from the stew for finishing, the bacon was grilled dry, and smoked sausage all served over two different mashed potato stacks: one with carrots an brocoli and the other with cut cooked spinach(?). The waiter sparingly poured the stewing gravy over top. It was then that I decided Dutch food, while eu sunstabtially better than German is still too much thus influenced. Big and fatty and still a little bland except the sausages. The meal wasn’t bad… But if you’re going to modernize a classic, crisp the bacon, caramelize the sausage, and give me some texture on the stewing beef by grilling it after removing from the stew.

I won’t be seeking Dutch food anytime soon. Not terrible, but not good. As my colleague Bart says, Dutch food is peasant food. There isn’t a string culinary tradition. I will say, though, based on my experience in a hospital cafeteria, they can bake bread. The kind with the perfectly crackly crust and light, clean center… the kind no one in the US seems capable of baking to save their lives.

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Amsterdam – In de Wildeman

Posted by jwpiper on February 5, 2009

After a ridiculous delay travelling to Europe and a rerouting to Amsterdam through Manchester rather than flying to Brussels and driving, I finally arrived in Amsterdam. I’ve never known Holland for it’s food, and never loved it’s beer, but hey it’s me… I’ve got to try both out.

I start by heading to In de Wildeman Bier Proeflokaal. I’m not sure if this would classify as a brown cafe, but it seems it should with the old wood interior, simple menu, and neighborhood feel. Most everyone there clearly frequents the bar quite often, and each is greeted with a familiarity by both the bartender and each of the other patrons. Seems I’m the only one left out, but a mix of friendly smiles, mumbled Dutch, and general indefference serves to keep me at ease and feeling generally welcome.

The majority of the Dutch beer on the menu is either uncompelling or unfamiliar, and after my travels, I’m not willing to lay it all out there quite yet. So, I go with a Belgian favorite, Tripel Karmeliet. Yes, exacly as I remembered it.

To go with the back half of the Karmeliet, I order a plate of Old Spekled Hen Cheddar cheese, thyme crackers, and apple chutney. Wow, a better pairing than I anticipated… The spiced chutney actually worked quite well with the sweet beer.

To finish, I ordered La Trappe Quadruple. In the states it’s always incredibly metalic and I’ve yet to enjoy it. Well, I had to give it a try in it’s homeland, and was again pleasantly surprised. Surely not as good as the other quads I’ve had (Westvleteren, Rochefort, Chimay, Struise). But very good nonetheless and a bit of a bargain in Holland where Belgians are a good euro or two more than they’d be across the border.

In all, a good experience. I’d likely consider making it my regualar bar if I lived locally. As a tourist, I was a but unimpressed. The selection was good, especially for a Dutch bar, but not as good as next door in Belgium and more expensive.

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