i knew i was in a city of good eating when one of my first morning stumbles was into a shop called ‘cheeseland’ with wheels of emmenthaler the size of a monster truck tire or a dog bed for a large-ish golden retriever. to give you a sense of scale, that wedge has a larger diameter than my kitchen table (not that you’ve seen my kitchen table, but it’s of a good size). hellooo and welcome to amsterdam.
the reason for my cheese shop visit was thanks to a few days in holland hanging out with my friends rootster and flinner, two of my favorite people who live far away in chengdu, china, whom i clearly do not get to see often enough. these two party legends emailed and said ‘hey we’re going to be in amsterdam next week! come meet up!’ and i said ‘hmm….okay!’ and a week later found myself enjoying all of amsterdam’s myriad sources of entertainment. i love living on a continent with affordable train travel, even when you live on an island. amazing.
since i got in on a fairly late train, my first real experience with amsterdam’s quality food came on a solo morning tour of the streets around our friend’s apartment near the central train station. i left root and flinner to catch up on sleep in a new time zone and ventured out to get coffee and munchies. and just so you know – it was 9am so i don’t mean that kind of coffee or that kind of munchies – those came later in that day (remember mom, it’s legal there!). haarlemmerstraat, the street right outside our friend’s place must be some sort of gourmet thoroughfare because i visited two cheese shops, three bread and pastry shops, an olive oil store, a spanish and an italian delicatessen, a lebanese bakery, and two juice bars over the course of the trip. i knew it was a good neighborhood when i immediately ran into this chocolate and sweets shop:
i may not know the exact translation of bonboncreaties but unlimited delicious is certainly speaking my language. they even had a signs for a new food fair in nearly every shop window. i’m seriously tempted to go back next weekend. the beautifully crafted chocolates and cakes were gorgeous but i was in a savory mood so i continued on to kaasland in the top picture. i was enticed by the bright green color of the pesto cheese (in the very center of the photo) and the friendly dutch woman behind the counter recommended an amazing deeply flavored and almost caramelly aged gouda as a local specialty. i also purchased a warm loaf of brown bread and some fresh fruits and vegetables from the supermarket including tiny ripe strawberries and juicy sweet tomatoes.
the most amusing moment of the morning came when i tried to buy coffee to bring back to root and flinner. every shop on the street seemed to be a ‘coffeeshop,’ not actually a shop that sells coffee. i finally stopped in one with a large espresso machine in the back and asked the guy behind the counter if they sold takeaway coffee. he smiled and handed me a brochure on ‘amsterdam coffee’ and said ‘this is what coffee means in amsterdam.’ right…i get that. but..how does one actually buy coffee? i finally discovered a place that not only served actual drinking coffee but produced its coffee with the incredible robot machine on the right. i want it to wiggle its espresso arms and go waaaalll-eeeeeee.
after stuffing ourselves with bread and cheese and veggies, we did a bit of wandering around the city’s beautiful cobblestoned streets, over shimmering canals and past ornately decorated old buildings and churches. root and i caught up on several years worth of talking, stumbled upon the red light district and tried our best not to get hit by bikes. here’s the two of us probably standing in the middle of a bike lane.
root being a fellow serious eater, it wasn’t too long before we were hungry again and returned to haarlemmerstraat to pick up more snacks. my favorite purchase was some of the best bread i’ve ever had, a flattish crunchy brick of mixed olives and sundried tomato:
we also couldn’t turn down these amazing pastries on display at vlaamsch broodhuys, which i believe means breadhouse (which has a lovely but totally unintelligible dutch website).
i was intrigued by the prune tarts in the center but ended up going for abrikozen, frambrozen, and rabarber frambozen (apricot, raspberry and rhubarb raspberry). the rhubarb was very good but a bit too dense and floury, the apricot was better but not quite there, and the raspberry was absolutely spectacular. tart, sweet, sugary perfection.
our last foodie visit on haarlemmerstraat the next day was a fantastic gourmet food store specializing in olive oil, vinegar, and mustards. one wall consisted solely of huge metal canisters full of oils imported from spain, italy, france, and even a fair trade olive oil from palestine.
i picked up some peppery italian olive oil and we also succumbed to the siren call of some delicious olives and marinated purple artichokes. root and i also made a beeline back to the breadhouse for more olive and sundried tomato bread. i could graze on this street for ages.
i’ve got posts on some traditional amsterdam specialties coming up, as well as some items you may not want to let anywhere near your mouth. if you’re ever in amsterdam, make sure you visit the foodie paradise of haarlemmerstraat. i’ll even give you the addresses if you bring me back snacks…
Meeuwig & Zn (olive oil, mustard, vinegar, etc. shop)
Vlaamsch Broodhuys (amazing bread and pastries)