Bitterballen makes for a yummy pub treat. // © 2016 Valerie Chen
Feature image (above): Savor poffertjes at Cafe de Prins, a local institution in Amsterdam’s Jordaan neighborhood since 1967. // © 2016 Valerie Chen
My most heartfelt piece of advice for those considering a food tour with Eating Europe Tours? Arrive hungry. I had foolishly polished off an apple while en route to our meeting location in Amsterdam’s bustling Jordaan neighborhood, blissfully unaware of just how much I would wish I had worn stretchy pants.
Leaving full and satisfied is expected by anyone joining a gastronomic-themed excursion. But the Jordaan Food Tour, led by the company’s Eating Amsterdam Tours, managed to make my annual marathon of back-to-back Thanksgiving dinners pale in comparison: In between brief stints of walking and hearing interesting anecdotes from our English-speaking guide, Stace, we chowed down on 12 hefty tastings at eight different stops — in four short hours.
Gluttonous vices and generous serving sizes aside, however, Eating Europe Tours seeks to map out restaurants, shops, cafes and pubs that truly represent a destination’s cuisine. And using spots vetted by locals, rather than sticking to those found at the top of TripAdvisor or Yelp, has it perks. Besides dodging tourist crowds and arriving to reservations and immediate service, we rarely heard a lick of English — just buzzing banter in Dutch — from patrons outside of our small group. (The group maximum is 12 people.)
For Kenny Dunn, an American native who moved to Rome in 2008 and founded Eating Europe Tours there three years later, the idea stemmed from showing off the best restaurants and shops in his neighborhood to visiting friends. Understanding the demand for both culinary travel and off-the-beaten-path experiences, he has since added tours in Amsterdam, Prague, London and Florence to the company’s repertoire.
“We look to showcase the foods that are most representative of the local cuisine and the places within a specific area that serve up the best versions of these items and dishes,” Dunn said. “And we seek out places that have their own story and history and have people behind them who are interested in preserving the traditions of the food they serve.”
Following are some of the delicious highlights of my Dutch food tour.
No need to rub your eyes and wonder if you’ve stumbled into some sort of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” alternate universe — poffertjes aren’t simply scaled-down American-style pancakes. A traditional Dutch treat, they’re made with buckwheat flour and yeast instead of plain flour, which forms a spongy, lightweight consistency. Poffertjes are typically drenched in syrup, dusted with powdered sugar, or both, and Cafe de Prins, a local institution since 1967, does them justice as its signature dish.
Ossenworst and Grilworst
Butcher shop Slagerij Louman dates back to the 1980s and has attracted a loyal customer base of locals who regularly stop by for their fill of artisanal sausages and other quality meats. Here, we tasted ossenworst, nearly raw cold beef sausage that is lightly smoked for up to two days, and grilled grilworst, half-beef and half-pork sausage that is served with mustard. Led by Frans Louman, the butchery spans three generations and also operates a sausage factory outside of Amsterdam.
Broodje Pom and Baka Bana
Both former colonies of the Netherlands, Southeast Asia’s Indonesia and South America’s Suriname now have restaurants inspired by their cuisines all over Amsterdam. At Swieti Sranang — a casual toko (takeaway counter) co-owned by chef Juliet, who was born in Indonesia but raised in Suriname, and her husband — we experienced a medley of flavors. Guests will start with the broodje pom sandwich, a bread roll filled with extra-spicy chicken, malanga (root vegetable) and pickled cucumber, and then enjoy a baka bana, a fried sweet plantain smothered with spicy peanut sauce.
Dutch Apple Pie
Forget everything you know about apple pie. The Dutch do it best: a thick crust, fresh spiced apples and an almost cake-like streusel topping. Cafe Papeneiland is particularly famous for its made-from-scratch, traditional Dutch apple pie, which has followed the same recipe for almost a century and is served in massive portions alongside whipped cream. The pub, dubbed a “brown cafe” because of its dark nicotine-stained walls and ceiling, is one of the oldest in Amsterdam.
Eating pickled herring, a small sardine-like fish, is practically a rite of passage when visiting Amsterdam. So, we did just that at the Vis Plaza fish shop, which is run by a family of fishermen from Urk in the central Netherlands. Though the nearby city of Rotterdam prefers to consume pickled herring in a whole-fish form, the people of Amsterdam like it sliced and paired with pickles and onions.
Also a brown cafe, Cafe de Blaffende is often frequented by the after-work crowd, and for good reason: Along with a variety of Dutch and Belgian beer, it has tasty bitterballen on the menu, a popular pub snack typically made from a deep-fried mixture of veal and beef. After noshing many helpings of the treat, we clinked glasses full of Funky Falcon beer — an American pale ale brewed by Amsterdam’s Two Chefs Brewing — thus rounding out our exhaustingly scrumptious Jordaan food tour.