All about Amsterdam (tried and tasted)

the end of exams saw me promptly escaping to amsterdam the morning right after my last paper! it was a wonderful short getaway with my mother dearest and i proclaimed that i would definitely be back after just half a day of exploring the place – i was won over by the amazingly friendly people, the charming bridges and canals, the idyllic vibe, and needless to say, the good food finds 😉 will be sharing some of my favourites in this post!

1. Gartine
gartine was where we had our first meal of the trip! it is a cosy little cafe with limited seating space and apparently they are often packed (so reservations are recommended), but we visited at tea time so we were lucky enough to get a table immediately. service was polite and always with a smile (as it is all over amsterdam, we soon learnt), and they serve a range of what are supposed to be traditionally dutch open-faced-type sandwiches, along with afternoon tea if you visit mid-afternoon. the mother and i were planning on doing lots of food-hopping so we ordered just 2 items to share.

we were spoilt for choice and ended up opting for something recommended by our server – the pumpkin sourdough bread topped with smoked salmon, young salad and chive yoghurt (€8.50):OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
it was a pretty generous portion and we thought it was pretty reasonably priced! especially compared to what we’d have to pay for something like that (probably labelled something along the lines of a gourmet-type sandwich) back home in singapore. the chive yoghurt was delicious and the ingredients were extremely fresh, especially apparent in the greens! the bread was also very yummy, the perfect base for great toppings.

spotted a fridge full of homemade cheesecakes right when we walked in, and knew from that moment that we had to try at least one! i think the options that are available vary daily depending on what they have freshly made. on that day, we were lucky enough to get to try this pear cheesecake infused with lavender and honey (does that combination not sound heavenly?). i can’t remember the price but it was definitely not exhorbitantly priced at all.
this wasn’t a regular cheesecake; it was much lighter, fluffier and almost airier in texture. it reminded me of the japanese cheesecakes which are much less dense than the classic american-style cheesecakes. my favourite part of the cheesecake was the whole pears that were standing proud in the cake slices, and also the crunchy base which was different from the regular digestive biscuit-type base. this biscuit base had more of a light chocolate-y taste to it, and it was kind of oaty/grainy/chunky-ish so it added a very nice bite and a great contrast of texture and taste to the cheese bit of the cake! the cheese bit carried a subtle but very nice lavender taste and together with the honey, it made for a great combination! i initially didn’t quite like the texture of the cheesecake as much as regular cheesecakes, but i have to say it definitely grew on me. it was a very light dessert, the kind that’d probably make you unknowingly wolf down a few slices (dangerous!!!).

gartine is a great cafe for a light, tasty and reasonably-priced cafe-style meal. its a perfect place to rest your feet after some shopping given that its located on a little lane off the main shopping avenue. they also do full-blown afternoon teas which is worth checking out if that’s what you’re looking for (throughout our meal, i was jealously eyeing/sneaking furtive glances at the very appetising-looking tea date that the 2 ladies at the table next to us were enjoying).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Taksteeg 7
Amsterdam 1012 PB

2. Banketbakkerij van der Linde
stumbled upon this shop while walking ambling down the main shopping street right after our satisfying meal at gartine, and after we saw the snaking queue (largely consisting of local patrons – always a good sign!) outside, how could we not give it a try to see what the fuss was all about?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhile in the queue, we chatted with a friendly local lady in front of us who assured us that our initial plan to get a tasting portion-sized small to share (they have 3 sizes and even the largest is only about €1.50) was not a good idea – “at least a large!”, she said. so that’s what we ended up doing, and we definitely did not regret it!!! best soft-serve ever – i am now unable to view mcflurries in the same light ever again.

the queue moves quickly and the excitement escalates as you reach the front and see cone after cone of the creamy goodness being scooped.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

unfortunately i don’t have a pic of the ice cream before i attacked it; i just could not wait! but it came in a really cute shape – not round like normal ice cream scoops but kind of flattish at the top so its almost semi-circle shaped (clearly not happening in the picture i have… i am sorry! haha).20140521_164925
this was some heavenly soft-serve ice cream and after taking the first bite, my mum and i both understood how its been around since 1937… something so simple but yet so, so good! it was amazingly smooth, creamy and light as a feather, almost like eating fresh whipped cream but in a slightly more solid ice cream form. it only comes in one flavour which is what you see here. i wouldn’t really describe it as vanilla because its not exactly fragrant vanilla bean-type ice cream, its more like whipped cream-flavoured ice cream, nothing like anything i’ve had before.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetthe face of the lady behind me to my right says it all – “why did she get her ice cream before me..??!”

when you see tons of people strolling down the street happily licking these white globules of goodness (nevermind the rather unglamorous mess their lips and mouth are left in), you’ll know you’re close.

Banketbakkerij van der Linde
Nieuwendijk 183
1012 MG Amsterdam

3. Winkel 43
after some exploring on foot, we found ourselves right in the vicinity of this cafe famous for its apple pie, so we popped by to try some of their famous apple pie even though we had just inhaled gartine and ice cream!

dubbed the best apple pie in amsterdam, we had high expectations and i have to say we were not disappointed at all! it was served to our table warm (presumably fresh out of the oven), a big slice with chunks of huge apple chunks and a perfectly crusty (for lack of a better word to describe it) crust. so. good. the whipped cream that accompanied it is also a must-try – went perfectly with the pie and it was so light and so fresh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAjust look at how huge those chunks of apple are! i can’t decide if i what i liked most about the pie was the crust or the filling. i loved that they used chunks of apples for the filling which were juicy and moist while retaining just the right amount of crunchiness, and it came together perfectly with the raisin and cinnamons to make an amazing filling. as for the crust, it was also pretty much perfect in terms of texture and thickness – oh so buttery, and the fact that it was warm accentuated how it was wonderfully crusty but not crumbly.

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the face of a very pleased exam-free girl who is having her cake (pie) and eating it

Winkel 43
Noordermarkt 43
1015 NA Amsterdam

4. Bird Thai Food
unfortunately i did not take any pics of this meal we had, but this is a great spot in amsterdam’s chinatown (a stone’s throw from the red light district – what an experience!) for a thai food fix! run entirely by thais, there is both a bird restaurant and a snackbar; they are across the street from each other in chinatown. the former has a more extensive menu and is pricier (you pay for ambience) while the latter is just a little bigger than a hole-in-the-wall and serves the purpose of fuss-free dining.

i was honestly not expecting much from it, but was really impressed with the authenticity of the pad thai and tom yum soup we had. the servings were large and they were generous with the ingredients added. we ate at the snackbar and there was barely any space to move around; to get to our table we had to get other diners to stand up and shift their chairs/tables around a bit! it is a completely no-frills fuss-free place but they serve great food at affordable prices, and that is what matters! if you’re looking for a bit more of a polished environment, hop across the street to the restaurant and i’m sure the food will be as good.

Bird Thai Snackbar
Zeedijk 77
1012 AS Amsterdam

5. Eetcafe Singel 404
okay, guys. this is the real deal – this place is so good that my mother and i went twice during our trip. a pity we discovered it on our 2nd last day only; that means we only had one other opportunity to have it on our last day before heading back to london. if we had discovered it earlier, i’m pretty sure we would have gone every day!

singel 404 is a small cafe by a canal that is conveniently located. they serve some of the best sandwiches i have ever eaten.
feast your eyes:
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the focus at this cafe is definitely on the sandwiches, and here’s the super extensive menu that was a real (happy) problem for me – wayyyy too many choices, and everything sounded amazing (from what we had, i’m sure everything tastes amazing too) and was priced so so reasonably.20140523_111515

on our first visit there, we tried the roast beef sandwich (left) and the brie with smoked chicken (right), both on cornbread, along with a fruit mix smoothie with yoghurt. never had better sandwiches, i swear this is true!!!20140523_104831
left: roast beef with cottage cheese, fresh pesto, grilled courgette, sundried tomatoes, rucola – €6.75 / right: brie with smoked chicken, guacamole, sundried tomatoes, italian herbs, garden cress – €6.75

trust me, they tasted as good as they sound and look. and at such a steal too! given the amount of ingredients they heaped onto each piece of cornbread (note that you can choose from a range of breads) – we were in sandwich heaven. not only were all the different ingredients of a high quality and very fresh, they came together perfectly to make more a very very (i cannot emphasise this more) satisfying meal. these sandwiches really fill you up and are the perfect fuel for a day of exciting touristy explorations.

my mother, who is a huge roast beef fan, was completely sold by the roast beef sandwich. the fresh pesto (so yummy) and cottage cheese was an amazing combination, and topped with the sundried tomatoes and those (numerous) thin slivers of beef, she was beyond pleased.

i too thoroughly enjoyed my brie and smoked chicken sandwich – smoked chicken, brie, sundried tomatoes and guacamole; what more can one ask for?!? so many of my favourite things together atop a piece of delicious cornbread! my only qualm about this was that it was rather heavy, i think it was probably the guacamole that caused it to be so. very very delicious nevertheless!!!

on our second visit the very next day, i tried something different while my mum stuck to her roast beef because that is how much she enjoyed it the day before. we were worried that if she got anything else, she wouldn’t be as satisfied and would have to return to london dreaming of the singel roast beef sandwich that she could not have a second time… hahaha. on our second visit there, i tried the bacon with brie instead, and we opted for the same fruit mix smoothie, but this time with ice cream (even though it was morning and our first meal of the day – that’s how we roll)!!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
brie with bacon, walnuts, honey, thyme and garden cress – €6.50

i preferred this brie with bacon sandwich to the brie with smoked chicken one i had the day before. i think the bacon and the crunchy walnuts (loved this) added a different texture to the mix of toppings and the lack of guacamole definitely made it lighter! also loved the honey; i can never say no to bacon and honey – to me, its one of the most perfect combinations of sweet and savoury (read: bacon, banana & maple syrup pancakes etc!!!)!

nothing better than starting your day with some amazing sandwiches by the canal

i’ll be back here every single time i’m in amsterdam, that’s for sure. if i lived in amsterdam, i’d probably go to singel for lunch every day if i could…

Eetcafe Singel 404
Singel 404
1016 AK Amsterdam


6. Lanskroon
a friend recommended i come here for freshly-made stroopwafels so imagine my delight when i was happily devouring my singel sandwich, looked across the canal, and saw lanskroon right there at the corner across the bridge! post-sandwich dessert was thus settled, and we were greeted by not just stroopwafels, but an array of freshly-made traditional cookies, pastries and pies when we entered this cosy corner shop. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

it isn’t the fanciest or newest of cafes, but the smell of freshly-baked homemade treats should be more than sufficient to draw you in and keep you there till you’ve had your fill of their delicious goodies. try some and trust me, you will not regret it!!!

on our first visit there (yes we visited multiple times during the course of our 4 day trip), we tried their specialty the honey stroopwafel (they also do a coffee one which my mother preferred), an orange and poppy seed biscuit, and a slice of their apple-cranberry pie.

behold the glorious freshly-made honey stroopwafel:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthis stroopwafel was unlike any i’ve tasted before – definitely far, far different from the commercially made ones you find in supermarkets, and different from the regular ones you get along the streets in amsterdam which tend to be softer as well! the two pieces of wafel were extremely thin and wonderfully crisp, and the honey filling glued them together perfectly. my mother didn’t enjoy it as much as i did though, because she didn’t like how the honey got stuck to your teeth! i had no qualms about that however, and happily wolfed it down. tried the coffee one on our second visit, and my mother much preferred it because it lacked the stickiness of the honey!
coffee-cinnamon stroopwafel
i liked both – the honey was sticky but that made the stroopwafel more moist as a whole while the coffee provided a more dry/crisp snack; both different but both equally good! we bought a bunch and carefully handcarried them back to london.

and our absolute favourite thing from lanskroon: their apple-cranberry-walnut pie. check it out in all its glory:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
this pie is legitly awesome. legitly. awesome. we also bought 2 slices of this back to london and surprisingly, they survived the journey without getting completely smashed; in fact they held their form pretty well! this pie was different from the apple pie we had at winkel 43, but equally amazing in its own way. the fresh cranberries (just look at how plump they were!!!) were my favourite part, and the apple bits and walnuts added the perfect crunch to the filling. the crust was also deliciously buttery, not too thick, and was the perfect casing for the fab filling. it was sooooo good that we had this thrice in the four days we were there and i am salivating looking at this picture. if only i could fedex some of this to me now…

we also tried the orange poppy seed biscuit:
it was really interesting and like nothing i’ve had before! normally i see poppy seeds being sprinkled in cake (eg lemon poppy seed muffins – yummm!) but never like this where the whole biscuit is stuffed with poppy seed! it gave the filling an almost black sesame-like texture and taste, but i wasn’t complaining at all because i love black sesame! the orange flavour also went wonderfully with the poppy seeds. they have a huge range of homemade traditional biscuits like this, so definitely try some!

oh and before i forget, look out for their resident cat – the fattest cat i have ever seen. and i mean fattest i have ever seen:
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i love this very authentically local bakery, and will return again and again and again whenever i’m in amsterdam. a must visit!

Singel 385
Amsterdam 1021 WL

7. Pancake Bakery
what is a trip to amsterdam without having some dutch pancakes? there are a few pancake parlours that are known to serve up the best in amsterdam, and this is one of them! the mother and i were ambling around looking for somewhere to have dinner, and found ourselves right in front of the pancake bakery so it was there that we decided to feed our hungry selves for the night.

the shop has 2 floors and was nearly full when we visited but luckily we were able to get seated immediately. i think they must get pretty crowded but service is brisk so turnaround time shouldn’t be too long! they have a very extensive menu including many interesting international options (think mexican, indonesian chicken curry, greek gyro etc pancakes), and a large range of both savoury and sweet pancakes. they come in one (huge) size and the prices differ according to the toppings added.

we ordered a bacon and cheese one for our savoury choice, and an apple and cinnamon one topped with cinnamon ice cream (gotta love some cinnamon) for dessert!
bacon and cheese pancake

i didn’t manage to take a very appetising-looking picture of the savoury pancake (lighting problems!!!) but it was delicious! i think the cheese made all the difference – the slightly burnt bits formed a crispy and super tasty top layer. the pancake itself was thin and the bacon and cheese were heaped on rather generously! i thought it was a bit pricey though, if i’m not wrong this pancake was about 12 euro or more, and the international ones with fancy ingredients were going for about 15 euro! compared to the delicious sandwiches at singel, the pancakes were definitely on the costly side. (though i think the price for pancakes across amsterdam is generally comparable to this.) yummy yummy yummy in my tummy! the serving is (clearly) big so if you are a small eater, definitely share! we were satisfied but the sweet tooth ever present in both my mum and i was calling out for more, so we proceeded to order another pancake, a dessert one this time.

lighting is much better for this one:Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset
apple cinnamon pancake, topped with cinnamon ice cream
the sweet pancakes were slightly cheaper, i think this was about 10-11 euros. this time we could taste the pancake itself better because the taste of the batter wasn’t adulterated by the cheese (so good though) and bacon that topped it. the apple slices were sweet and added a great crunch to the pancake, while the cinnamon ice cream (hopefully homemade!) was very yummy and heaped onto the pancake so that every single bite could be savoured with some creamy cinnamon goodness.

massive mug of syrup

The Pancake Bakery
Prinsengracht 191

8. Hap-Hmm
on our last night in amsterdam (mega sad face), the mother and i decided we should try some traditional dutch food! a quick search on google brought up this little family-run restaurant in a neighbourhood out of the city centre and near our hotel, so this was where we picked for our sampling of some homestyle cuisine. we went for an early dinner around 5.30 and it was already full of locals enjoying hearty homecooked meals (i think we were the only tourists there!).

i didn’t take a picture of the menu but the food is priced extremely reasonably and all of it is good old-fashioned homecooked food, exactly the kind of food i imagine the dutch have at home. we started with a beef carpaccio and it was so yummy that we were tempted to order another serving but decided to hold back so we would have space to fully enjoy our mains! 20140523_180118

the carpaccio was absolutely delicious. the beef slices were fresh and cut to perfect thickness. topped with a mixture of cheese, pine nuts, fresh greens and some kind of light vinagrette-type thing, this made for an amazingly flavourful dish. we loved every single bite of it and it was polished off in no time. also came at an astoundingly reasonable price of just a little over 5euro!!!

for mains, we tried a traditional beef stew and the fish of the day. we were too excited to start eating and i forgot to snap a pic before we started so this pic of us midway through the meal will have to do:
the beef stew was warm, hearty and very delicious when eaten with the sides that accompanied each main (a mix of vegetables and potatoes). the beef chunks were wonderfully tender and so tasty! as for the fish, it was fresh and went well with the sauce that it came with. we also thoroughly enjoyed the vegetable sides – the carrots were some of the sweetest i have ever tasted; it made us wonder if they were coated in sugar?! the other star of the meal was the fried potatoes – nothing like fries because the potatoes were cut into large pieces and not strips. i guess they were a little like flattened wedges if that makes any sense to you? they were so crisp on the outside yet so soft, warm and toasty inside – the mother and i finished the entire bowl even though we knew it was really going to fill us up, it was worth it!

hap-hmm is located along a very residential street and is a distance away from the main tourist belt/city centre area of amsterdam. it is certainly not somewhere you would chance upon unless you are specifically looking for it, but it is worth the trek if you are looking for some traditional homecooked dutch fare at affordable prices in a warm, authentic and homely setting.

1e Helmersstraat 33
1054 CZ Amsterdam

9. Cheese
there is cheese everywhere in amsterdam, and i mean everywhere. there’s a cheese shop at almost every corner and the number of flavours and types of cheese they have is pretty astounding! its dutch tradition to eat cheese with mustard (i never knew this till i was in amsterdam) and as odd as it sounds, a sliver of cheese topped with mustard is actually really yummy and addictive! all the shops lay out plenty of cheese and accompanying mustard for customers to try so go in, feast, and come out 1kg heavier 😉

10. Raw Herring
another thing the locals in amsterdam love is raw herring, and we were lucky enough to chance upon this stall selling just that while we were strolling through albert cuypmarket on the last day of our trip. didn’t understand what the signs said but i gather they were definitely accolades that the stall had earned for the raw herring they served.
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also could not resist some fresh tuna tataki and smoked salmon from the stalls selling fresh fish at the same market – yummy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and that concludes my list of foodie picks in beautiful amsterdam!!! as always, i’ll end with a few pics of this gorgeous city and its canals:
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amsterdam central station20140522_150141
maarken fishing village
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zaanse schans windmills


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