Archive for the ‘Dining’ Category

Some time ago on one of the various ex-pat blogs I read, I heard about a fantastic little creation of a British-Amsterdammer chef, Jason Hartley. With no restaurant of his own, he hosts a “popup” brunch at various locations around the city. The schedule is irregular, but for some reason I thought to check the lovefood homepage and, as luck would have it, 14 November was the day! And it perfectly coincided with my November trip home!

This round of brunch was in cozy Jordaan restaurant, Vlaming.  We were a little lazy and didn’t make it right at 11am, so we got slated for the second seating around 12.30p. Tragedy, the breakfast burritos were all gone by the time we settled into our seats! But no bother, Wout and I opted for a traditional English breakfast, complete with thick cut bacon, home-made organic sausage (OMG, so good!), an egg, soda bread, potatoes, black pudding (I was a little shy with this item), and beans inside a baked tomato. What a show! And, no surprise, the food totally won– I couldn’t quite finish.

Staying true to my roots, I topped breakfast off with a self-made bloody mary– they serve you up the liquor and you mix it the way you like at their bloody mary bar. Delish! But regaling the tale to a couple of Dutch friends at dinner last night, I learned that the British/American penchant for a boozy brunch is not shared by the Dutch. “A bloody mary for breakfast?! Shocking!” And yet, on further discussion, it was decided amongst the Dutch that beer for breakfast would have been totally normal. Let’s hear it for exploring cultural differences!

Wout and I have made a pact– we will be back for the next round! And this time, it’s breakfast burritos or bust! Nom nom nom…

Promo photo  source: http://www.lovefood.nl/


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I live a healthier life-style here in the Netherlands, hands down. I eat smaller portions. I eat out less. I go grocery shopping everyday and eat fresher meats, fruits, vegetables. I cycle more.

But that doesn’t mean that sometimes… every once in a while… now and then… I don’t have a deep-seated urge for something that reminds me a bit of Wisconsin… and takes a few years off my life.

This is *THE BEST* homemade macaroni and cheese recipe I’ve ever tasted! And of course we have Martha Stewart to thank for it. Now if only I could find some good Wisconsin sharp cheddar around here… I had to use Gouda, surprise surprise.

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
Yield Serves 12


* 6 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for dish
* 5 1/2 cups milk
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
* 2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano (I used Emmental)
* 1 pound elbow macaroni


* 1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place bread pieces in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour butter into the bowl with bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside. In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk. Melt remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
* 2. Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
* 3. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyère or 1 cup pecorino Romano. Set cheese sauce aside.
* 4. Fill a large saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 fewer minutes than manufacturer’s directions, until outside of pasta is cooked and inside is underdone. (Different brands of macaroni cook at different rates; be sure to read the instructions.) Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
* 5. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyère or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Taste of Wisconsin: Mac 'n Cheese
The links below have better (yummier) photos.

Sources: the original: marthastewart.com; tips: NY Times Diner’s Journal; drool-worthy photos: Smitten Kitchen.

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I’ll be paying a visit to my home university for the next two weeks. This trip feels very different from previous ones– I wasn’t so sad leaving Schiphol yesterday. Sure, I’ll miss Wouter. But it’s only two weeks and, after all, I live in Amsterdam now. Wow, it still seems weird to say it, but it does feel that way!

Pulling into Madison was so exciting! I thought about all of the friends, cafes, restaurants, shops, parks and activities that are waiting for me here. In someways it felt a bit like visiting Stockholm– it’s somewhere I’ve lived, I know it like the back of my hand, I’ve a long list of favorites (people, places and things), but I don’t think it’d want to move back right at this moment. I suppose that means it’s the right time to be moving. I hope that’s what it means.

More news and adventure to come about the trip, I’m sure.

But a quick side note: On Saturday night, before I left Amsterdam, Wouter and I had dinner out at La Maria, a small Italian brasserie-style restaurant in the neighborhood. We’d been meaning to try it since it opened in February. Simple, miss-matched furniture, wine crates and bottles scattered about, tall candle stick holders, earthen ware vases and an unfinished wood floor– love it! But back in February and March, I wasn’t sold on the ambience– the walls are painted a stark white that was positively ELECTRIC under compact fluorescent overhead lighting. But as the days grew longer and the overhead lights were no longer a necessity, the owner’s vision of clean white walls in the afternoon sun came to fruition. With the wide windows providing ample views of spring’s budding leaves, narcissus and fluffy white clouds, the setting was absolutely perfect! Well, until the sun set far enough to directly enter my line of sight… but never mind about that.

The menu is simple– a couple of starters, three pizzas, a fish dish and a meat dish. All food is prepared in a steenoven (brick oven). The food was delicious and was complimented by a very nice wine list. A perfect “good-bye for now” dinner in the neighborhood!

Left to right: Broad window view and white walls; fresh bread and olive starter.

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