gollem - mussels & beer

If you're looking for a laid-back pub with great food and excellent beer selection look no further than

Gollem Proeflokaal

on Overtoom street in Amsterdam.  Trev discovered it while I was back in Canada, so we biked there for dinner and drinks one night once I got back.  The weather was decent and we enjoyed a seat outside with lots of people-watching opportunities.  Overtoom is a fairly busy street, well away from the tourist crush so if you're looking for a place to blend in with locals, this is it.

Gollem specializes in Belgian and international beers; there were lots of choices on tap and in bottles, so I started with a Belgian dubbel (of some sort - I don't remember exactly which one).  We also ordered some bitterballen to snack on.  Bitterballen are a favourite dutch pub food - little deep-fried veal croquettes, delicious with some grainy mustard.

Gollem's bitterballen were great - they had lots of flavour and nice crunchy outsides.  We also enjoyed their house-made fries - they're cooked in beef fat (definitely not vegetarian-friendly) which added a different flavour and they were nice and crispy.  The fries were served up with Gollem's own mayo - I'll miss fries with mayo (good mayo) once we get back to Canada.

One of our reasons for visiting Gollem that night was their mussels.  They serve up a massive pot of mussels in wine with fries and a bit of salad for €15.50 (plenty to share, especially after the bitterballen).  The mussels were so fresh - even I (who had previously hated mussels) enjoyed them.  Oh, and we learned a new "mussel-eating" technique: use an empty mussel shell like pinchers to pull the next mussel out of it's shell - it's a perfect no-fork technique (check out Trev's demonstration below, ha ha).

Gollem was an awesome place to chill out with a beer and good food - all for reasonable prices.  Definitely worth a visit if you're in Amsterdam.

the heineken experience

Well, we finally did it - we visited the Heineken Experience.  It was every bit as cheesy as I had imagined BUT we had a lot of fun.

We took Trev's parents there on their last day in Amsterdam.  They were all museum-ed out after their days in Paris & Rome, so the Heineken Experience was perfect.  Just some light-hearted fun that also involves beer drinking.  Admission is €17,00 and that includes a self-guided tour, a tasting mid-tour and two glasses of beer at the end.

The Heineken family started brewing in 1864 when they bought a little brewery called De Hooiberg (The Haystack).  Over the years they refined their recipe & techniques, resulting in the Heineken we know today.  The brand was expanded internationally by three generations of Heineken's and the museum did a good job of explaining the contributions of each.  The size of the Heineken company today is absolutely astounding - they're everywhere!

There isn't any actual beer-production at the Heineken Experience today.  The building was one of their original breweries, built in 1867.  The copper kettles were still gleaming brightly but brewing there stopped in 1988.  During the tour the beer-making process was explained: the magic of water, hops, barley & yeast...

I got to help by stirring a kettle of wort (barley & water)

I got to help by stirring a kettle of wort (barley & water)

I tried it - it tasted kind-of like cornflakes and it was sweet

I tried it - it tasted kind-of like cornflakes and it was sweet

the "rock-paper-scissors" game app

the "rock-paper-scissors" game app

Some things I learned:

  • They still have a team of Heineken Horses at the brewery.  The team was initially used to deliver beer to cafés, bars and restaurants around Amsterdam.
  • Heineken beer is supposed to have a thick layer of head on it - it helps to keep the bubbles in the beer while you're drinking it so that each sip tastes bubbly & refreshing
  • Drinking Heineken while keeping the head on the beer means you have to take a biiiiig sip, not dainty little sips (I found out that my Mom-in-law was really good at this, and she doesn't even like beer)

At the end of the tour there was an optional activity where you got a lesson on how to properly pour a glass of Heineken.  I had aced the virtual pour, but decided it would be fun to try it out with real beer.  The lesson was fun, and you got to pour as many as necessary to get the perfect pour.  It was funny to watch the expressions on the faces of all the younger, extreme beer-drinkers when the instructor poured glass after glass down the drain because they weren't perfect.  I succeeded on my second attempt, so I got to drink my perfect beer and I got a certificate stating that I'm a "certified pourer" - pretty awesome, right?  So now I'll share my pearls of Heineken wisdom - How to pour the perfect glass of Heineken:

  • First, open the tap up all the way - I know what you're thinking - that's a waste of beer!  but just do it anyways 
  • Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle with the lip of the glass about 3 cm below the spout and fill it with beer until the liquid gets all the way up to the lip of the glass, then tilt it back to straight and turn the tap off.  
  • Set the glass down and hold the scraper at a 45 degree angle (towards you) and bring it from the back of the glass to the front.
  • Let it settle - the beer should come up to the flat part of the star on the logo.  
  • There you have it, the perfect pour.

Overall, I had fun at the Heineken Experience and I think it was worth the admission cost.  Serious, hard-core beer-lovers might hate it...but if you go into it not expecting a sophisticated overview of Heineken and you're willing to be a bit silly then it's a good time.

restaurant week amsterdam: brasserie flo

On Friday night we took Trevor's parents to our second Restaurant Week reservation a Brasserie FLO.  It's located just steps away from Rembrandtplein.  I liked the 'classic' brasserie decor.  The restaurant was warmly lit, and had lots of brass and dark wood throughout.  I loved the starched white tablecloths too; I guess I'm a sucker for tablecloths, they just make meals feel extra-special.

When you enter the restaurant there's a window to the shellfish prep kitchen immediately to the left - seeing all those lovely lobsters piled in the window definitely got my stomach grumbling.  The chef was also shucking oysters and arranging them in lovely piles of crushed ice, but oysters aren't really my thing.

We were seated and given the Restaurant Week menu - it had a few choices for appetizers, entrees & desserts, as well as some upgrade options for each course.

For appetizers there was a choice between a fish terrine, beef carpaccio or fresh oysters.  When the server used the word "gelée" when describing the terrine, I knew I would be having the carpaccio.  The funny thing was that I didn't realize I had ordered carpaccio, so I was a bit surprised when slices of raw meat arrived in front of me.  Somehow, I had only read the description on the menu: fillet of beef served over gazpacho; so I was expecting soup.  It was a happy surprise though - the carpaccio was wonderful.  Very thinly sliced and served over finely diced vegetables, it was sprinkled with capers and olives and a drizzle of a sherry-vinegar cream dressing, all topped with nicely dressed arugula.

Trev had the oysters and said they were really good.  He felt that six was a few too many as a starter though.

We all chose to upgrade our main course to the half-lobster.  It was sooo good.  The lobster was nicely cooked - so juicy and flavourful.  It was served on top of butter-sauteed greens and perfectly cooked asparagus with a few roasted tomatoes on the side.  There was a puddle of tomato-cream sauce on the plate (it reminded me of vodka cream sauce) that was perfect for dipping the lobster or asparagus into.  As if all of that wasn't enough food, our meals also came with a dish of delicious and crispy fries - too bad I was too stuffed to enjoy them.

Even though I was so full, I still enjoyed my dessert.  (It was part of the 3-course menu, so I had to right?)  I picked the creme brulée, which I don't often choose because it can be so hit-or-miss at restaurants, but based on the rest of my meal I expected good things from Brasserie FLO.  I wasn't disappointed.  The sugar crust was perfect - nice & caramelized and thin enough to shatter with a tap from the spoon.  The custard was smooth and creamy with a nice hint of vanilla.  Seeing the little speckles of vanilla seeds in the custard makes me happy too.  Yes, I finished it all.

Overall it was a wonderful meal at Brasserie FLO.  The service was exceptional and everything that we ate was delicious.  Sampling Brasserie FLO through Restaurant Week was also excellent value; our 3-course meal was € 33,50 per person (including the upgrade to lobster).  I wouldn't hesitate to go back.

I enjoyed my view into the kitchen from our table -  all the hustle & bustle.

restaurant week amsterdam: magazzino

Right now Restaurant Week is going on in Amsterdam, so Trev booked a few restaurants for us to try.  The first one we visited was Magazzino, an Italian restaurant overlooking the IJ, in the warehouse district just east of Central Station.

The restaurant had a rustic-industrial style and I liked the view into the kitchen & the counter where the antipasti were prepared.  Also, the view of the harbour was great (but alas, we were seated by a wall).  Because we had reserved through Restaurant Week we were offered the choice of a 3 or 4 course menu.  We decided to go with the 3-course for € 27,50 plus a bottle of wine.

Shortly after ordering an amuse-bouche arrived: tomato gazpacho with warm lobster cream.  It was yummy - I liked how the cream and the gazpacho were different temperatures.  There was also a dish with some lovely, chewy bread and Portugese olive oil for dipping.

A little while after that our first course arrived: an antipasti plate.  There were three different kinds of cured meats, pickled vegetables, olives, fresh anchovies with smoked fish and fried octopus bites.  The pickles had great crunch, but were, perhaps, a bit too vinegary.  Usually I would have passed on the anchovy, but I decided to be brave and was actually pretty good.  It may have been better to have the smoked fish/anchovy bite on a cracker or bread crisp though to balance out the richness.  The star of the plate was the octopus bites.  They were tender and delicious with a nice mild taste - I could have eaten a whole plateful.

It was a loooong wait between the entree and the main course, probably a little over an hour.  Given that the restaurant wasn't even half-full and that there were only two possible main courses being served  that night I don't understand what the hold-up was.

I ordered the fish - I'm not sure exactly what type it was, the waiter called it Red Pone, but he told us his English was a little shaky, so who knows.  It was marinated in citrus then pan-fried and finished in the oven.  It was sooo good.  The fish was cooked perfectly and the flavour was great - there was a little drizzle of a citrus-flavoured oil on the plate that complemented it really well.  It was the whole fish, so I had plenty to share with Trev too.

We both received the same side dishes and they were served separately from the main plate.  The first was a potato gratin and the second was a vegetable medley that mostly tasted like fennel & butter (but it was good).

Trev ordered the leg of duck as his main, and after recently being spoiled with spectacular duck in Paris we both had high hopes.  Unfortunately his main couse fell short of expectations - the duck was overcooked and dry.  It was probably seared for too long, drying out the outside meat and over-cooking the skin, then when it was finished in the oven it just kept drying out.  Too bad, especially because he had to wait so long for it.

For dessert Trev picked the cheese plate: three kinds of cheese with quince, berry coulis and hazelnut-spice bread.  It looked like a good mix but the bite I tasted definitely didn't go well with my tiramisu!  I picked the chocolate tiramisu and it was decadent - so creamy and thick with little bits of dark chocolate throughout.

Overall our experience at Magazzino was just okay.  Our waiter was really friendly, the food was generally good and the restaurant looks great but an hour wait between courses was a big negative.  I don't think we'll make it back there again before we leave Amsteram, but if the opportunity came about to try out their deli at lunch time, I'd give them another shot.

rijsttafel at puri mas

Last week when Trev's parents were here in Amsterdam we took them to an Indonesian restaurant so they could experience Dutch Rijsttafel.  Trev & I tried a rijstaffel a while ago and I explained more about it here, but the quick run-down is a variety of small dishes served with rice on the side that allows you to sample lots of different meats & veggies at the same time.

This time we went to Puri Mas for dinner and it was excellent.  In fact, I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

We ordered the 'Rijsttafel Speciaal', which included 13 dishes and some condiments (€ 20,50 per person).  I loved the warming trays that were brought to the table.  It actually kept the food warm while you were enjoying what was already on your plate (but as you can see, my plate was pretty full anyways).

All of the food was really good, but there were a few 'stand-outs' in my mind:  The 'danging rendang' was spicy stewed beef with lots of great flavour and it tasted good with serundeng (fried coconut) sprinkled on top, 'gado gado' were vegetables with a sweet peanut sauce and 'babi kekap' was seasoned pork in sweet-salty soy sauce reduction.  There was also a fried piece of banana for each of us - yum.  There was so much food - and it was so good that I didn't want to stop eating - but alas, we couldn't quite finish everything.  Overall, excellent value for the money.  

The staff were so friendly and efficient (not that service is bad in Amsterdam, but it's not usually that good either).  The restaurant was very accomodating as well, they will make vegetarian rijsttafel or substitute dishes without difficulty, for example, my in-laws don't like spicy food, so they received a mild green curry instead of the spicy beef that Trev & I enjoyed.  The restaurant is tucked a few blocks in from Leidseplein - an area strewn with tacky, overpriced tourist-filled restaurants, so it truly was a diamond in the rough.