Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Worst (Wijncafé)

Van Linschotenstraat, Amsterdam, January 9, 2013

OUR FIRST TWO MEALS have been in this new (to us) wijncafé, a place that offers fine espressos and carefully selected cider and beers but which is really all about an intelligent offering of wines and charcuterie, worst being Dutch for "sausage."

Disclosure: The owner-proprieter of Worst is our old friend and honorary kid-brother-or-nephew Kees Elfring, who did two stints on the line at Chez Panisse, and has since opened two of our favorite restaurants, the late lamented Het Pomphuis in Ede and the still very much alive Marius here in Amsterdam.

In fact, Worst and Marius are neighbors, and share the wine room you see in the photo above, and a good deal more, beginning with expertise.

We landed at Schiphol this morning, and by the time we'd bought a telephone SIM chip and taken the train into the city, and relaxed a bit over a pot of tea, it was time to settle our travel-jostled innards with a bit of something. That turned out to be a rosy, delicate, slightly loose finocchiona, I would say, with a chunk of delicious Gouda aged carefully in the authentic manner, without the tight-fitting plastic shirt the authorities now require in this microbe-obsessed country. Kees has found someone who actually drives well selected cheeses south a few kilometers to France, where it's still legal to prepare foodstuffs authentically; there he ages them, then carefully wraps them in the appointed new Dutch manner, in plastic, and takes them back to Netherlands — where, once you've bought one, you're perfectly free to remove the plastic and return the cheese to its rightful place.

The result is delicious and takes you back twenty years.

Dinner was a bit more ambitions. I had, well, let's see, five plates of charcuterie: Bresaola with grilled radiccho (a splendid combination); veal-cheek sausage with marrow and gremolata (deep and satisfying); partridge sausage with root vegetables; mild and delicate Dutch sausage with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut; and kummelcrostino with soft, excelent lardo, fennel, and shaved Parmesan cheese. The meats were clearly sound and authentic, carefully selected and lovingly served, and we came away pleased and rather excited about this newish venture by a familiar and utterly reliable (not to say gifted and committed) chef.

Rouge d'Oc, Terrà Lisa, 2009 (fruity and generous if a little light); Tempranillo, Gran Cerdo, 2010 (deep, rich, and fulfilled); Calvados, Henri de Querville. (At home, a drop of Fernet Branca.)

•Worst Wijncafé, Barentszstraat 171, Amsterdam; 020.6256167; 4pm-midnight Tuesday-Saturday, 10-10 Sunday

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