Sunday, November 19, 2017

There was a time…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, Rome, November 19, 2017—

WE TOOK THE 12:37 train from Varenna to Milano, then the 2pm train on to Rome, where our hosts met us at Termini and drove us to our (their) apartment — what a generous gesture, and how we appreciate it.

I have to admit I was tired and a little dazed from… well, I don't know what, exactly. Perhaps a near-week of just the two of us with minimal input other than beauty. Perhaps the train, which sailed along at 150 mph from Milan to Rome without stopping.

In any case we washed our hands and said goodbye and thank you to our hosts and then walked down to a place we recalled from last April — honest, dependable, not terribly expensive, and nearby.

There I had fagioli e tonno, nothing more than cold cooked Borlotti beans and cold canned tuna, which I seasoned a little further with salt and olive oil. A very simple dish, easily simulated at home. I've usuually had this dish with white beans, cannelini for example: but the meatier borlotti are very good as well.

And then, since after all it's the first dinner in Rome in quite a while, spaghetti carbonara. It's about as good here as anywhere else. The egg yolk is deliciously yellow; the guanciale is first-rate; the pasta is cooked to just the right point — what's to refine further?

     🍷Pecorino, mezzolitro

•C'Era Una Volta, Piazzale Enrico Dunant 13, Rome; 📞 +39 06 53627 8

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Via Venini, Varenna, November 18, 2017—
HERE JUST FOR a day, because tomorrow's train leaves from here, and we didn't want to rush things in the morning. Rushing is not indicated in this idyllic corner of Italy.

And, like Bellagio, Varenna is in the grips of basso stagione; much is closed. Including the restaurant we'd thought to try. So we walked on a little further, to the interestingly rhomboidal Piazza San Giorgio, and took a table al sole, in the sun.

fagiole e cipolle

We started by sharing two generous appetizers: a plate of bresaola with arugula and Parmesan cheese; another of perfectly cooked cold Borlotti beans with sliced raw white onion.

I went on to salsiccia e patate, grilled cotechino sausage and curious french fries.

No room, no need, for salad or dessert…

     🍷vino bianco in mezzolitro
•Albergo Del Sole, Piazza San Giorgio 17, Varenna; 📞+39 0341 815218

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alla darsene di Loppia

Via Eugenio Vitali, November 17, 2017
DINNER AT MIDDAY today in what seemed — after a little online research — likely to be the best restaurant in the area. Darsena, accent on the first syllable, is Italian for "dock," and Loppia is a tiny village a mile or so downcoast from Bellagio, a village with its own tiny sheltered harbor set between a pair of small warehouses.

Whatever. Darsene di Loppia is an elegant place: a long shoebox of a dining room, say fourteen by fifty feet, highceilinged, besutifully lit and painted, with ten or twelve well-spaced tables, quiet, professional staff, an an engaging and thoughtful menu and wine list.

Crudo di tonno

I began with Crudo di tonno: clean, deep red, meaty tuna under a cap of deliciously anchovied puntarelle and set about with equally delicious slices of lardo.

Afterward, Filetto di Vitello farcito con Olive Taggiasche, pomodoro secco, su purea di Topinambur: a slice of veal steak spread with Taggiasco olive paste and rolled, bound with Jerusalem artichoke purée, and garnsihed with a bit of barely cooked broccoli, a generous spoonful of savofry red cabbage, half an artichoke, and a single asparagus spear (from Chile: I asked). The vegetables all complemented one another remarkably well.

Dessert: a white-chocolate sphere, hollow, filled with licorice mousse and covered with lukewarm raspberry sauce. Ingenious and once again deeply flavored.

     🍷Spumante of the region; Lugana CàMaiol Molin, 2016; Barbera d'Alba Elio Altare, 2015; all perfectly correct and enjoyable
•Ristorante Darsene di Loppia, Via Melzi d'Eril 1, Bellagio; 📞+39 339 42.29.884

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017


via Eugenio Vitali, November 16, 2017—
WE TOOK A WALK up to the supermarket yesterday — a mile or so — more out of curiosity than need, since there are perfectly nice little alementari here in the village, and a butcher, a wine shop, a pasticceria. But while there we bought a package of gnocchi and a small jar of tomato sauce. Also a lemon, a bottle of Arneis, a small bottle of olive oil.

Today at the local shops we bought some arugula and a bottle of red wine, and tonight Cook put a number of those things together for our second dinner "at home." The gnocchi weren't the best I've had — a little doughy — and Cook thought the sauce could have been better, but I'm not complaining. I dressed the arugula with lemon juice and olive oil, and had a snort of Fernet Branca for dessert.

     🍷Dolcetto, Giuljn, Elio Perrone (Piemonte), 2015: fruity, smooth, hearty

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


via Eugenio Vitale, November 15, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME: Pizzoccheri bought fresh-made (of course) at the supermarket a mile or so away — a brisk walk. Pizzoccheri (accent on the second syllable), I read on Wikipedia, are a flat pasta made of buckwheat flour with a big of wheat flour mixed in. These were not flat, as you see, but formed into ravioli, stuffed with greens, the butcher told us, and ricotta. The filling tasted like spinach to me, but I don't say the hell with it: I love spinach.

Cook simply boiled them in salted water and added sage leaves and butter, salt and pepper. They were interesting, substantial, and enjoyable.

     🍷Arneis, Axzienda Agrficola Gino Battaglia (Roero), 2016: supple and refreshing

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

A weekend at home(s)

Friday, November 10—
LUNCH TODAY — in fact a midday dinner — at a restaurant we like quite a bit, just across the street from the apartment we've been sharing for the last week with our hosts. We say goodbye to them today, for another year or so, so why not take them to lunch?

We've eaten here a few times over the years, and this time I think it is even better. I begin with Rundercarpaccio met oude Reypenaer, pestodressing en pijnboompitten: beef carpaccio with old Amsterdammer cheese, måche, parsley, fennel greens, and pine nuts with a pesto dressing.

I'm not sure I had a second course; perhaps a salad. I'm writing this several days after the fact. The dessert was memorable: a sort of vla, fortified with genever, with little almond cakes and chocolage-covered nougat lollipops.

     🍷Viura/Verdejo, Conde Pinel (La Mancha), 2016: delicious

Restaurant De Heerlijckheyt Het Loo, Koningstraat 1, Apeldoorn; 📞+31 55 521 3997

Then we took the train to Amsterdam, to have dinner and spend the night with friends. Yolanda is a professional cook and cookbook author, and knew what we'd like to eat. She began us, for example, with hareng. You can't have too much of this, especially when served with delicious gherkins.

Main course was salmon, simply poached, coverfed with a strew of chopped herbs, garnished with cherry tomatoes. Then a quinoa pilaf with chopped parsley. Salad. Dessert.

And, since Krijn was involved, a number of bottles of spirits: the odd Cleveland Bourbon I'd brought him (bought at De Heerlijckheyt), another Bourbon, and a marvelous artisinal Apfelkräuterbrand Mühlengeist from Brennerei Spanier Holsthumer Mühle Startseite, I think. Smooth, fruity, a little edgy.

Next day, Saturday, November 11, we took the bus from Amsterdam to Luxembourg. We had a quick cup of coffee chez Yolanda, then nothing until reaching Brussels, where a half-hour stop allowed time to buy a pistole ham-kaas at a dubious convenience cafe.

Arrived in Luxembourg a little early, say 4:30; we had time for boissons (that delicious Luxembourg Rivaner white wine) during a short waIt for Catharina, then to her new home.

Dinner was, again, salmon — not a all unwelcome. Catharina served it with rice and “grandmother sauce,” a thin sour cream (I think) based sauce with herbs, very good; and a green salad. She is our Swedish daughter, and knows our tastes.

     🍷Rivaner sparkling wine

Proud Croatians in a Luxembourg fund-raiser
Sunday, November 11, we spent enough of the afternoon at a special fund-raising cultural "culinary" event that we hardly needed to eat (or drink) otherwise. There were sixteen countries represented: all the Scandinavian ones; Luxembourg of course; the United States (rather weak: pancakes and lemonade!); Croatia, Bulgaria, Morocco, Israel, Germany, a number of others. Nearly all these countries were handing out samples of sausage, pastries, breads of various kinds, cheeses, wines, and spirits. Ireland was particularly generous with her whiskies. Croatia boasted an excellent Slivovitz.
Then Monday, November 32, we took a train from Luxembourg to Lugano by way of Mulhouse and Basel. Another short-ration day, with coffee and bread and butter — Catharina's delicious home-made bread — and then nothing until we found a restaurant car on the last leg of the trip and availed ourselves of another ham-cheese tosti with a glass of white wine.

That evening, though, we booked into an excellent hotel, the Victoria, whose only drawback was that its restaurant was closed. Oh well: another was across the street, and there we had our first Swiss meal in probably forty years. It was a hell of a lot better than the last one, a gluey fondue somewhere in the sticks. Here we had spaghetti Bolognese and a nice green salad and amused ourselves watching three businessmen (I guess they were) from India drinking "double Jackies" and Johnny Walker Reds with chicken pizzas, ordered without looking at a menu.

     🍷Red, Veneto

•Cafè Retrò Ristorante Tivoli, via Generale Guisan 6, Paradiso, Switzerland; 📞+41 91 993 16 54

And now I'm finally caught up with Eating Every Day, and have only to get around, one day, to bringing up to date the

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Four days of typical Dutch: 4: Zuidlaren-Apeldoorn

Dining room, Jufferen Lunsingh
Zuidlaren to Apeldoorn, November 9, 2017—
Zuidlaren to Apeldoorn, November 9, 2017—
WE AWOKE TO BREAKFAST marred only by a tedious hotelkeeper, complaining about his problems supplying WiFi, about Russians taking more than they eat, lecturing at length on Drentse history. But I have to admit that the bed had been comfortable and the breakfast plentiful.

We did not look around Zuidlaren but went immediately to Westvelde, where it had originally been our intention to spend the night at a tranquil counntry hotel particularly recommended by an Amsterdam friend. Alas, a website misunderstandig had led us to believe it was unavailable excerpt for its restaurant. We stopped for coffee, promising to return for lunch.

Then we drove on to nearby Veerhuizen, site of a penitentiary and a former colony for paupers and the homeless. Like so many country museums in The Netherlands, it offers a fine cafe with a particularly fine applecake and an absorbing gift shop full of items (including books) related to the history of the place.

•Bitter En Zoet, 9341 AR Veenhuizen; 📞+31 592 385 002

The prison museum itself was most moving; we spent a good hour contemplating the history of detention and hopeful improvement of mankind. Today there are only 600 or so prisoners in the nearby active penitentiary, some of them Norwegians — the two countries cooperate, attempting to solve the problem of too many prisons, too few prisoners. (USA take note.)

Then, free at last, we drove back to the country hotel for a fine light midday supper: mosterdsoep met prei; salade met visrilletes. My mustard soup was quite different from yesterday's, very pretty, bound with particularly good cream and floated with a fine olive oil.

The salad contained cod and mackerel rillettes — I was a little worried about the latter, as I find mackerel unpleasantly oily: but these blocks of rillete were really nicely done, easily taking their place among perfectly fresh salad greens. (I suspect from their own garden.)

•De Jufferen Lunsingh, Hoofdweg 13, Westvelde; 📞+31 592 612 618

It was a long drive home, but we had time to stop in Zwartsluis for hareng. This is an absolutely delicious and indispensable Dutch specialty: raw herring, eaten simply either as a broodje (in a soft bun, which is how my delicate Contessa prefers it), or cut into pieces and eaten with knife and fork (as Hans prefers), or simply by flipping the two halves of the herring into the chopped raw white onion, then, holding them by the tail, bending your head back to take them in whole — as I do.

•De Vollenhoofse Poort, Stationsweg 3, Zwartsluis; 📞+31 38 386 61 40

But one does not live by herring alone: let's have a last Dutch pannekoeken. Where better than the pannekoekenhuis in Hoog Soeren, a charming little village outside Apeldoorn? It was crowded, and for good reason. The beertap had run out of steam but everyone was in a good mood. I had my favorite: speck-gember — the dinnerplate-size thin pancake perfectly cooked, covered with strips of delicious Dutch bacon, and topped with a generous spoonful of candied ginger. Drizzle it with stroop, of course, that extra-light molasses, similar to Lyle's Golden.

•Berg en Dal, Hoog Soeren 30; 📞+31 56 519 12 19

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Four days of typical Dutch: 3: Groningen en Drenthe.

Hanging kitchens of Appingedam
Dwingeloo to Zuidlaren, November 8, 2017—
AFTER YESTERDAY'S relatively quiet day this was a busy one, with two museums, a walkabout, and an odd B&B at the end of the day. And, in between, naturally, eating.

We drove first to Gieten, to stop for coffee at a bakery particularly recommended by our Dutch guides. The Netherlands knows two kinds of bakery: broodbakkerijen, where you go for your various loaves of bread, and banketbakkerijen, where the really tasty items are. This bakery, long a favorite establishment for miles around, performs both functions.

Here we had coffee and applecake, of course; but we also bought things for the trip — delicious crisp speculaas wafers; fine dense pastries involving speculaas wrapped around marzipan. I've been to a number of Dutch bakeries; I can see why this one is special.

Founding couple, Bakkerij Job

•Bakkerij Job, Stationsstraat 22A, Gieten; 📞+31 592 26 06 56

Then we drove on, farther north in Netherlands than we have ever been, to the fine old port city Appingedam. Here we had our walkabout, to see the famous "hanging kitchens" on canal houses, and to visit the fascinating Stad Museum.

We drove out into the country to visit a marvelous landhuis — I suppose "manor house" would be the equivalent, but it seemed quite palatial to me, including even a "trouwkamer" seating over forty in which the local count would preside over local weddings.

Here, too, in a former stables-plus-carriage house, there's a comfortable bruincafe-type bar-and-lunchroom, and here we had a delicious ham-kaas tosti with fries and, of course, a local beer.

•Museum Landgoed Fraeylemaborg, Hoofdweg 30 Slochteren; 📞+31 598 42 15 68

And then it was time to turn southwards toward the night's hotel, a B&B-type stop in the middle of Zuidlaren. The approach to the place was odd: my iPhone's Waze took us down a narrow drive into what looked like an empty field next to a pond. It turned out to be our parking lot, and we checked into a comfortable room.

Where to eat? Most places were closed for the season, but we found a modest place on our street, and here we feasted very traditionally indeed, on worst en boerenkool, sausage and mashed potatoes with kale.

•Cafe de Paris, ? 6 de Millystraat, Zuidlaren

Note the question mark: This place seems to have more than one name. I think this is the address.

Four days of typical Dutch: 2: Blokzijl to Dwingeloo

Blokzijl to Dwingeloo, November 7, 2017—
A FTER BREAKFAST in our splendid hotel Geertien we continued driving northeast, first to the (for anglophones) ruinously named little town Ruinen (pronounced Rrrownen) to see a fine country house-barn a friend is thinking of buying, and to have coffee and appelgebak at a little place owned and run by a Turkish immigrant justly proud of his applecake. Alas there were no longer any croissants to try: I bet they're good too.

•Brink Croissanterie, Brink 19B, Ruinen; 📞+31 522 47 14 72

And then on to Dwingeloo for lunch, later dinner at our hotel. Lunch was, for me, simply a cup of mustard soup, a dish we learned to love in Eenrum, years ago on a bicycle tour. It's chicken stock, I suppose, and good cream, and a healthy amount of good Dutch mustard, simple enouugh.

Dinner: ribeye steak. I suppose this was more or less a traditional Hollandse biefstuk, not that different from what we had on special days when I was a boy: the steak somewhat overcooked in spite of my ordering it rare, served with a light brown milk gravy and, what is certainly not traditional, a very sketchy jab at accompanying vegetables.

Dessert was very special, really elegant and delicious, as carefully thought out for textures ads for flavors. A licorice frangipane parfait, of all things, beautifully composed on the plate and quickly deconstructed, as you see, to try to figure out how it was done. It's the second licorice dessert we've had on this trip, and quite different from the other, and quite as enjoyable.

     🍷Costières de Nîmes, François de Posquières

•Hotel Wesseling, Brink 26, Dwingeloo, Netherlands; 📞+31 521 59 15 44

Four days of typical Dutch:1: Overijssel

Muggenbeet, November 6, 2017—
A LITTLE TOUR of northeast Netherlands: small country hotels, modest meals, many coffiestoppen. The landscape, the villages, the architecture are all both beautiful and photogenic, but I will put only a few photos here.

Monday, November 6: Coffee . We left Apeldoorn, where we've been staying with friends, about eleven in the morning, stopping first in Zwartsluis for coffee — in fact for me a delicious ginger tea, thick slices of ginger and a few leasves of mint steeping in a tall glass of hot water. With it, appeltaaert of course, for that's what one does.

•Hotel Zwartewater, De Ulakte 20, Zwartsluis, tel , Netherlands; 📞+31 038-3866444

On then to Giethoorn, a quaint village we saw first in 1974, famous for its thatched-roof cottages whose only access is by small boats on the narrow village canals. Alas, Giethoorn is much changed, and one woman is in trouble as a result: she wrote enthusiastically about it in a Chinese tourist magazine, and nearly all the tourists we saw — admittedly few this time of year — were in fact Chinese, and apparently rich, elaborately dressed and coiffed.

Here we had lunch at a sort of brasserie, open, well lit. Our waiter seemed very sober. He looked Chinese, and apparently spoke Chinese to some of the other diners; but his Dutch seemed fluent, ditto his English. Only when I told him our ham-cheese tostis were particularly good did he break into a smile, promising to relsy the comment to the kitchen.

•Restaurant Grachthof, Binnenpad 54, Giethoorn, Netherlands; 📞 +31 521 361 270

We drove next to Blokzijl, home of a famous restaurant alas closed for the season — Kaatje bij de sluis (Katie by the lock), next to the canal lock, historically imporetrant as Blokzijl was once a port on the Zuider Zee before the poldering that eliminated that (relatively) small stretch of saltwater. We walked about a bit, as it's a picturesque village, and stopped in for coffee at a Spanish bistro, of all things. Friendly and competent: I'd go back.

•Tapas Barca, Bierkade 1, Blokzijl, Netherlands; 📞+31 527 76 91 20

and finally to the night's hotel, isolated in the countryside, open to the magnificent Zwartemeer, and offering traditional Dutch food well prepared and served.

I had a fine onion soup garnished with old Amsterdammer rather than Gruyere (and none the worse for that);
then wild boar tenderloin in a venison stew. Yes, that's a poached pear on the plate; yes, delicious. then moggenbeet, Hotel Geertien. Traditioneel Nederlands dinner.      🍷A glass of red
•Hotel Geertien, Muggenbeet 3, Blokzijl, Netherlands; 📞+31 527 29 12 45

Antico Pozzo

Via Enrico Vitali, Bellagio, November 15, 2017—
WHERE TO EAT, in this resort town, where many restaurants are closed for the season? We did a fair amount of research online to no particular advantage, then settled on The Antique Well-head, named for an item of that description in its front terrace — no doubt a fine terrace for sitting, in warmer seasons.

We ordered identically, not from the English-language menu we were given as a matter of course, but from the blackboard by the front door, offering the daily specials. We began with a delicious plate of bresaola, arugula, and shavings of Parmesan cheese — patriotic Italian colors. We dressed the plate with drops of decent olive oil.

Then a plate of tagliatelle with porcini in a cream sauce: perfectly cooked pasta, nicely chosen mushrooms.

Green salad afterward, of course, and for the Contessa, an enormous affogato.

     🍷House red: Cabernet sauvignon from the Veneto in carafe
•L'Antico Pozzoce, Salita Mella 26, Bellagio, Italy; 📞+39 031 951644

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Monday, November 6, 2017


Prinseneiland, Nov. 3, 2017—
VUURTORENEILAND: lighthousetowerisland. You take a packet-boat for nearly an hour, with aperitif, appetizers, maybe a cocktail on board. You walk a few meters with the rest of the evening's clientele from boat-dock to reception, lantern in hand.

You're shown to an elegant underground dining room, formerly a bunker on this otherwise empty island. And then several courses unfold, each with its well-chosen wine.

A couple of hours later, maybe longer, it's regretfully time to get back on the boat and cruise back through the moonlight to Amsterdam — last dessert and a glass of wine, of course; maybe a genever or some other digestive.

No way to describe this magical evening here. It is one of the Five Restaurants. For details, look at a longer description (caution: 46 MB)

Vuurtoreneiland, Amsterdam harbor; 📞+31 020 362 16 64

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Catching up in Amsterdam

Coconut ice cream, pineapple, licorice sauce
Prinseneiland, November 1, 2017—
TOO MUCH ACTIVITY, uncertain internet connections, laziness — all conspire, as Constant Reader knows too well, to interfere with Blogging Every Day. So here's a quick catchup.

October 30, 2017, Monday: breakfast early at Cafe Mads, rather a nice cafe nearby. We have our usual: caffe latte for the contessa, cappuccino for me (or maybe two), a croissant apiece.

•Mads, Zoutkeetsplein 1, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 303 45 25

Then we spent the day at the Rijksmuseum where we lunched — I had the Burrata salad, quite tasty: soft burrata, sharp cherry tomatoes, an anchovy, pine nuts. With it, a beer from the tap — Heinekens, of course.

After the museum visit we walked to a nearby poffertjeskraam — a pavilion serving pannekoeken and poffertjes — for our traditional plate of those delicious little popover-like crepes, about the size of a silver dollar, buttery and sweet with their powdered sugar.

•De Vier Pilaren, Stadhouderskade 11, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 363 68 31

In the evening we walked to a nearby restaurant only to find it closed; then on to another, quite different, upscale, with an interesting menu and wine list; and here I had "ribeye" — cut more like a loin steak, with separate pea and arugula purées. Alas I no longer remember the wine I ordered.

•Wolf Atelier, Westerdoksplein 20, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 344 64 28

October 31, 2017: Up and away on the train to early for breakfast, so we had the usual one at a Julia's — a chain of "Italian" Illy-type pasta-panini joints — in the station in The Hague (a city I hardly recognize any longer). The coffee was not much better at the marvelous Gemeentemuseum, the object of the day's journey, but the appelgebak, Dutch apple pie, was tasty.

Lunch at a place downtown; no notes. Sorry. Then on getting back to Prinseneiland we were too tired to think of going out, and made do with our hostess's delicious pumpkin soup, some cheese, and a decent red.

     🍷Château Tapie (Languedoc), 2016

November 1, 2017: breakfast at home for a change: coffee from a little Nescafé machine, with foamed milk from another specialized gadget, with delicious dark bread from the not-too-distant Vlaamse bakery. Then a long walk to a canal-house museum on the Herensgracht and, afterward, lunch at the nearby Hof van Eten, where I had a sturdy plate you might call Dutch-Italian nachos: decent old Amsterdammer cheeese melted over halved cherry tomatoes on good dark bread, wtrewn with snippets of chives and heightened with a judicious sprinkling of sliced Jalapeño peppers. (photo); dinner Goude Reaele (photo) Het Hof van Eten

For dinner we walked to the nearby Gouden Reael, which had been closed on Monday. I had a delicious bowl of onion soup, bound with crème fraiche and flavored with tarragon and gruyère. My rotisserie "cockerel" — in fact a small poussin — was slightly undercooked, therefore hard to eat. But the dessert was one of the most interesting and rewarding things we've been presented with yet, listed, simply, as

of the rotisserie | licorice | coconut ice cream

The pineapple slices had indeed been roasted a bit and had a wonderful flavor. They sat in a nearly black pool of licorice sauce and were topped with a scoop of perfect coconut ice cream. We talked to the chef about this dish afterward: the menu has just been changed, and this was one of the first plates they'd served. The sauce, he said, is simply licorice, water, and a little egg white, all emulsified in a nitrogen whipper, the sort that's used to whip cream. It was a magnificent dessert.

     🍷an unknown decent bubbly (brought in error); an unknown decent red
•De Gouden Reael, Zandhoek 14, Amsterdam; 📞+31 020 623 3883

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bak; home

Prinseneiland, October 29, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME again tonight, after an elaborate midday dinner at an interesting, ambitious restaurant a few minutes' walk away — my, how this part of town has changed in the last few years.

The small table d'hôte menu ran to seven courses, of which we chose XXX: • celeriac: messeklever, a soft white rather creamy cow's-milk cheese, with a few pieces of blanched onion, wrapped in thin slices of blanched celeriac, and moistened with a subtly coffee-flavored dressing

• egg yolk: a pilaf of seeds, grains, and corn kernels, in dashi, with a raw egg yolk on top

• venison: a slice of roast leg of venison, with black salsify, a garnish of miner's lettuce and parsley, and a dusting of seaweed powder, in rich gravy

• hay: semifreddo delicately flavored with hay, with walnut and poached quince

     🍷Blanc, Andrea Calek (France), 2015: cool, soft, fruity
Nebbiolo, Rartolo Mascarello, 2013 (Langhe): perfect of its type
Ribolla Gravner, Anfora, Venezia Giulia, 2002 (!): oxidized but pleasant, austere

•Bak Restaurant, Van Diemenstraat 410, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 737 25 53

Dinner: Our hostess prepared a pumpkin soup, roasting the pumpkin, pureeing its meat, and combining with it scallions, shallots, and vinegar, thinning with chicken stock. A perfect close to the day.

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

At home

Prinseneiland, October 28, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME tonight, after an afternoon visit to the Noordermarkt, where Cook saw three pieces of wild salmon at the fish counter. Alaska salmon, looking quite as fresh as we see it at home.

She cooked it in her usual way, dotting each piece with butter, topping it with a couple of scallions, and drizzling some vodka on it before wrapping each piece individually in aluminum foil to bake in the oven.

With the salmon, little potatoes, and broccolini, and a green salad afterward. Delicious as always.

     🍷Viognier/Chardonnay/Grenache blanc, "Simplement Ormarine" (Pays d'Oc), 2016: crisp and pleasant

Lunch had been a Cuban sandwich and a bottle of beer, also delicious, at a little place we like not far away: •Worst, Barentszstraat 171, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 625 61 67

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

In flight

In flight, October 26, 2017—
CHICKEN BREAST with mushroom sauce and vegetables, lettuce and cheese, a brownie. Could have been worse.

     🍷Sauvignon blanc, then red wine: Merlot/Syrah, ?Argentina
•American Airlines flight AAS 0204

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017


Prinseneiland, October 27, 2017—
DINNER WITH FRIENDS — almost family, in fact — at our favorite Amsterdam restaurant, and not only because the chef-proprietor is an old friend. Almost family, in fact.

This is such a pleasant kwartier of old Amsterdam, the Westlijke eilanden, a group of small islands built up over a century ago — first as warehouses, then as low-income housing, now increasingly being turned into condominiums. The lighting, the architectuee, the openness to sky and water all contribute to a degree of serenity rare in contempor\ary cities. I love it here; I always feel at home.

Kees's restaurant is on the table d'hôte format: a four-course dinner for a set price, with minimal opportunity for substitutions. (Vitello tonnato and a grande bouillabaise are always at the ready, though.) Tonight I had poached hake with squid, olives, and what else I can't recall, followed by pieces of onglet, the lower back cut of beef, with mushrooms and potatoes. Delicious, both of them, as we knew they would be, and gezond — sound and healthful, a joy after a day or two of travelling.

Dinner: Kees's "Chocolate Nemesis," a deep, serious chocolate brownie-like dessert, and apple tart with raisins — the original "Dutch apple pie," but utterly superior to what I used to get at lunch counters in the States.

     🍷Vin blanc, Mas Saint Laurent (Langueoc), 2015 (a little flinty, crisp and flavorful); Cabernet sauvignon, France, delicious and serious, details not noted
•Marius, Barentszstraat 243, Amsterdam ; 📞+31 020 422 7880

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017