Saturday, January 4, 2020

Eating every now and then

Chefsbar, Delft

Hotel Best Western Museum, Delft, Netherlands, January 4, 2020—
A GOOD HOTEL, well sited. Breakfast was only a few steps away, across the Oude Delft along the Oude Kerkstraat to Boulangerie Michel. A decent bland cappuccino, a flaky buttery croissant that might have been warmed a bit, good berry jam, a glass of apple juice. We'll likely return tomorrow.
Boulangerie Michel, Oude Kerkstraat 4, Delft, Netherlands; +31 15 737 04 92.

Lunch a little further off, after a morning looking at paintings and getting in touch with old friends. Tanja knew a place; it turned out to have an interesting menu including pappardelle in tomato sauce. These turned out to be rather delicate, almost as if made of young veal — with fillers, no doubt, but substantial and pleasant. And six slices of good dark bread, and a substantial green salad on the side.

Puro Cucina, Voldersgracht 28, Delft, Netherlands; +31 15 820 03 90.

A nap, and then dinner. How to find a place in an unknown town? I generally look for "restaurant" on both Google Maps and Apple Maps, and scan through the social media reviews that turn up for nearby places. One place stood out, and there we went, without a reservation. We were given a table for two in the bar area, and I ordered a Martini. The waiter looked uncomfortable, and I explained it was gin and vermouth, you do have vermouth don't you, shaken with ice then strained into a glass.

Soon my Martini arrived, more vermouth than gin, but a fine aperitif. The waiter asked for a review and I was honest. Well then we won't call it a Martini, he suggested, it is a Chefsbar Martini. Or a Chefsbartini, I replied, and we were all content.

After amuse-gueles — sushi with tuna, sweet potato and chanterelle, a barely noticeable paring of each, delicate and balanced — I opened with a "marbre", a galantine I'd call it, with layers of pulled veal, duck-liver mousse, and prosciutto, on a bed of celery-root "risotto." This was cunning and delicious.

Afterward, chestnut flan, with red and pickled yellow beet slices, spinach, and mashed potato — a pretty thing to look at and a pleasant thing on the palate, once past those damned beets. Dessert: Crème brulée, coffee and chocolate layered, with on the side a whisky pudding with a citrus-flavored madeleine.

Service was friendly, calm, professional; the rooms are quiet and inviting; the food enterprising but not assertive, the wine list adequate. We'd go back here any time.

🍷Rosé, pays d'Oc
Chefsbar Centre, Voorstraat 20A, Delft, Netherlands; +31 15 212 03 54.

Friday, November 30, 2018


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Hotel Berg en Bos, Apeldoorn, November 29, 2018—

ANOTHER DUTCH DELIGHT, or, one cannot live only on uitsmijters en biefstuk. The pannekoek, also spelt pannenkoek, is a thin pancake the size of a dinner plate, into which can be cooked a variety of things. The batter is somewhat like that of a crêpe, thin and soft: correctly cooked, as here, it remains a little soft, more like a Yorkshire pudding (though utterly innocent of meat) than an American baking-powder-hard-wheat-flour pancake.

I have two standbys: spek-gember of appel-rozijnen; bacon with ginger or apple and raisins, depending on my mood. For this first pannekoek in some time I had trouble deciding, so went with spek-gember-appel, and did not regret the decision.

The apples are sliced thin; the ginger is candied; the bacon is meaty and very lightly smoked. Over the pannekoek one drizzles stroop, very thick molasses-like syrup, and the trick is to get the right amount, so no trace is left on the plate when you've finally finished this feast.

     🍷beer: Veluwse Schavuyt (local)

•Pannekoekenrestaurant Berg en Dal, Hoog Soeren 30, Hoog Soeren, Netherlands; 📞+31 55 519 12 19

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Another biefstuk

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Gorssel, Netherlands, November 28, 2018—

WE BEGIN THE WEEK'S exploration of Gelderland with an outing to this small town south of Deventer and east of Apeldoorn, just within the provincial boundary. (A look at the map of Gelderland reveals the stupidity of political boundaries, but that's not a subject for this blog.)

There are only 4,000 or so inhabitants of Gorssel, which lies on a flat area of field and forest drained by the river IJssel; but the town supports a fine museum of 20th-century art, whose permanent collection reflected one man's taste, and a notable restaurant, where Hans proposed we have the day's principal meal at midday.

Loetje is in fact a chain of restaurants: half a dozen of them in Amsterdam; another nine or so beyond. It is known, Hans told us, for its steak, and so of course that is what I ordered. It looks like a hollandse biefstuk, all brown and brown; and in fact my first taste suggested it had been pan-fried and was even a bit burnt. Later bits disproved the burning: this steak was cooked to a perfect rare degree. I wish I'd though to photograph a slice.

It's a softball-steak, and the Countess — who ordered soup and capucijners, those delicious field peas — glanced at it when it arrived and recalled a similar steak we'd had decades ago in Oklahoma City.

Like that one, this was extraordinarily tender, with a delicate flavor perhaps overwhelmed by the rich gravy. It came with a bushel of french fries, very nice ones, and I ordered a serving of fried onions as well. Delicious.

Dessert: half the Countess's Dame Blanche: a fine soft milky vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and, of course, chocolate sauce.

     🍷Garnacha, Spain

•Loetje Gorssel, Hoofdstraat 26, Gorssel; 📞0575 -760 199

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Good and Dutch

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Apeldoorn, November 28, 2018—

LUNCH YESTERDAY back at Worst, where I had a nice vitello tonnato with a glass of simple white Burgundy; then the drive halfway across country, east, to Apeldoorn, our center for the next week.

We were all in the mood for something homey, and Hans suggested this herberg I'd often seen and wondered about but never, for some reason, in all the times we've visited here, tried out. It has the feel of an old way-station, with a small pub-like bar — almost a traditional Dutch bruinbar — complete with billiards parlor off to one side.

I had this excellent tomato soup, proudly listed as house-made on the menu: thick, nicely textured with chopped tomato, scallions, and capers, and flavored with (as I believe) fennel and cumin. With it, bread and a mild aiöli.

I went on to a gehaktbal Oude Loo, a softball-sized sphere of ground meat, broiled no doubt, and served with pickle, mustard, and gravy, with french-fries and mixed vegetables on the side.

Dessert: the countess can never resist the offer of a Dame Blanche, so we shared it. A curious, milky vanilla ice cream, quite good, and the obligatory whipped cream (a combination I very much like), and of course chocolate sauce. Nice.


•Herberg Het Oude Loo, Piet Joubertstraat 14, Apeldoorn, Netherlands; 📞+31 555 769876

Monday, November 26, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 26, 2018—
ONE OF MY FAVORITE dishes here in Netherlands: the uitsmijter, an open-faced sandwich involving cheese (omitted today), ham, and three eggs sunny side up.

The name is the Dutch word for "bouncer," in the sense of the guy whose job it is to maintain order at the doorway of the bar — I suppose this was his usual meal, or more likely between-meal pick-me-up.

I don't usually omit the cheese, and I'm not sure why I did this time. It is generally Gouda, the semi-hard cow's-milk cheese about which a book could be written (and probably has), and at best it's a slightly aged one — but not a hard dry aged one; no need to bury an expensive cheese full of character under ham and eggs.

We had this one (for the Contessa ordered the same, but with bacon, oddly, in place of the ham) at a place new to us, comfortable, rather ordinary, a big room with a good-sized bar and, I noted, an even larger dining room adjacent, with big windows, good light, a very pleasant ambiance.

This was in an old building, formerly a traveler's pension, now a hotel with its own brewery, bar, and restaurant. I liked my uitsmijter just fine — I've eaten dozens, and this was like many another. With it I had a couple of Berenburgs made, as I understand it, on the spot. Berenburgs vary widely, though they all involve infusions of herbs (and maybe other things) in Dutch gin (jenever ) and syrup. I preferred one, gingery and lemony; the other seemed over-sweet and unresolved, and went into the cup of tea I had for dessert.

Pension Homeland, Kattenburgerstraat 7, Amsterdam, Netherlands; 📞+31(0)20 723 2550

Saturday, November 24, 2018


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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 24, 2018—

HERE YOU SEE one of the things that calls us back to Netherlands: verse haring, fresh herring, also called nieuwe ("new") or even groene ("green," so called when eaten on board ship, just after the catch).

In any case they are eaten raw, split, and boned. It used to be there was a season for this, but the advent of freezing has changed that; now you can get "fresh" herring just about anytime. (Freezing has also taken care of a problem that arose, I think, in the 1970s: the occasional presence of a parasite. I think freezing changes taste and texture, but it's a minimal change.)

The fish is sweet and sea-flavored, its texture pleasant. Dutch sushi, perhaps. Traditionally you bought one at a herring stand, held it by the tail, flipped one side than the other in chopped onion, and tipped your head back to take it in.

Or, as here, you get a haringbroodje, the split herring on a bun, with scattered chopped onion and sour pickle slices.

We bought these at Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein, a twelve-minute stroll from our apartment. I like a small glass of jenever (gin) with my haring as a prelude to dinner, but this was lunchtime, and our refrigerator divulged a can of Heineken, not a bad chaser.

•Haringhandel A. van Dok, Haarlemmerplein 1a, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 620 94 94

Friday, November 23, 2018

Back to Marius

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Spaarndammerbuurt, November 23, 2018—

A WEEK OR TWO ago I dreamed I was eating dinner alone in a restaurant — really alone, sitting at a long refectory table in an otherwise empty restaurant. The waiter brought a delicious grilled quail. When I'd finished it, a pigeon. Then a poussin; then fried chicken; then roast capon.

Then pheasant. Then Guinea hen. And finally, roast goose. Oddly, there was no duck; thankfully, no ostrich. Each plate was perfect. I ate in complete silence. It was like a religious service.

Last night, our first in Amsterdam in a couple of years I think, we were at our favorite table, next to the kitchen door where we could engage with the cooks — except that we didn't: they were very busy indeed: Marius was full.

We began with baked pike — baked or poached, I'm not sure which, and the skin crisped — served with spinach, borlotti beans, and tomato. The contessa's dish had a langoustine-inflected sauce; I had to do with a simpler but very satisfying one.

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Then pheasant! Sixty years ago and more this was not an unusual dish; the fields around us were loaded with pheasant. Since grapevines replaced cow-pastures, pheasant have been absent. It was the least familiar bird in that litany of poultry I had dreamed. But it's not unusual here in Netherlands.

This was roasted and served sliced, with sauerkraut, potato-and-apple puree, and chanterelles, with a fine reduction. Very dutch; very satisfying.

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Dessert: Semolina pudding with poached pears in a light syrup, very simple, very refined.

Friendly, attentive, polished service. Clean, bright, snug dining room, filled with happy, enthusiastic diners. This is one of our very favorite places.

     🍷Mondeuse, Château Mérande, Le Comte Rouge (Savoie), 2015: deep but fruity, tobacco, delicious
•Marius, Barentszstraat 173, Amsterdam; 📞+31 20 422 78 80