Archive of ‘Eating Out’ category

Lunch Date Saturday: Hudson Bar & Kitchen

 

hudson bar almereIf you read my last post, you might remember that I said my next ‘Lunch Date Saturday’ review would be in two weeks. Swamped. That’s what I was (and still am). I really didn’t think I would get around to going out yesterday — 24 recipes to test, remember? But by three in the afternoon, my head was spinning, and I was craving lunch and a glass with the boy.
We ended up going to Hudson Bar & Kitchen in Almere, one of the six branches of the trendy restaurant serving all-American classics such as burgers, fully-loaded hot dogs, spare ribs, bar bites and cocktails. I had visited the restaurant before with friends, both for dinner and for drinks, but never got around to writing a review. Now’s a good time as any!
One of the first things I tried was their grilled rib-eye served with coleslaw, red onion compote, salad and thick-cut chips. I’m a seasoned steak connoisseur and this one passed the test in every way. Good grill taste, good seasoning and a perfect ‘cuisson’. Their Argentinian Malbec — plump, plummy and a little smoky around the edges — also managed to impress my palate. So much so, that I’ve gone back a few more times just for a glass. Exactly my type of wine. Strong, aromatic and not for wussies. Fine piña coladas too, generous on the rum, in other words.
Yesterday, however, hubby and I both went for their chili con carne, served with guacamole, coleslaw, sour cream, tortilla chips and bread. A choice that was not on the lunch menu, but that they kindly agreed to make for us anyway. Good service? Check. Good chili? ticket-hudsonAlso check. Rich, meaty and mellow on the spice. The only thing that was slightly overpowering was the garlic. Tone that down a notch or two and you’ve got a great bowl.
I still have to try their burgers, which are actually what they pride themselves on. The prawn one with lime mayo sounds godly. As does the ‘Mr. Big’: 300 grams of beef with bacon, cheddar, red onion and a fried egg — not a bad name either.
I’ll be popping over again. You’ll find me at one of their tall tables, slurping on a broad chested Malbec and saying to the charming waiter: “Give me a Hudson burger and no one gets hurt.” Now the only question is… which one.

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Dinner Date Saturday: A La Ferme

A La Ferme AmsterdamSomewhat hidden in Amsterdam’s animated ‘de Pijp’ neighborhood is A La Ferme, a restaurant serving traditional dishes from the French country kitchen made with seasonal products. According to the website, everything is homemade — from the bread to the mignardises served with coffee. The photos certainly look enticing. We see beautifully plated dishes; luscious foods such as thick pâtés, fat Bresse chickens and rustic sausages; an unpretentiously elegant interior; and a chef who obviously enjoys his work, not to mention the good life in La Douce France. I hadn’t even set foot in the place and I was sold. The fact that A La Ferme was also taking part in the Franse DinerDagen (French Dinner Days) deal was an added bonus. So I booked a table for two and with giddy anticipation, looked forward to an evening of French culinary passion. In my mind, I would enter the restaurant, leave Amsterdam behind, and spend a few hours in my heart’s home.
Upon arrival at the pleasantly crowded restaurant, the first thing that caught my attention was the distracting bar of red light located above the side of the room where our table was. Not only did it clash with all of the other redness in the room (not to mention conjure up slightly raunchy associations), but I immediately knew that taking decent pictures was not going to happen. That aside, the table was faultlessly set; the bread with oil, butter and fleur de sel delicious; and the atmosphere pleasant.
We ordered a glass of their Domaine Champs Blancs Cabernet Sauvignon, a fleshy wine from the Languedoc, well-balanced and with plenty of red fruit. Moments later, Ben van Geelen, A La Ferme’s chef, came to our table to give us a brief description of what was coming. And it all sounded pretty damn good.
Quite memorable was the velvety fowl liver mousse that was part of the amuse-bouche and the parsley-studded, delicately seasoned cod tartare which came with the first course. The pan-fried fillet of red gurnard (an ugly but tasty bottom-dweller) served with cockles in a buttery, zesty sauce was also pure perfection, if not for the slightly gritty cockles. I was less impressed with the main of wild duck breast and leg in a rich pan gravy served with mashed potatoes and stewed Belgian endive. Much too ‘earthy’ and heady for my liking, though I did thoroughly enjoy the round, aromatic Corette Pinot Noir that it came with.
For dessert, I had the cheese platter with a selection that included a distinctively strong Camembert and a stunning Herve. All of them served perfectly at room temperature with bread, crackers, thick apple syrup and a hefty Pommeau de Normandie, not a glass but the whole bottle, which I was allowed to pour from myself.
The meal ended with an espresso, a small dish of sweets and a raspberry eau de vie.
All in all, the food and drink was exceptionally pleasing. Pure flavors, balanced combinations and a discernible amount of love put into in the preparation. My main complaint, however, was the waiters who kept filling wine glasses without asking and were sometimes a little too present. bonnetje-alafermeThere was certainly no room for ‘intimate dining’ here, unfortunately.
And last but not least, let me be honest and realistic, should you also want to book during the French Dinner Days (up until November 23rd), our bill, including a wine arrangement, water, a supplement for the cheese and the espressos (which supposedly should’ve been included in the  €34.50 deal) came out to a total of €144,70. A bargain it certainly was not. Though definitely cheaper than a dinner date in Paris.ster-opzet-4

Lunch Date Saturday: Allegria

Allegria BussumItalian. That’s what I was craving when I woke up yesterday morning, still clueless as to where our Saturday lunch date adventure would take us. I wanted simple, authentic Italian food. Nothing fancy, no frills. Just a perfectly cooked pasta perhaps, or a good risotto. And a proper Italian wine to match, of course. But the cure for my craving needed to go beyond pure gustatory satisfaction this time, because in fact, I wasn’t just craving Italian food — I was craving Italy.
After narrowing down my choices, purely based on menus and photos of restaurant interiors, I decided on Allegria in Bussum, a town in the province of North Holland and one I’ve visited many times before.
Part shop and part restaurant, Allegria (meaning ‘happiness’ or ‘joy’) is pretty much a one-stop location for those who love all things Italian. Located in the front is the shop part where you will immediately be welcomed (not to mention helplessly lured) by a broad variety of Italianess: cookbooks, kitchenware, watches, handbags, vintage knick-knacks, wines, pastas, oils, canned tomatoes, sauces, vinegars, pizza ovens, percolators, sweets, and more, and more and more! It’s not just the products that make the heart flutter, but also the way they are beautifully displayed. Every corner of the shop oozes Italian passion. Tastefulness. Definitely pure joy.
Allegria Bussum
A little further on, is the deli section, which also supplies the restaurant with its antipasti and sandwich toppings. There are cheeses, cured meats, olives, pestos and more. I could have easily spent hours here, but it was the restaurant, found at the back of the establishment, that I was most interested in.
Entering the room immediately felt familiar and warm. Plain tables and sturdy black chairs; religious paraphernalia; an attractive buffet cabinet elegantly displaying a collection of wine glasses, above it a framed map of Rome; a row of cookbooks; paintings, priced and offered for sale; and in the middle, a drinks cabinet sumptuously stocked with wines, liqueurs and other spirits. It didn’t feel like being at a restaurant, it felt as though I was visiting an Italian friend.
And the food…
The lunch menu mainly offers a large variety of sandwiches, but there are also antipasti, four pizzas, one soup and one pasta. There is no wine list. Instead, there is wine advice. All you have to do is ask.
We started with the antipasti. I ordered a mixed plate that came with a variety of deliciousness including coppa di parma, taleggio, provolone, gorgonzola (probably one of the best I’ve ever had) and fragrant pesto. Hubby chose the plate with three crostini: one topped with spicy prawns, the other with basil pesto, gorgonzola and a sundried tomato, and the last with red pesto and prosciutto. In a tiny dish, the waitress prepared a flavorful oil for us to dip our bread and breadsticks in. Paired with a glass of Prosecco, we shared the two dishes before moving on to the main.

Allegria BussumMy choice was the ravioli filled with ricotta and black truffle and topped with rocket lettuce and pine nuts. I missed more truffle in the ravioli filling and think the dish could’ve done with a good drizzle of oil, something I could luckily correct myself since there was a bottle of fabulously grassy olive oil on our table. For Hans the pizza ‘Salumi’ was satisfying and uncomplicated: a decent crust (though we suspected not freshly made), tomato sauce and sliced meats. The wine choice was left up to our waitress, who recommended a Nero d’Avola, chock-full of juicy raspberries with a hint of chocolate and a long, smooth finish for Hans, and for me a crisp, minerally Pecorino, a wine that immediately made me think of summer. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the wine pairs beautifully with the cheese that goes by the same name.
Allegria Bussumbonnetje-allegriaNo room for dessert this time, unfortunately, though our espresso and cappuccino arrived with a too-tempting-to-pass-up dish of Italian sweets.
The service was flawless and adept, the food and wine quite satisfactory and the atmosphere precisely what I was looking for when I envisioned an afternoon escape to Italy that morning. I will be back for dinner in the near future — and will definitely drop in anytime I’m lusting after la dolce vita, which in my case, is incredibly often…

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Lunch Date Saturday: Seymour Brasserie & Bar

Seymour Haarlem

Haarlem has plenty to offer. Take its impressive Art Nouveau train station, for example, which boasts a myriad of elegant details including colorful tile tableaus and monumental waiting rooms. Or other great architectural accomplishments such as one of the country’s most beautiful Gothic-style churches, the Grote of Sint Bavokerk, which dominates the city’s center and imposingly towers over its main square. Directly across from it is Lieven de Key’s stunning Vleeshal (Meat Hall) with its ornamented crow-stepped gable and quintessential Dutchness. Fabulous museums? They have those too. The Frans Hals Museum houses an impressive collection of Dutch Renaissance paintings, and the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands, is home to a magnificent display of art and science.
Yesterday, however, I was there to check out one of  Haarlem’s newest additions to its ever expanding food scene — Seymour Brasserie & Bar. Located on the corner of the Korte Veerstraat  and Lange Veerstraat,  in yet another one of the city’ s ogle-worthy buildings (dating to 1899, originally erected as a warehouse and in recent years home to three different restaurants), the new establishment breathes Parisian grandeur with its massive French bar, industrial lamps, dramatic wooden staircase, sturdy marble tables and richly decorated ceiling.
Seymour HaarlemGreeted with a laid back, welcoming atmosphere, we found a table amidst cocktail sipping young women and lunching couples. I asked for the drinks list, ordered their Seymour 75 cocktail (on a scale of one to five, this baby gets a swell 4 ½) and studied their somewhat limited lunch menu consisting of six sandwich options and two salads. My only gripe so far. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t go out for lunch to eat a sandwich. Want to see me smile? Pepper that menu with at least three stick-to-the-ribs options. And if ‘French’ is what you’re going for, woo me at noon (I like that) with a succulent steak-frites, a well-prepared seasonal fish or at least a hearty omelette. Granted these options are available, but unfortunately, not for lunch.
Thankfully, the steak-tartare, a starter option, could be prepared for lunch, so I ordered a side of fries with that and a Malbec to wash it all down with.
The meat arrived perfectly at room temperature and exquisitely chopped. It was served with a dollop of mustard mayonnaise and topped with slivers of Parmesan, thinly sliced cornichons, a beautifully poached egg and a mound of curly endive. I was pleased, but would’ve been even happier if the egg was raw, the salad a little less and the bread, though delicious it certainly was, would have been brioche (as listed on the menu). Oh, and shallots. Some finely chopped shallots would’ve have lifted the dish too, in my opinion. Hubby was thoroughly impressed with his sandwich of thinly sliced seared steak topped with rocket lettuce, red onion and a tangy garlic cream.
Seymour Haarlembonnetje-seymourAll in all, I think my experience would have been better if I had showed up a few hours later, for dinner instead of lunch. With starters that include duck liver mousse and oysters, mains such as lobster and giant prawns with saffron, classic desserts such as crème brûlée, and a proper wine list, the choice would not have been easy. Prepare those dishes with flair and add to that excellent service (check), a pleasantly nonchalant ambience (check) and a fine location (check), and you can count me in as a loyal customer. But Haarlem is not that far, luckily, and has enough reasons to keep me interested. I might just pop on over for cocktails and bites before my next date with the Officers of the Saint George Civic Guard, or dinner — afterwarddrieenhalf

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