Archive of ‘Eating Out’ category

Proeflokaal Bregje

Bregje almereLet me cut to the chase here. Although last night’s dinner company was wonderful, the food at the recently opened Proeflokaal Bregje in Almere left a lot to be desired (plus, came with a complimentary hair in my companion’s plate).
The concept sounded good: two courses for the wallet-friendly price of only €9,50 served between 5PM and 7PM, and a three-course option for €12,50 served from 7PM to 10PM. The menu? Equally appealing. Starters such as Angus steak tartare or prawn croquettes, a simple yet varied choice of mains (duck breast, too — my favorite!), and classic desserts such as tiramisu and crème brûlée. Oh, and cocktails. They even offered four cocktails, including yet another favorite of mine, the Cosmopolitan!
And that’s where all my expectations slowly started to crumble…
But let me rewind. When I walked in, I was warmly greeted by a very amiable gentleman who led me to the table where my friend was waiting. The place was packed and the interior cozy and inviting with rustic touches and a soft, shimmery glow courtesy of the single candles placed on each table. Exactly the kind of restaurant I’d want to whisk hubby off to for a romantic mid-week dinner à deux, I thought.
We ordered a Cosmo, we toasted, we sipped… and my heart sank. After tasting not much more than diluted cranberry juice, I swiftly picked up the drinks menu fearing I had chosen a virgin. Nope. Vodka and triple-sec were clearly listed. One-and-a-half wets of the whistle later, the prawn croquettes arrived, lukewarm and slightly soggy on the outside, but with a lime mayo that made them rather palatable. Luckily, with a few turns of the salt mill, the duck (served in an aromatic orange sauce) was edible. For me anyway, because my friend quickly lost her appetite when she discovered a hair halfway through the meal. By this time, we were wondering whether we should just leave and skip dessert.
We stayed, and the crème brûlée, unfortunately, did not make up for the rest one bit. Where was the vanilla and why skimp on the egg yolks? I suppose I know the answer to that question.
Interestingly enough, before joining my friend for dinner, I met up with a colleague for a glass of wine at another restaurant just a stone’s throw away, where, I should mention, €12,50 will hardly get you a main. It was painfully deserted and quite the contrast with the crowded Proeflokaal Bregje.
Cheap attracts, that’s for sure. Pity for the stylish interior and friendly staff, not to mention for the better, surrounding restaurants…and for us.

Lunch Date Saturday: East57

East57 AmsterdamHonest. I’m a good girl. I would never use the work ‘fuck’ on social media. Imagine if I offended my followers, or worse, came across as overly enthusiastic. Just imagine.
Well, that happened yesterday, on Instagram. Or more precisely, after my lunch at the recently opened East57 — part restaurant, part wine bar, part café and part ‘make-you-salivate’ delicatessen. The establishment is housed in Casa400, a complex that serves as both hotel and student residence.
Perhaps I should start off by saying that we were originally planning on visiting another new restaurant, also in the Dutch capital. But alas. Upon arrival we encountered an almost ghostly joint. Dead and dismal with chefs that were slightly deaf and not really interested in intruders like us. Here’s a tip, Graceland Bar-B-Q (although granted, I should’ve probably called beforehand), don’t announce on your website that you’re open for lunch, when in fact, you’re not. Yet, anyway. Very uncool to have us drive to you, full of delicious anticipation (and hungry as hell) for nothing.
Not really complaining though. East57 was on my ‘to-try’ list, so it was just a matter of typing a new address into the navigation system and on y va! The drive through Amsterdam (which took us nearly 45 minutes thanks to traffic) would be quickly forgotten if the meal was good and the service pleasant.
We arrived at a spacious, bright location with high ceilings, nonchalantly set tables and attractive counters displaying crates of wine, stacked plates, bowls and cutting boards, and a little further on (on the delicatessen side) wooden vats of seasoned olives, oils, Dutch gourmet cheeses, breads, various charcuterie, fine chocolate and more. Products by respectable food companies such as Brandt & Levie, Vlaamsch Broodhuys, De Gouden Ton, and Tony’s Chocolonely, to name a few.
The menu included fashionable appetizers; soups; trendy salads (quinoa with fennel and roast vegetables; Peking duck with mushrooms, sesame, bean sprouts and goji berries; and sweet potato with olives, chorizo and caramelized onions, to give you an idea); sandwiches (pulled pork is their specialty); hearty mains such as sea bream with lemon, thyme and pearl barley; twelve different kinds of ‘bites’ to pair with your drinks; and five ‘platter’ dishes served on sturdy, wooden chopping boards. There was an equally interesting wine list, all from De Gouden Ton (a.k.a. “the best wine retailer in the Netherlands”), to satisfy the oenophiles among us.
Tempted by the variety of their enticing components, both of us decided on a platter. For hubby the meat and for me for the fish. While waiting we enjoyed a robust Malbec. Normally speaking, not exactly what I would order before a meal, but I needed something to warm me up (I get cold when I’m hungry).
Luckily, the platters arrived quickly, handsomely presented, and with a proper explanation of everything included. Even the wine and champagne were served with the same kind of courtesy and expertise as the food.
East57 AmsterdamHans had a platter with items such as a wedge of chunky pâté, pulled pork and black pudding (the only thing he wasn’t too thrilled about as he is simply not a fan of eating blood).
East57 AmsterdamThe seafood platter had a selection of classics and some of my personal favorites including perfectly grilled slices of tuna served on a bed of wakame, zesty and succulent giant prawns, a seared coquille in a shell lined with a sweet and sour cucumber salad, and an oyster which I bathed in shallots and red wine and gulped down with shamelessly primal pleasure.
East57 AmsterdamMy only complaint was a lack of a bowl of lemon water, or at least a wet cloth to clean my fingers. A must if you’re serving prawns, in my opinion.
After our traditional espresso, we walked around the establishment and chatted with some of the personnel. First we went to the wine bar, located on the top floor and serving nearly one hundred wines that can be paired with a variety of bites. Then the deli where we purchased the makings of an easy dinner (pâté, blue goat’s cheese, a loaf of bread and for dessert, a bar of licorice flavored chocolate). And finally the caffeine corner where you can also get your daily sugar in the form of cakes, pies, muffins and brownies.
Needless to say, I was so impressed with East57 that I used the ‘F’ word (in capital letters and after the word ‘holy’) in one of my Instagrammed photos. I should point out that the Palmer & Co Brut Réserve  that accompanied my meal was equally worthy of using a profanity or two. Hats off to East57 for a kitchen and service that managed to bring out the sailor in me.

vierenhalf

Opening Night: Gastrobar Anton in Laren

Lunch Date Saturday: Rembrandt

Rembrandt AmstelveenOne of my biggest passions is the art of the Dutch Golden Age. Especially Rembrandt. Every time I visit the Rijksmuseum I tell myself I will not cry when faced with one of my favorite paintings, The Jewish Bride (ca. 1665 – ca. 1669). Only to find myself with that funny sensation at the bottom of my throat within seconds of standing in front of it, hoping no one will notice my eyes as they well up. I just cannot help being overcome with emotion. Rembrandt managed to capture a peacefully intimate moment with strokes that are thick and make the painting appear almost three-dimensional.  I once read that Vincent van Gogh would sometimes stare endlessly at the painting, especially admiring the detail in the two hands that lovingly touch and demand the viewer’s attention.
After hearing about the newly-opened restaurant named Rembrandt in Amstelveen, I knew I had to check it out. Not only did the name appeal to me (and the fact that they had chosen my favorite painting as a focal point of their interior), but the menu looked pretty good, too. I wanted to try the Dutch prawn salad, the Maas Rijn IJssel steak from the Lindenhoff with red wine sauce, the zuurkool stamppot (potato and sauerkraut mash) served with Brandt & Levie sausage, the cod with mustard sauce from Meeuwig & Zn. All names that will ring a bell with Dutch food lovers. Choosing was not going to be easy.
As we drove up to the restaurant, the first thing that caught my attention was its location. Unfortunately, it is not really in the center of town, nor is it in an area that’s very much inviting. In fact, it is surrounded by apartment complexes for senior citizens. I immediately wondered how this would affect the success of the restaurant in the long run. Would the food and service manage to rise above what could potentially pose a problem?
Upon arrival, we were cordially greeted by our hostess before choosing a cozy table for two next to one of the windows. You would think that in such a large space this would be difficult, but that certainly wasn’t the case. Our table was beautifully set with sturdy silverware, rustic linen napkins and water glasses reminiscent of the ones seen in Dutch 17th century paintings, the so-called roemer.
The interior features a huge open kitchen and is graciously decorated with warm color accents and touches of Dutch such as Delft blue and colored glass. The Rembrandt theme is present in the sketches that decorate doors, the books scattered about and of course, the majestic replica of The Jewish Bride.
We both decided to go for the menu of the day which kicked off with a mild and velvety broccoli soup served with a dollop of cream. The main was one of my favorite Dutch classics, rundersukade (meltingly stewed beef) accompanied by buttery mashed potatoes, red cabbage and a small pot of stewed pears. The meat was well cooked and succulent, and the gravy thick and aromatic. Both courses were washed down with a glass of their fruity Pinot Noir, uncomplicated and perfectly pleasing. For dessert I chose the cinnamon ice cream served with crisp wafers of honey and dark brown sugar, while Hans had a plate of Dutch cheeses presented with nut bread, thick apple syrup, fruit and walnuts. Compliments throughout for a perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Rembrandt Amstelveen Rembrandt Amstelveen Rembrandt Amstelveen Rembrandt Amstelveenticket rembrandtkleinI’m almost sorry to say that we were, in fact, the only lunch guests that afternoon. Our hostess told us they still needed work in their PR department. Considering the location of the restaurant, I’d be inclined to do that sooner than later.
Aside from that, for anyone who doubts that beauty of the simplicity in the Dutch kitchen, or thinks that the Netherlands has nothing to offer foodwise, a visit to this restaurant is in order. Rembrandt idolatry is, of course, not a prerequisite.

ster opzet 3.5 drieenhalf

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