Posts Tagged ‘Bussum’

Lunch Date Saturday: La Cave, Bussum

img_1801One of the things I look forward to most during the weekend is going out for lunch with my husband. Though we usually stick with places that have become firm favorites, sometimes we like to try something new. So on Saturday morning, I installed myself on the couch with a cappuccino and went in search of places that have just opened nearby.
One of them was La Cave in Bussum, a French bistro and traiteur that opened late this past August. After one look at the menu online (classic French salads, soups, sandwiches, egg dishes, oysters, langoustines, cheese, charcuterie and more), my mind was made up — La Cave it was going to be!
Shortly before we left, hubby asked me for the address, and you wouldn’t believe our surprise when we both realized this was the exact location of Allegria, one of our favorite Italian restaurants which had closed down last February, much to our dismay. We really loved that place.
Eager to see if this new establishment would bring the location on Kapelstraat 11 back to life, we drove to Bussum in delicious anticipation. Though there was no wine list online, the name obviously meant there was good wine to be had!
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the very friendly and smiley waitress. We chose a table, ordered shrimp croquettes as our appetizer and were advised a fleshy Touraine sauvignon blanc to wash them down with. The crisp tiny, little croquettes promptly arrived, steaming hot, though perhaps a little too brown for our liking.
img_1800Looking around, I took notice of how much the place had changed. Whereas Allegria was homey and cozy, La Cave has an understated elegance with a modern edge. Simple, rustic wooden tables and chairs; minimalistic lamps; an open kitchen; and walls decorated with maps of wine regions, specials written on chalkboards in French, and crates filled with interesting wines. I even spotted a few handsome Givrys.
For our main, we both decided on the ‘Salade Lyonnaise’ paired with a jammy pinot noir (their best ‘by the glass’ choice). The salad was beautifully crisp, as were the diced potatoes and bacon. The egg was perfectly poached, and the baguette had a wonderful crust and a light, airy and chewy crumb.
img_1804 The serving size was just right — a good thing because that meant room for dessert. Hubby opted for the apple tart with vanilla ice cream, and I had mousse au chocolat with pears and an orange sabayon which was absolutely delightful.
img_1806The food, wine, service and ambience were excellent. Our only gripe was the espresso that ended our meal — way too watery, it may as well have been a minuscule coffee.
img_1807Nevertheless, we’ll be back, for dinner. There’s confit de canard to be had!
PS: Before leaving we purchased a 250g pack of butter made by renowned cheesemaker in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Philippe Olivier. Ten euros for the pack, but worth every penny. I did have a laugh though when the owner warned us it was going to be “very expensive”…
La Cave Bistro, Traiteur & Négociant, Kapelstraat 11, Bussum

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When good things come to an end…

IMG_3480Though I love eating out, I am everything but a food snob. OK, with the exception of the ‘Salade Riche‘ I so much adore (and had last weekend again) at one of my favorite French restaurants, Bel Ami. I guess that salad would classify as rather snobbish with its abundance of fish and duck liver curls. But aside from that sensual dish of pure gastronomic indulgence, I am not partial to fancy restaurants that serve ‘artistic’ cuisine with smudges of food, flowers, geometric patterns or foaminess that reminds me of spit. Nor am I impressed by ‘well-known’ chefs or their Michelin stars. In fact, the type of food (and type of restaurant) that I most enjoy is down-to-earth. Real food. Real people. Real passion. And sometimes, there’s a great deal of passion to be found in those ‘simple’ restaurants, which unfortunately are either never discovered or too ‘plain Jane’ for some.
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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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End-of-the-week Ramblings

It’s Friday which means tomorrow is lunch date day with hubby — something I really look forward to after what can sometimes be a long work week! Like this past one, for example. I pretty much worked until 9PM yesterday researching and writing a rough outline for my upcoming trip to Groningen this Sunday. If you read DUTCH, now you know what’s coming up in our Jan/Feb 2015 travel section! And speaking of DUTCH, the final issue of 2014 went to print earlier this week, and I can’t wait to hold the finished product again. It’s like having a baby every two months! OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it is quite exciting to take part in the process of making a magazine from start to finish!
Anyhow, back to that lunch. Not really sure where we will be headed this week. Last weekend we enjoyed an outdoor lunch at the waterside terrace of Graaf Floris V in Muiden. I was actually a little iffy about going there because of some of the bad reviews, but decided to give it a shot anyway. Mainly because of its beautiful location. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed. Only a little stuffed after a mega-huge seafood salad with smoked salmon, Dutch North Sea shrimp, tuna and smoked IJsselmeer eel! The wine and service were pretty decent, too.
Graaf Floris V MuidenThe weeks before, however, we had been hanging out at Paisan in Hilversum, which is seriously a real treat. They have an awesome wine list with plenty of choices by the glass and the food is clean, bright and healthy. The kitchen is Med/Middle-Eastern-style with a good variety of pastas, seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. I also love their appetizer platters. Last time we started by sharing the vegetarian one which had tasty little nibbles such as olives, fried polenta, lusciously dressed veggies, an aubergine roll and cheese.

Paisan HilversumAnother favorite restaurant is Bel Ami in Bussum (surprise, surprise says the Francophile!). I’ve never been disappointed in their exceptional kitchen and service. Again, an excellent wine list and a steak tartare that’s to die for! This summer they had a heavenly pasta vongole which I washed down with champagne. My. God.
Bel Ami BussumBut where to tomorrow?? No idea!
What I do know is that I’m starting the day with a proper stick-to-the-ribs breakfast. I’m a very good girl most of the time, so I especially enjoy the naughty stuff when I do have it! I’m thinking scrambled eggs, bacon and either a stack of pancakes or buttermilk waffles. Sounds good, no?
For now though, there’s still a whole workday ahead of me and a to-do list that includes reviewing a book, writing a calendar of events, working on recipes for a holiday menu in Vriendin (and actually testing part of them later on), cleaning the house, planning menus for next week and attacking my messy closet (or at least attempting to start that horrendous task!).
Have a great weekend!