One of the perks of my job is being invited to interesting events in the world of food. Restaurant openings, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings, book presentations, etc. Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Gastrobar Anton, a new hot spot in the ritzy Dutch city of Laren. It was quite a lively evening full of champagne, cocktails, great wine, a posh selection of bites and fabulous oysters! The gastrobar has a Scandinavian inspired interior with warm color accents, robust materials and different types of seating options.
I’m not going to give you a full review just yet as I’m planning on going back there for lunch, but suffice to say that I had a great time. One of their wines, by the way, just happens to be a favorite of mine — Le Petit Berticot Cabernet Sauvignon from none other than my beloved Duras! How awesome is that?! Highly recommended by yours truly.
After the event, my friend and I decided to try out another restaurant in Laren. We figured we were already there, so why not? Both of us love Spanish food and Bodega, also located on the Brink, seemed like a good choice. Their menu features a varied selection of tapas as well as ‘Paella Valencia’, which is what we both went for, agreeing that perhaps this would make up for our last paella experience — ahem, it took place at an awful restaurant in Barcelona’s La Rambla called ‘El Choquito‘. El Choquito does not have a website, in case you’re interested, just a restaurant full of rude, frustrated waiters, crap food and weak sangria. Luckily, our experience at Bodega was not as appalling (kudos for the friendly staff), though their paella left a lot to be desired. The seafood selection was mostly deep-fried and I barely detected three tiny little mussels hidden in the rice, which missed more saffron, in my opinion. Some lemon wedges could’ve also helped the dish a bit, too.
In other news, it’s almost weekend! In case you don’t have any cooking plans yet, allow me to suggest grabbing a copy of the latest Vriendin (#43) where you can check out six of my easy and seasonal mushroom recipes! My aromatic noodle soup with shiitake and prawns is especially recommended today — rain, rain, and only rain!
I’ll be headed to Amsterdam tomorrow to review a new restaurant that boasts a menu which made me go a little weak in the knees when I read it. You can catch the review here on Sunday.
Have a delicious weekend!
Welcome to a new week! As you may have read in my previous post, I visited restaurant Rembrandt in Amstelveen last Saturday and was quite positive about the experience. If it wasn’t forthe less-than-perfect location, I probably would have given it four stars. The food was absolutely delightful and the wine equally good.
I’ve decided to make the ‘Lunch Date Saturday’ a recurring feature on the blog. Therefore, I’ll be visiting interesting restaurants (if possible, new) for you every Saturday and reporting back here every Sunday. After many lunches out with my hubby at the weekend (something we both really look forward to!), I thought it would be nice to not only share photos through Instagram, but to also post full reviews here on my blog. Honest reviews. I am not being paid for this and even if I was, I have absolutely no interest in praising something I don’t really love. So don’t expect it to always be pretty!
With that, I’m happy to say that I have very high expectations for the resto I’ll be visiting this coming Saturday — also a newbie in the Dutch food scene and pretty damn cool from the buzz it’s creating!
Today’s post, however, isn’t about fancy restaurant food. It’s about an easy peasy dish that has saved me many a times from succumbing to take-out on days when I know my agenda is an absolute disaster. All it takes is a little bit of mixing and chopping in the morning and by dinnertime, presto! You’ve got yourself one heck of a good meal.
Enjoy and have an awesome week!
Raw Pasta Sauce for Busy Days
- 600g mixed sweet cherry tomatoes
- 3 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 bunch of basil, leaves torn
- 3 tbsps capers
- 3 tbsps good olive oil
- 2 tbsps balsamic syrup
- fleur de sel
- freshly-cracked pepper
- mozzarella, torn into small chunks
- 250 g spaghetti
Mix everything except the mozzarella and the pasta in a large pan, place the lid on and leave the sauce to marinate out of the fridge for the whole day. When dinnertime rolls around, cook your pasta al dente. Add the mozzarella to the raw sauce and toss with the pasta. Serve in bowls with a good grinding of pepper.
One 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.
I’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.
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.
The 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.
Another 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.
But 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!