Eating my way through Europe: Herring and Heineken in Amsterdam

My flight made great time and we arrived half an hour early. With no bags and no sleep I was quick off the plane in hopes of getting in a quick nap before sightseeing. No luck though. After a short train ride to the city center I stopped in at the hotel and was told to come back at three. So, time for breakfast!

Amsterdam is small, pretty and very walkable. I had a short list of places I wanted to visit today, and all were in the southern “Museumplein” district at the south end of the city. Departing the hotel I made a beeline for a canal and had a lovely (and very quiet) morning stroll to my first stop: the Albert Cuypstraat Saturday market.

Markets were a huge part of our life when we lived in Paris. I miss shopping like this. The food is always so nicely laid out, and the vendors range from hawkers – who always have a deal on something – to afficiandos – who insist on knowing what you are cooking so they can find just the right piece. (Once, after telling a French butcher what I intended to do with a piece of meat, he outright refused to sell it to me.)

My first acquisition of the day was a giant Stroopwaffle – two thin waffles stuck together with syrup. This was a perfect snack to tide me over while I went searching for the real treasure, raw herring.

The “raw” part of raw herring is a bit of a misnomer. After being plucked from the North Sea, the herring is flash frozen (to prevent parasites) and then gutted, deboned, skinned and laid on salt for a bit. So less raw than sushi but more raw than ceviche. Traditionally it’s served with onions, sweet pickles and a tiny Dutch flag. I gather the idea is to use the toothpick to pick up the herring pieces, roll them in onion, and have a pickle chaser. 
I lucked out and stepped just outside of the market in search of coffee and found a small shop that seemed to be to fish what a deli is to pigs. I’ll make a note here so I can come back next time I’m in town. 

Mission accomplished, I left the market with a belly full of herring and wandered my way up and down the side streets of de pjip neighborhood until I found Museumplein.

Museumplein is home to several of the city’s art museums. I’d been here on my last trip to see Van Gough and taste genevar at the House of Bols. This time, I wanted to check out the Banksy exhibit at the Moco modern art museum. More on that later. 
Following the museum adventure I grabbed a crummy cup of coffee from a locale cafe and got horribly lost en route to my final destination, and only repeat visit, the Heineken Experience.

Heineken is a local brewery that grew up on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The museum has a typical brewery tour experience to it, but with a few extras that come with being a global brand. I appreciate the sections dedicated to post-prohibition growth, and the bits explaining that the founder was a chemical engineer and one of the pioneers of beer science. Previously, brewing was thought of as more similar to baking or cooking. The best part though is the view from the roof top bar at the end of the tour. 

After the tour I took the scenic route back home, passing locals relaxing in the sun all up and down the canals. I stopped in for a few snacks along the way, to keep my strength up. Amsterdam has no shortage of snacks, I suspect in part because of the local cannabis tourism. What came first, the munchies or the chorizo-manchego macarone?

On the way home I passed a Maoz Vegetarian, a falafel stop that we used to frequent when we lived in Paris. I figured I could go for some falafel, and so that made dinner for me. For dessert, Dutch apple pie. πŸ™‚ followed by a very early bedtime and a glorious 11 hour slumber. 

Eating my way through Europe: Calgary Layover

I’m heading to a week long meeting in Zurich, and it’s totally for work!! Really!

But with all of the work comes a bit of free time, and with that free time I will be eating my way through the best the Netherlands and Switzerland have to offer. What better way to see a city than with my stomach? πŸ˜‰

My first stop wasn’t in Europe though. I have a short layover in Calgary where I’m enjoying exotic Canadian food.

That’s right. A teen burger, poutine and A&W Root Beer with sugar. None of which is available south of the border.

So good! But also, two days worth of calories in under ten minutes. Let the food coma commence in 3…2…zzzz….

Cooked Tuna Sushi

When we lived in Sydney, one of Xavier’s favorite snacks was sushi. Specifically, cooked tuna hand rolls. 

The hand roll part may be unfamiliar to folks; this is when the chef rolls a full maki style roll, and then cuts it in half instead of 6-10 pieces. It’s something I haven’t seen done often, but it’s a really convenient way to eat on the go. 

The cooked tuna thing should be familiar, but maybe not in Sushi. By cooked tuna, I mean tinned tuna, usually mixed with a bit of mayo. For whatever reason this turns out to be something you can get only in Australia. I don’t know why – it’s delicious. You all are missing out. 

Since emigrating, X keeps asking for sushi but all we can offer is kappa maki rolls instead. He’s let us know that America is letting him down, and I can’t say I blame him. 

After some long and hard searching we have finally found a place that will fill the gap. There is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Blue C Sushi, in Kirkland that is a fun place to visit AND will custom roll cooked tuna hand rolls for X. They also have tasty cupcakes on the conveyor belt. 🍰

I’m hoping that if we take him once a fortnight that he’ll take “one way ticket to Sydney Harbour” off of his Christmas list.

Fairy Bread

Fairy Bread

Fairy Bread is an Aussie/Kiwi staple at children’s birthday parties. I have to admit, I scoffed when I first heard about it, but it’s better than it sounds. The next time you think you’d like some cake, but without all the complexity, give it a shot. πŸ™‚


  • White Bread
  • Butter
  • “100s and 1000s” (or, ‘Sprinkles’ as we call them back home)


  1. Spread butter on white bread.
  2. Cover with sprinkles; the more the merrier!
  3. Nom nom nom…

Not exactly rocket science, or gourmet cooking, but it is pretty tasty.

The Easter Egg

(c) Messina Gelato
The Egg

This year the Easter bunny was very kind to us. By sheer luck, and the kindness of a colleague, we managed to get one of fifty limited edition Easter Eggs from Messina, Sydney’s premier Gelato shop.

Designed to be shared between 2-3 people, our classic easter egg contains gianduia (choc hazelnut) gelato with a soft calamansi lime and passionfruit β€˜yolk’ encased in an β€˜eggshell’ of white chocolate ganache (which i should point out took our chefs about 6 hours to perfectly colour match with a real egg!). The Egg is nestled into a hazelnut dacquoise & caramel crunch base, and surrounded by a spun sugar nest.


What, your 2 year old doesn’t get a cheese course?

Just recently, we discovered that it’s not ‘normal’ to server your toddler multi-course meals. I only know this because we started talking with other parents about family dinner time, and how tricky it is to have a sit down meal with a little one.

Most parents lament how much time they spend flying the pea-plane and into the toddler hanger. Some would share secrets about how to get pumpkin soup out of the carpet. I would chime in with complaints like “X will never finish his current course if he sees the next course lined up on the counter.”

At this point, I’d get bizarre stares.

“Courses? For a toddler?”
“Oooh, aren’t we fancy!”
“Does he get a personal waiter too?”

Yes, his name is Daddy, but that’s beside the point.

Anyhow, I started to wonder: If you don’t feed your kind in courses, how do you feed him?

Here’s what we do:

His first course is always a bowl of veggies. Ideally a portion of whatever we are eating, or maybe just some frozen peas.
Next comes the carb, and often some kind of protein. Think: Quesadilla, Mac&Cheese, Humous and Toast.
The third course is optional – if we didn’t give him enough protein in round two, we offer a cheese course to balance things out. Or, sometimes, just a big glass of milk.
Finally, he finishes each meal with some kind of fruit. Grapes, a half an orange, or a nanana.

OK, yes, the cheese course is often brie or roquefort, but that’s just cause the kid hates cheddar. Otherwise, I don’t see this as being too fancy.

It doesn’t really take any extra time, just extra plates.
It lengthen’s his meal, and he stays interested because of the variety (don’t like your peas, how about this bowl of noodles!).
If it comes in sessions, he eats what’s in front of him instead of just picking his favourites. When it comes all at once, he eats way less, and tends to use the remaining portion as wall art.

It takes an extra minute or two of prep, but it means that he’s way more interested at dinner time, and Mommy and I can get a short break while we scarf back our daily grub.

That time we found a still in a flower garden

The entrance to the distillery. It just gets nicer after this.
The entrance to the distillery. It just gets nicer after this.

The fourth of six catch-up posts that I hope to get out in February.

One of the fabulous Christmas gifts we received from our chef friends was the Foodies Guide to Sydney. This is not a restaurant guide; I have plenty of those. This is a guide to grocery stores, gardens, markets, bakeries, coffee roasters, and other purveyors of fine foods. Seeing as vacation = food, this was the perfect accessory for our summer excursions.

We consulted the guide on several of our excursions, and on the first day Nick was here we opted to take a short detour through the Central Coast on account of the recommendation of Distillery Botanica – a Gin distillery just outside the city bounds. How could we pass up the opportunity to visit a fully operational distillery, especially one who specialises in Gin, and native botanical liqueurs?

Distillery Botanica β€” recently rebranded from St Fiacre β€” is set in an old gardening centre. The proprietor, Philip Moore, has a long history as a gardener, and after developing an allergy to the liquor of the region (wine) he decided to retool a little and start making spirits. In particular, he wanted to highlight the flavours of the region, and he incorporates local herbs and such into his products whenever possible.

A lot of his inspiration in the production was taken from the London Dry Gin style, and the flavours in the Gin are very familiar. He showed us around the distillery, and took us into the back to show us his two copper stills. The big one had six separate filtration chambers, each one allowing him to refine the taste in his raw alcohol to be a little cleaner than the chamber before.

Copper Pot Still
Copper Pot Still

After the tour, he took as back to the entrance for a tasting. We of course tried the gin (delicious!), but also some of his liqueurs. The raspberry liqueur was a clear crowd favourite. It tastes of purse raspberry with a nice balance of sweet and tart, and no hint of alcohol at all. His other, native flavours included things like Lemon Myrtle, Mountain Pepperberry, and Wild Lime. Each one was delicious as a digestif; but perhaps a little too sweet for my palate under normal circumstances. My favourites were all flavours that had a nice tart or spice to balance the sugar.

After the tasting (and buying) we took a quick trip around the gardens to stretch our legs. Philip told us that the entire area had been lovingly brought back to life using a delicate garden tool (a back hoe) about two years prior. You’d hardly know to look at it though. The path from the car park had a wide variety of flowering plants, and was teeming with small bugs and animals.

A butterfly resting on some white flowers near the entrance of the garden.
A butterfly resting on some white flowers near the entrance of the garden.
Lavender lines the interior courtyard.
Lavender lines the interior courtyard.