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. 🙂 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? 😉

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.


A side effect of living in the burbs is that there’s very little to go and do writhing walking distance. In fact, the only things within a mile of my front door are a convenience store, a forest and a butcher. 

I’ve been making friends over meat. 

For the first year or so we were here the local butcher was a stereotypically friendly Turkish fella, who always threw in a little extra something when you chatted him up. He did the butchering and his wife cooked halal friendly side dishes… Typical dips and salads. 

Something changed recently and my Turkish buddy was traded in for three bearded hipsters. I’m sad my buddy is gone. But the hipsters spit roast lamb once a week. Yummy, yummy lamb. 

They stick a sign up on lamb day letting you know when to come and collect the carvings. If you’re smart, you call ahead. Our first night trying it out we waited an extra forty minutes for our cut, but it was worth it. When we told Xavier we were eating lamb, he asked if it was dead. 

“Yes Xavier. The lamb is dead before it was cooked.”

“Aww… poor lamb.” He said while chewing on some shoulder. 

The next week we took the above photo. Again to the tune of “aww, poor lamb” followed by “can we eat it for dinner?”

Still here!

We’ve been slack with blogging for, like, a year now.

Just wanted to let folks know that we’re still here.

I certainly won’t make any promises that we’ll start posting more quality content anytime soon, but I think as a digital journal, this is still a pretty good place to dump photos. That’s likely how we’ll get back into this space.

When the wife’s away

Sarah and X are four days into a week long trip up to Banff to visit with our good friends from Sydney – Dani, Gregor and Leland. They relocated back to Canada shortly before we left. It’s Leland’s birthday this weekend and the kids are going to have a pizza party at a bowling alley. X is beside himself. Birthday! Pizza! Bowling! Friends!!!

Friends have been hard to come by since arriving here. At first we thought people were a bit standoffish, but it turned out to be slightly different playground etiquette. The kids here won’t talk to you unless they know your name. That’s easily worked around though: “Hi, will you be my friend” turned into “I’m X, will you be my friend?”

This is one of the few social differences that’s caused issues since arriving in America. The other big one being that people seem to socialize only around events. A dinner party, themed outing, football game, etc. I gather that the idea of just dropping by for a coffee is something that’s not a part of north-western American culture. When I did some research on this it seemed the concept was missing, but so much so that it needed a lot of qualifying when discussing. In terms of dropping by, I mean, having a friend call up and say “Hey, we’ve got some free time this afternoon, why don’t we get together and let the kids play in the backyard. Your place or mine? I’ll bring cookies.”

This sort of thing happened a lot growing up. And it continued while we lived in France and Australia. But, not so much here. We hadn’t realized it until part way through the year, but this small difference left us pretty socially isolated. Anytime we’d call up for folks to come over they had other plans. Plans… weird. Who has plans? I’ve certainly only heard about them in books, but it seems that in these parts planning is really a thing.

Anyhow, between stranger-phobia, the need to actually plan for social time, and new video games, it’s left us a little out of the social loop. Now, that wouldn’t be all bad, I’m introverted and quite enjoy my time alone. However, when two extroverts are left home alone long enough, bad things happen. And there’s no such thing as time alone.

And so, this is how my family ended up in Banff. It’s a great vacation where everyone gets to play in the snow, hang out with friends, and recharge everyone’s battery. I’m unable to make it for work reasons, but I’m not sad. It’s been a glorious four days of an empty house. I’d started off the weekend with glorious plans of being productive, but that hasn’t yet materialized. I think what I really needed was a weekend to recharge the batteries. So, instead, all plans went out the window. My actual weekend looked a lot more like:

Wake up, fry some bacon, have coffee, take a nap. Repeat until Sunday. With small breaks to play video games or binge on the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix.