Saturday, 2 November 2013

Travel: Amsterdam

There are a couple of things that makes one realise they've arrived in Amsterdam. Whether that's tree lined canals, boat houses, bicycles, coffee shops, or hemp products everywhere, you'll definitely be able to confirm that you are indeed in the Dutch capital. Without a doubt this city built originally on marshland and swamps is now one of the most interesting cities in the world, perhaps due to its culture, its architecture, or its nightlife. 

Or, you know, its 'tolerance.' I know you know what I mean. 

But with that aside, I'd like to keep it PG by saying that there is a lot more to discover in this city besides what it is infamous for. You've got the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Rembranthuis, IAMsterdam installations (done by the same designers who do hilarious advertisements for Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, by the way)... You get the idea. 

Close to one of these places, specifically the Anne Frank House, was Da Portare Via. Considering how long queues always are to visit one of the most historically significant buildings in Amsterdam, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I went off looking for the easiest and quickest food I could find as soon as I got out. This petite pizzeria just around the corner offers that and more- it's quick, easy, and tasty. I guess I should also mention that they specialise in wood fired pizzas, which in my opinion results in much tastier food. That especially applies to the best part of any pizza: the crust.

As for the rest of the pizza, I think the simpler, the better; just like how it is in Italy. There were a couple of items in the menu that looked easily veganisable, such as the margherita and vegetariana, but I went with one that already was. Crisp thin base drizzled with olive oil and generously doused with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper? Yes, please!

One of the more popular vegetarian eateries is nearby too, if pizza in the Netherlands isn't really your thing. The place goes by the name of Bolhoed, and in case you don't spot the name etched onto the large window, it's the restaurant with its walls abundantly covered in leaves. Just a warning about this place though: be prepared to spend a decent amount of time deciding which dessert to get, because they have a lot on offer. They had the poppyseed and apricot spongecake, fruit and cream torte, and brownies pictured above, as well as a peanut butter chocolate pudding and a couple of varieties of cookies.

I can't say the same about the main dishes though, since with the vegan daily specials you don't really get to choose; you just get given everything. No joke. For 17,50 Euros I got the humungous plate of root celery schnitzel, beetroot salad, quinoa, tofu pieces mixed with sauerkraut, beans in a creamy mushroom sauce, and greens. I have to say that the beetroot salad and beans are tied as being my favourites of the bunch. I managed to try a pine nut and courgette brownie too, but I personally found it too dry for my liking. A little ice cream or caramel sauce on the side would've been perfect, don't you think?

If you're looking for something a bit lighter, and not to mention cheaper than the above, they also have stuff like hummus with pita, guacamole with tortilla chips, adzuki dip with sesame crackers, and salads.

If, however, you happen to be at the opposite end of the touristy side of town, don't fret because the vicinity of the Museumplein has a fair bit to offer too. The most convenient would have to be Deshima, located just across the river from the Rijksmuseum. Here they offer a cold/ hot meal bar where you can choose the size of your plate, pay for that size, then fill it up with as much food as you would like. But beware: don't fill your plate past its inner rim as you might otherwise incur a couple of Euros penalty. Its not a very fair penalty either, as you end up paying more than how much a large plate would cost. Unfortunately I was not aware of this, neither was I warned. 

With that issue out of the way, I'd like to look at the brighter side of things. Deshima did have a lot of choices to choose from, some of which included hummus, carrot salad, marinated tempeh pasta salad, roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, tempeh stew and seaweed salad. They also had some ready made savoury items, like sandwiches and a savoury pumpkin pie. Of course, there's the sweet stuff too; how can I miss seeing vegan tiramisu, coffee pudding, blueberry cheesecake and apple pie? 

However, I would have to say that the BioMarkt down the road would have to be one of my favourites, and for two reasons: stroopwafels and raw chia hemp crackers. I kid you not. They had gooey caramel-y vegan stroopwafels and deliciously cheesy chia hemp crackers in the same shop. The same company that made the hemp crackers also made hemp chocolate and pink salt + spirulina chocolate, both of which are raw, and oh my goodness they were oh so good. 

To add to that they had a huuuge variety of biscuits too, including apricot filled biscuits, lemon coconut, macadamia chocolate chip and kamut cinnamon. 

It's a shame I found Alchemist Garden on the very last night after I'd already had dinner, considering this is actually the vegan restaurant that served raw food. I guess this was partly because the restaurant is quite out of the way compared to where most of the happenings in Amsterdam are, since it is located past the Museumplein and past Vondelpark that lies behind. Even then, I wish I could've gone earlier, because their menu did look rather impressive. Take the raw crème brûlée I had for dessert as an example; creamy, dreamy, out of this world deliciousness. Same goes for the raw white chocolate (white chocolate!) with royal jelly and mulberries. Their vegetable heavy mains looked unbelievably good too, both in appearance and the nutritiousness it would've packed.

Now for those who are stuck somewhere in Amsterdam without any specifically vegan or even vegetarian restaurants that you know of nearby, don't fret, because there's bound to be a Bagels & Beans somewhere close. I was actually surprised I really liked their quaint little cafes, but that may also have to do with the fact that it's in Amsterdam; and most places in this city I think I've fallen in love with. Of course the bagels are good too, especially with the amount of varieties you can choose from: plain, wholewheat, sesame, multigrain, tomato, cinnamon raisin and gluten free.

Naturally, I just had to tried at least a few of these; sesame for that morning's breakfast, then cinnamon raisin and gluten free for the plane ride back. The set I chose came with sun-dried tomatoes and black tapenade, pine nuts, and basil, all of which were excellent with the sesame bagel. Mmmm, there's just something to satisfying with bread that's toasted on the outside, but nice and soft in the inside. Oh, but do note: the selection I chose came with cream cheese, but like the rest of the accompaniments that's placed on the side so that the person eating has control over how much (or how little) of it goes into your bagel. As you can see, I smothered the cinnamon raisin bagel with speculoos, chocolate, bananas, and coconut chips once I got back home.

And by 'home,' I mean Munich, which by the way will be gather + wander HQ for the next couple of months. Now that I've settled in and posted my latest travel finds, I finally have time to come up with recipes. Who's excited? I am!


  1. I used to live in Netherlands for a year. I miss Bagels and Beans so much! Warm, crunchy bagels, fresh, perfectly spiced hummus and guacamole plus coffee with soy milk...

    Next time visit Tilburg (there's a nice vegan friendly restaruant in the city center- if there's no vegan meal that day, the chef will prepare it specially for you!). I love also Hertogen Bosch and it's fabulous city center (there's both Bagels and Beans and healthy food store -Eco Plaza I guess- 20 minutes walking from the train station). You should also see Oil and Vinegar (Chocolate Vinegar for desserts <3).



    1. Wooow, sounds really good! Especially the chocolate vinegar part- if strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar taste delicious, I'm sure with chocolate it's pretty good too. I know that I'll certainly be back in the Netherlands some time in the future because I absolutely loved it. Thanks for the tips! :)