Snow White

Yes, you are seeing snowflakes fall on the blog site.  Kinda cute, huh? Apparently a new feature WordPress has until January.  I thought appropriate to enable as I learned it is a winter wonderland back in Amsterdam.  We had some flurries on Saturday morning when I left town, but everything had vanished by the time my plane took off.  Talking with G over the last few days, it sounds like it is very KOUD and WITTE all over the city.  Despite the fact that I’m in the South right now, the temperatures are expected to drop below freezing for a bit overnight.  Thankfully the the sunny days bring warmer temperatures around 65F/18C.  But I best not get too used to it…back to the real winter in the North next week for me.

Last winter, the snow started in mid-December and hung around through February.  I felt like every photo I took during my first few months was a total white-out.  So, until I return to capture some of the Winter Wonderland, I’ll leave you with some scenes from last year…

[remember, you can click on any of the photos to view larger]

 

Vondelpark

Vondelpark

Vondelpark

Amstelveen

City Centre

Vondelpark

Vondelpark

Maastricht

 

 

 

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Krówka = Krówki = Polish Crack

Ok, it really translates into “little cow”.  I may have just offended anyone with any iota of Polish descent by calling their famous confectionary “crack”.   But in English slang, it is an endearing term for something that is addictive, i.e. just can’t get ’nuff of it.  And if that something is a sweet, I am pretty much addicted.  And if it is anything similar to a caramel  or dulce de leche, G loves it.

Last week’s business adventures brought G to Warsaw for a few days.  Upon his return he revealed three small bags of something I had never seen, tasted, or even heard of.  But now I have.  And now I’m in trouble.  Well, my waistline is in trouble.  As if I needed another confectionary bullet point on my resume of sweets.  These little rectangles of sweet goodness are SUPER LEKKER!  I mean, who doesn’t love a perfect combination of milk, sugar, butter, vanilla and cream?  Some of the wrappers describe them as “cream fudge” or “butter fudge”, but to me they seem creamier and have a unique texture…somewhat layered with a creamy and crumbly feel…like a cross between fudge and caramel.  Mmmm!

My newest Polish Pottery purchase was a small footed bowl that was perfect for the trio of little cows.  I purposely placed it in the dining room, out of my normal path so I don’t eat all the little cows and become a big one.

Mama-fied

G and I can walk bike the streets of Amsterdam with our heads held high now that we have indulged in the late night offerings of Mama’s.  In a town where 24-hour diners and late night pizza shops are about as common as a day without rain, you can find gastronomical refuge within the dime-a-dozen Shawarma eateries.  A great way to settle both the late night munchies and the countless Belgium or Dutch biers consumed during the evening.  We’ve been to other shawarma snack bars, but our friends rave that Mama’s is the lekkerst (yummiest!)!  The only downfall to Mama’s (and probably one reason it took us so long to finally try it) is that it’s smack in the middle of Leidseplein, the U.S. equivalent of Times Square or Bourbon Street.  In other words, an area we typically avoid during our weekend outings or bike rides home from the Center.

But last night, the stars were aligned and it was finally a Mama’s night.  We attended a farewell party for G’s colleague, read: bier + bier + bier + bier, etc.  The evening was very gezellig, we were all having a great time and dinner time came and past.  With the witching hour growing near and the party winding down, our hunger pains were kicking in.  It was a unanimous decision to stop at Mama’s.  We peddled down the canal with a drizzle in the air and anticipated our meaty dish.

A & A arrived just before us and kindly ordered for all.  G & I walked in to warm shawarma pitas awaiting us on the counter.  Followed by a bowl of frites, we soon had happy tummies and G and I were officially Mama-neophytes.  No more dropped jaw reactions coupled with “you’ve never eaten at Mama’s?!?

 

eet smakelijk!

 

Salt for your frites? Ja!

On the note of late night eats, I couldn’t help but think of a few others I used to frequent in my previous cites.  During my college days in Shreveport, Murrell’s was open 24 hours with waitstaff that addressed you by honey-baby-sugar-dawlin with every roll of the tongue.  Like every poor college student whose funds were now in a bartenders tip jar, the abundance of complimentary saltine crackers + green goddess was a jackpot.  Maybe that’s why they are now closed.  Despite the limited seating, The Camellia Grill in Uptown New Orleans was a staple late night or late morning after a really late night.  The omlettes are amazing and the staff always entertaining.  If you are ever in Nola, it’s a must stop.  Like New Orleans, the NYC area food options are endless and hard to narrow down.  However, late nights in Hoboken, NJ always ended with a slice of pizza from Imposto’s on Washington.  For Manhattan, I could easily rattle off a dozen late night diners or cafes, but L’Express has always been a favorite with some of the best fries, great coffee, and excellent people watching.  Conveniently located just north of Union Square ,  it was always easy to hail a cab or catch the express train home from there.

Wishing you good eats where ever you may be!  Tot Ziens…

 

Road trip to Poland?

Not quite, but a road trip to Nijkerk can fill your fix for Polish Pottery.  What is Polish Pottery?  That was the same thing I asked about nine months ago when said pottery was placed on the table proudly displaying some cheese and crackers.

“Ohhhhh, I love that pattern! I want that piece for my Polish Pottery collection too.”, I heard.

Uh-oh…not only is our house sans Polish Pottery, but I don’t even know what it is.  Dare I ask my new found ex-pat girlfriends?  At the time, I was the “new-kid-in-the-country” and trying my best to assimilate with both the Dutch locals and US ex-pats.  Might I not be asked to host an afternoon of Mah Jongg if I didn’t posses Polish Pottery, I wondered?  Fortunately the girls were happy (G not so happy) to introduce me to the world of Polish Pottery.

Polish Pottery is the famous hand-made pottery from the small town of Boleslawiec, located in the southwest of Poland. It’s made from stoneware clay that is locally harvested, only sold to the Polish Pottery factories and fires white. The pottery is heavy duty, lead-free, and oven/dishwasher/freezer/microwave-safe.  But most importantly, fun colors and beautiful patterns!

I had no idea this pottery dated back hundreds of years.  Here’s a bit of history courtesy of the Zaklady Ceramiczne “Boleslawiec” factory:

The present high standing of Boleslawiec Ceramics stems from seven centuries of work by local craftsmen and artists of pottery. The oldest pieces of Boleslawiec pottery that are still in existence, date back to the first half of the 16th century and bear distinctive features of the Renaissance style. The technique of decorating underneath the glaze began with the age of Baroque.

Growing popularity of Boleslawiec Ceramics stimulated demand which in turn led to the growing number of manufacturers set up to produce pottery. The punch technique remained the basic decorative technique. Rising fame of original Boleslawiec Ceramics, which differed in style from china and yet was considered equally refined, made it possible to increase the volumes of production and, consequently, in the middle of the 19th century, Boleslawiec became the center of the ceramic industry in central Europe.

 

Warehouse was actually packed today and harder to navigate

In Nijkerk, there is a distributor open on various Fridays.  My first trip in May was unbelievably overwhelming.  Shelves are stacked to the ceiling and endless rows to sift through.  I didn’t know where to start and in the back of my head I heard G saying “you realize there is only so much kitchen space when we move back to NYC”.  I think I actually walked around for an hour before I even picked a piece up.  I finally left with 2 mugs, a small oval casserole, and 2 serving bowls for less than 100E.  The hardest part was picking a pattern(s), then finding the pieces you want in that pattern(s).  I guess this something similar to what my friend’s went through when doing bridal registries…it’s quite fun, but very overwhelming.

 

AFW makes a last minute pattern change

Sometimes you have to dig in boxes to find your prize

As of today, I now have three trips under my belt, but still keep purchases to a minimum as we “don’t know where we will put it when we are back in NYC”.  And with Nijkerk  ~65km away, my stick-shift driving skills are getting much needed practice.

 

 

A new bowl with each trip

Bubble Mugs...perfect for the cold winter days ahead.

Fabada

During our road trip in Northern Spain, we never ate a single bad meal.  Everything was amazing and we were always excited to try new dishes.  Like many countries, the local cuisine will vary as you enter a new town, state, or province.  Nearly everyone immediately thinks tapas or paella when you say Spain.  Take a trip to any town in Northern Spain and you will find there is so much than you could imagine with Spanish fare.  The coastal towns are naturally overflowing with seafood so fresh, you’d bet money that your meal was just swimming in the Bay of Biscay only minutes ago.

While seafood is still plentiful inland, the cuisine tends to favor heavier stews, soups, and endless uses of pork.  We spent two nights in Oviedo; an inland town which is the modern capital of the Asturias province.  And this is where we fell in love with fabada.  Or as the Dutch would say, “super lekker!”.

Spaniards are notoriously late diners with lunch hour usually around 2 or 3pm. But we had a light breakfast and after trekking all over town, we were hungry!  At RQR Restaurante (Calle de Cimadevilla, 16) the first guy to greet us spoke little English, so he sent another woman over to help us.  She found it funny that I was constantly taking photos of the menus, the bottles, the food plates, etc.  Mr. I-can’t-get-enough-pork ordered the fabada Asturiana while I, being the rice lover, ordered the arroz caldoso de mariscos (soupy rice with seafood).  So mine was really good, but G’s selection easily won “best pick of the day”.

 

G pours his sidra

Fabada & Arroz

Heavy lunch...this was after the soups. We totally skipped dinner that night.

 

 

After we finished, we went back to a shop we saw during our walk where we were certain we could get the necessary items to replicate this in Amsterdam.  Bingo!, Rey del Jamon (King of Hams, of course!) had a perfectly packaged kit of all that we needed.

Fast-forward three months.  It’s a chilly Sunday and perfect for fabada!  Just as G finishes setting up the tv so I can watch my Saints football game, he takes one final taste and serves up a bowl of warm porky goodness.  It’s not gumbo, but runs a very tight second place.

 

 

Chef G takes a test

 

Putting our clay cazuelas to use for the 1st time.

 

French bread and Rioja to pair...we are ready to eat! Eet smakelijk!

While there are several variations, here is a typical recipe for Fabada Asturiana which serves four:

Ingredients
  • 1 pound Dry White Beans (Fabes, Judion, Fava, etc.)
  • 6 cups Water for soaking beans
  • 5 cups Chicken broth
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 Bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces Jamon Serrano or Salt Pork, coarsely diced
  • 8 ounces Chorizo sausage, coarsely diced
  • 6 ounces Morcillia (Spanish sausage), coarsely diced (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
Prep Time/ Cook Time

Soak beans overnight, 3-4 hours simmering on the stovetop

Instructions

Soak the beans overnight in water. Drain. Add beans and broth to a large soup pot. Cook until soft, approximately 3 hours. (Optional: After several hours of cooking feel free to add additional broth or water to make the recipe like a soup, or keep it thick for a traditional taste!) In a separate pot add the Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Cook the onion, pepper, and garlic and until just tender. To the onion mixture, add the ham and sausages. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove 1 cup of cooked beans and coarsely mash. Return the mashed beans to the pot containing the remainder of the whole beans. Add the onion-sausage mixture to the beans Simmer for 40 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve and enjoy! We recommend serving in a terra-cotta clay cazuela.