Amsterdam City Blog restaurants, shops, people and life in Amsterdam

10Aug/112

‘Dealing’ houseblend out of the KCC

The coolest thing happened to us today! Levi and I bought Italian coffee beans while on holiday in Rome. Gorgeous they were, strong and flavoursome, with a definite hint of chocolate. A little over three weeks later (three weeks already?!) they are almost gone. We can't go without our coffee! So when we happened to be in the city centre today, coming out of Magna Plaza, we lucked into this shop called the Koffie Cultuur Centrum, stacked to the rafters with espresso machines.

please excuse the crappy picture of the Koffie Cultuur Centrum!We asked the man behind the tiny counter which coffeebeans he would recommend. First, he wanted to know what we would be using the coffee for. "Espresso and cappuccino," I told him. Then he wanted to know what kind of machine we had to make this with. "A Rancilio Silvia," I answered. Well, then we had to take the houseblend, he told me with conviction. I had been eyeing the Ethiopian or the Guatamalan beans, which were more expensive (around E23,- a kilo), so his advice surprised me.

He told us that their houseblend was excellent coffee, but that it came with a warning  (u-oh?): "It's very addictive," he said. I laughed, but he was deadly serious. "Is there something funny?" the man asked. Quickly I shook my head no. "I'd like a bag of that then," I said. He weighed off 250 grams, put it in a silver bag, sealed it and said: "Most people know that dealers often give people their first taste of the best stuff...." I was getting money out of my bag "for free," he finished. I froze, money in hand.

"Really?" Levi and I both asked in unison. He nodded. Well now, here's a man convinced of the quality of his wares! So I put my money back in my bag, Levi took the silver bag, we said thank you and left. I am very curious now how this turns out! Will try the beans tomorrow.

Koffie Cultuur Centrum
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 133
1012RJ Amsterdam
http://espressoadviseur.nl

1Feb/114

Meet Silvia

Latest addition to our household: espresso machine Rancilio SilviaA few weeks ago I told you about our new espresso machine, Silvia. I said she was gorgeous, but I had not made a photo of her at the time. Well, here she is (click for larger image).

Levi and I got some new beans to try, the Aficionado from Brandmeesters (they are located conveniently closeby, can you tell?). Now that one packs a punch! Levi loves it. For me, I think Sodade is still the favourite.

30Jan/113

Anti tip: Metz & Co in the Leidsestraat

I don't often do anti tips (read: never), but Metz & Co deserves one. In fact, it deserves a warning sticker on the front door: "Do not enter, unless you cherish awful service, disgustingly overpriced food and drink, and the dirtiest, smelliest restroom since the invention of cleaning."

Why did we go there then? Well, I once interviewed a Norwegian director here, and I remember the view being stunning from the sixth floor. It was quiet then, and I concentrated on the interview and did not visit the restroom. The view is still stunning. You can see half the city from here, from the Leidsestraat to the canal and the inner courtyards between the expensive houses. Beware though: taking photos and filming is strictly forbidden (or so a sign informs the visitor).

The waiting staff did not give us much attention. They seemed to be hoping we would go away of our own accord if they ignored us. The coffee, when it did arrive, tasted like dishwater. My inner barista cried when they brought a cappuccino from an automated machine (note: Levi had ordered plain black coffee)

We tried not to let the place get us down and enjoy the view, but it was marred by a plethora of greasy prints on the window. As if it had been a week since it had last been cleaned. For one cup of bad coffee and one mint tea (three stalks of fresh mint in a bucket of hot water) we paid 7 euro.

Metz & Co is supposedly purveyor of the royal household. The royal crest is prominently displayed on the wall. Maybe the queen should rethink who she gives that title out to.

If you do decide to visit, go for the view, but for nothing else.

Metz & Co
Leidsestraat  34-36
1017PB Amsterdam

www.metzco.eu

Oh my, in looking that up, I just noticed their slogan on the website: "We are luxury." What a joke!

20Jan/110

I heart our new espresso machine

Levi and I did not give eachother Christmas presents in 2010. Instead of buying presents for eachother, we decided to buy ourselves an espresso machine. We were too busy right around the holidays, but the first weekend in January we got around to getting our new housemate. Her name is Silvia. The company that made her is called Rancilio. And she's gorgeous.

Now, having been a barista for a year, I figured I could get the hang of this home barista thing pretty quickly. But it's a whole different ballgame, I can tell you! After a few weeks of practicing though, I seem to be starting to get the hang of it. This is one of the first cappuccinos that I managed to make with a heart in the foam! I know, I know, it's not microfoam, but the heart is an accomplishment I was not able to get before, so I'm happy.

I heart cappuccinoThe most important thing is of course the taste. We invested a handsome sum in the machine itself, and do not have the money to buy the grinder that goes with it. So ready-ground is the way to go right now. Please don't lecture me on this, I know it's not optimal, but it's better than what we used to have!

I love Brandmeesters' Sodade beans: strong, with a full aroma, which tastes like dark chocolate. Levi is more a fan of the Equito, which is stronger, but less flavoursome, in my opinion. But then he just likes a good, strong cuppa.

Silvia, Sodade and Equito are available at Brandmeesters. They have branches in Haarlem, Utrecht and Van Baerlestraat 13 in Amsterdam. There's a webshop that sells their beans: http://www.brandmeesters.nl/koffie.html (only available in Dutch).

29Sep/103

Sweet lemon pie at Bakken met Passie

lovely lemon pie at Bakken met PassieSummer is over. Rainy days and watery sunny days alternate this mercurial September. Real warmth is hard to find. With this in mind,I am declaring my ice cream days over and I am switching to reporting to you about pies, tarts (not the prostitute-kind), cakes and good coffee in Amsterdam. First up is one of my absolute favourites: Bakken met Passie. The name means "Baking with passion", but can also be translated as "Loads of Passion."

This shop slash tearoom is located in De Pijp, near a McDonald's and opposite De Burgermeester (great burgers, I owe you a review of that place). I keep coming back here for the scrumptious lemon pie: sweet and tart, with a crumbly crust. Levi and I love to try new things here. This time he's opted for a small pecan tart. The crust is covered in a honey caramel layer, with pecans dotting the top. It's ok, but not fabulous. I won't be ordering it again.

Noooo, but other favourites include the French apple tart, the Tuscan almond squares with their lacquered chewy tops and sandy crust, and the 'saucijzenbroodje' which is the Dutch version of a pig in a blanket: seasoned minced meat (veal in this case) in puff pastry. One of the best 'saucijzenbroodjes' in Amsterdam!

Levi has ordered plain coffee (on the pricey side at E2,50 for a tiny cup) and I have opted for a latte (E2,70 for a small glass) when suddenly a row breaks out. A woman, stylishly dressed, slim, with brown hair, argues with an older gentleman over whose turn it is. She is adamant he is being served out of turn and she completely loses it. The shop attendant tries to steer the gentleman out of the woman's way, while she insists on kicking up a shitstorm. In the end, the woman has to be shown out of the shop, because she won't stop yelling and screaming "It's just because he's thirty years older, isn't it?! It's ridiculous! I won't stand for it! It's not fair!"

The crazy thing is, even if she were right about the man cutting in line, if she would have just shrugged and kept her mouth shut, she would have had her turn, the man would have had his turn, everyone would have had their pastries and the world would be a happy, harmonious place. All in the same time (or less) it took her to go to battle.

Anyway. Bakken met Passie: Loads of passion! Gorgeous pastries, strong coffee and live entertainment to boot.

Besides pastries, Bakken met Passie also sells freshly baked bread, brioche, sandwiches and many many other good things. Service is friendly and is recognisably dressed in passionate red.

Bakken met Passie
Albert Cuypstraat 51-53
1072 CM Amsterdam

There is no website to speak of, but this is their telephone number: 020 6628309

23Aug/102

Bad, bad coffee and the best

Buongiorno sign on the Admiraal de RuijterstraatIn light of recent developments, I need to write an update of the Top Three of best coffee places in Amsterdam. As of the beginning of August, the Douwe Egberts Koffie Café in Oud-Zuid has been dethroned from first place. The list now reads:

Coffee@last, at the Koningin Wilhelminaplein, third place. Douwe Egberts Koffie Café on the Cornelis Schuytstraat in Oud-Zuid, second place and the Espressofabriek at the Westergasfabriek takes the number one slot.

Also interesting to note is that a couple of weeks ago I got the very worst, undrinkable dishwater ever at Bagels & Beans at the Raadhuisstraat in Amsterdam. The girls (in light of what happened, I am loathe to call them 'baristas') were friendly and I got my latte in a takeaway cup fast, but when I got to work and took a sip I was flabbergasted: what had they done?!

I had got a cup of milk and water that may have been in the vicinity of something that may have smelled like coffee at some point in its lifetime. Coffee it was not. Blegh. I had to throw the whole thing away. Bagels & Beans: a big thumbs down!

Oh! And talking about bad coffee... Must not leave out Buongiorno on the Admiraal de Ruijterstraat. Good machine, nice people, swanky interior design, but the latte left something to be desired. Way too much milk, only two millimetres of foam, so the taste of the coffee gets smothered, drowned out by the milk. What's a sieve doing in your milkjug anyway? You can't pour a decent latte that way. Methinks some barista training is in order.

Too bad, because the place looks great and is a nice location to do some work away from home, with the comfortable chairs and free wifi.

16Aug/102

EYE in the Vondelpark

EYE pavillion in the VondelparkAt 1pm I attend the press screening of Yves Saint Laurent, L'Amour Fou at EYE in the Vondelpark, the institute formerly known as the Filmmuseum. The small theatre is quite full with fashionista's, including Fiona Hering (she is a regular on RTL Boulevard, the tv gossipshow, and writes for Glamour magazine, she is a surprisingly good writer).

Classical Vondelpark location
The gorgeous classical building looks out over the Vondelpark with a regal flair. Vertigo is the name of the café that resides on the groundfloor. Its big terrace is a great place for a drink or a bite in the summer (or even after summer, as it has heaters installed).

After the screening of the long and somewhat boring YSL movie I take a seat in Vertigo. I order a croissant (stale) and a koffie verkeerd (the Dutch name for a latte: coffee with a lot of milk), which comes out of a machine and lacks love, aroma and character. Still, with its vaulted ceilings, wooden bar, banquette seating and candlelit interior, this place can't be beat for atmosphere.

vaulted interior of Vertigo bar in EYE at the Vondelpark

Moving EYE in 2011
EYE is open seven days a week. From Monday through Friday from 9am until 10pm. Saturday and Sunday from one hour prior to the first screening to 10.15pm. The cinema screens arthouse movies. Regular tickets cost E8,- for adults.

EYE is due to move to a new location at the end of 2011. The Vondelpark location will be kept in use for cultural activities by Amsterdam's West District.

Offers free wifi.

EYE, Film Instituut Nederland
Vondelpark 3
1071 AA Amsterdam
www.eye.nl


2Aug/100

A cool morning latte at Espressofabriek

Espressofabriek at Westergasfabriek AmsterdamIt's a Monday morning and I am in the Espressofabriek, on the Westergasfabriek terrain in West. The sky is overcast and it's a cool day. The space, with the big open door to the terrace, is also cool, as is the welcome. The guy behind the counter wears a funny BA Baracus t-shirt, but he's not smiling.

Did a shipment just come in? There are boxes on the counter and the space behind the counter is a mess. My latte is made without much enthusiasm or flair, but it comes with beautiful latte art (you know, figures in the foam) and a small glass of water.

The latte is small and, at E2,40, a little on the expensive side. But how nice it is. Smooth, strong, full. The milk is creamy, the foam soft and lovely. It makes me want to break my one-coffee-a-day-principle almost immediately after I finish. Oh darn, I forgot to take a picture, now I simply must get another coffee.

Single shot latte macchiato at Espressofabriek AmsterdamTerrace in the sun at Westergas
At some point in the afternoon BA Baracus man is replaced with a nice girl. She makes my second coffee (a single shot latte macchiato, E2,60) for me and eventhough she spills a little water over my croissant when she sets the tray down, she is hospitable and really sweet and more than makes up for t-shirt guy's morning coolness. Thanks to her, I spend the rest of my afternoon outside in the sun.

The coffee is made on a gorgeous lever action Mirage. The beans used for the coffee are Ethiopian Gaya Amaro organic espresso and Kenia Espresso Arabica. They can be bought for use at home and if you are not in possession of a grinder, Espressofabriek will grind them for you.

There are sweet snacks, like prepackaged cinnamon rolls and Donny Craves organic oatmeal and raisin cookies, but nothing in the way of actual food, like sandwiches.

Espressofabriek at the Westergas is open from 9.30am until 6pm from Monday through Friday and from 10am until 6pm on weekend days. There is also a branch on the other side of town, in IJburg. Free wifi is available for guests, the password is 'espresso'. 

Espressofabriek
Gosschalklaan 7
1014 DC Amsterdam

www.espressofabriek.nl

1Jul/1012

Metropolitan Deli: a girl’s best friend

outside Metropolitan DeliMy friend Matt took me to Metropolitan Deli in Amsterdam's Warmoesstraat for a welcome home treat. We had lunch at another place first, as he explained to me that the deli is more of a place for coffee, sweets and goodness. And boy, is it good.

From the outside it looks fresh, the bold black and red letters of the name invite you in. The store itself is light and airy and is stocked to the rafters with goodies. Chocolate, icecream, chocolate cake, fresh and dried fruits dipped in chocolate, coffee, fruitshakes, I'm like a kid in a candy store, it all looks so good, I want something of everything!

coffee menu at Metropolitan DeliMatt makes us pace ourselves and we have a cup of coffee first. We sit at the bar on the long wall, watching tourists and locals in breezy tops and shorts contemplate the mouthwatering ice cream selection. My latte is seriously good: flavoursome and creamy. Matt's doppio espresso is sour, then intense, warm and deep, with a longlasting smooth aftertaste. The coffee is relatively affordable too, at E2,25 for the latte and E1,60 for a single and E2,60 for a double espresso.

Lots of organic chocolate
In the back of the store is the organic chocolate selection, with brands like Pacari, Original Beans, Becks Cocoa and Ã…kesson's. There are also items by Metropolitan Deli's chocolatier Kees Raat himself: chocolate coated marshmallows, dried orange slices dipped in chocolate, marble sized rice crispy balls, chocolate covered almonds and more. If you haven't had enough of the brown gold by then, you can also lather yourself with Dutch Cacao body lotion.

When we've finished our coffee, we go for some ice cream. I opt for the Black Mamba and Lemon Cake flavours. Matt gets three scoops and goes for the Black Mamba, Campari Blood Orange and Rhubarb varieties. My Lemon Cake indeed tastes of lemon, but is more sweet than tart and fluffily creamy to the point where it reminds me a little bit of marshmallows. Good, but I don't think I will revisit it.

Black Mamba ice cream at Metropolitan Deli in AmsterdamBlack ice cream
The Black Mamba is made of cherries, all natural and... seriously black. It is an enigma to my eyes and tastebuds. Traditionally, food that is black is either burnt or spoiled, so my eyes tell me: "That can't be right!" But it is sweet and tart and fingerlickin' good. I am also in love with Matt's Campari Blood Orange ice cream and steal more than one little spoonful from his cup.

Matt also got me a  bag of the chocolate rice crispies I'd been ogling. They make you think of Maltesers, but without the overbearing sweetness. Very nice!

This place ought to have 1. a suggestion box so that 2. I could suggest that they sell an 'all you can taste'-voucher, for people like me, who want to try everything in the store. As it is though, I will have to come back here many, many times (with Levi! He will love the coffee here) to revisit the amazing black ice cream and try new things.

Metropolitan Deli
Warmoesstraat 135
1012JB Amsterdam

www.metropolitandeli.nl

22Apr/1016

Best coffee in Amsterdam: top three

capuccino at DE Koffie Cafe in Oud-ZuidAfter my last (overly long) post on coffee, I feel I owe you that top three of best coffee places in Amsterdam. As you must know by now, taste is everything. Coffee should be strong, aromatic and have a full flavour. It should in no event be burnt, ideally there is no grind in the cup.

I like 'koffie verkeerd', or a latte, or even a cappuccino, if I need waking up or am in the mood for luscious foam. If I am in a laidback mood, I will opt for the latte machiatto. The steaming of the milk is therefore also important. I could go on and on about the technique behind this, but I won't.

So currently in third place:
Dish
My latte was a little on the lukewarm side, but the coffee had a lusciously deep taste. It was made on a machine that looks like it's from another century. Having tasted the result, as a barista, I'd love to get my hands on it and see how it works.

Second place:
Coffee@last
Ok, so I was a little harsh and went on and on about the name of the latte/latte machiatto. The point is, that the coffee itself was very good. It was made with love, and that really is something you can taste.  Beautiful Vibiemme machine.

First place:
Douwe Egberts Koffie Cafe
This place in Oud-Zuid I visit around once a week. I love their coffees, because these people really know their stuff. My morning favourite is a creamy cappuccino with cane sugar. The coffee is strong with a full aroma, the foam is velvety and rich. Some of the baristas practice latte art and make apples, hearts or fern leaves in the foam.

The three places in my top three are not all equal. Two I've been to only once yet, whereas the cafe in first place is one I've been to many times. This is what makes it hard to beat. I know the quality is consistent, the service is excellent and the people are always nice. In time I will visit other places, and I will revisit places I've been to before.

The top three may change! I will keep you posted.

Douwe Egberts Koffie Café
Cornelis Schuytstraat 50
1071 JL Amsterdam
http://www.de.nl/DEKoffieCafe/

Coffee@last
Koningin Wilhelminaplein 60-62
1062 KS Amsterdam

www.coffeeatlast.nl

Dish Global Kitchen
Overtoom 255
1054 HW Amsterdam

www.dishglobalkitchen.nl