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


‘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


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.


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

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


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: (only available in Dutch).


Latei on the Zeedijk

Latei on the Zeedijk, signThis place near the Nieuwmarkt with oodles of charm used to be a favourite, back in the day when the coffee was still cheap, the pies always available and they didn't forget we were there. Lately though, the service at Latei has gone way down and every tourist knows where to find it. The shine seems to have worn off a little.

If you are patient, Latei on the Zeedijk can still have its moments. On a busy day like last Sunday though, patience was the key word. Sadly, not even patience could save Latei then. We went there with a friend, I was looking forward to the fantastic lemon cheesecake, Levi was looking forward to the apple pie.

uptairs interior at Latei on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam centreThe place was packed, but we found a table upstairs. We decided what we wanted (two carrot/beet juices, one coffee. One lemon cheesecake, one chocolate brownie and one of the huge apple pie pieces) and Levi went downstairs to order, knowing from experience that it's faster and easier that way.

brownie at Latei on the Zeedijk in AmsterdamOut of nearly everything
The staff is friendly and quirky, but not always fast. Sunday's waitress kept bringing things to our table that we hadn't ordered (a sandwich with cheese, orange juice...). After some time Levi returned with one chocolate brownie and informed us that this was all there was. They were out of cheesecake and apple pie and this was the last brownie to boot. There was an apple pie in the oven, but it was going to take some time.

Half an hour later we'd long since finished the one brownie between the three of us and got tired of waiting for our juice. The waitress who had previously wanted to bring us stuff we hadn't ordered did not show up with what we had ordered and so we decided to call it a day. We went downstairs and paid for the one brownie.

I said to the girl at the register "Since the juices we had ordered never arrived, I'd just like to pay for the brownie please." And all she said was "Oh. That will be 2,25." Not even an "I'm sorry, we must have forgot." Nothing. She didn't even ask her colleague about it, she just rang up the brownie and that was it.

Nothing to write home about
Needless to say I am disappointed in Latei. I've been there with Levi countless times before and I was expecting to be able to tell you guys about the great cheesecake and other scrumptious goodies (the menu is modest, but most of it is very good), but they never delivered.

window front at Latei in AmsterdamThe interior decoration is ecclectic, and everything's for sale! From the retro chairs you sit on and the tables you eat off of, to the fabulously ugly lamps hanging from the ceiling and the tacky embroidered art on the wall. There's also a selection of vintage wallpaper.

Latei is open:
Monday through Wednesday 8am - 6pm
Thursday and Friday 8am - 10pm (after 6 they serve Indian food)
Saturday 9am - 11pm (Indian food after 6)
Sunday 11am - 6pm

Zeedijk 143
1012AW Amsterdam


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


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.


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


The best of South East Asia in a nutshell

view from Utopia, Luang Prabang, LaosAfter a tour of eight weeks in South East Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Levi and I put our feet firmly on Dutch soil again last Friday.

Of course there is much too much to tell about those eight weeks, so I am going to cut it short (this is, after all, a blog about Amsterdam) and tell you only about the very best finds.

1. Mediterraneo in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is run by a true Italian and also has a place in Hue. Levi and I had the most amazing pizza's here (that tomato sauce... so tasty, sweet, intense. The best ever) and an unforgettable vegetable lasagne. It was a far cry from the usual stodgy fare, it was light and surprising and utterly delicious. In case you ever find yourself in Hanoi, do yourself a favour and visit this original Italian place on 23 Nha Tho Street.

2. Utopia in Luang Prabang, Laos. The bamboo deck, covered in comfy cushions and low sidetables, is suspended over a small valley overlooking the Nam Khan river with gorgeous sunset views. Catering to traveller's taste, the food is good, if not exceptional. This is the spot to go to for relaxing, unwinding, some lovely freshly pressed orange juice and an exciting eveningtime match of beach volleyball. It may be a bit of a walk (Ban Aphay, opposite Wat Visoun, follow the UTOPIA signs to the river), but paradise is waiting when you get there.

3. Yew's place on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. While it is hard to find a passable latte or cappuccino on Phi Phi (for some reason they do not seem to know the difference between the two), Yew does know his latte from his cappuccino and makes strong, but flavoursome coffee, complete with lovely latte art (leaves or hearts in the gorgeous fluffy but firm foam).

The place is in fact a clothesstore, but the clothes in the store are well overpriced (as nearly everything on touristic Ko Phi Phi is). The coffee however is very reasonably priced, although there is no seating space (we had ours in paper takeaway cups on the steps of the store while chatting with Yew about coffee). Location is in Ton Sai village, towards Long Beach, near the noisy Apache Club. Look out for the grey espresso machine in the storefront.


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:
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:
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

Koningin Wilhelminaplein 60-62
1062 KS Amsterdam

Dish Global Kitchen
Overtoom 255
1054 HW Amsterdam