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Amsterdam 2016: A Food Tour of the Jordaan

January 23, 2016

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It was lovely to wake to a beautiful sunny morning. Especially as I was booked on a 4-hour walking food tour of the Jordaan neighbourhood. I began with breakfast in my hotel – NH Hotel Museum Quarter – as it was included in my room rate. There was a huge selection of food with traditional Dutch cheeses, breads and hams for a Dutch breakfast; a large selection of fruit juices as well as cereals, yoghurt, pastries, cakes and coffee. I was fairly modest in my choice, knowing I was about to embark on a food tasting tour but enjoyed having lots of fresh fruit available.

I knew it would take me at least half an hour to walk to the far end of Prinsengracht from where I was, but on such a gorgeous morning it was nice to get out early into the sun and take my time. We were meeting at #2 Prinsengracht at Cafe Papeneiland. I arrived early enough to take a look round the busy Noordermarkt, which seemed to be full of locals doing their food shopping.

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At the cafe, the tour leader Elaine, from Indonesia, introduced herself. She’s lived in Amsterdam for 15 years so clearly loves it as well as being a font of lots of information. There were only two other people doing the tour – a very nice young couple from Norway. I guess January isn’t a busy time for tours but it was great for us to have such individual attention. First off, we headed back down Prinsengracht to number 124 and Cafe de Prins for coffee and poffertjes, those gorgeous little pancakes, which I’ve written about before when here.

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Next stop was Louman, one of the best butchers in Amsterdam we were told, founded in 1890 and one of the few independents surviving. We were given some very delicious sausages to try.

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They were a lot more special than they maybe look – and I guess you also need to like cold meats and sausages to appreciate them. From here we moved on to one of the best delicatessens in the city where we were given samples of cheese to try.

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It was quite a posh delicatessen reflecting how the Jordaan neighbourhood has changed from its original working class background to a gentrified area with art galleries, restaurants and cafes and speciality shops. It’s now a very expensive place to live.

There’s lots of great Indonesian food to be found in Amsterdam, a hangover from its days as a Dutch colony. Another colony was Surinam – which I’d never heard of – and our next stop gave us a taste of its food and Indonesian.

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We tasted Indonesian-style bread rolls and plantain with the kind of peanut sauce you get with satay. From here with headed back to where we began at Cafe Papeneiland. The cafe dates from 1642 so is one of the oldest in the city. It also serves, I discovered, some of the best apple pie in the city; one of the few still truly homemade to an old family recipe.

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It was so good! Lovely cinnamon flavoured apple with a great cake-like pie crust. Elaine told us that Bill Clinton visited the cafe when he was US President and liked the apple pie so much he bought a whole one to take back to his hotel. Presumably to share! Our next stop was sweet too: Patisserie Anesta. We were given beautiful little cakes with an avocaat base.

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They were gorgeous with a definite alcoholic hit. Our penultimate stop was at a fishmongers, Vis Plaza.

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I couldn’t quite face trying some of their famous raw (well, brine cured) herring after the apple pie and cake but everything looked good. We finished in another cafe where we ate bitterballen – round fried croquettes filled with a creamy meaty filling – and a local beer.

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I enjoyed the tour and it was so lucky we had a sunny day for it. I also discovered some new things about the area as Elaine gave us some historical background as well as telling us about the food in the Jordaan. I did feel there was too much emphasis on sweet things and that the order in which we tasted different foods didn’t always work – I could have enjoyed the herring if offered it before apple pie and fancy patisserie, for instance. I think they need to plan it out better. But it was a fun thing to do, Elaine was a friendly guide, and however well you know a city, there is always more to discover and what better way than through the food of the area. I booked the tour with Eating Amsterdam Tours.

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