Amsterdam may be better known for canals, world-class museums, coffeeshops and its infamous Red Light District than for its culinary heritage. Yet despite taking a back seat to other attractions and a bad rap for being simple, bland comfort food—ironic when you consider Holland ruled the 17th century spice trade—Dutch cuisine is fascinating in its diversity.
Taste the full range of flavors on the new Jordaan Food Tour, on which you’ll sample more than a dozen Dutch delicacies at seven historic cafés, family-run shops and specialty food stores in one of the city’s most scenic neighborhoods.
Apple Pie with a Side of Gezelligheid
My recent tour with fellow food and travel bloggers began at one of Amsterdam’s oldest brown cafés, historic Papeneiland, where Bill Clinton famously washed down a hunk of apple pie with cappuccino, then took a whole pie away with him. Oozing with Old World gezelligheid, the place has been owned through many generations by the Netel family. Current manager Tiel Netel (who bears the same first name as all males in the family) was there to greet us as we sampled the famed dessert. It’s still made on the premises with a cake-like crust and crumbly topping, chock full of fruit. Have yours with a dollop of whipped cream that cuts the tartness of the apples, just as we did.
Our next stop was a hole-in-the-wall on posh Brouwersgracht, where Amsterdam’s connection with Surinamese/Indonesian cuisine revealed itself. At Henk van de Weerd and Juliet Chang’s tiny Swieti Sranang, we sampled savory Bakabana and Bakje Pom served with peanut sauce, all made by Chef Juliet, who was born in Indonesia and raised in Suriname.
An Homage to Meat
Next up was Slagerij Louman, a local institution since 1890. Named after the family that started the business and still runs it today, the deli is known for top-quality meat and sausages made at Louman’s own sausage factory by the North Sea. While admiring displays of meat, sausages, salads and meatballs, we tried ossenworst—sausage made with prime, raw beef that’s something of an acquired taste.
Sea’s the Day
It was time for something fishy at Meer dan Vis, known locally as the Jordaan’s best fish shop. Owned by a Dutchie and an American, Michel Witte and Donald Hitchings, the place offers premium herring purchased from small Dutch boats rather than industrial fishing boats, ensuring the freshest fish farmed by the highest standards for sustainability.
Our brined herring, served with a Dutch flag for spearing the silky morsels, tasted of the sea without being fishy, while the kibbeling (luscious chunks of fried cod) came hot but not greasy, ready for dunking into creamy tartar sauce.
Shop Till You Drop
Shop till you drop took on new meaning at Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje, an old-fashioned candy boutique that transports customers back to yesteryear. “I opened the candy shop because I really like Dutch old-fashioned shops; they have so much more atmosphere than the big chain stores,” says owner Mariska Schaefer. Today she stocks drop, the national sweet, in dozens of flavors in her small shop.
Drop in tow, we headed for our private canal boat, waiting on the Prinsengracht at the Pulitzer Hotel. Cruising along Amsterdam’s UNESCO-honored waterways, we picked up a selection of Dutch cheeses from De Kaaskamer, cold beer from local brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ and bitterballen from renowned cookery Holtkamp. With our picnic and a bottle of bubbly, we celebrated what we’d learned while meandering through historic shops and sampling Dutch delicacies served with a side of culture and history.
Pancakes on Prinsengracht
The celebration continued at our final stop, Café de Prins, named after the canal on which it’s located. “With our view over two canals and a great mix of locals and internationals, we have one of the best spots in Amsterdam,” say owners Johan Verschueren and Daan Huisman. “We’re proud of our musical heritage, too; join us for classical music, DJs, you name it.” A typical brown café, this Amsterdam institution serves some of the best poffertjes in town. Ours came lightly dusted with powdered sugar—heaven on a plate!
The Jordaan Food Tour is offered Tuesday through Saturday at 11. In addition to seven tasty food stops that equate to an ample lunch, the four-hour guided adventure includes an hour-long cruise through the city’s historic canals on a private salon boat that’s hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina.