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Amsterdam is a city unlike any other. As the capital of the Netherlands, it’s home to a plethora of historic sights, 17th century buildings, museums — and, of course, culinary delights.
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- I'm Aida Mollenkamp, I'm a chef and writer with a passion for exploration and I'm in search of the best food a city has to offer. Whether it's a locals only favorite or a chef's secret special, join me as I go Off-Menu in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is a city unlike any other. Charming houses line the banks of over a hundred kilometers of canals. Bicyclists outnumber cars and winding streets overflow with shops and restaurants in every direction. It's easy to fall in love with Amsterdam. I'm meeting up with Cecily Layzell the creator of Amsterdam's go-to food site, Eat Amsterdam. In the last decade she's seen Dutch dining flourish. Inventive, modern restaurants, farm-to-table fare, and local talent have all contributed to Amsterdam's thriving food scene. - I want to take you to some street food stores which I think Amsterdam does really well. - Definitely. - And then a couple of more formal places. - Cecily's first choice, Worst, is the creation of acclaimed Chef Kees Elfring. While their specialty is hand-crafted cured meats and sausage, his farm-to-table philosophy includes plenty of seasonal vegetable dishes as well. - My name is Kees Elfring and we're right now here at Winebar Worst. Worst is the Dutch name for sausage. My history goes back for quite a few years in some quite classical restaurants. I worked in some Michelin starred restaurants in the Netherlands, but my prime experience was probably in Berkeley, California at Chez Panisse. There's a lot of heritage of that time in this place. - Oh this place is so cute. - This is Aida. - [Kees] Nice to meet you. - Thank you for having us. - We're hoping to try some of your specialties today. - Well very good, let's take you on a little trip through all the different options we have. Bruschetta with mushrooms, we toast some bread and rub it with garlic, sprinkle it with a bit of olive oil we sauté the hedgehogs and the chanterelle mushrooms with a bit of mirepoix and then we just chop it up and spread it on the bruschetta, parsley salad and Parmesan on top. And it's a wonderful way to start out your meal. - I'm just gonna go right in with with my hands. - [Aida] Go ahead. Oh my goodness, I'm all about great texture and so I appreciate that you have that pizza oven, so it gets the bread really nice and crisp. - Oh yeah it's toasty. - And then the mushrooms-- - There quite meaty as well, aren't they? - [Aida] They really are. - I'm gonna make you a lobster sausage. We put scallops, some whitefish, and lots of lobster with tarragon in there, and with lobster gravy. We serve it with the upper desiree potatoes. This is a mash of the potato with hand fresh butter and some scallions in there, there you go. - That is fabulous I'm gonna add crème fraîche to my potatoes from now on. - And what's the sauce that you've put around the edge? - I use lots of lobsters and out of the bodies we make a stock and reduce it and make a sauce out of it. In a traditional bisque kind of way. - Yeah it's very intense flavor, isn't it? - Yes, it's intensely flavored, absolutely. One of the great items on the menu is pieds de cochon, which is the french name for pig's trotters. This is truly a French classic and we sauté it crisp on the outside, with some sauerkraut cooked in cider and a bit of butter, dig in. - [Voiceover] Thank you. - That is quite light for a classic pig's trotter. - Pairing it with a good amount of vegetable it's still very digestible, and it's still very healthy. - I love the salty, sort of crispy outside as well. And then it's sort of soft and almost gooey on the inside. - Yes, the meat is very gelatinous, so indeed that makes it that gooey kind of texture. - Well, Chef this was such a special experience to have you hosting us and cooking for us in this private setting so thank you, cheers. - You're welcome, it was great to have you here. - Cheers. - Our next stop Vishandel Molenaar serves Amsterdam's beloved snack, herring. This Dutch delicacy often served with raw onions and sliced pickles has been a local favorite for over 600 years. To the uninitiated whole-brined fish may not seem appetizing, but it's not the national snack for nothing. - So of course Amsterdam we have to do some herring. - So you have some of the best herring in Amsterdam? - He thinks so. - The best way to think of herring is Dutch sushi. - Okay, so obviously we have to get some of that. - We have to try some of that. - Yes please. Is there something else we should try? I really like eel. That sounds fabulous. - Thank you. - [Aida] We're good, yeah? - [Voiceover] Thank you so much. - One for me and one for you. - Thank you. Are you ready for this? - Okay, I am ready for this. - So this is how they tend to eat it in Rotterdam, in the south, you pick it up by the tail, you swipe it through the raw onions, and then you tilt back your head and take a bite. - Bottoms up. Mmm, this is very good. You can tell the herring is very fresh I can understand why Jan is one of the best in the city. You really can taste the fish before anything else. - Yes, and this is how they eat it in Amsterdam with all the bits on the side. - So south, let's go to north. Here we go. I prefer that way. The pickles really give it a whole nother dimension. That additional texture... Yeah that's definitely my preferred. - This way is fun-- - Yep. - But I think you're right with the pickles. That sort of vinegary taste as well. Gives it something really nice. - Okay we've had our herring, so I think it's on to the eel. That you can tell has been recently smoked. It has this really good smokiness to it and yet the fish is super tender. I think I have just found one of my new loves here in Amsterdam. - You can't really get much fresher than this. - Okay so, it looks like this is one of the bigger markets. Where exactly are we in Amsterdam right now? - We're just outside the center, just south of the center. And this market's called the Albert Cuyp Market. - Albert Cuyp is Europe's largest open air market. With everything from groceries and gifts to snacks. And my favorite stroopwafels, also known as a syrup waffle. These warm made-to-order delicacies are just the ticket on a chilly day. And no one is more famous for them than Dennis. His secret recipe is well guarded, and worth seeking out for this unique Netherlands treat. Oh I'm excited. - Hello. - Hello. - Hi. - We've come to try your stroopwafels. - This looks like so much fun I had to try it for myself. There you go sir, appreciate it. - Thank you. - Thank you. That is incredible, this is really the best one I ever, ever had. - It's really delicate isn't it? - Located on one of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam restaurant Johannes is a one of a kind dining experience. The chef, Tommy Den Hartog, is talented beyond his 25 years. With no menu, and an option to choose from four, five or six courses. It's best to just sit back, relax, and let the culinary adventure begin. - I'm Tommy den Hartog and I'm the chef at restaurant Johannes. - Beautiful, thank you. - That's stunning and I love that it has a nod to traditional Dutch flavors. - If you go to a bar it's quite common here when you have a drink to either get lots of cheese with mustard, which is what we just had, or you get these bitterballen in the middle which are almost like round croquettes. And so again, there's sort of a reference here in the middle to bar snacks, but done obviously to a very high level. - The prettiest bar snacks you ever did see. Okay trying the bitterballen. This one's so perfectly crispy on the outside, and yet almost like molten-- - It explodes in your mouth doesn't it? - Yeah it's fabulous. - Rich and creamy. - Okay, I'm a huge tomato fan. That was fabulous. Okay. Oh I love that. - Wow. - Who ever would think to throw a gelee on the bottom like pedestal of the dish? It's such a smart idea. - It's almost like a little microcosm of Dutch food in here. - I love that thought. That's beautiful. - You almost don't want to disturb it. - That's true. - [Cecily] It's so beautiful. - That's an excellent tuna tartare. You have all the flavors just perfectly blended together. - Thank you. - [Aida] Thank you. This presentation is just absolutely stunning. - Again, it's another one that I don't really want to disrupt it. It's so beautiful. - Wow, the pearl barley almost tastes like a rice pudding type of texture. Then you have that lobster, the sweetness and butteriness have been enhanced but in the best possible way. I'm just so impressed with like the balance of flavors and the delicateness of these dishes. - Again there's that sweet undertone, as well, without it being overpowering. - [Aida] It's stunning. - When talking only about the Dutch meat and potato combination, and I think this is a sort of a modern interpretation of that where you have all the same flavors but done with a really light hand. - That was exceptional. - Well good evening ladies. - [Both] Hello. - The food has been absolutely excellent. - Thank you so much. I'm really glad that you enjoyed. - I think Tommy heard that my favorite ingredients are chocolate and caramel. - Is this chocolate sauce? - Yes. - Oh wow. - Enjoy. - Thank you. - [Tommy] You're welcome. - I might just have to pick mine up with my fingers. - I think so, I think that's quite fine. He's really captured true cocoa flavor in this white chocolate. Oh wow. - Okay. - [Tommy] Okay, enjoy. - Thank you. - So I wonder if we have to... - Might as well, ready? And here we go. - [Cecily] Like an oyster. - Okay. I mean like everything else we've had that's absolutely excellent. - Wow what a great way to finish a meal, with a liqueur in there. - Yeah instead of having an Irish coffee we have the chocolate on the side and then the coffee. Same concept but so much more interesting. - Yeah. - Thank you, Cecily, this has been fabulous. I mean I already love Amsterdam and you just gave me so many reasons to enjoy it that much more. - You're so welcome come back anytime. - Thanks.