Lucky for us Amsterdam is an easy city to love, already stocked with a number of favorites, in the form of people, places and tastes. I may not be able to get my hands on a Solognot in Amsterdam, but I can get a mean baguette at a couple of spots, such as Le Fournil (more on that bakery with cult-level status another time).
And there's always the ultimate in profoundly simple and satisfying local comfort dessert: the rijstevlaai from the Limburg region.
All of these are pure, simple pleasures. I had the unexpected pleasure of enjoying an evening a scosche more haute gamme. Da Vinci's kitchen is headed by chef Margo Reuten, the only woman to figure among the ten best chefs of Holland for the last decade. Crowned Gault Millau's Chef of the Year 2012 for Holland, Ms.Reuten has two Michelin stars as a result of the magic she works in her kitchen, which I was able to visit. The dishes she creates are sometimes nothing less than breath-taking; she says she is still striving to add a third star.
Did I mention that I forgot to bring my camera?
I borrowed an iPhone to take photos of the ornate dishes, but the atmospherically dim lighting spelled my photographic doom, with the theoretical exception of these images. The one above is a detail of a magnificent, translucent vase by the bar.
The first bite I had was with a fine champagne. It was a savory marshmallow made of red beet and lightly dipped in pure cocoa. You can see three of them resting upon spoons in the last image.
After those came these extraordinary spheres filled with an intense but light cauliflower panna cotta. Topped with gold leaf, natch.
The evening continued in this most pleasurable manner, with one sensual, unexpected combination of flavor and texture leading to another. I couldn't get over the order and calm of her kitchen, having seen all the insanely intense professional kitchens on televised 'reality' shows. Her kitchen hummed with pristine good humor and equilibrium. And what a treat to watch these guys set to work. For the Amsterdammers reading this, there can be comparisons made between her cooking style and level to Ron Blaauw, who also wields two Michelin stars--although I have the impression she cooks with perhaps a touch more discretion. All in all, a memorably hedonistic evening.
Just goes to show you, there are distinct advantages to being a City Mouse as well.