23 November, 2011

Of mice and (wo)men.

It comes down to bread and butter--a very, very fine thing when you can get your hands on a loaf of Solognot.  My favorite local baker roughly slashes rectangles of this sesame, linseed, and sunflower seed-studded dough, and the result is light years airier than the usual French multigrain.  The addictive flavor lingers and lingers, needing nothing more than a smear of unadulterated butter.  And maybe some chestnut honey.
I had time to consider bread and butter, because for nine days of my fall break, it did nothing but rain in the south of France.  Whole villages were flooded.  Dozens of roofs were ripped off by a freak mini-tornado in a nearby village, and hundred-year old plane trees (sycamores) were uprooted.  Our house was mercifully unscathed, but we lost electricity for a good while and our internet connection for even longer.
Regardless of the hail and the raindrops, we made time for visits with good friends who pressed so many tasty gifts upon us.  So delicious...and such a pity I couldn't carry all those jars back with me to Amsterdam.
Before we could blink it was already time to fly back to Amsterdam.
After having spent the time we did seeing our friends, it was a more than a bit difficult to leave despite the inclement weather.  I now feel the distinct, equal pull between two worlds, two homes.  The Country Mouse and the City Mouse both live in me.
The children also feel the differences, little losses and gains. We try to balance it all out.
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.
This is a sumptuous rice pudding in a yeast-raised, cake-ish crust.  It will cure nearly anything, including a serious jones for the faraway countryside.  My more culinarily ambitious Dutch friends throw up their hands in horror and dismay at my praise of something so darn proletarian, but honey, it's just so darn good.
And no, I have never made one myself.  That is the problem with having a halfdozen excellent bakeries within walking distance. (And I tell myself the walking hither and thither cancels out the calories.  Right?)
On Saturday mornings I roll out of for the neighborhood organic market.  Ridiculously pretty.
Breads all in a row, some of which are even labeled bread (in Dutch).
And, again from the Limburg region, the most adorable raspberry tartlets you could imagine.  They taste even better than they look, and they are absolutely packed with raspberries.
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.


  1. Mmm, yum yum yum! You manage to find the yummy places wherever you go!! :)

  2. Ah yes. That's exactly how I feel about my home in Florida, and the rural one I yearn for in New York. I love each when I am there.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Some mothers have eyes in the back of their head...I think mine are in my belly.

    Hello Rose,
    Oh good, I'm not the only Mouse out there!


Thanks for visiting my blog and joining in the conversation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails