Archive | January, 2011

Bye Bye Amsterdam: One final nostalgic post…

25 Jan

So our time on exchange has come to an end, and sadly I think most of us have flown back to all our respective homes around the world by now. For me, that’s Sydney, where I’ve spent the last few days with the fams, eating copious amounts of my granddads cooking, and soaking in the Sydney Sun at the beach. But despite the glorious weather, and as soppy as it sounds, I can’t help but reminisce about all the fantastic times we’ve all had in the past six months in the Dam, usually accompanied by great food, great wine (or the dodgy Albert heijn variety), and great conversation (or the dodgy drunken variety). Here are a few moments, things and foods I’ll miss the most:  

Dinners out in the Dam

Some of the best memories of Amsterdam are of dinners out in the town- usually for birthdays, farewells, or just any excuse to eat out. Favourites included Ethiopian food out at Overtoom, Bazar out at Albert Cuyp, Pinsa’s Italian near the shipping containers (for delicious, amazing value pizza), Gauchos Argentinian Steakhouse (Argentinian steakhouses are everywhere in the Dam. We’re pretty sure said steaks aren’t from South America, although the ones we had at Gauchos got the thumbs up from two argentinians, so we’ll let it slide!); and of course, the “De 2 Grieken” around the corner.

 

Argentinian Grill at Gauchos

Ethiopian at Overtoom

Pinsa’s Italian pizza

The Greek restaurant around the corner

Albert Heijn

The most famous supermarket chain/ personality in the Netherlands. (Seriously, I couldn’t tell you the name of the current Dutch prime minister, but Albert and his blue and white logo I know) Thank you AH for the 3 euro wines, pre-made salads, Euroshopper, and Ben and Jerrys. Thanks for teaching us the majority of our Dutch vocabulary from the labels on your supermarket aisles. And thanks for being on every street corner when we needed you.

 

International dinner parties in the lounge

The Prinsengracht lounge was often host to many international dinner parties from all over. There was Kelly’s “All American” breakfast downstairs, David’s South African tea party (which I unfortunately I missed, although I did manage to sample this delicious deep fried doughey dessert called a “koeksister” which I shall be fervently trying to track down in Sydney), American thanksgiving, a Chinese Steamboat party, and Italian Pasta dinners…

Kelly cooks pancakes for the American brekky

South African “koeksisters”

The Dutch stuff

 Sadly, I have to admit that I never once in the last six months ate at a “Dutch” restaurant. (In my defence, I don’t think many Dutch people do either) But, there are an assortment of dutch specialties which I’ll sorely miss- apple pies from Winkel,  Snert (dutch pea soup), herring (more for the novelty factor than the taste), Chocomel, pannekoeken (Dutch Pancakes- especially from “Pancakes Amsterdam”), croquettes, bitteballen and of course, my all time favourite- stroopwafels.

Pancakes at Pancakes Amsterdam

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I’ll sorely miss all the fantastic friends and foodie moments we’ve shared. However, I will take consolation in three fantastic things I’ve learnt in the past few days: Coles Supermarket stocks stroopwafels in the foreign foods section; there is a place out in Smithfield, NSW called “Holland house” which  serves all manner of dutch delicacies…and apparently in the last six months, Ben and Jerrys has finally made its way to Sydney shores (god bless globalisation).

“Holland house”, out at Smithfield, Sydney

So I guess this is our final goodbye to Amsterdam, and the most amazing six months ever.. And to everyone else-Totes Ziens (for now) , farewell and most importantly, Bon appétit!!

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Firecrackers, felafels and other favourite food moments in Berlin

6 Jan
So to say our adieus to 2010 last year , Xin and I decided to bus down from Amsterdam to Berlin to spend time with our two lovely mates Mich and Janet, who are currently studying there on exchange (as well as many uni students from back home who happened to be floating around Europe at the time.)
First things first- New Years in Berlin is crazy. To our joy, fire crackers are legal here, so on NYE, everyone, young and old, rushes outside onto the streets with their stash in tow and lets loose their inner pyromaniacs. It’s like a cross between a street party and a warzone, with crackers shooting left right and centre, the city skyline ablaze, and the odd damaged ear drum /pedestrian… but definitely one of the most memorable new years we’ve had in a while!

 

Of course as always, we ate very well too…Admittedly, very little German food was had (unless you count Haribo gummy lollies and Jaegermeister, which I think I shall), but much of our diet consisted of delicious burgers, kebabs and other fantastic hangover cures which Mich and Janet discovered during their stay here… Here are a few favourites 🙂 :

 1.      Mustafa’s (the best kebabs in Berlin)

 Just near the exit to Meringdahm station, right at the top stairs, is a small, unassuming kiosk called “Mustafa’s” which, you may not guess it, has THE best kebabs in Berlin. Now, in a city where there is a doner kebab store on almost every street corner, this is a pretty big call.

 

Luckily it was freezing that day so we didn’t have to wait long, but in summer the lines apparently wind all the way around the block and then some, and a half hour wait is not abnormal.  After one bite, you can understand why. The chicken kebab is packed to the brim with char grilled vegetables, fresh salad, onions, crumbled fetta and assortment of sauces (German’s a bit rusty so not sure which exactly …we just nodded enthusiastically and said “ja”) but the winning element has to be the paprika flavoured chicken with spices and veges cooked into the meat.

 

Janet and kebab

And all for under 3 euros. So so good.  

 2.      Burgers at Room 77

 This is a nice little bar in Kreuzberg with cozy lounges and live music at times, but the star of the show is definitely the burgers- big, fat juicy affairs with a generous sides of home baked wedges, ketchup and sour cream.

 There’s a whole selection- mushroom/cheese, bacon/cheese, guacamole,…but particularly notable mentions are the “Plus Plus” which Xin had (Beef patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, egg, ketchup …and interestingly, peanut butter), and the intimidatingly named “Triple bypass burger” (essentially a triple cheeseburger with three grilled patties and three cheese slices). No one was game enough to attack the triple bypass, although Chris did slam down the double…

The "double bypass" burger

 It also wins the award for the most unhelpful, but somewhat amusing, holiday door sign, which read something along the lines of: “On Christmas day, sometimes we are open sometimes we are not. If we’re open, the kitchen may or may not be closed…”

 3.      King of Felafel, Kreuzberg

 I have a theory that the best, most authentic places to eat in any town are usually cheap, crowded and slightly dodgy looking (eg Mustafas ), and this one ticks all the boxes. This hole-in-the-wall in Kreuzberg is, according to Mich and Janet, the go to place for felafels in this city.

 Manned by a somewhat hardened looking, headscarf wearing, but wonderful Eastern European lady, these felafels are prepared fresh from scratch with much tender loving care. Janet, Xin and I opted for a juicy felafel and haloumi wrap, and Chris for the “manly man’s breakfast” of a felafel plate- topped with two fat felafel balls, salad, olives, mushrooms, chickpeas, grilled capsicums, slices of hot, fried haloumi and a generous serving of hommus, salsa and yoghurt sauce on the side- which he surprisingly inhaled pretty quick smart.  The complimentary cups of hot Turkish tea- sweet honey drinks with hints of herbs and rosemary- were also a perfect antidote to the cold!

 

 

Chris’s manly breakfast (with 13 ingredients)

4.      Monsieur Vuong

I’ve mentioned this place before in a previous post, but since we made a second visit and it’s pretty much an institution, here it is again. The ambience is great, as is the Vietnamese food. Admittedly, I did have the Chicken Pho noodle this time, which wasn’t the best I’ve had (I live in Sydney where I’m spoilt with good pho everywhere!), but the shrimp spring rolls (which taste like they’ve been coated in prawn crackers), crispy beef wantons and chicken salad/glass noodles are top notch.

  5.      Home cooked Christmas dinner

Nothing beats a hearty home cooked meal on Christmas day, and with most of our families soaking up the sun and a good 24 our plane ride away, it was great to celebrate our first White Christmas in Europe with awesome friends and food. After a frantic rush to the local Turkish supermarket on Christmas Eve, Janet, Xin and Mich whipped up a yummy feast of hearty beef and red wine stew, couscous and beetroot and fetta salad….finished with home-made glu-wein and carrot cake for dessert (We modified the recipe a little bit- a shot of jaegermeister makes a surprisingly good substitute for vanilla essence!)

Xin in baking mode

 

 Chris and I , the self proclaimed “children” of this family (largely because of our inability to do things like laundry and cook complex meals)  helped out respectively by playing DJ for the chefs and making origami Christmas decorations for our home made Christmas tree.

Here is the picture of the tree, made out of branches collected off the street, candy canes, and Michelle’s old law notes 🙂