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November 2017

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McDonald’s Around the World: Netherlands Edition

McDonald's in Amsterdam, NetherlandsRemember my post about kroket, Amsterdam’s version of the croquette?  McDonald’s has their own version, and — of course — it’s called the McKroket.

McDonald's in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s actually surprisingly good.  Though the exterior doesn’t quite have the same satisfying crunch as the other versions I had, otherwise it’s quite comparable.  While the filling is maybe slightly too salty, it’s creamy and meaty and quite satisfying.

McDonald's in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s topped with a mustardy mayo sauce that suits it quite well; it’s one of the better things I’ve had in the many European McDonald’s I’ve visited so far.

Unusual (and Delicious) Apple Pie in Amsterdam

Winkel 43 in Amsterdam, NetherlandsApple pie purists would probably scoff at it, but the pie at a cafe called Winkel 43 in Amsterdam is pretty damn good.

It’s actually kind of like a cross between an apple cake and an apple pie.  The crust — which is cakey and shortbready — is nothing like a typical pie shell.  It’s dense and buttery, and it compliments the more familiar apple pie filling really well.

Apple Pie from Winkel 43 in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The filling is great too — the apples were nice and tender (apple pies with crunchy apples are where joy goes to die, and if you prefer it that way you’re wrong about apple pie and wrong about the way you live your life), and the flavour was right where it should be.  It’s sweet, with just a little bit of tartness to balance it out.

Topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream, it’s definitely one of the more memorable slices of pie I’ve had in a while.

Crunchy Fried Tubes in Amsterdam

Kroket from Eetsalon Van Dobben in Amsterdam, NetherlandsOne of the more popular foods in Amsterdam is a version of a croquette called kroket. It’s deep fried, with a very crunchy exterior and a creamy interior with chunks of beef. It’s really good.

Kroket from Eetsalon Van Dobben in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The first place I tried was a diner called Eetsalon Van Dobben. They serve the kroket on a pillowy-soft and fresh buttered roll, which works really well with the hearty, very crunchy croket.  Mustard is provided on the side, but I feel like its tasty enough that further ornamentation is unnecessary.

Kroket from Febo in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The second place was called Febo, which has an interesting layout in that it’s essentially a giant vending machine.  You find what you want, stick your coins in the slot above it, then open a little door to retrieve your food.  But there’s an actual kitchen and people replenishing the little food lockers throughout the day, so  it’s not like you’re eating stale food (the thing I got was  hot enough that it burned the inside of my mouth pretty thoroughly).

Kroket from Febo in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Though you can get a version in a bun, I went with just the fried tube on its own, which was similar to Eetsalon Van Dobben’s version, but with an even crunchier shell.

Kroket from Febo in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s a delicious fried tube of creamy, meaty goodness.  There’s really not much more to say about it than that.

So Many Bikes

Bikes in Amsterdam, NetherlandsI had heard that bikes were super popular in Amsterdam, but it’s one of those things that you don’t really understand until you’re actually here.

Bikes in Amsterdam, Netherlands

You have to constantly be on your guard, because if you stray even a little bit from the sidewalk, you’re going to be face-to-face with some bikes.  It’s pretty crazy.

Hauntingly Good Stroopwafels in Amsterdam

Original Stroopwafels in Amsterdam, NetherlandsI was already a pretty big fan of the stroopwafels you can get back home — the round, thin discs of crispy, chewy, caramel-filled waffles that usually come in a cellophane-wrapped pile of five or six.  They’re delicious.

But my stroopwafel love has been kicked to the next level, because I just had a freshly-made one in Amsterdam, and it was everything.  It was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long, long time.

Original Stroopwafels in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s no surprise that it’s great.  It’s basically a thin, slightly chewy and slightly crispy waffle encasing a very generous slathering of rich, gooey caramel.  When the guy gave it to me he warned me that I need to keep it horizontal as much as I could, because the caramel would leak out, and yeah.  There’s a lot of caramel in there.  It’s ridiculous.

Original Stroopwafels in Amsterdam, Netherlands

It’s so good.

You’d think it would be too sweet, but the pastry does a really great job of counterbalancing the sticky caramel.  And the caramel is so good — sometimes caramel can basically just taste like gooey sugar, but the caramel here has an addictively rich flavour.  It’s perfect.

As much as I liked the bagged version, I don’t know if I can ever go back.  Comparing fresh to bagged is like comparing Chips Ahoy to a freshly-baked homemade chocolate chip cookie.  They’re almost not even the same thing.

French Fry Amazingness in Amsterdam

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, NetherlandsThere’s something about the simplicity of really well-prepared fries that’s kind of irresistible.  I mean, ultimately they’re just potato sticks, but that crispy/creamy contrast can’t be beat.

And the fries from Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam are some of the best that I’ve had in a long while.  They’ve got that crispy/creamy thing going on in spades.  They’re lousy with it.

As you might imagine from the name, Vleminckx Sausmeesters is just as much about the sauces as it is about the fries; their most famous topping is called Oorlog Mix, which consists of mayonnaise, satay sauce, and diced onions.

Vleminckx Sausmeesters in Amsterdam, Netherlands

The mayo and the satay sauce is a pretty amazing combination, but the onions just kind of got in the way for me — but then I don’t like raw onions, so I probably should have seen that one coming.

I keep trying to understand the appeal of uncooked onion, and it keeps being pungent and gross.  Still, the fact that I enjoyed this as much as I did despite their foul presence tells you how good it was.

Also (and I didn’t get a picture of this, sadly) there was a group of pigeons that were just hanging out around the shop, and it very quickly became clear why: people would occasionally drop a fry, and within seconds of one hitting the ground they were on it.  For a few frantic seconds there’s an angry scrum of fluttering wings and mad pecking, and then the fry is gone and they wait for the next one.

The Line Failed Me

The Green Bench Cafe in Dublin, IrelandI’ve written before about how I’m powerless to resist a line-up for food.  Yes, some restaurants can be over-hyped, but generally speaking if a place is popular enough to generate a long line, the food is probably pretty good.

So I got pretty excited when I saw the line at the Green Bench Cafe, a takeout joint (or “takeaway,” as they call it here) that’s well known for its sandwiches.  I mean, look at this crowd:

The Green Bench Cafe in Dublin, Ireland

All those people can’t be wrong!

The Green Bench Cafe in Dublin, Ireland

Or maybe they can.  I got the beef brisket sandwich, and it wasn’t bad — there was actually a lot about it that I quite liked.  But the beef (and you can’t really tell from the picture, but there was a lot of it) was super dry.  It was somewhat jerky-esque.  It kinda sucks all the moisture out of your mouth.

Crispygate: The Conclusion

Aungier Danger in Dublin, IrelandIn case you haven’t been following Crispygate (i.e. the most important story of 2017), you can catch up here and here.  Basically, the doughnut shop Aungier Danger served me a doughnut with a crispy exterior, and I proceeded to spend way too much time thinking about it.

After concluding that no, the Irish do not like their doughnuts crispy, I figured the best way to close the book on this thing would be to go to a different Aungier Danger location, try a doughnut, and see if it’s crispy.

So that’s what I did.  I got the HoneyFoam doughnut, which is filled with “honeycomb infused foam.”  A couple of things:

  1. The doughnut was not crispy.  This officially closes the book on Crispygate.  As I suspected, this must have just been a frying mishap.
  2. Holy crap, the doughnut was so damn good.  The “foam” actually tasted like a super fluffy buttercream; between its perfect, rich texture and its deliciously subtle honey flavour, it might have been the best doughnut filling I’ve ever had.  And the doughnut itself was great, with an amazing balance of lightness and chewiness.  So good.

Drinking Guinness at the Source

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, IrelandIf you walk around Dublin for long enough, you’re going to see someone holding a bag from the gift shop at the Guinness Storehouse.  It’s definitely one of those must-visit places for tourists.

Well, I’m a tourist.  I like must-visit places.  I also quite like Guinness, so yeah, it’s a no-brainer.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

And the Guinness Storehouse is neat, but it’s hard not to compare it to my recent tour of the Glengoyne whisky distillery, in which we got to see every step in the actual production process.

The Guinness Storehouse is a slick multimedia experience that’s compelling to walk through — but it has very little to do with how the drink is actually made.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

You get to see a bunch of historical equipment, and there’s a lot of talk about things like the perfect temperature to roast barley (232 degrees) and the number of nitrogen bubbles in every pint (30 million), but almost no insight on how Guinness is actually produced today.  What machines do they use?  What does the factory look like?  Who knows!  There are photos and videos of what the factory looked like decades ago, but pretty much nothing on how it looks now.

Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Still, it’s an enjoyable enough way to spend an hour or so, plus at the end you get to go up to the Gravity Bar (which is surrounded by windows offering amazing views of the city) and have a pint of the black stuff.  Anything that ends with you drinking a glass of Guinness can’t be all bad.