Eating and Drinking in Amsterdam

The first holiday of the year was one that’s been planned for a few months. A trip to Amsterdam! I’d been before for a day and had a night out but that was over ten years ago.

We set off on a dark cold morning to the airport armed with our guidebooks marked off with all the things we wanted to see and do, including places that might be good to eat and drink.

Anne Frank House, Rijks Museum, Van Gogh Museum, a boat trip, generally admiring the architecture and wandering along the canals, off the beaten track and through the Red Light District, were all on the list. All were worthwhile, I thoroughly enjoyed the museums and galleries, and wandering the canals in the snow was beautiful.

On to the food and drink. There’s no way you’d struggle to find something you’ll like in Amsterdam. There’s restaurants, snack bars, bakeries, pubs, cafes and bars almost everywhere you look. Plus the coffeeshops! Even walking through the less touristy areas we found places to warm up and have a snack or a drink.

Chips and mayo was an essential eat for this trip! French fries with “fritessaus” is a Dutch fast food found all over the Netherlands. As with any classic food served all over a city there’s more than one place claiming they’re the best! We tried two places, one was said to be the oldest, the other said to be voted number 1. At the oldest spot we went for a different favourite sauce, satay, it looked completely unappealing (as you’ll see from the photo!) but the sauce was delicious and the fries were, in my opinion, the best. Super crispy outside and fluffy inside. The place that was voted the best had the option of vegan “fritessaus”, Dutch style mayo, which has less fat and is sweeter than usual mayo, it was really tasty.

From fries to drinks, you’re never short of somewhere to call for a drink in Amsterdam. Small pubs, “cafes”, as they call them, line the tiny cobbled streets and canal sides, at this time of year offering a refuge from the cold. Most having a few beer options, a basic selection of spirits and wine and some offer hot drinks too. There’s also bigger bars and clubs too but we mostly stuck to calling in little pubs for one and moving on. Every one we went in was welcoming and cosy. My advice would be don’t stick to the main streets, wander off and you’ll find places filled with locals and a really great atmosphere, plus they’re usually a little cheaper for a beer!

Back to the food. There were a couple of stand out places I’d recommend. For brunch I’d read about Cut Throat, a barbershop, yep get your haircut or beard trimmed, with a bar inside! You walk into the bar not immediately obvious that it’s a barbers, and then you spot the chairs and mirrors on the other side. Inside it’s beautiful, an old tiled arched building with loads of character. The vegan “chicken” and waffles was amazing, the best seitan I’ve had. Served with maple syrup, hot sauce and an apple slaw. We had mimosas and coffees too. We also stumbled across a gorgeous little french creperie late one morning after visiting Anne Frank House. Again another lovely, quirky building, how I walked up the stairs without banging my head I’ll never know! Gorgeous crepes and the most beautiful cup of tea I’ve had in a long time, their tea was brought in from Paris (so a trip to Paris might be due soon to buy some tea!).

All in all a great few days in an interesting and beautiful city.

Vegan Chicken and WafflesBeers in an Amsterdam CafeFries and Satay SauceCrepe at CocotteHot Chocolate in the Red Light District Dutch Fries with Vegan MayoSoup at the Van Gogh Museum Dutch Apple CakeOrecchiette with BroccoliTofu and Veg in Black Bean Sauce

Where to eat and drink in Amsterdam?

Check out some of the places I ate and drank around Amsterdam…

Cut Throat – get a haircut, a cocktail and tasty food under one roof!

Cocotte – buckwheat crepes, perfect if you can’t eat gluten.

Kam Yin – big portions of Chinese food, speedy service.

Il Pacioccone – cute Italian owned restaurant with tasty pasta and wine, the menu changes daily.

Manneken Pis – you can get fries with vegan mayo here.

Vlaams Freithuis Vleminckx – my favourite of the two places we tried for fries.

Mata Hari – gorgeous place just at the top of the red light district. We just had drinks but they serve food too.

Van Gogh Museum – we had soup and a beer at the cafe after a tour of the museum.

Blushing – lovely little place for a coffee in between museum visits.

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Finding Inspiration and Time

Staring at a blank page is sometimes daunting.

I sometimes sit looking at it for ages until I distract myself with something else and it can be hours, days or even weeks before I go back to it.

It’s the start of a new year, a time when I feel motivated to be more creative, to make more time for the things I enjoy, and this new year is no different.

It’s been a while since I last posted a blog, my excuse is always not having time.

During last October I did Inktober, a drawing challenge on Instagram, there’s a list of prompts for the month and the aim is to draw as often as you can, ideally every day, based on those prompts. I’m happy to say that I succeeded in it and did a drawing each day throughout the month, proving that I do have time. If I want it.

At the start of the month I felt sure that I’d miss a few days here and there and play catch up, all because I thought I wouldn’t have time. Some drawings were quicker than others when I actually was short on time, but the point was that I stuck to it. It made me dare to try new styles too and be confident in sharing them with people.

It made me think about drawing and painting more which was the intention for me. Once the month was over I vowed to draw more and I have a bit since. But I need to keep telling myself not worry about having to create a finished piece each time, I just want to get back into using a sketchbook like I used to when I was a student, for sparking ideas, for practicing, for myself.

So how does this relate to this blog? I’m getting to it now! I want to make time to blog more, I’ve proven that I can do it for drawing so I need to do the same for this. Whether it’s a quick post about what I made for dinner, rather than a full recipe, or a little ramble about an ingredient, cookbook, or any kind of cooking inspiration, rather than a big review of something, at least it keeps me writing, which I enjoy.

As part of Inktober I drew a few food related drawings, even an illustrated recipe one day. So perhaps that’s a way in future for me to combine food and drawing by creating more of those.

Anyway, that’s my first ramble of the year, watch this space.

Eating and Drinking in Chicago

Last week I spent six days exploring Chicago, it was my first visit to the city and after reading guidebooks and looking on Instagram I was geared up for some great food and drinks… it didn’t disappoint.

Chicago has so much to offer someone in search of good food, restaurants and bars everywhere you turn and all covering so many different cuisines and styles. Laid back sports bars, microbreweries, high end bars and restaurants, cafes, diners, so many to choose from!

As I’m a bit of a geek and like to be slightly organised I’d done a bit of research and made a list of some places I wanted to try, but equally we spontaneously happened upon so many places which turned out to be great too.

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day turned into a highlight, we were spoiled for choice (a reoccurring theme!). Some of the best places we went to were Kanela Breakfast Club – which had a brilliant varied menu, the sriracha hollandaise was so good, Goddess and the Baker – delicious avocado toast and amazing juice which came served looking like a cocktail, Beatrix River North – strong coffee and spicy shakshuka.

After the big breakfasts we didn’t really need lunch, the odd snack and a coffee or a beer kept us going through the day!

A couple of nights whilst we were there we had tickets to see ice hockey and basketball. It’s been a dream of mine to see the Chicago Bulls play since I was a kid, I finally got to see them, my favourite player didn’t play and they lost by a point… still it was a great night and the atmosphere was electric, plus they sold margaritas by the pint in the arena! Before the games though we wanted to find some sports bars near the United Center, the kind that the local fans would be at. We got recommendations and one place kept being mentioned, we saw the place and decided it wasn’t for us! We moved on and went to WestEnd one night and Park Tavern another, both turned out to have great food and they were full of locals headed for the games. Both served standard American style food, burgers, mac and cheese, nachos, what you’d expect. The beer choices at Park Tavern were amazing, over 40 beers on tap, plus we arrived just before the end of happy hour so we could take advantage of half price beers – our sever encouraged us to get a couple each before the prices went up!

On the other nights when we weren’t at games we tried out a couple of places in town and on one night be ventured out to the suburbs. It got to our last night and we hadn’t yet tried deep dish pizza, which we obviously had to do, we’d been asking locals where to try and none seemed to agree, they all had their own favourites for different reasons! We tried to get in to the place where it’s said to have first been created, Pizzeria Uno, but it was a Friday night and when we arrived it was too busy, so we ended up at their sister restaurant, Pizzeria Due. It was unlike any pizza I’d had before, cheese on the bottom, then toppings, then sauce all in a huge crust like an open pie. It was tasty but ridiculously filling, two slices and I was done! With no more room for beer we went for a walk and made our way to Andy’s Jazz Club for an old fashioned and some music to end the night.

There’s so many more places to eat and drink that I could ramble on about but I’ll just give you a couple more quick highlights!

Cindy’s – rooftop bar overlooking the Cloud Gate, the park and the lake.

Eataly – a huge two story place with Italian delis, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, bars. Beautiful cakes. I bought some different dried pastas to bring home – my souvenirs always seem to be food related!

Garrett’s – popcorn shop, a local tradition.

Cantina Laredo – a Mexican restaurant, we went for drinks at the bar, really good margaritas. We ended up ordering guacamole made table side, this was amazing!

Tortoise Supper Club – a 1920’s style bar, though it may not look like it is from the outside. Really great cocktails, get a martini.

The Green Mill – in Uptown, worth getting out of downtown to visit, an old haunt of Al Capone’s. Live music, perfect for a cocktail and dancing!

In between all the eating and drinking, we obviously saw some of the sights! We did the Tilt at 360 Chicago, you essentially lean on a glass panel whilst they tilt you out over the edge of the building, oh yeh, you’re on the 94th floor! Amazing views and not as scary as it sounds. We visited the pier, museums, galleries, did the bus tour which showed us all the sights. I’d definitely recommend you visit if you get the chance. Great people, architecture, art, sports, music and of course food and drink!

Chicago Skyline

Veg Out at Peddler

Veg Out at Peddler

I’m a big lover of street food. Going to street food markets is a great way to try something new, there’s usually at least one dish I’ve never come across before. I’ve written about Peddler Night Market in Sheffield before, it’s a monthly street food market. Whenever I’ve been before it’s been raining, this time was no exception! I’m determined to go one time and not be wearing loads of layers hiding in a corner trying to keep my food from getting rained on! Aside from the wintery weather I had a great time.

This month it was a veggie special called Veg Out, as the name suggests, all the food on offer from the traders was vegetarian or vegan. Safe to say I was spoiled for choice!

There were some familiar street food traders and some I’d not seen before. Firstly we had a wander around the craft stalls and I bought a beautiful whale t-shirt! Now to the food, time to check out all the menus before making a snap decision!

After debating between bratwurst, Thai food, dim sum, mac and cheese, pizza and loads of other choices, we finally opted for Latin American food from Yakumama. The BBQ oyster mushroom arepa – homemade Colombian maize bread grilled and stuffed with BBQ oyster mushrooms, avocado, homemade vegan aioli, homemade habanero and pink peppercorn sauce, lettuce and coriander. It was unlike anything I’d had before. Crispy maize bread which was soft and warm on the inside and the fillings were a great combination. I loved the habanero and pink peppercorn sauce. It was some of the best street food I’ve had. Something new and exciting. It’s definitely inspired me to check out some Latin American recipes. I have to have figure out how to make that sauce too, better stock up on chillies and pink peppercorns!

Time for a beer, it was clearly marked which beers were vegan, I decided on Juice Springsteen, a tropical IPA which was deliciously fruity, I imagine it’d be a good summertime drink. Whilst we had a beer in the chilly weather, we bought some battered pickles from the Hip Hop Chip Shop. A perfect snack to have with a beer. We were planning on getting brownies but we were too full!

The market was on from 12 and we arrived not long after that, it was already bustling with people. Every time I visit Peddler early I expect it to be quiet and I’m always proved wrong! It’s so great to see Sheffield get behind the market. Particularly this time with it being an all veggie and vegan event. I really hope there’s another Veg Out later this year, go on Peddler, please!

 

Plastic Waste

Plastic Problem

My plan for the new year is to try and use less plastic.

Many people have been inspired recently after watching Blue Planet 2 which is great, we just need to keep that momentum up and get more people making changes.

I know it’s not always easy, but getting a reusable water bottle and coffee cup is a good way to start. I’ve been using them for a couple of years now but still used to buy bottles of water and have single use coffee cups when I forgot my reusable ones. This year I plan on making the reusables something I don’t leave the house without.

I already have metal straws in my house too, but I need to remember to ask for drinks without a straw when I’m out. Over Christmas I went to a pub and ordered a lemonade, which came with two straws in, totally unnecessary!

The more people that make the changes I’m describing, the better. Seemingly small actions like this can make a huge difference.

Plastic Bottle Statistics

Another thing I saw today that spurred me to write this blog was an article in the news that Marks and Spencer are stopping selling some of their products that are ridiculously packaged. I’ve been ranting about products like this since I first saw them on supermarket shelves probably more than a year ago. Who wants to spend £2.50 on a slice of cauliflower wrapped in plastic and marketed as a cauliflower steak. Save yourself some money and the world another pile of plastic waste!

I understand that some people are unable to cut fruit and veg, but the packaging for this is a real problem. Plus it seems that the aim of these products isn’t to help people who are unable to cut veg, it’s to sell them to people following food trends.

These aren’t all even convenience products, some are a joke. Selling a coconut and a straw wrapped in plastic is ludicrous, a coconut comes in natural packaging. You’d be hard pressed to damage it on the way home from the shop, and if you did miraculously smash it up on the way home, some plastic film won’t help.

Hopefully something has inspired you to make changes towards your use of plastic products. Go on, find that reusable coffee cup out of your cupboard, treat yourself to a reusable metal water bottle and say “no straw thanks”!

Read more about the plastic waste problem in this article from the BBC.