Above, bruschette with goat cheese, half-dried and marinated tomatoes, and fresh basil. Below, a healthy corn chowder.


corn chowder with smoked trout and chipotle.

3 tbsp butter
1 onion
1 chipotle chile, whole
1/2 tsp powdered cumin

1 cup milk
300gr corn kernels
black pepper

4 tbsp smoked trout filet, shredded finely with a fork
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine

possibly 8 half-dried tomatoes, diced fine

Saute onion, cumin, and chipotle in butter over low heat for 10 minutes or so. Add milk and corn, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with black pepper to taste. Turn off heat. Remove chipotle and set aside, then puree the soup with a staff mixer: I went for a medium puree, not totally smooth, but not many whole kernels either. Add trout, stir to incorporate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir, and taste for saltiness, then adjust seasoning to taste. Rewarm if necessary, desired, etc. Garnish with cilantro and possibly a teaspoon of tinily diced tomatoes. These quantities serve 2.

the melonmaster.

Every night last week I opened the fridge and removed an ice-cold, perfectly ripe specimen of The Most Refreshing Substance On Earth: the €0.99 Gallia melon from Dirk van den Broek.

This is not one pictured above: this is today's €1.58 Gallia melon. To break up the monotony of beautiful, unadorned melon a little bit, I shzoomed this one up into a refreshing smoothie/shake experiment, which is totally not my usual kind of thing, but in this case I like.

If the buttermilk thing sounds strange to you...yeah, it would've sounded strange to me too at some point. But Holland is one of those places with a bit of a buttermilk lean, along with Scandinavia, the Middle East, India, and some other random, scattered locations (New Zealand?).

If you're not from one of these places, you might think yeah but in the American south buttermilk is all over the place. And I would say to you with an equal lack of punctuation that buttermilk's role in the south is pretty strictly limited to that of an ingredient, something you cook with. Like you would never find it on the menu at your local café under "Beverages", the way you would here. So, yes, buttermilk is a beverage in this country.


melon, mint, cucumber, buttermilk.

1 Gallia or similar melon, refrigerated
1/2 cucumber
6 fresh mint leaves
3 ice cubes
1 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp honey
a tiny bit of salt




Bangkok? Saigon? That's what it feels like to our pussed-out, heat-intolerant constitutions these days. It's been 80 degrees or so for the last couple of days, which is (as I've bemoaned many a time in these pages) uncomfortably warm if you're trying to get stuff done.

I've been compensating for the debilitating temperatures by going to the beach in the mornings. Not much to share with you yet, still just going to the same old beach, eating the same old herring, watching the same old leathery, boom box-toting German tourists strut their stuff on the sand, being fascinated by the same old hefty topless grandmothers, etc. But soon I hope to branch out in my beach explorations and head further north. Especially if it keeps getting warmer.


don't breathe.

Nuoc cham is gooooooood stuff. I mean, yes, so is fried shrimp in chickpea flour and masala spices (pictured below), but the shrimp rolls, wrapped in lettuce with nuoc cham, were (insert fireworks sound here).

Here's Mara's original recipe, a slight variation is below.


another nuoc cham recipe.

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red Holland chiles, sliced
2 tbsp palm or raw sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
couple tbsp cilantro, mint, basil, or all three



bringie me banana.

New guest-appropriate grilled fish dish discovered tonight. Don't really know what it's called yet. It's essentially bali burgers crossed with Mara's old sate lilit recipe and wrapped in banana leaves instead of being skewered.

This was my first time cooking with the leaf of the banana (I know!), and really, they're great. Immediately two big fish-grilling problems are solved: one, there's no potential for sticking, which I don't care about so much if it's just the two of us, but if people are coming over it's nice to serve them something that doesn't look like it came out of a tumbledryer. And two, there's a vastly reduced potential for charring-beyond-recognition something with sugar in it.

If that weren't enough, it's also a way to use Cheap Dirk Fish for a dinner that seems fancy as all get-out.


ikan something.

A two-inch knob of ginger, peeled
A four-inch piece of turmeric, peeled
the useful part of 1 lemongrass stalk
10 good-sized shallots
10 candlenuts
6 cloves of garlic
5 red Holland chiles
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tomato
1 tsp belacan/shrimp paste
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp salt, or more to taste (i used more than 1 tsp, but not sure how much...we test again soon)

2 tbsp light brown, thin tamarind paste (maybe half that if you've got the thick, almost-black concentrate)
2 tbsp palm sugar

10 tbsp flaked unsweetened coconut
100ml coconut milk
5 green Thai chiles, minced (this is what the original recipe called for, we didn't do it, we will next time)
10 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into very thin slivers

1 kg catfish filets

Process first 12 ingredients in food processor until paste-like. Saute paste over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes or until harsh taste is gone. Add tamarind and sugar, remove from heat and let cool. When cool, add coconut, coconut milk, like leaves, and fish, and stir to combine thoroughly. At this point I fried up one tiny bite's worth of the mixture so I could taste it and adjust the seasoning.

Ideally let the fish/paste mix sit for a couple of hours. Then make banana leaf parcels out of it. Grill for 10 minutes per side over a medium-hot fire. I ended up having them on the grill for almost 30 minutes with no discernible ill effects. This recipe makes 8 packets. Serve with sambal.

love balm.

From top: Fish Stand #1; All the Things I Didn't Order; Herring #1, in the shade; Herring #2, in the sun. They may look generally pretty identical, but Herring #1 was 25 cents cheaper than Herring #2 and quite a bit better, or at least more to my taste: cooler temperature and thus more refreshing, more recently-cut onions, slightly newer pickles, and....yeah, just better. It's interesting to me that at the beach they ask you if you want it cut into pieces or not: in Amsterdam no one ever asks me that, it seems that pieces is the default setting.

I saw a headline on MSNBC today. What it really said was, "Unmanned drone set to patrol Texas border." What I thought it said was: "Unnamed drone set to patrol Texas border," probably a much sadder story.




I'm talking about several things here, but mostly I'm talking about ambition. We got up very late today. Last night found Mara entertaining Matt/Lucy/Maya and a random stream of housemates with her maiden puttanesca voyage, and then after midnight bringing the augmented leftovers to the doorbell-ringing Jazzcafe hordes below; across town I was playing eight straight hours of Risk with two other vastly more experienced

gentlemen (TWO TIMES was I literally one roll away from a shocking underdog victory, both at midnight and at 1:30am or so. But I faltered, was surrounded, and shortly thereafter all was lost. Fucking Egypt).

So after getting up at noon, we both thought, "Hey...let's just take it easy today (kind of an inside joke) and make a nice dinner later".

Sounds great. So we dug around to see what needed using and kind of only came up with frozen banana leaves. But the direction was obvious: "Let's do bali burgers! Wrapped in banana leaves! Yes!" How times change: when we first tasted this recipe we hadn't heard of half the ingredients. Now we had almost everything in our cupboards or freezer already, minus lemongrass and fish.

Fast forward 3 hours. Sun. Hotness. "Ehhh. Do you really feel like doing all that?" "Ehhh. No." And so, behold the "Blackened" Catfish Salad (this refers to seasoning only: when it comes to cosmetics I am a blackening skeptic) with feta and a not-yet-poured "Creole Mustard Vinaigrette", I kid you not:

Unpromising looks aside, it tasted exactly like something you'd get at Applebee's, which is not an effect I usually strive for, but it was kind of comforting. I mean, I got the recipe from the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, so really what did I expect.


amsterdam top 5 beer joints.

This is a question that comes up kind of frequently, and I imagine I'm answering it now because I'm not drinking at the moment and thus having a bit of a hankering for a cold one. Or a warm one. Yeah, probably just One in general.

This list is pretty pointless other than as an excuse for my imagination to drink beer: there are zero surprises here (I don't think), and thus in order to justify the list's existence I will probably have to cosmetically augment/enhance it into a Top 10 some future rainy day (though I normally don't go for that kind of thing at all). Probably expect Cafe Belgique, Cafe De Spuyt, and something else to make the list, and then yeah some others as well.

I should emphasize that this is a list of my favorite beer-centric bars, which is definitely not the same list as my favorite bars. I think De Zotte is the only one that straddles both lists. But if you were a serious beer drinker coming to town for the first time, these top five are where I'd send you.

For some more comprehensive advice on where to drink in town (and where not to), check these guys out (you have to scroll down to the 7-part Pub Guide to start reading). I've only read Part Seven so far, but I've been almost everywhere they discuss and we are completely mee eens.


  1. De Zotte, Raamstraat 29.
    Gets my #1 vote simply because it's my favorite place to drink out of these top 5. A huge part of this is their solid music policy: if what's being played isn't actually good or historic (which it often is), then it's being played ironically or out of nostalgic love. In other words, they care about what they're playing, a quality that is harder to find here in Amsterdam than you might expect. My other favorite thing is the bar itself, not the room but the physical bar: it must be nostalgia for the Highland Tap...the stools, the way it's lit, ect ect ect. Critically, De Zotte also features Mole-Friendly Lighting: as you may know, I like places where I can hide. Other perks include generally good food and a mostly decent staff. It's all a bit more expensive than you'd like, but I guess for the purposes of this list it ultimately boils down to this: I'm always happy to be there. Oh yeah, and this one time I went there with Greg Dulli*.
  2. In de Wildeman, Kolksteeg 3.
    IdW always feels like a special-occasion place to me, in part because I've never lived or worked near it so it's never a casual visit. But also: this is the one bar on this list that cuts across the widest swath of my friends and acquaintances, and people constantly seem to suggest it as a "meet-up" place. If I've been there 20 times, more than half of those visits have been with completely different people. The beers are an always-interesting assortment of quirky favorites and unheard-of underdogs, but for me the main attraction is the vibe: there's no music, but the big room never feels silent and museum-like, there's some kind of natural vibrancy at work that makes it a good place to just sit and be.
  3. 't Arendsnest, Herengracht 90.
    This is a new addition for me (albeit one that is shooting up the charts), and its powerfully distinctive edge is due almost entirely to its focus on microbrews from the Netherlands. They have something like 16 or 20 beers on tap all the time, and you've almost certainly never heard of any of them. That is noteworthy. The room itself is fine, kind of marginalized by an enormous copper bar, and I don't believe there's any music. But the crowd is pretty entertaining, mostly limited to serious beer drinkers, and the loudest person you're liable to encounter is John Dikeman.
  4. Cafe Gollem, Raamsteeg 4.
    A bit of a grey area here. I spent a minute or two thinking about why IdW ended up ahead of Gollem in the rankings despite Gollem's comparatively vast beer menu and came up with this: almost every time I've been to Gollem lately, I've ended up unfortunately close to a distractingly loud or visibly unhappy tourist couple that just totally shitted up my beer drinking experience. Like many professional drinkers, I'm quietly fastidious about who I sit next to in a bar, and so I never "accidentally" end up next to someone: it's just that Gollem seems to attract people I don't like sitting next to, and there's something uncomfortable about the layout that emphasizes this proximity. Also? I never get an awesome feeling from the bar staff, which is a sad fact that I expect in Amsterdam, but one I don't expect from a beer-friendly place. It could just be that they're retracting from the loud tourists as well. All that said, they are undeniably way serious about beer, and the room itself is conducive to holing up and zoning out. There are other Gollems around town, and I've heard nothing but good things about them in terms of friendliness.

    UPDATE: Gollem has indeed been replaced by Cafe de Spuyt as my #4 favorite beer-drinking place. In fact de Spuyt has probably become my #3 place, with 't Arendsnest sliding down to #5, Brouwerij 't IJ popping up to #4.
  5. Brouwerij 't IJ, Funenkade 7.
    Another joint that's difficult to visit casually, not only because of its location, but its opening hours as well: 4 to 8pm, Wednesday to Saturday. Admitted, those are pretty prime drinking times, but yeah...I am usually not planning that far ahead. Unlike the other joints in this list, it's not really a place for quiet reflection: it is loud as hell, and I've never been there when it wasn't packed to the rafters. But it manages to be 100% itself, and that's appealing. Crazily restricted opening hours; only IJ beers available, snacks limited to meat and cheese...there are no concessions made to anybody here, and yeah...I like that.

* True, and yet...

't arendsnest.

A little construction on the Herengracht didn't stop 't Arendsnest from putting their patio furniture out...they just set up shop in the middle of the closed-off street. Yes that's an alcohol-free beer in front of me, but Mara is enjoying a Bickse tripel (spicy and delicious, so I hear), brewed by Museumbrouwerij De Roos.



pound for a brown.

What a strange summer it's being so far. Nothing feels perfectly normal. Kind of like these are the sentences I am writing.

Know what I mean? Everything's just a little off. Or maybe this is normal June limbo and I'm just usually too busy having beers in the sun to notice the subtle shifts toward summer shutdown.

As if to underscore the slight weirdness of things, we had D/K over at 3pm yesterday. Why then? Originally it was conceived as an afternoon on the roof, in the as-blazing-as-possible-in-Amsterdam sun, carelessly drinking bitter/fruity Pimm's cups, laughing gaily, and grilling an unfortunate victim or two. But then the weather turned against us and we were stuck inside with our fruity drinks and our summer food.

On the other hand: there are worse things. My Ethiopian Chicken Leg Experiment was let down by some flabby chicken, but I totally enjoyed chomping on our Emergency Appetizer and Mara's not-too-sweet brownies.


My originally-planned starter was called yeshimbra assa, a Lenten dish from Ethiopia made from chickpea fritters cut into fish shapes and covered in a thick berbere-based sauce (recipe 1, recipe 2). But when I grabbed the full-looking bag of chickpea flour this morning, I found it to be not very full at all, and Sunday is not the day to need chickpea flour.

The good news about a day of retracted ambition is that you don't even remotely panic about unplanned changes. OK, so we have no fish-shaped chickpea fritters. What can I has? Trying to keep things African, Moop and I sort of commandeered this Tunisian salad and bent it to our needs, slightly tweaked and served as crostini with a boost of sriracha mayo.

And then later I ate too many brownies. You would've done the same thing, believe me.


salade mechouia.

2 or 3 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, diced
2 or 3 medium onions, diced
4 tbsp light olive oil
1/4 cup capers
juice of a lemon
1 can of tuna, drained
2 eggs, hard-boiled
1 baguette, crostini-ized

Coat onions and peppers with oil and roast for one hour in a 175C oven, turning every 15 minutes or so, and reducing the heat to 150C if you're getting too much blackening. At some point, whip together a little sriracha mayo (2 tbsp mayo + 1-2 tsp sriracha, mixed). When peppers and onions are completely soft and a bit browned, remove from oven, cool, and add tuna, lemon juice, and capers.

To assemble: a quick slather of sriracha mayo, a tbsp or so of tuna/pepper/onion mix, then top with hardboiled egg and a chive if, like us, you're a sucker for The Chive Garnish.


cocoa brownies.

150 grams unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups raw/unrefined sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 170°C. Line the bottom and sides of a tart pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and rather hot but not bubbling. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks well-blended, add the flour and stir until thoroughly incorporated, then beat vigorously for another minute or so. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into fun shapes, or squares if that's how you're feeling.



down in the south.

It's been under consideration for some time now, but I think I'm finally ready to begin trying to learn something about Ethiopian/Eritrean cooking. The spur in my haunch is probably Andy's approaching birthday, which will sport a marked Ethiopian focus due to visiting Ethiopians doing the cooking and providing the live tuneage. Also our friend Big Ron is going to Addis for a month this summer, etc. Like that.

So here are some resources:
  • Saveur article (cut/pasteable recipes here, though I have no idea why anyone would want to do that)
  • This looks an awful lot like the Chris Schlesinger recipe I've been thinking about doing, plus the sambussa looked interesting.
  • I get a creepy vibe from this website, but there are step-by-step videos and shit. In case I've forgotten how to stir or something.
First steps: berberé drumsticks and nit'r qibe runner beans.



we interrupt this program.

I'd been avoiding the Burnt Sugar stuff at De Avondmarkt for months now because...I guess I'm just generally suspicious of British sweets.

It's like the whole fanny/pants problem, where we use the same words for very different things: pudding, sponge, jelly, etc. I just feel like I could easily be cruelly misled into eating an article of clothing or a piece of hardware.

When we were in London, though, I came across a Burnt Sugar stand at Borough Market and it all looked like utterly normal candy, so yesterday during a weak moment I finally dipped my figurative toe into their product line with these "chewy caramels".

And it turns out that they are, as advertised, perfectly chewy caramels dipped in dark chocolate. Just my style, dark and stretchy with a hint of toffee and molasses (treacle if you must call it that). I do like caramel.

OK, we now rejoin our diet already in progress (again).



peach vinaigrette.

Tonight: steaks with Montreal seasoning (I'll explain later) and an arugula, radicchio, pecan, and blue cheese salad with a peach vinaigrette...I can see doing the dressing again soon, maybe switching the accessories to feta, almonds, and mint for a change of direction.

UPDATE: For breakfast I sauteed some ham, tossed it on the greens and sloshed the rest of peach dressing on there, also good.


peach vinaigrette.

2 canned peaches, rinsed
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
possibly one shallot, diced

Process til smooth. Let sit for an hour or so. I didn't use a shallot but I see how it could be nice.

hey, you know what this needs?

A big road. Just running right through the middle of it.



It's pretty cool having someone "handy" around the house. Sometimes all you have to do is say, "I'm thinking about buying a charcoal chimney", and the handy person says, "No need!", and then you go buy a gargantuan can of olives at a very nice Middle Eastern grocery called Interfood (Groen van Prinstererstraat 88), take the ends off, drill some holes, attach some thick wire to serve as a grate between the charcoal and the newspaper, pour a Pimm's Cup, head up to the roof, and light that bitch (the, eh, chimney).


As for the food: this was a test run, and the results were something we'll call "mixed". We ended up with some nearly perfect BBQ drumsticks; some initially disturbing but fixable asparagus; and borderline disastrous salmon that seriously tested the cook's patience and good humor. Two alterations would have made the whole endeavor markedly more successful from a cooking perspective: properly cleaning the grill BEFORE putting food on it; and starting with enough charcoal to to make a seriously hot fire.

But that's what test runs are for. The home-made chimney worked flawlessly (at a cost savings of more than 20 euro), so let's extend a big VDuck thank you to DIY Girl ("Thanks, DIY Girl!").

Oh yeh: anyone got any idea what to do with 400 green olives (besides tapenade)?


sugar kane.

Well, shit. Longtime Reader and Even Longertime Mother Pitts has been diagnosed with diabetes. That's all the info I have at the moment, but it's enough to get me thinking about how to help. And the first way that popped into my (freshly-awoken-by-a-soon-to-be-taking-part-in-a-Feline-Discipline-Experiment-cat) mind was to figure out what she should be eating. And then try to make sure it's as delicious as possible.

But in looking at the subject for a bit, I discovered that not many people agree on exactly what a diabetic diet is, other than: low fat, low carb, low sugar, high fiber, and eating small but regular meals. Well, this just looks like any sane person's recommended diet, doesn't it. Nonetheless, we shall forge ahead in focusing on some recipes that fall into this extremely general category.

I believe this will overlap nicely with my own current attempt to shed a few pounds, as well as my determination to use our rooftop grill more than once this summer. One of the problems with grilling here is that the technology here is all very different than where I come from. Different charcoal (better in some ways, usually hardwood lump charcoal, not briquettes), different lighter fluid, etc.

Not that charcoal-lighting has ever been the strong point of my technique. In fact, lighting European charcoal is probably my number one impediment to rooftop grilling. I should really find a charcoal chimney (UPDATE: I just found one here, but it looks like it takes up to 4 weeks to deliver. Here's one for twice the price [though it is a Weber] that shows up tomorrow).

OK, more substance here in a bit. Until then, peep on this: fennel ice cream. I'm imagining it with caramelized pears. For autumn. When I'll be eating sugar again.



french connection.

Um, bigtime diet was supposed to start today; however, that date has slipped, in the interest of accommodating our French Connection's morning delivery of legendary baked goods straight from Paris. You should see what we gave her in return...not exactly a fair trade.

I could be way off, but as far as visual inspection can determine, I think below, from top, we have: jasmine; strawberry/wasabi; pistachio/Oblachinska cherry; olive oil/vanilla; rose; chocolate; infinitely caramel.

TASTING NOTES: Yum. It *is* important to let the macarons come to room temperature before tasting. How do we know this? We couldn't wait and took a couple nibbles before they warmed up. My favorite was infinitely caramel, probably no surprise since I seem to have a thing for brown sugar, I had to say that you understand, but it's true I do like things that have been caramelized. I could have eaten 7 of these. Mara's favorite was pistachio + cherry. Because she's a nut! AHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!


all night long.

Even if you can't read Dutch, you can still peep the start and finish times for last night's gig. And then add four more hours of transit and cleanup. You end up with me too tired to comment further. I go sleepies now.