When I’m in Holland I eat the…

‘When I’m in Holland I eat the pannekoeken.’  -Beastie Boys

Well, that had to happen.  Now I can move on.

This is set up to be the first in a series of five posts on our recent trip to Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  Z had a work trip scheduled for South Africa coming up and a couple of things happened as a result.  Thing 1.  I figured if he could get the health clearance to go, I would try to go too.  I mean, South Africa!?!  Thing 2.  The flights can be brutal.  Nothing direct from Orlando per se so we decided that since the trip fell around our so-called anniversary, that we would layover in Amsterdam for some tourist time.  We are not those people who can just hop the next flight.  We have to get medical clearances, tie up loose ends at work and find someone (thanks mom & dad) to watch our little beast, Walter.  But this trip should definitely be worth it.  iamsterdam

I recommend stopping in to the tourist bureau at the airport to get the I Amsterdam card-it makes museum and transit a breeze.  We walked out of Schipol and the gust of cold air took our breath away!  We caught the GVB bus into the city for €5 each.  Our foray into local transport begins!  We dropped  our bags with the hotel after pulling out jackets and headed out for the day.  Our first stop was the Van Gogh museum to get our fill of Sunflowers and his assorted portraiture of selfies.  He was the first master of duck lips, which I so don’t get.  After the museum we headed out for the obligatory I Amsterdam shots and then started our march towards Dam Centraal constantly OK Googleing for directions.

pannekoekkenWe made it to the unlikely Upstairs Pannekoeken house in about 15 minutes walking.  I looked at the said stairs and nearly didn’t make it.  Historically they they used to tax by window widths so the buildings  are crazy narrow and tall but often deep.  The near vertical stairs opened to a tiny four table closet sized restaurant that had one tiny two seat table meant just for us.  Sitting shoulder to my neighbors back and my back to the warm radiator we got the menu and chose our poison.  Giant plate sized pancakes that are super light and airy.  His topped with bananas and powdered sugar, hers topped with cooked unsweetened apple slices and salty back bacon cooked in.  Their was a bottle of super dark Stroop syrup on the table that went perfectly with the apples and bacon.   I’m pretty much in love with these pancakes.  Light, serious, interesting-like I’m beginning to find this city.

heartburn or a burning heart?

southernpoutineaka begging for mercy.  We rarely get up early on Saturday mornings.  I do.  Z does not.  We kind of have opposite schedules.  I like the relative peace of the morning, a lingering coffee wake up on Saturdays with catch up reading on blogs, pinning and watching the odd history show on the dvr.  Lately though, that’s been changed by some stress induced, I suppose, heartburn.  I am the lucky recipient of a new morning routine that includes a half hour wait for Nexium to kick in.   But this weekend, we got up early together and headed out to The Coop to try their breakfast menu.

The Coop is lovely at 8:30 or so on a sunny Saturday morning.   All warm worn wood and southern specialties.  Biscuits, pecan smoked bacon, gravy and such.  I tried the poutine.  For the uninitiated poutine is fries with cheese curds and brown gravy.  For the Southern soul it included sausage gravy, cheese sauce and a fried egg.  Actually, all in all, more than I wanted.  More than I could (or indeed did) eat.  I would have like it in a smaller portion perhaps, with a lighter (is that laughable?) touch?  Skinny fries with some shreds of cheese over plastic cheese sauce?    Really, I’m probably over the poutine fad now, this probably clinched that for me.  It isn’t that it wasn’t tasty, just a little too heavy handed for me.  Have I changed?  I’ve been doing quite a lot to eat lighter-fruits, salads, veggies and fish,  that kind of thing.  Walking it off.   This reinforces my resolve.

People will think you are fancy

I’ve noticed, if you care about food in any specific way, that people most likely think you are also probably a.  a food snob and b. somehow fancy even if you are just eating a hot dog or similar.  I totally think it is possible that I am something of a food snob but it doesn’t mean I won’t eat a hot dog.  I mean, let’s face the facts.  I love handheld foods.  Sandwiches, burgers (the most!) and tacos.  But, I also love to make them in a little bit of a special way at the same time.  Roast turkey with bacon & homemade onion marmalade?  Sure.  Burgers with homemade pimiento cheese?  Definitely.  Tacos with the best heat cutting tastiest sauce ever?  Yes, please.  Call it the high-low effect.  The lowest food brought to the very highest height.   I really just want people (including me) to care about what they are eating.  To find it to be the best taste they had all day, or maybe all week.  Tonight I’m making a recipe for that heat cutting tasty sauce.  It is literally a five minutes and done recipe that makes dinner just a little more special.

easing back in

I’m thinking things are about to break open!  Super proud to have launched a new book this fall, Around the World with Kate & Mack – A look at languages from A to Z.   I got to have so much input into the project and am just so happy with the outcome.  It tells a complete story about the work of Wycliffe around the world in a way that anyone can understand.   Sold out of a yearly production and purchase of calendars that I oversee for the first time ever (~15,000).  So great to say, I have none left and threw nothing away! And have taken on a new venture, a cafe, the ‘Wycliffe’ cafe as part of my job.  (Food people gravitate to food things I guess.)   I have spent the last couple of months analyzing what we do and, in reality, what it costs.   What people are eating and not eating.  We developed a plan to forge ahead and have been closed for the last week to refresh our look and our menu and Monday morning we will reopen clean and updated and ready to roll!  All this has taken up a lot of my brain and just today, for the first time in a while, have I had the margin to write a little something that didn’t sound like ‘Woe is me, I’m tired or some other muck.’  I woke up, did a great big vegetabally grocery shop at TJ’s for the week and am ready to face the world!  This about sums it up:sassy2

Epcot Food & Wine 2014 – a few thoughts and reviews

foodandwine2014We hit Food & Wine the night it opened.  We made a few fastpasses and went primarily to ride the now closed Maelstrom (Norway) ‘one last time.’  I think I got Z to do that about 4 times.  I’m going to miss that ride when the recasting to Frozen is completed.  I can see why they would want to update and add interest to the World Showcase but to me, Maelstrom at Norway wasn’t as broken as some things.  It was, like most of Epcot, dated.  Epcot could use a big facelift, some additional country rides I think and in general a filling in of some of their huge empty spaces.   Our friend Karin was heading out of town on business so we hit the festival and Maelstrom with her before she flew off.  It was pretty uneventful (compared to a previous ride and ‘rescue’ by a Viking-style Norwegian when someone fell into the water on the ride.)  I’m serious about this.  If you want action and interest head to the parks with us.  Something peculiar is bound to happen.  It was the drooly rainiest night.  We didn’t eat much and just tried to stay dry.  I did have a Singapore Sling (*grampa’s cough syrup) which I love.  Give me Hendrick’s Gin and Cherry Heering any day.  I also tried a cheese plate in Ireland.  Love that Kerrygold with brown bread and chutney.

Our second trip was just the two of us on the hottest darn day of the summer!  Here is how that went…muffapinwheel

One of the huge empty spaces is being pressed into service for the festival this year.  It is the big round building that sits off to the side over the water as you make your way from the front entrance back to the International Market Places and is known as the Odyssey Center.  According to an online source – Lostepcot.com it was a restaurant and had a Rockin’ Mickey show once upon a time.  That site has some old info about other countries and rides that I wish would happen but clearly, are not on the agenda anymore.   We stopped in at the Odyssey center to scope out the booth they are housing which centers around craft beers.  It seemed like a fun bar atmosphere to me although I feel they could add some chairs or bar stools to the stand up tables.  I would like to see more of that in general if I could sit down and stay a while, taste the options, etc.  We tried one of the bar snacks, a Muffaletta pinwheel.  Honestly, it was premade and didn’t taste much likeany Muffaletta I’ve had recently.  No depth and a bit limp and the best part was a bread and butter pickle on top.   Kind of a miss.baohashtaco

Then we strolled on into the International Market Place (aka the countries) to begin trying treats that are mellowed out for the average guest but still tend toward tasty and are a great way to try something new without the pressure of it being your whole meal.  We started out on the Mexico side and worked our way around until we were stuffed.  We didn’t try everything and that leaves an opportunity for another day.

First stop:  Mexico.  I sampled the shrimp taco.  I tried for two main reasons.  It was National Taco Day! Hurrah for all things street taco.  And it said it had pickled habanero.  I wondered how hot it could be.   One of my absolute worst food experiences of my life revolved around habanero ice cream I had in Fort Collins, CO at Walrus Ice Cream.  They always have an experimental flavor to try (experimental means gross) and one time I was in they had habanero.  That ice cream made me cry.    But the taco?  It didn’t have that heat.  In fact it was a little nondescript but I liked it.  The shrimp had a bit of crunch and the onions and peppers had bite but not really any heat.  It would be safe for the majority of people to eat.

Next stop:  Farm Fresh.  I suppose farms are a ‘place’ that is foreign to most of us city dwellers but I don’t totally get it.  I think they could call it America and be as accurate.  But this stop had one of my must tries for this year.  A peppered bacon hash with corn, pickled jalapenos and hollandaise.  This would be a brunch rock star if you made it at home and …you should.  I probably will.  I mean fried potatoes with hollandaise.  Divine.  Side note:  This is a gluten free option which is totally a thing this year.

Round the world to:  China.  We stopped in China and I need to go back.  I had a couple of things I wanted to try from China but try to focus on one at a time.  This go I tried out the roasted duck bao.  I have a problem in that I love bao.  LOVE.  Something about that weird steamed bun texture and some fatty rich meat and bright onion or slaw condiments.  This one wasn’t too complicated and was fairly sweet and no heat.   It had some red onion to cut the sweetness and I went to town on it.

At this point we swang into Maelstrom for our last ride. (*sniff)  I tried to soak up the Vikings, the trolls and the feeling one last time.  I look forward to seeing the transformation and I hope that Frozen becomes a new happy place.papapricotflan

We headed back out in the heat to:  Africa.  Z wanted to try the stewed beef and mealie pap.  Pap is kinda grits/polenta like and the meat was stewed with tomatoes and okra.  I’d make this dish.  It is totally a Sunday afternoon long cooked dinner.  The meat was tender and I detected that distinct okra flavor that isn’t really native to the US unless you are living in the real South.  Sort of side note.  I hate that it is ‘Africa.’  I don’t really think that tells the right story.  Africa isn’t so generic or general as that would imply.  I think Epcot has the resources to do better and they should.

Heading on to:  Germany.  Ok.  I have to say that my favorite bite so far this year came from Germany.  Who would have guessed?  It was a doughnut.  Yeasty and filled with apricot jam that was just the right bit of sweet.  I don’t know if that is so German or not but it was so good.   If you have a limited budget and want to have a nice little dessert this would cover it.  Z also got the brat.  Ok.  I know I’m a bit ranty today but this was one place they could have done better.  Or differently anyway.  It had the splattiest messy heap of mustard squidged on.  It wasn’t tidy or helpful really.  I’d really like to see a bit more care overall on presentation.  I messed with several entrees to get a good shot.  They are pushing food out quickly but with little care.  The brat itself -tasty- but not pretty.messyweiner

The Festival this year is presented by ‘Chase’ and since we bank with Chase we got to go in the ‘lounge.’ The lounge is in America and has seating and video games, Freestyle coke machines, and cell phone charging stations.  Kind of a nod to something but I’m not sure what.  Z tried vanilla Root Beer and I had some lemony water before heading back into the heat.

Finished the uber-hot day with:  Puerto Rico.  This is a new stop this year and is a cute little area set up for a party with lights and ambiance.  We ordered one last dessert and a drink.  Z loves flan so he tried the flancocho.  A flan covered at the top with a bit of chocolate cake.  It was good but a bit more set than our favorite.  The flan didn’t come out of it’s baking tin so they just served it that way.  It tasted good even if it wasn’t photo friendly.  I also was dying of heat (and so did the logical – cocktail order)  so I ordered a Gasolina Sangriiia.  It was fruity and cold and I could have chugged the bottle if presented with it.  Very grapey.

Overall the festival feels a little ‘less’ than it has before even though there is technically more.  A little less technical and a little less stand out.  We still enjoy it and I do want to make at least one more visit to try a few more dishes.   So, I’m looking forward to that.  Hopefully a cool evening with no rain.