Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Amsterdam, Day Two (in which I consume raw meat without dying)

The next day dawned much brighter and a bit warmer. We walked over to the Van Gogh museum, stopping at a café first for breakfast. They're speciality was Dutch pancakes with a whole bunch of toppings to choose from. Here's Todd's kiwi pancake:

Dutch pancakes taste a bit like French crepes but a little different, perhaps eggier? I prefer the French ones myself, straight off the griddle, preferably eaten out of a paper cone while standing on a Parisian sidewalk, but that's just me.

After spending some time with Van Gogh, Picasso and friends at the museum (Dutch museums charge an arm and a leg to get into, by the way, makes me miss the free ones in London), we went wandering again, soaking in the sunshine, and some interesting sites along the way:

Do you think they sell gingerbread?

Anne Frank's statue, outside the house she and her family hid in during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. I went there my first time in the city back in '08, and found the experience highly moving. I definitely recommend it; there's always a line outside but it moves relatively quickly and is worth the wait.

On a lighter note: don't these lizard statues look real? The little park was full of them, all different kinds, for no apparent reason that we could discern.

And of course we saw plenty of houseboats, some with gardens on their rooftops!

Near our hotel we found this awesome little store:

The goods on offer made me homesick both for the U.S. and for London:

Look at all the cereal! If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can probably get a glimpse of the pop tarts and cake mixes back there too.

Notice the book in the display window? That made me laugh!

Eventually we got hungry for lunch, at which I had another brand new food experience (which you might have already guessed based on the title of this post): raw meat! That's right, this intrepid foodie took her life in her hands in the name of investigative research and consumed uncooked beef (just kidding, I doubt there was more than a slight risk for salmonella poisoning). Here's how this came about: at the Irish-themed pub/cafe were we ate outside (Amsterdam has a surprising number of these types of places), my dad ordered a plate of "Dutch snacks," basically Dutch bar food. There was cheese and pate, two kinds of lumpia (Indonesian spring rolls, remember?), one veggie and one meat-filled, and bitterballen, the ubiquitous Dutch bar snack*. There were also little patties of what was clearly raw hamburger meat (or something similar; it was definitely beef). 

Though it may sound disgusting to any Americans reading this, chopped raw beef is actually a classic French preparation called steak tartare or, when it originated in the early 20th century, steak a l'Americaine (why the French associated a raw beef dish with America is unclear to me). Traditionally it's a round of seasoned, chopped up raw beef (only high quality meat should be used, for obvious reasons), served with various garnishes (onion, capers) and a raw egg on top that acts as a kind of dressing for the meat (this has got health code violation written all over it...). Since this was supposed to be just a snack, my dad's mini steak tartares had no egg, but I was eager to try them all the same. The verdict? tasted pretty much like you'd expect it to taste; that is, like raw hamburger meat, though very good quality hamburger, I will admit.

*There's no real English or American equivalent to bitterballen. The Dutch Table blog describes them as "deep-fried gravy balls," which is a pretty accurate description of how they taste. 

After lunch we wandered some more and ended up back in Dam Square, where the Liberation Day concert was in full swing. 

We didn’t stay long, as the crowds were thick and we were tired after two days of hiking all over the city. Soon we were boarding the train back to Maastricht, arriving in the evening just in time for dinner. And since this post is already pretty long and I want to do our dinner justice (it was a pretty memorable one, for completely different reasons from the one at Indrapur), I will save that for another day!

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