Winter Festivities in Utrecht

Winter WonderWe didn’t really get any snow last year and the way these last few months have been surprisingly warm, I’m not sure we’ll get any snow this year, either. But even without snow, there are plenty of winter traditions and events in Utrecht that give the city its own charm. And really, with all those brick streets and sidewalks, not having to navigate them when they’re covered in snow and ice is a good thing!

I recently wrote a travel feature about some of the upcoming winter events in Utrecht for a Canadian-based publication called DUTCH: The Magazine. You can pick it up at select news stands in North America, I believe, but this month, you can also read my article online. So if you’re like my three friends coming in tomorrow from the US, Canada, and Germany, and want to get some ideas of things to see and do in Utrecht this winter season, you’ll find a few tips and suggestions, along with a brief bit of history of this amazing city.

Utrecht Wijnproeverij Woensdag

wijnproeverij utrechtExcuse me while I do a bit of work promotion.

We’ve got a lot of great wines at Vino Veritas that are only available by the bottle, due to being a bit pricier. That means that many people don’t get around to trying them and we really feel like they’re missing out. So we’ve decided to start doing a wijnproeverij woensdag (winetasting Wedsnesday) once or twice a month, starting this week (29 October). We’re keeping things simple and casual for a mid-week event. We’ll offer samplings of two wines and an accompanying snack and give a bit of information about the wine and highlight different aspects, including how wines can change when paired with food.

We’re starting it all off with two of our personal favorites, a Brunello and a Cannonau. These two reds, one from Tuscany and the other from Sardinia, have received high praise from the industry and from regular consumers and now is your turn to try them. Full details of the wine tasting can be found on the Facebook event page. Reservations are required, but you can reserve your spot through FacebookTwitter, Instagram, in person, or in the comments here. We’re not picky.

The event should only last about one hour, though you’re welcome to stay after it’s over and try some of our other wines. We’ve just added two new wines. We’ve got a Ciliegiolo that is sure to appeal to all of our many customers who love our Negroamaro, and we’ve got a proper Lambrusco that is nothing like the cheap, sweet stuff you are likely to find in the grocery store. This is an elegant, dry Lambrusco that has made a lot of fans in the three days we’ve been serving it. We love it, too.

So come visit us, whether for the wijnproeverij on Wednesday, or just in general. And for everyone who thought our bar was too bright, we have new softer lamps going in today. Speaking of lights, the Biltstraat winter lights went up this weekend and the street is looking quite charming. It’s all getting quite gezellig. Come see for yourself.
utrecht wijnproeverijThanks for sticking around for the advertorial. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Utrecht adoration.
domtoren utrecht wijnproeverij

Caturday: Winkelpoes Edition

My photo on Wednesday of the mask and sewing machine was from a window display of a tailoring shop on Voorstraat. In the past, I’ve noticed their window display more for the cat that is sometimes in the window. When I passed by recently, it was the mask that caught my eye, but soon enough, the cat suddenly appeared, although this time outside the shop.
Voorstraat Tailor's Cat
He seemed ready for the shop to open and wasn’t happy about the closed door. Perhaps he had some faulty stitches he needed to pick out from a garment. Regardless, he seemed a bit exasperated that no one was opening the door for him. You could practically hear the frustrated sigh.
Voorstraat Tailor's CatMany shops and restaurants throughout the Netherlands have their own winkelpoes (shop cat) and photographer Robert van Willigenburg has photographed many of them for his series of books called Kat in de Stad. He originally started with the cats here in Utrecht, including a few I know and have photographed myself. He’s now moved on to some of the many cats to be found in Amsterdam in his latest edition of the book that is hot off the presses.

I don’t usually promote Amsterdam stuff, as many of you know. After all, the city gets plenty of attention already. But when it comes to cats and books, I can’t resist. Particularly as I edited the English language version of the book. ;)
Kat in de Stad (Amsterdam)
Today is Dierendag, AKA World Animal Day, so give your own animals a bit of extra love and attention and maybe order a copy of Kat in de Stad. Trust me, it’s a beautiful book (in either language) full of entertaining cats.

High Praise Indeed!

This evenings scene! I had the most delicious wine and plank this evening at @vinoveritas030 on the Biltstraat. Prosecco that tasted like the best champagne, white wine with a hint of tropical flavour soft and not sweet. Matched with a mixed plank and a bread basket. All the product are imported from Italy. The flavours are rich and the bread is warm and light. I could go on and on about this short visit but it was truly the best wine and mixed plank I ever had in Utrecht. I’m a very happy person at this moment.

Explore Utrecht is a great site with lots of information about where to stay in Utrecht and lists and reviews of things to see, do, eat, and buy. I always recommend the site to anyone visiting and to locals, as well. Last night, we at Vino Veritas got a visit from Dainahara and a friend. It was great to finally meet the woman behind the site, but it was a thrill to read her glowing review.

In fact, I’ve been lucky to meet quite a few people I know through Twitter in the past week and will probably meet more in the coming days. Thanks to all for stopping by and for singing our praises, as well. It’s all been truly appreciated.

Style and Inspiration at Zelfgemaakte Markt

Toepas Candles at Vino Veritas
I’ve written before about the fantastic Zelfgemaakte Markt (handmade market) held a few times each year in Utrecht at Mariaplaats. Every time I go, I discover something new that I fall in love with and I’m constantly impressed by the quality and talent on display.

Last year, I discovered the wonderful Studio Ellessi and her exceptional ink drawings of various spots in Utrecht, including the Domtoren and Café Orloff (both now in my collection).

This year, at the market in May, when I went to pick up the Orloff print, I noticed the work of Toepas Creaties. Among the items on display were vases and candle holders made from wine bottles. As we were weeks away from opening our wine bar, I couldn’t help but think their work may be perfect for us. Unfortunately, G wasn’t with me that day, so I held off on purchasing them, but when I told G about them, he was definitely interested. Fortunately, you can also find some of Toepas Creaties’ pieces as Spring Stores on Voorstraat. It’s a great concept store that gives smaller designers an affordable place to show and sell their wares. That’s where G had the chance to see the wine bottle candle holders in person and agreed that they’d be ideal for Vino Veritas.
Toepas Candles at Vino Veritas

We ended up getting in touch with Toepas through Instagram and recently placed our order. The wood bases are made from cast-off wood from a wood factory and the wine bottles are all recycled. I love how they have upcycled these materials into something fun and stylish. They also make bags, lamp shades and such from recycled banners. With the candles (although I forgot to take pictures), the diamond-shaped bases allow for the pieces to be put together in fun shapes, as well, so the potential for display options are extensive. They also come in different colours, so you can mix and match or go for all one colour.
Toepas Candles at Vino VeritasThey had some additional designs with them when they came to deliver the candle holders and we couldn’t resist getting a few for the front window. These are taller, round, wood bases, mimicking the bottle base, and they come in various heights.
Toepas Candles at Vino VeritasIf you’re interested in seeing the candles for yourself, come visit us at Vino Veritas. Or if you want to purchase some for yourself, visit Spring Stores, or come to the next edition of the Zelfgemaakte Markt, which is taking place this Saturday (30 August)! Seriously, go to the market if you can. You’re sure to find something that you’ll absolutely love.

The neighborhood wine bar

Alison:

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about daily life at our wine bar is meeting so many people who read my blog. It’s always a pleasant surprise when someone asks for me or asks “Ben je de flamingo?” This weekend, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a couple of fellow expat bloggers who stopped by. Yesterday, Bitterballen Bruid stopped in and on Friday Cognac and Coffee stopped by. The only downside is not having more time to chat, but a massive thanks to all who stop by. Here’s Cognac and Coffee’s post about her visit.

Originally posted on :

Yesterday we enjoyed some fantastic wine and snacks at Vino Veritas. The bar was recently opened by two former New Yorkers. Very pleasant atmosphere, authentic food, and really good wine. We will be back!

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Google City Experts Visit Vino Veritas

Google City Experts in UtrechtLast week, I received an email about participating in a Google City Experts event. Not specifically as an expert, but as one of the host venues for city experts to visit. They were organizing a tour through Utrecht’s newest cafés, bars, restaurants, and hot spots and wanted to include Vino Veritas! Obviously, we said yes.Google City Experts in UtrechtLast night, only our third night open, 30+ Google City Experts arrived in a fleet of tuk tuks to sample our wine and atmosphere. It was a fantastic experience and a thrill to see our wine bar completely full and buzzing with people enjoying our wine. Google City Experts in Utrecht
Being a Google event, you probably won’t be surprised to know that someone was there with Google Glasses. I didn’t get to try them, but got to hear a bit more about what they’re like.Google City Experts in Utrecht It was great getting to meet Tim, one of the members of the Google Team who lives in Utrecht and was so happy to get a chance to promote the city. The other cities around the world who are a part of this new project are: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Austin, Barcelona, Birmingham (UK), Boston, Bristol (UK), Chicago, Edinburgh, The Hague, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Manchester (UK), New York, Osaka, Paris, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Raleigh-Durham, Rotterdam, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Utrecht, Washington, D.C., and Wijchen. However, it’s a new program and they’ll be adding more cities as more people sign up and get involved. If you’re interested — no matter where you live — you can sign up here. As an expert, you get special access and recognition, so it’s worth checking out. They key is to add new hotspots and places of interest to Google Maps, with photos, reviews and more, making the maps even more useful.Google City Experts in Utrecht

I’ll leave you with a few more photos of the event and encourage you to stop by Vino Veritas, whether you’re a city expert or not!Google City Experts in UtrechtGoogle City Experts in UtrechtGoogle City Experts in UtrechtGoogle City Experts in Utrecht

A Street in the Sun

A Street in the SunI walk along Voetiusstraat fairly often, as it’s the street that leads on from the side of the cathedral. No matter which angle you approach it from, it’s always a lovely street (with great rooftops). A few weeks ago, as I was walking home and the sun was shining, this particular view of the street caught my eye. The lovely building at the cross street with the mullioned windows, the corner turret on the building across from it, and the typical Dutch stepped rooftop, all made an interesting visual line. This is complemented by the row of Pyke Koch lamps laden with spring flowers that stretch off into the distance. If only the cars weren’t there.

………..

We’re two days into the new wine bar and so far so good. Things were a bit slow yesterday during the Netherlands-Australia football match, but we did have a lovely couple come in — one was a reader of my blog and the other gave me a great tip for future research!

The evening picked up after the match and we had a good evening. We hope things continue to build and appreciate all of you who have stopped in so far. A Street in the Sun

Vino Veritas Is Finally Opening!

Vino VeritasIn less than 24 hours, we will officially be opening the doors (well, one door, but you get the point) of Vino Veritas. Tuesday, 17 June, at 4 p.m. (16:00), we welcome anyone who would like to come enjoy some fantastic wines, meat, cheese, and vegetable plates.

We ourselves directly import from Italy all of the food and wine that we serve. We have chosen each one with care, finding the best representation of each, and typically they are made by small, artisanal makers, sometimes even made by hand. This is as close as you can get to tasting real, authentic Italian food and wine without actually going to Italy. We have a selection of more than 25 wines, including sparkling, white, rosé, and red, as well as a delicious dessert wine and an outstanding grappa.

We don’t serve hot food, so don’t expect lasagne or spaghetti. What we have chosen to offer are a variety of cheeses, vegetables, and cured meats. Among the offerings are taleggio, gorgonzola, mortadella, prosciutto, copa di testa, and balsamic pickled onions. You can order just the selection of meats, just the cheeses, or get a mixed platter that includes a selection of both.

Vino VeritasMany of the wines are sold by the glass, ranging in price from €3,50 to €6. And don’t think that just because a wine is only €3,50 that it’s nothing special. That is our cabernet and it is outstanding! If you have questions about the wines, feel free to ask. We’ll try to help you find the best wines to suit your tastes.
Vino VeritasAnd yes, we have a terrace! Hopefully, the weather will return to the sunshine of last week so everyone can enjoy it fully. As you can see in the picture, Giovanni was taking advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the terrace before we open.

Our Dutch is a work in progress, and inevitably we may need to reply in English — or Italian if you prefer!

And now I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped us throughout the first part of this venture. You’ve been invaluable! Whether it’s help with translating obscure wine terminology or tweeting and sharing on Facebook to let everyone know we’re opening, it’s all deeply appreciated. And special thanks to Biltstraat herself for her enthusiasm, encouragement, and promotion. We couldn’t have chosen a better street!

And we’ve already got press! De Utrechtse Internet Courant posted an article about us today, as did Sophie in Clogs, who was one of our guinea pigs on Saturday.

So come to Vino Veritas, located at Bilstraat 9, just steps from the Wittevrouwenbrug. We’re open Tuesday through Sunday, from 16:00 until … (23:00 if it’s quiet, 1:00 if people are hanging around enjoying the wine and weather). Pinnen, ja graag. The World Cup matches don’t usually start until 6 or later, so come in for a drink after work or to relax before the later matches. All countries welcome!

Brick Street Tetris

Drain RepairI’m fully aware that this may be one of the most boring blog posts ever unless you like posts about general street/drain management and construction. But since living here, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with the brick streets and sidewalks here in the old city center.

For starters, they’re hell on heels, not only making it difficult to walk in high heels but also generally tearing up sturdy, sensible shoe heels. I used to walk all over Manhattan in thin high heels, but I just can’t do it here. The sidewalks are too uneven and the heels tend to get stuck in between the bricks.

Secondly, there’s a marked difference in riding a bike on a brick street and riding on a smooth surface. When you get onto a smooth bit, there’s a sudden sense of relief as you realize you’re no longer rattling about. Ahhhhhhhhhh.Drain RepairHowever, I do admit that the brick streets are more picturesque than the typical asphalt or concrete and when it comes time to make repairs, whether to drains (the box bit at the bottom of the picture) or to actually widen the sidewalk area, it’s surprisingly simple.

Today we got a front row view of a street drain being replaced. The parking spot next to the drain was blocked off with some cones and soon enough, a yellow JCB digger showed up, along with a few shovels and picks. Then men in high-viz orange clothing began simply digging up the surface bricks of the street and sidewalk and then used the digger to get out the deeper dirt. The bricks aren’t permanently grouted or stuck down, so they’re easy to take out and replace as needed.

Once the new drain shaft was installed, they simply filled the dirt back in, put the bricks back in place, and filled in the gaps around the bricks with the remaining dirt. There are no horrible asphalt fumes, no horrendously mismatched lumpy layers, and as soon as everything is in place, you can walk on it, bike on it, or drive on it. It also takes a relatively short amount of time from start to finish. This was essentially a morning job. Drain RepairOnce they were done, everything was back in place and only a bit of excess dirt remained.

So now that I’ve bored you with the dirty underbelly of Dutch brick roads, here’s a slightly prettier view of a patterned brick street in glorious sunshine.Brick Street in the Sun