This was taken a couple of weeks ago after a storm, and I loved the golden light and how it brought out the warm tones of the buildings along the Drift Canal. The reflection of the salmon-pink building (Polman’s Huis Restaurant) in the canal is the perfect finishing touch. Plus, of course, the row of bicycles chained up to just about every free spot along the canal railing.
This weekend, G and I celebrated 10 years together. To mark the occasion, we decided to go to Broadway, an American-style steak and rib restaurant. Fancy? Not really, but it was perfect for us. For one thing, we met while living in New York and even lived on the corner of Broadway. Furthermore, we love ribs, but you can’t really get baby back ribs here. Spare ribs are sometimes available, but even those are usually pre-marinated and just not the same. Broadway does an excellent American-style ribs. Sure, I still prefer the ones that we made and smoked ourselves, but this is a good substitute. Even their cole slaw is surprisingly good, although the addition of raisins and the slice of orange was a but unnecessary.
We got lucky and after only waiting about five minutes, we were able to get a table outside. In fact, if you look at the first photo, we ended up sitting at the two-person table by the red door. It was a nice spot to enjoy the evening. One of the things that makes dining at the restaurant so nice is that you can sit there by the side of the Oudegracht. As you can see, it’s one of the unique canals here in Utrecht. The Oudegracht and the Nieuwegracht are the canals with a street level and a canal level. Along the Oudegracht, most of what used to be storage caverns under the street level have been turned into restaurants where you can sit indoors or outdoors (depending on the weather). It’s always a pleasure to sit outdoors and watch the various boats passing by. At one point, we saw five boats tethered together, one after the other, puttering along the canal. Each had the name of a different prince. Another boat went by with a very big dog curled up on the bow, fast asleep.
You really do sit right by the water, so a bit of care must be taken not to drop stuff into the canal, including yourself! As it was, we did see one of the chairs end up in the canal. Someone had lost their balance on the uneven bricks and knocked into a chair, which knocked into another, which fell right into the canal. Fortunately, it was light enough to float for a while, giving one the waitresses enough time to eventually fish it out of the canal with the help of a long broom. Once she pulled it up, a round of applause went up from some of the diners on our side of the canal, as well as the diners on the other side! They probably had the best view of the rescue.
It was a fun way to celebrate our anniversary, and best of all, we had leftovers! The restaurant keeps with the American concept and gives American-size portions. Fortunately, they also offer doggy bags!
The front is almost over-the-top American with the big flag and the sexy girl dressed up in Daisy Duke shorts, midriff-baring western shirt, and cowboy hat and boots. Yet, there’s just something about the girl that doesn’t look American. I keep thinking she looks a bit more Eastern European. It’s a subtle distinction. And of course, on top of all this American symbolism, there’s the almost jarring (from a US-perspective) inclusion of the Dutch text, which in this case says: De lekkerste van Nederland! (That would essentially translate to “the best tasting in the Netherlands”.)
Then you flip the flyer over and things get even funnier!
Things start off well enough with the spareribs, although some of the sauce options may be a bit different from what you’d get in the US. At least one of them is probably more of an Asian flavor with the sweet chili sauce (I’m not sure if that’s the Sweet or the Chilli. Chilli con carne tastes different here, too) Then you get to the cowlsalade. I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be cole slaw. The cole slaw we’ve had at the Broadway steakhouse on the Oudegracht was quite good, but you never know. The only recipe I could find for cowlsalade didn’t actually have any mayonnaise (or any other sauce) in it at all.
But then you get to the funny part. The next item on this American-themed menu? Kipsaté. (Chicken satay) To be honest, I think you would be hard-pressed to find any restaurant in the Netherlands that doesn’t have saté on the menu, be it high end or snack bar; it’s everywhere. It’s not that it’s unknown in the US, but it’s just not something that you see all the time. When you get just a further bit down on the menu to the American Combi Grill option, it’s kind of funny to see ribs, chicken drumsticks, and good ol’ saté make up the American combination platter. Today is the Fourth of July — Independence Day — in the US, and it’s a tradition that lots of people will be grilling today to celebrate. Ribs and chicken (and burgers, hot dogs, steaks and even veggie burgers) will be sizzling on the grills today, but I’m pretty sure your average American won’t be grilling up some chicken saté. Kabobs maybe, but not saté.
They do offer the American Burger XXL, “a real American double cheeseburger”. I wonder what cheese they use. Probably goudse. The burger comes with the usual toppings such as lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, but they also throw in cucumber for that little something different. There’s also a special “hamburger sauce”. No telling what that could be. Thousand Island dressing, just like McDonald’s Big Mac “special sauce”?
Speaking of sauces, they have a whole section devoted to sauces, but even here, they’re so very Dutch. Knoflooksaus (garlic sauce and very tasty), whiskysaus, shaslicksaus (I have NO idea, seems to be some sort of bbq sauce), currysaus, fritesaus (basically, mayonnaise), appelmoes (apple sauce), and of course, saté sauce. There’s one other sauce listed: American fritessaus. Frites are fries, so it’s American fries sauce. You’d think that would be ketchup, wouldn’t you. You’d be wrong. It’s also mayonnaise. I’m not really sure how it differs from regular fritessaus. Can anyone offer a good explanation? For what it’s worth, there’s no ketchup listed in the sauces. I’m not sure it’s available at all. I prefer mayonnaise for my fries, anyway, so it’s not a loss for me, but it’s still funny to think of an “American” restaurant not having ketchup.
When I was joking with G about the menu and the subtle differences, his response was, “Welcome to my world.” He’s right; now I know how he feels any time he goes into an “Italian” restaurant. Similar base ingredients are there, but what is done with them from then on can be quite different! It’s not bad, it’s just different.
We picked up a package of ribs at the grocery store for today’s celebration. Unfortunately, they’ve already got their own marinade/seasoning, so I can’t do my voodoo that I love to do. There were three options in the flavoring: Indian, Piri Piri, and Texan. We went with Texan. I’ll let you know how that goes.
(This post is dedicated to Kerryanne and Ken, a couple of fellow Americans I got to spend an enjoyable evening with last night. One of our topics of conversation was the differences in foods. I’ll never think of potato salad in the same way!)
A slightly different shot from my usual stuff — more people! I went to another TweetUp last night and we started the evening off at Café Olivier, a Belgian beer bar located over by the Hoog Catharijne. I’d seen the outside of the café before, and even taken a few photos, but I had never been inside and didn’t realize it was actually a converted church. It’s lovely inside, as you can see, and they have a massive selection of Belgian beers from which to choose. I really must go back again soon and maybe have a bit more time to focus properly on the large menu of beers.
As it is, I had a great time catching up with people I’ve met before, while finally meeting others. Everyone was lovely and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and look forward to seeing them all again.
This morning I had one of my rare moments of really missing something I can’t get here. Biscuitville. It’s the best hangover cure. Ever! For those not familiar with it — and that would sadly include a lot of Americans, as well — Biscuitville is a fast-food restaurant chain located in some of the southern states and they specialize in breakfast foods, specifically biscuits. You can get all sorts of variations of breakfast meat, egg, and/or cheese slapped between a fluffy buttermilk biscuit, along with sides such as grits, hashbrowns, home fries, gravy, honey buns, and pancakes. It’s not even remotely healthy, but it’s absolutely delicious.
I didn’t eat out all that often when I was living in the US. I liked to cook and figured I could make something just as nice, but for less money usually. When we did go out, it was usually to a smaller local restaurant, so I don’t really miss a lot of chain restaurants living here. In fact, today is the first time that I’ve really been craving Biscuitville, so I figure that’s not too bad after living here for close to two years. But this morning I woke up hungry and really wanting a fry-up with bacon, eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and grits. Then it struck me that I really wanted Biscuitville. They have a drive-thru, making it even easier to throw on some random clothes and have a quick fix for your craving. Sadly, that’s too big and wet of a drive for me now. I can’t even fly!
The Netherlands isn’t big on breakfast in the American and British fashion. They’re more like the French and Italians, I guess. I can’t think of any restaurants that I’ve seen here that would really even be open early in the morning, much less serving a full-on breakfast. Tell me if I’m wrong, because I’d be curious to know about any places in Utrecht.
So this morning I did the best I could with what I had on hand. I could have made some biscuits, but that was more work than I wanted. Fortunately, I had eggs, bacon, cheese and bread on hand, so I made myself a sandwich with a slice of gouda melted on toast with a fried egg and a couple slices of bacon. It was good, but it just wasn’t Biscuitville.
Ribs, glorious ribs!
Hot french fries, and coleslaw …
I had another TweetUp (meet-up with friends from Twitter) last night, meeting with pinkypie, ROtotheD, Pamcakes, and Melissa, a friend of pinkypie’s. We’d gone to Stairway to Heaven last time we all got together, and this time we went to Broadway American Steakhouse Restaurant on the Oudegracht. Our goal? Ribs. Pammy had been before and said the ribs were actually quite good, so we were hopeful. That hope was not in vain. The ribs were surprisingly good! As good as the ones G and I used to make? No, but really, how could they be. 😉 They more than satisfied my rib craving — or maybe they’ve just inflamed my craving. Either way, we’ll definitely be going back, especially once the weather is warmer and drier and we can sit on the terrace right there on the canal.
We probably could have sat outside last night. The day was sunny and surprisingly warm, getting up to 17C! It seemed like all of Utrecht was outside last night, with every restaurant and café’s outdoor seating filled to the brim with people enjoying the warmer temperatures. It really was a gezellig evening — friends enjoying each other’s company, laughter ringing out, and the glow of table candles lighting the evening in a rainbow of colors.
We did eat indoors, but it was still fun and an interesting setting. The restaurant is in one of the canal-level/below street-level spaces where the interior is filled with curved walls creating a cave-like atmosphere, without the dampness or dreariness. They had the walls painted with scenes from Old Hollywood, including a mural of Laurel and Hardy.
The pictures aren’t that great, but that’s because they were a last-minute thought as we were getting ready to leave. The rest of the evening was taken up laughing, eating, and generally have a great time. Most of us also got “doggy bags”, since the portion sizes were also American. What you see in the top picture is the ribs that I had left and brought home for my lunch today. The dinner also came with patat/frites (French fries) and we got some cole slaw to go along with it all. Even the cole slaw was excellent, although we partly attributed that to the use of Dutch mayonnaise. All in all, it was a great night with great food and great company. Can’t wait to do it all again!
Yesterday was my birthday and my first one to be celebrated in the Netherlands. Since cake isn’t as popular here as pies and pastries, I figured I’d make my own — although I probably would have made my own, anyway. I’m not a huge fan of baking, but I do enjoy making the occasional cake.
I knew I wanted chocolate cake — it’s my favorite — but I wasn’t sure if I wanted fruit added in somehow, or if I wanted my beloved German Chocolate Cake. Since pecans aren’t as easy to come by here, I decided to go the fruit route. I went with raspberries, since they have a nice subtle tartness that I thought would offset the chocolate. In the end, I made a three-layer chocolate cake (the middle layer had bits of chopped up dark chocolate added in, just because), with raspberry compote between the layers, all topped off with a cream cheese icing. I think icing is the better term, rather than frosting, as the cream cheese mix was a bit on the thin side.
I spent much of the day making the cake — with a pause for Giovanni to surprise me with a fun new watch — and the rest of the afternoon doing very little. As has been the habit now for the past five or six years, we went out for sushi for my birthday dinner. We stopped in at the Potdeksel for a fluitje, while I decided which of the two sushi restaurants to try. Since we had been planning on going to Graaf Floris on the Oude Gracht for an Irish coffee after dinner, I ultimately decided on the restaurant on Voorstraat, since it’s a bit closer to the Oude Gracht. Unfortunately, it’s a small restaurant and there were no tables free for at least half an hour. With that news, we decided to try the new sushi place on Nachtegaalstraat. Fortunately, they had a table and the food was really quite good. It was much better than the sushi we’d had at the restaurant on Mariaplaats.
After a lovely dinner of salmon, tuna and eel, among other things, we decided to head to Graaf Floris to get the much-anticipated Irish coffee. Sadly, as soon as we stepped outside, we realized it was raining quite heavily! None of us had an umbrella and the wind was blowing quite strongly, so we decided to head back to the Potdeksel for an Irish coffee there, instead! At one point, the wind was blowing so strongly that we ended up with the rain blowing sideways, straight into our ears! Fortunately, by the time we left the Potdeksel — the cake was beckoning — the rain had stopped.
We went home and cut into the cake. Delicious, if I say so myself! Well worth the time and effort! In all, my first birthday here was a low-key but pleasant day. In other words, a pretty good birthday!
How come we can get junk mail fliers from Kruidvat on a Sunday morning, but the grocery stores can’t open on a Sunday?
We weren’t in the mood to go grocery shopping yesterday, so that means we’re going out for dinner tonight. If all goes as planned, we’re finally going to the pancake restaurant (pannenkoekenrestaurant) on the Oude Gracht! Talk about an International House of Pancakes! They have Mexican, Norwegian, Hungarian, Egyptian and even Masai types of pancakes, among many others. They boast that they have more than 80 varieties of pancakes. Oh, the decision!