So I haven't been blogging much while in Amsterdam because there really hasn't been much to blog about food-wise. I encountered a nice French bakery up near Centraal Station in the heart of the city and got a decent crepe from a local chain restaurant. But I personally haven't had much opportunity to get out there and try the local cuisine.
First, I'm here on business, and lunches have been brought in for the last two days. Good, but nothing too special. And second, the weather has been bad, even by local standards. Monday night my coworkers and I stayed in the hotel where the food was warm and did not require me to set out on foot in the wind and rain but didn't really taste like much.
This evening it is raining again, in cold little pellets made sharp by the wind. I couldn't see going up there in the rain by myself, so I stayed local.
I always enjoy looking at a city from outside the tourist zone. In this relatively new section of Amsterdam, I saw the more everyday part of the city. And while it wasn't necessarily exciting or particularly photogenic, it did feel both recognizable in the ordinary everyday rhythm of the working man and foreign in the smaller details and mannerisms and forms of this Dutch version of my own day to day life.
I found the local grocery store - the Lidl, which a budget chain that appears to be the Dutch equivalent of the Aldi. In the last three days here, I've seen so many ads for the Lidl that I recognized the logo immediately and went inside to see if they had any of my favorite items from my trip to Italy a few years back. And everything was Dutch - the signage, the announcements over the intercom, the chatter of the other shoppers. Granted, much of the signage here is Dutch (by the time I leave I'll know the Dutch for "push", "pull", and "coffee"), but usually there is a blend of English in there, too. Not at the Lidl, where I was elbow to elbow with workaday folk picking up dinner and sundry and not giving me a second though.
The Lidl did have blood orange juice and my favorite A-C-E juice, although much like the Aldi in the States, nothing was name brand. Even so, I picked up a couple of cartons of each and made a mental note to stop back again if my off brand items were any good. There was no small talk form my cashier, so I was able to complete my check-out without having to ask her to speak English, most of the Dutch being pretty obvious based on the context. They also make you buy your own shopping bags for $0.10 each, so now I also have a bag from the Lidl to round out my souvenirs.
I also found one of those little corner take-out places that are a mash up of convenience store, ethnic grocery, and hot food counter. The ethnicity of this particular place seemed to be some variety of Indian. I got a small plastic container packed with rice, lamb in a spicy brown sauce, green beans, spiced chick peas, and palak paneer, along with what I thought was a vegetable fritter but turned out to be a giant mass of deep-fried dough. It was all heated up in the microwave (and the only thing that really kind of freaks me out a little here is the prevalence of hot food and plastic together - even the coffee cups in the break room at work are plastic) and wrapped in foil to keep it warm on my walk back to the hotel. And really this was delicious, although the deep fried dough lost much of its charm once it cooled to room temperature. Everything else was a flavorful spicy. The lamb was tender and not too oily, the palak paneer was creamy, and the rice had a nice tomato flavor.
My generic juice from Lidl was a bit more sour than the Parmalat juice I drank in Italy - which also kind of matches the overall Aldi-like experience. My non-Bueno cream-filled wafers were a nice dessert.
Tomorrow it will be lunch in the corporate canteen and dinner with the whole gang that is here in Amsterdam for various projects and initiatives. I hope to get back up to that tourist part of town on Thursday when everything is open late.