Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dylan and Friends in Amsterdam

"How does it feel 
To be on your own 
With no direction home 
Like a complete unknown 
Like a rolling stone?" 

Bobby Dylan wasn't singing about our experience in this classic, but it still fits, and the answer is "Feels Pretty Damn Good".   Seeing Dylan with old friends in Amsterdam was cool, (I won't review here, but the band was tight even though much like our ability to understand Dutch, Dylan is pretty incoherent on new songs you are unfamiliar with, but he still blows a mean harp). I doubt there is a better poet/songwriter to represent Amsterdam.

In this beautiful city of canals and narrow buildings, people from all over the globe come here to taste the experience. From the cultural magnificence of the Rijksmuseum and it's architecture and Dutch Masters (the new displays housing the Rembrandts' are stunning) the Van Gogh Museum - a tribute to one of my favorites, or maybe the Hemp or Sex Museums, Amsterdam feeds that need with nearly 100 museums.

To those wanting to party, the bars and "Coffee Houses" (which are not Starbucks as Wanda discovered, but do sell a variety of blends, "Everybody must get stoned") are plentiful and people use Amsterdam as a "party destination" - from UK Bachelor/Bachelorette parties to reunions and assorted gatherings of friends looking to get loose. Summer or Fall, people were having fun. I know we did, and 32 years later it felt like yesterday. Amsterdam has that welcoming feel, accepting of all cultures, religions and beliefs, and it is making new friends everyday. Although with 900,000 people and 1.2 million bikes (crazy bikers rule the streets) I am not sure how many more vagabond/nomads they can accept.

 You have to go here in your lifetime. It is a living breathing work of Art.

I do have one negative comment - and that is about the "Red Light District". It is part of their legalized prostitution, (which has it's pluses including a lower crime rate, the Netherlands is actually closing prisons due to less crime) however, to make it part of your Tourist Maps, and openly and grotesquely market and promote an industry that encourages the sex slave market and denigrating women is wrong. Amsterdam doesn't need it and is the worse for its continuation.


We have visited Amsterdam before, and we didn't come back because it is a culinary Mecca. However, because it is such a diverse city (you can go way back to the Dutch empire and their conquests) there is a global food presence here. I prefer the Indonesian influence more so than all the fried snacks such as the Frikandel, Krokets, and Bitterballen. (Though I loved that fried meat mixture 30 years ago, somehow my tastes have changed or the meat mixture has).

The visit was very special because we were able to spend time with old and new friends. We were invited for food and drink in a wonderful Dutch home - where the entire bottom floor of a 4 story typical Dutch home is the kitchen. (My favorite room!) We were fortunate enough to have Chef Richard Messina who rivaled Martha Stewart for not only a beautifully set table but menus that would make her extremely jealous.  I would also like to congratulate Chef Messina as a new member of "Swine and Dine International"!  A Murano glass pig is coming your way.
(See the Swine and Dine Tab for more info)

We didn't get a chance to steal all the recipes from the meals Chef Messina prepared - but here are the ones where we scraped the bottom of the bowls:

Vegetable Dip: (I've never eaten so many vegetables with a dip like this!) 
1 cup Mayo 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 tablespoon chopped/minced dried onion 
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 tablespoons milk
Mix well, refrigerate and cover. Stir frequently. (The secret ingredient is the ginger!) 

Italian Chocolate Amaretto Torta:  (good luck in the conversions) 
 110g Dark Divine Chocolate
 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur 
110g unsalted butter at room temperature 
110g caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon 
3 large eggs separated 
60g Amaretti biscuits, crushed 
60g plain flour 
Sifted icing sugar, or your favorite canned chocolate frosting, whipped cream, fresh berries to serve 

1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas4
Butter and line a loose-bottom 20cm sandwich tin, then butter again and dust with flour. Put the chocolate and Amaretto in a bowl over a pan of steaming water and leave to melt - do not let the bowl touch the water. Remove from heat, stir and cool. 

2. Put the butter and 110g caster sugar in a bowl, using a wooden spoon or a mixer, beat until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then stir in the cooled chocolate. When thoroughly blended, fold in the crushed biscuits and flour with a metal spoon. 

3. Put the egg whites into a clean, grease-free bowl and whisk until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the remaining 1 tbsp. sugar to make a stiff, glossy meringue, then fold into the cake mixture in 3 batches. 

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until just firm to the touch. Let the Torta cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

5. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream and fresh berries. 

P.S. We are museum people, so if you are here for only a short time - as Rich said the "Don't Miss" museums are the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, and the Tropenmuseum. If you don't get to these museums, then you probably spent too long in the museum below:

Thanks Amsterdam!!