Cheese Churches and Poffertjes
It’s ironic that the 90-year-old-grandma-at-heart chose to visit a party city. Whenever I said I was starting my first adventures in Europe with Amsterdam people assumed I was a partier.
Amsterdam, as most know, offers edibles, clubs with famous techno-DJs, and beer (specifically Heineken). However, I was visiting Amsterdam for its flowers, museums, and desserts.
Traveling to Amsterdam
Luckily I slept during the freezing 5-hour flight from Newark to Iceland. I selected a seat next to the emergency exit of the plane, which meant I paid more for my seat, and would probably die if we had an actual emergency — but that also meant no one sat next to me and I could stretch my legs out completely.
After an hour layover in Iceland (in which I felt very American, eating a blueberry pop-tart out of its shiny silver wrapper), I had an additional 3 hour flight before I touched down in Amsterdam.
Arriving in Amsterdam, Netherlands
I know this is a food blog, and you want to hear about what I ate, but I don’t know when I’ll be back in Europe again, so enjoy my travel thoughts:
As the plane descended to Schiphol Airport, I couldn’t get over how flat everything was. No hills or mountains, we flew over farmland. We landed and drove the runway, seemingly getting a tour of the area — we drove past fields, one tall silver building, a busy road that ran parallel to the runway.
Like in Iceland, we were collected by a shuttle bus on the airport tarmac, and driven to the airport, where I managed to collect my luggage and locate the next Sprinter (train) heading towards Central Station. I needed to get to Sloterdijk.
Amsterdam Public Transportation
I wrote 25 handwritten pages in my journal, detailing Day 1 of my adventures, so I’ll spare you the details.
However, I will say, what Amsterdam does well (and most of Europe, I hear), is their emphasis on sustainability and infrastructure around public transportation.
The train I took towards Sloterdijk was yellow and blue, fast — bringing travelers to Central Station (a main transportation hub) in 30 minutes. The interior of the train was silver with some raised, booth-style (minus the table) seating. It was empty for a Wednesday afternoon.
What I appreciate as a traveler was the small monitors on the right-hand corners of each car. The monitor showed you a vertical timeline of the train stops. The largest bubble at the top of the timeline showed you where you were arriving next, so I had an idea of where I was.
Over The River and Through the Woods…
Station Sloterdijk is where I caught a bus to Bos en Lommerplein. It was a 10 minute bus ride and I was dropped right outside the apartment building for my host’s Airbnb.
I was welcomed and settled in, immediately moving to charge my cell phone and camera, when I realized the chunky, 4-variety converter I borrowed from a friend didn’t include Amsterdam plugs.
Luckily I had my sister’s portable charger, so I plugged my phone in and used my maps to locate the next tram to take to get into the city.
I can’t remember what stop I was trying to take to get “up-town” (FYI, I don’t know geographically if I was really going “up-town” but it sure felt like it, and that’s how I kept my directions in order, so that’s what I’m going to write).
I ended up walking through Hoofdweg’s neighborhoods (the area my Airbnb was in), until I arrived at Marco Polostraat, where I caught a tram to the Anne Frank House stop.
My First Foodie Sighting | Amsterdam Day 1
I stepped off of the tram on my right-hand side of the street. Once it passed, I crossed the street towards a beautiful church.
I adore churches and love to capture their architecture.
This church (according to my research), is Westerkerk or “Western Church,” a reformed Dutch Protestant Church. Wikipedia tells me it was built between 1620-1631. It’s popular for its proximity to the Anne Frank House, interior artwork, and organ.
The Cheese Church
I was wandering the large, paver/brick walkway down the length of the church. There were small stands serving the famous Dutch French fries (called frites or frieten), stands with flowers and post cards, Herring, and more.
I wanted to look at all of the little stalls before I ordered anything. As I was walking down the sidewalk, I noticed an open door in the side of the church.
The bright orange wheels caught my attention. Oh my god, tell me that’s a cheese store. I thought. I had read all about the Dutch cheeses and knew I wanted to try some.
I veered to the right, away from the little stalls to peek into the front window.
I approached the window and saw a woman dressed in traditional Dutch clothing (bonnet, checked apron, and skirt). It’s a cheese church! I was thrilled to find an adorable, quaint shop in the side of the gorgeous church.
I stepped through the doorway. It was like stepping into a narrow closet, horizontally long. The woman greeted me in Dutch. Immediately within my line of vision was the shelves of cheese.
Large blocks of cheese, small triangles of cheese with speckles of herbs and spices. The woman behind the register was slicing thinner slices from a quarter of a wheel.
“Would you like to try some?” She asked in English.
“Please.” Free cheese!
“Garlic.” She added as I took a bite.
You’ve gotta be kidding. The first food I eat in Amsterdam is garlic cheese? Goals.
The cheese texture was creamy, not like brie cause this was a slice, but it was hydrated, unlike Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese. The garlic was not bitter or overpowering the way some horseradish cheeses are. It was a cheese I would eat again.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the name of this cheese (it wasn’t Gouda). I couldn’t order a whole block anyway (being lactose intolerant), I think I would’ve died.
I continued to look around the shelves.
The shelves closest the door had other slices of cheese, accompanied with mustard and jams.
Now that I ate one piece of cheese, I was suddenly hungry. (Considering the last thing I ate was a pop-tart at 1:00 am in Iceland). It was now 3:00 pm and I needed real food.
Adventures For A Real Meal
I was photographing the architecture and streets as I searched for a restaurant with real food. I wandered over canal bridges and past touristy shops.
The above image is as I approached the Magna Plaza shopping center. I turned right down the road horizontal to the shopping center.
The middle of the street widened, separating traffic for easier pedestrian crossing. I passed the large doors of a hotel before turning left and heading towards Dam Square.
But before I made it to the square (having passed several pubs), I decided to stop into a small shop that caught my attention.
I was searching for a real meal (something with protein and vegetables). But the design of this bakery — plus the brightly-colored macaroons in the window, caught my attention.
I stopped and peeked through the doorway. There was a line of people down the length of the bakery. This place must have the pancakes. I thought.
One of my goals for Amsterdam was to try their poffertjes (or little pancakes), and the stroopwafels (two thin, waffley cookies sandwiched together with caramel).
I was last in the doorway, but I saw that “poffertjes” and “stroopwafels” was written on the chalkboard menu.
The couple in front of me was staring at the case of pastries and pondering the coffee menu. I had no idea how to pronounce poffertjes, so I pointed to the menu and said, “12?”
I watched the guy walk down the length of the room, reach into the case and take out a paper container with these quarter-sized pancakes. He handed them to a girl who reached out of my line of vision, underneath the counter (probably to heat them).
“Um, stroopwafels?” I pronounced it as I read it. He pointed behind me towards a built-in shelf. In wicker baskets among decorations were tall sleeves of the stroopwafels.
I thought they make those fresh. I wondered. Deciding not to be ripped off by old stroopwafels, I shook my head.
“Just the poffertjes?” He asked.
“Yes.” I think it came to €5. They handed me the warm paper sleeve of poffertjes, which I brought outside to their small patio.
Poffertjes | €5
I chose to put caramel over my poffertjes. You had the option of Nutella (which seems to be popular in Amsterdam), chocolate syrup, nuts, whipped cream, etc. I didn’t have enough time to study their menu in the moment — to make the best topping decision.
These pancakes were microwaved, so they were warm. But they literally tasted like mini pancakes, with a bit of a crisp on the very edges. I’m not sure what all the hype was about.
My friend who traveled to Amsterdam said she had them from a street cart that made them on-the-spot for the lightest, fluffiest poffertjes she’s ever had. I didn’t see any street food that offered these on their menu, so if you’ve been, comment below with the location! I’d like the most authentic experience the next time I’m there.
I needed a better place to sit and eat the poffertjes. I wandered straight for a few yards before the buildings opened up into Dam Square.
To the left of Madame Tussaud’s was the square. It was a giant, open area filled with tourists taking selfies, musicians, and one dude dressed as an amazingly accurate Captain Jack Sparrow.
The most popular building in Dam Square is The Royal Palace of Amsterdam. This was originally built in the 17th century as Amsterdam’s town hall (since this is the capital of the Netherlands).
In 1808, King Louis Bonaparte changed the town hall into a palace. Today it is used by the King to welcome visitors for State/official events.
End of the Day
I people-watched in Dam Square until I finished my poffertjes. I found a nearby tourist shop where I bought a new phone charger — a two-prong adapter for €10. My phone was at 30%.
I had planned on wandering all the way up to Central Station, but by this point the sun was setting and I wasn’t sure which tram I needed to take back home.
The flower market alongside the canal was open as I walked back towards the Anne Frank House, so I stopped inside.
The ceiling was coated with hanging flowers. Buckets and displays had fall flowers and foliage as well. Only a few tulips were available in bouquets outside the shops. You could also buy the dried tulip bulbs.
French Fries for Dinner
I got off near my Airbnb, by taking the same tram I took before and getting off at Marco Polostraat.
This neighborhood was for the locals. There were hardly any tourists. The buildings on this main road were long, strip-mall style store fronts. I passed a butcher shop, a restaurant called “The Cafeteria” (no thanks), several convenience stores, hair salons, a bakery which sold out of its shelves of bread, etc.
I passed each store, looking for an appealing meal for dinner. Finding none, I figured I could try the buildings closer to the apartment.
As I neared home, it was now dark outside and the temperature was getting colder (mid-to-low 40s). I crossed to the left-hand side of the street, and saw the lights on at one of the shed-style, street food carts.
I approached the slider doors. I peeked over the counter where an older man was crouched, digging into the counter’s cabinets.
“Hello, are you still open?”
“Yes,” He answered. He had an accent but he spoke some English.
“Is this the menu?” I pointed to the three different clipboards in front of me. They were all in Dutch.
“I’m not from around here,” obviously, “so what would you recommend?” I saw the words “croquettes” and “hamburger,” so I figured I would find one thing to eat.
He pulled out the third clipboard: “Here we have chicken skewers, beef, meatball.” He pointed back to the menu with the croquettes, “Potato and veggie.” He pulled out the middle menu and pointed to the burgers, “With cheddar cheese, with BBQ sauce, with onions.”
“Um…” I looked across all three menus: What would be the most authentic Dutch food, which is the least likely to make me sick, if cooked incorrectly?
“I’ll have one croquette. And —” Thinking that one fried potato ball wasn’t going to be enough I decided to go for the skewer, “The meatball,” I pointed to the menu he had referred to. “And an iced tea.” Apparently Amsterdam supports the green-blue bottles of Arizona tea.
My meatballs came with French fries. The man held up two black plastic containers, “Small or large?”
“Sides?” He asked.
Sides? “Um…what do you have?”
I simultaneously thought: Ugh and Oh, that’s what he meant. Mayo is the standard French fry dipping sauce in Amsterdam.
“Do you have ketchup?” I tried.
For the record, I don’t even like ketchup (or any sauces) with my French fries, but I thought “no thanks,” wasn’t an option in this situation.
“Sure.” He answered.
I waited 5 or so minutes for my food. I sat on one of two black picnic benches. When it was ready, I collected my large brown bag, paid, and walked home.
In total my meal was €12. I will spare you the terrible photographs I took from the desk in my Airbnb.
The croquette turned out to be the vegetable one. It seemed to be filled with very smooth, thin potatoes mixed with spinach or broccoli (as it was green). The outside was crisp with a Panko bread-crumby coating.
It wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t homemade or filled with rich or fresh flavors.
I was expecting mini meatballs on a skewer. Especially since the man described chicken skewers and then said beef or meatball, I assumed these would also be skewers.
Instead, I received a softball sized hunk of meat. It was not fried nor had any texture on the outside — just an oil-glistening ball of ground/pureed meat.
It was dense and had very little flavor (sorry, Amsterdam), and after one and a half bites I was overthinking how the experience of eating this meatball was equivalent to how zombies eat organs, so I threw it away.
French Fries for Dinner
That meant, when I opened my small French fry (which was semi-warmed and salted) I was not surprised to find half of my container to be filled with mayo. No ketchup.
I sighed and drank all of my Arizona iced tea. It was lovely.
French fries with mayo? Not a terrible experience, though I wondered in the long-term how that would be for one’s health.
I finished my evening of Day 1 by writing in my journal. I took business call (I know, it’s hard to unplug), and messaged home to let everyone know that I made it safe and sound.
In all, I was happy to have successfully navigated the city. My favorite food from Day 1 in Amsterdam was the cheese shop. I loved photographing the architecture and canal.
I was disappointed in the popular Dutch foods I had tried thus far, but I hoped that for my long Day 2 in Amsterdam, that I would make the most of the restaurant scene.
If you’re ready to read Day 2 in Amsterdam click here!