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Category: Food (page 1 of 4)

In Food: Aeropress makes espresso with the best of them

While currently I am in the process of making a tasty coffee via the well-established and highly effective (if not very fast) “drip method,” I cannot recommend the Aeropress enough. At my last work, we had an old Italian coffee machine that may have cost 15,000 euro new (one of those bar-mounted full-service devices you see at Starbucks). The makers of that machine will be shocked that I can reproduce coffee as well-tasting in something that costs about 0.2% of those machines: a good 30 euro, including filters.

The Aeropress can best be described as syringe that you fill up with coffee powder and water and use to press out freshly brewed coffee. However, if you know what a French Press is, the Aeropress is basically a more modern version of that, faster and easier to clean.

There are several reasons to use an Aeropress:

  • Compact: you could transport that thing in your jacket pocket and make your own coffee at work.
  • Fast: you’ll have a well-tasting espresso in under 2 minutes.
  • Tasty: comparable taste to the big machines.
  • Cheap: 30 euro, price of coffee not included.
  • Creative: I use the inverted brewing method, however just check out the countless information on the web about the different ways to make coffee with this one.

 

 

 

 

In Food: The Scandinavian Embassy in Amsterdam

After finding many overbooked places in De Pijp in Amsterdam, we finally stumbled across the Scandinavian Embassy at De Pijp in Amsterdam. It has a classic wooden feel, complete with goat’s horns hung on the wall and a red bicycle in the backyard.

But the food was what made it stand out. From pretty much the perfect carrot-apple-with-a-touch-of-lemon juice (the coffee was good too!), to a delicious two course meal and as the desert… a blueberry pie to die for—I’m going to try to reproduce it, starting with this one.

I liked that it was not too full, compared to the several other “hip” places we stumbled across in the quartier, and feel a little guilty for advertising it here. But hey, if you couldn’t handle a little traffic, you wouldn’t open a business in Amsterdam!

Very much recommended, if you like Scandinavian cuisine.

 

 

In Food: that apple-fennel combo & reinventing the happy meal

I wrote about Gartine in Amsterdam before—best brunch in town. Last weekend they introduced me to a new jam flavor: Apple & fennel. It’s so crazy that it just might did work.

I tried to make it work tonight as well, but as a side fish to a home made burger menu.

The nice thing about McDonalds is all the happy memories you had as a kid, and which provide inspiration for healthy alternatives. In this case:

  1. Burger: chicken, cheddar, egg, oil, spices ground together. Fried as a thin layer with some added pieces of cheddar melted on top.
  2. Apple, fennel, and leek side dish: steamed to a pulp, with some hot pepper added into it.
  3. Serve in a pitta, add mustard & ketchup. Vegetable crisps optional.

The delicious part was the contrasts between the flavors. I also very much like the idea of subverting fast food into healthier dishes. In a future post, I will try to write about subsersive alternatives to fast / junk food.

In Food: Paviljoen Smit-Bokum in Volendam, NL

I’m only mentioning this one because the rest of this city is so touristy. A local 150-year old restaurant, with a nice view on the harbor and some authentic fish dishes. They smoke their own fish and I loved the smoked mackerel on rye bread. Well, a good place to eat if you’re in the neighborhood anyway.

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In Food: Try this Roasted Fennel with Orange & Mint Salad

I love this picture, but what I love more is the contrast between the fennel & the rest of the dish. I think it was meant to be a winter salad, but it’s perfect on a rainy August day as well. Full recipe on mynewroots.org, I expect it’s not the last one I’ll use from there.

In Food: Le Vieux Jean Restaurant in Delft, The Netherlands

This is a quickie review as it was a really short visit, but definitely deserves a follow-up visit and review. The city of Delft is a tiny city, but quite popular with tourists due to it’s heritage as being a royal town. There are similarities to Brugge in Belgium, a city that I didn’t like very much (kind of a historical Disney World, visit the neighbouring city of Ghent instead), as you can perhaps recognise from the below picture.

photo

 

But I don’t want to write about Delft perse, just to say that it’s a nice place to spend a day in and enjoy the second best ice-cream in the Netherlands.

Le Vieux Jean is situated right next to a cute little square with cafes on it and opposite a church. Sadly, you cannot sit outside, instead it’s a tiny little place with two floors and an open kitchen. We were greeted by the owner and the atmosphere was friendly, but a little fancy as well. They speak a little French too, but not as much as the name or the terms in the menu suggest. English is no problem, however.

They typically serve three- or four-course menus priced at an acceptable 35 a 45 euro, as well as individual dishes, the main ones being in the meat or fish area. My girlfriend took a grilled fish, which was delicious, I had a lamb dish, equally as good. A nice touch was being offered small potatoes fried in butter as an option with my meal. I always judge my food according to French standards, because my companion is French and that region and Scandinavia are where my favourite restaurants are located. Le Vieux Jean passed with flying colours.

We sadly had to rush out due to scheduling reasons, but I’m impatient to return and try their full menu!

In food / restaurants: slow food at The Fleischerei in Berlin

This restaurant was really a treat and should be on the itinerary of any traveller to / through Berlin. The name Fleischerei (Butcher in English) would suggest something very meat-laden, but the menu was instead refined and rather light. I had a slow cooked veal with mashed parsnip (and potato), a herbal sauce, and various steamed roots. Very light, very delicate, and delicious. My partner had pretty much the best Wiener Schnitzel I’ve ever tasted, a potato salad with yoghurt dressing, French fries, and something else that I forgot. Also very light.

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The desert was, on the one hand, a warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream. And on the other hand, various (delicious!) yoghurt creams as well as one (amazing!) myrtle sorbet ice-cream.

The decor was that of a butchers (surprise), but very clean. The staff was discrete and in some cases strongly tattooed, which fit right in.

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On the whole, my favourite restaurant in Berlin, so far!

In Food: My favourite Punchfork (RIP) recipes, preserved for eternity

vincentvw’s Liked Recipes

1. Cinnamon Roll Pancakes (Recipe Girl)

2. Ratatouille’s Ratatouille (Smitten Kitchen)

3. Guinness Chocolate Cheesecake (Closet Cooking)

4. Double Broccoli Quinoa (101 Cookbooks)

5. Roasted Tomato Soup (Sprouted Kitchen)

6. Pastor Ryan’s Bolognese Sauce (The Pioneer Woman)

7. Perfect Blueberry Muffins (Smitten Kitchen)

8. Braised Coconut Spinach & Chickpeas with Lemon (The Kitchn)

9. No Bake Raspberry-Lemon Cheesecake (My Baking Addiction)

10. Lemon Blueberry Pancakes (The Pioneer Woman)

11. Quinoa Salad Recipe with Pears, Baby Spinach and Chick Peas in a Maple Vinaigrette (Gluten Free Goddess)

12. Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame (Smitten Kitchen)

13. Blueberry Yogurt Multigrain Pancakes (Smitten Kitchen)

14. Zucchini and Spinach Gratin (Simply Recipes)

15. Guinness Chocolate Pudding (Closet Cooking)

16. Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado (Skinny Taste)

17. Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Hot Dogs (Simply Recipes)

18. Italian Meatballs (Simply Recipes)

19. Gazpacho (Simply Recipes)

20. Spicy Lentil Wraps with Tahini Sauce (The Kitchn)

21. Banana Pancakes I (Allrecipes)

22. Carrot-Thyme Soup with Cream (The Pioneer Woman)

23. Summer Hoedown (Chow)

24. Sausage and Lentil Soup (My Baking Addiction)

25. Skinny Yet Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup (Skinny Taste)

26. Spinach Gratin with Hard Boiled Eggs (Simply Recipes)

27. Thai Chicken Pizza with Sweet Chili Sauce (Closet Cooking)

28. Sicilian-Inspired Blood Orange Salad (The Kitchn)

29. Whole-Grain Pancake Recipe with Blueberry Maple Syrup (101 Cookbooks)

30. Winter Vegetable Soup with Butternut Squash and Cauliflower (Cookin’ Canuck)

31. Sweet and Spicy Roasted Carrots, Parsnips, and Chickpeas (The Kitchn)

32. Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes (Allrecipes)

33. Vegan Picadillo Lentil Stew with Peppers and Green Olives (Kalyn’s Kitchen)

34. Vegetarian Mushroom Stew with Red Bell Pepper, Onion, and Paprika (Kalyn’s Kitchen)

35. Lemon Meringue Ice Cream Pie (Sprouted Kitchen)

36. Stone Fruits with Ginger-Lime Syrup and Mint (Serious Eats)

37. Ancho Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Slaw and Avocado Cream (Serious Eats)

38. Lebanese-style Stuffed Eggplant (Smitten Kitchen)

39. Easy Quinoa and Summer Vegetable Stir-Fry (Gluten Free Goddess)

40. Stuffed Red Peppers with Quinoa and Provolone (iVillage)

41. Grilled Eggplant, Grape Tomato, and Feta Salad with Amazing Basil, Parsley, and Caper Sauce (Kalyn’s Kitchen)

42. Jambalaya (Cookstr)

43. Pressure Cooker Vegan Black Bean Chili (Chow)

44. Chocolate Tart with Pine Nuts (Leite’s Culinaria)

45. Mint Flavored Minced Meat Kebab/Rolls (eCurry)

46. Chickpea Stew with Eggplants, Tomatoes, and Peppers (Serious Eats)

47. Tomato Salad with Fresh Herbs and a Balsamic Reduction (For the Love of Cooking)

48. Lebanese Tabbouleh (Epicurious)

49. Nancy Silverton’s Breakfast Sandwich (Serious Eats)

50. Provencal Lentil Zucchini Soup (Serious Eats)

51. Pear, Pistachio, and Parsnip Soup (Serious Eats)

52. Lamb Moussaka (Greek Lamb, Potato, and Eggplant Casserole) (Serious Eats)

53. Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy (Martha Stewart)

54. Tortilla Soup with Fried Pasilla Chiles (Serious Eats)

55. Linguine with Celery Root Cream, Apples, and Pancetta (Serious Eats)

56. Grilled Kofta with Zucchini Sauce (Global Table Adventure)

57. Hungarian Goulash Soup (Cookstr)

58. Simple Ricotta Cheesecake (Food Republic)

59. S’mores for the Indoors (Serious Eats)

60. Chicken and Pork Seekh Kebabs (Martha Stewart)

In Food: Try this gluten-free, dairy-free chocolate cake

I came across this in the Evernote Food app, which lead me to this site with the recipe, and also to a book that this was sourced from.

First of all, easy-peasy to make, it took just about 20 minutes + time in the fridge (accelerate it by putting it in the freezer for an hour).

Second of all, delicious, very similar to mousse au chocolat, but without eggs.

Third of all, healthy, as there’s no dough involved and good for the lactose-intolerant among us. It mentions Graham crackers, but the method does not actually involve them, rather it reproduces a similar effect.

I didn’t change the recipe on the site, but would suggest losing very little salt as it quickly turns too salty. It does bring out the flavours however.

Check out the book here:

The Paleo Chocolate Lovers’ Cookbook: 80 Gluten-Free Treats for Breakfast & Dessert

In Food: Have a burger at Sävel in Helsinki, Finland

In short: good, friendly service, order at the bar, British pub vibe, great sekection of ales and beer, with recommendations for every meal on the menu, and the burgers have just the right mix of substance and sogginess, accompanied by done seriously hot chillie fries. A good place for a simply good burger in Heldinki! Check out their site here: http://www.kallionsavel.fi/

In Food: Sfäär Restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia

Don’t miss this one (http://www.sfaar.ee/) if you’re there! I think it’s actually in some ways a better restaurant than Chef & Sommelier in Helsinki (my review: http://favourits.blogspot.com/2013/10/in-food-chef-sommelier-in-helsinki.html?m=0), but also a fitting complement to it.  Yesterday, we ate white fish & paste made out of Jerusalem artichoke, and another paste made out of carrots and (perhaps) honey, which was amazing and very similar to a course served at C & S, as well as another dish consisting of pork, gratin, and baked apple in a delicious plum sauce. All noted for inspired future home cooking! 

Truth be told, C & S served all excellent courses, and his just happened to be a competing one, but if you, like us, go to both Helsinki & Tallinn on your trip, don’t miss visiting both restaurants. 

In Food: Chef & Sommelier Restaurant in Helsinki, Finland

I like restaurants where the menu consists solely of individual ingredients and you don’t quite know the outcome. Typically someone (skilled) comes up to you and says: “I got these two ingredients and I will use them to make something special for you.” That’s what C & S (http://chefetsommelier.fi/en/) was like. 

The four-course menu, which can also be three- to nine-course was selected from a handwritten menu and was presented in a two-ingredient format. I won’t bother recounting the exact ingredients, except that it was predominantly root-based, fitting the autum season. They change the menu every 8 weeks, but it wouldn’t surprise me that if I came back tomorrow, my two-ingredient dish would look and taste different. It’s the mystery that I love, along with the unique combinations, and the excellent service, without it feeling to rigid or posh. 
I will mention one dish though that was entirely special, because it was a traditional dish assembled from entirely different ingredients. It resembled pasta with parmeggiano, but it was arctic turnip rasped into a thick pasta shape, cooked, and sprinkled with sage. Rich in flavours and very, very good (I wish I could reproduce it at home, but like my lobster cappuccino in Iceland (review: http://favourits.blogspot.com/2013/09/in-food-lobster-cappuccino-at-fririk-v.html?m=0I probably never will…).
Great place to visit in Finland!

In Food: Leek – Sesame Soup at Gartine, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Ok, Gartine is probably my favourite place in the Netherlands right now, let alone Amsterdam. Amazing, delicate brunch, amazing, delicious high-tea, best jam that you can buy all around. Today, I had a Leek – Sesame soup for high tea, which was … too die for. It had a creamy texture with very subtle green flavours. 

So, I tried to replicate it. It wasn’t a success, in the sense of it being the same, but for an experiment, it was still pretty good. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 leeks, the white and light green parts washed & chopped
  • about 4 large potatoes
  • a thumb of ginger (you can omit this, it’s too strong a flavour)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • slightly more than a teaspoon of dill
  • (lemon) salt & pepper
  • vegetable bouillon about 2 cups
  • ca. 1/5 cup (2 table spoons) of sesame seeds
  • half a cup of cream – semi-skimmed
  • a table spoon of mustard
Steps:
  1. I started with frying the leeks in the pan, for about 2 min, or until they turned very slightly brown
  2. I then added the potatoes, (skip the) ginger, garlic, dill, salt, pepper, and bouillon.
  3. Let the whole thing simmer for ca. 20 min or until the potato is tender enough
  4. After 20 min, add the sesame seeds and cream (I actually fried the sesame seeds just prior to this, without oil, in a pan)
  5. I added the mustard for flavour
  6. Food process the whole thing, but not too strong, make it rough in texture.
Voila. It was delicious, would’ve been better without the ginger, but I’m happy with the attempt. PS, did I mention that you should visit Gartine? 🙂

In Food: Flan di Zucca (Pumpkin Flan) at La Zucca Restaurant in Venice,Italy

This is an incredibly hard dish to make. The most difficult is the texture–this is my perhaps 7th attempt at making it and I got it wrong two times.

Tip 1: Don’t use the food processor before cooking it. You can ruin the texture and taste by doing that. Tonight’s version looked like scrambled eggs. At other times, because the pieces of pumpkin I chop are too large, before I mash it with a fork, the outcome is more of a post-bombardment-like flattened mess, though it does taste a LOT better!

Tip 2: Spicing. So far, I think you can make it with either nutmeg & mint, or with anise. Either however has drastically different flavouring outcomes. 
The biggest deal is the uncertainty, caused by the many Italian interpretations of this recipe out there, and the many possible Google translate errors causing you to mistake butter of cream or nutmeg for youdontwanttoknow…

So, why is this one of my favourites? It’s simply an amazing texture and taste (when you get it right). I would recommend using this recipe, which uses nutmeg & mint, but perhaps switching it up with anise if you want a different flavour (though I wouldn’t recommend food processing it before).

It’s never going to look as good as what I had in Venice, I would definitely recommend visiting the La Zucca Restaurant for the authentic taste, not to mention all the other vegetarian food they make.

In Food: Lobster Cappuccino at the FRIÐRIK V restaurant in Reykjavik, Iceland

This one is a bit of a back flash to June of this year, but is still worth a note. I had tears welling up during a 3 course / beer tasting meal at FRIDRIK V, and this “Lobster Cappuccino” was the absolute top, along with some very good local Ales. I can’t tell you the recipe, it had lobster, cream, quite some salt, all in a tiny cup. Worth a visit on your next visit to Reykjavik!

Oh, and I just saw that the restaurant lists a number of recipes on their site. The food was brilliant, cook it at home! 

In Food: Greena Colada Smoothie at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro in Los Angeles, CA

Ingredients from the website: Coconut milk, banana, pineapple, spinach, kale. That was a $9 shake but totally, and utterly worth it. On a 33 degree Celsius day (that’s 91.5 Fahrenheit), it kept me fed for well over 4 hours.
In the absence of being in LA right now (very cool city), I’m going to try making this at home ASAP.
Oh, and it looked something like this:

In Food: BEAR FLAG BURRITO at Bear Flag Fish Company in Newport Beach, CA

How do I best describe this in one word: “Mmmmmmmmmh”.

I should just leave it at that, right? Let’s talk a little more about what made this work. I think it was the simple combination of having a white fish (yellow tail?) with cajun spicing, and avocado. I’ve never tasted anything quite as delicious in a while.

Ingredients mentioned on the restaurant menu: Grilled Fish of the Day, served with rice, black beans, avocado, chop lettuce, Pico De Gallo & Tommy Sauce. In the absence of being on Newport Beach, California, surfing the sunshine, try this at home! 🙂

Newport Beach, California, September 2013

Food on a system-level

food crisis.jpgTake a look at this quote, which I posted a few days ago:

There should be a rule: before helping the environment in one market, we should be required to think through the impacts on other markets.” (source: Freakonomics blog).

Or, to put it differently, every action has a (sometimes equal) reaction (I think the traditional phrasing ignores the human element). The idea that everything is interconnected is both fun to right-brained generalists like me (not a compliment), and scary at the same time. The global economy is very complex and, I would say, impossible to regulate.

There’s a couple of things going on the world, which I’m sure everyone is aware of. There’s a number of wars, there’s the weakened dollar, there’s some kind of housing-related recession going on, there’s a shortage of oil, our planet is perceived as suffering and currently being saved (I hope), there’s India and China, the rise of the Anglo-Saxon system, etc. etc.

And some of the biggest problems facing the food-industry (depending where you are in the chain), are rising food-prices, which relates to that oil-shortage (both in terms of pricing, but also because of alternative fuels using farm-products), the rise of India and China, and some other factors; and the costs of keeping green, which has largely been inspired by companies like Wal-Mart, but also by the (exaggerated) need for global diversity by customers (which the food-industry is also partially to blame for).

The solutions vary, and are, so far, very defensive in their nature. For the cost of going green, most pollution comes from transport and the solution is to either use the most eco-friendly way to go: on land, by train, across water, by ship; or to go local—which companies like Marqt seem to focus on, but which also comes with the pitfall of seasonal shortage.

For rising food-prices, again one solution is to go local, to save on transport and have some control over how farmers work, and be able to charge higher prices to the rising local-conscious consumer. But a bigger solution is for more food-production to happen (much of it currently goes to India & China, or to biofuels), and possibly from smaller farmers. The problem here is that it will take time (some estimate decades) for smaller farmers to get ready.

Both are definitely big picture-problems, and will take time to solve. One thing, I’m personally looking at, are micro-lending sites like Kiva.org, which put you into contact with local farmers, allowing you to help them out in your own way. From a Venture Voice interview with one of the founders, I understand that some of these investments happen within the context of a community, where each member keeps watch over the other’s use and repayment of the funds, in order to ensure a good outcome, and so loans will continue to come in. But, while I think it’s well worth the effort, this is still a small-picture solution to a much larger problem.

The way it looks right now, the solutions have to be planned in the long-term and on a large scale. There is definitely space in the farming-segment for more production to happen. In the mean time, food-prices will continue rise, as will the price of educating consumers to make more responsible choices. I like Tesco’s approach in labelling the origins of their food and allowing people to make more carbon-friendly (locally focussed) decisions. But that doesn’t solve the problem for farmers in remote areas of course.

Sigh, if you just got a headache, I sympathise, as I just got one too.

Further reading:

The picture is courtesy of ABC News.

The Dutch horeca top-100

I’ve included just the top-25 and annotated their focus. What’s interesting, but not surprising, is that the majority of companies in that list are not independent horeca-orientated, apart from two: Hennie van der Most and Sjoerd Kooistra, both Dutch horeca-entrepreneurs.

The majority is hotel-chains, though the top-10 is quite diverse; a number of convenience-(fast)food places, resorts, as well as retailers. Interesting that both Ikea and Hema are on that list. Hema, as far as I know, has not been on the horeca-market for long (no revenue reported in 2006), but is already reaping significant successes. Probably my favourite retailer in the Netherlands, btw. Ikea, as I reported before, has been in the restaurant-business since 1971.

Misset Horeca - Complete ranglijst Misset Horeca Top-100 2008.jpg

You can see the complete top-100 at Misset Horeca.

Cookerlude – thoughts on cooking

chef!.jpgI’m thinking about adding another “interlude” to my collection, inspired by ADD without a doubt. It’s the cookerlude, baby, aimed at collecting thoughts and notes on cooking in order not to forget and to better understand the world that a cook goes through. While I cook nearly every day, I don’t consider myself a good cook. I simply don’t have the taste-buds for it; but I do love the good food, which, luckily, my gut no longer shows!

I recently discovered a podcast, called/by The Restaurant Guys, which, apart from the insanely long commercials, actually seems quite interesting and is funny enough to keep my attention. Some notes.

Salt: So, we seem to have this internal taste-meter for the stuff, which in some ways is tied to the percentage of salt in salt-water. At the same time, our saliva actually dilutes salt in food, reducing it, meaning there should be a higher percentage in food than salt-water, for us to enjoy it.

Sugar: apparently there’s no set limit for that, people love sugar (I must be the exception).

Salt + Sugar: whenever you make a sugary desert, adding a little(!) salt helps the taste; apparently they do funny stuff to each-other in your mouth, a party in your mouth, so to speak.

Taste-enhancers: apart from the above, olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, tomato-paste, alcohol (and much more) enhances the taste in your mouth.

Pretty basic, no? You can listen to the whole episode on what (American) people like in their food, here.

My own world
(This is where I talk a little about what I discovered myself in regard to cooking. Pretty basic too, so I’ll try not to embarrass myself.)
I’m a big fan of salads, I make and eat one nearly every day as a meal. I often use canned tuna, but I recently discovered salmon in a can, which tastes better, is less salty, healthier, and costs about the same here in the Netherlands.

But steamed salmon is the best. You can get an expensive steamer, but a cheap solution is a microwave-steamer. I found one in a Chinese store for about €10, you can steam whatever you want in 5-10 mins and it magnifies the taste. Add some green beans and carrots, and you got a great salad for a meal! Add some potatoes or rice, and you won’t need the salad.

Last, but not least, sometimes, not always,Ketchup actually makes for an interesting dressing (together with some oil and spices). It often contains vinegar, which salads like, and the tomato mixes well with the salmon-taste.

That’s about it for today, I’m not sure how often I’ll repeat these cookerludes, but I hope you enjoyed it! The picture is of course of Chef!, the show.

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