Ok - diet over (sort of)! Now I can tell you all about what led us to it in the first place...our European travels (and everything we ate along the way).
Our trip started in Oldenburg, Germany, a small town about two hours from Amsterdam (West) and Hamburg (East). I didn't spend a lot of time here but caught up with Brett at the tail end of a work trip, after he'd already figured out where to eat (and drink). On my list of things to try were Spaetzle and Schnitzel. Both were a great success! Brett's German colleagues directed us to a local "Schnitzel hotspot", which in Oldenburg, was a basement bar "bustling" with about 8 visiting Canadians. Maybe it was an off night. I was seriously exhausted from my sixteen hours of travel so I skipped photos and tried not to fall asleep in my beer instead. Schnitzel verdict: worth a repeat!
The next night, I made my Spaetzle wish come true when we stumbled upon a place that featured it on their menu. Success! Also, Oldenburg was home to the largest "pint" I had ever seen. This 1L glass made my ordinary beer look teensy in comparison.
Also worth a mention is a dumpling-esque traditional German dish called Germknödel, which I didn't get to try, but was very popular with all of the visiting Canadians in Brett's office. This followed an odd event called a Kohlfahrt, which I have to admit I'm very sorry that I missed. A drunken Kale-themed walk in the woods makes for an excellent adventure. Next time, Germany. Next time.
On to Amsterdam!
I had a list as long as my arm of things I wanted to eat in Amsterdam since this was a return trip for me, and a first trip for Brett. Broodje haring! Rijstaffel! Maoz Falafel (why can't we have one in Canada already?!), pannakoeken, frites, Dutch craft beer, licorice drups, stroopwaffels, Gouda, and the list goes on. But first! Poffertjes! I first became addicted to these puffy miniature pancakes drenched in powdered sugar and butter (no syrup, please) when I visited Amsterdam for the first time in 2006. So delicious and so cheap, and you'll find them at small stands throughout the city. I briefly thought about how to smuggle a poffertje pan into my carry-on but it'll have to wait for next time.
Next on the list - rijstaffel! I had read excellent reviews about Restaurant Blauw, and even though it was a little bit outside the city centre, it seemed worth the trek to avoid the touristy restos. Blauw it did not disappoint. If you're not familiar with Rijstaffel, it's essentially a multi-dish, family style indonesian meal. Ours were vegetarian (and SOOO good) though you can also get meat or fish versions depending on your preferences. A server brings somewhere between 10 and 15 dishes to your table, with a hot plate to keep some dishes warm, paired nicely with their cooler counterparts and a few rice options. Our meal at Blauw included caramelized potato chips (think Hickory Sticks but sticky and 100% more delicious), some beautiful indonesian curries, and deep fried bananas. It was unbelievably delicious. Brett was skeptical at first, but it didn't take long for him to become a fan.
In addition to the food we were seeking out, we had a few surprise finds that made me very happy, like these open-faced sandwiches from Vlaamsch Broodhuys. Dutch Gouda is far superior to North American Gouda. Also: open-faced sandwiches. This needs to be the new food trend. Who wants to open an open-faced sandwich shop with me?
After Amsterdam, and our fill of Maoz falafel, Albert Heijn smoothies, and tiny cans of Heineken (and a tour of the Heineken Brewery), we moved on to our next stop -- Gent, Belgium. Home of many many Belgian beers, and the birthplace of the Belgian Waffle. We had to go to Max's for waffles, natch, though Brett skipped the waffles and settled on apple fritters, belgian style. I couldn't resist the classic waffle instead, with just a simple dusting of powdered sugar. North American waffles can't hold a candle to these light, crunchy airy treats.
There's also a great frites and fried food culture in Gent, including an accidental discovery - De Frietketel (below), where the frites are veggie friendly. In fact, the whole city was pretty veg-friendly, including this fascinating Ghent veggieplan - map that shows you everything from Veg-friendly restaurants to hotels and more. Gent was so great -- we'll definitely be going back again.
As we made our way across the city, we discovered a couple of local treats, starting with these Gent Noses and ending in Teirenteyn-Verlent Mustard, which is so special and secret they won't tell you what's in it, and it's only available in one tiny shop in the middle of town. I'm sending my parents back for some more later this summer.
We arrived in Paris late in the day, having hopped on a train from Luxembourg (the only food of note were the Brie Nuggets from - of all places - McDo, which we couldn't resist buying on a lark. Luxembourg food verdict? Keep moving.). We were starving, and after checking in to our Paris AirBnB, we headed south in the 3eme to L'as du Falafel, which is, of course, an ESSENTIAL Paris stop. It was the only line I stood in in Paris that was absolutely worth it. While I prefer a Maoz Falafel for its freshness, this was an experience. And delicious, too!
Paris was really where the eating got serious. Two doors from our apartment was an organic wine bar. And their cheese selection looked like this:
I fell in love with Les Hauts & Les Bas Chinon in this place, and drank it steadily until the wee hours of the night before we left. It appears to be impossible to get here in Canada, so now I'm sad I didn't smuggle it into my luggage for the return trip (especially since this wine bar conveniently sold bottles, too).
Aside from the wine, Paris was a parade of sweets. Giant meringues as big as dinner plates, mille feuille and tartes au caramel at Jacques Genin (swoon!), Macarons géant (so large!), mulled wine, delices aux framboises at Carette, croissants au beurre, pain au chocolat, and so much else. By the end of the trip, coming home to a diet was starting to seem a bit exciting. ;)
This post wouldn't be complete without a little shout-out to Pierre's (La Pierre du Marais) on rue de bretagne, our adopted corner espresso bar in the 3eme. After just two visits, we were regulars for the rest of our stay, cozying up to the bar for a déca pour moi, and a regular shot for brett. The bar was the best spot to catch a glimpse of regular every day life in Paris, though it was warm enough to linger on the terrasse outside as well. People grabbing a quick café en route to the office, paired with a croissant, or in some cases, a glass of rosé (if you were our regular bar stool neighbour) to get the day going. North America has got coffee culture all wrong. I'll take Pierre's over a Bridgehead *every* day.