A Year In Food

From New York to Costa Rica to Europe to California: 365 Days of Dining Out

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sept. 14.



Amsterdam, Part One - When we arrived in Amsterdam, it was mourning. The sky was a limp grey, the clouds drooped like surrendering shoulders, and a heavy misty drizzle was spraying down. It was far from the bacchanalia I was expecting, but we hopped on the tram and went with the flow. After arriving at the Flying Pig Palace, I dropped off my backpack and headed directly to the Van Gogh Museum (Gogh pronounced like a man clearing his throat). Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists and I had been waiting to visit this museum for a long time. It was of course beautiful and inspiring (though overpriced) and I learned just how heavily influenced he was by Japanese painting.

From there, it was a matter of meeting Amsterdam, even in all of its soggy gloominess. I walked around aimlessly, along the Leidesplein and across the canal bridges. It was amazing in such a different and distinct way, worlds apart from the romantic designs of the Romance countries. Here, the predominant color was brown and beige and the houses were low and shy. (Interestingly, even as so many windows faced the street, almost none had curtains to cover them.) From my initial views, Amsterdam seemed quite enchanting, but of course, it wasn't without its other side too. There were practically more souvenir shops than people. The city was teeming with American and Australian kind, to the point where English had become the default language. And for a place with such a liberal stance toward sex and drugs, it also seemed caught up in flaunting them, like a friend's parents who brag to everyone about how permissive they are. Also, with so many seedy coffee shops lining the streets, the smell of weed was a constant and looming presence.

That smell must've built up our appetities at least, because by six, Vince and I were both ravenous. The obvious choice was our old favorite from Barcelona, Maoz Falafel, which originated and has the most outposts in Amsterdam. One was quite close to our hostel thankfully, so we both ordered a falafel grosse and dove into the salad bar fix-ins. Again, the choices were surprisingly healthy and thoughtful and the fried chickpea balls were better than should be expected from a franchise. I made so many return trips to stuff some more parsley-laced tabouli or butter pickles into the pita that I thought we might get kicked off. But alas, Amsterdam is a city invested in sin, and Maoz is one gluttonous temptation that there's no need to resist.

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