by Donna Manz
To think, I’ve been eating “snert” my whole life and never realized it. Come to think of it, I’ve also eaten my own mix of “hodgepodge,” as well, and never really thought of it as a “dish” or recipe.
A three-day trip to friendly, vibrant, gorgeous Amsterdam re-ignited my passion for comfort food, and snert and hodgepodge ranked high on the list.
When I travel, I keep my objectives to a minimum; I love to find things I didn’t know existed. Among the few objectives I did have in Amsterdam, though, was a visit to the Anne Frank House, cruising along some of the city’s 1,600 canals and, most importantly, eating authentic regional “Dutch” food.
Regional Dutch food is readily available everywhere in Amsterdam. Snert, known to us as pea soup; hodgepodge, a mixture of mashed potatoes and vegetables with a hunk of meat (sauerkraut-mashed potatoes are delicious); and the omnipresent Dutch pancake, light, egg-y and usually filled with something, are specialties of many a local restaurant.
The Dutch, like other Europeans and myself, like their coffee strong, and there are coffee shops everywhere. Just beware: some “coffee shops” sell more than coffee (you’ll be able to tell which is which by the aromas emanating from the place).
Leidseplein, the pedestrian square that is party-central, characterizes the joie de vivre of the city or, as the Dutch would say, its gezelligheid. The plein, on Leidsestraat, and its many side streets hold dozens and dozens of restaurants featuring global cuisine, and as many bars. If you long for Argentinian beef, the areas around Leidseplein are the place to go.
Pancake houses pop up everywhere. The Pancake Corner, at the Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 51 (just off the Leidseplein) is known for its diverse selection of platter-sized crepe-like pancakes, from sweet to savory. Try the apple cinnamon with whipped cream or the apple-raisin pannenkoeken. It’s worth every calorie and fat molecule. The restaurant’s grilled chicken dishes are popular with patrons, as well.
I ordered snert at several different places, but, it was at De Blauwe Hollander (The Blue Dutchman) at Leidsekruisstraat 28, that I ate the richest, heartiest, most bacon-laden snert of all of them. De Blauwe Hollander was also the only place I found hodgepodge this time of the year. Other restaurants referred to hodgepodge as a “winter” dish, but in Amsterdam, winter does come early.
La Place, a chain of 150 restaurants in the Netherlands, hosts a food court in V & D department stores, as well as stand-alone buildings. It’s unique in that the restaurant is made up of food stations, from hot and cold sandwiches, to soups, salads, desserts and pizza. If you’re looking for grilled steak, you choose your raw meat and a station chef cooks it up in front of you. Snert is on the menu, and, when colder weather comes, hodgepodge will be, as well.
Amsterdam has more than 50 museums, some traditional, some kitschy, some simply unique. I’m not familiar with any other city in the world with three medieval torture museums.
Where else but in Amsterdam would you find a houseboat museum? There are over a thousand legally registered houseboats in Amsterdam, most decorated with potted plants and patio seating. Along the
Prinsengracht (“gracht” is canal) in the Jordaan district, between the Leidseplein and the Anne Frank House, is a houseboat museum and a tulip museum.
In regard to those world-famous Dutch tulips, you can buy a package of ten tulip bulbs certified for shipping to the U.S. for €4.50 (about $6 at this writing). There’s a health certificate attached to bulbs that are permitted to legally enter the United States. Don’t buy the certified bulbs at the airport; you’ll pay twice the price or more. The sellers at the floating flower market are helpful and friendly and we purchased several packages. There are tram stops near the Bloemenmarkt but it’s an easy ten-minute walk to the market from the Leidseplein. If you walk, you’ll pass by some of the city’s French fries shops; try some with a specialty sauce.
Amsterdam’s extensive network of trolley routes offers all the transportation options a visitor to Amsterdam needs. It’s safe, clean and inexpensive, and I did not hesitate to use it late in the evening.
We bought the 24-hour pass for €7.50 and more than got our money’s worth. You can also buy a one-way one-hour ticket.
Resident passengers never fail to come to your aid when you forget to press the stop button or swipe your exit pass, or drop coins. But beware that tram route # 5, which is frequently filled with tourists, draws pickpockets. I used # 5 extensively and never witnessed a problem of any kind, but be alert to your surroundings.
I’m planning on a cold-weather visit to Amsterdam to tour the revitalized Rijksmuseum and many other museums, watch the city’s residents bicycle in the snow and, most likely, replace those all tulip bulbs I’ve managed to kill. And, of course, to fill up on the city’s comfort foods.
Catch you on the #5 tram.
If you go:
Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
215 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10003
Tel: (212) 370-7360