Vegan Amsterdam, Part Two
One thing that Europe does right is their train stations. Besides being within massive and ornate cathedrals, they are always wide open and airy, contain several flapping pigeons for effect, and are very easy to navigate. Like this here Amsterdam Centraal Station.
Why are they so beautiful? Perhaps because the rails are so much more popular a travel option than in the much larger United States. And so much cheaper. When I purchased my airfare to Paris, I knew my main destination would be Amsterdam. But a plane ticket there was three times the price than to Paris. So I bought a train ticket from Paris to Amsterdam for like 70 euro. Now I was back at the station for quick train ride to Schiphol Airport to pick up the Tulip Express, a bus, to Keukenhof, my bucket list item I came here to conquer.
I have been eyeballing Keukenhof for a few years now. In Lisse, Netherlands, it’s one of the world’s largest flower gardens… with over 7 million flower bulbs. The Spring garden is a huge tourist draw, complete with signage and a special bus route that only operates during the season. I stood in one of those lines you are content to be in, the kind full of people who would stand in line to see a bunch of tulips.
I had been to a tulip festival before many years ago in Washington state. The fields of rows of bloomed tulips left a vivid impression in my brain, even though I was a disgruntled youth at the time. I want to be clear to interested parties that Keukenhof is not that. I thought it was and perhaps do many others. It is neat and pretty displays of bulb varieties. It’s neat, landscaped and maintained. It has walkways that no doubtedly meet some kind of code. It is beautiful, as you will see, but it was the fields of unending tulips that I wanted to get in more. It took some determination and effort, as most worthy things do, but I found a way to get in them. In fact, I was the only one in those fields, as they are not part of Keukenhof’s admission and are guarded with signs marked “privaat.” Whatever that means, har har.
But first, the gardens.
A beautiful variety of daffodils. I love them too. They just seem like cute and happy beings to me. Although these ones seem more complicated.
Big, tall tulips, slightly shy.
These red tulips had almost a fluorescent hue.
Pretty teacup tulips. The kind Willy Wonka would drink from.
Eager for spring to stay. We’re just going to close ourselves till then. Leave us alone.
I call this Bad Wedding Bouquet.
Pink is not my favorite color by a million. But I’ll take a pink tulip any day.
What a mess of tulips this is! I wanted to jump in it, but…
These peony-type tulips are a nice break from the velvet smooth petals that seem to zip together like a change purse. So, don’t put your change in these kinds of tulips.
So there are the fields in the distance. I spied them from the windmill in the picture below this one–a tip from a Dutch Fairy Godmother who was working the side entrance. She took a liking to me, perhaps sensing my enthusiasm and American accent, and let me know when the side gate would open to allow me into the surrounding fields, suggesting I head up to the windmill to develop a strategy of where to hit.
When the side gate open, tulip farmers nodded me through like bouncers at a club. Eager and erratic, I started off without knowing where the heck I was going. I speed-walked through a farm, passing confused cows, and precariously weaved about man-made irrigation canals past equally confused ducks, to see all I wanted to see. Though some drove by and snapped pictures of the beautiful fields, no one entered them. I was all alone in these rows of tulips. It was heavenly. Here are the pictures as I frolicked through the fields.
Two hours later I emerged from the fields–windblown, rained upon, sniffling, elated and with hundreds of pictures.
From boarding the bus back to the airport to stepping off the train at Amsterdam Centraal, it was exactly one hour. On the way back to my room, I stopped at Mannekenpis for some of their “Best in Holland” fries. I found myself on another ‘good company’ line. this time, the kind full of people who would stand in line to eat fries. I was particularly passionate about this place because they offered a vegan mayonnaise to drown them in, as Vincent Vega reports on in Pulp Fiction.
This vegan mayonnaise is a fairly new development. And I was happy to be able to do as the Romans.
A bouquet of deep-fried potatoes after a day of flowers.
After a long day without much sustenance, I was happy to have made a reservation at Betty’s Vegetarisch Restuarant. A vegetarian Amsterdam institution, the small restaurant has been operated by Betty and her partner since 1988. They have no menu. They offer a three-course prix fixe. The no-menu thing is pleasing as it is always a difficult decision to choose one dish when your time is limited to one visit… maybe in a lifetime. For me, a meal while traveling is an opportunity not to squander and it is deliberated upon with great care. Sometimes that puts a bit of pressure on the decision. I was happy to have the experts decide on what to feed me. When it is all-vegan, I’ll take whatever you got.
Betty does the cooking, while her charming husband Lien hosts. Lien passionately explains each dish as he proudly sets them in front of you. This was the first course. The drawback of no menu is that I have no reference of dish components to cross check. I certainly cannot describe these dishes as Lien did. So here are my very basic descriptions to what were three very delicious, flavor-packed dishes with many many components. Left to right: a wonderful potato latke, two pan-fried Trumpet mushrooms, white asparagus with peas and tahini sauce, (my favorite) bean and mint spread which I cannot recall any other detail on other than its fresh, deliciousness, and a sunchoke hummus. Served with slice of airy, fresh bread.
The second course: So many components that I can’t recall! Ugh, I do not like that I cannot do these descriptions justice and that I cannot tag this post appropriately. A special roasted bitter squash, black is it color. A pilaf with saffron and golden raisin. An onion and pine nut chutney. And a lentil curry. The small piles reminded me of Ayurvedic eating with tastes tapping briefly into the 5 elements. Perhaps Lien mentioned that? It is hard to concentrate on what he is saying when these dishes are put in front of you.
Along with that plate was this other, with more delicious Indian-inspired piles: A creamy pepper curry that was my favorite, a bowl of another lentil curry served with a dollop of yogurt, and a delightfully dressed salad of various delicious green things you can probably make out from the picture. Both plates, along with the appetizers, was a lot of food. I did not expect to eat so much and kind of felt obligated to keep eating though I was very full. The intimate setting and service heightens this obligation. Also, between all of these plates there was a lot of protein. Though each was really yummy, a composed, complete and balanced meal might have been easier to eat… and serve.
And as if I wasn’t full enough, dessert! I chose a buttercream layer cake with a cashew-based buttercream to up the level of protein even more. The spiced cake was very good but I probably would have been satiated with the berry compote and cream alone. Betty, you really filled me up. If you plan to reserve with Betty, here are some tips: make a reservation and remember to confirm it; don’t eat anything all day; bring a date–it’s a romantic place with its dim lights, great wine, and sensually described courses; and finally, give the date at least three hours. The food is made fresh and Lien takes great care in his service. In the end, I had to run out without saying goodbye as my Uber driver was waiting. That sounds like some new fangled fairy tale. My Dutch Fairy Godmother turning a bitter squash into an Uber car and I race out in a rush.Overall, Betty’s is the kind of place a vegan food blogger can not pass up. It takes you out of the tourist hub of Amsterdam. A delightful dining experience I was happy to be a part of.
On my final morning in AmsterdamI headed to the all-vegan Dophert for breakfast. This bright and lovely eatery was the perfect final meal in Holland.
Having had the opportunity to sleep in finally, I was long overdue for coffee. This little bitty mug of Americano was not going to do much, but boy was it a dreamy two gulps.
My breakfast: They had a vegan croissant and they had a tofu scramble that came with toast. I subbed the toast for the croissant. It was so good. The light and airy croissant was so delicate, though not very buttery. The scramble was so full of flavor and the side of tangy, creamy mayo and balsamic-coated greens took the taste over the moon. Perfection.
I did not take a picture of the tiny piece of cake my sweet server gave me with my coffee. Its texture was so buoyant and light. I wound up buying a slice of this pound cake in a the lemon poppy seed flavor for the train ride back to Paris. They also had carrot cake and a peanut butter brownie cake. Well done all around, Dophert–whatever that means.
Random Amsterdam fact: Everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam. They are everywhere! Just look…
Rows and rows of them.
Goodbye, Amsterdam. I’m heading back to France.