My first stop on Saturday was the Noordermarkt. I love this organic farmers market, meets clothing market, meets bric-a-brac market. In addition to picking up some cool souvenirs, you could cobble together a meal out of the prepared food items offered -- from pizza to sushi to Vietnamese food. Or, if you have access to a kitchen like I do, you could pick up bread, cheese, vegetables, and even pate and actually cook. But this time, I just chose to wander versus buy (although I did pick up a cute Miffy toy for my niece).
Just beyond the market is a small shop I stumbled upon during my last visit to Amsterdam (circa 2004) -- Delicious Food. And the name says it all. Picture a gourmet food shop lined with bulk dry good containers filled with unusual treats, a variety of olive oils available by weight and even an extensive raw food section. I restrained myself and got a few grams of mixed nuts, another small bag of museli and a container of salad sprinkle to take home (looks like a combination of dried cranberry, dried apple, seeds and nuts to toss with a green salad). From the market area, I meandered down the Prinsengracht and found Pancakes!, a tiny restaurant that got high marks on chowhound.com and on nytimes.com for its many varieties of pancakes. But it was packed, so I continued all the way down to Wagmama. I know, overpriced ramen seems like a cop-out, but I love the chilli chicken and so rarely get to Wagamama, so I went for it. Stuffed, I continued to follow the canal ring to scout out De Waaghals, another highly rated vegetarian restaurant. It is only open for dinner, so I just looked at the menu and made a mental note to go back someday. One block east, I passed the cutest tea shop -- Taart van Mijn Tante. With elaborately decorated styrofoam cakes lining the windows, and mismatched tables and chairs, the shop has a lot of character. But after over 20 minutes of sitting an outdoor table without being waited on, I bailed (this was after I went in and asked if I could sit outside). Tsk, tsk, but to be fair, they were busy. Sad, but still seeking a sweet, I found another patisserie. During my long walk, I noticed several people carying bags from Holtkamp, and figured it must be a local favorite. It was clear the shop was closing by the time I entered, but I did get a slice of the apple tart and another slice of an electric green and pink cake (which ended up being a delicious sponge with strawberry cream. Wish I had gotten two slices of that and passed on the apple). The shop had really nice looking chocolates, which I noticed after I paid. But in the time I entered the shop and paid, no less than five other people had crowded in, so chocolates would have to wait for next time. Despite the sweet treats in my bag, it would be a while before I would sample them. I got the bright idea to drop by the VVV (Tourist Information office) to ask a few questions, and ended up waiting 45 minutes to speak with someone (the VVV staff also help with hotel bookings, and apparently, this is one of the busiest times of the year due to a huge conference going on. Most hotels were fully booked, so I was very lucky to find the accomodations I did, and felt very sorry for those looking for a room last minute). By the time I left, I was exhausted, and in no mood to dine out. The one bright spot during my 45 minutes at the VVV was that I had time to read the September issue of Time Out Amsterdam cover to cover, and noted that Small World Catering, a catering outfit with a small deli storefront, was right around the corner from my flat. So I swung by and picked up a sandwich and salad to go. The store is very small, and in fact the name does not even appear on the awning outside, so it's easy to miss. There are about four seats inside and four outside, so it's more of a grab-and-go kind of place. The sandwiches (I got a tuna melt on cibatta) were huge and at 6.75 euros, enough for two (or two meals). I know the Dutch love their sandwiches, and I have sampled a few broodjies during my visits, and I can definitely say this one was the best. So I set out for home, carrying a huge tuna sandwich, a small container of couscous salad, a container of Greek vegetable salad and two pieces of cake, when I virtually ran into two people coming out of a small shop carying ice cream cones. Despite my load, I could not resist stopping at Jordino for a gelato. For 2 euros, I enjoyed a small scoop of yogurt and a small scoop of a champagne citron flavor. Some people come to Amsterdam to drink. I think I prefer to eat champage flavored gelato. Lest you think I am a complete glutton, no, I did not eat everything in one sitting, or even two for that matter. That's the benefit of staying in a flat with fridge -- I have lots of leftovers to take on the plane home with me. Bet the other passengers will be jealous that I am bringing a taste of Amsterdam home.