Monday, October 16, 2006

Amsterdam, Part IV: The Quest for Bittenballen

On Saturday, we rounded out a long day of walking around the city with a few stops into cafes for sustenance. We were determined to try bittenballen, a kind of fried meatball that’s the Dutch bar-food equivalent of jalapeno poppers or wings. At our first stop, we had the requisite Heineken, bittenballen, some Dutch cheese, and some olives (though Spain definitely does olives better). At the next charming café—they seemed to be everywhere—we had only Heineken. We’d been in the Jordaan, and we then wandered back to the canal area, thinking we’d get tickets to a movie. Instead, we found ourselves craving more bittenballen. What followed was a long, arduous search for the perfect café in which to spend the rest of our evening. There were lots of cafes, but not all had bittenballen; not all had the vibrant crowd we were looking for; not all seemed quintessentially Dutch. We peeked into café after café; an hour passed, maybe more. Finally, we found a café that met our requirements, more or less—most importantly, more bittenballen.

On Sunday, we wandered around the city a bit more, and even saw some of the marathon (our purpose for being there—but an injury forced Andrew to forgo the running). The day was cold—not the crisp fall temperature we’d been enjoying, but actually cold—and we took refuge in the Heineken Experience, a tour/marketing extravaganza in what used to be the Heineken brewery in Amsterdam. The history of the company was interesting; more interesting was when we filed into a room with other visitors and a voice announced, “You know what goes into a Heineken beer bottle. But what does it feel like to be a beer bottle?” We then watched what happens to bottles in a bottling plant from the perspective of a beer bottle. The tour ended with beer. Then we went to get more bittenballen. And then—sadly—it was time to go home.

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