Greetings from Bologna

Have you ever been to Bologna? No? You should one fine day. Beautiful architecture, people and food, sì sì, the FOOD. For a taste of it Al Ninèn in Amsterdam is your ultimate alternative. This small takeaway/shop/trattoria is specialized in the food of Bologna and other parts of the Regione Emilia-Romagna. The cook prepares pasta dishes on the spot, including one recipe from his home town Bologna: tagliatelle bolognese. By using simple ingredients – the freshest tagliatelle, minced pork, salsiccia, carrots, onion, tomatoes, shrub celery – he surprised me with one hell of a dish: pure, rich and sooo Italian. It’s just impossible not to love the food at this friendly and very well-stocked place. From the cured meat and the wine to the olive oil and chocolates – creamy Majani! – everything comes straight out of Italy. Except for one thing: the mozzarella. This cheese goes by the brand name of Orobianco and is made in Opende (Groningen). I dare to say that this is the best mozzarella on earth: rich, creamy and full of taste. Eat it to believe it.

Al Ninèn
Tagliatelle bolognese, one small portion, €8.00
Westerstraat 77, City Centre (Jordaan)
+31 (0) 20 223 65 68
Opening hours: Monday 10am-8pm, Wednesday-Friday 11am-8pm, Saturday 10am-8pm, Sunday 11am-8pm

The Cod Fathers

Mario Alfons started cooking at Amsterdam institution Cox. After jobs at West Pacific, Pont 13 and an Indonesian restaurant in Miami, he is eager to complete his mission: he wants Amsterdam to rediscover Dutch-Indonesian cuisine. His weapons are home-made dishes based on pure ingredients, sometimes adding a funky twist – try his atjar of beetroot. Mario’s firm fish cookies made of potatoes, spring onion, cod and chilli pepper, served with a fresh sweet-sour sauce, are another excellent blend of Dutch and Indonesian flavours. Add white rice and spicy Brussels sprouts and your dinner is almost ready. Complete it with his dessert of black rice porridge and coconut. Since January these delicacies are available at the restaurant and take-away Mario runs with his wife: Kannibalen en Paradijsvogels (Cannibals and Birds of Paradise), named after the book travel writer Krarup Nielsen wrote about Dutch New Guinea, a pretty rough area of Indonesia. Mario, who is an avid traveller, has visited this island and many other parts of Indonesia, such as the Maluku Islands where family of his father lives. In the future he will probably be serving some Moluccan dishes too, such as papeda, a type of porridge, but first things first: his mission, remember?

Kannibalen en Paradijsvogels
Dutch-Indonesian fish cookies, one portion, €5.50
Van der Pekstraat 91, North
+31 (0) 20 370 00 348
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday 11am-9pm (kitchen opens at 5pm)

Champagne Couture

By car it only takes about five hours to get from Amsterdam to Reims and arrive in champagne wonderland. Mat en I go there quite often to score champagne for modest prices. We used to spread bottles amongst our friends, but not anymore. Each time we visited them and brought champagne with us, we were asked: ‘Why? Did you buy a house/when is the wedding/did you find a new job/new assigment?’ It was depressing to repeatedly say ‘no’. It felt like nothing positive happened in our lives. The Dutch only drink champagne on special occasions, whereas the French drink it anytime, anyplace and anywhere. Love the French for that. I think there’s no such thing as a bad day to have champagne or a gateau with that exquisite sparkling wine. Je vous présente: a Moët et Chandon-raspberry masterpiece – champagne mousse outside, raspberries inside – created by Huize van Wely. This prestigious patisserie is all about class and quality. Obviously the champagne collection – pastry, cake, chocolate – doesn’t come cheap. But the return on your investment is magnifique.

Huize van Wely
Champagne-raspberry pastry, one, €4.25
Beethovenstraat 72, South. Other Amsterdam branch: Gelderlandplein 173
+31 (0) 20 662 20 09
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 9.30am-6pm, Saturday 8.30-5pm

Babi Babe

I loved pork long before hipsters did. To my Dutch-Indonesian family pork is just as desirable as caviar is to the rich and famous. My mother used to make the best sate babi on earth: juicy pieces of marinated pork grilled to supremacy. Served with a dip of soy sauce, garlic and onions. Disastrous to your breath, but finger-licking good. Her babi ketjap, ultra tender chunks of pork in a soy sauce with fresh ginger, is pretty unforgettable too. I say: babi rocks. At Happyhappyjoyjoy the cooks are well aware of that very important fact. They put pork in their dumplings with shrimp and their lotus leaves filled with shrimp and sticky rice. However, I think the ultimate pork dish at this vivid Asian street food spot of celebrity chef Julius Jaspers is the slowly braised pork belly with five spices: cinnamon, star anise, fennel seed, Szechuan pepper and cloves. A refined five-star pork that will make your heart melt.

Happyhappyjoyjoy
Five-spice pork, one portion, €7.00
Bilderdijkstraat 158 HS, West
+31 (0) 20 344 64 33
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday noon-1am, Friday-Saturday noon-2am