Friday, October 29, 2010


When it's cold out (50s, but a 20+ degree drop from yesterday) and there's a lot of work to be done on a Friday, that sadly calls for a lunch close to the office. Fortunately there was a new place (opened this month) called Cafe Jia a block from the office and I went over to check it out.

I figured it would be like the generic midtown deli (sandwich, salad, hot/cold bar) but I ventured in to see if anything would inspire me and well, I was cold (so cold that my hands were shaky!).

Toward the back I saw the teppanyaki section. I was intrigued by it, and also my subconscious was probably thinking about warm grills and fires. After surveying the other options and ruling out tacos (sigh, addiction), I decided on teppanyaki. One big factor was that the grill looked very clean. This is something I definitely pay attention to when ordering something like this because of my broccoli allergy and its incomprehensible prevalence in Asian cooking.

For one meat plus 4 veggies (plus sauce and either rice/noodles), it's $7.75. I got chicken with string beans, vidalia onions, shiitake mushrooms and red and green peppers. I tried for asparagus and snap peas but they appeared to have run out of a lot of stuff. The chef told me that a lot of people had come through earlier in the day and apologized for being out of so many things. Also, he only had white rice left (I was hoping for brown, but oh well). It's OK with me -- at least there's good turnover.

I watched him cook the chicken, add the veggies and then add the rice. For some reason I thought the rice would be on the bottom of the bowl and then the protein and veggies would just be on top, not mixed together, but more mixing was fine with me. At the end, he added a combination of the white shallot oyster sauce and the garlic teriyaki sauce (his recommendation was to mix them).

It's pretty good! It's filling, it feels healthy (although with all the oil that goes into teppanyaki it's probably not), it has veggies (half the time at lunch where I go is dictated by the fact that I want some form of vegetables), it's cooked on the spot, they give you a lot of food. And even better - today hibachi was 50% off, so lunch cost me less than $5! For that entire bowl of tasty food. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I have passed by Toasties a few times before on 49th Street but haven't gone in because of the crowds. Not a big fan of long lines. But today there was only a small crowd at lunchtime so I ventured inside.

My first thought was that it was very much like Lenny's (knockoff?). There's a section for a pick your ingredient salad. There's a spot to order your sandwich and a different spot to pay. There's the sandwich counter and next to it, a separate area for hot entrees (with hot sandwich options). The layout was just very similar. Some of their sandwiches also sounded remarkably similar to sandwiches we've gotten at Lenny's. The prices are in the same range too - about $7-9 for a sandwich.

So I got something different from my Lenny's standby (C1, whole wheat roll, no capers) - a hot sandwich called the Union Square.

After opening the sandwich, the size seemed a little smaller than the average Lenny's sandwich I get (but since I only get the C1 these days, I don't remember the sizes of other sandwiches there). But it ended up being pretty filling. Also, the flavor of the sandwich was really good and all the ingredients mixed together well. So I was satisfied with it.

The Union Square close-up:

The sandwich consists of grilled cracked pepper turkey with melted monterey pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, romaine lettuce and dijon mustard. I love mustard and it was a good mustard. I would get this sandwich again. It's relatively simple and with the ingredients, I could probably make this at home (although they wouldn't be grilled onions). But since I don't have a panini grill at work to make it myself, and since sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them, I'll be back to Toasties.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Today for lunch I took a short walk to Crisp for some much-craved falafel.

I went to Crisp a lot over the summer when they had good coupon deals. $5 sandwiches? Yes please! Unfortunately I don't think there's going to be many coupons for the general public anymore because they have moved to a VIP program where you pay for a loyalty card. I suppose if you go there all the time it could be worth it, but I don't think it's worth it for me for a few reasons. First, I can't guarantee I'd go often enough to make it worth it since we have so many in-house lunches and there are so many options in midtown. Second, most of the new discounts are conditioned on buying drinks and I don't buy drinks with lunch, so it wouldn't be of much help for me!

The Crisp sandwiches are served in special boxes where you "unzip" the middle to create a "handbag" for your sandwich. I ordered the Crisp Africa sandwich, which is my favorite of the bunch. The sandwich today looked completely different from both sides so here's a look at both sides:

It comes loaded with veggies (corn salad, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, green onions) and nice sized falafel, and accompanied with a North African peanut sauce and habanero harissa sauce. The sandwich can sometimes be a little spicy, and just generally, is really good. I like most of the "creative" combinations because they're different from the falafel you can get at most places and make Crisp unique.

I attempted to go through the entire sandwich menu during the summer but out of the 8, I only got through 5. There's also hummus platters with sides but I like the way it all gets mixed together in the sandwiches better. If you're looking for a different take on the falafel sandwich, check out Crisp. Good flavors, good price, healthy lunch (or dinner).

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bird Thai

After following Rick Steves' walking tour of the Red Light District, it was time for dinner. The RLD isn't too far from Amsterdam's Chinatown, which we started wandering around. One of the places on our list was Bird Thai which was really 2 different restaurants - the actual Bird Thai restaurant and the sister Snackbar across the street. I was hoping to try the Snackbar since it was a little less formal and cheaper but it was packed when we got there. Luckily the wait wasn't too long but still allowed me to take a few photos while we waited.

There's A at the door of the Snackbar

We were seated at the counter instead of a table but that was perfect because of the great people-watching. We also got to watch the garbage trucks and the street cleaners in action. The guys from the garbage vehicle were tossing the bags in like it was a game. It was amusing.

One great thing about getting Thai food in Amsterdam was that even though the menu was in Dutch, it was also written in anglicized Thai. Therefore, we were able to recognize certain dishes because we knew their Thai names! Excellent! (It should be noted that the menus were also in English, but the Thai names gave us more "meaning.") I knew our love of Thai food and our constant visiting and ordering from Thai restaurants would pay off.

First, we ordered "lap kai" which we usually write out as "larb gai". The Dutch for this was "fijngehakte pikante kipschotel." It came with a plate of white rice, which we only see here at a few places. I actually really like larb gai with rice. It brings out even more flavors. It was really tasty and not overly spicy. A little expensive at 10 euro (it's usually about $7-9 at home), but it was good.

Next, we got the "kou pad kai" which was fried rice with chicken. In Dutch, it's "gebakken rijst met kipfilet." (I may have mentioned before that I love seeing the Dutch names for food, right?) The fried rice was really good.

Last, we got the "kai pad krapau" or chicken with basil leaves and peppers. This was really really good. It's hard to remember exactly since it's been so long, but I think this may have been our favorite dish. (Dutch: "kipfilet met basilicum en pepers")

We also got iced tea, this time it was a can of Lipton.

Not only were we sitting at the counter, but we were sitting on stools in the corner, so we were able to inconspicuously set up our gorillapod and take a picture of ourselves at dinner!

I would recommend Bird Thai for a nice Thai meal, especially if you have just gone sightseeing at the Red Light District. The Snackbar is nice and casual, and the food is good too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Snack Time

During the afternoon of our third day in Amsterdam, we had lots of snacks and drinks, all things we couldn't get at home. (At least that's what we thought at the time.)

First, we stopped in to the cafe at the Van Gogh Museum after our visit and tried this drink:

It was nice and refreshing, not too sweet, with a raspberry flavor. It was also carbonated, which was a surprise to us.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Albert Heijn. We got a couple of 100% fruit drinks:

The one I picked out (on the left) was a combination of apple, pear and raspberry. A picked out the other, which was called "summer juice", a combination of pear and cherry. We must have picked correctly, because we each preferred the one we picked out.

Then it was time to dig into the stroopwafels we bought the other day:

They were so good. Kind of rich and sweet, but such a tasty snack. We wanted more (but figured they weren't too healthy). A couple of weeks ago we were at Trader Joe's and were so happy when we discovered mini stroopwafels there (called "delicious caramel bites"). But they tasted different, which really disappointed me. The ones in Holland were so much crisper, the caramel didn't pull, it was just a perfectly textured wafer snack. I just checked and they are made by the same company with all the same ingredients! As A was saying to me, it must be something in the transportation from Holland to the US that loses some of the awesomeness (kind of like how Heineken tastes better and less bitter in Holland than it does here). I guess we should have bought some stroopwafels there to take home!

B+B Lunchroom

We needed to grab a quick lunch between our visits to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, and walked around a bit looking for a restaurant. We passed one place on our researched list but it was an Indonesian place and we had just gone for rijsttafel the night before so we wanted to see what else there was. We wandered over toward Leidseplein (an area with a lot of restaurants) but stopped earlier when we saw a collection of restaurants in Max Euweplein.

There was a Hard Rock Cafe (but we can get that anywhere), an Irish pub (maybe), a Wagamama (we were interested but it was kind of expensive for Asian food) and a place called B&B Lunchroom which served sandwiches, baked goods and other snacks.

They had some seats inside but it was a gorgeous day so we sat at one of the outdoor tables and spent lunch people-watching and just enjoying the weather and being on vacation.

M got the spicy chicken sandwich which consisted of gemarineerde kip (marinated chicken), tomaat (tomato), sla (lettuce), komkommer (cucumber) and pikante saus (piri piri sauce), and apple juice.

The sauce was a little messy (and sticky). It was a little bit spicy but also kind of sweet. It was a good sandwich, not the best I've had but decent.

A got the Dutch style hamburger. It consists of huisgemaakte hamburger (homemade hamburger), salade (lettuce), tomaat (tomato), komkommer (cucumber), rode ui (red onion), gebakken ei (fried egg), kaas (cheese), mayonaise (mayonnaise) and bacon (bacon, obviously).

It was tasty but unhealthy (look at the ingredients!).

Our conclusion on the lunchroom is that it was good for what we were looking for - a casual lunch spot with pretty good food. It's a good place to go if you're in the area, but we wouldn't go out of our way to come back. Probably a better option than the other food choices in that little area. The prices were really decent too, which was refreshing. There were some other sandwich places we wanted to try but ran out of time, so we can't really compare about Dutch sandwiches. Next time!


So, did I get tacos for the third day in a row?

Well, I did get lunch from Chipotle...

... but I got a burrito bowl. I was hungry and they don't give you that much in the tacos. One hour earlier and I might have gotten tacos again.

I got a chicken burrito bowl with rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, chicken, tomato salsa, medium tomatillo salsa, corn salsa, cheese and lettuce. Yum. I don't usually get the medium salsa but I thought I'd try it this time to see if it added anything. It added a little spice which was nice. I think I shall add it from now on! I love the burrito bowls because they're so full of veggies. Makes me feel like it's healthy! At least I know it does well on the color diet. Ha.

Pietersma Snacks

So at Albert Cuyp Markt we chanced upon a little snack stand at the end of the block. As chance would have it (okay, we knew it was actually there) it was a fry stand :)

Pietersma Snacks!

We were most likely the guy's first customers since it was barely 11am when we got to his stand. But hey, this was our pre-lunch! Yes, we're fat, so what?!

What to choose, what to choose...

Golden, double fried thick cut potatoes. But what toppings to put on this set of crispy deliciousness? Since we got the "special" of curry ketchup, mayo, and onions with our first set of fries we opted for the more traditional topping of just mayo. We're not sure what it is about the mayo in Holland, but it's a whole lot better than what we have here in the states.

Hey, it's tradition


Overall we still thought the fries from Vlaamse were better, but that could have been a product of the toppings. That doesn't mean these were bad fries, though. Far from it. In fact, I don't think we ever had any "bad" fries while on our European excursion.

I always look so happy with bad-for-you food

Taco Treat

If I haven't already mentioned it, I love tacos. I had tacos yesterday and tacos today, and could eat tacos tomorrow. Love tacos. (If I could add any more emphasis to that, I would.)

I mentioned this on our personal blog, but I had a really rough day today (starting last night). I was barely able to walk when I woke up and when I was walking, it was really painful. I went for physical therapy twice today, got help from my chiropractor and it turns out I have piriformis problems/sciatica. Yay. Significantly better right now, but still in pain.

All of this to explain that I couldn't move a lot. A was awesome and brought me lunch from Schnipper's. Chicken tacos!

The chicken tacos are 2 corn tortillas filled with grilled chicken, shredded romaine, green onions, pico de gallo, cheddar, guacamole, chipotle dressing and crema.

I love the tacos at Schnipper's. They only had fish tacos in the beginning but then they introduced the chicken tacos. They're both great, but lately, I seem to be getting the chicken more often. The tacos are full of flavor and packed with stuff, so they're filling too. This was the perfect pick-me-up on a rough day. Thanks A!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


One of the snacks we had at the Albert Cuyp Markt was poffertjes. Poffertjes are small fluffy Dutch pancakes with a spongey texture. They usually come with powdered sugar and butter.

I think there was only one place selling poffertjes at the market that day:

When we first got to the market, they didn't have any ready (it was on the early side). So we decided we would try again on the way back through the market since poffertjes were definitely something we wanted to try.

Another great thing about poffertjes - they're cheap! The snack only cost us 2 euro.

We watched them making more poffertjes. First, you fill the pans with the batter:

Keep checking them to make sure they're done:

When they're ready, pick them out and dust them with sugar:

And then you get a tasty treat like this:

Here's another look so you can see how they are in size:

The poffertjes were a great snack. Since our next stop after the market was to the art museums in Museumplein, it was just filling enough (with the fries we had) to keep us full until lunch. The Dutch are known for their pancakes - more on our favorite pancakes still to come!

Albert Cuyp Markt

We began our third day in Amsterdam with a visit to the Albert Cuyp Markt. It's an outdoor market that extends for a few blocks in the De Pijp neighborhood and has been around for years. The market is there everyday except Sundays, and offers both retail items (like clothes) and food. They also have stands for prepared food and other restaurants on the block.

We were really excited to go to Albert Cuyp Markt because we love visiting markets, especially farmers markets. We also heard there might be some free samples. Sure enough, we got to sample some cheese which was excellent.

Here's a brief look around the market:

Lots of fruit including these tiny strawberries

Lots of fresh colorful veggies

Multiple cheese vendors giving out free samples and slicing cheese in front of you... Dutch cheese is great

Interesting chocolate concoctions

The clothing ranged from t-shirts to ... more "colorful" clothing

While at the market, we also tried fries and mini-pancakes. Those posts are coming up next!


I had Pizza by Certe yesterday and catering from Certe today. Funny how that happened.

We had a continuing ed class over lunch and I checked (as I always do) beforehand to see what boring sandwiches we would be getting this time. I was super excited when I saw that we were getting the Mexican catering from Certe. Woohoo! The Mexican and Middle Eastern catering choices from Certe are some of my favorites!

Since there were a lot of people around, I snuck over to an empty area and took a picture of my plate. There's a crunchy ground beef taco topped with tomatoes and a soft chicken fajita taco, along with some refried black beans (at least I think that's what it is), guacamole, corn salad, tomatoes and cheese. Yum. I also had some raspberries and blackberries for dessert, but the Mexican food was far more exciting and I don't have a picture of the fruit.

I love taco bars. Why can't we always have this instead of boring sandwiches?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pizza by Certe

I finally made it over to Pizza by Certe for the first time today. I was over on the east side looking for the Korilla truck, but they had already sold out by the time I got there. Pizza by Certe was on the next block, and I decided to try it while I had the opportunity. I had been interested in going for awhile since they are an "environmentally friendly" pizza place but I had never gotten around to it.

There was a guy outside giving out pizza samples. I think the one I got was the chicken sausage pizza. It was really tasty, but I wasn't sure if I was in the mood for pizza. After much deliberation, I decided to go with the chicken parm sandwich.

The sandwich was good. Not as good as some of the sandwiches I've had from the sister restaurant Certe or other chicken parmigiana sandwiches I've had. I think maybe it's because there was a lot less sauce. I like sauce. It was more of a "healthy" sandwich if you could ever call chicken parm healthy. Also, the bread was really flaky/crispy/crunchy (but not hard to bite). It left crumbs all over my desk, but was a nice balance to the inside of the sandwich.

I'm not sure when I'll be going here next, but one reason is that it's kind of a long walk for me (about a mile). But I'm glad I was in the area and had time to stop in. Next time maybe I'll try the pizza. The combinations on the menu sound great and the sample I had was good. Perhaps I should have gone with pizza today, after all it's in the name of the place!

Fall Bounties Pt 2

Pumpkin goodness continues Monday night. M was working late, and we couldn't figure out what to do for dinner. Eventually we decided on Chipotle, and M offered to get it on her way home. I get a phone call seconds after hanging up with her. "Do you want Shake Shack instead? There's no line right now."

See here for what you can't figure out what my answer was.

The burger was good as always, the cheese fries were good as always, and M enjoyed her Second City Bird Dog as always. Today's custard flavor? Pumpkin Pie. Seriously, I love fall so very much.

I Love Fall

The flavor was a lot milder than I was expecting. Good cinnamon and pumpkin spice flavor, but not as sweet. The difference between a less sweet beer vs a less sweet custard is that you'd expect the custard to be sweeter. I like it a lot since I love the pumpkin spice flavor overall, but I was a little disappointed that it was milder in sweetness.

Pumpkin Pie
A's rating: 8.5/10
M's rating: 9/10

Fall Bounties Pt 1

Fall is M's and my favorite season. The weather gets nice and cool, the leaves change colors, and Oktoberfest and fall harvest beers start coming out everywhere.

So Saturday M and I went out for a friend's birthday. We went up to Astoria and met everyone out at Studio Square. It's a beer garden, but they have a large indoor space as well that was quite comfortable. I was quite excited because Studio Square had a full complement of Oktoberfests on tap, and they had Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. I started out by getting a pitcher of Hofbrau Oktoberfest since I love Oktoberfests, and Hofbrau consistently makes a good one every year.

A big reason I like Hofbrau is because of the sweetness of the caramelized malt. That's one of the defining traits of Oktoberfests, and Hofbrau really just does it well. Throughout the night people got many different pitchers. We went through Sam Adams Coastal Wheat, Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, and Spaten Oktoberfest. Then someone went and got the aforementioned Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. OH MY GOD. It was like heaven in my mouth.

If you like pumpkin pie, you will love Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale. It's not as sweet as a real pumpkin pie, but you taste all of the spices and flavors found in one, and just a hint of sweetness to finish it off. It's one of the most amazing beers I have ever drank, and I drank a whole lot (probably too much) of it. At some point M convinced me to leave behind my new favorite beer ever and go home. Thinking back on it, that decision was probably the right one. I really didn't need any more. I'll just have to look for it in the stores now so I can enjoy them here at home.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Rijsttafel. One of our "must-have" meals in Amsterdam. The word translates to "rice table" and consists of a number of dishes in small portions served with rice.

We decided to go to Blauw for rijsttafel, partly because we were sure it would be open on a Sunday. We had read about how it was a tasty place for a more modern rijsttafel and thought it would be a good place for our first one.

We had never had a full rijsttafel meal before and were really looking forward to it. There's only one Indonesian restaurant in our area and we had some small assortment dinners before, but a full rijsttafel was new to us. We knew the Netherlands was known for their Indonesian food (generally and rijsttafel in particular), so we had to try it!

The restaurant was away from the main tourist areas which was nice because it allowed us to see more of Amsterdam. We took the tram and then walked along the bottom of Vondelpark before arriving at the restaurant. (We suppose they need to advertise that they are airconditioned? We never quite figured out why.)

We started out with iced tea. Sparkling lemon iced tea seems to be the way people like their iced tea in Amsterdam.

Next, they gave us free shrimp chips with 2 sauces (sambal?). It's like chips and salsa, Indonesian style. Did we mention our love for shrimp chips?

(A brief note about the menus: they were nicely designed and came with mini book lights to help you read! How awesome!)

The rijsttafel came with 2 kinds of rice - plain white rice (not pictured) and a fried rice with egg and vegetables.

The first rijsttafel dishes that came were the ones that didn't have to be put on the heater on the table:

Then we got the 6 meat dishes that had to be on the heater:

The rijsttafel came with the following dishes (translating the best that we can with a wikipedia guide and google translate - if any of the translations are wrong, please tell us!):

  • Ikan blauw (some kind of fish dish)
  • Ikan blado (a different fish dish)
  • Daging pedas (spicy beef)
  • Daging koenjit (tumeric beef)
  • Babi ketjap (pork belly in sweet soy sauce)
  • Sate ayam (chicken satay)
  • Sate kambing (goat satay)
  • Sajoer lodeh (spicy vegetable stew in coconut milk)
  • Gado gado (vegetables in peanut sauce)
  • Prekedel (meat and potato patties)
  • Sambal goreng telor (fried eggs?)
  • Sambal goreng kentang (fried potato sambal)
  • Tahoe ketoprak (tofu with vegetables)
  • Atjar ketimun (cucumber salad)
  • Pisang goreng (banana fritters)
  • Seroendeng (coconut and peanuts)
  • Kropoek (shrimp crackers)

Then for dessert we got es ketan hitam, black rice pudding with pandan ice cream and coconut milk:

The plate looked so pretty!

It was a very successful first rijsttafel experience. We loved the variety and complexity of the flavors of all of the dishes and wanted to try more. It's too hard to choose a favorite dish out of the medley of dishes, but it was a delicious feast!