After leaving Koh-I-Noor, we walked south toward the Heineken Experience, which we learned had apparently sold their last ticket 15 minutes earlier. So, we turned around and walked to the Holland Casino in Leidesplein. After staying only an hour, we decided to return to our apartment and finish packing for our flight home the next morning. We walked slowly back to the apartment, enjoying every moment of our final evening walk of this trip.
Orange confetti gathered in corners where building met street, kicked to the side by celebrators’ feet. By dawn the next morning, the confetti existed only as a memory in the hearts and photographs of those present for the festivities.
The welcoming tinkle of a bell announced our arrival. The staff warmly greeted us, offering a choice among their few remaining tables. We chose to sit by the window to get a better view of the street. Candles crowned the tops of tables adorned in burgundy tablecloths and white napkins. Spiced aromas of unknown goodness filled the room while people sitting at various tables shared colorful food and entertained each other with conversation.
The atmosphere has consistently remained the same throughout our past experiences at Koh-I-Noor, which gives me comfort in knowing what to expect. Within moments, the friendly server appeared.
“Good Afternoon,” he said with a smile. He took our drink order, then asked us if we had previously visited the restaurant in October (2016).
“Yes,” I replied, happy he remembered us. “Good memory!”
“Vegetable Korma? Garlic Naan?” He asked, repeating my order from six months earlier.
“I cannot believe you remember,” I replied, extremely impressed with his memory. “Yes, that’s exactly what I would like, thank you.” .
“Shahi Paneer for you, sir?” He asked, turning to Kurt.
“Perfect,” Kurt said. “Thank you.”
Neither of us could believe he had actually remembered. He returned shortly with our wine, a Riesling from the Alsace region of France, a crispy type of sesame bread and two silver bowls of sauce for it.
The red sauce tasted sweet with a slight amount of heat, while the white sauce had more heat and tasted like green onions and cream. The candle-lamp on our table flickered beneath its glass dome, seeming never to burn away its wax. The candlelight illuminated my glass of wine as I took a sip. It tasted crisp, clean and refreshing – a perfect complement to our upcoming meal.
Our server returned with small candles and a warming tray. He placed the lit candles and tray in the center of our table, then brought a plate of rice, salad and our two meals.
The food, as always, smelled heavenly. It makes me wish I could photograph a smell.
The creamy, rich aroma of the korma intermingled with the tangy shahi sauce. Without a moment more of waiting, we divided the rice between us and took small servings of the main dishes so they would remain hot.
The first taste makes all life’s troubles seem to melt away. They have found the secret to achieving the perfect amount of spice and creaminess to their dishes. Cooked to perfection, the potatoes, carrots and peas in yellow-orange korma sauce and red-orange sauce of the tangy tomato shahi with white squares of soft paneer cheese combined to create an extraordinary flavor indescribable to those who have never tasted it. We used the last pieces of soft Garlic Naan to scoop up any remaining sauce.
The experience seemed to end as quickly as it began, for within 20 minutes, we finished all food in front of us. Feeling full and satisfied, we paid our bill, said goodbye to our server and set out to enjoy the remainder of King’s Day and our final evening in Amsterdam until we return in June.
Stories of a countrywide birthday party for the Dutch monarch have intrigued me for years. The idea of an entire nation mutually celebrating their leader’s birth really seems like a nice strategy to unite the people. I cannot imagine citizens of the United States jovially participating in any sort of birthday party for any politician.
I had heard rumors of crowds wearing orange, city-wide rummage sales and public intoxication. However, nothing could have prepared me for the actual experience.
Morning. Within the first few moments of consciousness, we could already hear muffled music coming from all ends of the city. I opened the window and stepped out onto the balcony. The music suddenly grew louder; I could hear it coming from everywhere. The Dutch flag flew proudly from the spire of the Westerkerk in celebration of King Willem-Alexander’s birth.
I went back inside to our front window, which overlooked Laurierstraat. People joyfully paraded down the street brandishing bottles of beer or cider and wearing black jackets with orange accessories. Some wore orange hats or shirts, while others wore feathered orange boas. Down the street, a band played rock songs in both Dutch and English.
We emerged from the apartment into the festivities below with no real destination in mind. Turning from our street onto Prinsengracht, we suddenly encountered a sea of people. A bridge ahead of us had some sort of message written in white, so we waded our way through the crowd until we found ourselves standing on it. The message read: Re-Vest Life. Apparently, they built the sign with life vests used by immigrants going to Europe.
People in boats displaying the Dutch flag floated under the canal where we stood, as a variety of music, singing and dancing came from aboard each skiff. People smiled and waved to each other, regardless of any cultural differences. The reason to celebrate united everyone under its one common goal of happiness.
We walked toward Dam Square to see the Palace. It seemed as though music played from every corner of the city. No matter where we turned, crowds had gathered to listen. As we approached Dam Square, the streets began to resemble a massive rummage sale.
Racks of clothing, purses and souvenirs lined the street as stores and citizens alike displayed their wares, hoping passerby saw something that caught their eye. Something definitely caught my eye, but not an item. A large crowd had gathered around a performance I could not see. As I approached, I saw a man covered in raw eggs preparing to fist-fight any egg thrown his way. People in the crowd purchased eggs to throw. Most missed him, but a few actually made their target.
After watching for a few minutes, we began to aimlessly stroll through the vast array of commodities until hunger finally overpowered us. Thankfully, Koh-I-Noor, a favorite Indian restaurant of ours since 2014, stood down the street, its dark red sign drawing us in. Without saying a word, we smiled at each other and headed toward their welcoming door.
One night after we left the casino, we started walking back to the apartment. Suddenly, a foreboding green glow came from a sign hovering above a doorway as our path immediately diverted into the entrance of an open Starbucks. I do not drink Starbucks in the United States, but have discovered that in Europe, their coffee tastes much better. However, I forgot that they can sometimes make it different, too.
I ordered us each a flat white with an extra espresso shot, expecting them to have as much milk as the drinks back at home. The barista complimented my name, telling me that she named the main character Meghan in a story she wrote. When they announced our drinks, we both looked at each other in alarm, for the size of the drink they gave each of us seemed so small, we wondered how they fit any milk into it with the four espresso shots. With some sugar, I didn’t mind it too much. It tasted like one of the strongest cups of coffee I ever tried. However, Kurt looked sick. “I’m getting a white mocha,” he said with pale annoyance. “Do you want one, too?” I agreed and waited at a table for him to return. He came back a few minutes later with two drinks that tasted a lot more like what we expected. We stayed until they began putting chairs on the tables, a sure sign they had closed. We had no real destination, so we decided to walk back to the apartment with the sole purpose of enjoying the lovely scenery. Warmed and caffeinated, we faced the night with liquid courage of a different kind.
Casinos around the world seem to not just function as a business, but they also serve as an oasis for the late-night wanderer in search of a future more exciting than sleep. Like moths to the moon, the bright lights and bells of a casino draw in these nocturnal optimists without regard for their plans of tomorrow.
The time neared midnight, yet we still wanted to stay awake. After all, our time in this city would not last forever. We started walking toward the casino amid the still-busy streets of Amsterdam. The streetlamps illuminated our path as we made our way into the night, finally arriving at our destination.
We first entered a room with multi-colored lighting and a coat check. Before they allowed us to enter the casino, they requested us to show them our passports and to pay a small entrance fee (We later discovered that signing up for a loyalty card waived that fee). The small glass door swung open, granting us access to the entire casino. A ramp led to an upper level, which we visited in 2014. At that time, that part of the casino had table games, such as roulette and blackjack. It also had a ceiling accented with muted, multi-colored lighting. I have not returned to that area since then, so I do not know if it is still the same. I assume it is, since slot machines and an electronic roulette machine still remain on the first level.
We walked toward the electronic roulette machine, which sat toward the back of the room, surrounded by glass walls and glittering slot machines, accessible only through a pair of glass doors activated by a small button. The massive roulette screen revealed the statistics for the last forty (or so) games. Inspired by the game trend, Kurt found an empty seat and began to play. I watched for a few minutes, then wandered away to play a slot machine. We met up later, each with a few dollars more in our pockets than we had started with. We wanted to stay longer, but the casino closed at 3 a.m., locking players out of the games and preventing them from making any more bets. We collected our jackets and joined the crowd outside of people struggling to return home to embrace the last few hours of sleep before the sun proclaimed a new day.
We walked back to our apartment with the intention of only staying momentarily. However, we ended up taking a nap and woke up a few minutes past 2 in the morning.
We felt mild hunger, so not wanting to waste the opportunity for a late-night walk through the streets of Amsterdam, we walked to a nearby Chipsy King.
We ordered fries with barbecue sauce and waited while they were made fresh for us. As the man pulled the sizzling rack from the hot oil, the fragrance of fried potatoes filled the air. He scooped a large portion of thick fries into a paper cone and pumped barbecue sauce over the top.
In the past, the amount of sauce they put on the fries should logically not have reached the center and bottom portions. However, they have baffled me each time with their amazing ability to achieve perfect fry coverage.
I watched, certain that this time he must have missed a few in the center and at the bottom. But no! Each fry had as much sauce as the one before it, if not more.
I will never understand how they squirt all the fries with sauce. I watched, my eyes transfixed on his every movement, and still have no idea. The Chipsy sauce mystery still remains.
1.) If you ever find yourself at a Chipsy King, a sauce worth trying is the Belgian mayonnaise. Once I got past the strange idea of fries covered in sandwich spread, I finally understood why this was such a popular trend here. If I could compare it to something familiar, it tasted similar to a baked potato with tangy sour cream.
2.) They serve their fries with miniature forks. Apparently, they do not approve of eating large, sauce-covered fries with fingers. Sometimes this helps to keep the sauce off my hands, other times I catch myself starting to use my fingers and have to force myself to make a conscious effort to use the utensil they gave me.
We first went to the Seafood Bar on Spui in Amsterdam for my birthday in October 2016. At that time, we did not know they recommended reservations to avoid a long wait. This time, however, we came prepared. We walked into the restaurant and waited behind a couple who did not have reservations. The hostess told them it could take a half hour before they had a free table. They agreed to wait and walked over toward the bar. Kurt told the hostess of our reservation and immediately, she led us up a few steps to the brightly lit, icy fish bar. She explained about the fresh fish of the day and the different sides that came with each of them.
After she showed us the fresh fish of the day, she took us to our table and gave us menus. We had to speak loudly because of the many conversations around us blending into one. The waitress soon appeared and took our order. We ordered the sole with lemon and rice. As we awaited our fish, we watched as servers paraded a myriad of different dishes to various tables scattered throughout the restaurant.
Our waitress brought us warm bread and returned a few minutes later with our order. She served us each a beautifully baked whole fish with lemon slices and a bowl of hot rice. The fish was so delicate, it seemed to fall from its bone with the ease of a hot knife through butter. The rice was light and steamy; a side dish that perfectly complemented the fish. This simple yet wonderful meal ensured our future return to the Seafood Bar.
We woke up to bright rays of early morning sunshine gently dancing across our eyelashes. The clock read 7 a.m. However, we still felt as though we were on Tucson time, which would have made it 10 p.m. Kurt found a highly rated breakfast restaurant one street away from us named Kessens. We prepared ourselves with warm sweaters and jackets and made our way down the steep steps and out onto the quiet brick street. Our footsteps seemed to echo as we walked in cold, sleepy silence toward breakfast. As soon as we reached Rozengracht, I could see the small restaurant across the street. Pleasantly surprised at the shortness of our morning walk, we crossed the street and entered the cozy little cafe. Friendly servers in white and black striped jerseys invited us to sit at any of the few remaining seats. We chose a table near the center of the restaurant. Our waitress promptly placed a glass bottle of water on our table, handed us each a menu, then went to help another table as we decided upon our order. The tinkling sound of silverware accented the melange of friendly conversation as the intoxicating scent of coffee drifted through the air. An occasional tram whirred by the window in a blur of blue and white.
When our waitress returned, we each ordered a cafe latte, fried eggs and toast. Then, I saw freshly squeezed orange juice on the menu and impulsively ordered one. She returned a few minutes later with two large cups filled with espresso and perfectly steamed milk. The glass of orange juice she placed in front of me came with a plastic tool to mix it back together when the pulp began to separate. Delighted, I immediately took a sip of the pulpy substance. It tasted like juicy sunshine. Next, I tried the latte. The taste matched its wonderful appearance. Although the restaurant remained busy, the servers kept a constant pace. A waitress washed her hands in a marble fountain that hung on the wall behind Kurt and began to put the clean cups and plates back on their shelves. A few minutes later our waitress reappeared, holding two plates of food.
Upon first taste, I immediately understood the reason they had such a high rating. The food tasted amazing. It definitely seemed as though we had a good start to the upcoming day. However, when we returned to the apartment, it seems as though we fell under a sleep spell because the next thing I remember hearing:
“It’s almost 5:30 in the evening,” Kurt whispered. “We have reservations at the Seafood Bar in three hours.”