Category Archives: Great Meals

Rotterdam Dining: Parkheuvel–When One Michelin Star Simply Won’t Do.

Parkheuvel--when one Michelin star simply won't do.

Parkheuvel–when one Michelin star simply won’t do.

If you ever find yourself with an extra night in Rotterdam, and you had the foresight to book a reservation approximately 28 years in advance, have dinner at Parkheuvel. If a restaurant has one Michelin star it is considered to be one of the best in the world.

This place has two.

I always have difficulty explaining the sheer intensity of the customer service at these places. They treat each patron as if he or she was royalty, a celebrity, or a Nobel Laureate.

Here’s an illustrative anecdote about Parkheuvel.  Outside the front entrance my friend and I had asked the sole valet to take our picture together.  As he took several from different angles and perspectives, a limo draped with Dutch flags pulled up. My friend was dissatisfied with the pictures and asked the valet if he minded trying again.  I gestured excitedly that Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was waiting for his door to be opened and the valet might have more pressing matters to attend.

This is how the valet reacted:

He turned his head, saw the limo, returned his attention to us, and said “He can wait. You were here first, and for you, I have all the time in the world.”

We tipped generously, ran out of the way inside, and found ourselves seated in priority over a world leader.  

A Dizzying Dutch Day of Windmills, Cheeses, Delftware, Film, and Pubs

Amsterdam Central Station

Amsterdam Central Station–the first thing I always do upon arrival is run out to the first fried potato vendor I can find and get a paper-cone filled with frits and mayonnaise.

Depart the hotel by 10:30 AM.

(Don’t pretend you might leave earlier, it’s Amsterdam, and we all know what you were doing the night before.)

After typing the words "The Bulldog" into a search engine, Google will immediately suggest that the word "Amsterdam" accompany it.

After typing the words “The Bulldog” into a search engine, Google will immediately suggest that the word “Amsterdam” accompany it.

Walk to Amsterdam Central Station and take the train to Rotterdam Central Station (very frequent and cheap departures).

If you did manage to leave the hotel at 8 AM, walk fifteen minutes from the Rotterdam Central Station and visit the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Though not as widely discussed as the easier pronounced Louver or Hermitage, this is one of the great art museums of the world.  It is a tour of art history and a honeycombed maze of masterpieces–housing everything from Pieter Bruegel’s “Tower of Babel” (1563; considered one of the most important religious artworks in history) to Salvador Dali’s The Face of War (1940).  Their collection also includes Rembrandt, van Gogh, Monet, and some works you may recognize from Art History textbook covers by the venerable Hieronymus Bosch. The museum is also brimming with expansive interactive modern art multimedia installations and a vast eponymous sculpture garden seemingly contemplated out of an Escher painting.

Pieter Bruegel's ("little") Tower of Babel

Pieter Bruegel’s (“little”) Tower of Babel

Dali just being troublesome and weird again.

Dali just being troublesome and weird again.

Otherwise, from Rotterdam Central Station, take the “D” Metro two stops to Beurs for lunch at any one of dozens of psychedelic options at the fantastically ultramodern underground Beurstraverse (locals call it “Koopgoot,” Dutch for “shopping gutter”).

Ultra Modern Beurs

Ultra Modern Beurs

Dissent into the Koopgoot "shopping gutter."

Dissent into the Koopgoot “shopping gutter.”

Inside the Koopgoot ("shopping gutter")

After digesting your delectable Dutch delights, either walk (20 minutes) or continue two more stops down the “D” line to Wilhelminaplein. From here you will see the world famous Erasmusbrug, where you catch the waterbus to Alblasserdam Cay.

Erasmusbrug

Erasmusbrug (“Erasmus Bridge”)

From there, hike thirty minutes to Kinderdijk. This is basically the most famous expanse of windmills in the world. Despite frequent visits to the Netherlands and even living in Rotterdam for several months, I have never been here.  So if you go, please send me pictures.

Obligatory Dutch windmill photograph

Obligatory Dutch windmill photograph

Take Bus 90 back to Rotterdam.

From Rotterdam Central Station it is a ten minute train ride to Gouda (where the cheese, actually pronounced “how-duh,” comes from). Walk to the market square (Markt) which is home to the Gouda cheese markets and one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval City Halls. If the weather is pleasant, grab an outside seat at one of the dozen outdoor cafes. If the mood strikes you, smoke a cigar from the square’s coroner tobacconist while drinking an orange-adorned Hoegaarden. Finally, order a traditional Dutch dinner and marvel at how lucky you are to be alive.

Say "cheese!"

Say “cheese!”

This is the "Cheese  Market" in Gouda. This is where it all ultimately goes through before being sent onward to your grocery store, restaurant, and your gourmet cheeseburger.

This is the “Cheese Market” in Gouda. This is where it all ultimately goes through before being sent onward to your local market, restaurant, and, finally, your gourmet cheeseburger.

My favorite place to eat and drink is Café Tapperij. It’s situated behind the Stadhuis on the Markt. There was a compulsory visit for every friend who traveled to see me when I lived in Rotterdam. In the winter, I would go nearly every weekend and grab the first stool near the window with a paperback textbook on comparative constitutional law and take frequent reading breaks to stare at the magnificent medieval City Hall.

View of the medieval Stadhuis from Café Tapperij in Gouda, the Netherlands

View of the medieval Stadhuis from Café Tapperij in Gouda, the Netherlands

After dinner, continue on the train twenty more minutes to Delft. You will find yourself almost immediately in one of the grandest medieval squares of Europe. Any shop will sell meticulously crafted ceramic Delftware (you’ll know it when you see it).

Enjoy a movie here at Filmhuis Lumen. This is one of those uniquely homey art house places that can usually only be stumbled upon by random meandering happenstance. Like Nantucket’s Starlight Theater and Cafe, Cambridge’s Arts Picturehouse, or, home to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Filmhouse, you buy your beer or coffee in a delightfully artsy and locally-themed lobby cafe and bring it with you into the smallish-yesteryear theater to enjoy anything from a Blockbuster to the best in independent subtitled foreign film. The cafe will also sell you the whole scope of organic salads and sandwiches to cookies and cakes requiring a doctor’s wavier prior to purchase. For my part, this is was where I first watched the Lord of War and heard Yuri Orlov’s nihilistic opening line:

“There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That’s one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is: How do we arm the other 11?”

After enjoying a movie and something creative from their cafe, with your last vestiges of energy continue to  Locus Publicus  You have to experience this place to believe it. It is the quintessential idyllic pub experience and It is worth a trip to Delft just to visit this single elongated-room shoe-box sized bar. Grab one of the paperback classics available for borrowing from the shelf and review their drinks list. Skip the coffees, juices, and the brands everyone recognizes like Heineken and Carlsberg, and instead experiment with one of the dozens of rare and obscure Belgian ales. (Publicus’ recherché collection makes World of Beer’s efforts seem adorably amateurish and child-like by comparison.) Read Candide, discuss Friedrich Nietzsche with a local dock worker (it seems everyone in the Netherlands is hyper-educated), and relish at what can be recklessly packed into one impossibly ambitious day.

Catch the midnight train back to Amsterdam (one hour). Collapse in your hotel.

Quick Note:

If you ever find yourself with an extra night in Rotterdam, and you had the foresight to book a reservation approximately 28 years in advance, have dinner at Parkheuvel. If a restaurant has one Michelin star it is considered to be one of the best in the world.

This place has two.

I always have difficulty explaining the sheer intensity of the customer service at these places. They treat each patron as if he or she was royalty, a celebrity, or a Nobel Laureate.

Here’s an illustrative anecdote about Parkheuvel.  Outside the front entrance my friend and I had asked the sole valet to take our picture together.  As he took several from different angles and perspectives, a limo draped with Dutch flags pulled up. My friend was dissatisfied with the pictures and asked the valet if he minded trying again.  I gestured excitedly that Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was waiting for his door to be opened and the valet might have more pressing matters to attend.

This is how the valet reacted:

He turned his head, saw the limo, returned his attention to us, and said “He can wait. You were here first, and for you, I have all the time in the world.”

We tipped generously, ran out of the way inside, and found ourselves seated in priority over a world leader.  

Parkheuvel--when one Michelin star simply won't do.

Parkheuvel–when one Michelin star simply won’t do.

For the Best Alpaca in Arequipa–Go to Zig Zag

Dinner at Zig-Zag, one of my favorite restaurants in the world--Arequipa, Peru

Dinner at Zig-Zag, one of my favorite restaurants in the world–Arequipa, Peru

There are many reasons to visit Arequipa, Peru.

The grandeur and beauty of its Plaza de Armas rivals Venice’s Piazza San Marco and Brussels’ Grand-Place. On a clear day you can see Misti volcano as a backdrop for the Arequipa Cathedral.

The main square of Arequipa with Misti volcano.

The main square of Arequipa with Misti volcano.

You can visit the “Ice Maiden”–the 1450’s mummified remains of a twelve-year-old Inca preserved in a glass-refrigerator at the Museo Santuarios Andinos

I primarily came to visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina, which, while not as well known as Agra’s Taj Mahal or Rome’s Pantheon, is just as much of a must-see-before-you-die experience as any of the world’s great touristic treasures.

The miles of hauntingly beautiful courtyards and honeycombed arched alleyways of Monasterio de Santa Catalina. Along with Machu Picchu and Copper Canyon--this is one of my favorite places on Earth.

The miles of hauntingly beautiful courtyards and honeycombed arched alleyways of Monasterio de Santa Catalina. Along with Machu Picchu and Copper Canyon–this is one of my favorite places on Earth.

Beyond that, there is the food.

Chi Cha

Chi Cha

Peru is considered to be progenitor of among the world’s great cuisines–rivaling France and Singapore–and Arequipa is considered its southern culinary capital. 

Gastón Acurio, Peru’s most famous chef, owns Chi Cha. Located in a verdant-colored courtyard across the street from the Monastery, its colonial ambiance and simple menu promises an elegant gastronomic tour of authentic Inca-Spanish staples. A friend and I thought our meals were decidedly so-so. 

Zig-Zag, three blocks away, is one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

The bar at Zig Zag

The bar at Zig Zag

The interior is a cross between a Parisian cafe and an Argentine steak house.

The proprietors are so extremely committed to giving their customers a hint of the French experience that the spiral staircase leading up to the second level was designed by Gustave Eiffel!

This gave Gustave Eiffel something to do between designing the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

This gave Gustave Eiffel something to do between designing the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

 

The menu will shock a vegetarian into an epileptic rage.

In one column there is a list of animals that the internationally renowned chef is willing to kill and cook for you. In a second column you are offered the meat of each animal in quantities of 50 grams, 100 grams, and 250 grams.

A tour of butters.

A tour of butters.

While you decide which animals shall be harmed for your digestive pleasures they serve you a basket of exotic breads and butters so sweet and succulent that while it might kill you, it is totally worth it.  

The wine list was largely Eurocentric, but we picked an over-sweet pour of a local red from the Ica Region of Peru. Peruvian wines tend to very sweet and our selection was not an exception.

We both chose 50 grams each of pork, beef, and alpaca with a side of cheesy Quinoa. My friend also got a local bean salad, which, while interesting to look at, proved difficult to eat. I was happy with my choice of a common Caesar salad .

From left to right: Alpaca-steak, Beef-steak, and Pork loin. The side dish is cheesey Quinoa. The sauces range from a creamy-ranch like concoction, a spicy-lime sauce, butter infused with very earthy mushroom, and a spicy chili sauce that will make a grown man cry with joy.

From left to right: Alpaca-steak, Beef-steak, and Pork loin. The side dish is cheesy Quinoa. The sauces range from a creamy-ranch like concoction, a spicy-lime sauce, butter infused with very earthy mushroom, and a spicy chili sauce that will make a grown man cry with joy.

One of the best aspects of a Peruvian meal is the sauces.  Like the French and Belgians, Peru augments its meats and vegetables with a delectable spectrum of dips and condiments. Virtually every lomo saltado will come with a uniquely spiced chili dressing, each one striving to create a different taste experience. Our meats came with a creamy-ranch like concoction, a spicy-lime sauce, butter infused with very earthy mushroom, and a spicy chili sauce that will make a grown man cry with joy.

I know I did.

It is the first time either of us had tried alpaca and we were nervous.  All of Peru is covered with these alarmingly adorable animals and we felt a degree of moral turpitude would be involved if we enjoyed it.

We did. A lot.

It’s a good thing we had already accepted that our souls were destined for hell–but at least we got to visit here, heaven, first.  

You’ll like the plaza, you’ll be intrigued by the mummy, you’ll be transformed by the Monastery–but you’ll love the food! 

Exterior of Zig Zag, one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

Exterior of Zig Zag, one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

Logistics

Address: Calle Zela 210 – 212 | Cercado (Centro Historico), Arequipa, Peru
Phone: +51 54 206020
Hours: 6 PM until Midnight
Cost: $10-$30 per person includes wine, an appetizer, a selection of three or four meats, a side of potatoes or Quinoa, and dessert.   

Puttin’ on the Ritz

 
Me and my friend on another planet--the London Ritz!

Me and my friend on another planet–the London Ritz!

If getting attacked by jungle cats in the Pantanal or fleeing a revolution in Yala are not your thing, then consider trying this:

Afternoon tea–at the Ritz–in London!

http://www.theritzlondon.com/tea-reservations.html

Though it will set you back approximately $100 per person, a team of top Friedman-economists from the University of Chicago would not be able to explain how they make a profit.

It is the Mother of all quasi-meal services. It is the Alpha and Omega of customer service. The experience so absolutely shuts the hermetic seal between the moment you are in–and the external reality you seek to avoid–your lover could have collapsed in the parking lot and you wouldn’t think to call an ambulance.

There are chandeliers and museum quality impressionist art in the toilet stalls (you are not going to the bathroom, you are having an emotional experience), and (I’m not joking) the world’s fifth largest diamond is for sale in the gift shop.

It’s the sort of hotel experience that gets passed down as an oral history and mythical legend from generation to generation.

I guess what I’m saying is: I really liked the place.

They will treat you like a Queen! (Unless that’s also not your thing.)