I met Machteld Ligtvoet, a friend from several trips to the city, for a coffee at a local hangout. The brasserie and bar de Ysbreeker (Weesperzijde 23, 1091 EC) was named for the ice breakers that used to dock on the Amstel River in front of the 18th century building. We talked about Amsterdam and she shared some of her favorite destinations.
After we said goodbye, I could have taken a tram back to the INK Hotel Amsterdam where I am staying or, as Machteld suggested, I could walk.
That was great advice. Walking across the city was so much fun.
I walked on the east side of the Amstel River, checking out the river traffic and the house boats moored along the river and the canals. Then I walked across the city center so I could stop at the Hotel Sofitel Legend the Grand. I had heard that the Grand's 1-star Michelin restaurant Bridges had recently been remodeled.
Anne-Claire Koopman, Marketing Manager at the Grand, gave me a tour of Bridges. The restaurant is a delight. Elegant, modern and intimate. I didn't have time in my schedule to have a meal, but next trip, that was at the top of my must-do list.
There were other changes too. A new bar, the addition of a chef's table in the heart of the kitchen and an expanded bistro, where we found a seat with a close-up view of the beautifully lush courtyard garden.
For a snack, we had a plate of bitterballen, that quintessential Dutch appetizer made with flour and bits of meat, deep fried and served with a proper spicy mustard. Delicious! But it was the beverages that gave me a Proustian moment.
In 2015 I was in Amsterdam and stumbled on a liquor store on the edge of the Jordaan, 2008 Wine & Spirits (Haarlemmerdijk 59). Ron Verhoeven offered me a tasting of Jenever or Genever, a distinctive Dutch spirit. Clear or amber, depending on the age, it was love at first sip.
Verhoeven set me on a path that I've pursued since then. I wrote an article about Jenever, which I am reprinting here.
Which brings me back to Bridges. Jenever was on the drink menu. Of course, this is Amsterdam. The bistro poured Jonge Bols Dubbelgestookte Graanjenever with a beer back. Delicious.
All that was missing was to close the circle.
I continued walking north through drizzle and sunny skies. Across DAM Square, joining the throngs of tourists north on Nieuwendijk, which which finally became Haarlemmerdijk. I was returning to square one, the place where it all began.
I walked into 2008 Wine & Spirits expecting to see Ron Verhoeven again. He wasn't there. Arjan was instead. His brother-in-law.
I quickly saw what I wanted. Zuidam: Jonge Graan Genever. I bought two bottles to bring home. Arjan told me the history of genever and how the quintessential Dutch spirit fell out of favor in the 60s and 70s. Happily in the last twenty years, jenever has had a resurgence. Large and small producers have embraced the spirit, improving the quality, striking out into new flavor directions.
For the rest of the evening, at de Belhamel (Brouwersgracht 60) and at the Pressroom Bar at INK, I sampled more veneers. Oh, happiness.
Which leads me to the article I wrote about Jenever. I'm reposting it now, to share with you my enjoyment of jenever and hope you join me in lifting a glass, with a beer back, to salute the wonders of Amsterdam and the Dutch! (Did I mention that my grandfather was born in Rotterdam?)
At first I walked north alongside the Amstel River.
Jenever’s clean, bright taste is perfect neat or in cocktails.