Getting to know the culture of a destination is the best part of travel. We all know food is the center of many traditions, customs and celebrations around the world. Taking a local food tour will introduce you to those traditions and customs. You’ll satisfy your cultural craving and your hunger at the same time. On a recent visit to Amsterdam, our Globetrotting Grandmom went on an Eating Europe Food Tour that focused on the vibrant Jordaan neighborhood of the city. She loved every bite of it and shares her experience with us here.
An Eating Europe Food Tour will give you the cultural insight you crave
As a frequent traveler to new cities and countries, I’m a big believer in immersing myself in the local culture. And since food is so important in all cultures across the world, taking a local food tour sounded like an ideal way to make that cultural connection I always crave.
Kenny Dunn, the founder of Eating Europe Tours, knows how to make this happen. An American expat living in Rome, Kenny was always showing off his neighborhood to visiting friends. He would introduce them to his favorite markets, restaurants and, of course, his favorite gelato shop. Those informal strolls with friends became the foundation for Eating Italy Tours and now Eating Europe Tours.
Today, Eating Europe Tours has expanded from Rome to Florence, London, Prague and Amsterdam. On a recent visit to Amsterdam recently I joined the Eating Amsterdam tour. The tour was focused on the delightful neighborhood, Jordaan.
Once a working-class neighborhood, Jordaan has been revitalized and is considered an oasis of peace from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam. Comprised of a labyrinth of narrow streets, small canals, courtyards and art studios, Jordaan is the kind of place you happen to find on a leisurely stroll and desperately try to keep it a secret so it won’t be discovered by the throngs of tourists elsewhere in town.
Eating Europe Tours offers two options for exploring the foodie scene in Jordaan – a walking tour and a walking tour with a canal ride. I opted for the tour with the canal ride – of course!
Exploring the history and foods of Jordaan
We began the tour at Café Papeneiland, a 400-year-old café owned and operated by the Netel family. Fun fact: The Netel family has named all the male members of the family Tiel for generations. Just say “Hello Tiel” once and you’ve covered about three generations.
We were there for the apple pie which differs from the American version. It’s less sweet, the apples are thinly sliced and the crust is more similar to cake than pie in texture. It was absolutely delicious. In fact, former President Bill Clinton sampled it years ago and loved it so much he bought an entire pie.
While we devoured our apple pie, our guide, Eileen, introduced us to the fascinating history of the café. In the 16th century when the Catholics first arrived in The Netherlands, they weren’t allowed to practice their faith. This led to secret churches. One of those churches was across the canal from Café Papeneiland and a secret tunnel led from the church under the canal to the café. A portion of the tunnel still remains.
The sense of humor of the Catholics from centuries past was evident in the writings on the rafters of the café. Eileen translated a few for us: “For each good barman, there is one less good priest.” And, “If Adam would have had Amstel beer, he would have never eaten Eve’s apple.”
From apple pie to herring, the sampling continued
Our tour continued as we sampled Ossenworst sausage from a local butcher, French pastries at Patisserie Anesta and locally brewed beer cider. Along the way we stopped at a fish market to try the seasonal Dutch favorite – herring. OK, I’ll admit, I was a bit wary of the herring, partly because I had been misinformed that we would have to attempt to swallow an entire herring at once. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. We were presented with pieces of herring accompanied by raw onions and pickles. I came, I saw, I sampled. I might not do it again, but the Dutch do love their herring. Good for them.
Eventually we made our way to the canal where we boarded a gorgeous antique boat. Built 107 years ago as the first tourist boat in Amsterdam, the boat has transported many special guests over the years including Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands. On board we sampled Gouda cheese, locally brewed beers and bitterballens (Dutch meatballs) delivered directly to the boat by the bakery.
We wrapped up our time of exploration and sampling at Café de Prins with light and spongy Dutch mini pancakes dusted with powdered sugar known as poffertjes. It was a delicious ending to a spectacular afternoon.
There’s more food to discover elsewhere in Europe
Eating Europe also offers tours in Prague, London, Florence and Rome—each offering unique insight into the local food culture. One of the Rome tours offers the experience of cooking with Nona, an Italian grandmother. My friend, George, was visiting Rome last summer, so I introduced him to this tour. From his report, it is a not to be missed experience. I’ve not yet been to Rome, but I can guarantee you this will be at the top of my list when I go.