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NYC through the stomach

By Steve Korver, October 2011

The US economy is generally collapsing more quickly than other economies. So it’s really a perfect time, exchange-wise, to visit New York City and indulge in what is the centre of the food universe. However it does help having a food-obsessed host to point the way. And with some luck, you can also squeeze in some more traditional sightseeing.


It’s smoking
54431-rect-220Char No. 4 is a bar-restaurant with a passion for bourbon. Its interior is appropriately amber-hued and woody. The 19th-century row house location in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn might make it potentially pretentious. But it’s not. They serve ‘American fare with a focus on smoked meat’. And anyway, I have long trusted my food-obsessed host to regularly reward me for knowing him. He is the man who earlier introduced me to such global culinary touchstones as the ‘herring in a fur coat’ at Petrovich and the rainbow of innards that they concoct at St John. Continue Reading…

Posted: October 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm.

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THERE’S AN EEL RIOT GOIN’ DOWN

palingoproer3

I am in a perfect position to imagine the setting of the Eel Riot of 1886: a window seat at cafe De Kat in den Wijngaert overlooking Lindengracht, a former canal that was filled in shortly after this tragic event from almost exactly 125 years ago. But sadly I cannot have a ‘perfect Amster-moment’ since the café’s otherwise stellar menu – their tostis are justifiably legendary – offers no eel-based snacks.

As deeply enigmatic tubes, eels are 100-million-year-old slime wonders with authentic phallic mystique. A connoisseur no less than Freud spent a summer as a medical student slicing and dicing hundreds of eels in what proved to be a failed search for their sex organs. And to this day, their sex rites remain shrouded by the bottomless Sargasso, leaving scientists to hypothesize about the actual nature of the orgy of lust that climaxes the eels’ journey of thousands of miles. Continue Reading…

Posted: October 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm.

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World’s biggest kroket

 

My friends, the brothers Marijn en Michiel Slager of Zeeuwse monster rock band Nuff Said, just posted their above video report (in Dutch) from the ‘world’s biggest kroket’ event that took place in Amsterdam in October 2007. I was also reporting from this special day in grease history. I recall being as excited as Kermit the Frog when he reported live from the scene of Humpty Dumpty’s nasty fall. Now thanks to the Slager Brothers, I can relive those happy, but mixed, memories. I pasted my own report here:

SUPER SIZE KROKET
A marketing sham. But at least it was a freebie feast.
Amsterdam Weekly, 1 November 2007
By Steve Korver

Kom op, met die grootste kroket,’ says a 10-year-old boy, pretty much summing up the anticipation felt on Rembrandtplein last Saturday, before the kroket manufacturers Van Dobben presented their much-hyped ‘world’s biggest kroket’ — a 250 kilogram, one-and-half-metre long and half-metre thick hunk of deep-fried meat-and-potato goo, which required a bubbling bath of 1,200 litres of oil to bring its shell to maximum crustiness.

A talking head from the company explains over the microphone about how they wanted — with the help of an advertising agency — to do something ludieks, and give something back to Amsterdam. ‘After all, they’ve taken away most of our amsterdammertjes.’ So, Van Dobben decided, as compensation for the loss of these iconic parking poles, to give the world its biggest kroket ever. It makes perfect sense really.

As the crowd grows restless, personnel are handing out — for ‘gratis, eh’ — regular-sized kroketten, not only of  the standard beef ragout version, but also ones stuffed with haring, beer, apple pie or pea soup (the ‘snertkroket’ as one onlooker described it). All of these versions had been submitted to public scrutiny in an online vote during the past month, to decide which of the fillings would form the stuffing of the elephantine version.

As the volkszanger Dries Roelvink takes the stage, a thick Amsterdam accent rises from the crowd to note how the overtly tanned Roelvink is the perfect poster boy for this event: ‘Hij ziet er uit als een doorgebakken kroket!

Roelvink was the ambassador for the idea that the world’s biggest kroket should have the pea-soup filling. When Petra Boots, the editor of Weekend who’s presenting on stage, makes a joke about how it would have been more fitting for him to have represented the beer kroket, he answers: ‘Well you’ve obviously never seen me in my yellow swimming trunks.’ The crowd exchanges looks of deep confusion: What the hell does that mean?’

Finally the big moment arrives, as the monster kroket — supposedly filled with the vote-winning standard beef ragout — gets rolled up the red carpet, accompanied by a meatball shaped security guard with a handlebar moustache. The crowd presses in with cameras over their heads, so they can have a good look. Another chunky Amsterdam accent enquires: ‘What’s going on? Do they think a naked lady is going to pop out of there?’

It’s a mob. Kids start breaking out in tears. A mother starts to panic and call out for her ‘Luukje!’ The woman behind the microphone tries to keep the mood light: ‘There’s a kid under the kroket!’ The mother is not amused. More children start crying. And is that a fight breaking out in the corner?

Finally, the crowd thins enough for less aggressive folk to come in close for a gander. It’s big alright. The size of a human hotdog. But it’s also a big disappointment. Only a few people actually taste it and for good reason, it seems: the crust/ragout ratio is obviously out of whack — it’s pretty much the same thickness as a normal kroket, and the filling is obviously more potato than ragout.

When asked what’s going to happen with the kroket now the display is over, a man in a Van Dobben uniform answers: ‘I guess it’ll go in the recycling bin.’

But the crowd seems satisfied. Only one small group, out to give grease yet more of a chance, decides to head up the road to eat shrimp kroketten at Holtkamp on Vijzelstraat. Sometimes it’s just worth it paying the extra.

Posted: April 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm.

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Patatje Kapsalon

For Unfold Amsterdam, I wrote a new installment about food  or rather: grease. You can also read it below:

Are You Finished with That?
Episode 2: Will the ‘hairdresser’ enter the Global Grease Canon?

by Steve Korver

On my first encounter with the patatje kapsalon – ‘hairdresser fries’ – I did not actually taste, or even see, the product. I was merely a witness to its after-effects. I had dropped by the practice space of some friends who usually play a rather rigorous rock n roll. But this time when I walked in, they were all lying around lost in some sort of space jam. Occasionally one of them would fart. And then apologise (they may be rock n roll but they are also polite and well brought-up boys). After the seventh apology they admitted to indulging in a kapsalonnetje from a nearby Turkish snackbar. Continue Reading…

Posted: February 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm.

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Feeling Amsterpeckish…

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Over at Unfold Amsterdam I just started a new column Are You Finished With That? about food and Amsterdam. At first I wanted to write a column about ‘chairs’ but I think ’food’ gives me more freedom. After all, while we often sit down to eat, we rarely eat chairs. The column’s first episode begins with the following paragraph:

ARE YOU FINISHED WITH THAT?
Episode 1: Cafe Plop
A large orange mushroom has popped up on Mercatorplein. It’s the newly-opened Cafe Zurich and it’s meant to bring more glam to the gentrifying De Baarsjes neighbourhood. Many locals already call it ‘Cafe Plop’, a reference to a deeply odd children’s TV show starring the singing gnome Plop, who deals milk from his cosy little ’shroom shack…. [READ THE REST HERE]

Posted: December 18, 2010 at 9:26 pm.

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400 Years of Newspapers

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Pretty amazing. Via the Royal Dutch Library one can now search, or just browse through, the most important newspapers in the Netherlands  between 1618 and 1995, including ones from the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), Suriname and the Antilles. If you search for ‘kaas‘ (cheese) you get a total of 94 763 hits…  Mmm cheese.

Posted: May 28, 2010 at 2:43 pm.

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Breakfast Machine


via videosift.com

Mmmm. Breakfast.

Posted: January 21, 2010 at 12:40 pm.

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On Wall and Currywurst

berlin1My feature on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (and the 60th anniversary of the rise of Currywurst) is published today in the Globe&Mail. It was a hard one to write mostly because it is such a dense and telling tale. I   visited Berlin a few months after it happened and the images that still stick was of children playing in the watchtowers and the big bales of collected barbwire —  forming  5-10  meter high tumbleweeds of rusting iron. So anyway  I had to leave a lot of wacky facts out of the article in the name of readability. Luckily I have no such constraints here. Oh, and if you want more on ostalgia just check out my previous  Globe&Mail feature on the 15th anniversary….

berlin2Funniest story I heard was from my esteemed hosts Mr and Mrs Cameron (who have been living the revolution in Mitte quite a few years now…)  who told me of a group of West Berlin friends who  found a hole in the wall and went for a look in East Berlin. When they returned they found the hole had been closed up — they were stuck! But luckily, for them the Wall properly fell the next day.

There are a few tricks for the visitor to  differentiate between former East and West halves. East Berlin has much more animated and jaunty figures in their crosswalk lights. Linguists now also know that it just takes 29 years, the time the wall existed, for distinct dialects to develop.

By 1980 an estimated 100,000 West Berliners were living life in a subculture — via cafes, communes, squats and generally radical lefty politics. (Today the most affluent of this generation support some of the largest organic supermarkets in Europe.)

You know you are buying an authentic GDR postcard by its flimsiness — and by the fact that you are overcharged for it.

And in the world of currywurst:

berlin3

I had some earlier thoughts on sausage. The mighty currywurst is apparently called the “white trash plate” in Cologne and Dusseldorf but “chancellor’s plate” in Hannover. Also interesting: Gerhard  Schroeder was known as the “currywurst chancellor”.  And Volkswagon developed their own recipe  that can only be bought in factory canteens. In 1982, the singer Herbert Groenemeyer sang passionately of his nightly desires for the mighty wurst  (this YouTube clip is not for the queasy of stomach but boy does Herbert sing from the heart).

berlin4Now for something completely different:

After all that heavy street food (especially since you’ll also have to pay tribute to the Turk, Mahmut Aygun, who invented the now universal Doner Kebab here in 1972), there’s nothing like Japanese noodles. Cocolo (Gipsstrasse 3, 0172 3047584, ) serves some of the best Japanese noodle soup on the planet. Owner Ollie not only cooks but also built everything — from the furnishings to the  service to the kitchen — from scratch. Inspiring! Also, Restaurant Schoenbrunn is a lovely and  fancy place to dine in Volkspark Friedrichshain. Aid digestion by climbing the  nearby hills which were  built from the debris of WWII.

For dessert, one can pop into a baker for a Berliner (more commonly known as a Pfannkuchen in Berlin itself), the pastry JFK accidentally referred to in his “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech to half a million bewildered Berliners in 1963.

But  to conclude:
Mir ist alles Wurst!
Es geht um die Wurst!
Sei keine beleidigte Leber wurst!

Posted: October 24, 2009 at 10:16 am.

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Brasserie Holland Casino chews down on own ass

HCLogoHere’s  a classic new example of an ad coming back to bite its advertiser in  their ass. As part of an ad campaign to promote Brasserie Holland Casino, full page ads were placed  that had  the chef  inviting the feared food critic Johannes van Dam of Het Parool to come and   try the food.  Van Dam  did  and gave it a 5.5 out of 10. He even wrote a long sidebar about the experience where he goes on quite poetically  about how truely terrible  it was (loosely translated): “The lobster soup looked beautiful but tasted like a drugstore counter… The terrine was attractive to  the eyes but an attack against the tongue.” Ouch. Usually it’s only the chef that gets fired after a review like this — but this time he might  bring down  a whole  ad agency down with him.

Posted: September 8, 2009 at 2:01 pm.

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Some thoughts on sausage

currywurst3Dmap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was just in Berlin researching the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Wall and the 60th anniversary of currywurst. What a town! And what a vibrant street snacking culture! That is, if you like sausage (though respect must also be given to Mahmut Aygun who invented the donor kebab in this very same city in 1972). The mighty currywurst now even has its own Currywurst Museum. I took the above photo there: it’s a 3D map of all the currywurst stands in Berlin. Very handy!  And  can now  someone please come up with iPhone application version of this? More on walls and wursts coming soon…

Posted: September 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm.

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