As someone who spends a good amount of time globetrotting, I’m a big believer in immersing myself in the local culture. Getting to know a city often entails sampling the local cuisine. The tour company Eating Europe has developed food walks in lesser-known neighborhoods of some of the best known European cities.
As an American expat living in Rome, Eating Europe Tours founder, Kenny Dunn, was always showing off his neighborhood to visiting friends by introducing them to his favorite restaurants, markets, delis and, of course, his favorite gelato shop. Those informal strolls became the foundation for Eating Italy Tours and ultimately Eating Europe Tours.
Today, Eating Europe Tours has expanded from Rome to Florence, London, Prague and Amsterdam. The tours are an excellent alternative to the typical tourist hop on hop off tours – plus you get to eat and drink with the locals.
When in Rome, do as the Romans and head to Nonna’s for a cooking class with a real Italian grandmother. Or take a walking tour along the cobblestone streets of Trastevere – a quintessential Roman neighborhood where you’ll find some of the city’s oldest and best deli specialties. In Florence learn how to make Italian cantucci (cookies). Make the perfect Gin & Tonic on London’s Twilight Soho Food Tour. Experience the intrigue of Prague and learn why it’s famous for open-faced sandwiches. Or, do what I did – head to Amsterdam and discover Dutch cuisine…it’s more than Gouda cheese.
The tour in Amsterdam focuses on the delightful neighborhood of 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 boat ride through Amsterdam’s canals, which was my pick.
Our tour began 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.
The café has an interesting history connected to the Catholic faith. 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."
Café Papeneiland is known for its 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. And it is scrumptious! In fact, former President Bill Clinton sampled it years ago and loved it so much he bought an entire pie.
The tour continued on 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. The Dutch REALLY love their herring. I was skeptical - partly because I thought we would have to attempt to swallow an entire herring at once. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case and we were presented with pieces of herring accompanied by raw onions and pickles. I tried it, but I can’t promise I’ll try it again – it’s definitely an acquired taste that I haven’t yet acquired.
Eventually we made our way to the canal where we boarded the first tourist boat in Amsterdam – a wooden beauty built 107 years ago. The boat has transported many special guests over the years including Winston Churchill and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. On board Holland’s famed Gouda cheese made an appearance along with locally brewed beers and bitterballen (Dutch meatballs) delivered directly to the boat by the bakery.
The tour ends on a sweet note 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 in my new favorite Amsterdam neighborhood.
Have you even taken a food tour?
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Terri Marshall is a New York City based freelance writer whose work includes travel, spirits, and all things chocolate. Terri's work appears in several publications. She has been a featured guest on Peter Greenberg's Worldwide Travel radio program and Denver's KZKO Radio Morning Express show. Terri will not hesitate to go to the source for great chocolate - even if that means hiking through the jungle and picking cacao pods herself.
Happiest when she's globetrotting, Terri has covered destinations all over the United States, Europe, and into Central and South America. Favorite adventures include reindeer driving in Norway and fishing for piranhas in the Amazon jungle of Peru. You can keep up with Terri's adventures on her website www.TrippingwithTerri.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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