Sunday, 12 June 2011

Gluten Free Travel: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a great place to visit and there are many coeliac-friendly places to eat and snack. I've been fortunate enough to have visited Amsterdam 5 times, can't get enough of the place! There's so much to do and see in Amsterdam - plenty of culture, beautiful architecture, crazy museums, coffeeshops and vibrant people. This blog is not only to give advice on where to eat gluten free, but also recommendations of places to visit too. Hope you enjoy!

La Place
A great place to eat for coeliacs and non-coeliacs is La Place (inside V&D department store). They have a wide variety of fresh foods and produce, from salads to fish dishes, stir fry to soups, (bring your own GF rolls) cooked how you like it, right in front of you. The prices are very reasonable and they have a great place to sit upstairs to spy on the tourists doing their shopping! Coeliacs be warned, the cake section is very cruel and should be avoided at all costs! They do serve the best pastries and cakes I've tasted in Amsterdam (before being diagnosed that is!). However, they also do the best fruit salads and I'm sure if you asked nicely they wouldn't mind cooking with your GF pasta. 
La Place is not far from Muntplein and the Bloemenmarkt (flower market). La Place is based on Kalverstraat 203, 1012 XC Amsterdam and the Kalverstraat is one of the main shopping streets in Amsterdam and a great place to pick up some bargains!
Once you've eaten lunch at La Place, check out the Bloemenmarkt (flower market) - the only floating flower market in the world, based on the Singel canal. It certainly is a party for all the senses and hayfever sufferers be prepared! About half way down the flower market there is a beautiful little Japanese shop, which I always go in and stock up on dolly shoes and other nic nacs. I could spend a fortune in that shop.     
Cau is an Argentinian restaurant on the Damstraat (just off Dam Square). I ate there with my brother last year and the steak was amazing! They offer 4 types of cut - Cuadril Rump, Lomo Fillet, Chorizo Sirloin and Ancho Ribeye, cooked exactly how you like it. I had mine with chips and a peppercorn sauce, nom nom! If you're a vegetarian, don't despair they do an amazing vegetarian  platter with grilled veggies. The food was a little pricey, however it was a treat and we both loved it! Friendly, and helpful staff with a great interior.
Inside Cau
Just to give you a little history lesson; the Argentines have bred and reared Aberdeen Angus cattle organically, since the late 1800s and as a result of their environment the meat is naturally low in saturated fat and high in vitamins and iron. Cau uses the best cuts and you can really tell the difference. The address for Cau is Damstraat 5, 1012 JL, Amsterdam. 

On a shopping note, one of my favourite shops is on the Damstraat at number 7, called Eberhardt. It's crazy and wonderful at the same time. Downstairs is filled with fairies and all things mystic and upstairs is my fav - a Japanese shop, filled with beautiful ornaments, teapots, incense and the most stunning dresses you have ever seen. I've bought two from there and they are lush!

If you have the opportunity to cook for yourself whilst you're away then this is probably the most economic way of eating gluten free in Amsterdam. I went last month and stayed with my friend Pip and eating gluten free was a lot easier. We got most of our food from the Albert Heijn and the amount of gluten free food was impressive. They don't have a specific gluten free section, however they are very good at labeling their food. 
I'm currently addicted to their tropical juice and ended up bringing a couple of bottles back in my luggage! Breakfast was a passionfruit yoghurt with apricots, lunch was mostly sandwiches which we prepared in the morning for going out and about and there was lots of choice for evening meals at the Albert Heijn. My favourite was chicken wrapped in palma ham, stuffed with Bousin with chips on the side, nom nom!    

Ah, the old trusted favourite - Wagamama. These guys come in so handy, as they have restaurants everywhere! Fantastic gluten free range and helpful staff. The food tastes great and they cater for a wide range of dietary requirements

Our Lord in the Attic
Amsterdam has plenty of markets to offer, ranging from nic nacs to flowers, food to clothes. One of my favourites is called Nieuwmarkt which is only open on Sundays and sells really quirky things! Nieuwmarkt is very close to China town and the famous Red Light District. Now, the Red Light District is certainly is an eye-opener at night, however if you fancy giving it a go during the day then there is a wonderful little curiousity called Museum Amstelkring or 'Our Lord in the Attic' which is actually a 17th century church hidden inside a canal house.

Me on boat ride
If it's entertainment you're after then head to Leidseplein.  If  you fancy a chillout with some relaxing jazz head to Jazz Café Alto. For comedy head to Boom Chicago, which is run by a crazy bunch of Americans who certainly now their way around improv. Think Whose Line is it Anyway? For the best boat ride in Amsterdam, head inside Boom Chicago near the bar and sign up for the St. Nicolaas Boat Club of Amsterdam - it's run by the locals and is a 'non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic boats on the Amsterdam canals'. It's free to ride, but they do ask for a donation at the end (well worth it!). As the boats are smaller they go off the beaten track a bit more than the bigger tourist boats, so you get to see the best bits of Amsterdam! 
Me and Pip
When I went last month, as an early birthday pressie my friend Pip took me to Artis Zoo which was awesome! The have lots of cool animals and creepy crawlies. At one point we freaked ourselves out in the insectorium by screeching at the spiders they had. Meanwhile small kids aged about 5 were pointing and staring in fascination at the spiders and then us... Lets just say we didn't stay in there too long! *shudder* The zoo is expecting a baby elephant in June 2011 and we saw the mother having a pedicure in one of the enclosures, not something you see everyday! We both came prepared with our sandwiches, I had cheese and ham on some GF bread I'd brought from home and a snack for later on in the day.
Crazy Sea Urchin
I think my favourite part of Artis is the aquarium. They've got loads of crazy fishes and strange underwater creatures. This picture on the left is a really cute sea urchin - I'd never seen one quite like it before! The zoo is a great day out for kids and adults, plenty to do and see.
Me on NEMO
Artis Zoo is not far from NEMO too - an amazing kids museum with plenty of trippy things to do and see. I went with my brother last year and we ended up doing an experiment in the labs there with kitty litter. Quite strange, but oddly enjoyable! If it's a sunny day, check out the views on the top of NEMO, stunning! 

I will no doubt keep adding to the Amsterdam post as time goes on and more visits take place. I love Amsterdam and if you've not been it's well worth it, you'll love it!

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