So this is the second part of my Amsterdam food adventures – and I have to say, this was definitely the highlight of my trip. This is a review of a beautiful dinner we went out for on the second night of our stay, in the gorgeous fishing village of Volendam.
On Saturday night, we all took the coach out to Volendam village. I was so excited to go, not just because of the fabulous fish the tour-guide hadn’t stopped talking about (and quite rightly so!), but because all the photos I’d seen looked so idyllic. As I’ve mentioned before, I just adore old-fashioned towns, cobbled streets…and honestly, it was like walking through the town from “Beauty and the Beast”. (I know we weren’t in France…but you know what I mean.)
We walked down the harbor front before we went into the restaurant, just as the sun was setting over the water. I stood for a few minutes looking at the beautiful view in front of me, in a part of the world I’d never seen, with someone wonderful people I’d never met before…and I just felt so happy. I know it sounds silly, but this honestly felt like the first time I’d just “stopped”, and appreciated what was around me, for months. I realized that being able to find moments of peace and calm, where you just smile for no reason, was something I really needed to take back to England with me.
But anyway, after that moment of cheesy yet lovely happiness subsided, I discovered I was very hungry. It was time for food. And, oh…the food!
We were treated to four delicious courses in a gorgeous little restaurant, right on the sea front. First up was this…
The first course was a lovely smoked salmon salad. I loved this because it perfectly summed up what the whole meal was going to be like – simple and fresh. I’ve eaten a lot of smoked salmon before, and it rarely disappoints. But something about this was different. I don’t really know how to describe it, it jut tasted so…fresh! It was a light, delicate flavour, not over-poweringly “fishy”, and paired with a beautiful lemon vinaigrette. There was some parma ham too, which was a lovely way of introducing a little saltiness. The red onions gave a little crunch, and the sweet pickle balanced the saltiness of the meat and fish perfectly. It might all sound like a strange combination, and I’d never had it before, but it was honestly wonderful. I polished my plate clean in minutes, and then eagerly awaited the next course…
I never normally go for a soup as a starter, as I find it too filling. All the liquid makes me feel very full. So when this was brought out as starter number two, I was slightly worried I wasn’t going to have room for this wonderful fish I’d heard so much about. But I didn’t have that problem at all! Again, it was incredibly simple, but for a vegetable broth, it was absolutely delicious. I think broth soups can often taste very bland, especially when it’s just vegetables, and be a bit like having a bowl of water. But the broth was the best bit, beautifully flavoured and seasoned. The vegetables were cooked perfectly, and there was just the right amount. I enjoyed every mouthful, and was definitely still hungry. Now I really couldn’t wait for this fish to appear…
The main event. This is what we’d been waiting for all evening – to be honest, I think I’d been waiting for it since we arrived in Amsterdam the day before. There were a few different options for the main course, but I don’t think I saw anyone in our party of fifty-three who didn’t go for the fish. How can you turn down fish that has been freshly caught just a few hours before, about fifty feet from where you’re eating it? I’ve only just started eating fish, so this was my first ever experience of freshly caught fish. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. This particular fish was called sea pike, which I’d never heard of before. It’s a white fish, similar to cod in texture. I honestly cannot put into words how beautifully it had been cooked. It had been lightly pan-fried, so it was golden and crispy on the outside. And then the meat just melted in your mouth. It literally dissolved into deliciousness. Again, there really is no other word other than FRESH. It just tasted so much better than any other fish I’ve had, anywhere. It really inspired me to want to start eating more locally sourced food when I returned to England. It’s packed full of so much more goodness, and you can almost feel the good it’s doing your body from the inside. I was genuinely sad when I finished this. But I wasn’t sad for too long, because then this came out…
Well actually, to tell the truth, this is not what was placed in front of me at first. Everyone else was given this very attractive dessert, and I was presented with a fruit salad. This was because I’d asked the waiter if I could have my fish without bread crumbs, and this lead him to believe I was gluten free.
I’m going to be completely honest – it was the eating disorder part of my brain that told me to request fish without breadcrumbs. If you suffer with similar issues, I’m sure you’ll understand why I might have done that. Because even though I’m starting to be able to over-come that “voice”, I’m not fully recovered, and sometimes the voice does still get the better of me. Eating out in public used to be a terrifying ordeal for me, and just a little of that anxiety crept back in. And when I got given the fruit salad, the voice tried to interfere again. I could hear it saying “Thank God! Now you don’t have to worry about all that pastry, the butter, the sugar…it’s such a good job you didn’t get that. It would have made you so fat, you definitely wouldn’t have been able to eat tomorrow. Just stick with this, it’s the easiest, least stressful option.”
I nearly let it win. But then I looked at the apple pies next to me…and I knew that voice was lying. I heard my real voice going “No! You know, deep down, that you were so looking forward to this part of the meal too. I think, secretly, even more than the fish. You know how much you love apple pie and ice cream, don’t lie to me, Telfer! And when was the last time you had it? Exactly. Have it now!”
That voice won. My real voice won. I got up from my seat, chased after the waiter, and said I could have the apple pie too. After assuring him I wasn’t going to die and I wouldn’t hold him responsible if I did (he was convinced I was completely gluten intolerant), he brought me an apple pie too. And it was my favourite part of the whole meal.
If you’ve read my “For the love of almond croissants” blog, this was a very similar situation. Apple pie and ice cream is one of my old favourites, and I really couldn’t remember the last time I’d had it. I definitely got a little bit emotional eating it. The pastry was so buttery and light, and gorgeously spiced with ginger and cinnamon. Which, of course, went beautifully with the sweet, stewed apple. And is there anything in this world better than a hot apple pie with cold, creamy vanilla ice cream? I think not.
This was the highlight of my trip not just because the food was so good, but because, for me, it felt like a real milestone in my recovery. A few months ago, I couldn’t go out for dinner without having a panic attack. I would stare at the menu for about half an hour, literally sweating, and then order a salad. Without the dressing. If you’d told me I’d be having a four course meal with a group of people I’d never met before who had no idea about my issues, I’d have had a mini-meltdown. But I did it, and I loved every second of this.
I don’t want you to think I’m saying this to go “Look at me, I’m all recovered, aren’t I brilliant.” Because that’s not true, and I’m not fully recovered. One day, I’d like to just order the fish as it comes, and not care whether it’s breaded or not. I’d like to be able to chase after a waiter to ask for apple pie without having to give it even a moment’s thought. What I want to show you is how it IS possible for a meal out to go from being a thing of panic, to a thing of joy. I understand that the idea of going out for dinner ever being enjoyable, can be impossible to believe. But it can be. You just have to rediscover your love of food, your love of your body, and your love of yourself. I appreciate that’s easier said than done. But I really hope with all the blogs I will continue to write, I might just be able to help you out along the way.
As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions, or just want any advice at all (see contacts page).
Remember…You don’t earn good food, you deserve good food.
All the love,