Where To Bite – Amsterdam [The Traveling Bite]

The Traveling Bite, Where to Bite

Like its name, De Beiaard’s interior resonates with authenticity. While their beef stew, Dutch pepper steak, and croquettes may be standard North-Holland fare, the Catalan stew, fajitas, and Oriental beef tenderloin salad are surprising additions.

Food isn’t necessarily what Amsterdam is best known for.  The Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum, coffeeshops and the Red Light District, are the more famous stops. If the subject does turn to food, as it so often does after a long day of sight-seeing, you’ll be told to try the “Stroopwafel” – a unique Dutch confection made from two thin waffles filled with a layer of carmel-like syrup. Or perhaps you’ll be encouraged to try a ‘Pannenkoek,” the thinner and larger Dutch pancake.

But if you’re looking for a real meal, there are no shortage of places to grab a delicious vegetarian bite, although it might not be in the traditional Dutch fashion.  During my weekend in The Netherlands, I sought to have an authentic Dutch-dining experience. Yet I was surprised to find that Amsterdam was flooded with Argentinian Steakhouses, street-side falafel vendors and Mexican bars. My friends and I even stumbled upon the tiny strip serving as Amsterdam’s local Chinatown.

For a quick bite, we all quickly fell in love with Maoz, a chain that I sincerely hope to see in Boston soon. While this chain has since branched out to a few choice cities in Europe and the US, this vegetarian falafel restaurant had its start in Amsterdam in 1991. I feel fortunate to have experienced Maoz in its home city, a happy accident in my search for all things authentic, delicious, and vegetarian.

Falafel is a great vegetarian option – the chickpeas provide substatial protein, and while frying is never the healthiest way to go, a standard falafel patty is only 50-60 calories, and worth the crunch.

At Maoz, gluten-free falafel comes served in a salad box or in a wheat or white pita sandwich – you fill your own box or add your own toppings from the fresh salad bar, which included such interesting dishes as a curried carrot salad, pickled baby eggplants, roasted peppers, and tabouli. Not only was this one of the more unique salad bars I have ever encountered, but the control Maoz gives its customers over what and how much they eat is refreshing.

While Maoz’s Amsterdam-roots made it a surprisingly authentic bite, I was still craving some true Dutch fare. Drawn in by the tarditional name, my friends and I agreed that De Beiaard Dining and Beer Pub seemed like perfect place to finally sample some cultural cuisine.

We were all surprised to find that, in addition to an assortment of expected pub snacks, the menu at De Beiaard was very vegetarian-friendly, and loaded with dishes far from our expectations. I ordered the Mushroom Fajita; a tortilla loaded with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes marinated in a red wine sauce. The thick cut portobello mushrooms were hearty, and the richness of the vegetables was countered perfectly by a light slaw and homemade guacamole – whole pieces of avocado still intact.

While not your typical Dutch-fare, the dishes coming out of some of Amsterdam’s most quintessential Dutch pubs are a vegetarian’s dream.

Despite its quiet canals and gothic architecture, Amsterdam is truly a bustling metropolis. Evidenced in the variety of restaurants and menu offerings, as well as the easy liberal attitude of its residents, there is no question that Amsterdam is a modern city. There was no shortage of places to eat, and I only wish, as always, that I could have had just a little more time to take a few more bites out of this wonderful place.

This concludes my summer of weekend European excursions, as I prepare to wrap up my semester in England and eat up everything else it has to offer.

Melanie

Tarte Ratatouille – CYOB [The Traveling Bite]

Create Your Own Bite, The Traveling Bite

With all the French-culture rooted in Belgium, this Tarte Ratatouille is the perfect way to take a healthy meal while exploring Bruxelles and all of the most famous Belgian bites.

Create Your Own Bite #8

Tarte Ratatouille

A borrowed bite from my long-time friend and my host during my stay in Bruxelles, Laura Dagard.

2 Cans Peeled, Diced Tomatoes

1 Medium Tomato, Diced

1 Large Zucchini, Diced

1 White Onion, Diced

1 Yellow Bell Pepper, Seeded and Diced

2 Cloves Garlic, Minced

1 Rolled Pie Crust

Salt, White Pepper, and Basil, To Taste

This recipe makes approximately 6 one-slice servings.

Estimated Calories:  200

Before leaving for my summer abroad, I asserted that I would not sacrifice experiencing a city or country’s cultural highlights for my health diary or fitness concerns. But never has one location challenged my mission to fill my body with healthy, nutritious foods as much as the city of Bruxelles, Belgium.

Known for the Belgian waffle, Belgian “frittes,” beer, and, of course, the world’s finest chocolate, (amongst other sinful sweets and heavy foods), Belgium was where I passed this last weekend, and sampled all the country’s gastronomic highlights.

Uniquely treated Belgian fries, specialty chocolates and biscuits, the most coveted beers and thick, Belgian waffles coated in Belgian chocolate, fresh fruit, and cream make Belgium a famous spot for culinary indulgences.

Of course, when in Belgium….there’s no reason to forgo these unique culinary experiences. One weekend abroad won’t be the end-all to an otherwise healthy and nutritious lifestyle. But if you’re looking to explore other aspects of Belgium – historic monuments, typical shops, pubs and museums, you’ll need the energy from more nutritious food in order to make it through a busy weekend of sightseeing.

I was fortunate enough to be passing the weekend with an old friend, Laura, in her beautiful apartment just outside the city center.  In order to strike a balance with my hectic two-day tour of all things Belgian, we took our main meals for the day at home. The first day I arrived, we tossed together a fresh mixed salad for lunch, and we started each morning after with a solid breakfast of yogurt, diced apricots and apples, strawberries and whole grapes, with a “petit pain” on the side.

On Saturday, we passed on lunch in order to sample the traditional Belgian french-fry, and had a hearty, nutritious dinner to compensate. Laura proposed the “Tarte Rataouille,” a family recipe she learned from her mother while growing up in France.

The foundation for any ratatouille is a combination of fresh, seasonal vegetables with tomatoes. This provincial French dish can be transformed in a number of ways, and is a great staple in any vegetarian’s recipe repetoire.

This borrowed bite has no exact measurements. As Laura says, she makes it “avec sentiment,” feeling the recipe and adding as she goes. Together, we diced the zucchini, tomato, onion, and bell pepper while the two cans of diced tomatoes simmered on the stovetop with the basil, garlic, salt and pepper mixed in.

After adding the raw vegetables, the basic ratatouille is left to cook on  medium heat until the onions have turned transluscent and the white of the zucchini has faded.

When the vegetables have finished cooking, and the ratatouille has thickened, Laura unrolled the crust into a pie pan, and pressed the dough into the edges of the dish.  Make sure to “dock,” or poke holes with a fork or knife into the bottom of the crust to allow air to escape.

Try partially baking the crust first, as it has a tendency to get soggy during the cooking process.  Afterward, pour the ratatouille evenly into the pan, before baking it in the oven for approximatley 20 or 30 minutes at a medium heat, (or according to the directions on your pie crust).

Because the ratatouille is such a healthy, low-calorie dish, it makes a great filling for the pie crust, which serves as a buttery, flaky, and completely necessary component in this family recipe.

Eat with friends, and follow with a traditional Belgium beer for an unforgettable European evening. With a healthy end to the night, you’ll be refreshed for more Liege-style waffles with carmelized pearl sugar in the morning.

Á votre santé!

Melanie

A Little Word on the British Breakfast [The Traveling Bite]

The New Bite, The Traveling Bite, Where to Bite

Having spent the last two weeks traveling across England, I’ve had a lot of time to focus on some more traditional fare. While there is no adequate vegetarian alternative for some of England’s most famous dishes – the savoury pudding or Cornish pasty – I’ve been able to find some of the most delicious, vegetarian food by way of breakfast.

There are two ways to do breakfast across the pond, although it’s not likely you’ll do either at a typical breakfast hour.

The quintessential High Tea, and the Full Breakfast, are two must-dos if you’re ever in Great Britain. Vastly different in terms of flavor, atmosphere, and cost, both provide a uniquely English experience, and have been updated over the years to accomodate even the less carnivorous of us.

A Vegetarian English Breakfast

When ordering a Full English breakfast, you can always expect a fried egg [or two], grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans. Substituting out the “bangers and rashers,” or sausage and bacon, leads to interesting variations at pubs and diners across the Isle.

When I dined on the “Lunch Brunch” pictured above, it was actually dinnertime. But this vegetarian version of the pub classic was a home-run in terms of nutrition, flavor and culture. At a pub in Oxford, The Bell and Compass, you can take your Full Breakfast vegetarian-style. Fresh-cut peppers and halloumi cheese filled in for the bangers and rashers. While typically served with home fries and baked beans, the chef gladly agreed to my request for a salad substitute.

The Full Breakfast, at most restaurants and cafes, is usually served all day. Some are turning out plates with vegetarian sausage, while others keep the beans, add a mash, or come with toast – but there’s no question that they can quickly transform this British classic into a hearty vegetarian dream, packed with protein, vegetables, and a refreshing variety of options.

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High Tea in England is the result of centuries of perfecting the concept of the Little Bite. Finger sandwiches, tiny pastries, and the most delicious cups of tea make any morning or afternoon a classy, tasty treat.

Really, High Tea is more typically taken in the late afternoon. Meant to serve as a boost to hold you over until dinner, the combination of caffeine and sugar is a great way to get through the late-day slump. However, breakfast is as good a time as any to try out this British custom.

At the Tate Britain’s Rex Whistler Restaurant, tea comes at the perfect price. Notoriously difficult on the wallet, I was thrilled to find a place that made it possible for me to indulge in this British custom. For under nine pounds, you can enjoy a pot of brewed Jing leaf tea with three crostinis and a selection of sweet morsels.

While not a listed option, the staff at the Rex Whistler quickly accomodated my request for a vegetarian version of their High Tea. Instead of salmon and cucumber, I received a bruschetta-style bite with rocket and tomatoes, delicately dressed with olive oil and cracked pepper. I agreed to keep the egg mayo and baked-cheese crostinis, as they were bite-sized tastes of the heavier foods I’d typically avoid.

I wouldn’t recommend turning a High Tea like the one at the Tate Britain into any every-day activity. Despite their tiny portions, the pastries are still loaded with butter and sugar. But as a perfectly scaled morning or afternoon treat, the English custom of High Tea is a wonderful way to enjoy some British classics, without committing to an entire fruited scone with clotted cream, or a Ploughman-sized egg and mayo sandwich.

A proper breakfast should fill you up, satisfy your palate, and set you off on the right foot for the day ahead. It’s a great time to start getting your daily protein, and is always best with a hot pot of coffee or tea.

I’m looking forward to a few more English Breakfasts, and at least one more High Tea, before taking that big steel bird back to the States. While there’s no shortage of great breakfast options back home, I might never again have the opportunity to say “If I could just hold the bangers and rashers, and have an extra serving of rocket and mash…” again. And certainly, if I tried, one can only imagine what I might find on my plate.

Cheers,

Melanie

A Little Word on Graze [The Traveling Bite]

The New Bite, The Traveling Bite
Nature Delivered Graze Box

Four healthy, fun snacks delivered straight to your mailbox makes for an innovative, exciting snack-experience.

Since arriving in London nearly a month ago, I have struggled to maintain a healthy and satisfying diet. With a limited kitchen, unusual products, extensive traveling and eating-out, and the high-cost of food, it has been difficult to fill my day with foods that are enjoyable, healthy, and nutritious.

Through a student offer and discount website, I learned about Graze: Nature Delivered snack boxes, available for delivery across the United Kingdom. With over 100 snacks to chose from, and the ability to customize your snack box to your dietary needs, I was eager to try this promising product.

My first box, free as part of their introductory offer, arrived this week, and as I have been making my way through the quartet of delicious, healthy snacks, I’ve been pleased with the quality and flavor inside each punnet.

Graze believes in the benefit of introducing natural, unprocessed snacks to maintain energy and ensure well-rounded nutrition every day. With four specific box plans – Nibble (for the snacker interested in trying all the Graze treats), EatWell (healthy recipes only), Boost (for snacks with the most nutrient-rich snacks) and Light (for the low-calorie snacker) there’s a program for everyone.

Naturally, I selected the light box, and proceeded to rate the products available in order to ensure my box would contain only those snacks I found most appetizing, and that conformed to my nutrition plan.

My Light Box arrived this week, containing delicious, nutrient-rich snacks all between 54-146 calories. Intended to provide a late-afternoon boost, this Graze box has been a wonderful supplement to my unfamiliar British diet.

Every punnet, or little snack, included in the box has at least one “Healthy Benefit.” Whether it’s one of your daily five portions of fruit, or high in fibre, the Graze box takes all the guilt out of snacking.

When my box arrived by Royal Mail within just days of ordering, I was delighted to find a Cherry Tomato, Basil and Puglian Pesto Foccacia Bread, Smoky Gazpacho Relish with Wholmeal Crisp Bread Slices (My first British mini toasts!), Korean Chilli Rice Crackers and tropical dried fruit, including Pineapple, Lime-infused Sultanas and Sour Mango.

Each box comes with a guide to the nutritional content and benefit of each punnet, making it easy to figure out which snack to best work into your daily dine. Gluten-free? Vegan? Lactose Intolerant? With one quick click on the Graze website, you can bin any of the snacks that don’t fit your dietary needs.

With my next box half-off, and delivery always free, I’ll be sure to order another Graze box during my stay in London. The only real question, Graze, is when will you start delivering to the States?

For more information, check out Graze: Nature Delivered at their home page.

Even across the pond, my favorite bites are always the little ones packed with nutrients, flavor, and irresistably guilt-free.

Cheers,

Melanie