If I visualized the perfect European bar, it would be an old and dark establishment half full of a motley crew of old sailors, brooding intellectuals, artsy girls, and incongruously affable loners, all whiling away the afternoon drinking pastis, schnapps, and other wonderfully strange and strong European liquors while listening to Nina Simone and Kraftwerk. No one cares about whats going on outside, the world exists within their walls, strangers become friends, and the evening builds to a incoherent crescendo that Camus, Baudelaire, Hemingway, and Van Gogh would be proud of. That's my kind of place, and a bruin café in Amsterdam is the perfect spot to live that bohemian fantasy.
Jenever is the drink of choice in a bruin cafe. A strong drink that is an acquired taste to most. There are two main types of jenever, oude and jonge, with many brands and blends to try in each style. De Drie Fleschjes is a good place to discover different jenevers and decide on some of your favourites. In business since 1650, De Drie Fleschjes has retained it's traditional sand covering on the floor and old wall of aging barrels. Try a pickle from the jar at the counter, their good!
unlike most dive bars in Canada, Pubs in the UK, and bodegas in Denmark, eating while you drink is normal in bruin cafes, and Borrelhapjes - Dutch drinking snacks, are simple and delicious. Every bruin cafe will have a selection of meats and cubed cheeses served on toothpicks, as well as tosti - Dutch style panini, and bitterballen - breaded and deep fried balls of meat ragout. Many bruin cafes also serve breakfast, larger meals and great desserts, including the famous appeltaart met slagroom.
My Favourite Bruin Cafés in Amsterdam
I have the locations shown on my World Map of Food, but I haven't figured out how to zoom in on Amsterdam yet :-/
|photograph of cheese in the old Dutch style|
Dutch Cheese for Hapjes
|Our Aged Unpasteurized Gouda|
Did the Dutch invent cubes of cheese on a toothpick? I don't know, but it seems to be the most common way to eat cheese in The Netherlands. Gouda is the king of Dutch kaas and is available in many ages and flavours. You can also try Beemster, Leerdammer, Maasdam, and Parrano to name a few others. Mia and I spent over an hour tasting cheeses at Henri Willig Kaas, which has shops all over Amsterdam. We bought an unpasteurized wheel of Gouda to take home and aged it on our kitchen window for 5 months before we ate it. Great taste and crystallization!
Dutch Meats for Hapjes
Every borrelhapjes plate should have some worst - Dutch sausages on the menu. The four most common types are:
Metworst - an aired dried sausage similar to salami
Leverworst - a dense liver pate made in a sausage shape
Ossenworst - a fresh raw cured sausage with a uniquely spongy texture
|Appeltaart at Cafe t' Smalle|
|Pannenkoeken for Breakfast at In De Prins|
|I made my own variation of bitterballen with pork cheeks.|