Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

I recently experienced three very indulgent days at the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam thanks to the generosity of my best friend's mom who always likes to spoil us when we travel whilst she waits for our squeals of delight over the phone back home in Boston. (You may remember she went overboard on our last trip to Paris). She certainly outdid herself this time! 

The hotel is actually itself one of the most historical venues in Amsterdam. Situated on an entire block in the oldest part of the city, known to locals as De Wallen, it started out in the 1500s as a convent. As the centuries passed it was home to royalty, the headquarters of the Dutch Admiralty, Amsterdam's Town Hall, and it was in the council chambers that the reigning monarch, Queen Beatrix, was married. (The hotel provides a historical tour of the property for guests every morning at 11am).

We stayed in a Canal House Suite (all of which are former homes of Dutch admirals dating back to the 17th century) known as the Chris Lebeau Suite (room 714) on the second floor. Had I known 150 people in Amsterdam, we could have thrown quite the party in our living room! The duplex apartment had absolutely soaring ceilings, living room/dining room, 3 bathrooms, a dressing room and a king bedroom with ensuite bath. 

Hermes bath products were an indulgent amenity, as was the flat screen TV built-in above the bathtub.

And the best perk of this room was Carlos, our very own personal butler, who was a speed dial away for absolutely anything we needed! We tested his skills a few times and were not disappointed. 

Turndown in the evening had Stroopwafels by our pillows instead of chocolate, which was a nice local touch (I could eat my weight in those things).

Each afternoon we returned home to the room we found new treats waiting for us on the dining room table, complete with a little story about what we were eating:

With a Michelin star restaurant on site, a top notch spa, a cozy bar room, beautifully decorated common areas and a trendy outdoor patio/bar, combined with a wonderfully convenient location, this is the perfect spot to stay in Amsterdam. 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Restaurant De Kas

I recently dined at De Kas, a restaurant and nursery located in a spectacular greenhouse that used to be the Amsterdam City Greenery, dating back to 1926. The restaurant is reached by a small path off the main road and the dining room, designed by Piet Boon, features a 26 foot high glass ceiling. 

The restaurant grows their own herbs and vegetables on-site in the greenhouse, which the founder and owner toils in every day. What is not grown on site is sourced from farmers and local suppliers from around Amsterdam. 

The greenhouse offers one daily set menu only at 49.50 euro, which includes a selection of small starters, main dish and dessert (no a la carte options). A two course lunch menu is also available during the day for 39 euro. As expected, the menu changes almost daily depending on what is sourced that day. 

We had a seafood soup, vegetables, salad, fish, a cheese board and a lovely trifle dessert that featured a very interesting carrot sorbet.

There are several different dining areas: Chef's table inside the kitchen, main dining room, bar table, greenhouse, business table, outdoor patio and garden room. Any of these spaces are lovely and I highly suggest a visit to this unique venue. 

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Van Stapele Koekmakerij

Fact: I just experienced the best cookie on the planet. Thanks to Van Stapele Koekmakerij in Amsterdam, I am now having dreams about their warm Valhorna chocolate cookie filled with milk chocolate chips and a gooey white chocolate center. The owner spent countless months trying to perfect this recipe, until one day, after baking umpteen batches, she hit upon the right combination of ingredients. I'm so grateful she did. The cookies are outstanding! 

These warm parcels of sinfulness are baked continuously throughout the day so its very likely that your cookie will be served warm when you arrive to the store. You can also buy tins of cookies to take away (bonus points for their perfect shade of turquoise packaging: my favorite color).

The store itself is reminiscent of an old world European cafe, with dark wood walls and beautiful crystal chandeliers. Perhaps the thing I like the most is the fact that they sell only one item. There is something special about creating one single thing, but doing it in an extraordinary fashion. Address: Heisteeg, 4 Amsterdam 1012 WC

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