Sustainable dining in Amsterdam

Words Diane Daniel, The Washington Post

 

The Dutch, packed into a small country that lies mostly below sea level, are known for their experimentation and ingenuity. For a long time, that was not necessarily reflected in the traditional culinary offerings, which have relied on comfort foods such as bitterballen bar snacks, sweet or savory pancakes, and raw herring. For sure, you should indulge in those specialties, as well as try an Indonesian rijsttafel, or “rice table.” You can still come for the sugary stroopwafels but stay for the recent focus on sustainability. In the capital of Amsterdam, where the most innovative and accessible projects can be found, more restaurants are showcasing zero-waste practices and creative reuses of buildings and materials. In some cases, even the ingredients are secondhand.

 

At Moer Restaurant in Amsterdam, the bread at the breakfast buffet is made partly with beer waste from Dutch brewery Gulpener. Image: Floorabella Photography

 

At Moer Restaurant, inside the Tire Station, a hotel under the Conscious Hotels brand, breakfast-goers can enjoy a buffet that is unlike the typical Dutch hotel offering. Instead of multiple tables covered with meats, cheeses, bread and sweets, where you’re pretty sure half the food will be tossed, Moer has set up a small but lip-smacking spread of all-organic offerings. The restaurant’s choices, and its plant-filled decor, are in line with the hotel’s philosophy of sustainability and reuse. That includes the building, a former Michelin tire shop, as well as the serving pans, made from old train tracks.

 

Tangy juices are sourced from Dutch orchards, and dairy and egg products come from a farm north of the city. The crunchy, homemade granola and chewy, flavourful breads are enhanced with grain and beer waste from Dutch brewery Gulpener. The brand’s fourth location is set to debut soon, with Conscious Hotel Westerpark on the edge of Westergasfabriek, an old gasworks complex transformed into a cultural centre. There, similarly sourced breakfast items will be sold as packages or a la carte.

 

When you arrive at Cafe De Ceuvel in North Amsterdam, your first thought might be, wait, you’re telling me to eat here? Absolutely. The setting, a former commercial shipyard at the end of a canal off the IJ river, is an urban experiment in sustainability. Inside the cluster of beached houseboats, topped with solar panels and connected by a raised wooden walkway, are work spaces for artists and eco-forward entrepreneurs.

 

At Cafe De Ceuvel in Amsterdam, the ‘Colourful Cauliflower Salad’ includes cauliflower florets, Romanesco broccoli, fresh green herbs, strips of tangy caramelized rhubarb and locally sourced goat cheese. Image: Lida Ladwig

 

Instock started in 2014 as a pop-up with a brilliant concept, using only surplus food for ingredients and wasting nothing. Since then, the nonprofit restaurant has gotten smarter and larger, expanding with outposts in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. The unused food comes from Albert Heijn, the country’s largest supermarket chain. So much of it comes in that Instock has set up its own wholesale distribution centre to serve other restaurants. ‘Larger quantities have allowed Instock to somewhat standardise menus’, said co-founder Freke van Nimwegen. Still, every day is a bit of an adventure.

 

The four-course prix fixe menu on a recent visit was an all-around winner. The starter was a well-seasoned pumpkin and sweet potato soup topped with crunchy veggie chips made from the peels. For the second plate, we had a beautifully arranged profiterole, or pastry puff, filled with fermented tomato juice and rested on creamed smoked mackerel, surrounded by a sauce made from green-bean juice.

 

The main course starred flavourful fennel sausage with crunchy roasted veggies and creamed peas. Bananas populated the dessert – a banana waffle served with banana compote, a burned banana, perfect meringue and a sprinkling of toast crumbs. The cherry on top: It’s a nice feeling to do good while eating well.

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