The Art of Eating
By Ferran Imedio from gastronomistas
Amsterdam has dozens of attractions for the visitor. Without doubt, the most important are the 'must sees and dos'; the canals (a cruise is a 'must do'), the Red Light district and the museums. Taken on its own, the city's gastronomy doesn't hold a great deal of appeal, unless it is combined with a 'must see'. Here we have created a sort of food-museum fusion, without the pretension or high prices. As Miguel Brugman, chef of the Foam Cafe points out, “A short time ago, museum cafes and restaurants only served sandwiches, cakes and tea. Things are finally changing.” The Dutch are faithful museum-goers and it's true that culinary offerings in cultural places have changed for the better. We found this out for ourselves. Here are our recommendations.
Foam Cafe is situated on the ground floor of the prestigious Foam Museum, the city's temple of contemporary photography (a small but very interesting show titled 'Under Construction', featuring young North American artists is on until December). You won't find anything too challenging here. On the contrary, the dishes are direct, simple and engaging. The menu has Mediterranean influences, lots of salads, lots of organic olive oil, plenty of vegetables and pulses, pitas, soups, scrambled eggs (you get the idea). It’S healthy and reasonably priced, with all dishes under 10 euros.
Foam functions as a restaurant from noon to 3pm. Before and after that (it opens at 10am and closes at 6pm) it's a café, serving cakes and the iconic saucijzen broodje (a pastry stuffed with a pork sausage, here prepared with organic ingredients) amongst other things.
On Thursdays, between 6pm and 9pm, the museum offers guided tours that end with supper in the restaurant; a set menu that consists of a tapa (hummus or perhaps marinated octopus) and a main dish (meat, fish or a vegetarian option) costing 19.50 euros. If you don't take the tour, the tapas is priced between 4-6 euros and the main courses 16.50 euros. On Fridays, also between 6pm and 9pm, Foam Cafe puts on 'Frozen Fridays' when they serve snacks (5 euros) and cocktails (6 euros).
Overwhelming. That is the only word to describe the architecture of the Eye Film Museum. Inside, Holland's national film museum hosts four cinemas as well as an exhibition space. There is also a restaurant that looks like a cinema, with large steps looking onto a panoramic window resembling a cinemascope screen. It leads onto a terrace and affords views across the River Ij to the centre of the city and Central Station, which is next to the free ferry terminal. The restaurant offers French-influenced cuisine with nods to other parts of Europe. Midday sees a more simple menu of soups and salads whilst at night you can enjoy fillet steak and steak tartar, turbot, seafood bisque and mushroom risotto.
The price for the midday menu is 20 euros and in the evening the bill is generally under 40 euros. The restaurant is open 10.30am to 10.30pm (or 11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays).
Ij Promenade, 1
De Plantage is recently opened and contemporary. A natural light comes pouring through the large, welcoming dining room via huge vintage windows. Da Plantage serves Mediterranean food, of high quality and at reasonable prices. It's situated right next door to the entrance of he city's zoo; one of the oldest in the world and the most visited attraction in Amsterdam. The same building hosts a permanent exhibition called 'Micropia'; millions and millions of insects that inhabit the planet and can only be seen under a microscope. In the near future, it will also accommodate the Museum of Natural History.
De Plantage's dishes are well presented, aromatic and healthy; salads, raviolis, pork terrine, fried artichokes, risotto and fish. The kitchen is open from 10am to 4pm and 5.30pm to 10.30pm daily, and in-between times breakfasts and snacks are served. At lunchtime, it costs around 17 euros (drinks not included) and in the evenings around 35 euros. During the autumn months, an evening set menu is offered, consisting of three courses and costing 32.50 euros (drinks not included).
Plantage Kerklaan, 36
The enormous, majestic hall that exhibits art from the gothic to contemporary periods (and between November and January, 20th century photography in the show called 'Modern Times') also has an agreeable and tranquil café. The only beer served here is Dutch and in fact all ingredients in the (mainly cold) dishes are be local too. Sandwiches cost between 5 and 9 euros, salads between 12 and 16 and cakes from 2 to 5 euros. Note the chocolates that are shaped like the museum's facade.
The café is open from 9am to 5pm. If you visit the Rijksmuseum from November onwards, you can also eat at the restaurant, where a well-known international chef will take up residence for two or three months at a time - just like a temporary exhibition.
Still hungry? You can always seek out some of the city's more or less conventional restaurants. In Amsterdam, there is a wide gastronomic offering, although you are better off avoiding traditional Dutch cuisine. Even locals agree with this statement, and generally only eat it at home.
This pleasant, modern restaurant serves traditional Algerian food (taureg is speciality). It is situated in the Westergasfabriek park, an old industrial zone whose gigantic gas tanks now accommodate dozens of restaurants, clothing shops and art galleries. There are 14 dishes on the menu and they change daily, but all are prepared with organic ingredients. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 10pm. Expect to pay between 30 and 40 euros and 7.50 for cocktails.
A petroleum platform that was also used to transmit pirate radio and TV has been converted into a two-story restaurant (one accommodates a terrace, and is only open during the summer). It is simply spectacular. Climbing the steep metal staircase or skirting behind the security rails can produce a sense of vertigo. The cuisine served here is international; simple and direct at lunchtime whilst a night two set menus are offered for 31 euros (3 courses) and 37 euros (four courses), drinks not included. They include dishes such as turbot tartar, bulgur with peppers, avocado and red onion salad, grilled solomillo, and large raviolis filled with pumpkin, mushrooms, carrot and asparagus in the Parmesan sauce. It's opened daily, for lunch from noon and dinner from 5pm.
Sky Lounge is a terrace restaurant with views located the 11th floor of the Double Tree Hotel. At night, it's a great place to partake in a cocktail with the entire city laid at your feet and a DJ providing the soundtrack. Whether day or evening, snack food from all four corners of the globe is served; nachos, sushi, sandwiches, fish and chips, hamburgers, pasta, edamamen and gyozas. It's open every day from 11am to 1am (to 3am Fridays and Saturdays).
Brasserie Halte 3
An old tram garage and workshop that stood empty for 16 years has been colonised by two restaurants, a gastro zone with 21 stands offering all types of food (open daily 11am to 8pm, 4 to 8 euros per plate), a cinema, an art gallery, a book and bicycle shop, TV studios and a hotel. Altogether, the complex is called De Hallen. One of the restaurants, the recently opened Brasserie Halte 3, is a French-style bistro whose steak tartar is superb. Other offerings include oysters and lamb chops. Like most restaurants in Amsterdam, the midday menu is more pared down.
Open daily 11am to 10pm. Lunch: 10 euros, dinner: 25-30 euros.
Also situated inside De Hallen, Meat West is only open for dinner. (7.30pm to 10.30 pm, 11.30pm Thursday to Saturday). Ninety- year old tram tracks decorate the floor and the menu specialises in prime cut meat, mostly steak, which features in hamburgers, entrecotes, chops and steaks.
Expect to pay between 40 and 50 euros (without drinks).
This restaurant, inside the Hotel Andaz, is one of the most interesting in the city. The French-influenced cuisine is made with local ingredients without the song and dance. The result is KM0, seasonal dishes dressed with herbs that are grown in the restaurant's garden. If you are staying at the hotel, there is a dining room for guests only with canal views, where you can have a snack or glass of wine for free during the day. You can also dine at the chef's table. Expect to pay between 35 and 45 euros without drinks. The 'family' menu, for 6 people, includes the best entrees and fish of the day and costs 56 euros per head. Open noon to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm.
One of the most highly recommended restaurants in Amsterdam, not only for its location (two minute's walk from the monumental Damplatz) but also quality-price ratio. Every day, the kitchen opens from noon to 4pm and 6 to 10pm (Friday and Saturday cocktails are served to 3am) although you can also pop in for breakfast from 7am. Don't leave without trying the flammkuchen, a typical Alsatian pizza, thin and crunchy and topped with all manner of ingredients. Otherwise, local produce is prepared into international dishes. A set evening menu is offered for 34.50 euros (3 courses, no drinks). The fish dishes work extremely well, like the elegant sea bass. Also consider the exciting octopus with pancetta, and above all, pork neck cooked at low temperature.
Brothers Paul and Nick Hartering are at the helm of this charming, creative cuisine restaurant on the banks of a canal. It has two floors, a plank over the water and even a little boat that acts as a terrace in good weather. Only tasting menus are served, one consisting of 6 courses (50 euros, without drinks) and another of 9 courses (75 euros, without drinks). Plates, designed to be shared, are placed centre table. The chefs work with local produce and are influenced by classic French cuisine with no mod cons. The wine list, naturally, features a very large selection of French wines.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm to 11pm.
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National Art Museum
The largest art museum in Rumania was set up in 1948 and includes both Rumanian and European art from the 15th to the 20th centuries. The museum houses the most complete collection of Rumanian art in the country and possibly in the world.
Located in the old Neo-classical Royal Palace surrounded by a large number of historic buildings, such as the Romanian Athenaeum, Kretzulescu Church and the Hotel Hilton Athenee Palace, the museum currently exhibits more than 100,000 pieces divided between two main sections. Its National Gallery houses the works of great Rumanian artists, including Grigorescu, Aman and Andreescu. There is also a hall full of the early sculptures by Brancusi (hard to find anywhere else) that show how he surpassed his master, Rodin, towards a more advanced form of expression. The European Gallery Space, which consists of 15 rooms, houses the jewels of lesser-known art by such great artists as El Greco, Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Breughels (father and son), Cezanne and Rubens.
The Venice Biennale Art on Steroids
Those who think cultural tourism is a 21st-century invention are well off course – Venice invented it long ago. Intent on setting the city under the international spotlight, the first International Art Exhibition ever was held there in 1895. That is, the Venice Biennale, which has continued until this day.
The undisputed artificer of the avant-garde art pulse – Documenta notwithstanding – the Biennale has run into its 57th edition without losing steam. Six months full-out, from 13 May to 26 November, during which the city is invaded by contemporary art, which takes over both land and sea. What with vaporetti, churches and palazzi, we visited the city of canals to soak up the latest trends, soon to descend on museums and art galleries across half the globe. Let the Grand Tour begin!
A cautionary word to all navigators – moving through the Biennale is no mean feat. The key – comfortable footwear, strategically placed accommodation and solid planning. The offerings are boundless and the spaces, gargantuan.
The main facilities are located at the Arsenale and the Giardini di Castello. Those are the sites of the official exhibition, Viva Arte Viva, as well as many of the 85 national pavilions dotting the island. And, as if that weren’t enough, the list is augmented by countless top-notch parallel exhibitions and events that have staked out their territory in the city’s historic buildings.
My advice – keep calm and don’t get flustered. The marathon only comes around every two years. Set aside three days on your agenda and you won’t succumb in the attempt. Take up lodgings in the area of Il Castello, the Biennale’s hard core, thereby avoiding vaporetto tickets. And, have a notebook on you and a camera with fully charged batteries so you can review the sights once you’re back home.
In the Giardini – the Cream of the Crop
Separating the wheat from the chaff can be exhausting. By way of a warm-up, we headed south-east, to the confines of the city. Located there are the Giardini di Castello, Venice’s green lung par excellence and the preserve of the national pavilions (a somewhat archaic idea, a reminder that the current Biennale is an updated version of the classical trade fairs of yesteryear). The fact is that in Venice each state has its own building to showcase to the world the cream of the crop of its contemporary art production, by way of an Art Olympics where the winner manages to show the most muscle.
While the Biennale is all about art, it is in fact also about power and architecture. In terms of the latter, some pavilions shine with a light of their own. Not to be missed are the Finland pavilion, built in timber modules by the luminary, Alvar Aalto, the father of modern Scandinavian architecture; the Austrian pavilion, the work of Josef Hoffmann who, together with Gustav Klimt, founded the Vienna Secession, and that of The Netherlands, its open forms highlighting the minimalist elegance of 1950s neoplasticism.
But, let’s get back to art and to the most talked-about offerings. The Golden Lion for the Best Pavilion was awarded to Germany, where artist Anne Imhof installed a glass floor under which performances displaying the world “as a kennel” take place. France depicts a musical space and recording studio, Studio Venezia, an installation designed by Xavier Veilhan where musicians and artists from all over the world perform. And Austria draws all the camera flashes with a lorry standing on its nose by Erwin Wurm, a playful proposal in a pavilion redolent with sculptures which visitors can interact and have fun with.
The Off Programme
Side shows, parallel exhibitions, talks, dialogues, performances and film cycles – no body is built to withstand Venice. Indeed, the official programme is rivalled by a series of first-rate artistic proposals staged in churches, foundations and museums around the city. Here, then, are the juiciest offerings in the Off-Biennale 2017.
Damien Hirst has hit Venice with a two-fold proposal. At collector François Pinault’s art spaces, the Punta della Dogana and the Palazzo Grassi, he has installed his latest eccentricities,including an 18-metre-high sculpture which rises into the firmament. In keeping with the British artist we are familiar with, his show is pure spectacle, and the perfect excuse to visit two historic buildings overlooking the Grand Canal.
The tiny island of San Giorgio Maggiore surrenders unconditionally to Michelangelo Pistoletto. A key figure of Arte Povera and one of the most prominent Italian artists, Pistoletto presents One and One Makes Three, an exhibition housed in an abbey designed by Palladio where he showcases a selection of his works created between the 60s and the present, also featuring his popular “Venus of the Rags”.
We wind up our marathon tour at the Palazzo Fortuny, a Venetian Gothic gem which rises between the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square. This former home and studio of painter Marià Fortuny houses both the artist’s collection and temporary exhibitions. This time around, it is the turn of Intuition, a collective display dedicated to the evocative power of art and featuring such great names as André Breton, Joan Miró, Vassily Kandinsky, Marina Abramovic and Anish Kapoor.
Thus far our review of the Biennale, a centennial event which reinvents itself each year and showcases art to suit all tastes, interests and theories. We’re off to the canals!
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Text by Núria Gurina
Museum of Art Fakes
There is an unusual art museum in Vienna. It’s the only museum of fake works in Europe! Artworks of universal renowned artists such as Klimt, Van Gogh, Rembrandt or Monet are hanging from the walls, with the “little peculiarity” that they are in principle no value. It is all about imitations.
It’s estimated that between 10 and 15 percent of the work we see in museums can be fakes, some of which have taken decades to discover. Therefore, contemplating fakes is not an strange fact. We just simply don’t know it.
In the Museum of Art Fakes will not give us for a ride. Its works are specifically false, but, even though, its development has not been less thorough. Painting techniques have varied throughout history and many of the original materials are very difficult to find nowadays. In addition, some counterfeiters have also gone down in history for its unique methods and the Viennese museum illustrates their methods. One of the most significant cases is the Dutch Han van Meegeren, whose works reach thousands of pounds in the prestigious London auction.
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