Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Dinner at KW 106

Katwijk Sector Album

We typically try to go out for one nice dinner with everyone while on vacation. This time we went to KW 106, a fish restaurant at the beach in Katwijk. The restaurant was recommended by my mom's friend and it was one for the best dinners we've had in a long time.

The restaurant is one of the fancier "beach cafés" that line the boulevard in Katwijk and server everything from breakfast to dinner. So on a nice day you may find a hubbub of people and families who take a break from the beach to grab a quick snack and a glass of wine on KW 106's patio, while it transforms into a more sophisticated space at night.

The interior is elegant but simple, with a comfortable beach feeling and a great view. The open kitchen is tiny, and there may have been a total of four cooks. I don't think the space would hold any more. Most restaurants in Katwijk offer menus that are translated into German and English, not so KW 106. I thought this was a very good sign, but it completely threw my extended family. They had a hard time ordering when they didn't know every single item that would come with the dish. Dutch is somewhat of a mix of German and English and we all could figure out what needed to be figured out. Nevertheless, ordering took forever.

The menu was small and simple. The restaurant offers a three-course menu with choices for every course for 34.50 euros. I had eyed the half lobster with pink grapefruit dressing as appetizer (I couldn't guess the other ingredients of the dish by trying to decipher the menu) but then decided on the bouillabaisse. It was excellent, with a variety of North Sea shrimp. It took quiet a long time for our food to get to the table, but the soup tasted like it had been made just for me.

I had no trouble choosing my entree. All I really knew is that it was a piece of fish that was prepared with the skin on (op de huid) over rhubarb with beurre blanc. I LOVE rhubarb. Now you may think that rhubarb is out of season, and yes, eating rhubarb in July is stretching it a bit even here, but growing seasons are a little different here.

When my mom inquired what fruit she should get for us to have for the weekend when we first arrived in Essen, I ask for strawberries and blueberries. She said that we may not yet have blueberries and that we might not have strawberries anymore.

I think the fish may have been flounder, but I'm not quiet sure. It was absolutely superb, served on top of a small mound of poached rhubarb with three very small, peeled and perfectly tournéed pieces of steamed potato and a thin slice of crispy bacon topped the dish off.

Eric ordered the red mullet also prepared op de huid with a ragout of peas and mint. The flavor of the sauce that went along with it was slightly bolder than the subtle beurre blanc that accompanied my dish-- both were excellent.

My brother also ordered the red mullet, but not until he confirmed that fries with mayonnaise would be served as the side dish. The waiter laughed and said "of course, this is Holland." Think of it as being a restaurant in Memphis, trying to get away with not serving iced tea. I'm sure the guys at KW 106 despised having to send fries with mayonnaise to every table, but that's what the guests expect and request. The friess here were hand cut, of course.

For dessert we all had espresso that came with a to die for coconut macaroon and a variety of desserts: the chocolate duo, a ultra rich chocolate ice cream and chocolate mousse, coffee Creme Brulee and red berries with yogurt ice cream, which was by far the best.

The ways of the Dutch

Holland Vacation Album

Our vacation in Katwijk is almost over. We'll pack up our bikes and beach gear tomorrow and head back to Essen (my home town) for a few days before leaving for Helsinki to visit my friend Anna next Wednesday.

This was our second time in Katwijk and overall the Dutch and the German ways are very similar. This time we stayed at a very nice campground in the Noordduinen, where we rented a house in the dunes that we shared with my parents. My brother and his family stayed in the house next door. The weather is somewhat unpredictable. The day might start with rain but it'll likely clear before too long and the sun will break through. It often is very (very) windy, which makes it hard to ride the bike especially if you are pulling a trailer with two toddlers. Temperatures are in the low to mid 70s.

Naturally we took it easy most days, strolling into town for our morning coffee when the kids didn't sleep past 6 am or taking everybody on a ride for after dinner espresso, hoping the kids would go to sleep on the way home, which worked sometimes.

I don't think I ever drink as much coffee (cappuccino that is) as I do when here on vacation. For one, the coffee here is pretty great and you always get a little cookie to go along with it. There is also no escaping the Dutch equivalent of burger with fries: Frikandel with fries. As a matter of fact, it almost seems like the Dutch and everybody else who spends an extended amount of time in Holland (more than a day) eats fries (usually with ketchup and mayonnaise) during every meal of the day except breakfast. We successfully avoided the Frikandel and tried our best to keep the fries at bay.

Interesting is also that at all restaurants and bars in this area, waiters use electronic hand-held devices to take your order. It may be that this is done all across Holland, but I can't really says that for sure.

The waiters all walk around with these things that look like an over sized remote control, which they use to key your order into the system right then and there. That's pretty smart and efficient. The other thing is that any of the waiters around can pull up your table on his/her system on the spot, which means that you can order that second glass of wine from the first waiter that comes your way and you also don't have to wait for "your"waiter to pay. Pretty cool.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beer & Autobahn

Eric arrived yesterday after a very uneventful flight. Good for him! Tomorrow we'll be leaving for Katwijk (Holland) on our family vacation, which includes the four of us, my parents, my brother and his wife with Niklas, and her parents. Yes, that's a lot of people, but we'll be spread out in two houses.

So I have been in Germany for more than a week and I have not yet said anything about beer or the Autobahn for that matter. Now, the Autobahn is not as exciting as anyone outside of Germany makes it out to be. I like the Autobahn. Mostly because it's like driving on a race track, which has not that much to do with speed. It's just really tight, the lanes are very narrow, there are a lot of cars driving at the same time. So going 70 mph seems much faster than it typically would.

I'm not a big beer drinker, but will elaborate on beer a little more the next time. Let me just say this much, my dad and my brother are packing beer to take on our vacation to Holland. We are only about 45 minutes (by car) from the Dutch border. It's about three hours to Amsterdam. They are taking beer from Germany because they say the Dutch beer is undrinkable. Here's to Heineken, ha!
We explored my brother's beer fridge in his "party house" and Eric grabbed a bottled of Weissbier, not knowing that it was one of those novelty beers: Weissbier with star fruit and fig. He quickly traded it for a straight forward Pilsner. That's Reinheitsgebot (purity regulations) in action.

As I said, more about beer the next time. Here are some more photos from our adventures:
Germany Week 2