Amsterdam is a charming city. The canals, the bike traffic on large beachcomber-type bicycles, the glorious flower stands, the 16th century buildings and streets- it is a city that will quickly captivate. The first day I was there I made my way to the first restaurant on my list, Pancakes Amsterdam. I didn’t realize it, or perhaps I had forgotten, but the Dutch are known for their Pannenkoeken, very tasty pancakes. The restaurant was a tiny little store front with two small tables out on the sidewalk and only about 10 tables crammed within. I was surprised to find that the wait staff spoke English as fluently as me, and knew so much more about eating gluten-free than I could have ever expected. When my Pannenkoeken arrived my eyes about popped out of my head- it was a huge, crepe-like round that took up the entire plate, with apples and bacon baked into it. The pancake looked to good to be true, and I must admit I flagged down the waiter to double check that he’d gotten my order correct. He politely confirmed that it was gluten-free, but despite his confirmation, as I took my first bite I thought “well I might be spending the afternoon in my hotel room in the fetal position- I hope this is worth it!”. And it was. But I didn’t get sick. In no way could I distinguish the difference between this pancake and something that might contain gluten. I settled into what was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve ever had since I’ve been diagnosed.
That was until I went to Spaghetteria for dinner. This restaurant was supposed to have the best gluten-free pasta that the blogger at glutenfreeamsterdam.com had ever had, so I had to try, even though it appeared to be a chain restaurant with three locations in the Amsterdam area. In the modern, clean style of Europe, the interior of this restaurant was quite minimalist, with one big table in the middle of the room for strangers to dine together. Magazines were scattered in the middle of the table, in case some guests weren’t there to chat. I ordered the gluten-free option and was again absolutely out of my mind with the texture and taste of the pasta. I haven’t had ‘normal’ pasta since I was diagnosed in 2007, and I have gotten used to the way gluten-free pasta is different here in the States, but this was NOTHING like the GF pasta I’ve had at home.
As my week wore on, I realized that each time I popped into a restaurant to inquire about the menu the staff quickly directed me to the gluten-free items, and it became clear to me that finding something to eat in this town was not going to be a problem. Nor was communicating my restriction. It seemed that there was a specialty chocolate shop on every block, and I was thrilled to discover that each shop was staffed with a person who knew exactly what their chocolates contained and could very quickly steer me to the confections that were safe for me. And even at the stadium, the day of the concert, the young guys working the gyros stand very clearly understood that I could not have a pita. In fact before I even asked, I was told that the french fries they offered were not fried with any other breaded items on the menu.
After a week in Amsterdam, there was no down time curled up in the fetal position, no dilemmas on what I should eat, just a thoroughly enjoyable spontaneous trip full of great food, wonderful company, and a beautiful city. Oh, and the concert was pretty amazing too.