A Romantic Evening at Casa di David, Amsterdam

I’m writing this post while soaring on an airplane towards Italy. I’m turning 30 this weekend and wanted to celebrate three centuries of life surrounded by friends and the Italian countryside. Although I grew up in the US, my family is very Italian, and so my birthdays were always accompanied with big family dinners and a spaghetti and meatball feast, typically followed by Italian pastries (supplied by my Grampy), gifts, and many well wishes. I know good Italian food. I have so many wonderful Italian chefs in my family, and I have also ventured over to Italy on many occasions to take in the scenery, the culture, and above all, the cuisine! When in Amsterdam, it’s hard to come by a decent Italian meal. There are many restaurants offering Pizza (and don’t get me wrong, some of these joints are fantastic!) but there are very few locals that are comparable to the real Italy. img_7271Casa di David is on my list as a  ‘definitely yes!’ when it comes to Italian dining in Amsterdam. A few weeks ago, the boy and I were lucky enough to snag a front-of-the-house table on a dark and dreary summer evening. And so we stayed dry inside, sipping wine and twirling fresh pasta around our forks in the candlelight. Continue reading

Brussels, Belgium Part 2

Happy Tuesday blog friends! How is everything going?

This past weekend was unreal, but sadly today it’s time to say goodbye sunshine and hello office. Sometimes (actually, all the time) I wish adults had summer break. Instead there’s just piles of work waiting to be done, regardless of the weather. Ohh, the nuisances of being an adult. I guess if we can’t be outside playing in the sun, we might as well be reminiscing about playing outside in the sun. So let’s kick off the week with Brussels adventures Part 2, a somewhat sunny and very Belgian tale.

The first half of our Brussels adventure was spent beer sipping and tapas tasting, and by mid-afternoon, B and I were convinced we should have booked a hotel. We had not been planning to stay the night, but there were just too many delicious beers to sample in such a short 12-hour timeframe! If we had booked a hotel, we would have headed back to kick up our feet for an hour or two before exploring the city by night, but as we had already paid for our return train tickets back to Amsterdam later that evening, we decided to pass on the hotel and dive into some retail therapy instead.

Brussels Cafe Continue reading

Dinner at Marathonweg

I really, really dislike flying. When I was younger I was prone to anxiety. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at taking a deep breath and finding balance in life. These days, the only time I get that I’m-crushed-I-can’t-breathe-I’m-going-to-die feeling is when I’m on a plane. Usually I squeeze B’s hand so tight, pumped up on drugs and adrenaline. But lately, I’ve been flying more and more for work. At least once a month. This means I can’t take my happy-flight pills because I have meetings. And I can’t squeeze B’s hand because I’m flying solo. So I’m dealing with it, but not in the best way. Every time I get in a plane I have to come to terms with death, which really sucks. I hate not being in control, and the thought of being tossed around in a helpless box way up in the sky with no power over my destiny is a panic-stricken thought. I hate that my mind goes there, I hate turbulence, I hate being scared. But I’m can’t help it, so I’m doing the next best thing – dealing with it. And the best method I’ve found to deal with this fear is via distraction. I read magazines, I snuggle deep into my coat hood, and I write blog posts. So the good part about flying is that I have some spare time where I can catch up with you. Because there’s no wifi or phone reception, I’m not expected to send work e-mails or take business calls. And so it really is a retreat from the real world. A death box sky retreat.

Anyways, now that you know a bit more about me and my biggest fear (which is very ironic for someone who is addicted to traveling!) let’s move on to the point of the post. Last weekend B’s friend Marshall was in town. B and Marshall went to university together. They’re lad friends who get up to mischief and reminisce about the good old days – before Marshall was a financial hotshot in London and B was a pot-smoking strategist in Amsterdam (I kid). Despite living a 45 minute plane ride away, Marshall has never been to visit us – and it’s been more than three years! But he made up for it by kindly taking us out to dinner, to congratulate us on our engagement, and I think also secretly get B drunk enough to rave with him until 5am. Boys will always be boys.

IMG_1773A Friend had recommended Marathonweg, saying ‘Ohh! They have really good sides!’ I’m a sucker for sides (and condiments!) so Marathonweg made it on the to-try list. After an online poke at the menu, we decided it was just the place to take an out-of-town guest – good wine, good food, and good atmosphere, for good company.

Upon arrival we were taken into a back room and seated at a large booth. At first I thought I might be the one with two dates. But after a while, it became clear B and Marshall were the lovers. They cuddled in the booth, split a meal, and went out together afterwards – so I guess I was the third wheel!!

IMG_1753Although the food (which I will get to momentarily) at Marathonweg was good, the atmosphere was even better. The room was illuminated by candlelight, the space was roomy and comfortable, and there were a lot of natural accents – wooden beams, tall plants, and fresh flowers. Just my kinda place.IMG_1772As I said, Marshall and B slid in on the same side of the booth. Two dates for me?IMG_1745Nope. Clearly these two are the ones on the date!IMG_1746IMG_1747Water was brought to the table in a cute Marathonweg branded carafe. IMG_1751And wine was brought to the table as well.IMG_1755Followed by a platter of fresh bread, with homemade butter, homemade aioli, and a tea pot filled with olive oil.IMG_1759We all got starters – I think B had a salad, Marshall had a meat platter . . .  and I had sardines! Served straight from the can with a few lemon wedges. Smeared on some fresh bread with a drizzle of olive oil, this was a fantastic starter. I often wonder why I don’t try to make such simple and delicious meals myself at home!
IMG_1760And then came our dinner.  B and Marshall ordered the steak for two – it was gargantuan piece of meat – the free range kind that is fed delicacies and massaged every day, before being brought to a humane death and aged gently for 30 days. I don’t know if I buy into the cow crap. ‘Ohh, this cow comes from this valley, and lives by this river and eats this diet.’ Sure, the cow’s heritage plays a small role in the taste, but it’s really about what you do with the meat that matters. How it’s cooked, stored, aged. Anyways, point of the story is that this cow was fan-frickin’-tastic. I don’t know what they did with it in the kitchen, but I must learn how to replicate this at home!
IMG_1766I had the much smaller pork belly from a Limburg abbey, served with pulled pork and potatoes.IMG_1770The whole meal was complimented with fries, green beans, and eggplant. Ahh, the delicious sides :)IMG_1768IMG_1756We cleared our plates and then moved on to coffee, and more wine. Between the three of us we had two bottles, so the cab ride home was giddy to say the least. The boys, fueled on the biggest steak known to man, then went out and danced until 5am. I had a slightly different evening and was in bed, sound asleep by midnight. I’m such a snooze sometimes!

If you’re interested in a meal at Marathonweg (which is currently one of my top five Amsterdam picks) you can find them here: Marathonweg 1-3-5 1076 SW Amsterdam. I recommend calling and making a reservation ahead of time: 020 370 3731.

PS. I have a contributor article on The Blog Wander this week, you can read and check it out here. It’s quite insightful if you’ve ever wondered how I met B, and what it’s like living abroad, being away from family.

xo Ali

High Tea, Amsterdam

Have you ever read my first blog post? It was about High Tea. B had borrowed his company’s camera for the weekend, and we took it on a walk across town for an afternoon tea date. We took turns taking photos during our meal, comparing contrast, lighting, and composition. When I got home, I wanted to share the photos with my family and friends back home, but instead of writing one e-mail to my mom, one to my sisters, and another to my girlfriends, I decided to put everything online, in one place. Henceforth, Pressed Words was born.

A year and a half later and I’m still doing the same thing. Walking around Amsterdam, taking photos, going on dates with B, and sharing the stories with you. I even still love the occasional high tea, which is what I wanted to tell you about today.

B and I have walked by The London Brasserie in Amsterdam a billion times. It’s on the corner of our neighbourhood, and the British themed menu always catches B’s eye as we pass by. In true UK fashion, they offer a high tea, which I thought would be a nice treat for Valentine’s Day. Leave it to me to spread one day of soppy love out over the whole weekend ;) On Friday night B and I ate ribs and drank wine at Cafe de Pijp, on Saturday night we camped out in the living room and watched movies, and on Sunday, we drank tea. IMG_0205The afternoon started with a walk around town. I wanted to get this photo (do you recognize it?!) of my favorite houses in Amsterdam, to update my blog header – coming soon :)

All of the flowers are slowly creeping out of the ground. It feels oddly early, but at the same time, we didn’t get any snow this winter, and really didn’t have any deep-freeze chills. So I’m not surprised spring is starting early, as we never really had a proper winter. It’s fairly easy for the flowers to pop out of the ground, considering it never froze!IMG_0179We took advantage of the sun’s presence and curved up and around the canals, walking, and counting down the minutes to our high-tea reservation. IMG_0184IMG_0227I know this is not a fashion blog, but aren’t these knee socks the cutest? I did a lot of Topshop-shopping in Edinburgh last week, and I stocked (socked, ha) up on adorable, probably-meant-for-teenager clothing.

* Socks are Top Shop, boots are Frye, jacket is United Colors of Benentton, and bag is Kate Spade*
IMG_0231We arrived for our high tea looking fancy and a tad early. In fact, we were the first ones there!IMG_0232Which was a-ok with us, because we had the whole dinning room and wait staff to ourselves ;) IMG_0247IMG_0240There were red roses and teacups on all the tables, and my date was looking very dapper! IMG_0243To get started, were given a hot pot of water and a box of assorted organic teas. IMG_0241IMG_0235I’m a huge tea junkie, especially on the weekends, so I loved the unlimited tea offered with the meal. I think I tried green tea, darjeeling, organic English breakfast, and earl grey. A very cliche and delicious assortment.IMG_0248And then the goodies started flowing.IMG_0252Sandwiches and scones. . . IMG_0254. . . . homemade whipped butter. And a whole plate of sweets! IMG_0267We took turns, going one for one on the sandwiches and pastries.  IMG_0270And by the end, we had managed to clear three tiers of savouries and sweets :)

There are so many great high tea spots in Amsterdam, and I’ve only just begun to  sample what’s out there. To be honest, I think I preferred Grand Cafe Fossa – my first blog post / Amsterdam high tea experience. Grand Cafe Fossa was located on a huge house boat and the high tea came with a glass of prosecco ;) More my style! That said, the treats and confections at the London Brasserie we’re fantastic, so my sweet-tooth might beg to differ!

I’m going to keep sampling different high tea spots around Amsterdam and will report back. I’m committed to finding just the right high tea, and will not stop sipping, nibbling, and cake eating until I do!

xo Ali

 

Pluk de Nacht

Pluk de Nacht is an open air film festival that takes place in Holland every summer. It’s reminiscent of the old American drive-in movie theaters, with a large, outdoor movie screen, an expansive lawn for viewing, and numerous food stalls where you can snack to your heart’s desire. Pluk de Nacht is a traveling festival, visiting multiple cities across the Netherlands. When the festival arrives to town and the big screen is set up, city dwellers are treated to a week of film – ranging from drama to animation films to comedy.

On Thursday night, B and I headed over to Stenen Hoofd, a pier towards the north of Amsterdam. The night was warm and the clouds were low. And the boats floating through the harbor painted quite a lovely picture.IMG_2643We locked up our bikes and wandered in to the festival grounds – an eclectic mix of theater and art.IMG_2647IMG_2652We got there around 8pm and were lucky enough to get the last two chairs! Get there before 7 if you want a good spot and a guaranteed seat. Many folks walked in after us, and happily set up their own picnic blankets and pillows on the lawn.IMG_2658The grounds are speckled with art and bright colors. IMG_2654IMG_2666There are numerous food spots . . . . IMG_2679 . . . . but B and I oped to pack our own treats, as we had a sneaky suspicion there would not be popcorn.IMG_2673And who can see a movie without popcorn!?IMG_2674As the evening got darker, the screen got brighter.IMG_2687We were in for a treat – it was short film night and some of the stories we saw were really moving and incredibly well shot.IMG_2702If you’re interested in learning more about Pluk de Nacht, you can find their website here. This past Saturday was there last night in Amsterdam, but you can always catch them Arnhem or Den Hague over the next few weeks. I know I’ll definitely be going back again next summer! x

Amsterdam IKEA Adventure

I have lived in three countries – the Netherlands, the UK, and of course my home country, the good old US of A. Geographically and culturally speaking, these countries are miles apart. But after careful observation, I have found one universal truth present in all three. IKEA. No matter what country you are in, no matter what language the cashier is speaking, the hotdogs will always taste the same. The showroom will always be an over-furnished, windowless maze. And you will always come out of IKEA with at least three items you did not intend to buy.

B and I needed a spring spruce up around the house, and as you know I have been lusting after this duvet for ages. So on Saturday we set off for IKEA, ready to stock up on couch covers and sheets and Swedish meatballs.

IKEA is a bit of a hike outside the city, so we took the metro.

IMG_7949The metro in Amsterdam is super funky. Each train is decorated with cool graphics and happy colors.
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[gickr.com]_9c23076c-2170-9134-b128-ce717a3217ec“Smile for a photo!” “But this is our stop!”

After a colorful train ride, we emerged into a glossy concrete jungle. Welcome to the other side of Amsterdam! No canals, bridges, or cobble stone streets here.
IMG_7972Tucked away behind a slew of office buildings and urban shrubbery lives IKEA . . . an equally industrial looking shop.

Fun fact: Did you know IKEA is a Dutch company? It has Swedish origins but is actually operated by the Dutch! IMG_7973We ventured inside and up the escalator, and immediately found lots of fun new toys to play with. 
IMG_7979IMG_7984IMG_7983IMG_7987We lounged in chairs, bounced on beds, and compared one thread count to another. You know, typical IKEA things. 
Untitled-1IMG_7986Side note – the lighting in IKEA is terrible!!

Thanks to B we were able to find everything we were looking for in under an hour. This handy-dandy IKEA app helped us keep track of and locate everything on our wish list. I love dating a tech geek :)IMG_7993IMG_7988These little rosebud sheets were my absolute favorite. But of course they were immedietly vetoed by B. Something about them being too feminine. Whattt?? B will regret this one day, because I’ve found a loophole to quench my girly bedding appetite. Two words, one awesome solution: guest bedroom.

IMG_7990IMG_7982After an impromptu match of hide and seek, it was time to check out and snack up. As new IKEA Family Members, we were entitled to free coffee and discounted IKEA snacks. Ohh the wonders of being an adult. IMG_7994As tempted as I was by Krabba Pastej, I decided to go for fruit and a coffee. 
IMG_7996IMG_8002B went for the cheese plate and drank cola out of a wine glass. Quite posh for IKEA!
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After filling our bellies with gourmet snacks, we ventured back to the metro.
IMG_8009And made it home just in time to see the sun set. . . . and decorate with all of our new loot!IMG_7933While our house was invaded by IKEA this weekend, the neighbors had an even more special guest at theirs . . . the stork! I think I’m all set with my new duvet cover for now, Mr. Stork.

If you’re in Amsterdam and want to visit IKEA, hop in your car or on the 54 metro line. The stop is Bullewijk and IKEA is a quick 5 minute stroll around the corner from the station.

Animal Collective

As much as I whine about being so busy with work, there are some definite perks to a job in advertising. And the countless connections with production houses, publishers, and music groups is top of the list. Over the past few years I’ve been on the guest list for some sweet musical gigs – Gotye, Maria Mena, Crystal Fighters. . . . and tonight, I was lucky enough to add Animal Collective to my freebie-portfolio. It’s rare that B and I get all dolled up on a Monday night, so we snapped a few iPhotos of the evening.

I probably wouldn’t have paid to see Animal Collective, in fact, the first two songs they sang kind of reminded me of this. But I love to dance, and people watch, and spend time with B, so we made the most of the evening and gigged our little hearts out. Happy Monday & thanks 180 for hooking me up with the tix!