Schiermonnikoog: The Last Dutch Island

Just back from a brief, but fantastic few days on the Dutch island of Schiermonnikoog.  I didn't have much time to explore, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere.  What makes Schiermonnikoog special is the absence of automobiles.  Yep, no cars, just bikes and walking, with the occasional bus as necessary.  (Of course, if you live on the island you may have a vehicle.)

Did you you know that the Wadden Sea, the area between the islands and the mainland, has been added to the World Heritage List?  It is a very unique inter-tidal area which exposes the sea bottom when the tide is out.  If you like trudging in wet sand, this is the place to do it.  Wonderful wildlife as well.

 The two above images courtesy H.Hulst

The weather was idyllic and it was just what I needed to transition back from California to Holland.  There is nothing like sleeping on an island!  It feels extra special and magical.  This was especially true because I was photographing children and their energy and joy is so contagious.  I really enjoyed my time on the island and I think you might too.

The famous Hotel van der Werff, since 1726, located in the town center.

I stayed at a little beach hotel called Zandt aan Zee, which had lovely views and an even lovelier gentleman named Andre, who is the owner.  He was very kind and generous and I'm sure he is always that way.  Breakfast is included, which is essential for me.  There is a large patio with lots of seating and tons of lounge chairs for sunbathing.

The view from the patio

Badweg 117
9166 NH Schiermonnikoog


Sailing in Amsterdam w/Captain Reinhard

It is so easy to love this city.  It is quaint & picturesque and oh so wonderful on a bike, breezing through the canals.  However happy this may sound, and believe me it is, there is nothing finer than sailing through the heart of Amsterdam.  Then you begin to understand the true design of the city, as it was meant for boats from the beginning.

Amsterdam, circa 1544, before the outer canals existed.  The IJ is in the foreground, the Amstel River on the left and the Rokin in the middle, where boats delivered directly to the warehouses.

Recently, some very good friends of mine started a new boating service.  You can hire the Farahilde or Welmoed Salonboats to enjoy for various occasions.  Reinhard is the Captain and Miloe is an amazing singer.  You can work with them to create your perfect sailing scenario.  It is a fantastic experience and I think you are going to love it!

Sailing is tricky in Amsterdam and thus requires good lookouts.
The IJ

We brought a picnic and some wine for our evening sail. The boat was outfitted with ice and glasses.  Perfect!
*Highly recommended 

Reinhard Adriaanzn Spronk
telefoon +31 6 50243236
Egelantiersgracht 18- C
1015 RL, Amsterdam

The Farahilde

Tip: Ask to be the Hornblower

Sicily: Casa Turchettii

I have been traveling and traveling.  I want to tell you about Casa Turchetti, my exquisite accommodations in Sicily.  Beautiful amenities and great attention to detail.  Francesca & Pino, the owners, prepare everything with love and fine taste.  Breakfast and afternoon drinks are served on the rooftop terrace with views all around.  Francesca makes the baked goods, jams and limoncello, to name a few, and the rest is procured locally, so 100% Sicilian.

First bites
Breakfast is included
Mt. Etna, an active volcano, as seen from Casa Turchetti
 Pino and I had a long chat about the handmade linens and the high quality mattresses that they provide, including handmade lace that is draped over the beds.  I have to admit, I slept like a baby.

Beautiful attention to detail, which I love.

Excellent quality and service and just a stone's throw from the popular square and shopping street. which you can get to very easily.  Don't miss the cable car ride to Isola Bella beach for a relaxing afternoon

The Square and Shopping Street are within walking distance

Isola Bella Beach

via Salita dei Gracchi - 18/20 - 98039 Taormina 
Tel/fax: +39.0942625013  

OMIGOD! I'm a Foodie!

I have an uncanny way of attracting Foodies as friends, most of them are chefs, or at the very least aficionados, so either way always in the kitchen or eating.  I somehow never thought of myself in the same category, more like a fortunate taster that just happened to be in their vicinity.  It only JUST occurred to me that, "OMIGOD, I'm a Foodie too!"

I know this sounds kinda far-fetched in light of my many food posts, foodporn photos on Instagram & endless check-ins on Foursquare, but it's true.  Maybe I thought I had to reach a certain caliber before being allowed to say it out loud?  Whatever the reason, I am ready to cop to it.  I mean, I AM in the kitchen every single day and I make everything from scratch.  Everything.  Just like how I was raised.  I feel like a first timer in group, "Hello, my name is Teresa and I am Foodie."

I have been in California celebrating my birthday in March.  I like to celebrate all month long with as many friends and restaurants as possible, especially those Foodies I mentioned earlier.  Yes, feasting has been what I have been doing since I wrote to you last.  I am aware that Gluttony is a Cardinal Sin.  Just so you know.  (After this, it's back on the jogging trail.  Seriously.  I mean it.)

Here is a round-up of my latest tastings in the SF Bay Area and Amsterdam.  Enjoy!

*Interested in a review?  Send me an email.

Izakaya Kou

Cooked Shrimp Sushi
This is a casual place with very nice food.  I had just come from the spa, so I did not want to eat too much, but I needed to eat right away.  After all that detoxing, I felt in need of some healthy food.  I was at Kabuki Springs on Geary and the kind staff pointed me across the street to this little corner place.

Izakaya means Japanese Bar and I always like to sit where I can observe the chefs at work, especially sushi chefs.  They are so meticulous and clean and they make the food so beautifully.  Reminds me of my trip to Japan.

The Frozen Persimmon sauce
I was with my Mom who is not big on raw food, so it was fun ordering many things that she could try that were not too outrageous.  Sushi is an acquired taste, one that has taken me the better part of 10-15 years to truly develop and I am still learning.  So, if you are unsure, just keep tasting.  There is a lot to eat that is not raw.  However, once you can, definitely indulge in fresh sushi and you will feel so good inside.  The food is low fat, high protein and rich in nutrients, beauty and flavor.  It's the kind of food that your body just says YES to . . . 

Definitely try:
Frozen Persimmon


I always order Roasted Chicken.
April Bloomfield, celebrated Chef of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin & The John Dory Oyster Bar in NYC, all of which I have been lucky enough to graze at, has now added her touch to the famous Tosca in North Beach.  I remember hanging out here when I was in art school because there were rumors that filmmakers and rockstars hung out in the back room, think Coppola & Bono.

The New Kitchen
Now, without having changed its original decor, they have thrown in a kitchen and are serving food in the dim Night Cafe-ish dining room.  No reservations possible, so you must get your name on the list Asap and order starters and elixirs at the bar.  If you like, you can just keep that seat and chomp away.  Make sure you are not in a rush, though, or you will get irritated with the wait.

It was really fun drinking cocktails, eating great food and reminiscing about ol' times.  Tosca is right across the street from the famous City Lights bookstore where I used to wile away the hours reading heady novels and dreaming about a life abroad.  Tosca, it was just like how I remembered it, but now with FOOD!  Perfect.

Definitely try:
The Roasted Chicken for two.

Blue Plate

Roasted Beet Salad
My girlfriend has her studio in the Mission and after an intoxicating afternoon watching her paint surfaces, we were starving and didn't want to drive across town to change.  So, we opted for an easy down home solution.  A visit to her friend, Sean Thomas, who is the Chef at the Blue Plate which serves comfort food with an elegant twist.

An intimate lively cafe, and of course, when you know the Chef it is always fun to get little surprises sent out to the
table.  Yes, chefs understand the meaning of tasting. 

The Crispy Egg

I really enjoyed just sitting there watching all of the people and the tables are so close you tend to accidentally eavesdrop, which in California is fodder for the casual group conversation.  (Very un-Dutch.)  It is also fun to peak over at the plates next to you to see what everyone is eating.

Definitely try:
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio w/Crispy Egg
Roasted Beet Salad

Casual atmosphere, chic food at the Blue Plate

State Bird Provisions

My Birhday Desserts
Brought to you by Chef Stuart Brioza, State Bird was the venue for my REAL birthday dinner, meaning on the actual night, I invited my two best friends, who are also chefs, the lovely Tera Ancona, Pastry Chef/Owner of Cibo in Sausalito and the multi-talented Christine Wolheim of WolheimStyle.  This is real tasting.  Seriously.  The food is carted out already prepared, dim sum style.  The waiter arrives and points to various delectable dishes, describing their ingredients and careful preparation, then all you have to do is nod your head vigorously and Voila! it's yours.

Christine, Tera & Stuart
Please be aware that this is very dangerous.  Yes, you can really overdo it if not careful.  It is difficult though, as everything looks amazing, sounds amazing and tastes amazing.  You can also order from the menu if you prefer.  I think that we mostly just tasted from the endless carts swinging by our table.  I think we even ordered stuff from carts going to other people's tables.  Greedy gluttonous Foodies that we are . . . 

By the way, it is really fun to go out with chefs because they are so totally into the food, the menu, the plates, the chef coats, etc. all you really have to do is sit back and r e l a x.  They are Excellent at ordering and tasting wine as well.  It is an honor, when they know you so well, that they order for you AND send away offensive items.  "She doesn't like it."  Yes, I love that most of all.  That is my favorite.

Caviar and Oysters from the Cart

Again, no reservations possible, so be prepared to wait if necessary.

Definitely try:
The Cart

Barrel House Tavern

Grazing is popular in California
This amazing space has been empty for several years.  Originally the very first ferry terminal in Sausalito (serving SF) before the Golden Gate Bridge was built.  It has stunning views of San Francisco and the Bay.  The food is robust with lots of seafood and served on giant ceramic plates, which are all the rage in Marin. 

There is a welcoming bar and fire pit and lots of seating, so no problem if you want to have a large party.  This is where I celebrated my birthday with family.  We enjoyed several shared starters and some great plates.  California always has top wines and the service was good, but it usually is in Marin.

I like the fact that this place is within walking distance from my house in Sausalito and I suspect just meeting for drinks is probably fun too.  I will try that the next time I am in town.  I think it is what the new owner is craving as he wants to get that party vibe back in town.  A refreshing walk along the waterfront after dinner is essential.

Definitely try:
The Seafood

The view of San Francisco at the foot of the Barrel House.

The Butcher (Secret Speakeasy)

I have been eating burgers (and Fish & Chips) at The Butcher since they opened, see I Love the Butcher!, but was always curious about the secret speakeasy that was rumoured to be located somewhere in the back.  I wasn't sure how to get in, I had heard there was a special password.   Sometimes I would be sitting there gobbling up my fries when overdressed people (for a burger joint) would sashay by and disappear.  Mr. Man and I would surreptitiously look over our burgers trying to suss it out. Where'd they go?  What's going on?  What's the password?  How do we get in?  Well, hold the presses because there is really no mystery after all.  You just simply must make a reservation and then you get all the info, including illustrious password, which changes (just so you know).  I think you can also be a club member, but no clue how that works.
How we looked before going in.

It was so exciting to arrive on the night of yet another birthday celebration, this time in combination with Mr. Man's birthday as well.   We had best friends and new friends in tow, including Chef Rikard Andersson and Nicolas Castagno, Barista Extraordinaire, both of Scandinavian Embassy.  At last, WE got to sashay through and over to the magical freezer door.  We pressed an unmarked button and gave the password.  Silence.  Then the door slid open and we were greeted by a model type hostess.  The door closed.  For an uncomfortable few minutes we were trapped in an elevator type metal cubicle with a glowing computer on a tiny stand.  (It was very James Bond.)  She took our coats and stashed them in a secret closet.  She double checked our reservation and whispered into an intercom.  The dress code was Elegant Chic.  She looked us over.  Pressed a button.  A door silently glided open.  We were inside at last!

We were led past the bar to the living room style section, including the good chair.  We enjoyed imbibing (majorly) and indulging.  They make large and delicious cocktails.  The food was not as super fantastico as I had anticipated, it is more good food that goes with drinks.  However, Rikard said he thought the food was better than he had expected, which surprised me.  There was really nothing to complain or rave about.  We had a great night and everyone else in the place seemed to be doing the same, it felt a bit gangsterish.  We had our desserts at the bar, and just in the nick of time, because the music started jumpin' and suddenly the whole place was swarming with beautiful party people.   FUN!

Everyone ordered:
The Lobster and Giant G&T's

Rikard & Nicholas


Like ribs?  I do.  Love ribs.  Didn't eat ribs for years.  Didn't know I could even get ribs in Amsterdam.  Then one night my girlfriend took me to Castell.  She was wearing a Cheshire Grin.  I had just finished auditioning for a Zumba teacher gig and was completely spent and STARVING.  She just kept grinning and ordered for me.  (You know how much I love that.)

Sit by the fire or at the bar.
Dear God, we ate and ate and ate.  I honestly don't know about anything else on the menu because ever since, I just order the same damn thing she ordered me that night.  As a matter of fact, I pull the same trick on all the people I take there, same grin, same order.  It's a winner every time.
Come to find out Castell is an institution in Amsterdam.  Why had no one ever told me about this place?  I could have been gnawing on ribs all these years!  Am so happy I know now and so, I thought you would also like to know.  Check it.  It's like a 1970's man cave. 

What I always order at Castell:
Ribs w/baked potato, served w/delectable BBQ sauce.
Salad (required for digestion)

Little Collins

I have been dying to go to Little Collins for ages.  They are famous for their brunch.  It's been new in the neighborhood for quite awhile now, but as it is on the other side of the park, I forget about it and like a zombie only go to the cafes on my street.  So, to me it's still New.  I was enjoying a bit of a must-have sunny walk through the park on Saturday and was not quite enthusiastic enough to run, so instead I abandoned ship and headed straight out of the park and directly over to Little Collins
Eggs on Sourdough.
The place was packed and you could hear the Expats babbling away in English, a good sign that it wasn't going to be the usual Dutch fare.  Yay!  They were totally packed.  The place was buzzing and all the tables in the sunshine were taken.  Hmm.  I opted for the incognito table in the back where I could observe everything.

First of all, they have a full bar and drink menu.  These people are not kidding.  I wish I would have wanted a Bloody Mary because they looked awesome.  The vibe has a masculine, but elegant flair and I just can't wait to go back for a full on brunch with friends or meet for cocktails. 

The only thing I tried (so far):
Eggs Hollandaise


I remember when you couldn't get a scrambled egg to save your life in Amsterdam, let alone an omelet.  Now new breaky places are opening left and right, literally.  Praise the Lord, is all I have to say.  I don't eat bread or cheese, so Dutch food does not appeal.  Eggs on the other hand I can eat at any time.  

After sleeping way too many hours, I awoke starving.  I decided I needed an omelet and I was hoping to get something similar to what I get in California, basically a sexy spinach, mushroom 3 egg omelet, some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a coffee the size of my head.

Seemed popular with young laughing couples. The menu is carved on wood, so not that easy to read, but no matter, there is a great selection and you can also construct your own omelets.  The only thing I didn't like was being told I couldn't have a booth, even though the place was not full and that my omelet arrived on a piece of bread.  Everything in Holland is served ON plain bread.  I tend to forget that.  The omelet was good, however, and I would have it again.  Overall, a friendly place with decent service, decor was iffy.

The only thing I tried:
The Popeye *Sorry no photo because I was so hungry I forgot to photograph it!  It was perfectly made, with leafy spinach and great cheese that was all melty and yummy.