Horsing Around in Amsterdam

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Imagine walking around a bustling shopping and commuting thoroughfare just outside Amsterdam’s ring of canals. You pass Dutch bakeries, Shoarma houses, Surinamese restaurants. Ah, the sweet, sweet scents of an international city.

Suddenly, your nostrils pick up something not so … sweet. Or, shall I say, sweet in another way. Is that … manure? You look down quickly to make sure you didn’t step in anything. Nothing there. No carriages passing by, either. What is that?

Following your nose, you turn down a side street. It’s a quiet street, and just beyond there’s greenery—a park, possibly. Ah, that must be the source. You continue walking down the cobblestone walkway, admiring the old and exclusive row of homes. Nice, very nice. One of the facades, though, doesn’t look like the others. It’s more of an arch with large wooden doors. Hmm. Interesting. And … there’s that “sweet” scent again.

The Hollandsche Manege

You have stumbled upon the home of the Hollandsche Manege, Amsterdam’s oldest riding school, established in the 1770s. This building dates from the 1880s is, luckily, open to the public—as long as they are quiet, of course.

I admit, I did not stumble upon the manege. My Amsterdamster friend brought me by knowing I’d love this hidden nugget. Open the doors and there’s a long low-ceiling, cobbled entry leading to a large, vaulted arena. Peer over a 4- to 5-foot tall wall any time of day, and you’re likely to find a riding class going on, or also the “adult swim” version of riding.

But wait, there’s more. Walk through a door to the right and walk up an elegant staircase. Yes, it’s elegant. Really.

On the staircase you get a sense of not only the history of the place, but of the generations that have come here to ride: Each rise is heavily worn. The destination? A small cafe with a patio overlooking the ring.

The afternoon riding class.

And look at this: You can even enjoy a coffee, beer or aperitif while waiting for your daughter to finish her riding lesson. How civilized.

How civilized.

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Hello, ‘cello

January 5, 2011 § 5 Comments

Sunshine in a bottle.

'cellos give any gathering a citrusy kickoff

That pretty much describes the essence of lemoncello and orangecello (and limecello and … ), that quintessential citrus aperitif  of Italy. (Did I just say “quintessential”? Who am I?)

In Dainty-speak, these ‘cellos rock it. For a bunch of reasons:

  • They give alcohol a tasty, refreshingly clean kick in the pants.
  • They bring back memories of an awesome tour through the Amalfi Coast. (Never been? It’s a must.)
  • And, best yet, they can be made at home – no distillery needed. That’s brilliant!

Not that I’ve made ‘cellos, of course. But they’ve been given to me, as recently as this past holiday. It was a double gift – lemoncello and a blog post in the making. I like that.

During our New Year’s festivities in Provincetown, where 11 compadres destroyed convened on our friends’ home, Karen gave out a bottle of the liquor – made in her very own kitchen – to everyone in the crowd, with a spare to give New Year’s Eve a celebratory kick start.

The goods:

  • 12 decorative bottles purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops (i.e. inexpensive and cute!)
  • 100% proof good-quality vodka, enough to fill said bottles
  • oranges and lemons (how many? she didn’t tell me), zested separately

The low-down:

  • Soak the zests (one batch orange, one batch lemon) in the alcohol for four to five days
  • Strain out zest and discard
  • Add simple syrup* to infused alcohol
  • Bottle and insert cork!

You’re wondering, “Yo, dude, what’s the ratio of alcohol to simple syrup?” I had the same question. Here’s a direct quote from the ‘cello maker herself:

“The mixture of alcohol and simple syrup is a matter of taste and courage … the more you mix, the sweeter and lower alcohol content you have. The less you mix, the more lethal it becomes!”

Gift-giving tip

Karen made both lemoncello and orangecello. Which bottles contained what? The ribbed bottles were filled with one flavor, the bumpy bottles had another flavor.

*A simple simple syrup recipe: Boil together 1 cup water and 1 cup white sugar until sugar is dissolved. Cool. You’re done. Make more or less depending on how much you need. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.

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