Bud break. It is such a beautiful sight in a vineyard. Those fresh buds and tiny first leaves popping out, full of promise of a new vintage ahead.
The vineyards are back in business, and so am I. It’s been a year of new beginnings, with a move from Rotterdam to Munich (by way of Frankfurt), and the birth of a baby boy. We’ve finally settled down after the hardest apartment hunt ever. The boy goes to daycare during mornings, and I have resurfaced.
I’m so happy that I have some new projects lined up, more on those in upcoming posts. One project I’m particularly excited about is a new book on Dutch wine that I’m working on with wine writer Mariëlla Beukers. Under the title ‘Wijn van Eigen Bodem’ it will be published by Forte Uitgevers this Fall.
Dutch wine, you ask? Yes, Dutch wine. There are plenty of them, and many of them are quite good, too. It’s not climate change that has made it possible for dozens of (aspiring) winemakers to jump on the bandwagon, but the availability of new fungus-resistant grape varieties and increased know-how via internet, oenology courses and wine consultants.
Since more and more people are interested in locally produced and seasonal food, why not drink locally too? This is the premise of our book, and we offer loads of practical information on where to drink Dutch wines, how to pair them with regional foods, and how to visit local vintners. Interviews with winemakers, sommeliers and other Dutch wine experts give insight into the wines of the Lowlands right now.
It feels like yesterday I boarded the bus for the #frenchwinetrip, but yet so distant. This is a sweet encapsulation of that wonderful journey (English/French/Dutch with Dutch subtitles). The film is by Lionel Daneau, with Christophe Wirtgen (camera) and Olivier Philippart (Sound).
As far as I know, there is no cookery book about one single street, certainly not one with such diverse food as West-Kruiskade in Rotterdam. The street with a 1000 flavors. But now there is: Spicy.
Last Summer I worked on this book about the famous multicultural street. I was born in the area, but I had no idea this sketchy street from childhood was so happening. I also thought I knew quite a bit about food by now, but I encountered new ingredients and many new dishes. Ever heard of kwi kwi fish (a little armored fish from Surinam), rocks of jaggery (Indian palm sugar) or soursop leaves (apparently a natural remedy for many physical complaints)? Or eaten kuzkuz (a Cape Verdean corn flour dessert cooked in a flower pot) or pepre watra (a spicy Surinamese fish soup)?
For the book, shop owners revealed their favorite recipe, which was then cooked and photographed by Jinai Looi and Hoi Chin Chong of Het Zesde Geluk (“The Sixth Happiness”). The book has Afghan, Brazilian, Cape Verdian, Caribbean, Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Peruvian, Surinamese, Thai and Turkish recipes, all made with ingredients found on West-Kruiskade. Photographer Maarten Laupman and I roamed the street, looking for ingredients, faces and stories. With tropical temperatures, it felt exotic. The worldliness I was looking for, was right there in my hometown. The whole experience actually led me to settle back there.
I’m counting down the days until I can finally head to La Rioja, Spain. With last year’s impressions fresh in my mind, I know this year’s Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC, the former EWBC) is going to be just as great. Three days of seminars, tastings and keynote sessions revolving around the theme “flavour”, as well as lots of inspiring meetings with people who are passionate about wine and the web.
What became most clear to me last year, was how the love for wine can quickly bring complete strangers together. No matter the level of wine education or background. Case in point: after the final dinner, many of the conference participants carried on dancing way into the night. From MWs to promising wine bloggers, everyone seemed to be having a ball. But having fun is not the only levelling force of wine, obviously. The Grand Terroir Tasting featuring wine from Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Lebanon or the keynote by Andrew Jefford on wine communication were other shared experiences that stirred opinions and ideas.
I’m looking forward to this year’s edition from 25 through 27 October, especially to the grand tasting of native Iberian varieties, led by Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz, authors of Wine Grapes, as well as workshops on Flavour perception (led by Tim Hanni MW) or food and wine pairing. The ladies of The Rome Digest (yours truly included) will make a special appearance on Saturday morning at 09.00, for early birds who are interested in hearing about collaborative blogging.
Watch the wrap-up video from last year’s event.
This summer, I swapped sweltering Rome for a few months of lowlands cool. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a permanent move back, but it definitely felt great to rediscover the homeland. As if I viewed the Netherlands with foreign eyes, story ideas just kept popping up.
Eindhoven, a former industrial town in the south, was never really on my radar. For a feature in Let’s Go Mag, I spent a few days traipsing around this city that is swiftly transforming in an exciting design hub (“northern Europe’s unofficial design capital”). The story was a preview on the annual Dutch Design Week.
Taking a break from food writing, I noticed that reporting about design and designers is not much different. Designers are just as passionate about their work than chefs. Or any creative people, really. Spending time with them, I always feel invigorated and inspired. Take Marleen Kurvers, one of the designers I interviewed for this story and owner of the shop Dutch Design Year, where it is Dutch Design Week all year round. “Her enthusiasm for the city’s work is evident, and she happily tells the back story of each piece as she shows you around the space: chairs made from industrial robot arms and refrigerator plastic; paper vases with profits going to help lift women in a Mumbai slum out of poverty.”
One of the most exciting discoveries for this piece was Sectie C, an artist ‘village’ located on a former industrial plot where artists and designer collaborate in creating amazing objects. Check it out when you get a chance (only upon appointment), especially for the work of Spanish-born artist Nacho Carbonell.
Read the full feature here: Dutch by Design, with brilliant pictures by René van der Hulst.
Gray skies, dark suits, gloomy buildings: Brussels gets a bad rep as a sleepy commuter city. Most tourists stick to the center, but who ventures out beyond the Grand Place, the statue of the peeing chap and the touristy restaurants on Rue des Bouchers, discovers a vibrant destination, especially for food lovers. And affordable at that.
The city is only a two-hour train ride from where I currently live (this Summer) and yet it feels so different. I’ve always liked this city with its undefinable melancholy side. For an article in Wizz Magazine, I recently explored the ‘bistronomie’ phenomenon. A contraction of ‘bistro’ and ‘gastronomie’, it describes a restaurant that has the looks of a bistro, while serving creative dishes with quality beers and wines. Of course, this is just an umbrella term and the restaurants I visited were idiosyncratic enough to be featured separately.
While reviewing the restaurants and interviewing the chefs, I discovered the areas of Saint Gilles, Ixelles and Ste. Cathérine. Lots of bars and cafes, quaint stores, cornershops, with a cool diversity. I’ll be back soon!
Read the full article here.