After a long period of anticipation, my visits to the European Taste festivals have rolled around and passed in a flurry. Taste of Amsterdam, the third and final of the Euro Festivals that I’ll be able to make it to this year, and different again to Milan and Paris.
The first and most noticeable feature about this edition is that it was truly a festival. Situated in the (large and beautiful) Amstelpark just out of central Amsterdam, the festival meandered in and out of shadow and light beneath the trees and along grassy banks. Around each turn, different music waited from French jazz to house to Latin beats (although unfortunately, later in the day as the volume increased and the music started to overlap, it became a bit of an assault on the ears).
The status of gastronomy in The Netherlands is quite peculiar. Aside from cheese and pancakes, the Dutch are not particularly renowned for their cuisine. However, due to their colonial history, their supermarkets present a highly diverse range of foods, including many dishes and spices from Indonesia and Suriname. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because they are Western European, Dutch people can’t handle hot and spicy food!
Despite this, of the four countries in which I’ve now attended Taste Festivals, I felt that Amsterdam was the one with the least of it’s ‘own’ food. There was a very strong representation from France as well as some from Spain, but French food, brands and atmosphere was very prevalent including within the Veuve-Clicquot sponsored section. With the music, high proportion of drink-based stalls, market, activities and workshops, including the outdoor setting, the overall event came across as “a festival in Amsterdam which also celebrates food” rather than the other countries which put on “a festival celebrating food in Paris/Milan/Melbourne”. There were also a lot more children at this event (a full day, rather than an allotted time slot) than at the others.
The workshops were a lot of fun and all included in the ticket price – I attended the Ketel One Bloody Mary workshop as well as AEG Baking Lab and “learned” to make Brioche. I say “learned” in inverted commas, because I have made bread before and I’m not sure I would consider this truly learning to make bread – everything was pre-packaged into the right measurements and simply needed to be added to the mixer in the right order. However the introduction to kneading dough was good for those who have never tried before (and thankfully, the process was simple enough that I could follow along despite not speaking Dutch). The results were delicious.
If you didn’t manage to sign up to any of the workshops (which were very popular and all filled up!) there were numerous other activities scattered throughout the event including a photobooth, making your own salad dressing, and posing with a statue of the infamous Paul Bocuse at the Lyon stand – did I mention there was a strong French presence?
The market was probably the best presented of any I’ve seen, and the quality of produce available to taste and purchase was very high, and again with a great diversity. If I had been there longer no doubt I would have left with my arms full of produce, but as my bags are already full to bursting (including with the infused oils from Taste of Paris!) I only took home a cheese platter for that evening. There were definitely some really creative products including flavoured popcorns in unusual combinations I haven’t seen before, and rich truffle butters.
I had a really fun time participating in the workshops and wandering around the festival in the sun listening to the different kinds of music. Not only was it great to be able to compare it to the other Taste Festivals, but it was just a really pleasant day and probably the best value for money out of all of them (although of course you can’t compare to the Michelin starred restaurants at the Paris festival, but that serves a different purpose). The food from the pop-ups was not as high quality but it was also at a lower price point than the other events.
Overall I recommend the Taste of Amsterdam as a fantastic day out, and really hope to make it back in the future.