Amsterdam boasts 12 daily outdoor markets and 15 markets that are open one or two days of the week, spread across the beautiful city that is built around picturesque canals. At the Waterlooplein Flea Market one can find second hand clothing, while vintage trinkets and exotic spices can be haggled over at the largest market called Albert Cuypmarkt. Perhaps the most photographed market in Amsterdam is the Bloemenmarkt, the only floating flower market in the world, housed on a long succession of boats on the Singel canal where one can enjoy tulips of various colors, even a rare black type.
On a wet autumn Saturday morning, I did as the locals did and rode my bicycle, holding an umbrella in one hand and wearing a big rain poncho, to the Noordermarkt organic farmers market in the Jordaan district to secure my week’s supply of greens and bread.
Noordermarkt, which means Northern Market, dates back to 1616 and was originally named Prinsenmarkt after the nearby Prinsengracht canal that runs along the length of the city. In 1623, a large church called Noorderkerk was built in the town square, and for many years the current market site was used as a graveyard. Eventually the market was revived and it took on the name of Noordermarkt to commemorate the holy landmark.
During World War II, the Noordermarkt square became the site of the February Strike, the first public protest of non-Jewish citizens against the deportation of Jews by the Nazis. Now it is a peaceful and beautiful square lined by posh cafés and restaurants, coming alive on Saturdays as the only organic farmers market in the city.
I started filling my wicker basket with plump tomatoes, hefty beets, salad greens and fresh herbs while chatting with the vendors about how best to prepare them. Despite the rain, the market was bustling with people from all walks of life who were enjoying this weekend tradition as much as I was. Vibrant colors of ripe fruits and vegetables filled each stall, and alluring aromas of freshly baked breads and cheese samples drew me in from all directions.
An oyster stall at the market was the perfect place to rest my feet and indulge in some tasty bites. David Hervé La Royale Cabanon oysters had a lovely sweetness that lingered forever on my palate. A young boy, who looked around 8 years old, threw back the Royale like a seasoned veteran and gave me the thumbs up sign with a big smile.
The oyster vendor recommended that we try the Umami oyster, a plump oyster that shocked me with its initial jolt of saltiness, which then gradually and slowly turned into an intense brininess with a final finish of potent sweetness. It was a powerful and vigorous oyster, unlike the more understated and elegant flavors of the Royale.
The Dutch are known for their rustic breads, and not surprisingly, there were at least 10 different bread stalls at the Noordermarkt. Freshly baked muffins, some topped with sweetened fruits and others with herbs and vegetables, rye rusks, whole wheat loaves, braided pretzels, heavy spelt cylinders and flaky croissants colorfully lined each counter, quickly being snatched up by hungry customers.
Large wheels of cheeses, from the famous Gouda to the mellow Edam, soft goat’s cheese to buttery triple cream cheese, were on display for all to see and buy, and every vendor was more than happy to guide me in finding the right ones to satisfy my palate.
After a morning of shopping and sampling, the best way to wind down is to nosh on the best apple pie in the city at Winkel Café, situated right in the Noordermarkt square. In fact, the organic farmers market got its start in 1987 when the owner of Winkel set up organic vegetable stalls in front of his café, hoping to draw more customers into his store. The cozy café is always crowded, day or night, rain or shine, with locals and tourists.
Several Hollandse appeltaarts (Dutch apple pie) come up the dumbwaiter from the kitchen onto the main counter, warm and fresh, and served met slagroom (with whipped cream) for those wanting that extra sugar kick. During the rush, Winkel will easily dish out up to 10 pies an hour.
As the rain came pouring down on us at the end of our shopping spree, we darted into Winkel Café and squeezed into the communal table next to 10 other customers who were already licking up their pies. After warming our bodies and our hands on tall glasses of mint tea, we dug our spoons into our apple pies to experience a heavenly dessert like no other. Thick soft chunks of sweet apples coated with cinnamon, nestled inside an even softer encasing of weightless crust that was delicate yet full of flavor at the same time. No need for whipped cream on these apple pies, they were just perfect on their own.
1015 NA Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Noordermarkt organic farmers market is on the corner of Prinsengracht and Westerstraat, and open on Saturdays from 9.00 am – 3.00 pm.