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Michelin Starred Restaurants

Food continues to be an important part of our European experience. We’ve eaten great food at all price ranges, but many of our most memorable meals relate to ones we’ve eaten at Michelin-starred restaurants.  Here’s the list of the ones we’ve visited so far and a bit of the flavor of our experience at each.

Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

Amsterdam has a long history of Michelin starred restaurants, and we’ve been slowly working through many of them. Here is the list of ones we’ve eaten at in a rough descending order of our favorites; however, all are very good and worthy of a visit:

  • Ciel Bleu (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017)
    Ciel Bleu is one of the Michelin two-star restaurants in Amsterdam. Located on the 23rd floor of the Hotel Okura, Ciel Bleu has spectacular views over the city. The food matches the surroundings; exquisite food with superbly matched wines. We’ve been three many times now and, if treated as theater as much as a dining experience, it’s fabulous. We know the sommelier through our friends who own Seasons and Noel has always made the wines a highlight of the dinner.
  • Librije’s Zusje (2015, 2017)
    Opened for about a year when we visited the first time, dinner at Librije’s Zusje was top-notch from beginning to end.  Highlights included the caviar/coffee 1st dish, the cheese course where we had four types of Dutch cheese and the corn “taco” dessert. Our second trip in 2017 was also memorable.
  • Vinkeles (2012, 2013)
    Robin and I had my 2012 birthday dinner at Vinkeles  in the Dylan Hotel on the Keizersgracht. Our dinner here was spectacular. We’ve been back a second time and I would say it is my favourite of the one-started restaurants here in Amsterdam.
  • La Rive (2014, 2015, 2016)
    We ate at La Rive in the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam for my 2014 birthday. The setting of the restaurant at water level with dockside sitting for pre-dinner aperitifs is spectacular on sunny summer evenings. Return visits have been equally memorable.
  • Aan de Poel (2017)
    We finally made it to Aan de Poel in Amstelveen in January 2017. We had a beautiful dinner; highlights included an amuse that came to the table under a cloche holding a delicate smoke that nicely flavored the dish and a stellar grilled beef dish as the main.
  • Restaurant Sinne (2015)
    We ate at Sinne in June 2015 and had a terrific tasting menu dinner matching with wines. The quality of food was certainly one-star but I was amazed at how inexpensive the dinner was. Highly recommended for its value.
  • Bord’Eau (2014)
    We ate at Bord’Eau in the Hotel de L’Europe in May 2014 just after it was awarded its second Michelin star. Very thoughtful and immaculately prepared dishes.
  • Restaurant Lastage (2013, 2014)
    We’ve also been to Lastage, another one-star restaurant, twice. It is a much smaller restaurant than many of the others on the list and one not associated with an upscale hotel. The cooking here is terrific. Recommended.
  • Le Restaurant (2017)
    Le Restaurant in de Pijp was one of those places that we always seemed to have trouble getting into.  Their schedule, our availability; it never seemed to work out. Then in late 2016, Le Restaurant announced that they were shutting down their then-current location and rebuilding at another. As a result, they missed the 2017 Michelin rating cycle and lost their one star. Fortunately, Robin noticed that they had reopened in February 2017 and she jumped in and made a reservation.  The long wait was worth it as the food here was stylish and well-thought through.  The poached cod with smoked eel was superb.
  •  &samhoud places (2014, 2015)
    Restaurant &samhoud places is the other currently two-starred restaurant. Located in a new building on the Oosterdokskade, &samhoud places has a beautiful view over the city as well as beautiful creative food.
  • Rijks® (2015)
    Opened in 2014, we finally made it to Rijks® at the Rijksmuseum for dinner at the end of October 2015.  We figured that the kitchen clearly had aspirations of Michelin stars and in 2017, Rijks received their first star.
  • RON Gastrobar (2015)
    RON Gastrobar’s concept of little shareable dishes for the first course is novel and the BBQ spare ribs themselves are worth a visit.
  • Restaurant Vermeer (2014)
    We ate here in early 2014 and had a good, solid meal here.
  • Bridges (2012)
    We ate at Bridges in the The Grand Amsterdam a few years before they received their Michelin star.  The food here, focused on seafood and fish, was very well executed.
  • Yamazato (2015)
    The third restaurant we’ve tried at the Hotel Okura was Yamazato. Unfortunately, during our visit, they were renovating the room in which the restaurant sits, so we ate in their breakfast room which removed some of the ambiance.  The food and service was excellent though.

Copenhagen, Denmark

We were fortunate enough to be able to land a table at Noma in 2014, so we made a special trip to Copenhagen from Amsterdam to eat there.

  • Noma (2014)
    What can be said about Noma that hasn’t been written before? It is a very unique food experience.  We were very fortunate to share a table with a chef friend of ours who worked at Noma; after our meal, we got a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen and food laboratory.  Pictures of our meal are available here(As an aside, we had an excellent meal the night before at Amass, also in Copenhagen. I thought the food at Amass was also worthy of a star, but alas so far they do not have one.)

Lisbon, Portugal

There are only three Michelin-starred restaurants in Lisbon proper and Robin and I made a trip to one of them on our short visit there in March 2016.

  • Feitoria (2016)
    Situated by the river’s edge in Belem, Feitoria served a wonderful meal based on Portuguese ingredients. Highlights included the various amuse-bouche and the beetroot/raspberry dessert.  Paired with a full suite of Portuguese wines, this was a fabulous meal.

London, England

While there are many Michelin starred restaurants in London, Robin and I have only recently started seeking them out.

  • La Chapelle (2016)
    Robin and I visited La Chapelle in late February 2016.  The Menu Gourmand matched with wines (and pear cider for the cheese course) was terrific; the guinea fowl, foie gras and bayonee ham terrine was particularly memorable.

Madrid, SPain

We did a food-centric weekend trip to Madrid in November 2015, enjoying a tapas tour one evening and a Michelin-star restaurant the next.

  • La Cabra (2015)
    We took the 14-course tasting menu with matching wines and had a spectacular meal covering cuisines such as China, Thailand, Hungary, France, Peru and Mongolia.  Definitely recommended if you’re in Madrid.

Food Guide: Amsterdam

One of the best parts of living in Amsterdam is the great restaurant and food scene here. Foodies of all sorts will find something in Amsterdam to their liking. Here are our favorites as of February 2017, now split into four lists: one for the central area of Amsterdam, one for the east side (Amsterdam Oost) where we now live, one for the Oud-Zuid where we lived from 2008 to 2013 and one last list of our favorite stores. I’ve moved the Amsterdam Michelin-starred restaurants to a separate post (available here) as this post was getting too big to manage.

Restaurants and Bars in Amsterdam Centrum

  • Seasons remains our favorite restaurant in Amsterdam. We happened upon it while we were living in the Convent Hotel for the months of August and September 2008. Over time, we’ve got to know the owners, Peter and Blaine, and continue to return on a regular basis. Seasons often serves up an amazing American Thanksgiving dinner. If you visit us here in Amsterdam, it’s almost assured that we’ll take you here.
  • Oriental City is our dim sum place in Amsterdam. Compared to the dim sum palaces in Houston and Calgary, it’s a relatively tiny place where you have to order off a menu since the building is way too crowded for carts. The dim sum is excellent with a wide selection of all our favorites, including five or six versions of rice pancake. We’ve also started going more regularly to the Sea Palace for dim sum; it’s a little more spacious, a little less busy than Oriental City and the dim sum steadily improving.
  • While Mexican is not a cuisine most people would associate with Amsterdam, Los Pilones serves up good Mexican food in three different locations (the newest on the Nieuwmarkt) and excellent margaritas.  Robin and I once did an memorable Amsterdam pub crawl, starting at Bubbles and Wine, going to Los Pilones next and ending up at the Irish pub, Aran, at Max Euwe Plein before staggering home.
  • A recent welcome addition to the centrum is Ramen-ya, a Japanese noodle bar, just across from Oriental City.  I stopped in here late on a Sunday afternoon and had a great bowl of ramen.
  • Another good Japanese restaurant we’ve found recently is Japanese Pancake World.  This small but authentic restaurant in the Jordaan specializes in okonomiyaki.  Very tasty.
  • We recently visited Lt. Cornelis, which is located near Het Spui. Robin and I were very impressed with the Dutch-inspired food served here.
  • Bubbles and Wines is a nice wine bar on the Nes. They do various flights of wine from around the world and their appetizers are very good as well.
  • The Amstelstraat version of Gollem is a great place for good beer.

Restaurants and Bars in Amsterdam Oost

  • Close to our new house, Elkaar has impressed us both times we’ve been there.  Very nicely prepared food with a terrific wine list.  Recommended.
  • Pompstation is a converted water pumping station north of the Muiderpoort NS station.  The building is very cool, and they often have live music.  The reason to come here is to have a good steak, probably the best I’ve have so far in Amsterdam.
  • A recent find, courtesy of our friends who own Seasons, is Rijsel. As they say on their website, “Rijsel is the result of a passion for the French kitchen and an attempt to catch the lightheartedness of Flanders.” The food there is very straightforward French brasserie style, but extremely well done. Tough to get into, but worth planning ahead for.
  • We finally made it to Restaurant De Kas in 2015. Featuring the harvest of their own greenhouse, supplemented with the best additional ingredients from local suppliers, De Kas puts vegetables first on the menu.  In many ways, dining at De Kas reminded me of eating at Noma in Copenhagen: both places let the local flavours drive the menu.

Restaurants in the Oud Zuid and de Pijp

  • Serre, the sister restaurant to the Michelin starred Ciel Bleu in the Hotel Okura is very, very good. It won Time Out’s Restaurant of the Year award in 2011.
  • There are a couple of good French-inspired restaurants that we used to frequent in the Oud Zuid around Roelof Hartplein: Magnolia (now closed) and the Brassiere van Baerle.
  • Sardegna is a nice Italian place with food positioned between your typical plain Italian places and an upscale restaurant like Roberto’s in the Hilton. The last couple of meals we’ve had here were very good.
  • Blauw is an Indonesian restaurant on Amstelveenseweg. Unlike many other Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, Blauw is very sleek and clean from a design point of view and the rijstafel is better than average. This is our go-to place for visitors looking for Indonesian.

Stores

  • Duikelman is our go-to store for cooking supplies in Amsterdam.
  • Frank’s Smokehouse is the place for smoked fish and poultry.  Their smoked turkey is amazing.
  • De Bierkoning is an amazing beer store near Dam Square.
  • Wynand Fockink is a spirits and liqueur distillery in the central of Amsterdam and has been around since 1679. Their fruit brandies and liquors are excellent.

2016: The Year in Cities

Here are the cities/towns/villages I’ve spent the night in during 2016 (places marked with * have seen multiple visits within the year):

It looks like our time in Europe will draw to close in 2017, so this list will likely change significantly next year.

With respect to countries, I added new six ones to my visited list in 2016: Portugal, Hungary, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. My visited-countries list stands as follows at the end of 2016:

  1. Antigua
  2. Austria
  3. Bahamas
  4. Belgium
  5. British Virgin Islands
  6. Canada
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Denmark
  9. Estonia
  10. Finland
  11. France
  12. Germany
  13. Hungary
  14. India
  15. Ireland
  16. Italy
  17. Japan
  18. Luxembourg
  19. Malaysia
  20. Netherlands
  21. Nigeria
  22. Norway
  23. Portugal
  24. Russia
  25. Singapore
  26. Spain
  27. Sweden
  28. Switzerland
  29. Thailand
  30. Trinidad and Tobago
  31. United Arab Emirates
  32. United Kingdom
  33. United States of America
  34. US Virgin Islands
  35. Vatican City

Again, with our likely move back to Canada, I do not expect this list to grow as much in 2017.

Revising my Lightroom Workflow

While attending the Adventure Sports Photography Workshop back in September, I realized that I would need to significantly improve my Lightroom workflow if I was really serious of moving my photography from a hobby into a second-career business. I learned much from Dan and Janine Patitucci on how they manage their photography business in this age of social media and ever-growing competition from non-traditional sources.

Keywording

The first area I needed to work on was keywording.  While my photographs all had basic keywords, being successful in today’s world of stock photography requires a good  strategy for keywording.

I did some searching on the Internet and found the Lightroom Keyword Project List.  I downloaded the list and then exported my own keyword list. Working in my favourite text editor (PSPad), I combined the two and re-imported this combined list into Lightroom.  The design of the keyword structure simply requires me to move from the top to the bottom of list, keywording as I go.  My average number of keywords has jumped up considerably and I’m now at or above mytarget of 15 keywords per master photograph.

Workflow

In addition, my overall Lightroom workflow needed work. As a hobbyist, having no differentiation among personal, hobby and potential salable photographs was not a big problem. But looking forward, I knew that I needed to have a way to separate these in Lightroom.  I also needed a better way to manage master photographs within portfolios, especially if the master photographs were processed in other software technologies like OnOne and Nik.

Another Internet search led me to Dan Morris’  Complete Lightroom Workflow post, which met almost of my requirements including keeping all photographs within a single Lightroom catalog. I especially liked Dan’s use of Smart Collections to ensure that master photographs are all properly titled, captioned, geolocated, keyworded and copyrighted. My only significant change to Dan’s system was to assign the Purple color for Hobby Photography.

The Results

I took well over a month to go through my entire Lightroom catalog with the new workflow. Looking at the numbers below, you’ll see why it took so long:

  • Total Photographs: 16222
  • Within Total Photographs: Personal Photographs: 5710, Hobby Photographs: 794, Professional Photographs: 9717
  • Within Professional Photographs: Archive Quality: 3653, Hold Quality: 5839, Master Photograph Quality: 169

The numbers show that I need to take about 100 photographs to get one Master Photograph.

One of the joys of going through my entire portfolio was finding photographs that I passed over at the time.  Now with new tools and a more mature vision for my photography, I was able to bring some of these long-lost photos back to life.  The featured image in this post is a good example: it is from 2007 and a road trip we took to New Mexico.  The bright glow of the white sand desert that I saw when I took the photo really did not come out until I used some of the new processing tools (in this case OnOne Perfect Effects 8).

Camera: Nikon D70s
Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G DX
Focal Length: 200 mm
Exposure: 1/80 sec at f/16
ISO Speed Rating: ISO 200

Processed in Adobe Lightroom 6.5 and OnOne Perfect Effects 8

Gear: Photography Equipment

As Dave duChemin said in a recent blog post:

If we spent more time analyzing our photographs as we did analyzing gear, we’d make much better photographs no matter what that gear is.

How true.

That being said, this photography gear page remains one of the most visited pages on Station Studios.

Digital Single-Lens Cameras

My main DSLR body remains a Nikon D7000 (pictured above). There is a lot to like about this camera, in particular the two user-configurable modes.

For lenses, you will  find one of the following on the D7000:

Robin still uses a Nikon D40x from 2007. The D40x is a relatively small camera which Robin likes and the jpegs straight of the D40X remain in my opinion the nicest of the three Nikons we’ve owned.  Robin also uses a Nikon AF-S Nikkor 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6G DX ED VR II on the D40X.

Flash Equipment

I’ve recently been more and more interested in expanding my photography skills from using only available light to using flash technology. To that end, I purchased a Nikon Speedlight SB-700 flash unit and a set of Pocket Wizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5 wireless trigger systems. I’ll likely add a second flash very soon to complete my Strobist kit.

Bags and straps

To carry all of this equipment all around, I’m using two camera bags for different purposes:

We’ve both replaced the standard Nikon neck strap with Black Rapid straps. There are a great alternative to traditional camera straps.

Point and Shoot Digital Cameras

We’ve owned a number of smaller digital cameras over the years including a number of Canon SD series cameras. In 2013, I bought a serious new point-and-shoot, a Sony DSC RX-100 and it’s been a great camera for cycling and hiking.

Digital Darkroom

I continue to use Adobe’s Lightroom as my main digital photo editing tool; I’m up to version 6.5. I also purchased the ON1 software suite, including Perfect Effects,  for further processing outisde of Lightroom. I also added the Nik suite of photo editing software when Google made it free in March 2016. I’ve also made good use of a number of Jeffrey Friedl‘s Lightroom plugins, including  Geoencoding  Support and PhotoSafe

In 2014, I bought a new computer (a Dell XPS) specifically for my digital darkroom.  For the display, I purchased a Eizo FlexScan SX2262W color-corrected monitor and Eizo’s EasyPIX monitor calibration system. In early 2016, I added a Wacom Intuos Pro Small Digital Tablet for more precise editing.

Gear: Fitness Devices

Here are my experiences with specific fitness devices as of October 2016:

GPS Watches (Running, Cycling and Hiking)

I started out with the Garmin 305 when I took up running seriously here in Amsterdam.  The 305 was a good runner watch for its time and it helped me train for and run three half-marathons. I ended up killing it during a very rainy training run in 2012 and picked up a 610 to replace it.  The 610 was also pretty solid as a running watch. The major downside of my 610 was the wristband; I like many others managed to rip the anchoring pin through the band itself.  I ordered a replacement but found the 610 design had changed slightly over time and the new band would not fit my older watch.  Some black electrical tape fixed the problem.

In 2015, I started to read more about the new multisport Fenix 3 and thought it would be a good upgrade on the 610.  I’m happy with the Fenix 3 in every way; it’s a very impressive piece of technology and looks good enough to wear for daily use. The management of workouts, the handling of various sports and the increase in precision are all upgrades over previous Garmins.  Even something seeming unimportant as the ability to change the watch face is really well implemented and various 3rd-party developers have produced some beautiful watch faces, giving the Fenix 3 a lot of style. Definitely recommended.

Heart Rate Monitors

Like most users, I started with the chest strap version for measuring heart rate. And like many users, I had a constant battle with chaffing, scratching and communication dropouts.  I finally decided to try an optical HR monitor and haven’t looked back. The Mio works well and has proved very reliable. Its only downside is that its Bluetooth transmission distance is relatively short, so I have to wear it on the same arm as my GPS watch. I’m not going to win any fashion contest this way, but the elimination of my chaffing issues with chest bands makes this a small price to pay.

Handheld GPS Navigators

While I started out using these Garmin units for geocaching, both proved to be equally useful as navigation units for cycling.  Paired with the open-source mapping initiative, OpenFietsMap, these Garmin units will route cyclists on bicycle paths throughout Europe. I’ve always got the Oregon on my Santos when out cycling, and it’s a good geocaching device as well.

Activity Monitors

I got a Fitbit One soon after they came out and found it to be a positive influence on my lifestyle, especially around work.  Paired up with the FitBit app, I found that I could watch my food intake and energy output more directly and made some good strides in getting aspects of my weight under control.

When I unfortunately lost my FitBit in the summer of 2015, I decided to move to the Charge HR, which includes an optical HR monitor.  While I don’t use it during fitness activities, I have found the HR measurement, especially the resting HR calculation to be very valuable to assess my basic health (am I getting sick? have I over-trained?).  I also like the auto-calculation of sleep intervals; it works well and it’s one less thing that I need to remember to start and stop on the FitBit One.  The only downside of the Charge HR was a bit of chaffing on my forearm in the early days, the shorter interval for recharging (the One would get a week or more out of a charge; the Charge HR got 3 days maximum).

In September 2016, I replaced the Charge HR with the brand-new Charge HR2, as I managed to delaminate the Charge HR sensor from its integral wrist band after a year of fulltime use.  I really like the new larger display and the new band attachment system; this should fix the delamination problem.

Software

SportTracks 3 fundamentally changed how I tracked my fitness and outdoor activities.  The ability to analyze the GPS and HR time series captured by GPS watches made detailed analysis of my training very easy. I can also summarize a variety of activities, answering questions like how many cycling trips from Amsterdam and what is the total number of miles I’ve run in a year.

While SportTracks is fundamentally powerful, it is the capability for others to develop plugins that yields some of its most powerful functionality. I use the following plugins almost everytime I used SportTracks:

  • Elevation Correction
  • Calculated Fields
  • Training Load
  • Weather
  • GPS2PowerTrack
  • Dobrou Extensions (stopped working in 2015)

I used Garmin Connect account to manage my Fenix 3. In addition, I have a SportTracks.mobi account to get the workout information from Garmin Connect to SportTracks 3.

Like the Fenix 3, SportTracks gets the highest recommendation from me.