“They are Slow Food” the guy from Zürich told me when tasting the oysters from the nearby sea for the bar he wanted to start in his home town. The oysters just been collected, they were not farmed. “Slow Food” indeed describes the organic Noordermarkt fairly well. It is located near the city center of Amsterdam (see map below). It is surrounded by nice cafés, a play ground and the large Noorderkerk church, offering kind of a Mediterranean, relaxing feeling – at least on sunny days.
Due to the EuroPride 2016 canal parade the market was smaller than usual, but still worth a visit.
Coming back to the oysters. The stall owner gets them from the North Sea, they are not farmed, they are wild ones, just collected off the ground, obviously during low tide. The helpful staff opens them up to be eaten on the spot, with lemon, Tabasco, pepper or just natural. A glass of champagne from Germany – yes! – complements them. Good start of the day. These oysters are not as famous as the ones from France, but the owner drives them even down to Switzerland, where they can be resold with a nice margin. And I learned something new about oysters: the “pregnant” ones taste creamier than usual, not necessarily to my liking. The vendor had unusual signs with pregnant and non-pregnant mermaids to represent them – check the picture gallery.
After this first meal and longer conversation with the Swiss guy and his upcoming bar business, it was time to move on and discover the other offering. Summer is always a good season for a market visit, colors are bright due to nature’s bounty, people are in a good mood and have time to enjoy the food. The traders, as I have observed on other Dutch markets as well, have a nicely swift, direct and sarcastic humor. Not really gentle, but very funny. The crowd looks pretty much like health conscious middle class, not as diverse as in The Hague at the Haagse Markt.
The offering is nicely presented, flowers give the individual stalls a country home feeling, everything is tasteful aiming at high quality and not at cheap prices. The herbs vendor had a garden of Eden like display enticing an “I want to have it” feeling, just gorgeous. His salsa in the big clay pots gives an excuse to take a short cut instead of cooking yourself.
The fruits and veggie stalls were in peak season. Berries, plums, zucchini blossoms, all kinds of tomatoes, beets and much more celebrated summer, the samples helped to make the choice what to purchase much easier.
Cheese is a very integral part of the Dutch diet. Several stalls catered for the appetite. The selection was not only about the big cheese wheels as known from travel reports. Some are imported cheeses like the Austrian mountain cheese with honey & clover I enjoyed a lot as it was not sweet but made the honey taste blend in really well. In general the choice is rather focused on semi-hard and hard cheeses, with only a few fresh or soft ones, but with excellent aromas. It is popular to add spices like cumin, seeds, e.g. clover, pesto etc. during the cheese making process, thus creating more diversity. My favorites are still the 3 or more year old farmers’ cheeses (Boerenkaas) which have a very concentrated gorgeous aroma. For kids the younger ones are probably more suitable as they taste smoother. Let them cut in dices by the vendor, get some bread (or not) and you will almost save lunch, it is so rich in flavor.
Coming from Germany, I am not a particular friend of Dutch bread from a taste & consistency perspective. But on the market there were some decent ones available. And it is also baked on site. So I assume that they use prepared frozen dough like any (cheap) baking shop nowadays. This is a bit disappointing, their beautiful presentation helped me to overcome these feelings, especially since I cannot resist croissants, which were decent. I also think they are a good way to judge if a baker understands his craft or not and is using good products in the first place.
Next stop: meat and sausages. I bought some dried pork sausage to bring back home with strong aroma fitting well to a good beer. The meat is also a temptation, especially lamb. Most meat was vacuum packed, rather supermarket and not butcher like.
What I find in many Dutch markets are the dried fruit & nuts section in all kinds of mixes often of tropical origin. I do not remember other European markets having such a liking for this product category. Maybe I have not traveled enough.
Despite the appetite for fish in this country there was only one stall selling it, including live lobster. And I do not remember if it was organic, farmed or “regular” fish. The oysters were definitely more interesting to me.
And yes there was a little street food available, I think only Vietnamese.
The costs of running a business on the market
Markets are a business for localities, traders and at times market management companies like the Group Géraud. And I am always wondering what traders have to pay for being at the market. At the Noordermarkt it was easier to find out as two gentlemen in a kind of uniform were collecting the fees. They did that with a device that had each trader with his/her photo. They told me that the fees varied by size of the stall, day of the week and locality of the market. In this case it was about 19.20€ for a 4 meters stall per market day. That would translate into a 576€ monthly rental, highly likely much cheaper than any shop in that area. It seems to be a good place to start a business at reasonable risks.
All in all: A nice market worth a detour when you are in Amsterdam, especially when you are looking for organic products
A little link list:
- A quick introduction from Amsterdam.info
- A free e-book on the markets of Amsterdam
- The Noordermarkt on Wikipedia