On a Sunday.
It makes me want to squirm and stretch within my sheets, without letting as much as a toe or an eyebrow out of bed.
The splatter of rain, the overcast sky, the laziness of a Sunday (especially when my pillow and I met when the day was already getting ready for morning). It all beckons life to assemble into pause mode.
And yet, as I have mentioned in accounts of succulent and sunlit Sundays, there is one thing that can get me to peel the sheets off the skin.
With a close comrade of many years, I was taken through the cobblestone paths of the sleepy town of Rotterdam to a hidden treasure on what sounded like “Pancake Street”. All glass doors and windows, and sailor-esque white planks invited me into a yesteryear concept name for a brunch place – Picknick.
We were guided through the bustling place to a brightly lit spot at the back, which glowed like an oasis in the cloudy desert of typical Dutch weather. The ideal spot for a late, lazy Sunday brunch, only a few hours before my exit flight out of a town soaked in rain and memories.
Brunch on a rainy Sunday was a perfect idea. It was a meal after a night that ended at 7am. Only how I wish I hadn’t gobbled up a steaming stroopwaffel from a bakery truck, neatly wrapped in red and white plaid, with a succulent, gooey caramel interior that deserves an article of its own.
Once inside Picknick,, I was instantly calmed by the quaint ambiance.
Delighted by the gingham checked tablecloth, I was immediately taken back to my strict playschool where the tables were laid similarly to disseminate manners on playful kids. It seemed to fit perfectly with the puny square-foot area of the place, where our wooden table jammed against a stone wall reminded me of being inside Frodo Baggins’ crevice. It was as enchanting, too.
The side of the table was decked with a disproportionately large jar of brown sugar. Not that I add sugar to anything, but it reminded me of days of normality, when sugar wasn’t a condemned species, owing to its overuse in American processed foods. I sighed in tranquil contentness, and began ordering from a wooden menu with parchment font prints.
The spunky, matter-of-factly and humorous tone on the menu was worthy of a chuckle. Several chuckles actually. Picture reading this: cheese (that comes from a farmer and not a factory), embedded into two sentences of a description. Or this: freakishly free range eggs. The perfect awakening for a Sunday morning!
My favorite part was the opening line of the menu:
“We believe that taste buds can’t tell the time. That is why we serve breakfast and lunch all day long from 08:00 to 16:30”
So much about my view of food and Holland is encapsulated in this one line. The condescending yet peppy tone towards taste buds brings a whimsical smile to my face, empowering me with victory of having tricked my taste buds and betrayed my belly into consuming more! And while the premise of serving br-unch all day is enticing, the fact that the day starts as (relatively) late as 8 and ends at the absurdly early hour of 4:30 pm reminds me, once again, that this is Holland. Where work life balance rules the roost over consumer satisfaction.
Nonetheless, it was a friendly place with fairly prompt service, a handful of staff with a cheery disposition, perhaps owing to my companion’s infectiously affectionate demeanor and obvious familiarity with a frequented next-door breakfast staple.
We ordered a mishmash of bite-size helpings, which I found gratifying given that I was in Europe, where sensible portions were a normality and not a rarity, something I have commended time after time, brunch upon brunch. The soft goat cheese arrived freshly white, coated in lemon thyme and glaringly pink pepper. It was accompanied by a delightful apricot walnut jam, that was neither too sweet like an apricot, nor overly stuck-in-your-teeth crunchy like a walnut. On the side was an exceptionally simple rocket salad with thick, fresh-cut beet in a beautifully fresh hue of maroon. Tasting like it had just been plucked from the cottage-like place’s derriere, it was a refreshing change from the mountains of battling vegetables that I was used to onthe other side of the Atlantic.
The boiled free range eggs were tasty, as expected, and evoked many a conversations while we pecked at them relentlessly with our forks and fingernails. The side of truffle mayonnaise was calmingly bland looking, but made up for it with a dense taste and bumpy, truffle-y texture.
The apricot walnut jam and truffle mayonnaise made terrific spreads and dips for the plethora of breads. One thing one has to love about Hollandia is the freshness of the bread. It is a polar opposite of processed bread, which stays soft for days upon purchase. This bread goes hard overnight, which is a symbol of its freshness. As always, I preferred the brown bread with gaping holes, but found the sourdough bread to be share quite the chemistry with the sweetness of the beets and tangyness of the truffle mayonnaise.
Uncharacteristically, we skipped dessert, and went for hot chocolate at my other favorite Dutch staple, the previously reviewed bagels and beans. My hot milk with pure, rich chocolate nibs as a drizzle was as delicious and magical and sleep-inducing as always. The leading lady chose a coffee powder speckled cup of cappuccino, which arrived on a funky flaming saucer. Sipping away while looking at the languishing rain was the perfect way to bid goodbye to an intriguing city in a tiny speck of Western Europe.
No matter when a Sunday starts, no matter whether it’s raining or simply overcast, a happy brunch with merry company always brings out the sun from within.
Why is it that whenever the time comes to leave a city, we find something that so strongly wishes to bind us back to it?
Meet me for brunch on any Sunday.
The combination of the day and the meal creates un-erasable memories.