You might have heard the good news: we're having a baby! Well, a book baby, that is. After years of bringing you the best of the best of travel tips on the web, we decided to take pen (or printing press) to page & bring you an amazing, practical, beautiful guidebook to the city that is nearest & dearest to our heart. Which city is that, you ask? Why, Amsterdam of course! So now it's time for the countdown to begin.
As our publishing date grows ever closer, we want to give you some sneak peeks into what's to come to get you as excited as we are. Our book is nothing without the incredible shops, restaurants, bars & businesses we love, so it's important to us that you get to know them a bit as well. That's why, until the launch of our book, we are going to be bringing you interviews with the inspiring founders of some of our very favourite spots.
It's not every day you get to sit down for a chat with the woman behind your platonic ideal of bread, but today, we did just that. Florence van Limburg Stirum, the gluten goddess behind Levain et Le Vin dished on what inspires her, the concept of her ever-popular spot & much more.
gloobles: Florence! You are quite a busy woman, so we really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. It seems like food is really in your veins. How & when did you learn to bake?
Florence: After my studies in Marketing, I went to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. That's where I learned the basics of cooking & how to bake bread. Every morning before class we would get up early to mix or bake our sourdough loaves. Taking care of our starters was one of the main activities at school. First, I thought it was a very complicated process, but once I started baking, I was addicted to the magical process of sourdough.
gloobles: & we're pretty addicted to the results of that magical process! Would you say you consider yourself more of a baker or more of a cook?
Florence: I always considered myself more of a cook because cooking was what I'd been doing for years. But now that I've opened my bakery & am baking six days a week, I guess I'd have to call myself a baker. Although I'll always feel like more of a cook who has an obsession with all things dough.
gloobles: That's a good balance though. We're pretty envious you've mastered both! Who or what inspires you?
Florence: A lot of great chefs inspire me. Christian Puglisi (Relæ), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) & Bertrand Grébaut (Septime) all inspire me with their vision & their way of cooking. But I also draw inspiration from bakers like Dan Pear (Circus Bakery) & Richart Hart (Hart Bageri).
gloobles: In our opinion, you're right up there with those legends! We adore the concept of Levain et Le Vin. It was long overdue in Amsterdam! How did you come up with the idea?
Florence: I always wanted to open something of my own. Working in the restaurant business for five years, with three years in wine, I knew I wanted to keep doing both. As I knew I wanted to start my own family not too far down the line, I knew I did not want to work only evening shifts in the kitchen anymore. When we set up my bakery at Café Modern, it felt so good to work during the day again, so with being a baker & working in wine, it only made sense to start a bakery & wine shop.
gloobles: It sounds like it was really the perfect fit. So, we know what levain is, but can you break it down for our readers?
Florence: Levain is French for sourdough. It's made from fermented flour & water. It uses natural yeast, rather than more common chemical yeast.
gloobles: Got it. So Levain et Le Vin is such a special little spot. Why did you choose the location in Oud-West?
Florence: I likve on the Kanaalstraat, & the wine importer I work for (Bolomey Wijnimport) is my next door neighbour, so I wanted my shop to be close to our home & to our wine storage. I also think the shop fits very well on the Jan Pieter Heijestraat, so that was my greatest wish.
gloobles: It fits perfectly. It feels as if it's been there forever. Can you tell us about the thought process behind the sourcing of your wines?
Florence: I only sell wines that I know well or new wines that I really like. I know a lot of the winemakers, which makes it really fun to sell. They must be natural & made with as little intervention as possible. It's very fun to work with the importers; when they have new wines or vintages, they bring them to the shop to taste together.
gloobles: We're jealous you get to taste all these fantastic wines all the time! If we could, we'd eat at Levan et Le Vin all day, but what would you say is the best time of day to visit?
Florence: I would say between 9:00 & 12:00 so you don't miss out on anything. The cinnamon rolls tend to sell out quickly, although we've doubled the production!
gloobles: Thank god! Now we stand a better chance of getting one every now & again. What's your favourite thing you're selling at the moment? & which is your favourite wine?
Florence: My favourite would still be my classic white sourdough loaf, but I also really, really like the brioche with n'duja. It's spicy & fatty. My favourite wine is hard to choose, as there are so many that I really love. But if I had to choose one, it would probably be 'Don't Throw Plastic in the Ocean Please', the 2017 from Anders Frederik Steen from Valvignères. All the Ardèche wines are very good.
gloobles: We'll have to check that out. What's your favourite wine shop or wine bar in the world, apart from Levain et Le Vin, of course?
Florence. I like Rodder & Vin in Copenhagen or Le Verre Volé in Paris for wine shops. As for wine bars, I like Ved Stranden 10 & Manfreds in Copenhagen, Glou Glou, Bar Centraal & Cafe Binnenvisser in Amsterdam, Aux Deux Amis, La Cave du Septime, La Buvette & Le Verre Volé in Paris & L'anima del vi, Bar Brutal & Bar del Pla in Barcelona.
gloobles: So many wonderful new places for us to try. How do you like to unwind & relax?
Florence: With the long days in the bakery, I really enjoy being home with my husband & Dirk, our dachshund, reading a good book, watching a series, cooking & drinking wine together. I also love going out for dinner on Saturday with friends or for a long lunch on Sunday. We live close to the Vondelpark so I also really like going for long walks in the park with Dirk.
gloobles: We can imagine you definitely need the time to take it easy with your incredibly busy schedule! Where do you like to eat in Amsterdam when you're not nibbling at Levain et Le Vin?
Florence: My favourite restaurant is still Choux. I also really love Café Modern, which feels like home. My other favourites are BAK, the new Bambino, Cafe Binnenvisser, Entrepot, Rijsel, Scheepskameel, Hotel de Goudfazant, Coba, Toscanini & Bar Centraal. I also like having lunch at Little Collins West, not only because they serve my bread :).
gloobles: It's probably only a matter of time before more places start serving your bread, we'd say! You mentioned you like to cook at home. What do you make?
Florence: I love to cook at home. Although the last few months were so hectic that I didn't have a lot of time to cook. I love to make gnocchi (a recipe I learned at Choux) as a cacio e pepe or with beurre noisette & sage. Or slow-roasted pork belly with polenta. & risotto, all kinds. I don't cook from cookbooks a lot, but I do get ideas from books like The River Café, St. John, Claudia Roden, Morito & Relæ.
gloobles: You're making us hungry! If you could bake a loaf for anyone, who would it be?
Florence: Hmm I think that would be for Darina Allen, from Ballymaloe. She taught me baking, &, thanks to her, I have this love for sourdough. She is the most passionate woman I have ever met.
gloobles: We bet she would be thrilled to receive a loaf from you. Now time for the final question: where do you see Levain et Le Vin in 10 years?
Florence: In 10 years, I see Levain et Le Vin just as it is now, still with only one shop. But I think it will have a country house in France where people can come to sleep, eat, drink wine & walk through the gardens & the farm, a place where people can learn how to bake bread, make cheese & hopefully taste our own wine. One day...