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Travel Photos: Beer and Cheese in The Netherlands

August 26, 2011

     

The third and final stop on my recent trip to Europe brought me to the Netherlands. We were informed that a lot of the best food in the Netherlands is basically, well, not Dutch. So we ate accordingly, with one very important exception: cheese.

       

Gouda was never my favorite cheese in the states, but the rich, creamy Dutch goudas won me over immediately. At our hostel in Utrecht, we ate thinly sliced gouda on fresh bread for breakfast.

        

And later that day, while continuing our afternoon beer & cheese tradition– begun only two days prior in Belgium– I was introduced to kaassoufflé. Yes, those are deep fried squares of cheese that you’re looking at, to be dipped in mayo (or mustard), and served as an accompaniment to beer.


Speaking of beer… we spent a lot of the week ordering whatever Dutch “white beer” (a type of wheat beer) was on the menu at various restaurants and bars, and they were all soooo good. Many of the white beers also came with a slice of lemon, and a plastic lemon masher, to smash the lemon against the bottom of the glass and to really be able to get at the pulp.

       

There was still plenty of Belgian beer to be found in the Netherlands, too. My friend’s boyfriend, who’s Belgian, taught us the secret to the Belgian pale ale Duvel’s claim to fame (its continually streaming bubbles). Apparently that’s not the beer; it’s the glass: a tiny little “D”-shape is etched into the bottom of the Duvel logo glasses, and this “D” is the real source of the bubbles.

  

Then– back to cheese; I couldn’t stay away long– in Amsterdam, we discovered the delightfully Dutch combination of gouda cheese dipped in mustard!

It was over one such plateful of cheese and mustard that it dawned on me.

I don’t know if it was triggered by the particular pattern of cheese-and-beer neurons lighting up in my brain or by the smell of deep-frying oil tinged with mustard hanging in the air, but suddenly I began to see all of the connections between the cuisines of north central Europe and the Midwest of the U.S.

I mean, I knew German immigrants brought beer and brats (bratwurst) to Wisconsin, but it had never occurred to me that it was also Dutch (and Belgian and German) immigrants who brought mustards, cheeses, and a love of deep-frying things, to the Midwest. I spent 18 years growing up in Wisconsin, and never really thought I understood– until visiting the Netherlands– why there is a Mustard Museum (!) in Middleton, Wisconsin and why you can buy Beer-Battered Deep-Fried Cheese Curds at Wisconsin State Fairs.

I had traveled halfway around the world* for delicious beer and cheese when, essentially, I could have had a similar vacation just by dropping by my parents’ house in Wisconsin.

As it turns out, one thing that’s much easier to find in the Netherlands than in Wisconsin, though, is Spanish food. (I bet you didn’t see that segue coming!) It just so happens that the Netherlands has excellent tapas. (And amusingly, quite a few Spanish tourists who frequent Dutch tapas bars, too!)

Bread with garlic alioli and olive tapenade.

Papas bravas with a spicy tomato-y sauce.

Manchego cheese with olive oil and rosemary.

Spicy chorizo and garlic chicken.

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We had such good tapas in Utrecht**, that we stopped in for plates of manchego cheese at two more Spanish restaurants in Amsterdam.

      

Some other Dutch discoveries included excellent Indonesian food (the Indonesian-influenced rijsttafel), various Fried Things you can buy from a wall (seen here in the Utrecht train station), and De Ruijter chocolate sprinkles for bread.

    

(We tried them with nutella and peanut butter.)

But really, the very best eating of the week was the cheese.

       

That and the amazing breakfast provided by our B&B in Amsterdam. So much food was wheeled into our room every morning, I joked that it should have been called a “Bed & Breakfast & Lunch.”

      

After an already-overindulgent breakfast, we packed up a baguette, sliced salami and turkey, camembert, and– of course– gouda, to take with us for an afternoon picnic. We ate our sandwiches along one of Amsterdam’s many canals (and got the feeling we were not in Wisconsin anymore).

* Europe is a LOT farther away from California than from the east coast! 

** These tapas (and to make up for the fact that we didn’t have time on this trip to visit Spain) were the inspiration for my tapas-and-sangria 30th birthday party! Blog post(s) coming soon…

 

6 Comments leave one →
  1. yoshiko permalink
    September 14, 2011 6:30 pm

    how did you find these good places to eat???
    when i went there, i couldnt find any of these…..sad….

  2. September 15, 2011 4:17 pm

    The tapas and Indonesian restaurants we went to were recommended by my friends who had been living in the Netherlands for a year (and after that, we knew to look for tapas restaurants on our own…). Actually, the same friends brought us to most of the bars where we ordered cheese and beer, too!

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