Stroopwaffels (waffles sandwiched with toffee), hagelslag (chocolate toast sprinkles that melt) and herring were the only flavours I’ve ever associated with Holland – flavours that are scrumptious enough, but there are so, so many more.
We always find eating abroad the hardest, and best problem of travelling. How do you balance flavour, cost and not knowing anything about the quality where you could eat?
We’ve started a tradition of hunting out foodie walking tours in new cities we visit (luckily they are becoming something of a phenomenon) at the beginning of the holiday. They help us to familiarise ourselves with an new area, teach us a few facts & most importantly serve a slice of the city that we probably wouldn’t discover on our own. New York, Rome and London herself are cities we’re explored via the medium of foodie walking tours and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Disclaimer: I was an invited guest of Eating Amsterdam, but my (many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn’t happily visit own dime. In fact, Mr Kiwi happily paid for his place on the tour.
Arriving at the pretty brown café in the Jordaan (so called because of the traditional wooden wall panels) we were out of breath from racing about the city, only to be greeted with a hot coffee, huge smile and ridiculously good slice of handmade Dutch apple cake. The morning could only get better from there!
Our guide explained that Dutch apple cake is a feel-good staple – happily eaten for breakfast lunch and supper – which we heartily approved of.
Plates cleared, we set off for a rather epic 3 hour exploration of the Jordaan; a pretty quarter of the city; fulls of narrow alleys, leafy canals lined with 17th-century houses and quirky speciality shops, full of tasty treats.
Along the way we learnt about the melting post of Amsterdam’s trading history; rich in spice, salted preserves and good hearty carbs to keep the merchant sailors & workers fuelled throughout their busy days.
We sampled a ridiculously good peanut sauce from a local Surinam shop with counters full of exotic treats, wonderful handmade sausage served with trademark Dutch mustard, wonderfully soft herring which wasn’t at all fishy and super healthy and freshly caught and battered cod.
We also learnt a new fact: each Dutch person eats – on average – around 4 pounds a year of liquorice. More than any other nation of the world. Loved for it’s medicinal value – from helping sore throats to soothing sore tummies – the Dutch adore it, usually the saltier the better. They call it ‘drop’ and it’s often flavoured with an assortment of unusual additions (well, to our palates any way); French Thyme, honey, salt, double salt and sometimes triple salt.
Yep, that’s right, and I earned my orange shirt and approval of the shopkeeper by falling in love with the double salted liquorice. I actually really dislike liquorice, but the flavourings of these make for a soft aniseed tastebud explosion.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, we were taken on one of the most beautiful canal boats I’ve seen, and treated to a cruise through the canals. I could get used to this. We celebrated a variety of traditional Dutch cheese with a chilled glass of bubbly,
… sampled a local beer…
… and tried traditional Bitterballen delivered piping hot to our boat. Our lovely guide Chrisje, serial traveller, carb addict and whippet slim (it must be all of that cycling) shared with us her homesickness for Bitterballen whilst travelling through South America, and her joy at coming home to ready supplies.
We finished our day with poffertjies, a fitting dessert of mini pancakes dusted with icing sugar (and doused in the house favourite maple syrup). It was food heaven.
They kindly made sure every taste of this fabulous city had a gluten-free alternative for my problematic stomach and entertained us so well that 3 hours absolutely flew by. We did need a rest afterwards, it must be said, so we found a sweet canal side pub to watch the world-go-by until we recovered from our food coma for more traipsing.
I’d highly recommend the tour – it has a wide variety of tourists, both from as far as American and close as neighbouring areas of the city. The Eating Amsterdam crew have a great website and blog as well – they couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful to everyone of us!