Dutch Treats?

!Dutch Food collage

Sometimes I think my husband wants to return to the Netherlands just to eat the food 🙂  There are so many foods here that he just can’t get in the US. Even if there is something like it – even if we bring ingredients back with us – it is just not the same. There are plenty of things for the boys and me to enjoy as well! Here’s a rundown of all the things we’ve been eating this past month. Some are real treats. Others … maybe not so much. You decide!

BREAKFAST

It’s common enough to eat bread or toast with meat and/or cheese on it for breakfast. PER especially likes something called filet americain. It’s steak tartar mixed with spices that is eaten kind of like a spread on bread or crackers. Yup, raw beef. Available at every grocery store in the Netherlands! I have to say, the color alone kind of grosses me out! PER, on the other hand, will eat this for breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack.

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filet americain

For the kids, there is hagelslag (sprinkles) or vlokken (flakes). Sprinkles are essentially jimmies, like you put on ice cream in the US. They come in different colors. The flakes are more like chocolate curls, and you can get dark, milk, white, or a combination. There are also muisjes, which are made from aniseeds and coated in colored sugar. The application is the same for all: you spread butter on bread or beschuit (zwieback) and then pour on the sprinkles or flakes (the butter is just so they stick). It is very common to have pink or blue beschuit met muisjes to celebrate the birth of a child! Hippo loves the vlokken, but Froggy prefers Nutella on his bread.

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chocoladevlokken

LUNCH & DINNER

Pancakes, of course! They’re not for breakfast around here! There are pancakes houses (pannenkoekenhuis) all over the Netherlands. And don’t get the wrong idea! They are NOT anything like IHOP! These restaurants usually have plenty of character. And they mostly – though not always exclusively – serve pancakes! Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken) are much thinner than American pancakes, and are usually as big as your plate. They can be sweet (zoet) – with  Nutella or fruit – or savory (hartig) – with meats and cheese. The tables usually have powdered sugar and stroop (a thick syrup, much like molasses). Our boys like it best with Nutella. I’m a fan of strawberries and cream. Although apple with cinnamon and sugar is delicious, too. I’ve never gone for the savory. The pancakes themselves are a bit sweet, so that doesn’t sound like a mix I’d enjoy. We ate pannenkoeken at least once a week, I think! They had them at the Efteling and Zaanse Schans. And you can also search for pannenkoekenhuis, such as Hans & Grietje.

Here you see my pancake with strawberries & cream; Froggy’s kid-sized pancake with nutella; the boys like to roll them up and pick them up to eat them; then there is the stroop; finally, you can see one of the pancake ovens: it rotates to cook the pancakes from the top and the bottom! More info on this post.

A cousin of the pancake are the poffertjes – a small, round puffed pancake. To get these, you need to look for a poffertjeskraam (or hut). They have a huge cast iron griddle, specially designed to make 240 at one time! (Yes, we counted!) I have a pan at home, but it only makes 15 at a time! For more on the poffertjes, see this post. Below you see a poffertjeskraam, the griddle, and if you look closely, you’ll see the poffertjes buried under a blanket of powdered sugar and a slab of butter.

If you can’t get either of these breakfast-for-lunch/dinner options, another easy choice for the kiddos is a tosti. It is essentially a panini or grilled cheese. They often come with ham and cheese, but you can always get just cheese. Luckily, PER has raised our boys on Gouda cheese, so they are used to the taste. It’s generally pretty mild, though. See this post for another tosti in Amsterdam.

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Tosti – this one came with ketchup?!

I’m not sure, but PER’s favorite thing to eat in the Netherlands just might be shoarma (spellings vary, but this is how we see it in the NL). It’s similar to gyro – giant meat on a spit and slowly grilled, then shaved off. It’s usually lamb, but you can also get chicken (kip). It’s often eaten in a soft pita (seriously, I’ve never had a pita like this in the States!) with a sauce. I don’t even know what the other sauces are, because we always eat ours with garlic sauce. This year, even Froggy liked it!

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schotel shoarma – comes with pita, salad, and fries

PER complains that the pizza in the US is just not the same. He’s right. Pizza in Europe just tastes different. The crust is nice and thin – but not like thin-crust pizza you get in the States. I can’t explain it! It often comes on a plate, uncut. And you eat it with a fork and knife. But here’s a tip: if you want pepperoni on your pizza, DO NOT order peperoni – get salami instead! Just like in Germany, peperoni is a hot pepper, not a meat! Below, you see PER’s ham & mushroom, my caprese (mozzarella, tomato, basil), and Hippo’s margherita (plain cheese and sauce) pizzas.

I was surprised when we went to lunch in Muiden, and my dad ordered a sandwich with smoked eel (gerookte paling)! He enjoyed it – said it left a smell on his fingers like when he’s been fishing all day and cleaning the fish. Mmmmmm! PER also enjoys smoked eel. But it might not be for everyone. See for yourself:

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smoked eel

Before you even get to your main meal, you might want to try the brood met kruidenboter (bread with herb butter). The butter has garlic and other simple herbs. If you like bread, you’ll probably like this! (Sorry, no photo!)

SNACKS & SNACK BARS

The Dutch love their frietjes (French fries)! And they make delicious fries at that! You can even find a snack bar that just serves fries! Of course, the Dutch like to eat them with mayo. But I’m still a ketchup girl.

Other snack bar items include burgers, chicken (kip) nuggets, lumpias (egg rolls), shoarma, frikandel (PER calls this mystery meat – but it’s kind of like a minced meat hot dog), and other breaded & fried foods. PER’s favorite is the kroket. He usually gets broodje kroket – or kroket on a roll. They are made with meat ragu, breaded, and fried. And you eat them with mustard. I’m not a big fan of mustard, so once I ate one with ketchup. Big no-no! I thought our friends might throw me out of the country! 🙂  Snack bars can be open for lunch, but sometimes do not open until late afternoon and stay open into the night. They are often a place you go after you’ve been out dancing or to a bar.

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broodje kroket met frietjes

A variation of the kroket is bitterballen. They don’t have exactly the same filling, but something similar, I think. And they are small and round. (Sorry, no photo!)

DESSERT & OTHER TREATS

How about some apple pie? Here it’s called appeltaart. And it’s quite different from the pie you eat at Thanksgiving. The crust is denser, almost cake-like. It can have different dried fruits in it, too, like raisins or cranberries. If PER wants something small for lunch, sometimes he just has appeltaart!

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appeltaart met slagroom

In every town, you can find a shop that sells ice cream (ijs) – usually several. Snack bars also offer ice cream, too. And often you’ll find soft ice cream. Usually when I’m in the Netherlands, we get soft ice on a regular basis. Somehow on this trip, it didn’t happen. Maybe it was too cold 🙂  Don’t expect some mammoth scoops here – if you order one scoop, you get one small scoop. Here is Froggy’s almost- eaten cone of vanille:

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vanille ijshorn (vanilla ice cream cone)

Then there are stroopwafel – a kind of cookie made from two very thin waffles and a smear of stroop in the middle. We found a stand at the market in Delft where they were making them fresh. And they were enormous! Some were also dipped in nutella, but I have to say, I didn’t care for it. The two tastes seemed to be competing with one another. Froggy liked it, though!

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fresh stroopwafel

Finally, I will mention one of my favorite Dutch treats: oliebollen. Usually, they are only found around New Year’s. But we got lucky and found them being sold at the Efteling. They are balls of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar. Much like a doughnut – but different, of course! Heel lekker!! (very tasty)

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oliebol

I’m sure there are plenty of other foods I didn’t get to here. How about vla (custard, or pudding) and vlaai (tart, originally from Limburg)?

And what about the cheese?! See my post on Clara Maria for info on a small, local dairy farm. We still haven’t made it to a cheese market … next time??

There are drinks, too… That’s going to have to be another post!

Eet smakelijk!

2017 NL: Hansel, Gretel, and Pancakes

We’ve been trying to slow down, as we are in our final week in the Netherlands (before heading to Germany for a few days). But we had to fit in just one more adventure!

We had heard about a pannenkoekhuis that was fairy-tale themed and had a large playground. It’s called Hans & Grietje – or Hansel and Gretel. I’m sure you can imagine what it looked like! But I’ll show you some pictures anyway 🙂

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Outside there were all kinds of things to do for all different aged children. A sand pit to dig in and a small bouncy hill for the little ones. A huge bouncy hill for older children (who often needed a boost from parents to reach the top!), along with a spook house, swings, jungle gym, and “race track” with tricycles.

Inside, there was so much to see! An entryway with a covered book-way, an upside-down room with furniture on the ceiling, a cauldron for … well, you know what that’s for! There were  witches doing laundry, playing an organ, and flying a plane. In one dining room, the floor actually moved! It was hinged down the middle, so all of a sudden, it would lift up, and your table would be leaning one way. Then it would go back down, so your table was leaning down! Oh, and those tables – they had witches legs! There were also fantastic slides for the kids.

Oh yes, they have delicious pancakes, too!

Is it good for kids?

Of course!! They have something for children of all ages.

What about the cost?

There is no charge to get in. Just pay for your food and drinks!

Where is it?

For some reason, the google map is not working today. Here is the address: Hans & Grietje Pannenkoekhuis –

Dutch Food: Pancakes

Our boys always look forward to eating pancakes (pannenkoeken) when we’re in the Netherlands. They are not like American pancakes. For one thing, they are GIANT! As big as a plate! And they are much thinner.

Dutch pancakes can be sweet (soet) or savory (hartig). The boys always get nutella on their pancakes. And if it’s not on the menu, they go for plain (natuurlijk) with powdered sugar. I almost always have strawberries and cream, which is usually only available in season. Good thing we’re here in season! I’ve been trying out apple with cinnamon sugar, but it kind of depends on the place. I prefer it when the apples are in small pieces, as opposed to the big ring slices (see image below). I don’t choose the hearty pancakes, because the pancake itself has a touch of sweetness to it, so mixing it with cheese and/or meats doesn’t taste quite right to me.

Sometimes the pancakes are made in numerous individual pans on a large stove. But most often, they are individually baked in a special circulating oven (see image below). The batter goes in the pans as they slowly turn, like on a turntable. As they go through the oven, they are baked from above and below. So clever!

So where do you get these Dutch treats? Well, first of all, they are not for breakfast! You eat them for lunch or dinner. You can go to a pannenkoekenhuis – a pancake house, such as Hans & Grietje. And there are chains, like Dickens or De Pannekoekenbakker. We’ve only been to one of each, so I don’t know how they differ from place to place. Personally, I prefer Dickens. It just more like homemade. You can always do a quick Google search to find out what’s near you, too!

You can also find pannenkoeken at touristy places like Zaanse Schans or attractions for kids, such as the Efteling.

Wherever you go to get them, don’t miss out on this Dutch treat – whether you have kids or you’re just on your own!

Click on the pictures below to see larger images and individual descriptions:

I’d love to hear from you! Was this post useful to you? Did you take any of the advice? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!

Dutch Food: Poffertjes

The first time I visited the Netherlands was 10 years ago! Hard to believe! My then-fiancé took me to visit the Keukenhof – a beautiful flower park that is open at the height of tulip season (from the end of March to mid-May). The park itself is lovely. And then you can go up into a windmill for a spectacular view of sprawling tulip fields!

While at the Keukenhof, I was also introduced to poffertjes. They are little puffed pancakes, eaten with butter and powdered sugar. Lekker!! I like them so much, my husband bought me a poffertjes pan for Christmas!

The other day, after playing tourist in the morning, we went to a Poffertjeskraam for lunch. It’s kind of a poffertjes stand – except there were tables to sit and eat.

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This one is in Bussum. Very quaint. Although, I thought the poffertjes were a bit underdone and doughy. Still, it was so much fun to watch them make the little pancakes on the enormous griddle!

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Look at this thing! It makes 240 poffertjes at one time! They use a two-pronged fork to flip them – at record speeds! When I make them at home, they are a bit of a mess 🙂

And here’s the final product:

Did I say lekker?!! Yum!

2017 NL: Amsterdam Museum

Today we headed into Amsterdam. AP2 wanted to see the “I amsterdam” letters. We didn’t get a close look. Well, that’s practically impossible! There are so many tourists in front of it – or even climbing on top of it – that you can’t get a very clear picture of it! Still, we got a nice view of the Rijksmuseum, too. Can you find the letters behind the crowd??

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We walked from Museumplein to Leidseplein and then took tram 5 to het Spui. From there, we walked to the Amsterdam Musuem (Kalverstraat 92). We’ve never really taken the boys to a museum before, so we weren’t too sure what to expect. I had images of them trying to drag us through, as bored and whiny children can do! But, no!! They were totally into it! We got them the audio tour, so they loved being able to point it at the different stations and hear the descriptions of what was going on. They also had a scavenger hunt for kids to find certain things in the museum and answer questions. There were so many interesting facts about the history of the Netherlands! (See the picture below about the different sea levels!) In the end, we were the ones trying to hurry them through! And we spent so much time in the museum part that we never even made it into the basement where they have special activities for kids! The museum used to be an orphanage, so they apparently have a sensory experience of what it was like to be a kid in the 17th century. But we’ll have to do that another time!

We continued walking the Kalverstraat to the Dam, but stopped for a bite to eat along the way at Lunchcafé Blom (Nieuwendijk 117). There was actually something to eat for everyone!!! (That’s a big deal in our picky family!) PER and AP2 both had broodje kroket. I had a warme ciabatta mozzarella with tomato and homemade pesto. Froggy had a hamburger. And Hippo had a tosti kaas – kind of like a grilled cheese. And we all shared some frites (french fries). Lekker!

After lunch we walked on to the Dam. There was a bigger Intertoys there, so we stopped in to let the kids spend the rest of their allowance 🙂 Then we walked on to Centraal station to take tram 5 back to the Museumplein.

We ended up spending about 4 hours in the city. And just as we were returning to car (parked in the Museumplein garage), it started to rain! Perfect timing!

Here is an idea of our walk from the Kalverstraat to Centraal station:

Map of Amsterdam

Is it good for kids?

Amsterdam Museum: Froggy (age 7) really enjoyed the museum. He’s kind of into history, so that helped. Hippo (age 4) liked using the audio tour, but I’m not sure he got much else out of it. So this might be something for a child at least 7 or older.

What about the cost?

Amsterdam Museum: Adults are €12.50. Children ages 5 – 18 are €6.50. And children 4 and under are free. Also free with the Museum Card.

Where is it?

Amsterdam Museum: Kalverstraat 92 in Amsterdam

 

2017 NL: Fairy Tale Theme Park

Today we went to the Efteling. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years, but I’m glad we waited until the boys were a little older (7 and 4). It’s a fairy tale theme park with a little something for everyone.

The fairy tale forest – also known as a living picture book – has representations of 29 stories! Some of them, I had never heard of! And there is a synopsis of each story in 4 languages. We saved that for the end, though, so we didn’t see everything. It was time to get to the car to try to beat the traffic home!

The first thing we had to do was walk through the Adventure Maze. You know, the kind made out of tall shrubs? There wasn’t a beginning and an end – just go in, wander around, and try to find your way back out again. But watch out for the shooting jets of water! (It says it’s only for children under 1.5m, but plenty of adults went in, too.)

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The highlight of the day turned out to be the one roller coaster that both boys could ride. Well, technically, it’s a bobsled ride, but it works – and looks – just like a roller coaster. Now I myself and not a rides kind of person. So I sent my little ones on through the entrance with their dad and AP2. And wandered around for 40 minutes hoping I wouldn’t have a terrified, traumatized 4-year-old on my hands when they finally came out! Froggy has been on small roller coasters and was okay with them. But Hippo had never been on anything like it. Here’s the description from the website:

Be prepared for terrifying descents! Want to fly at 60 km/h? Slam through corners and feel the wind in your face. No snow, but you still shake in the bobsleigh run. The Bob is a 524 m long bobsleigh run and suitable for all daredevils.  In principle, everyone may ride this attraction. However, children under 1.20 m must be accompanied by an adult and the attraction is not accessible for pregnant women.

Yup. That’s what they did. Turns out, I was the only one whose stomach was turning! Both boys came off all smiles and were disappointed to hear they couldn’t ride any of the other roller coasters! Froggy could have gone on one or two others, but Hippo wasn’t tall enough yet, so we all agreed they’d go again another time when they could ride together 🙂

The other rides we went on seemed quite tame after that. There was a pirate ship carousel, pedal trains, and a steam train. We did not go up in the Thai Temple Pagoda with its super high panoramic views (no, Mama does not like heights!).

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We did, however, enjoy a couple of Dutch treats! Oliebollen are similar to doughnuts – fried balls of dough dusted with a healthy portion of powdered sugar. Usually, you can only get them around New Year’s, so I was excited to have one on a warm summer day! Then we had to choose between poffertjes or pannenkoeken for lunch. The boys won. I wanted poffertjes, since they are harder to find. Whereas you can find a pannenkoekenhuis on every corner – or at least in every town, it seems!

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Oliebol

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Even the pannenkoekenhuis had a fairy tale feel to it!

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Pannenkoeken being made in the circulating oven.

One thing I really appreciated about this theme park was the amount of shade! There were trees everywhere!! Don’t get me wrong, we still needed our sunscreen. But even on this day that was not supposed to be too hot – about 75 degrees – we were still looking for refuge in the shady spots!

Is it good for kids?

Absolutely! I’m not sure I would take a child younger than 4. Although I saw plenty of people with strollers. I just prefer to wait until the kids can walk the whole time and get the most out of the rides!

What about the cost?

Well, compared to Disney World, not bad. But it’s still not a cheap day out. Tickets cost about $40 per person, and parking is $10. Only children under 3 get a discount. Although you can save a bit if you order tickets in advance online (which also saves you time to avoid lines at the park entrance!). Once you’re in, all the rides are included. Of course, if you play any of those games to try to win a giant teddy bear, you have to pay for those.

Where is it?

The Efteling is in the south of the country in a town called Kaatsheuvel (please don’t ask me to pronounce it!):

2017 NL: Say Cheese!

We had a quieter day today. PER went in to the office to work, so he dropped us off at Oma and Opa’s house. We took their two small cars to the local cheese farm and clog factory called Clara Maria in Amstelveen. Froggy wasn’t too happy about the smell 🙂  But when we got inside, we got to see a demonstration of how they make wooden shoes.

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Top to bottom: phases of making a wooden shoe

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Creating the wooden shoe

They actually use a model (white shoe on the outside) as the guide. Then the machine just follows the pattern to create the basic shape of the shoe. Next, they use a different machine to hollow out the inside. The wood is damp, so it has to dry for a day and a half before they can continue working on it.

Next we went inside and saw a video of how they make the cheese. You could also look through the glass to see the cheese-makers hard at work. Both Froggy and Hippo were quite fascinated. And so was I!

But the best part came next: tasting the cheese! There was a simple butter cheese, a mustard cheese, Italian herb cheese, garlic and herb cheese, smoked cheese, whisky cheese, spicy cheese! So many to choose from … and taste! I’m not even a big fan of eating cheese on its own, but these were so delicious! I bought the smoked cheese and a small wheel of butter cheese along with their mustard dill sauce to enjoy while we’re here for the month. Maybe we’ll go back and get some to bring home, too! If you have them seal it (which they do there for free), you can take it back with you to the US!

They also have a wonderful gift shop. Yes, you find some kitsch, touristy items, but they also have some really nice things to get as souvenirs. I love to bring home their wooden tulips (though packing them can be tricky!). And we have a couple of snow globes with windmills in them. Plus, I like to get Christmas ornaments – for us or the kids, or even as gifts for the kids’ teachers.

Is it good for kids?

The boys (ages 7 & 4) were quite interested in the demonstration of making clogs and the video of how cheese is made. Hippo enjoyed seeing the cows and new calves, but Froggy was not a fan of the barn smell 🙂

What about the cost?

There is no cost to go in. They do offer guided tours, but I didn’t see a cost for this on their website. They let you taste the cheese for free! Souvenirs – well, those you have to pay for 🙂

Where is it?

Not too far south of Amsterdam, a short drive by car.

Sorry, Google maps isn’t working on this one. Here’s the address:
Clara Maria Kaas- & Klompenmakerij
Bovenkerkerweg 106
1188 XH Amstelveen
The Netherlands