Thursday, February 2, 2012

eet smakelijk

Whenever people come to visit, they always ask where they can get some good authentic Dutch food. My response: "Is there such thing?"  Ask any Dutch person.  They'll agree. The words 'good' and 'food', in regards to Dutch cuisine, don't generally go together.  That may be the reason the Dutch colonized other countries... to dot their country with great Indonesian and Surinamese restaurants for variety.

But, then again, if you're up for some hearty, stick to your ribs sort of meal, there are a few places around town that I'm quick to suggest - along with the faster, snack bar variety foods. No need to note that all thoughts of dieting must go, for either route.

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Restaurant Moeders is always the first place I suggest. With items such as stamppot, also known as hotchpotch, (a plate of potatoes mashed with another root vegetable topped with sausage, a meatball, and bacon), or hachee (stewed meat in a thick gravy, poured over mashed potatoes and a side of red cabbage with apples), the food is as traditional as traditional gets. Plus the vibe is awesome - walls covered with framed photos of mothers, mismatched china, and a small dining area to keep you warm during the bitter cold winter days.

For those who don't want such a heavy meal, I tell them about The Pancake Bakery. Dutch pancakes are quite different from their American counterparts. Pancakes here are large and thin, yet not crepe thin.  They're generally consumed for dinner and have things like full strips of bacon or apple slices magically baked in, in such a way that the batter does not cover them. But, for nothing else (if pancakes don't suit their fancy - or they want a yummy appetizer), the restaurant is good for their pea soup.  Although, I've yet to find the place for 'snert' - the Dutch version of thick pea soup... so thick, in fact, that a spoon shoved in the bowl of soup will stay in place when the bowl is turned upside down.

Now, on to snack food. First there's my favorite: Febo. It is the ultimate vending machine. With the flip of a wrist and a deposit of a coin, any heart-attack inducing indulgence is within arms reach.  My recommendation: the broodje rundvleeskroket (beef croquette sandwich). Just don't tell me what's really, truly, inside there. I'd like to continue thinking it is just beef in a thick gravy, thank you very much.

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Another option is the Hema sausage, found at every Hema store location.  The Hema sausage is (somewhat like) the equivalent of a German bratwurst or an American hot dog - leaning more on the side of a hot dog, because a bratwurst is so much better.

Then there are the Vlaamse Frites (Flemish, meaning Belgian, Fries).  They technically may not be Dutch, but they've been integrated into the culture so well that you wouldn't know otherwise - that is, if the name didn't give it away. Ask any local and they'll say Vleminckx Sausmeesters is the only place to order the fries. No where else compares.  Although the tiny shop is hard to find, it is definitely worth the search.  And when eating Vlaamse Frites, don't ruin them with ketchup. Eat them like a local - with fritesaus (think glorified mayonnaise). Just prepare to get messy, because the fries are served in a paper cone, and the sauce is piled on top.

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For the more daring, try the herring.  Raw, I might add. But not to fear, in order to mask the overpowering, gag-reflex inducing smell, the fish can come topped with a mound of chopped onions. Now doesn't that sound tasty?  The centuries old Dutch delicacy can be found in the many small free-standing kiosks located around the city. But please, bring a lot of breath-mints for dessert... or gum, or a toothbrush and toothpaste...

Speaking of dessert, no one can leave the Netherlands without having a slice of appeltart at Winkel 43. It is the quintessential Dutch dessert. Yes, there is a queue to order a slice of appeltart at Winkel 43 no matter what day of the year. Yes, there is also a possibility of having to sit outside to eat it, no matter what day of the year, if all the seats inside are occupied and the craving just can't wait. But it is worth the risk, because a slice of appeltart at any other location will never be as good.

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