Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dutch?.. Netherlands?.. Holland Adventures, The Candy Critic's Travel Guide

Of the three (and a half) countries we've visited on this trip, the Netherlands is the only one we've never visited before.  Because of this, the only impressions we had about this place was what we'd read, and any stereo types we knew.  Fortunately for us, the stereo types are pretty close to correct, and fortunately for the Netherlands these stereo types are all pretty positive.

Food wise the Netherlands is well known as a place where crafted and fresh made food is very important.  It's not that everything is ultra healthy, it's that the food is well thought out, and comes from the heart.  Specifically, Dutch food has some pretty great additions to the world menu.  Probably the most famous of these foods are licorice, cheese, and pancakes.  That's not to say that this is all that's on offer, but these are some of the best, and most famous contributions.
Probably the most dominant food on the Dutch landscape is cheese.  This could also be because we stopped in both Gouda and Edam.  Having said that, just about every village, town and city in the entire country has several cheese shops.  These shops offer area local cheese, or cheese from the more famous areas of the country.  They also offer many ways to eat cheese, including various cheese specific mustards and chutneys.  This was the first time I'd ever thought about dipping my cheese in a dip before, and after visiting a few of these shops I became addicted to the cheese and Dijon mustard combination.

A close second, when it comes to Dutch treats, is licorice.  Any candy store, or even grocery store in the country has many licorices to choose from.  They go from super strong licorices, to really super strong licorices, there's no room for weak licorice in this country.  Not being a huge licorice fan, I had trouble coming to terms with this, however I dug in a little, and I learnt something, I'm still weak when it comes to strong licorice.  Being the Candy Critic, I'm not going to give up that easily though.  I went to a local candy shop and picked up a huge bag of various varieties.  I'm going to eat this bag until I'm used to it, or my taste buds die trying.

Pancakes are another Dutch treat that are available in many different formats.  You can eat them for any meal, or even just a snack.  They come plain, with syrup, or filled with all kinds of savory ingredients.  While I'm pretty sure the Dutch didn't invent the pancake, they've certainly made it a big part of their diet.

If you want to talk about Dutch treats that haven't really crossed over to the mainstream, there are two things you have to try, stroopwafels and hagelslag.  Stroopwafels are actually fairly common in many stores all over the world, but I'm not sure how many people know that they're Dutch.  They consist of two thin waffle cookies with a thick syrup in between.  I've had stroopwafels in a few countries, but in the Netherlands they take them very seriously.
Hagelslag is another Dutch tradition that's spread around a little bit (mostly just surrounding countries), but I think could take the world by storm.  At first glance, one would say that hagelslag is basically chocolate sprinkles on buttered bread (or toast). The thing that makes these different however is the quality of the sprinkles.  Unlike most sprinkles you find in North America, hagelslag sprinkles are much more chocolaty.  In fact they will even on occasion substitute the sprinkles for curls of pure milk or dark chocolate.  The variety and quality of the hagelslag is really the key, and as the photo shows above, grocery stores have full sections dedicated to this very Dutch treat.
The final stop on our Dutch journey was in the big city of Amsterdam.  This city is very different than the other towns and cities of the Netherlands.  While there are lots of great places to see in the city, there's no getting around the fact that marijuana and sex are a big part of this place.  Even the candy reflects this liberal attitude.  Sexy candy was available all over the Red Light District, and all of the local stores offered hemp and marijuana themed and flavoured treats as well.
The coolest candy thing that I saw on this trip? It had to be this very retro candy machine in the hallway of my hotel in Amsterdam. The candy was average, but the machine was awesome.


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