Bitterballen Tasting

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge and why I haven’t been writing lately

Hello and Happy Sunday!

I normally have my ideas (especially connected to writing/work) when I’m in the shower (TMI?) and today is no exception. My brain is literally buzzing with so many ideas. And I realised I haven’t written anything in like, forever.

My massage therapist (a newish addition to my life) says I have a creative block. As in I’m not creating anything so I’m blocked. That sounds way too hippy to me. But maybe she’s right.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t felt strongly enough about anything to write about it. I thought I’d come home from my Asia trip and be writing 100+ blog posts but they just haven’t come. They take sooooo much time and that’s something I haven’t had a lot of lately. Since we got back I’ve been working loads (to make up for my 2.5 month absence) we also bought a camper van (more travels coming soon!!) and a new HOUSE!! Yes, we are those crazy all or nothing people.

So, excuses excuses. But it’s not just time… My Britishness means¬†I constantly want to apologise if things aren’t good enough and I’m a Virgo so I want everything to be perfect. My writing is FAR from perfect. I know that, but this quest for perfection is holding me back.

I have to take my own advice, like I did with speaking Dutch and just fuck it. (Old post: Learning Dutch is fucking hard)

I can’t always write about things that you want to read. Sorry. I mean Dutch people are funny and that, but there’s only so much you can go over the same ground. I want to write about travel and food and maybe a little interior design stuff here and there, seeing as we’re going to be redecorating a whole new home. You want to read about crazy Dutch people and expat struggles.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are interested in other things. One of my favourite ever blogs (hannahgale.co.uk) covers lots of subjects. I read all of her mental health posts, travel posts and home decor posts. I always skip the fashion ones because it simply doesn’t interest me. We have completely different body shapes and tastes. I know lots of people do read (and love) her fashion posts, but they’re not for me.

So I guess what I’m asking is for you to do the same. For me to carry on writing, I need to do ME.

So please, if it interests you, carry on reading and if it doesn’t – skip it ūüôā

Thanks in advance and here’s the post I actually wanted to write today…

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge 

I’m almost 4 months into my 12 provinces challenge and I’ve ticked off the following:

Groningen
Friesland
Drenthe
Overijssel
Flevoland
Gelderland: Arnhem 
Utrecht: Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens)
Noord-Holland
Zuid-Holland: Delft, Scheveningen, Lisse, Noordwijk, Katwijk
Zeeland: Renesse
Noord-Brabant
Limburg

I also went to Utrecht and Amsterdam multiple times but I’m not counting them as I go all the time… I’m also not counting Nuenen in Brabant (where we picked up the camper van from) or Zaandam, again – I’ve been there loads. Or¬†Huizen, Laren, Loosdrecht or Kortenhoef as they’re all too close to home!

But 4 months down and 4 provinces ticked off sounds pretty good to me.

I may or may not get round to writing individual posts about all these places… but if not, here are some edited highlights ūüôā

Arnhem – January 2017

Ok, Arnhem was a bit of a cheat because we had limited time there on our way to Germany… so I should definitely revisit Gelderland (and Arnhem) later in the year. But it does deserve a mention because I had my first bitterballen of the 2017 there! And also there was a snowman. So…

Bitteballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Bitterballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Kasteel de Haar – April 2017

Sooooooo pretty! And by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen. (I still need go to that Instagram-famous German castle too!) But really, if you’re in or near the Utrecht area it’s worth going for a stroll around the grounds. And FREE! ūüėÄ

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Delft & Scheveningen – February 2017

We went to both places in one day when my sister and niece were visiting back in Feb. I’m not gonna lie… I don’t like¬†Scheveningen. It’s so busy/touristy and overpriced! There are lots of better Dutch seaside resorts. (Coming up…)

I loved Delft though!! And want to go back asap! If anyone has Delft tips for me… please leave a comment below. I’d be extremely grateful ūüôā ūüôā

Oude Kerk, Delft

Oude Kerk, Delft

Delft

Delft

Lisse – April 2017

We also had tourists, I mean friends, over in April… so we took them to see the flower fields in Lisse.

Tulip fields, Lisse

Tulip fields, Lisse

Don’t be a dick and trample the tulips or pick them! Pretty please.

Noordwijk & Katwijk – April 2017

Two lovely seaside towns (which are both a lot nicer than Scheveningnen!!)

In Katwijk I had the best kibbeling I’ve ever tasted in my 3 years of living here – from a seafood stand along the promenade.

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Garnalen kroktjes in Katwijk

Garnalen kroketjes in Katwijk

Rose garnalen in Katwijk

Roze garnalen in Katwijk

Not the best pic… but here’s the food stall in question ūüôā

Katwijk

Katwijk

And we had to take this one for the Dutchie’s Mum, Willy!

Katwijk

Meanwhile over in Noordwijk we went on our first camping trip in Janis. (Named after the Janis Joplin documentary, Little Girl Blue.)

Camping in Noordwijk

Camping in Noordwijk

We stayed at¬†Camping Op Hoop van Zegen which was one of the closest to town but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a silver fox. Literally the dullest/quietest campsite ever!

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Noordwijk itself was great though and I recommend Branding Beach Club which is currently #1 on Trip Advisor. Average bitterballen but the seafood platter was great, if a little overpriced. You are sat ON the beach though… so 100% worth it. Oh and make sure you book a table! They’re rammed!!

Sunset at Noordwijk

Sunset at Noordwijk

I never used to get sunsets when I was younger (my friends berated me one summer in Ibiza) but now I am fully on board!! Stunning!

Renesse – April 2017

Last, but certainly not least is Renesse… we went here for 3 nights over Easter and loved every minute of it. I’ve heard it does get very crowded in peak summer, so maybe best avoided during that time, but over Easter it was pleasantly populated ūüėČ

De Haven van Renesse

De Haven van Renesse – nice place to go for a drink

Oh, and guys… I have seen the future!!¬†Mosselen kroketjes! Of course, I wish they were bitterballen, but they taste the same. So, so good. 11/10 seriously. Believe the hype. It’s worth going to Renesse just to eat these in my opinion…

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

And what trip would be complete without a chocomel and a slice of appeltaart after a long walk on the beach?

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

I hope the rest of the year measures up to these adventures! I love exploring Holland! ūüôā If you want to join in, please use the hashtag¬†#12provincies and if you have any tips for me for the remaining 8 provinces:¬†Groningen, Friesland,¬†Drenthe,¬†Overijssel,¬†Flevoland,¬†Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and¬†Limburg – please do let me know!

Hayley x

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Where to eat the best Bitterballen in Amsterdam

For obvious reasons, I’ve been wanting to write this post since FOREVER… But I’ve been putting it off because I hadn’t yet had the chance to visit the Ballenbar. And y’know… they call themselves ‘de¬†Ballenbar’ so either they know their shizz¬†about bitterballen or they’re big fat liars¬†and have built a brand based on selling rubbish bitterballen…¬†Thankfully, it’s the former!! So much so, that they go straight to #1 on the list.

So here you go folks, here are my top 5 places to eat bitterballen in Amsterdam:

1. BallenBar

Inside the Foodhallen, Bellamyplein 51, Amsterdam | deballenbar.com

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Let’s get straight to the point. All of the bitterballen here are good… but head and shoulders above the rest are the¬†bouillabaisse ballen. OH MY OH MY OH MY! It’s no wonder really – as the filling was created¬†by Michelin star chef Peter Gast. They’re fishy but not too fishy with a nice hit of prawn flavour; so good you don’t even need a dipping sauce! Forget what you think about bouillabaisse and try them – you won’t be disappointed!

Simply divine. De beste bitterballen ooit! (The best bitterballen ever!)

Price: Proeverij¬†‚ā¨6.50 for 5 bitterballen (Tasting board with 5 different types of bitterballen: beef, chorizo, bouillabaisse, goats cheese and Tom Kha Kai).

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Proeverij plank

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Bouillabaisse bitterballen

 

2. SkyLounge

Top floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station, Oosterdoksstraat 4, 1011 DK Amsterdam | skyloungeamsterdam.com

Previously my number one place in Amsterdam to feast on tiny deep fried balls of heaven…¬†Seriously posh bitterballen!

Good size, decent chunks of meat inside and tangy mustard mayonnaise as an accompaniment. Oh and the view is alright too! ūüėČ

Price:¬†‚ā¨8.50 for 6 bitterballen.

Bitterballen SkyLounge Amsterdam

 

3. Cafe Loetje

Loetje¬†have 9 branches in the Netherlands, most of them are located in Amsterdam. The one I’ve visited is:¬†Johannes Vermeerstraat 52, 1071 DT Amsterdam. |¬†loetje.com

The two types of bitterballen look the same in the picture below, but in fact: the bitterballen on the left are kalfs bitterballen (veal bitterballen) and the ones on the right are garnalen bitterballen (prawns). Both delicious but the prawn ones definitely have the edge!

Price:¬†Kalfsbitterballen (veal)¬†‚ā¨5.25 for 6 and Garnalen (prawn)¬†‚ā¨5.50 for 6.

Cafe Loetje Amsterdam

 

4. Eating Amsterdam Tours / Cafe Luxembourg 

Eating Amsterdam: Herengracht 124, 1015 BT Amsterdam | eatingamsterdamtours.com

Cafe Luxembourg: Spui 24, 1012 XA Amsterdam | luxembourg.nl

These guys are sharing position 4 simply because they serve the same bitterballen! They¬†come from the famous¬†Holtkamp bakery. In 2012 their kalfsvlees (veal) bitterballen were awarded the title of ‘best bitterballen in Amsterdam’ out of the¬†140 cafes, bars and restaurants¬†tested!

Price: Eating Amsterdam Tours start from ‚ā¨70pp for a 4 hour tour.¬†Cafe Luxembourg:¬†‚ā¨6.50 for 6 bitterballen.

Bitterballen at Cafe Luxembourg, Amsterdam

Cafe Luxembourg

Amsterdam Food Tour

Arrival of the bitterballen on the Eating Amsterdam Boat Tour

Holtkamp bitterballen

Bitterballen on deck!

 

5. Gewaeght Cafe 

Nieuwmarkt 16, 1012 CR Amsterdam | gewaeght.nl

Picking number 5¬†was a hard choice as there as so many contenders on Nieuwmarkt (it’s a popular square in Amsterdam, close to the red light district). However the ‘gezellig‘ atmosphere swayed it for me.¬†Gewaeght Caf√© is an old-fashioned pub, jam packed with¬†paintings, records and memorabilia relating to¬†50‚Äôs, 60‚Äôs and 70‚Äôs music. The fact that they serve great bitterballen is just one more reason to go there!

Price:¬†‚ā¨5 for 6 bitterballen.

Also recommended in Nieuwmarkt: Cafe del Mondo, Café In de Waag and Cafe Stevens.

Amsterdam Bitterballen

Eet smakelijk!!!

Hayley x

Eating Amsterdam Food Tour

Last month, I was lucky enough to be invited along on an Eating Amsterdam Tour. They lured me with bitterballen, obviously.

I’ve never done a food / tasting tour anywhere before, so it was an exciting first!

Before I start: A few days ago, one of my fellow expat bloggers posted about her experience of the same tour… and while I enjoyed her post, she went into huge amounts of detail about every aspect of the tour along with pictures of every single food they tried. I’m NOT going to do that.

If I tell you everything that happens and everything you eat – there will be no surprises if you want to do the tour yourself!

So, here in Bitterballenbruid fashion, is a higgledy piggledy series of events that may have happened on the Amsterdam food tour – in no particular order. SPOILER: There were bitterballen.

Bitterballen on the Amsterdam Food Tour

Because I’ve already ruined that part: let’s start with it.

We went on the Jordaan Food & Canals Tour – so yep, you go on a canal boat! Woop woop!

Definitely one of the highlights of the tour. The captain is awesome, friendly and funny and you get to drink prosecco and eat cheese and bitterballen whilst cruising around the Amsterdam canals. Sweeeeeeeeeet!

Oh, speak of the devil! Here he is:

Hotel Pulitzer

Hotel Pulitzer

So yeah, you get on a boat and are greeted with this happy sight!

Amsterdam Food Tour Cheese

Amsterdam Food Tour

Eating Amsterdam Food Tour

And then, around half way into the one hour boat trip… this happens…

Bitterballen Delivery

Only in Holland, right? BITTERBALLEN DELIVERY!

Bitterballen

They get one of the best scores yet… a 9/10. Bravo Holtkamp bakery! Absolutely delicious! They’re definitely in my top two ever (the others were at the SkyLounge) but I always score including presentation, so they have to get a minus point for that. Foil tray indeed!

And you clearly can’t have bitterballen without yet more alcohol! YAY!

Brouwerij t IJ Beer

Amsterdam Food Tour

Hungry yet? So, boat tour over – let’s go to my least favourite part… LIQUORICE!

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje is owned by Mariska, who is very Dutch (I mean, very direct). I was a bit scared of her, especially when she told an American lady off for taking photos and not listening… but I’m a blogger, so I’m allowed to take photos? Right? Pleeeeeeease?

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

I hate drop… and (sadly) nothing changed. I tried it. I still hate it. The Dutchie tried it. He still loves it. We got a bag each to take away, so he was super happy as he got two bags!

Het Oud-Hollandsch Snoepwinkeltje

I then tried to take some establishing shots, but people kept getting in my way… I like the way this one came out though. “Oh, do get out of the way with that silly camera, dear!”

Amsterdam Food Tour

Dude, please!

Amsterdam Food Tour

People, just a sec?

Amsterdam Food Tour

Nailed it! Grrrr, dammit… there’s still someone lurking on the right…

Amsterdam Food Tour

As you can see, it was a pretty dreary day in Amsterdam – but our tour leader Annamaria kept our spirits up!

Raw herring, anyone?

Amsterdam Food Tour

There was also kibbeling… Mmmmmmmm…

Kibbeling

In addition to all the delicious food, I also used the walking part of the tour to get some random Amsterdam shots… and of course, I had to stop every time I saw any street art!

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

Street Art Amsterdam

I’m not even sure why I wanted to take a photo of this blue wall… but people just wouldn’t let me…

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Amsterdam Food Tour

Thank you, thank you very much.

Amsterdam Food Tour

Oh yeah, where was I…? Food.

Two words for you: APPLE PIE. But not like apple pie you’ve ever had before – this is Dutch Appeltaart. I am totally not a sweet person, but this appeltart was something else!

Amsterdam Food Tour

And… more food… remember that this tour is 4 hours long!! (And this part definitely isn’t in the right order…)

Then, the icing on the cake.

My first ever taste of poffertjes! I can confirm they are as good as they look – if not better!

Poffertjes

Poffertjes

Poffertjes on the Eating Amsterdam Tour

So, there you have it. Edited highlights of the Eating Amsterdam Food Tour. It is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done in Amsterdam!

The full tour is 4 hours long with 7 stops and 12 tastings. It starts at 11am and finishes at 3pm, so take my advice and skip breakfast! Or if you can’t… have a VERY light breakfast.

You and your bellies will thank me later!

Hayley x

Note: I was hosted on the tour by Eating Amsterdam but all views and opinions – as always – remain my own.

Things to do in Hilversum: Loosdrechtse Bos, Hilversumse Hei en Zonnestraal

I wrote the majority of this post¬†a few months back and never got round to posting it, but since visiting Vliegveld Hilversum (Hilversum Airport) over the Easter weekend, now seems like a good time to share it with you. I’m obviously slightly biased towards Hilversum because I live here… but if you happen to find yourself in the area, then hopefully I can provide some ‘insider tips’ to keep you amused. So here goes…

Loosdrechtse Bos

Loosdrechtse Bos (bos = forest / woods) is located at the edge of Hilversum, bordering Loosdrecht (hence the name) and Hollandsche Rading. If you put ‘Loosdrechtse Bos’ into Google Maps, it’ll direct you straight to the Zonnestraal¬†compound, in the heart of the woods. (More on that later.)

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The woods are extremely¬†beautiful and (as most woods are…) just a tiny bit spooky feeling… especially if you’re on your own. The perfect place for cycling and walking in Hilversum: loads of people take their dogs for a walk here.

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If you want to visit, but aren’t familiar with Hilversum: a well-known landmark is Zuiderhof, a cemetery on the edge of the woods. Aim for here and then enter the woods from either side of the cemetery. (Note: don’t enter the cemetery itself as it is a dead end. No pun intended. Argh!!)

Hilversumse Hei

Hilversumse Hei or Heide (meaning hay, heath or moor) refers to the¬†large areas of¬†open space in Hilversum.¬†I’m a bit confused about what all the different parts are called, but according to Instagram tagging, the bit that we visit most frequently is¬†known as¬†Hoorneboegse Heide.

Loosdrechtsebos

There are¬†cattle grazing in the fields so pay attention to the signs and keep your distance from them. You are in their home, so play nice and follow their house rules. Like me…

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Or be like the Dutchie and go in for the full on close-up… he thinks he’s bloody Rambo or something! ūüėČ

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I’ve seen these things run, so I stayed well back!! Aside from the scary cattle, it’s a great place to walk around and explore. You could easily spend a couple of hours wandering around the heath and the woods. (Or run or cycle, whatever you’re into…)

Landgoed Zonnestraal

Slap bang in the middle of¬†Loosdrechtse Bos is¬†Landgoed Zonnestraal¬†(meaning Sunbeam Estate). It’s a former sanatorium¬†used in the¬†1920s and 1930s for patients with¬†tuberculosis. It was designed by architect Jan Duiker and is an example of Nieuwe Bouwen (Literal translation = new buildings, meaning Modern Architecture).

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It’s a bit more run-down than I was expecting but still interesting to look at. The reason for the sheer volume of¬†glass was to let as much light as possible to enter the patient’s rooms and help them feel better. Sun = happy, right? These days it’s used a conference centre which can be hired out. Many local businesses are also located here – mostly clinics and fitness-related.

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There’s not much to do here, unless you’re feeling peckish – then there’s a brasserie.¬†I made a special trip by bike to take photos for this post as I’d never been before and I have to be honest and say I was a little underwhelmed. (Trip Advisor – you actually let me down this time!!) The buildings are different, that’s for sure, and if you’re really into modern architecture then I’m sure you’ll like it… but personally I wouldn’t make a special trip. If you’re already visiting the area and fancy a walk anyway, ok, but don’t come here especially.

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In fact, I found this building in front of the Zonnestraal much prettier, especially with a dusting of snow! (Told you I wrote this post months ago!!)

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Vliegveld Hilversum

If you’re walking / cycling¬†in this area you may also come across Vliegveld Hilversum (Hilversum Airport) which does what it says on the tin.

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We went for a bike ride in the area on Saturday, well – actually we were planning on cycling to Loosdrechtse Plassen, but we never made it that far – so we stopped here for a bite and a borrel instead!

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The two female waitresses were really welcoming and the menu had a good selection of typical Dutch cafe food… broodjes,¬†uitsmijters, borrelhapjes¬†etc. We had the bittergarnituur mixed platter and for once I actually enjoyed the kaasstengels! It’s a miracle!

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With bitterballen, obviously. These only score a measly 6/10 but as I’ve said before: you can’t get bad bitterballen!

For¬†some reason this place is ultra dog friendly, so if you’re taking a furry friend, there’s a special menu for dogs called¬†“De Waf Kaart!”¬†(In Dutch, dogs don’t say “woof woof” –¬†they say “waf waf”!)

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Oh and a hondenbar! The owners must be dog-people…

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So there you have it. How to spend a few hours in Hilversum on foot or by bike. And if you’d like more info…

THE LOWDOWN:

ADDRESS: Various. To enter the woods on foot or by bike, aim for Zuiderhof, Hilversum. Or park at Vliegveld Hilversum and start there.
OPENING TIMES:¬†Always. (However I did see a sign that you can’t enter certain parts of the woods between 8pm and 6am. Seems sensible!)
PARKING: Free street parking near Zuiderhof and at the airport.
MORE INFO: Landgoed Zonnestraal | Brasserie Zonnestraal | Hilversum Airport | Hilversum Airport Restaurant (Websites all in Dutch.)

Next on the ‘Things to do in Hilversum’ list is: Film Theater Hilversum.

Where are your favourite places in Hilversum / Het Gooi area?

Hayley x

A quickie in Haarlem

Get your mind out of the gutter!! ūüėČ

After the epic trip to Hoorn… the day after, Haarlem with the husband was on the menu. Unfortunately, timing wasn’t our strong suit that day and we didn’t end up arriving in Haarlem until nearly 4pm (!)¬†by which time the sun was already beginning its descent, meaning that the light was running out for decent photos and it was also bitterly cold! Brrrr!

So it made the trip short and sweet. On the plus side, we now HAVE to go back again another time! (With much better planning de volgende keer!)

First we arrived at Grote Markt¬†(literally: Big Market) and immediately spotted¬†Viqh (a wine bar) – which Marit Smits had recommended on my Facebook page… so it would be rude not to go and have a cheeky glass of prosecco! It’s a very cute little bar with lots of little nooks and crannies. The tables are wedged in everywhere, so be prepared to get cosy with your neighbours!

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After cheeky bubbles, we explored market square which was bustling with traders and shoppers… it was Saturday afternoon after all! Unfortunately this is the only photo I have where the sky doesn’t look bleak and empty. This is St. Bavo Church or¬†Grote Kerk¬†– I’ll let you work that one out for yourself ūüėČ

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Next on the agenda was Jam√≥n Jam√≥n (on Inge Mastwijk’s recommendation)¬†for a quick bite to eat.

They’re renowned locally for their sandwiches, so The Dutchie went for a beef sarnie and I opted for a couple of tapas dishes. The spicy chicken was wonderful! A word of warning though… despite being a delicatessen and selling wine, they don’t have a license to sell alcohol with your meal… so this is a place for coffee and a snack rather than a borrel and snack! ¬†Extremely cute place though… there will be fights for that one table in the summer! (Ha ha, just noticed – hello from the window reflection!)

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On the same street (Schaghelstraat) is this little beauty. An art shop with one of the coolest shop fronts I’ve seen outside of Brighton!

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Then it was onto Jopenkerk, recommended by both Inge and Marit (thanks, ladies!)

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Previously, the building (an old church) was known as Jacobuskerk, but in 2010 it¬†reopened its doors as a brewery, cafe and restaurant. According to their website, in 2013, Jopenkerk won the title¬†Mooiste Bar van Nederland¬† (Best Looking Bar in the Netherlands) and I can totally understand that. It’s goddamn beautiful. It was also goddamn busy… note to self: come on a day other than Saturday!

In addition to the wide range of beer, they had BEER bitterballen!

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Honestly? I couldn’t taste the beer… but that could have been because I was drinking beer, who knows! These get a 7/10 with minus points for the (random) shape, (lack of) mustard and slightly lazy presentation.

Beer and bitterballen – check! Next…

Museums were off the cards because it was already too late in the day, so we took a walk to check out Cathedral of Saint Bavo (thanks¬†Christina Ames for the tip). She sure is a beaut (the cathedral I mean, but I’m sure Christina is too!) and next time I’d love to do the tour!

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That’s it unfortunately, all we saw of Haarlem! But enough of a taster to want to return!

This weekend I’m off to explore Gouda with my friend and goddaughter, so as always… insider tips are welcomed / appreciated / encouraged! ūüėÄ

What are you doing this sunny weekend?

Veel plezier!

Hayley x

Vier Porties Bitterballen, Graag – A weekend of gluttony

Four portions of bitterballen, please – Een weekend vol vraatzucht

Last¬†weekend, we had friends over from England, so despite my suggestions of¬†a day¬†in Utrecht or¬†Gouda, they were fixed on¬†Amsterdam. No surprises there. So when in Amsterdam… do as the Amsterdammers do. We took them for bitterballen… and they were perhaps the best bitterballen I’ve tasted thus far!!!

Saturday (Valentine’s Day)¬†

We went to the SkyLounge at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam (cor, that’s a mouthful!) because it’s close to the station and THE VIEW… oh, THE VIEW! Undoubtedly one of the best views in Amsterdam. My Dutch friend introduced me to this place last summer but told me I had to keep it a secret… however a) I asked her permission before posting this¬†and b) if you Google ‘best views in Amsterdam’ it comes up anyway… so…

Yeah, the SkyLounge. (Other sky bars are available.)

This place is ultra-swanky, so when paying ‚ā¨8.50 for 6 bitterballen:¬†they’d better be damn good! And that they were! Seriously posh bitterballen – they tasted homemade. So I’ll give them my highest score so far – 9.5/10 with half a point being deducted due to the price. (Ha! Look at me being all Dutch!)

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After devouring our borrelhapjes¬†we set off towards Woo Brothers on Jodenbreestraat. We’ve been here once before for their Asian fusion food (with the same friend – her choice) and yet again, they didn’t disappoint. Here’s their sashimi platter, plus marinated oysters just to the right. Mmmmmmmmmm…

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I love that this place¬†is full of locals and the tourists haven’t cottoned on yet. It’s quite young, hip and trendy (and I realise I sound completely old, unhip and untrendy just by saying that) and the prices reflect the outstanding quality of food. It’s not crazy-expensive, but it’s not cheap either. Here, you definitely get what you pay for.

We had to take an¬†early dinner slot as it was Valentine’s day and they were fully booked after 7.15pm (unsurprisingly – so best to book in advance if you want to eat here). Food tips: the oysters, salt and pepper squid and the soft shelled crab are all finger-lickin’-good!

At the end of the evening – and I have no¬†idea how they managed it – but my friends wanted to order a waffle, so we took them to Delicious on¬†Nieuwmarkt square. Along with The Dutchie, they had a huge waffle, ice cream AND cream each. I didn’t take a photo as I might just have split my stomach in the process!!

Sunday (Tour d’amour)

We were back in the Dam again on Sunday for a Tour d’amour of the Rijksmuseum.¬†A (Dutch) friend of ours is a tour guide, so this was her¬†wedding gift to us. All together now: “ahhhhhhh”.

We went with the Dutchie’s family and some friends, 11 of us in total, and learnt about many of the lesser known paintings in the museum, all with the theme of love.

The tour ended with¬†De Nachtwacht¬†(The Night Watch). Not really about love, but¬†you can’t¬†go to the Rijksmuseum and not visit the most famous painting there, right?

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Back to the food: we visited Cafe Loetje which is around a 5 min walk from the Rijksmuseum. (They have seven branches in total, the one we went to was on Johannes Vermeerstraat).

“Specialty steaks & classical Dutch dishes are served at this bustling cafe with a shaded terrace.” Right you are, Google.

So, what did we order? More bitterballen!!! ūüôā I feel full just looking at this picture…

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They look the same, but in fact: the bitterballen on the left are gewoon bitterballen (normal bitterballen) and the ones on the right are garnalen bitterballen (prawns!) In the middle you see vlammetjes! (Spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried.)

These bitterballen get 8/10. Love the flags, a really¬†cute touch! But the colouring is too dark and they’re not round! 10/10 for taste though, especially the prawn bad boys!

After the sharing platter (which we shared with the whole table, not just us fatties), the Dutchie had a ‘Bali’ steak, served with a special hot sauce – this place is famous for its steaks, so it had to be done! I went for the slightly less adventurous Pastrami club sandwich. All in all:¬†good grub, good service and the place had a really friendly¬†atmosphere.

And, when the bill came? We went Dutch!! (Everyone paid their own bill.) What else? ūüėČ

A weekend of pure gluttony. Oh… and this coming weekend I have another friend coming over from England! Eat, Sleep, Bitterballen, Repeat. Poor me, eh?

We’re probably going to try¬†Brouwerij ‘t IJ but if you have any other ideas or inspiration, please let me know in the comments below! Thanks!

Hayley x

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First Bitterballen of 2015

Yup… it’s been a while… but yesterday we ate BITTERBALLEN. Not just any bitterballen… oven cooked bitterballen!

Huh? I know, me too! I didn’t even know they existed until a couple of weeks ago¬†when we spotted them in Albert Heijn. We just got a new oven, you see. (How I have lived without one for 8 MONTHS is beyond me… but I did!)

So, we were perusing the pizza aisle in AH (The Dutchie’s favourite food groups are chicken and pizza!!!) and when we spotted them, of course, we HAD¬†to try them for ourselves!

OVEN bitterballen... what the heck!?

OVEN bitterballen… what the heck!?

I get the fact that they’ve already been deep-fried. I’m not trying to be healthy or something… bitterballen are a treat and that’s the way they’re staying! The reason that oven bitterballen excite me is because we don’t own a deep fryer. I just won’t allow one in the house! (Otherwise we’d both be the size of a house!!! His 3rd favourite food group is vlammetjes!)

So, let’s give these bad boys a whirl!

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My precious little balls of heaven.

It says to cook them at 220-250¬į for 8-12 minutes. Which we did, but they still weren’t flaming hot in the centre and the outside wasn’t crispy enough, so we ramped it up to 250¬į for another few minutes and that did the trick! We could hear the sizzle!

And… the final result!

De-lish!!

Dee-lish!!

They tasted fab! Just like you’d get from any kroeg (pub),¬†but in the comfort of your own home. I’m going to give them a well-deserved 7/10. The coating wasn’t quite as crunchy / crispy as you’d get from only deep-frying and the filling was good, but not spectacular.

However you just can’t beat that feeling of going into a pub and being served bitterballen alongside your borrel. It’s much more gezellig!¬† I would buy them again – but only for a party or something – what else would¬†Bitterballenbruid serve!?! ūüėČ

Would you try oven bitterballen? Or have you already? If so, what did you think?

Hayley x

Bitterballen Proeven: Trivio, Loosdrecht

Last night we cycled to Loosdrecht and stopped at a pretty¬†little¬†restaurant by the water to enjoy a glass of wine (Sauvignon Blanc for me, beer¬†for the Dutchie) and take in the view. We’d already eaten dinner, so the plan was just to have a drink, but whilst I popped to the ladies, the naughty Dutchie ordered bitterballen! Naughty because¬†we’re both supposed to be on a “pre-wedding healthy eating regime”… but what could I do? ūüėČ

Trivio Restaurant, Loosdrecht

Veilige Haven, Loosdrecht

10 out of 10 for the view! I love being surrounded by water!! The bitterballen get a solid 7.5 out of 10. I like my bitterballen to be perfectly round, so a minus point for that. The mustard was a bit funny tasting, way too tangy, so that also gets a mark down and the bitterballen themselves were ever so slightly greasy, so a half point deduction. Still lekker and sitting on the terrace was gezellig, so a double thumbs up from two happy customers!

Hayley x

Having visitors means… Going to Amsterdam!

When¬†you have visitors to¬†The Netherlands, you have to go to Amsterdam… right? I love it! The perfect¬†excuse to visit this beautiful city again and again! My best friend came to stay at the weekend and it was wonderful to¬†be able to¬†give her a guided tour.

Like any tourist, top of her list was a visit to Anne Frank’s House. I had warned her that the queue may take a couple of hours¬†– as we hadn’t been organised enough to book (months) in advance¬†– but¬†when we arrived there around 11am it¬†was even a surprise for me!¬†RIDICULOUS!! The queue was so long we couldn’t even see the end of it!! Must have been at least a 4-5 hour¬†wait… so thankfully, it was off the cards. Instead, we did what I love to do best: rondlopen.

I’m a total street art geek, so¬†it’s my idea of heaven…

Street Art vlakbij Anne Frank's Huis (Street Art near Anne Franks House)

Street Art vlakbij Anne Frank’s Huis (Street Art near Anne Frank’s House)

If, like us, you get caught out by the queues at AFH… worry not, there’s plenty in the area to keep you entertained! Her house is located on the famous Prinsengracht (Prince canal!) which has tons of cafes, bars and shops… as if the beautiful canal itself wasn’t enough! ūüėČ

Cheese Museum, Amsterdam

Cheese “Museum” – it’s basically a shop, but I’m not complaining! It’s a good shop! ¬†And next door is the Tulip “Museum”…

Tulip Museum

Tulip Museum

Did I mention it’s a great street for tourists? ūüėČ

When in Rome...

When in Rome…

Tourist shop

Tourist shop

A great little¬†shop¬†for souvenirs (opposite Anne Frank’s House) and not too over-priced. They have everything from magnets and mugs, to stroopwafels and clogs!

And did I tell you about the Street Art in Amsterdam…? Keep your eyes peeled, it’s lurking around every corner!

Street Art, Prinsengracht

Street Art, Prinsengracht

Penguins, Amsterdam

Penguins on Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

Ok, not technically street art… this is actually the window of a Nursery, but still kinda cool…

Nursery window

Nursery window

More Street Art Amssterdam

Once we’d done Prinsengracht to death, we pretty much did a full lap of central Amsterdam. I’ve been to the city 15+ times, but I’ve never seen as much as I did on this particular trip!! Props to my best friend, she was the¬†perfect partner to explore with – enthusiastic, full of energy and¬†despite only being 5′ 2″ she kept up with my long legs all day.

Canals, canals and more canals… aren’t they beautiful?

Canals, Amsterdam

Oudkerksbrug

Oudkerksbrug, Amsterdam

I found out after taking the picture that the first boat on the right actually belongs to a friend of ours! Where was he when we needed a canal tour, huh?? ūüėČ

Oudkerksbrug, Amsterdam

#nofilter

#nofilter

We also had to visit Museumplein, of course…

Van Gogh Museum

Outside the Van Gogh Museum, with bikes in shot… naturally!

And the famous I amsterdam letters!

iamsterdam

Iamsterdam letters, located on Museumplein

And what outing would be complete without the best Dutch delicacy known to (wo)man???

Bitterballen at Cafe del Mondo, Amsterdam

Bitterballen at Cafe del Mondo, Amsterdam

My friend loved them (I’m yet to find a meat-eater who doesn’t, actually!)… and I’d give Cafe del Mondo (Nieuwmarkt) a very respectable 9/10 for their near-perfect plate of bitterballen. A minus point because they weren’t perfectly round and the rocket on the side was slightly sad looking ūüėČ

Amsterdam… ik hou van jou. (Amsterdam… I love you.)

Hayley x

 

Fietsen naar Loosdrecht (Cycling to Loosdrecht)

We didn’t manage to cycle at the weekend as the Dutchie only picked up his bike on Sunday evening (after it had been lovingly stored by a friend for the past 3 years) but we went on our first bike ride¬†together¬†yesterday. The Loosedrechtse Plassen didn’t disappoint and I’m so glad to have them on our doorstep! (In Dutch terms, 30 mins by bike is “on your doorstep” :))

Bike ride to Loosdrecht

Bike ride to Loosdrecht

I was quite proud of myself for getting there without doing something embarrassing like crashing¬†or falling off my bike… you see, I’m not a natural born cyclist. The Dutchie on the other hand was born with a bike between his legs it seems. He was happily speeding along, beer in one hand, phone in the other taking photos! ¬†(He’s one of those annoying people who are good at everything: cycling, snooker, darts, ping pong, even football. You name it, he’ll do it well.) But we eventually reached a happy medium once I’d gained a bit of confidence and speed!

Taken by the Dutchie of me lagging behind!

The Dutchie took this pic of me lagging behind!

We arrived at the lakes at the perfect time, just as the sun was beginning to set, which made for some spectacular views!

Sun setting in Loosdrecht

Sun setting in Loosdrecht

Loosdrecht ride2

Loosdrecht ride9

Loosdrecht ride3

We also saw some people water-skiing which looked like fun, but far too dangerous for a scaredy cat like me!!

Water skiing in Loosdrecht

Water-skiing in Loosdrecht

After we had soaked up the views and taken some pictures, it was clearly borreltijd¬†so we went off in search of beer and bitterballen! Whilst we passed at least 5 cafes en route, it was hard to find one which was actually open at 9pm on a Monday evening. We wanted to stop at “The Quiet Piss” (De Stille Plas – it actually means The Silent Lake, but plassen also means to pee, so I prefer my translation!) but unfortunately it was gesloten (closed.) Sad face.

De Stille Plas, Loosdrecht

De Stille Plas, Loosdrecht

Instead we found¬†Het Praethuys (Old Dutch, it means the Talking House) which was an excellent choice. The lady behind the bar was extremely friendly, nothing was too much trouble and the other patrons were really friendly too – greeting us when¬†we¬†arrived and when we left. It’s located on a caravan/ holiday park (one of many in the area) so maybe that’s just what the community is like there ūüôā Gezellig!¬†

Eetcafe Het Praethuys

Eetcafe Het Praethuys

We had some lekker bitterballen and¬†kippen vleugels (chicken wings). If I’m Bitterballen Bruid, the Dutchie should be re-named Kippenvleugelman! He’s obsessed!

Loosdrecht bitterballen

Bitterballen at Het Praethus, Loosdrecht

I have to be a bit critical and give the bitterballen a 7/10. They were quite small, a bit too much colour on them¬†for my liking and the coating was quite thin. I’ve had better… although they were perfectly edible and served with a tangy mustard (it tasted home made) so props for that!

Loosdrecht bitterballen, bijna op!

Loosdrecht bitterballen, bijna op!

I don’t think I’ve had a BAD bitterbal yet to be fair!

Loosdrecht pub

View from the cafe

A lovely evening in Loosdrecht! I’m sure we’ll visit again very soon! My best friend is coming to visit in 2 weeks, so I’m definitely adding this to our to-do list!

Where’s your favourite place to cycle?

Hayley x