Food & Drink

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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Review: Vis en Friet, Utrecht

There’s a new hipster chip shop in Utrecht and instead of just *thinking* about going for months on end and never getting around to it, like I did with Frietwinkel, I only bloody went on Monday.

I happened to be in Utrecht, as we had friends over from England and we also happened to be hungry whilst¬†walking past the new ‘Vis en Friet’ on Oudegracht. I’d seen on Instagram that Great Little Place¬†Utrecht had already given it a thumbs up, so in we went.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So, what do you need to know? The shop itself is tiny, there are only 3 seats inside and space for about 7 people outside depending on how much personal space you require…

They have the same potato cutting machine as Frietwinkel, but I wasn’t there when they cut the chips, so no video. Soz.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

The chips are gooooood. As good as Frietwinkel’s. They have definitely got competition on their hands!

The fish is also delicious, it was a little bit greasy for my liking, but that seems to be pretty standard with kibbeling here.

Prices are the same as Frietwinkel for a small portion, but they’ve undercut them on the large portions by a whopping 25 cents!! ūüėČ

Vis en Friet, Utrrecht

Like Frietwinkel, they also have the separate little sauce cups so you don’t have to deal with the soggy-at-the-top, dry-at-the-bottom chip situation. Though I must say, the portion of sauce was a bit stingy and we did have to end up ordering another one! (50 cents. Welcome to Holland!!)

Overall, the quality vs price was spot on.

I think Frietwinkel has the edge over Vis en Friet, only slightly though… by being more instagrammable. The cones, the branding, the funny sandwich board outside. Hipsters love that shit. (FYI – I’m sooooo not a hipster.¬†Not even close.)

Speaking of hipster, the music the dude had on was awesome. He was playing reggae, but not your standard, run of the mill reggae: Groundation and Alpha Blondy. The Dutchie was in heaven. We were only there for 10-15 minutes and they played two of his favourite reggae songs within that time! So bonus points from the Dutchie for music selection!

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So I guess my advice is… take heed of their super¬†unimaginative, yet highly functional names. If you just want chips, Frietwinkel is your boy. If you’re lusting after fish AND chips, Vis en Friet¬†is the one for you.

Anyone hungry now?? I bloody am!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie ‚Äst‚ā¨2,50 | Groot portie ‚Äst‚ā¨3,00

Fish and chips¬†‚ā¨6,90

Vismarkt 14, 3511 KS Utrecht

 

The best pubs & bars in Hilversum

I’m writing this because apparently no one else has. Seriously, pfffff. I even Googled it in Dutch, but zip. Nada. All I get is a Trip Advisor link SAYING it’s going to give me a list of the 10¬†best pubs & bars in Hilversum, but the link then goes to restaurants. Not cool man, not cool.

So anyway, if you want something done right… do it yourself. (This post isn’t necessarily¬†for you regulars, soz. It’s more for Googley people…)

*Waves at people actually looking for the best bars and pubs in Hilversum! HI!* 

This¬†list is¬†based on my personal experiences¬†and I haven’t visited every bar in Hilversum (I wish!) so if you have any others to add… hit me up.

 

1. Cafe ‘t Tolhuis

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

I kinda don’t want to tell you about this one, because it’s my favourite bar in Hilversum. But y’know, I’m a nice gal, so I’m gonna. But first a warning: it’s preeeeetty bloody hard to go here just for a drink without ordering food. Wanna know why? The menu LOOKS amazing. The food SMELLS amazing. The food TASTES amazing. I think we managed to go there once without ordering food and we both complained the whole way home.

They have fantastic wine and I have no idea about the beer. They serve beer.

Apparently there’s live music here every Thursday, I have no idea how, it’s teeny! But anyway, go check it out. Brilliant place! (Oh and make sure you book a table if you want to eat!)

Soestdijkerstraatweg 2, 1213 XA Hilversum | tolhuis-hilversum.nl

 

2. Karroesel

My second favourite pub is definitely an acquired taste. It’s rustic… and by rustic I mean it’s a shithole. But a nice shithole. It’s where the ‘alternative’ (for want of a better word) crowd go in Hilversum. Half of the bar is a¬†smoking room, complete with pool table and the music is loud and mostly aggressive.

As I say, an acquired taste. What I will say though – you’ll meet some interesting characters here!

Spoorstraat 44, 1211 GB Hilversum. No pics, no website. Proper old skool. 

 

3. Felix II

Felix II, Hilversum

Photo credit: Felix II Facebook Page

A Hilversum institution. So good they have a restaurant (Eten bij Felix) and a bar. They even opened a Felix 3, but unfortunately it has now closed.

Popular terrace outside, pool table inside. I have been known to dance on the table. (It was covered, we were allowed.)

Herenstraat 9, 1211 BZ Hilversum | felix2.nl

 

4. Guardian

Guardian, Hilversum

Photo credit: The Guardian Hilversum Facebook Page

I had to get an English pub on the list, right?!?!? A pretty standard pub, slap bang in the middle of the Groest (the main street for bars/restaurants in Hillywood).

Does what it says on the tin.

Groest 33, 1211 CZ Hilversum | the-guardian.nl

 

5. Café Moeke

Cafe Moeke, Hollandsche Rading

Photo credit: Cafe Moeke Facebook Page

Ok, technically not Hilversum… but Hollandsche Rading. I can get here on my bike in 15 mins, so close enough I reckon.

Another bar / cafe / restaurant. Fantastic food… like a gastro pub. Their slogan is “de vijfsterren kroeg met eetallures” which roughly translates to¬†“the five star pub with fine dining intentions”. Occasionally things sound¬†better in Dutch. This is one of those times!

Anyway, never had a bad meal here and¬†it doubles as a pub. Closest thing I have found to an English pub in Holland (and yes that even includes the “actual” English pub above!)

Utrechtseweg 263, 1213 TR Hilversum | cafemoeke.nl

 

6. Het café van Amstel 

Het Cafe van Aemstel, Hilversum

Cosy little pub on the Gijsbrecht. They’ve kinda rebranded to Brechtje van Amstel and now it’s a pub and a cafe/restaurant side by side but meh, I’m still gonna call it Cafe van Amstel.

Gijsbrecht van Amstelstraat 145, 1214 AX Hilversum | brechtjevanamstel.nl

 

7. Gastrobar KURK

Gastrobar KURK, Hilversum

I’ve only been here once, but this is a place I definitely want to go back to. Extensive wine list and¬†I love the concept of their menu. Diverse dishes broken down into different price points depending on how much you want to spend / how hungry you are.

We went here on the Wijnspijs Culinaire Wandeling last year and had a fantastic glass of wine and taster dish. (As you can see in the lil Instragram pic above!)

Kampstraat 22, 1211 GE Hilversum | gastrobarkurk.nl

 

8. Winebar Vintage 

Winebar Vintage, Hilversum

Photo credit: Winebar Vintage Facebook Page

Again, I’ve only been here once but I’ll definitely be going back soon. “Meer dan 100 open wijnen” ¬†– more than 100 open wines! That’s enough reason for me! ūüėÄ

Last time I only had a couple¬†glasses of wine at a Hilversum Ladies Meet Up, but I’d definitely like to check out the Hapjeskaart (snacks menu) too!

Spoorstraat 65, 1211 Hilversum | wijnbarvintage.nl

 

9. Barracuda

Another ‘acquired’ taste. This one’s a metal bar. There’s live music every Saturday. We went here late on Kingsday and the lovely bar lady let us play whichever songs we wanted. Good reason to go back in my book!!

Herenstraat 43, Hilversum. Again, no pics, no website. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

 

10. Vliegveld Hilversum

Vliegveld Hilversum

Wine and flowers at Vliegveld Hilversum

Lovely place to go for a beer (for the Dutchie) and a wine (for me) and see the planes landing and taking off. They have good snacks, there’s a play area for the kids and they’re dog friendly. I only care about one of those things, but maybe you have ankle biters and furry friends… just looking out for ya!

For the cyclists / walkers amongst you Рthe surrounding area is a lovely place to explore (right near Loosdrechtse Bos and Hilversumse Hei).

Noodweg 43, 1213 PW Hilversum | restaurantflyinn.nl

Where’s your favourite place to go in Hilversum?

Hayley x

Review: Frietwinkel Utrecht

I’ve been meaning to go here for months… so when my parents came to visit¬†a few weeks back, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to grab a cone of the best chips in town! (Apparently.)

Frietwinkel Utrecht

The ‘rents¬†had stopped in Bruges on the way to the Netherlands and had friet met mayo right in front of the Belfry tower – so the stakes were high. Frietwinkel had to deliver… and luckily for us they did! They’re number #1 on¬†Trip Advisor of places to eat in Utrecht – for very good reason.

But they’re *just* chips I hear you cry! Yes, they are just chips. But they are bloody good chips!!

A nice ‘gimmick’ is that they cut them in front of you, so you can see just how fresh they are. I made a little video, voil√†:

“De eerste BIOLOGISCHE FRIETWINKEL van Utrecht.”

The first organic chip shop in Utrecht. I don’t care about organic tbh – but¬†maybe you do.

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Cheap, tasty, instagrammable. I’m sold.

And do you want to know the best thing?? They have these clever cones with 2 compartments that keep the sauce separate from the chips!! (I really want to shout “yes lads!!” now.) Oh fuck it… YES LADS!!!

You know how annoying it is when you get a massive¬†blob of mayo or ketchup or whatever at the top of the cone… then you get soggy chips¬†at the top (with waaaay too much sauce) and then the rest of your chips (3/4) have no sauce… Bloody annoying.

But here,¬†the sauce is separate! (I would like to take this moment to personally congratulate the awesome human being¬†who invented these cones. I’m a little bit in love with you.)

And now for the downside… the service isn’t great. But remember you’re in Holland… customer service pretty much doesn’t exist here. So just deal with it.

At least whoever makes the signs has a sense of humour!! ūüôā

Eet smakelijk!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie ‚Äst‚ā¨2,50 | Groot portie ‚Äst‚ā¨3,25

Vinkenburgstraat 10, 3512AB Utrecht | frietwinkel.nl

 

This is not a sponsored post. I just really like chips. 

 

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

English Food vs Dutch Food… Fight!

It’s almost a year and a half since I moved to the Netherlands… and honestly, Holland is starting to feel more like home than England does.¬†Isn’t that vierd?

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS DON’T MISS

Wet/cold weather 55%

Politicians 39%

Traffic 37%

Miserable people 34%

Commuting 26%

Sarcasm 13%

Annoying family members 10%

Neighbours 8%

Ex-partners 8%

The Pound 6%

 

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS MISS

Fish and chips 55%

Pub grub 54%

Traditional pubs 47%

Countryside 35%

The high street 31%

Sunday roasts 30%

TV 24%

Parks 16%

Football 12%

The changing seasons 11%

 

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know the biggest thing I miss is the English pub culture and good old pub grub, so I’m totally in agreement with this survey!

(Sources: BritishCornerShop.co.uk Рand The Mirror.)

I like food. So yes, this post is about food (with a few drinks thrown in). But the question is: which is better?

 

BREAKFAST

1. Bacon vs spek

Thick, luscious rounds of smoked bacon served with crusty bread, lettuce and tomato. Or wafer thin slices of spek? My vote: Team UK.

2. Marmite on toast vs hagelslag

Love it or hate it… marmite is extremely popular in the UK. As is hagelslag in Holland. But which is best? My vote: Team UK.

Proper English tea and toast... with marmite!

3. Full English breakfast vs uitsmijter

Bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, hash browns, beans, black pudding… I’m salivating just typing this! Or fried egg, ham and cheese? Also delicious, but very simple.¬†My vote: Team UK.

 

LUNCH

4. Sandwich and crisps or boterham?

English people pretty much can’t eat a sandwich without a packet of crisps on the side. It’s like an unwritten law or something. What do Dutchies often eat for lunch? A slice of white bread¬†with¬†cheese and a glass of milk.¬†My vote: Team UK.

5. Beans on toast vs … ?

Is there a vs for this one? (Hagelslag?!! Hee hee.) Dutchies think beans on toast is just weird, but we were brought up with it. It’s cheap, easy food when the cupboards are (almost) bare and most definitely in every student’s culinary repertoire ūüėČ ¬†My vote: Team UK.

 

(SUNDAY) DINNER

6. Roast Dinner vs Stamppot

Meat and all the trimmings vs a U shaped boiled smoked sausage and mashed veg and potatoes. I love both, but if I can only pick one it has to be the roast.  My vote: Team UK.

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

AT THE PUB

7. Chips drowned in vinegar or mayonnaise? 

This doesn’t need an explanation. The Dutch won me over with mayo. My vote: Team NL.

8. English pub vs Dutch brown cafe

Both are fantastic for different reasons, but I’ve got to go English pub.¬†My vote: Team UK.

9. Ordering a round in a pub

Ordering a round in Holland: “Zeven biertjes en een witte wijn” (Seven beers and a white wine).

Ordering a round in England: “One Calsberg, one Fosters, one Stella, one Kronenberg, one Bulmers, one Aspalls, one Pinot Grigio and a gin and tonic, please.” Fuck me, we’re fussy.¬†My vote: Team NL.

10. Bar snacks Рpork scratchings vs bitterballen 

No contest. My vote: Team NL.

Bitterballen at Elements Beach

11. Pint of beer vs thimble of beer

The bigger the better, surely? My vote: Team UK.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

12. Nesquick vs Chocomel

Powder you mix with milk or prepackaged chocolate loveliness. My vote: Team NL.

13. Liquorice allsorts vs Drop

Both disgusting, at least liquorice allsorts have some coconut around them that I can eat. My vote: Team UK.

 

Unsurprisingly, ¬†I scored 9 in favour of the UK and 4 to NL. But I’m getting there…

What’s your score?

Hayley x

Things to do in Hilversum: WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

The title of this post could also be: That one time in Hilversum when I ate loads of delicious food, drank loads of amazing wine and got so tipsy I cried about learning Dutch. But I guess the other title is more factual and Google probably likes it better… so…

First things first: What is a WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling? Wijn = wine. Spijs = food / dish. Together it means wine pairing, food pairing… the act of pairing food and wine together type thing.¬†Culinaire = culinary. Wandeling = walk.

So: a culinary walk around Hilversum (other Dutch towns and cities are available) where you get to drink lots of wine and eat food that goes with it. In short, heaven for food and wine lovers.

Unlike the time when I ate Amsterdam¬†– I can tell you every single detail of this trip (the stuff I remember anyway) because the Hilversum one is done, over, finished… for this year anyway!

However, WijnSpijs run dates all over the country – pretty much every weekend during the summer – so there’s probably one near you soon! Here’s the agenda. (Dammit!! Utrecht is sold out already! *Sad face*.) Anyway… without further ado…

Restaurant 1: Gastrobar Kurk

Wine: Gran Sasso. Food: squid ink risotto, gin & 7up foam, parsnip puree, peas and a prawn!

Gastrobar Kurk, Hilversum

Gastrobar Kurk

We both loved this place, including the very keen waitress (it was early in the day and she was super enthusiastic, bless her!) and we will definitely be returning. The menu looked very interesting and not over-priced, so I’m curious to see what else they have up their sleeves!

Restaurant 2: Zilt & Zo

Hot and cold smoked salmon, asparagus and asparagus foam, topped with a beetroot chip. Re: wine…¬†I’m struggling to read my own handwriting, I wrote down something like Gruner Veltliner – Roshlitz. I remember it was nice ūüėČ

Zilt & Zo Hilversum

Zilt & Zo, Hilversum

The food was good, but not the star of the day. The presentation in a wine glass was funny, but quite difficult to eat! I would go back for the”beach” at the end of their sunny terrace, however,¬†to sip a cocktail with my feet in the sand!

Restaurant 3: Proeverij De Open Keuken

Here they served up a beef salad made with jodenhaas (beef shoulder tenderloin). Although I thought he said Yodahaas so I’m sticking to that! It was paired with a light, easy drinking red: Dornfelder Nahe 2014. Yum. Very, very easy to drink!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

There was a chip in my bowl (naughty, naughty!) so I had to switch plates with the Dutchie because I wanted to photograph it zonder chip. However, my beef was slightly chewy and the Dutchie’s was perfect… so it serves me right for switching I guess!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken

(The Dutchie getting arty with his wine ^)

We sat outside… because it was awesome weather that day! But FYI – the inside of this restaurant is gooooooorgeous! (My iphone camera, not so much.)

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken.

Restaurant 4: Lust 

This beauty is meerval (which I think is catfish) pasta with samphire, tomatoes and a gambas (prawn) sauce. Definitely the dish of the day!! Served with Finca Constancia Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc. (70% Verdejo and 30% Sauvignon Blanc.) Result: yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong.

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Restaurant 5: Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Monkfish with a fermented risotto (what the heck?!) an orange coloured sauce and a cherry tomato. It was delicious, but they didn’t do much explaining! Served with Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

They also had a DJ…

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

…and a dude playing saxophone who liked hiding in bushes.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Restaurant 6: Heren Spyker

Zachtgegaarde runderwang (slow cooked beef cheek) with roasted tomato, pea cream and a cumin crisp. Served with a 2013 Cuvee Tradition Rouge – Corbieres from Chateau Beauregard Mirouze.

Heren Spkyer

Here it is, in Dutch (nice touch btw, they were the only restaurant to do this).

Heren Spkyer

This was probably the tiniest dish of the whole day. It was good, but not great. The crunchy cumin thing outshone the beef cheek, which is never a good thing. I love the fact that this place is connected with Spyker though and due to it’s brilliant sunny position, I’d go back for a glass of wine or three!!

Heren Spkyer

Restaurant 7: Rex 

Pulled pork with a chilli and BBQ sauce and mango chutney. I can’t remember what the thing on top was… a kind of prawn cracker type thingy. It was seriously good! (Sorry, Rex – I totally underestimated you. When I saw this place on the list, I was very surprised as I thought it was just a bar/club so my expectations were rather low.) But boy did they prove me wrong!! Served with a Beaujolais Nouveau.

Rex, Hilversum

Rex, Hilversum

Restaurant 8: Puur Smaeck

Last but not least:¬†Puur Smaeck. (That’s the old way to spell smaak, meaning taste / flavour.)

They served rib eye filled with yellow and green courgette with a cream of goats cheese and white chocolate. Yes, you read that right. White chocolate. The Dutchie loved it… I tasted it together, ate the beef and then had the white chocolate cream as pudding! This was served with an Italian red: Salice Salentino.

Puur Smaeck

Puur Smaeck

After that, we didn’t want to go home straight away, so our friend joined us, we ordered a bottle of prosecco and then I cried. Nothing to do with the brilliant day, perhaps a little to do with the wine!

Result:¬†if you didn’t pick it up already, I absolutely loved my WijnSpijs culinary walk.¬†Wine, food, walking… what’s not to love? I think it’s a fantastic¬†way to sample new restaurants in your local town/city… or a unique way to check out a brand new city! I will definitely be going on another one in the near future!! (Hopefully this time without the tears!)

THE LOWDOWN

COST: ‚ā¨55-60 depending on location, but to try 7¬†or¬†8 new restaurants in your area – that’s a bleedin’ bargain! Not to mention said number of starter sized-portions and glasses of wine. (Not all glasses are “full” measures by the way. It depends on the restaurant and how shaky the waiter’s hands¬†are.)

MORE INFO: Wijnspijs.nl

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.

Cat Caf√© in Amsterdam

I cannot believe I have only just found out about this… but this morning whilst reading tweets in bed (don’t judge me – it’s my day off – we all do it) I found out that THERE IS A CAT CAF√Č OPENING IN AMSTERDAM THIS MONTH!

Kopjes Amsterdam

Photo credit: Kattencafé Kopjes Facebook Page

Sorry for shouting. I am soooooo excited!!

I’ve seen cats in bars here in the Netherlands, well – I should say “a cat in a bar”, several times. But a whole caf√© full of feline friends?? No siree!

It feels like an¬†#onlyinHolland or should I say #onlyinAmsterdam kind of story, only it isn’t. After extensive research (Googling ‘cat cafe’) it turns out that these things already exist! Who knew?

There’s¬†Caf√© Miao in Copenhagen,¬†Cat Town Cafe’s in Oakland, USA and others in Melbourne, Paris, Japan, NYC (of course) Seattle and San Diego. Ok, so I’m totally not with the programme…

BUT, this is the first in the Netherlands.

Crazy cat ladies rejoice!

If it wasn’t enough news that there’s a cat caf√© opening in Amsterdam this month… even more exciting is the news that it was crowdfunded. Woah.

975¬†people joined the campaign raising a staggering¬†‚ā¨32.715!! (Source.)

Paris the Cat

Image credit: My Cat

So, what else do you need to know?

It’s called¬†Kattencaf√© Kopjes and it opens its doors on 22nd April 2015 at¬†211 Marco Polostraat in Amsterdam.

You have to book in advance via their website.

There will be 8 cats in the café and only 20 visitors are allowed at a time.

Entry is¬†‚ā¨3 for a two hour slot.

The cats come from animal shelters Stichting Dierenleed and Dierenopvangcentrum Amsterdam. They cannot be adopted as it could be stressful for the animals to have a constant rotation of different cats.

More info on their Facebook & Twitter pages | Cat pictures: Instagram

Dus, ga je mee? 

So, are you coming?

Hayley x

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.)

IMG_9265sm

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.

IMG_9267

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

IMG_3569

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).

IMG_9237

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.

IMG_9227

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.

IMG_9239

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.

IMG_3558a

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!

IMG_3559a

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!

IMG_3568

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”!)

IMG_1092

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

IMG_1071

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