Bitterballen

7 ways living in the Netherlands has changed me

You're so weird

1. I’m bilingual… kinda. 

I think and speak in two languages and I can switch between the two. (Most of the time, anyway.) Apparently, I now talk differently when I speak English – so my friends from the UK tell me. More slowly. It’s probably not a bad thing. My best friend also says that my intonation is different but she’s the only one to comment on that. I don’t care though. I feel like speaking Dutch is a super power!

 

2. I travel more…

I travel more because everything’s new and exciting – and close by!! I actually feel bad for the Dutchie, because when he lived in the UK, we didn’t do that much exploring: we went to London of course… and Brighton, Bournemouth, the New Forest and Weymouth… but apart from that – not a lot. Now we’re slap bang in the middle of Europe, it’s so much easier – no flights, no ferries, no schedules – you just jump in your car (or in our case our camper van) and drive. It’s definitely made me (and us) want to travel more.

 

3. Fashion & grooming aren’t so important to me anymore… 

Last time I had my hair cut? December. In the UK it was every 6-8 weeks, except when I was a student… then it was whenever I could afford it. Last time I bought clothes? Also December, I think. I used to shop once a WEEK in England, seriously! Sometimes even multiple times a week! Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes slick on a bit of red lippy or very occasionally wear high heels (if I don’t have to walk or cycle long distances) but that’s about it. I’m a very toned down version of my English self – and I like it.

 

4. I rarely talk about money… (and I care A LOT less about material things in general!) 

Dutch people don’t talk about money. Not the people I know, anyway. No one asks how much you earn or how much your last holiday cost or how much you pay per month for your car. They just don’t. I find it refreshing. When I go back to the UK, I feel like everything’s a competition – who has the biggest house or the fanciest car/watch/jewellery. Here, no one gives a fuck. And the majority of Dutchies don’t use credit cards either, it’s all cash or bank card. They live to their means. (Very sensible in my opinion.)

 

5. I am confident on a bicycle… (and I don’t own a car!) 

I used to be confident riding a bike until I was about 16/17! (A BMX btw, I was a total tomboy.) Then I bought a car and didn’t cycle again until my late 20’s. These days, my sole mode of transport is my bike… or my own two feet! I work from home, so it’s not necessary for me to own a car. I occasionally drive at weekends, or in the evening if needed – but like a lot of Dutchies – cycling is my primary mode of transport.

 

6. I have a much better work / life balance… 

I work 4 days a week. So does the Dutchie. Last year we had friends over from the UK with their toddler, they both work full-time and were astonished that we both work part-time. “But how do you afford it?” Well, we don’t have kids for one…

We share a car, we have a mortgage we can afford (we don’t need lots of space because there are only two of us) and we have money left over for meals out and holidays. Why would we NEED to work more?

 

7. I have embraced deep-fried snacks… 

In a previous life, I would avoid anything deep-fried. “Too unhealthy, too fatty” etc etc. Now that I walk or cycle every single day, I can embrace the occasional treat. Why the heck not? I’m not a cake/sweet person… so Dutch deep-fried snacks are my guilty pleasure. Bitterballen for life ❤

 

How about you? How have you changed since you have lived in NL?

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 €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! 😉

Price: €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) €5.25 for 6 and Garnalen (prawn) €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 €70pp for a 4 hour tour. Cafe Luxembourg: €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 Café is an old-fashioned pub, jam packed with paintings, records and memorabilia relating to 50’s, 60’s and 70’s music. The fact that they serve great bitterballen is just one more reason to go there!

Price: €5 for 6 bitterballen.

Also recommended in Nieuwmarkt: Cafe del MondoCafé In de Waag and Cafe Stevens.

Amsterdam Bitterballen

Eet smakelijk!!!

Hayley x

Weekendje weg tip: Vakantiepark Vlugtenburg aan Zee

This place is so friggin’ cool that I thought I’d share it with you guys, because I’m nice like that.

Yesterday we took our second trip to Vakantiepark Vlugtenburg aan Zee. Technically it’s located in ‘s-Gravenzande but it’s very close to Hoek van Holland and a little town called Monster! (Yep, you read that right. Monster. Tee hee hee…)

And why is it so good I hear you ask? Let me show you 🙂

If you bend over in front of me, I will take a picture of your ass and post it on the internet.

[If you bend over in front of me, I will take a picture of your ass and post it on the internet.]

The End.

Just kidding, the view is equally as good without rollerblading chicks. Right?

 's-Gravenzande

The gorgeous beach is only a 10 minute walk from the campsite (and no, this isn’t a sponsored post, I just really love it here!)

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd, 's-Gravenzande

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd

If you enjoy a borrel – there are three bars on the beach: Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd, De Pit and Elements Beach. Especially for you, we went to all three! (Only for testing purposes, obviously.)

Strandpaviljoen Zomertijd is the classiest (read: most expensive) of the three, and De Pit and Elements both have a more relaxed, hippie vibe. At the first two, we only had drinks… but we tasted the food at Elements, including bitterballen!

Bitterballen at Elements Beach

It was a mixed bag. The bitterballen scored a 7/10 because they were slightly overcooked and they were tiny! (Except one! I think that one came from a different bag…)

The kibbeling was good, the mussels were average. I would avoid the groenten tempura (vegetable tempura) as it was super greasy!!

The service was also really (really) slow at Elements but they were busy, what with it being a Saturday afternoon in August and all… so I can forgive them. Totally worth a visit for the atmosphere and cool setting. Good vibes is no understatement!

Elements Beach, s Gravenzande

Elements Beach in 's-Gravenzande

Elements Beach in 's-Gravenzande

I love the wood carvings too!

Oh… and let’s talk about the beach again…

Hoek Van Holland

In the background you can see the Hoek van Holland 🙂

's-Gravenzande strand

I was doing my Instagram / blogger thing here… and the Dutchie thought he’d do the same…

's-Gravenzande strand

Hup Holland indeed! And speaking of… how Dutch is this next photo!?

's-Gravenzande strand

Thank you cycling Dutch person for coming into my shot at the exact right moment!

Back to the campsite… it’s definitely one of the better ones: well organised, clean, fantastic location and well priced! Just beware though, the reception operates limited opening times. On Saturday that was 10am – 3pm, we didn’t know this and arrived at 3.15pm. Luckily there was a member of staff still there and she happily helped us. Phew! It also closes for lunch (12 – 1pm) so just make sure you check the opening times in advance to avoid disappointment!

There’s also a pancake restaurant on site. We didn’t go there but it has good reviews on IENS (a Dutch restaurant review site similar to Trip Advisor).

He pannenkoek, 's-Gravenzande

Leuke naam, hé?

's-Gravenzande strand

If you love camping, the beach and being a hippie for a day… you should totally go here. It’s brilliant.

Do you know any other awesome campsites that you’d like to share with me?

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.

A quickie in Haarlem

Get your mind out of the gutter!! 😉

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!

IMG_0722a

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 😉

IMG_0728

Next on the agenda was Jamón Jamón (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!)

IMG_3300

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!

IMG_3303

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

IMG_3292

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!

IMG_3295

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!

IMG_3301a

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! 😀

What are you doing this sunny weekend?

Veel plezier!

Hayley x

22 Dutch Foods You Must Try

Get your taste buds ready to sample some traditional Dutch food! In order to experience the Netherlands in an authentic way, you just HAVE to try traditional Dutch cuisines and specialties. So, here are the Top 22 Dutch foods you must try:

1. Haring (Hollandse Nieuwe) 

Ok, so herring isn’t that weird. But the Dutch like to eat it raw. To eat it the traditional way: tip your head back, grab the fish by the tail and bite upwards! Completely unglamorous, but fun! If this doesn’t appeal, it can be eaten in a bun, with or without optional extras: finely chopped onion and/or sliced gherkins. Eaten this way, it’s called a broodje haring.

Herring is available all year round, but if caught between May and July, it is referred to as Hollandse Nieuwe. The herring season starts every year with the traditional auction of the first tub of Nieuwe Haring. After that, herring may be sold everywhere and ‘herring feasts’ are organised in many towns and cities.

© Alix Guillard / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

© Alix Guillard / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

2. Stroopwafels

Stroop = syrup/treacle and I’ll let you guess what wafel is 😉 This is Holland’s most famous pastry dish – quite rightly! A stroopwafel is made of two thin layers of baked dough/batter/waffley stuff with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. LEKKER! 

Stroopwafels

3. Drop

Dutch people love liquorice. So much so, they eat on average 2kg per person, per year! That’s (unsurprisingly) more than any other country in the world.

A word of warning: they also think it’s a funny game to try and feed it to unsuspecting foreigners! Kijk uit! (Watch out!)

Liquorice choices

© Autopilot / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

4. Friet / Frieten / Patat / Patatje 

Chips. These are all names for the same thing, depending on where in the Netherlands you live. There are also disagreements about what they’re called with different combinations of toppings, but it goes a little something like this:

  • Friet of patat met mayo: chips with mayonnaise
  • Patat met satésaus: chips with peanut sauce
  • Patatje oorlog: chips with a combination of peanut saté sauce, mayo and onions
  • Patat speciaal: chips with curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion
  • I’ve given up caring… just give me some chips.

5. Frikandel

My nemesis. They do however belong on this list, because they are VERY popular in the Netherlands… and you should try everything once!

A frikandel is a long, thin, skinless, dark-coloured meat sausage. Usually eaten warm. They are often served with curry ketchup or mayonnaise, though some eat it with tomato ketchup, mustard or even apple sauce (!)

6. Oliebollen

(Literally: oil spheres) I got in a lot of trouble on a previous post for saying that they’re “basically doughnuts”! Dutch people are clearly very passionate about oliebollen and will defend them to within an inch of their life. So ok, I will amend my statement: they are similar to doughnuts…

The history of the origin of doughnuts is disputed, but one theory (the preferred theory for Dutch people) is that Dutch immigrants introduced them to the States, so if it’s true then it’s actually their fault that Americans have such high cholesterol. 😉

The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re then sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).

Oliebollen

© Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

7. Kibbeling

Deep fried pieces of fish, I guess it’s Holland’s answer to fish and chips (if ordered with een portie patat). Originally cod cheeks were used – but due to high prices of cod, today you might be served off-cuts of cod or possibly even hake, pollock or whiting.

8. Poffertjes

These sweet little treats are popular in winter and you will often see dedicated Poffertje stalls and stands. Poffertjes are small, fluffy pancakes, served with powdered sugar and butter (yup, you read that right – butter!) and sometimes syrup.

9. Stamppot

Meaning “mash pot”. Stamppot consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. Popular vegetable choices include sauerkraut, spinach, swede, carrot, onion and kale (with kale it is known as boerenkool). Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also get gravy: make a small hole in mash and fill it with gravy, known in Dutch as a kuiltje jus (little gravy pit).

Stamppot

10. Erwtensoep (of Snert)

Pea soup. Typically made from dried peas, such as the split pea. A bit like English pea soup… but better!

11. Speculaas

Spiced shortcrust biscuit, served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency. Niet mijn ding. (Not my thing) but each to their own and all that.

12. Hagelslag

… or sprinkles as we call them in England. Not that weird, on top of your ice cream, but the Dutch eat this on bread, with butter, for breakfast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you really want to fit in, give it a go!

Hagelslag

13. Filet Americain

This has a bit of a Marmite reputation: you either love it or hate it (probably more do to with the associated health risks than the taste!) Personally, I bloody love the stuff!

It’s like a steak tartare, but in spread form. A sandwich spread, if you will. Normally served raw on bread with onion, and if you’re feeling a bit fancy – add mayonnaise and a hard boiled egg.

14. Appeltaart

Apple pie is an English thing, dating back hundreds of years but it’s also popular with the Dutch, Swedes and of course the Americans. Dutch appeltaart (apple tart) is hugely popular and a different variation of what you’ve had a home, so worth giving a go!

15. Vlammetjes

One of The Dutchie’s absolute favourites – he missed these loads when we lived in England. Vlammetjes translates as ‘little flames’.  Spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried, normally served with sweet chilli sauce. (The things sandwiched between the bitterballen!)

IMG_3169

16. Ossenworst

Originally made of ox meat, hence the name, this raw beef sausage originated in Amsterdam and is often served with Amsterdamse uitjes (Amsterdam onions) which are onions pickled with turmeric or saffron to give them the yellow colouring.

17. Pannenkoeken

Dutch pancakes are much larger and thinner than American or Scotch pancakes. They can come sweet or savoury and are offered with a gazillion topping options.

Pannenkoeken are so popular here that there are tons of dedicated pancake restaurants throughout the Netherlands. The only choice you need to make is what to put on it!

18. Kapsalon 

Try this after the pub, when you’ve had a belly full of beer.

Kapsalon: chips, kebab meat or shawarma with cheese – normally Gouda. It is often served with a dressed salad, garlic sauce and a hot sauce or sambal. In my opinion… the yummiest kebab possible. Kapsalon also means hairdresser or hairdressing salon, after the creator – a hairdresser from Rotterdam!

19. Kroketten

Similar to bitterballen but cylindrical in shape. (Bitterballen are better.) They come in a variety of fillings: beef, pork, satay sauce (peanut sauce), vegetable, potato, shrimp/prawn… make sure you know what you’re getting as they all look the same! Sold almost anywhere, in supermarkets, restaurants, snack bars and even in McDonald’s.

20. Kaas

The Dutch are famous for their cheese. Obviously – it’s amazing! The best known is Gouda, followed by Edam and Leerdammer (the trademarked name, thought it is often just called Maasdam).

You’ll struggle not to try cheese in the Netherlands… it’s everywhere! The best places to sample different cheeses are specialist cheese shops, or alternatively, most pubs will have cheese on their bar snack menu. Go for the oude kaas (literally: old cheese).

© kaasmisdrijf / Creative Commons / CC-BY-2.5

© kaasmisdrijf / Creative Commons / CC-BY-2.5

21. Smeerkaas sambal

I can’t let the occasion pass without mentioning my personal favourite spreadable substance… ok I lied, that’s Marmite. My second favourite then. Spread cheese with sambal (a hot sauce made from chilli peppers). It’s amaaaaaaazing.

22. Bitterballen

And last but certainly not least… I can’t miss off my precious deep-fried balls of heaven!

THE best borrelhapje (bar snack) imaginable.

(New here? Want to know what bitterballen are?)

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What’s YOUR favourite Dutch food? Anything missing from this list?

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 €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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[Want to see more Rijksmuseum pics? Check out my Instagram account.]

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!!! 🙂 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? 😉

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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Kijk, Mam! Ik sta in de krant!

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If you live in Hilversum and receive the Hilversums Nieuws, today you will see me on page… 5!! (Ok, ok, the OnderOns feature is always on page 5, but I’m easily pleased.)

If you don’t… then here’s the full text:

OnderOns
Naam: Hayley alias Bitterballenbruid
Leeftijd: 32
Beroep: Marketing Manager
Hilversumse sinds: April 2014

Wat doe je in het dagelijks leven?
Ik werk thuis als Marketing Manager voor een Engels bedrijf. In mijn vrije tijd zwem ik, wandel ik op de (Hilversumse) hei en schrijf ik aan mijn blog.

Je blogt. Waar gaat Bitterballenbruid over?
Mijn blog gaat over een expat zijn in Nederland, Nederlands leren, jullie rare gewoontes en te veel bitterballen eten.

Grootste verschil tussen wonen in Southampton en Hilversum?
Mijn leven in een andere taal leven, hele kleine supermarkten (in Engeland zijn ze kolossaal), al die fietsen en veel mensen die parttime werken.

Fish or chips of bitterballen?
Dat is een heel moeilijk vraag, maar ik moet bitterballen zeggen natuurlijk!

Thee of koffie?
Thee, met melk, maar alleen één kopje per dag! Ik drink bijna nooit koffie.

Mooiste plek van Hilversum?
Dat moet de Hilversumse Hei zijn. Ik vind het Beeld en Geluid gebouw ook supermooi!

Waar ga je heen in Hilversum als je uitgaat?
Eerst naar een Japans restaurant (Sumo of Aiuchi) en dan een paar drankjes in The Guardian, Felix II of Karroesel.

Wat pak je aan als je een dagje burgemeester van Hilversum bent?
Nationale Bitterballendag introduceren!

Wat kijk je graag op televisie?
Mijn guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardasians! Ik kijk ook graag naar Moto GP en Masterchef Holland, UK en Australië.

Naar welke muziek luister je?
Nou, dat is een vraag! Ik ben een enorme muziek fan, dus waar begin ik?! Heel veel bands met ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes en Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is ook een superleuke tip! Oeh, en niet te vergeten de nationale parel: Anouk.

Waar mag je voor wakker gemaakt worden?
Bitterballen en nieuwe schoenen, graag!

*****

En nu, in het Engels (and now, in English).

What do you do in your daily life?
I work at home as a Marketing Manager for an English company. In my free time I swim, I walk in the Hilversumse Hei (Hilversum Heathland) and I write my blog.

You blog. What is your blog about?
My blog is about being an expat in the Netherlands, learning Dutch, your weird habits and eating way too many bitterballen!

Biggest difference between living in Southampton and Hilversum?
Living my life in a different language, small supermarkets (in England they’re HUGE) all the bikes and so many people working part time.

Fish and chips or bitterballen?
That’s a really hard question, but I have to say bitterballen of course!

Tea of coffee?
Tea, with milk, but only one cup per day. I hardly ever drink coffee.

Most beautiful place in Hilversum?
That has the be the Hilversumse Hei. I also think the Beeld and Geluid building is extremely beautiful.

Where do you go out in Hilversum?
First to a Japanese restaurant and then a few drinks in a bar. (The Guardian is an English pub, Felix II and Karroesel are Dutch bars.)

What would you do if you were the Mayor of Hilversum for the day?
Introduce National Bitterballen Day!

What do you like watching on TV?
My guilty pleasure is Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I also like watching Moto GP, and Masterchef UK, Holland and Australia.

What music do you listen to?
Now, that is a hard question! I’m a huge music fan, so where do I start?! A lot of bands with ‘The’: The Smiths, The Cure, The Clash, The Pixies, The Vaccines, The Savages, The Kooks, The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. Jake Bugg is also a good tip. Oh, and not forgetting your national treasure: Anouk.

What would you get out of bed for?
Bitterballen and new shoes, please!

I want to know more about YOU! Care to pick a question from the above and answer it about yourself?

Hayley x

I heart Amsterdam

We broke up. My (former) favourite city and I.

I didn’t fall out of love, it just became too difficult to maintain a long-distance relationship. Our love affair began in 2001, at University. We grew up together, formed a deep connection, an unbreakable bond… or so I thought. But then it was graduation and time to get a real job – I moved to Surrey. It was a sad farewell. We tried to make it work. I visited at weekends, whenever I could and we kept the sparkle going for longer than anyone expected… but as the years went on, we drifted further and further apart.

We had a good run, Brighton and I.

But things change, relationships move on, and you can only have one favourite city.

So, here’s the story of how Amsterdam wooed me…

Sex appeal || Street Art

You can go to the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseum when it’s raining! If it’s not – walk. Amsterdam is a piece of art in itself!

The architecture, the canals, the people, the Street Art. Spend a day walking around Amsterdam and you’ll learn just how damn sexy it is. And I’m not even talking about the red light district!! Walk the entire length of the Prinsengracht  (one of Amsterdam’s three main canals) and you’ll experience countless pieces of modern art. Thought provoking, fun and above all: brand spanking new! These talented artists see a bit of blank wall or a garage front and create masterpieces. Not so great if you happen to own that garage or piece of wall, but hey, it’s all in the name of art.

Street Art, Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

Street Art, Prinsengracht, Amsterdam

One of my favourite pieces (pictured) can be found just 300m away from Anne Frank’s House. As you can *just* see, it’s number 185 on Prinsengracht. (Fingers crossed it’s still there!) This particular piece has suffered a bit of graffiti, but then again, what is graffiti and what is art?

If you’re really into it, you can even go on a Alltournative (ha ha!) Street Art and Graffiti Walking Tour.

Sense of humour || King’s Day 

Amsterdam isn’t afraid to be playful or to take the piss out of itself. The best day of the year to visit Amsterdam? 27th April. Without a doubt! On Koningsdag or King’s Day, aka Europe’s biggest street party, the whole city turns orange, otherwise known as oranjegekte (orange crazy). Yep, that’s right – lots of people will be dressed head-to-toe in orange! The sillier the better! Even the more modest people will bring / wear / buy at least something orange. Some people even dress their pets in the colour. Seriously.

The whole of the Netherlands is a massive party on this day, but nowhere more than in Amsterdam! The main roads are closed off to cars and trams so that crowds can party in the streets and there’s live music, LOTS of booze and an electric atmosphere wherever you go! You could even call it gezellig! 😉

To add another level of craziness, the whole city turns into an open air flea market for the day. Time to get rid of some old tat, or let the kids test their budding entrepreneurial skills!

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A typical King’s Day outfit

The biggest and most atmospheric vrijmarkt  (free market) is in Vondelpark. Can’t visit for King’s Day on 27th April? There’s a flea market on Waterlooplein 6 days a week. Buy some crazy orange stuff ready for next year!

The other amazing thing about King’s Day (even despite the date being moved – it was formerly Queen’s Day on 30th April) is that the sun always shines!! Now, I don’t want to jinx it… so work with me please, weather gods, but the last five King/Queen’s days have benefited from glorious weather, making it even more gezellig! (If that’s even possible!)

Good teeth || Food 

The third and probably most attractive quality of Amsterdam is the food. It’s a real food lovers paradise!

The Netherlands doesn’t have the best reputation for its grub, but in Amsterdam you’ll find culinary delights to suit every taste and budget! To try some traditional borrelhapjes (borrel  is drink and hapjes is small bites – so snacks to accompany an alcoholic drink) head to Nieuwmarkt. My absolute favourite area of Amsterdam!

Here you’ll find tons of cafes and kroegen (pubs) serving:

  • oude kaas (‘old’ mature cheese)
  • leverworst (liver sausage)
  • kaasstengels (literally: cheese sticks) or kaassoufflés (both based on deep-fried cheese) 
  • vlammetjes (spicy ground beef enveloped in a little parcel and deep-fried)
  • and of course bitterballen!! (Yup, you read the name of the blog, right?)

My favourite places to go are Gewaeght Cafe, Cafe Del Mondo and Cotton Club. The latter only serves drinks, but be sure to check out the toilets which are floor to ceiling tegeltjeswijsheid (Dutch wisdom tiles) very traditional and very funny!

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Looking for something more sophisticated? Try Woo Brothers at Jodenbreestraat 144. (They don’t have a website because they are TOO COOL and they don’t need to!) Asian food at its absolute best.

Oh, and don’t even *think* of leaving the country until you’ve tried patatje mayo (chips with mayonnaise). Get them from a street vendor; they’ll come in a cone, drowned in mayonnaise! Lekker!

What’s your favourite thing about Amsterdam? Or, if you haven’t been yet, what are you most looking forward to checking out?

Hayley x

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° 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° 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!?! 😉

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

Hayley x