Charles de Gaulle once said something about how impossible it was to run a country with more than 300 cheeses (it has been quoted so many times and with many different figures). I don’t know why, but this quote popped up when I was thinking about the Netherlands. Maybe because I’m still amazed byt the fact that vast areas of the country lies below sea level, and windmills from the 16th century still pump out the water and keep the country dry. How is this possible?
If you follow my instagram profile you may have noticed I went to the Netherlands with Cheese Journeys just before Easter 🙂 . I travelled as the only Dane in a group of Americans and we had an action packed program with tulips, cheese, windmills, more cheese, good laughs in the minibus, cheese tastings, fouraging in the polders, cheese visits and so much more…
In this blog post, I will give you my Top 10 moments from the trip. It would be a never ending story if I wrote about the full Top 10. Therefore, you will get this first six in this blog post (not prioritised), and the remaining four will follow in separate posts.
Top 10: Cheese & beer pairing in an old church
When you go to church in Haarlem (west of Amsterdam) it may be on a Friday night and beers are involved. An old church (Jopenkerk) has been turned into a modern restaurant/café and has a brewery on site as well. Some of the recipes are 500 years old and have been revived by Jopen Brewery.
Beneath colourful stained glass windows we had a tasting of three Jopen beers with 12 cheeses (Dutch and foreign).
Many good matches were made, I can mention:
- A creamy brie de meaux with truffles paired with a citrus/flowerly IPA
- A spicy brin d’amour with herbs paired with a light bitter and fruity wheat beer
- A Frisian goat cheese from a farm dairy working with their own starter and rennet paired with a double bock matured in cognac barrils
- A piece of Stichelton (raw milk stilton) with the same double bock
Top 9: Cheese & tea paring
I have to admit that I was a tiny bit sceptical before the cheese and tea pairing. What could be special about that? Well, I had to think again. Knowledgeable Betty Koster from Fromagerie l’Amuse paired three teas with nine cheeses. Oh boy, it worked. Tea breaks down the fat from the cheeses and actually goes very well with different cheeses.
My favourite match was without any doubts a full flavored roquefort with a glass of smoked Ceylon Souchon tea. Two strong tastes came into balance: Mould, smoke, bitterness, tobacco, salt – and they were so balanced at the same time.
Thank God, we learn something new everyday – and this wasn’t my last tea and cheese tasting!
Top 8: Fouraging and cookery school
A polder is a piece of low-lying land reclaimed from the sea. Dykes protect them and big areas in the Netherlands are polders. We picked flowers and herbs in a polder and brought them back to the kitchen where Naomi taught us to cook a Dutch meal with her personal twist. It turned into the most beautiful and tasteful meal! She also has a Bed & Breakfast and conducts workshops and cookery schools.
Top 7: Boska’s cheeseware universe
Some of my favorite cheesewares come from Boska and I was excited to get the know them. A family company in three generations has gone from being a black smith to an global supplier of cheesewares (and chocolatewares). They want to make cheese cool and have fun with it. A visit to their HQ showed us the Boska DNA. And yes! it is still cool and fun 🙂
Top 6: Spa at Fort Resort Beemster
When you travel with a group of strangers there is no icebreaker such as a nude spa :-). So we found out at Fort Resort Beemster. On the first evening we had a typical Dutch spa experience in the most beautiful spa resort I had ever seen – a fort from 1913 turned into an elegant wellness place. I will be back!
Top 5: Tulips, wooden clogs and water
Needless to say, but you just can’t stay in the Netherlands without constantly meeting that ‘Dutch’ touch…
The remaining top 4
The last four moments are 100% about cheese (and still not prioritised):
- Top 4: Understanding Beemster, a special cheese area in North Holland as well as a cheese brand
- Top 3: A morning at the old cheese market in Alkmaar
- Top 2: Meeting a farmer and cheesemaker with a different mindset
- Top 1: Visit a farm dairy on an island (by boat of course)
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A word about Cheese Journeys
In case you wonder who and what Cheese Journeys is, it is a company who is specialized in making unforgettable journeys focused on cheese. But not only cheese as it’s always put into a cultural and gastronomic context of the country or area. In other words, if you are a dedicated cheese fan, you will go to heaven – and you can bring your foodie spouse/colleague/friend/neighbour/etc. – as long as they like food, they will also love the trip.
They have more journeys coming up in Europe – but also an interesting tour in Vermont, USA. Check it out here.