If you’re wondering what I’ve been doing in the Netherlands, then here’s what it is… The super yummilicious cheesemakers Frico Australia took me all the way to the #landofcheese (The Netherlands!) to experience the heritage and to show me how they prepare the magical cheesy goodness! So on the first day of my stay in the Netherlands courtesy of Frico, I checked into Ink hotel in Amsterdam and was greeted by a lovely Aussie attendant. I was shown to my room by Rob and, believe it or not, I was surrounded by stroopwafels (waffles filled with chewy caramel) and little notes. This incredible hotel was restored two years ago and was previously the home to a newspaper company ‘De Tijd’. The hotel now has stunning details including overside wood letterpress blocks which pay homage to the print company. The vibrant restaurant called Pressroom sits where the former printer press was located.
Given that I’d landed late in the evening; I was super excited to begin exploring this land of cheese starting with a little outing for dinner. So I dined at Buffet Van Odette, a cosy French restaurant with stunning interiors overlooking the canal. The golden light of the sunset glistening through the canals lit up the restaurant making the view and the vibe totally worth the visit. The vibe of the place was just too brilliantly contagious and it was super packed so, make sure you always book in advance. The food was perfect; I tried ricotta and pea ravioli, polenta and Dutch sausages and Dutch potatoes that I couldn’t stop going back for more. It is no wonder that they are famous for their food! I then headed back to the hotel room, very full and content with the dinner and dove into my bed to get some solid rest before my cheesy adventures with Frico began!
On the second day, I woke up at 4:55 and was jet lagged but decide that the only way to re-energize was to go for a run and feel the soul of the city…
As the day progressed and my adventures began, our first stop was the Rijksmuseum. The museum is newly renovated and I must say the light pouring into the museum gives it a magical feel. The museum showcases 8000 paintings of the world’s most famous painters throughout 800 years. I saw an original Van Gogh – he only painted for 10 years before he passed and never got to see just how appreciated his work would become. The colours and distinct bold brushstrokes in his pieces are striking. Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ is a huge piece which catches your eye from a distance and I loved the way he used light in his paintings.
A private boat tour followed and this I must say is truly one of the best ways to explore Amsterdam. It is just so relaxing. After a traditional lunch with fresh mint tea, I was pumped and ready for the rest of the day.
My next stop was the A’Dam Tower in Noord where I hopped on a swing (at the top of the tower, yes!) and soaked in the incredible 360-degree panoramic view of the city. ‘Over the Edge’ is Europe’s highest swing, a mere 100 metres above the ground.
Then I indulged in a totally delicious cheese fondue at Fondue & Fondue. This was so cool – my first ever Fondue experience – and I even got the secret recipe: – 3 kinds of cheese Gruyere, Emmental, Gorgonzola, kirsch, nutmeg, white wine, pepper and garlic. Honestly so, so good. I dipped all sorts of raw vegetables and even some Dutch potatoes in the cheesy goodness. The place also served fish and meat fondue which was absolutely yum!
Friesland – The famous Dutch Gouda cheese, named after its place of origin in the land of cheese – The Netherlands – made from whole milk (cow) has a smooth and creamy texture. It is very bright & delicious looking yellow colour. Freshly made Gouda can be mild and creamy while aged Gouda, which has a dark gold colour, has a stronger and saltier flavour, and a harder texture. You can even taste the salt crystals that have formed in the cheese much to my surprise.
And finally, the day I’d been waiting for; I got to see how the Dutch made their cheese at local cheese farm ‘De Deelen’. I jumped into dungarees, milked a cow, tasted the milk (so creamy and delicious, it actually has a 48% fat content so it is extremely rich) saw the cheese-making process at a lovely small farm and tasted a bunch of different types.
Gouda makes one of the oldest European cheeses, possibly dating back to the 12th century. It is also imitated by a tonne of cheese producing countries so if you want to spot true Gouda cheese, remember that it’ll have “Holland” stamped on the rind. And farm-made Gouda has the word “Boerenkaas” meaning “farmer’s cheese” imprinted on it. Or you can get your hands on one of Frico’s own produce and rest assured, you will have a premium quality product. Their Gouda is the king of flavours, especially the aged ones. Cheeses are mostly aged for weeks to months to enhance their flavours and well-produced Gouda could have spent a good 3-5 years (all hail the Frico Flavour King) in a temperate and humidity controlled cave or cellar.
The Frico Gouda is not just about flavours; they’re also a rich source of protein, calcium and phosphorus. A study conducted by the University of Turku in Finland on individuals aged between 72 and 103 who consumed a placebo or probiotic Gouda cheese for four weeks with their breakfast found that the immune systems of the cheese consumers had noticeably strengthened. The flavours, the benefits and the fact that we get to be part of this Dutch heritage through Frico cheeses truly does excite me!
You can slice it for sandwiches, shred it for baked dishes, dice it and add to salads etc. Go crazy with your farm-made, natural cheese. If you prefer processed cheeses make sure the manufacturers are as dedicated and sincere as Frico Australia, because seeing is believing and I’ve had the privilege of witnessing Frico’s golden pearl of goodness take shape before my eyes and I’m pretty damn convinced!
Later I lunched in Giethoorn (also known as “Dutch Venice”), a truly exquisite little village where you only access your house by boat on the canal. It is all so breathtakingly beautiful; the delicate colourful gardens, calm canals and the magic of the Dutch is just wow.
The next adventure was a cheese and wine pairing master class at the Okura hotel. It truly is an art to pair wine and cheese and Noël, the teacher, was a fountain of knowledge.
I tried Chardonnay with Edam, Pinot Noir with Gouda, Sauvignon Blanc with Maasdam.
An important tip I learnt was to serve your wine around 14-16 degrees, as it’s the ideal temperature for pairing with room temperature cheese.
After our cheese and wine pairing master class, we continued our culinary tour in Okura’s master classroom “Taste of Okura” with Onno Kokmeijer, Executive Chef of two Michelin star Japanese restaurant Ciel Bleu. The kitchen was so pimping that I felt I could have stayed and cooked there a week. Then in true MasterChef style, we had a surprise cook off using a huge ‘mystery box’ and we could make whatever we wanted. Total fun!
I got to sit at the Chef’s Table in their two Michelin star restaurant and literally had champagne and caviar (first time!!!) and I must say I felt so spoilt. This was fantastic and I’ll be asking if there’s a chef’s table at all restaurants from now on as the energy is fantastic and to see the chefs in action is so inspiring!
Day 4 marked my trip to Gouda, the 300-year-old cheese market where they do it all like they used to back then. Every Thursday, cheesemakers come from near and far to sell their cheese at the market. The beautiful old architecture, lovely buildings and the age-old barter system at the market takes you back to a magical time.
I also tried poffertjes and pickled herring – probably two of the most famous street foods and I must tell you that these were Gods of yum.
Next up was the Zaanse Schans. From a distance, you’ll see the sails of the windmills slowly turning and when you get closer it is a feast for the eyes with pops of colour from the stunning flowers growing everywhere. It looks serene but don’t be fooled, there is hard work going on in the mills producing mustard, cocoa, and clogs. I mean what an incredibly beautiful land!
My super fun time in the Netherlands is almost up and it’s time for my dinner at Ink at the Pressroom restaurant (which I must say serves super incredible modern Dutch food). I’m full of the best memories of the delicious Dutch food, the culture, and of course all the cheese. I sincerely thank Frico Australia for educating me on their cheese producing processes and sharing a piece of their joy (in the form of cheese) with me.