Saturday, March 11, 2006


Today we got VERY international: we took a day trip to Belgium, landing in international port city and diamond trading center Antwerp. Now I know a thing or two about Belgians, having been taught 2.5 years of French by one in college. Also, I'm a BIG fan of Jean Claude Van Damme, and according to my brother he's just about the most famous Belgian of all time.

***Actually, I am NOT a fan of Mr. Van Damme, not even a little bit, but I AM a fan of Jean Claude Van Hot Fresh Waffle With Slagroom (Whipped Cream), so by some law of syllogism I guess Belgium's most famous Streetfighter is alright, too.

Now about these waffles!

Yes. They ARE streetfood, and yes, eating one at 2pm in Antwerp would be like eating tiramisu or somesuch dessert in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY in THE MIDDLE OF CHICAGO. Like, the only people who do that are tourists...Total EW! Except screw it, I AM a tourist, and that waffle that I had today, so famously Belgian and so warmly sweet and doughy almost made up for yesteday's herring debacle.

ALMOST. I mean, can ANYTHING ever make up for being orally defiled by a bony fish? If it can, it is a fresh Belgian waffle with sweet "slagroom," which is just about the best word for "whipped cream" ever.

So with the Waffle Experience quickly dispensed with, there were only three more Belgian specialities to discover: Moules, Frites, and Bier. Fortunately we were able to kill these delicious birds with one stone at a lovely and non-touristy cafe. One brother and I ordered the special: five flavors of moules (garlic, provencale, curry, white wine, and "scampi,") with a side of frites. The frites were non-too-special, but the moules were outta sight!

They were plump and clean with none of that odious sea-floor aftertaste. The "scampi" turned out to be code for "comes with one little shrimp," but I'm all for the bonus round when it comes to seafood. We all orded Belgian beers; mine was a medium Trappist ale that really hit the spot in both my mouth and mind zones.

Satisfied and mellow, we exited the cafe and strolled around Antwerp in what can only be described as a very mild, intermittent blizzard.

Twenty minutes later I gathered up more of my inner tourist strength and declared it Belgian Waffle/Dutch Pancake Time, and my brothers were helpless in the face of my adorable obstinance. So we found Antwerp's answer to Friendly's, and I forthwith ordered us ANOTHER waffle, this one with vanilla ice-cream and slagroom, and a Dutch pancake with bananas, chocolate sauce, vanilla ice-cream and more slagroom. I'll be honest with you people: I can't get enough of that slagroom. I will also confess: I'm pretty much turning into a fatty-boom-ballatty. Worth it? You tell me, chubby chasers! P.S. You've never seen two delicious entrees dispensed with so quickly. We were like African Fire Ants on a fresh corpse, except there were only three of us and the corpse was covered in luxurious cream.

And I have to say, now that I'm back in Den Haag and only a night's sleep away from returning to the 'States, that I am ready to get back to eating like a goddamned normal human being. Which is to say that maybe eating chocolate and cheese and beer and five desserts/day is the kind of eating one does on vacation if only to appreciate how good restraint really can feel, even if restraint is the norm. And that's the other great thing about travel: it makes my daily routine seem really attractive again, if only because I had some time away from it. I'm pretty sure I just blew your minds with that aphorism, but that's because I'm super-interesting and important now that I've spent some time in The Europe. You're welcome!

Friday, March 10, 2006


Wow. I did it. I ate the herring. Which is to say that I allowed a raw, bone-in fish covered in raw, chopped onions and sandwiched in a cheap hot-dog bun to have access to my mouth.

This was some straight-up Fear Factor shit, folks. I am ready to go head to head with Joe Rogan after today. Putting that herring in my mouth was almost exactly like french-kissing a slug with the added value of having my breath reek of our intimate moment for the rest of the day. Also, I didn't just french that slug: I ate him. Oh my dear Dutch Lord that was just truly wretched eating! Once again my most primal instincts kicked in and AGAIN I made the "Oooh-wat" sound, and this time I had to spit out what was in my mouth. But delicately, like a flower. Like a Dutch tulip I was with the spitting of the herring. This oral violation occurred in Delft, by the way, in case anyone wants to file an international police report on my behalf.

Though the weather remained literally piss-poor, we decided to cycle to Delft, a city famous for its blue and white china, rather than take the train. The Dutch LOVE their bicycles, and I LOVE that they do, because it makes the entire country seem quieter and, let's face it, dorkier. It is inspiringly dorky to see families and businessmen and ladies in skirts and old men and little kids and sexy teenagers just biking around. And NOBODY wears a helmet! When I asked my brother about it he said, "Do you wear a helmet to walk around? It'd be like that." Huh. Now I kind of want to walk around with a helmet JUST TO PROVE A POINT.

So we rented bikes and cycled under grey skies and chilly air to ANOTHER charming Dutch city. Delft basically looks a Hollywood set; it's as if someone from the Disneyland Urban Planning and Policy Commission acted as a consultant. Canals? Yup. Cobblestone streets? Totally. Crooked churches dating back to 1607? Yawn, snooze, unconsciousness. Delft is all that and...not much more. It was quaint. It was cute. It made me "Oooh-wat" in public with its baby-fish-guts. "But aren't you glad you tried it?!" my brother asked me. "Uh, no," I said, my eyes tearing from the effort of my dry heave.

I lost a part of myself today. I know travel's supposed to make you stronger somehow: gaining perspectives, learning about different cultures and therefore yourself and all that hooey, but no. No thank you. A part of me died when that creature from the sea passed my lips and entered the precious portal to my soul. I will come back from The Netherlands, but not as a whole person. No, a little piece of me is gone. Which piece, I don't know, but I'm reasonably certain that it smells like fish and onions.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


FINALLY! Allow myself to breathe a sigh of relief; after all the build-up and anxious anticipation, I finally ate some "proper" Dutch food and it was totally proper and I give it much props.*

Before taking the train back into Amsterdam, I started the day off good n' healthy with some strawberry yogurt and meusli. Dutch yogurt comes in the same pourable cartons as milk does in the States, although it's the same consistency as American "container" yogurt. Weird, right? I thought so.

I wanted today to be special, so I made my first real attempt to keep to an itinerary and to use a map, and both helped me Take It Over The Top and Reach My Goal. My Goal being to Eat Dutch Food And Enjoy It. Interesting side note: I LOVE reaching Goals, guys, I really do!

So, map in hand, (written entirely in Dutch, no less), I found The Van Gogh Museum. This is a food blog, so I won't spend too much time talking about art and tourist attractions, but I was very impressed with this Vincent. Did you know he began as a self-taught TOTAL AMATEUR, and his painting career only lasted ten years? TEN YEARS. And then he shot himself in the chest, dying from his wounds two days later, and now we revere his art. As we should.

Nothing whets the appetite like tragic, ephemeral genius, so I was ready for that Dutch Pancake I'd heard so much about. But first, I needed to visit another coffeeshop,

one owned by a New York expat raised in my hometown. I met his mother-in-law, the co-owner of the coffeeshop, and his two young children, the eldest of which kept blowing a balloon until it popped out of her mouth and fell to the floor, from which she would pick it up and put it back in her mouth. Repeatedly. At a certain point my face froze in a mask of disgust and finally her father dreamily asked her would she mind maybe sweetheart to stop putting that dirty dirty balloon back in her mouth? For Poppa? Yes, she DID mind, Poppa, she WILL keep putting this balloon in her mouth until she contracts floor herpes or typhus or Dutch rickets. Ah, kids today! Their immune systems have the strength of ten titaniums. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that in spite of the coffeeshop's lax attitude towards germs and hygiene I could not resist trying its homemade brownies, which were delicious and really did taste "homemade."

Interesting side note #2: I love a personal touch! And that long brown turd is actually VERY ILLEGAL in the U.S.A!

After what seemed like hours but was really only thirty minutes later I reached my destination: The Pancake Bakery. Yes, it's a tourist trap, but "yes-and" it offers over SEVENTY kinds of pancakes, both savory and sweet. I'm helpless to resist such an abundance of choice, so I ordered a savory bacon, cheese, and mushroom pancake

and a sweet banana, rum, chocolate sauce and whipped cream pancake to share with my oldest brother.

Be still my beating mouth: they were like the Krispy Kreme of pancakes! They were light, airy, completely delicious and gone too soon, like a single precious night of love with the one you've desired for far too long, when you feel grateful to get even only a few hours with your beloved. Eating these pancakes was JUST LIKE THAT!

I think of them now, so fondly, and I feel close to tears. I knew I loved them! I KNEW it wasn't just blind infatuation and anticipation! They were worthy of my desire! They came through better than I could have ever imagined! Thank you, Dutch Pancakes, and thank you Pancake Bakery: today I became a woman for the very first time. Whatever food is eaten by me next will be eaten by a REAL woman forever changed by the Dutch Pancake experience. Wat magie!

*If I'm beginning to sound at all like a stoney stoned stonestofferson, it's a total coincidence, okay kind dudes? Whoa. I just thought of something awesome: coincidences. They are so amazing, aren't they? Wow. They are crazy! They are CRAMAZING! Whoa. Did you see THAT, my awesome kind friends? What I just did there? I totally just invented some new language! Like Shakespeare did! Whoa. Think about THAT! Shakespeare was so AMAZING, wasn't he? He totally was. He. Was. Cramazing. Whoa. Word.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Okay, this is pretty much the most awesome city I have ever visited, even in spite of the weather totally shitting out on us and actually, literally, shitting out ON us.

The Dutch have a word called gezellig which means "cozy," and that's exactly how I would describe Amsterdam. It is so cozy and accessible and empirically beautiful that I'm STUNNED that most tourists spend the majority of their time wandering the city zooted out of their minds. I mean, no shame in your game if you want to toke up in a beautiful city that's progressive enough to let you do it legally, but I have to say that the "coffeeshops" seem to LEAST reflect what is MOST appealling about Amsterdam. For one, you are more likely to run into tourists in a coffeeshop than any other sort of establishment, and I didn't spend over $500 on a plane ticket so that I could have a really kind time with dreadlocked, white, Americans.

I spent that money so that I could eat some G.D. Dutch food!

I think I finally did.

After picking up my oldest brother at the airport early this morning, breakfast was the first thing on all three of our agendas. So after walking in the cold rain for about an hour, we finally found a gezellig cafe in an antique bazarre run entirely by Dutch retirees. The table next to ours was a foursome of octogenarian Dutch men who I imagined were WWII veterans and recent widowers. This was clearly a locals' place, so I felt good about it, and it didn't disappoint. I ordered the Dutch version of a Croque Monsieur, and it was DELIGHTFUL. Melted cheese on meat + fresh whole wheat baguette = a recipe more delicious than equations are a cliched means to describe good stuff.


That and a cappuccino gave me a new perspective on Dutch cuisine, and I will say that once again the older crowd knows how to eat better than the younger. Then again, I am a ninety-year-old woman who lives for The Early Bird Special, so what do I know? The answer is EVERYTHING.

Because the weather was so nasty my brothers and I kept looking for excuses to go inside. We made a reluctant trip to the Heineken Brewery, which was actually totally awesome! Totally awesome if you like immersive and incessant advertising! I guess I do, because I had a really good time, even though the three FREE Heinekens that were included in the admission price were 100% gross.

Maybe that's why they have to GIVE them away for free -- the beer is NOT GOOD! It's so not good I didn't even finish my last little glass. I am also proud to announce that my brothers and I REFUSED the FREE GIFT: a little Heineken pint glass. The guy's head literally exploded when all three of us were like, "No thanks. We just don't want to carry it around. You can keep it." Kapow: Dutch grey matter all over the coat-check.

After the brewery tour we shmied around the city, stopping in and out of cafes for our fifth or sixth cappuccino or hot chocolate. And then we got really tired and cold, so we headed back to Den Haag for Indonesian food, which I DEMANDED we eat tonight, and I am not sorry I did. We had the Rice Table, which is a prix fixe FEAST that completely got the best of us. Three piggish Americans could not finish the 19 dishes on offer, each one as distinct as it was delicious. There were sweet satays, bright, pickled vegetable salads, light curries, spicy boiled eggs, sweet and salty soy meats, crunchy sambals, and, of course, the requisite fluffy rice. Oh man was it ever good, but holy moly was it ever filling! Was it ever Dutch? Uh...Not really. No.

But I remain undeterred. Tomorrow is Herring/Pancake day! I look forward to it with an open heart, mind, and -- most importantly -- mouth.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


So today was a little better in that I didn't dry-heave once! But also: I didn't really eat Dutch food.

My brother took me on a day trip to Utrecht, a town that exemplifies charm. A canal runs through it, dividing the cobblestone streets into two sides of Olde Worlde Dutch architecture and shops. And hey, I like charm and shopping, but did you know that I'm In It To Win It? I don't care what Utrecht looks like: what does Utrecht TASTE like?

We didn't even leave the train station before buying the ubiquitious stroopwafel, which cost a single euro and tasted pretty a-ok.

I mean, it's a carmelized, buttery, very thin disk, and honestly not more than that. I liked it, but I didn't Like It Like It. Like, I'm not asking the stroopwafel to the prom or anything, but hey, if the stroopwafel wants to hook up with me occasionally, no strings attached, I'm cool with that.

Our other Utrecht tastum was a large serving of street fries from a vendor called The Manneken Pis. Now I knew the Manneken Pis is a famous Belgian statue of a little boy draining his little lizard, but I didn't know that it is also the mascot for some DELICIOUS frites. Close friends and relatives won't be surprised to hear that I have a bit of a French Fry Problem, in that I love them and will never resist an opportunity to eat them. The Manneken Pis small serving that I ordered, with special satay sauce, solved my Problem beautifully.

These fries would have been a real compliment to Dutch cuisine...had they not been Belgian.

When we got back to Den Haag I was hungry...AGAIN! When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but when in The Netherlands, eat Greek. Honestly, the chicken souvlaki pita I had, with its generous smear of garlicky tzaziki and abundant fresh salad, was tops. It was aces. It was...not Dutch food.

So I think I'm starting to get it. There is only ONE kind of food the Dutch are famous for, and that's MIND food. FINE! I! GIVE! IN! You made me do it, you Gouda-loving, clog-wearing, windmill-building, tulip-planting, pot-heads! I'll smoke your damn mind-food. I will put that Thai Skunk in my mouth and walk around like a toasted out spaz contemplating not IF God is benevolent but ALL the ways He demonstrates his good will!

Pass that Dutch. HARUMPH!

Monday, March 06, 2006


Wow. Dutch food is fucking bananas, y'all! Not that I've even eaten any yet. Like I'm going to put some of that cockamamie crapola in my mouth? Not a chance!

Imagine dog food, but for a dog without teeth. If you're able to extend your mind this far, you will be that much closer to nailing the consistency of what the Dutch call "Salade." Believe me, "Salade" is not salad; it is flesh-toned pats of fine ground meat or fish mixed with five times the body's natural requirement for mayonnaise. "Salade" comes in a wide variety of flavors ranging from Zalm (salmon), to Kip (chicken), to, most repugnant, Rundvlees (beef).

One is meant to spread this luncheon diarrhea on bread and, I suppose, suppress one's gag reflex and choke it down.

Whoever be the One to do this deserves an entire special-effects trilogy devoted to him, because it is truly brave work.

Whenever I touchdown in a new country I like to check out the supermarket. Why? Because I am quirky and charming and NO BULLSHIT when it comes to my interest in food. Holland's most ubiquitous supermarket is the Albert Heijn chain, and the aforementioned "salades" seemed to be its speciality. Interesting side note: they were able to visually nauseate me to such a degree that I actually dry-heaved. Here is what my dry-heave sounded like: "Oooh-wat! Ooooh-wat!"

I made this sound over by the "salades," and I made it when I went over to the meat department. There I was introduced to another packaged version of luncheon diarrhea called, insultingly enough, Filet Americain.

What is so American about raw, pureed beef I don't know, but the Dutch spread this UNCOOKED abomination onto bread for lunch as well. Apparently, the Dutch will put just about anything on bread and call it a meal.


Case in point: I noticed that the Albert Heijn had a remarkable selection of sprinkles, which they call Hagelslag, and I thought it seemed weird that the Hagelslag would be in the lunch section of the store. But maybe I need to check myself before I wreck myself when it comes to what I conceive of as weird, because Hagelslag being in the lunch section isn't weird. What IS is that Hagelslag is to the Dutch what Cheerios are to Americans -- it is a BREAKFAST food, but the Dutch don't pour it into milk; they pour it into a well-buttered baguette and are all, "hello day, now I can face you." Only they say it in Dutch, not English. And they have sprinkles in their teeth.

Fortunately, my older brother and I decided NOT to go the Dutch route and instead we made a kind of picnic meal together with ingredients we felt sure would not induce vomiting. These included Oud Kaas (old cheese), Camembert (for 89 cents!), baked bread from the Turkish market, a fresh mushroom saute, sundried tomatoes, a bottle of Bulgarian Cabernet, and a couple of Swiss chocolate bars.

Okay, so maybe I will exist on chocolate and cheese on this trip, but you know what? Don't judge me. And you know what else? It was good, cheap, and there was no smearing required.