The more I travel to The Netherlands the more I discover that this Country has several hidden gems, like the Region of Friesland. Until few months ago I had never heard of this area, but it took me only a weekend, tasting their food and walking along the canals, to make me promise: I will be back soon!
Friesland is a region in the northern part of Holland and it’s the only Dutch region with its own language: Frisian. If you say it’s a dialect (as I asked by mistake) any local Frisian would kindly point out that it’s actually a proper language, and if I dare calling it again “dialect” you’d better pack and get on the first train out to avoid troubles. Hehe…Jokes apart, they are very proud of their tradition and history and language, which is peculiar from the rest of the Country and gives to this area a unique charm.
Local food and drinks do not make an exception, and there are specific dishes that are typical of this region. If you want to try them….get up here! I had the luck to be invited for a food tour in May and totally fell in love with Friesland!
Friesland Food Tour
If you would like to taste and get to know more about Frisian food, you could hop from food-shop to food-shop in any of the picturesque Frisian towns. I decided instead to take the easiest and most effective route: follow the advice of the locals. So Tom (from LiveLikeTom) and I accepted the invite to join the Friesian Food Tour from We Are Grutsk in the City of Leeuwarden. At our arrival at the train station, as if it was not clear enough, our hosts provided us with a symbolic Frisian “Passport” – that’s when I realised it truly is a Country within a Country! Leeuwarden is a perfect place to go on a food tour as walking or cycling through the beautiful, ancient streets it’s an experience by itself. It took us over 3 hours complete the tour, but we didn’t spend too much time at each stop. If you want to enjoy the scenery, sit and relax every few stops and have the time to talk to local people at the shops and let them introduce you to their food and traditions, then you would definitely need at least 4 to 5 hours.
We started from the Oranje Hotel Hampshire Eden, near the train station, and proceeded in circle around the city wall following the itinerary suggested by the Food Tour Map. We ordered a cappuccino, took the map out and started studying the itinerary: it felt a bit like being two kids getting ready for a treasure hunting!
The first stop was at Fair Beans, where we met Björn that offered us my first bite ever of Fryske Sukerbole (Frisian sugar loaf), apparently the most popular cake of the region. If you have never had the pleasure to taste it, imagine a really sweet spongy loaf made from a milk dough with crunchy sugar lumps and cinnamon. I spread some butter on top (apparently that’s what locals do) and…whoaaaa…I had a sugar high that lasted for long! It’s a really rich and sweet cake and I managed to have a second slice only cause I am an insanely greedy cake-monster. This cake is traditionally given to every woman that gives birth to a baby girl, though locals take advantage of any occasion to treat themselves with it.
In Fair Beans we also had the chance to buy tempting goodies as chocolate, fair-trade coffee and other Frisian delicacies like Dumkes. Dumkes (little thumbs) are small biscuits that look indeed like thumbs and that can be either plain or with chopped hazelnuts and aniseed. Among the two, for me…hazelnut wins. Always!
Milk is one of the main resources of Friesland and the types of cheeses we found in the local shops were so many we didn’t manage to try them all. Soft or quite aged, plain or seasoned, even the fussiest cheese lover would find his favourite type. Apart from the Old Amsterdam, which is more typical of the Netherland in general, I really liked the cheese with cloves and the one with olives, as both still preserved the taste of the cheese despite the strong accent of the condiment. A special mention is needed for the Droege Woarst (dry sausage), a sausage with a typical strong flavours cause they smoke it on wood and peat. We also bought a dry sausage made with mixed fish and meat: we actually ate it once back home and it was so unique…it was the first time I have ever heard of such an odd combination. A bit tired from the walking, we were delighted when we arrived at the Boomsma Museum, where we had the chance to breathe the atmosphere of a distillery of the Nineteen Thirties and where we had a tasting and learned about the origin of Boomsma Beerenburgh. Beerenburgh is a well known (to Dutch people) spirit made with Dutch gin (jenever) and 14 different herbs. It was nice to go through the small and old distillery utensils (this spirit has been made since 1883) and the tasting of it was a blast! Aromatic, herbal, really strong but absolutely delightful. There were several varieties but I decided to taste the original plain one: I was there to experience the most authentic and original food after all… We also visited a typical fish and chip shops where the locals go and a picturesque candy shop, where liquorice and chocolates were tempting us as the sirens with Ulysses. Though Ulysses was strong and escaped… on the contrary, we stayed and tasted! The route suggested for the tour alternates tasting and sightseeing through some of the old buildings of Leeuwarden, including De Oldehove (a leaning tower that it is leaning more than the Pisa Tower!!) and the Blokhuispoort, a former prison that today mainly hosting cultural events.
Walking in circle, our food “walk” ended where it started, at the Oranje Hotel. Our tired legs and the hungry mouths found relief in the mouthwatering Frisian speciality we were offered at the Van Buren Restaurant. A sunny day, authentic food made with local ingredients, a strong liquor to give us a boost, old evocative streets and beautiful sceneries as a rest for the soul. I can’t think about anything better. In fact, Friesland: we will back soon (with our Frisian passport in our pockets of course!).
During the weekend spent in Friesland we visited several of the Local Museums and Gardens (check the “Leeuwarden in 48h” from LiveLikeTom.com if you read Dutch!) and had an unforgettable dinner with a view at the Michelin starred Restaurant élevé. But that experience deserves a whole blogpost…that is on its way: stay tuned!