Moving to Holland 7 – eating and drinking

Brussels, where Emigrating Companion and I used to live, has better restaurants than anywhere else we know. People love to eat out. At parties people share restaurant recommendations. My fear about moving to Holland was that all this would be gone. It would be like Leukas in the Ionian islands, offering “bad Wine, bad Bread, and worse Cheese” (George Wheler, 1675).

Luckily, not. To our certain knowledge there are at least three good restaurants in Alkmaar (Fnidsen, 13 Balcken and Rue de la Plume). There’s at least one beach café at every beach, and while they aren’t posh they offer decent and varied food. I like uitsmijter (cheese, eggs and vegetables on bread or toast) – though it’s hard for your words to be understood when you order it.

uitsmijter eggs New Zuid cafe Petten 319.JPG

People like going out.

women beer hair grey brown 13 balcken Alkmaar 419.JPG

They may not go out as much in the week as they do in Brussels, but on Fridays and Saturdays the restaurants are all booked up.

Unlike in Brussels, you get tap water spontaneously, for example to accompany a glass of wine. Unlike in Brussels, it tastes OK (though of course not a patch on the tap water of Manchester). Unlike in Brussels, you only get bread if you ask for it and you may, as in Britain, have to pay.

Restaurants and cafés generally have pepper grinders. Oddly, though, they often need to be turned the “wrong” way (clockwise) in order to grind.

Apart from Gouda au cumin, Dutch cheese is not the cheese for me, but yesterday in a shop in the old town of Alkmaar I bought Belgian Herve and French Camembert.

On a hot day we went to an icecream shop. It only had one flavour of icecream (vanilla). It did have a lot of toppings.

boy ice creams Alkmaar 319.JPG

At the coffee bar on Alkmaar station a range of drinks is available, including double espresso but not espresso. There’s more South African wine here and  less French than in Belgium. Except in our local pizza restaurant, you can’t get a quart or a demi – it’s either a glass or a bottle. There are quite a few local beers that are stronger and tastier than the general pils – but they seem to me less satisfyingly bitter than their Belgian equivalents. Gerardus Tripel is the beer I’ve liked most. I had one today in the beach café at Camperduin. (Companion, Dog and I went there on a Sunday trip on the bus. I ate a tuna salad sandwich and a delicious apple tart.)

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Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "Energy Storage" at European Commission, Joint Research Centre

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