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I went to Haarlem to have a proper Dutch food tour with Eating Europe Food Tours. This one is “A Taste of Life in Haarlem” and you get a tour of this beautiful city with lots of crazy cool facts and, as a bonus, you get to eat the local food. They invited me on this tour because I love food and I was super interested in sharing this tour with you. So, yes, it’s a complimentary tour, and as ALWAYS, I’m completely honest with you all.
Dutch food isn’t highly praised throughout the world. There’s a lot of fried foods and potato elements. But look a little closer and you’ll discover a tasty world of everyday Dutch food.
You ready? Are you drooling yet? No? Well…let’s fix that.
We were given a complimentary tour so we could share our experience with you all. Affiliate links will be used below. As usual, all opinions are our own.
Sweet Dutch food
There’s a saying “As American as apple pie”. I get that. Growing up, I didn’t realize there were other kinds of apple pie around the world. And why would this small country in northern Europe have it?
Well, get ready to be shocked! They’ve had apple pie since the Middle Ages! Yep. Pre-dates our good ol’ American apple pie. But, let’s be real. Much of what is American has been brought over by all the wonderful immigrants throughout the years. It’s what makes the United States a melting pot–and full of good food!
Differences you may notice in the traditional Dutch appeltaart are that the apples are thick-cut with tart and crisp apples, and the thick crust (can look like a cake sometimes!), have raisins or currants inside and topped with a criss-cross dough pattern or streusel. There might be other flavors inside as well to compliment the apples, but the reason I liked the one we had on tour so much is that I LOVE cinnamon and that was the prominent flavor.
Also, the cafe where we started was easy to find and had the friendliest woman behind the counter. Everyone coming in got a cheerful “Good morning!!”. The decor was super traditional, clean, and welcoming.
When I saw the apple pies laid out, I couldn’t wait to get started! It’s not like I’m obsessed with sweets or anything. Ok, maybe I am, but I think my friend Brittany over at The Sweet Wanderlust has me beat! Have you seen her Instagram? Girl’s got a sweet tooth and a love for color.
Our guide, Dave, gave his introduction to the tour and told us a bit about himself. He was such a great guide and might just be one of my favorites. He was energetic, but not overly so where you start to wonder how a person can have so much energy. The knowledge he had was stuff you actually find interesting.
OK, I know that sounds bad, but I’m not a woman who wants to know everything about everything. Just give me the highlights. Thanks.
95% of what he said had me going, “Really?!” “That’s cool!” “I had no idea!” I like to think I know quite a bit about the area, but I obviously don’t know as much as I thought! Maybe it’s because I’m not a big history buff…
Back to the pie. It’s my favorite pie that I’ve had in the Netherlands. No exaggeration at all. One of the other women didn’t finish her pie and it took all my strength to not eat it. I mean, we were only at the first stop!
Dutch street food
I swear, one of the first things people ask you (in terms of eating) when you move to the Netherlands is “Have you tried herring?” Why is that? Seriously?
Well, we head to a popular herring stand in the heart of Haarlem to make sure on this food tour that everyone can answer “YES! I’ve tried herring!”.
There are 2 ways to eat it: 1) Hold it by the tail above your head and lower it into your mouth 2) Cut into pieces and picked up with a toothpick.
We used the toothpick. I have to say, I’m not a huge pickles and onion fan, but they absolutely make the bite. If you don’t know if you’ll like any of it, try all of it in one bite. Then, if you don’t like it, you know. But you probably will. People are usually surprised!
But we aren’t done with the fish yet. Nope. Get ready to try to fried fish! It’s all about the kibbling, now. Originally, it was left over cod cheeks that they seasoned and fried to make kibbling. Cod is a bit pricer now, so you’ll likely get a different white fish instead.
Traditionally, you’ll get knoflooksaus (garlic mayo sauce) or tartar sauce to dip it in. It’s super crispy and the flavors to meld together perfectly! Just listen to that crunch as you bite down…so satisfying!
Dutch cheese tasting
I always get intimidated in cheese shops. With all the smells and different types of cheese, I don’t know where to start. But this one had a wall of wine, so I was immediately comfortable.
It was also nice to see the shop owner so welcoming. Yeah, we were on a food tour so you assume those running the shops will be on their best behavior. But, I got the feeling that’s how he is! Having lived in many places and trained in cheese while living in France, he knows his stuff and you can feel his passion for cheese.
During the tour you get to try a variety of cheeses. He is more than happy to explain each one and what makes it so special.
There was blue cheese. Everyone loved it! Except me. Still, don’t like blue cheese. …but I tried it!! Here’s a screenshot for you from the video.
What I did love were the older traditional Dutch cheeses. Goodness, people. Grab a bottle of red wine with that cheese and you.are.set!
Chocolate in Haarlem
Moving on from what could have very well become my happy place, we went to another place…that’s very happy. Who can not be happy when eating chocolate? For real.
You can see them making the chocolate in the back and it smelled like, what I’m pretty sure is, most people’s version of Heaven.
For the tasting today, we tried a beer chocolate which did have a hint of beer. I don’t like beer, so it wasn’t my favorite, but it was still good. If you like beer, I’d imagine that beer chocolate would be your jam!
Next we were given a speculoos chocolate. Exciting!! I love this flavor. For an American, the closest thing I can compare it to is gingerbread. It’s a spiced flavor and completely delicious. So, to put that flavor in a chocolate and making it spiced chocolate, I wasn’t completely sold.
…then I ate it. It was magical.
They had a vanilla cream chocolate and it was yelling at me to eat it. So, I bought one and promptly scarfed it down. The chocolate had that oh-so-delightful snap when I bite into it. The inside was full of creamy fluffy vanilla cream of my dreams. If you think I’m exaggerating, you don’t understand my love of vanilla creams.
A secret garden
The great thing about food tours, in general, are that you usually get a nice tour of the city as well. We popped into a lovely hofje, a small garden behind a gate. It was so quiet and peaceful. We were loving the little bird homemade feeders hanging from the tree.
I wonder, if I lived there, if I would take advantage of being in such a lovely place. I feel like we never truly appreciate where we do live. Regardless, seeing serene places like this make me reflect on what I do have and should appreciate.
Flemish fries that are extra special
You probably know fries are a big thing around here. It is my favorite street food. Grab a cone of fries with mayo and just keep on walking and exploring!
This time, we stopped somewhere extra special…to get extra special fries. Along a smaller, cozier square is a place that sells fries with BBQ chicken on top.
WHAT?! I know, right?! I kind of want it for every meal now. There was just a tad bit of crunchy cabbage on top along with some scallions. All together it made a wonderful hot, crunchy, soft, BBQ-y bite. I would love that with a hard cider and just call it a day.
Book your food tour here
Drop – Some get it, some don’t
Ohhh, this next spot I was expecting but can’t say I was looking forward to. First of all, you pop into a pharmacy. It’s an old school pharmacy which I love. The small space oozed of character. Like that use of that word in this context? Yeah. Me, too 😉
This is where you buy proper drop. The type of licorice candy that you either love or you hate. If you can’t figure out which camp I’m in by now, you haven’t been paying attention! But, I still tried it because I do feel you should try everything on a food tour.
…and I still didn’t like it.
Are you a fan? Would you try it?
Is it a Dutch food tour without beer?
Our final stop was so fitting. It just made perfect sense.
We went to a brewery! Not just any brewery, but one in an old church with a beer recipe from the 1400’s. Yeah…you know it’s going to be cool.
It is a popular place with plenty of space and a beautiful bar. Somehow, it isn’t even too loud. I really can’t stand loud bars, so I actually like it.
You might remember from earlier that I’m not a big beer fan. Even still, I tried it for you all! It’s towards the end of my vlog. We tried a spring beer and an herbal beer. They were sooooo different. If you like beer, this is the place to be. It’s a restaurant, too, so you can have a beer and food tasting menu and I know some of you are going to LOVE that!
Our final bites of the day were classic bitterballen. It’s basically a deep fried ball that’s crispy on the outside and hot in the middle with a meat roux. The Dutch claim it to be a perfect bar snack and I have to agree.
How to eat: Take a small bite and let the steam come out. Then eat the rest. Don’t burn yourself!
I have to say, that was pretty satisfying! The tour was never rushed, everything was delicious. The shop owners were great and super helpful.
If you want a taste of Dutch food with less drama than you might get in Amsterdam, this is an excellent tour. Besides, Haarlem is a stunning place in its own right and it would be a shame to miss it if you are visiting Amsterdam. In fact, people are beginning to stay in Haarlem overnight instead of Amsterdam. Just a thought!
Wishing you joy and travels…and tasty treats!