Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wapenaer Classique: Dutch hard cheese

Dutchies aren't into smelly cheeses. I am not talking about effete and jaded Randstad urbanites for whom runny camemberts are imported from France. I'm talking about your good staunch hairy-footed tulip-sporting clog-thumping Dutchie. All traditional Dutch cheeses like Gouda, Edamer or ... are bland, unpretentious and reliable like your rickety black Dutch bike that doesn't break until you ditch it in the canal. And that's why I don't like them. Dutch cheeses, I mean. They are like Dutch sex: you can trust it to deliver your weekly dose of semen to your bodily orifice of choice but really nothing to write home about.

Wapenaer Classique is an exception. It used to be known simply as Wapenaer Extra Beleegd (Extra Matured) but since it got its AOC - or Beschermde Oorsprongsbenaming, as it is known in the Low Lands - it took on the dainty Classique postfix. This hard and crumbly tawn-tinted dairy masterpiece with almost crystallic texture does not smell like some decadent French cheeses but it has a superbly rich walnuty nez that unfolds in your mouth as you let Wapenaer slowly melt in your mouth.

Surprisingly enough, export-oriented since the nation's inception Dutchies have not yet got around to marketing it abroad so I only can stock up on my visits to Amsterdam. Luckily, it is available at most supermarkets and specialist cheese-mongers. It cost somewhat above average but it's worth every cent. So next time skip your tourist-trap Baby Edamer and get yourself some of this best kept Ducth secret.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dutch sushi: broodje haring

As I never cease to lament, Northern people have a deep-seated mistrust of fish and seafood. Perhaps, because it comes from a deep, murky and hostile place, there is a perceived need to kill it as thoroughly as possible. Various ritualised ways of exorcising the sea flavour out of fish are thus employed: deep-frying, marinating in vinegar, devilling, turning into fish fingers, etc.

However, once a year the Dutch revel in an apparent fit of defying this ichthyophobia (fear of fish): the Hollandse Nieuwe harvest. Freshly caught herring gets fileted, deboned and eaten raw on white bread with finely chopped onions (uitjes) or pickles (zuur). The harvest falls on the season when the herring is at its fattest and tastiest and hence tastewise is somewhat like a cross between saba and toro.

By the way, some scientists attribute the world's tallest average height of the population in Holland and Norway (185cm for Dutch males) to the high level of habitual herring consumption in those countries. Norwegians are also apparently the hungest nation in the below-the-belt department, so go figure yourself if herring has anything to do with that.

Friday, February 12, 2010

White mango from Bali

Bali is not big on fruit but there is a one-off wonder: white flesh mango. I could find no web reference to it so it might be my mission to bring this discovery to the rest of the world. It looks like an ordinary mango on the outside but its flesh is white and it has sweet strawberry tone to its taste. I have never seen it anywhere else.