SAY CHEESE: MY NETHERLANDS ADVENTURE

They say sweet dreams are made of cheese, so you can understand why I had to pinch myself a few times when Frico asked me if I'd like to join them in the Netherlands to experience a whole land of cheesey adventures. It's not every day that you have the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world to discover beautiful places and beautiful people, all in the name of one of my favourite ingredients. Even though I would consider myself someone who knows a thing or two about food, there's no denying I had so much to learn when it came down to the medieval artisan process that the Dutch do so very well. 

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"TOTO, I'VE GOT A FEELING WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE..." 

"TOTO, I'VE GOT A FEELING WE'RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE..." 

Day 1

With no rest for the wicked, the first day was filled to the brim with scenic Amsterdam activities capturing every angle of the beautiful city. Whether it was on foot, by boat, swinging from one of the highest points of the city or dining in a sunset-lit location, my first impression of the land of cheese was pretty spectacular. The day started with a guided tour of the incredible architectural landmark that is the Rijksmusem. Seeing original masterpieces in the flesh by Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer was a huge highlight for me. Next, we took a private boat around the canals of Amsterdam, enjoying a traditional high tea lunch of cheese-filled sandwiches, pastries and sweets. Once we got off the boat, we took a short walk to travel up a very fast, laser-light-filled elevator to the top of the A'Dam Lookout to view the city via the Over the Edge swing. Before calling it a night, we tucked into the flavour station that is fondue at the appropriately named restaurant, Fondue & Fondue. Not like any fondue I've had before, these crimson pots were filled with melted cheese infused with local wild mushrooms, garlic, white wine and spices. Literally, a pot of gold at the end of colourful and creative day of sightseeing. 

PRETENDING TO RIDE ALONG ON MY PUSH BIKE, SALLY. 

PRETENDING TO RIDE ALONG ON MY PUSH BIKE, SALLY. 

 

DAY 1: HISTORY, ART + CRUISING THE CANALS

JUST LITTLE BIT EXCITED TO BE HEADING INSIDE THE FAMOUS RIJKSMUSEUM.  RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM.

JUST LITTLE BIT EXCITED TO BE HEADING INSIDE THE FAMOUS RIJKSMUSEUM. 

RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM.

REMBRANDT - THE NIGHT WATCH. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING.  RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM.

REMBRANDT - THE NIGHT WATCH. ABSOLUTELY BREATHTAKING. 

RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM.

THE ULTIMATE CANAL CRUISE. A PRIVATE BOAT TOUR OF THE CITY, TRADITIONAL HIGH TEA LUNCH AND PERFECT SUMMER-SUNSHINE. PS. FRESH MINT TEA IS DELISH! MINT, HOT WATER, A LITTLE SUGAR! DO IT!

THE ULTIMATE CANAL CRUISE. A PRIVATE BOAT TOUR OF THE CITY, TRADITIONAL HIGH TEA LUNCH AND PERFECT SUMMER-SUNSHINE. PS. FRESH MINT TEA IS DELISH! MINT, HOT WATER, A LITTLE SUGAR! DO IT!

 

DAY 1: VIEW FROM THE TOP

EUROPE'S HIGHEST SWING OVER THE EDGE. SO, SO FUN. A'DAM LOOKOUT, DE TOREN, AMSTERDAM.

EUROPE'S HIGHEST SWING OVER THE EDGE. SO, SO FUN.

A'DAM LOOKOUT, DE TOREN, AMSTERDAM.

CASUAL BEANBAG LOUNGING WITH A 360 DEGREE VIEWPOINT. A'DAM LOOKOUT, DE TOREN, AMSTERDAM.

CASUAL BEANBAG LOUNGING WITH A 360 DEGREE VIEWPOINT.

A'DAM LOOKOUT, DE TOREN, AMSTERDAM.

 

DAY 1: LIQUID GOLD: A FONDUE FEAST

WHAT. A. SPREAD.  FONDUE & FONDUE, AMSTERDAM.

WHAT. A. SPREAD. 

FONDUE & FONDUE, AMSTERDAM.

Day 2

Day 2 was a hands on education to say the least! Driving north to visit a local cheese farm De Deelen in Friesland, I couldn't get enough of how green the grass was. From milking a very happy cow, to trimming the pressed curd into perfect rounds, we saw where and how the milk is sourced and ultimately how the final product is made into creamy goodness. After a good dose of country air we made a quick stop for lunch at the very beautiful Giethoorn, before joining the team from Frico for one seriously inspiring culinary experience. Stepping into the Okura Hotel, we were wined and dined with a cheese-specific wine pairing workshop and even had our MasterChef skills put to the test with a our very own cook-off in the Taste of Okura Cooking School. Hanging up our aprons, we travelled to the 23rd floor of the hotel to be welcomed by executive chef Onno Kokmeijer to sit at the Chef's Table at Ciel Bleu (which currently holds 2 Michelin stars). Sipping on some of the world's finest champagne, we were treated to beautiful creations of caviar, king crab, strawberries, banana and caramel - all immaculately presented with complex layers of textures and flavours. So it was pretty much your standard restaurant experience?! I'm being incredibly sarcastic. This was A-MAZING and definitely another pinch myself moment. This day was a luxurious take on the paddock-to-plate concept and one I will never forget. 

DAY 2: VISITING THE FRIESLAND DAIRY FARM + CHEESE FACTORY

LOVING MY FIRST CRACK AT MILKING '88' THE COW. THE MILK WAS INSANELY SWEET AND DELICIOUS.

LOVING MY FIRST CRACK AT MILKING '88' THE COW. THE MILK WAS INSANELY SWEET AND DELICIOUS.

LEARNING FROM THE BEST.

LEARNING FROM THE BEST.

THIS WAS SO SATISFYING. SHAPING THE CHEESE PRIOR TO BRINING AND ONCE THE CURD HAS BEEN PRESSED INTO THE MOLD. 

THIS WAS SO SATISFYING. SHAPING THE CHEESE PRIOR TO BRINING AND ONCE THE CURD HAS BEEN PRESSED INTO THE MOLD. 

ROWS AND ROWS OF GOLDEN WHEELS AGEING TO PERFECTION.  CHEESE FARM DE DEELEN, FRIESLAND.

ROWS AND ROWS OF GOLDEN WHEELS AGEING TO PERFECTION. 

CHEESE FARM DE DEELEN, FRIESLAND.

SUMMARY OF HOW THE CHEESE-MAKING MAGIC HAPPENS. 

SUMMARY OF HOW THE CHEESE-MAKING MAGIC HAPPENS. 

QUICK LUNCH STOP THAT'S PRETTY AS A PICTURE. GIETHOORN HAS ALMOST NO CARS OR ROADS - ONLY BIKES, BOATS AND BRIDGES. 

QUICK LUNCH STOP THAT'S PRETTY AS A PICTURE. GIETHOORN HAS ALMOST NO CARS OR ROADS - ONLY BIKES, BOATS AND BRIDGES. 

DAY 2: WINE, WORKSHOPS + WONDERFUL FOOD

PRIVATE WORKSHOP WITH EXECUTIVE CHEF, ONNO KOKMEIJER, PLATING HIS SIGNATURE MAASDAM + HEMP SEED WAFER. CRAZY DELICIOUS. TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

PRIVATE WORKSHOP WITH EXECUTIVE CHEF, ONNO KOKMEIJER, PLATING HIS SIGNATURE MAASDAM + HEMP SEED WAFER. CRAZY DELICIOUS.

TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

PAIRING GOUDA, MAASDAM + EDAM WITH THE VERY BEST INTERNATIONAL WINES. THE WINE ROOM, TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM. 

PAIRING GOUDA, MAASDAM + EDAM WITH THE VERY BEST INTERNATIONAL WINES.

THE WINE ROOM, TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM. 

CHEESE-INSPIRED ESSENTIALS. THE NETHERLAND'S FINEST PRODUCE READY TO ROCK + ROLL FOR A COOK-OFF CHALLENGE. TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

CHEESE-INSPIRED ESSENTIALS. THE NETHERLAND'S FINEST PRODUCE READY TO ROCK + ROLL FOR A COOK-OFF CHALLENGE.

TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

CHEESE WORKSHOP RESULTS. MY TRIBUTE TO THE NETHERLANDS. SMOKED EEL, MUSTARD-PICKLED CELERY, GOUDA BECHAMEL. TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

CHEESE WORKSHOP RESULTS. MY TRIBUTE TO THE NETHERLANDS. SMOKED EEL, MUSTARD-PICKLED CELERY, GOUDA BECHAMEL.

TASTE OF OKURA COOKING SCHOOL, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

DAY 2: INSATIABLE MICHELIN-STARRED CUISINE

SIGNATURE COCKTAIL OF CRANBERRY + RAS EL HANOUT. CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

SIGNATURE COCKTAIL OF CRANBERRY + RAS EL HANOUT.

CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

CAVIAR, KING CRAB, NORI AND BEURRE BLANC ICE CREAM. OH MY.  CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

CAVIAR, KING CRAB, NORI AND BEURRE BLANC ICE CREAM. OH MY. 

CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

STRAWBERRIES, PISTACHIO + YOGHURT. CLOUD 9 MATERIAL. CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

STRAWBERRIES, PISTACHIO + YOGHURT. CLOUD 9 MATERIAL.

CHEF'S TABLE, CIEL BLEU, OKURA HOTEL, AMSTERDAM.

DAY 3

Just when I thought the Netherlands couldn't get any prettier, we took a trip to Gouda and the Zaanse Schans. Firstly, I found out I've been saying Gouda wrong my whole life. It's not pronounced 'goo-da' or 'gow-da' - it's in fact pronounced 'how-da' with a "haargh" sound at the beginning on the word. I also didn't realise before this trip that Gouda was an actual place. An incredibly beautiful place that's been known for cheese since the Middle Ages. Although it's famous for sweet, creamy yellow-rinded cheese - it's not because it's made there! The style of cheese originated from the surrounding regions when farmers would bring their product to the town centre market to be sold. Still today, they reenact the process, with rows of giant, golden wheels lining the square. I'm still getting my head around the concept of The Middle Ages! That kind of history is actually, incredible. But it wasn't ALL about cheese! I wasn't leaving until I'd tried some famous Dutch sweets made fresh to order at the market, including stroopwafels and poffertjes. And boy, oh boy were they yummy!

The history of the Netherlands continued to blow my mind when me when we made our final stop for the day at Zaanse Schans. What a way to end an incredible trip. A picturesque village lined with giant windmills that are hundreds of years old and still operate today. Taking a guided walking tour of this quaint little town, we discussed everything from Dutch chocolate to clogs, to mustard milling and the history of the village. There were also flowers everywhere, and I mean everywhere! And, as you can imagine I loved every, single minute of it. Returning to my superb accommodation at the beyond-comfortable INK Hotel (I honestly wanted to take the bed and the wall art with me), I joined my lovely Dutch hosts for one last, delicious hurrah at the Pressroom restaurant. Sipping on exotic cocktails and eating tasty plates, we talked about the amazing time we've all had, and also laughed a considerable amount at my terrible attempts at speaking Dutch. "...Haagghh-ow-da."

Day 3: GOUDA IN ALL ITS GLORY

CHEESE TASTING. HISTORICAL MUSEUM, GOUDA.

CHEESE TASTING.

HISTORICAL MUSEUM, GOUDA.

THIS IS MY 'THIS IS SO DELICIOUS' FACE. INSIDE THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM. HISTORICAL MUSEUM, GOUDA.

THIS IS MY 'THIS IS SO DELICIOUS' FACE. INSIDE THE HISTORICAL MUSEUM.

HISTORICAL MUSEUM, GOUDA.

WHEELS + WHEELS OF 'HOW-DA.' CHEESE MARKET, GOUDA.

WHEELS + WHEELS OF 'HOW-DA.'

CHEESE MARKET, GOUDA.

CHEESEY SELFIE.  CHEESE MARKET, GOUDA.

CHEESEY SELFIE. 

CHEESE MARKET, GOUDA.

EVEN THE STREET SIGNS ARE FUN + FOOD RELATED.  GOUDA.

EVEN THE STREET SIGNS ARE FUN + FOOD RELATED. 

GOUDA.

DAY 3: LAST STOP - THE WINDMILLS + WILDFLOWERS OF THE ZAANSE SCHANS

TURNS OUT IT'S PRETTY WINDY HERE - GO FIGURE. THESE AMAZING CONSTRUCTIONS ARE HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD AND STILL USED TODAY TO MAKE ANYTHING FROM MUSTARD TO COCOA POWDER.  WINDMILL TOUR, ZAANSE SCHANS.

TURNS OUT IT'S PRETTY WINDY HERE - GO FIGURE. THESE AMAZING CONSTRUCTIONS ARE HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLD AND STILL USED TODAY TO MAKE ANYTHING FROM MUSTARD TO COCOA POWDER. 

WINDMILL TOUR, ZAANSE SCHANS.

FLOWERS.

FLOWERS.

ME WITH THE FLOWERS.

ME WITH THE FLOWERS.

YES, I REALLY LOVE FLOWERS.

YES, I REALLY LOVE FLOWERS.

LIKE A FAIRY TALE. THE VILLAGE ADJACENT TO THE WINDMILLS WHERE PEOPLE STILL LIVE TODAY. ZAANSE SCHANS.

LIKE A FAIRY TALE. THE VILLAGE ADJACENT TO THE WINDMILLS WHERE PEOPLE STILL LIVE TODAY.

ZAANSE SCHANS.

SO LONG, FAREWELL

Well, what more can I say?! An opportunity of a lifetime, a culinary experience like no other and a place I can't wait to visit again. Dank je wel Frico (that's thank you in Dutch)! I had the most amazing time in the Netherlands. The land of cheese really is a magical place. 

Georgia x

If you'd like to know more about the land of cheese, please click here.