Food

Lazy weekend (Or: Games and books)

I’m all in favor of a lazy weekend myself. Even if the reason it is so lazy is because we are trying to stay inside more often. Breakfast for Marco and I was brioche bread (a type of sweet bread). I toasted mine and added peanut butter, and Marco had one with the more traditional Dutch butter and hagelslag. That’s chocolate sprinkles for any American readers.

I finished a few of the books I was reading: The Institute by Stephen King. It was pretty good – just the right amount of horror for an October read. Although it reminded me a lot of his other book The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Both main characters are kids, and both suffer a lot of mental and physical pain. (I admitted to Marco that I was skipping ahead a bit at times just to get a broad sense of where the storyline was before heading back to where I was.)

I also finished the other perfect-for-October horror read The Graveyard Apartment by Japanese author Mariko Koike. It was much slower pace and there were a few elements or character actions that took me out of the story. But I think the characters will stick with me for awhile.

Gaming wise – I’m wrapping up an Xbox game called Coffee Talk. It’s a visual novel by an Indonesian gaming studio. It is about exactly what it sounds like – you’re a barista who listens to others’ problems and makes coffee for them while you do. I feel like this game has taught me a lot of coffee recipes… Cinnamon ginger coffee, anyone?

Oh, and the resuable face masks I got from Uniqlo yesterday are great. They fit much better than the ones I had before and the fabric does indeed feel much more breathable.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Anyone up for gourmetten? (Or: Fun times in October)

Another “Wow. Is it that time already?” type posts. Next week’s Albert Heijn discount flyer includes discounts on meat for gourmetten. In October. Does anyone remember if that is actually normal?

Like my post about the Christmas display at the CASA store, I am not against this. However, gourmetten is a social activity so you’re more likely to invite people over to your house. Which doesn’t sound that good in corona times.

New Year’s Eve 2013

But, one step back: there’s no good translation of gourmetten in English, but it is sort of like an indoors barbecue. You have a special grill or baking plate which you place in the centre of the table. You can grill almost anything you want (meat, fish, veggie meat, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapples…). Generally the meat goes on the top. There are also 6 to 8 slots underneath with ‘little pans’ where you put the more fragile stuff like veggies and mushrooms, or even pancake batter to make pancakes. Add some baguette bread with butter and other toppings and you are set for the evening. But generally gourmetten is very popular at Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, not in October. (Or sometimes you can request it for your birthday. I think I did that one year!)

Christmas 2012 (check out the mini pans underneath)

Hmmm. Gourmetten, anyone?

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Bagel and beans (Or: Chai latte, anyone?)

Earlier in September, Marco and I visited one of the local Bagels & Beans cafés to enjoy a lunch outside. It was a bit cold, but doable as long as I kept my jacket on. It was probably my first visit in 2020, although admittedly we usually only go a few times a year. Check out our chai lattes:

I always loved these plates, and pretty much forgot about them until I saw our coffees. I also had a bagel with butter and chocolate sprinkles, but I was decidedly not Dutch about it. If you’re Dutch, you spread on the butter and then pour the sprinkles on top. The butter is mainly there to help keep the sprinkles from falling off while you take a bite. I have no interest in butter and chocolate together, so I instead simply alternated which one I put on my bagel. Which did mean I sadly had some chocolate sprinkles left over, but c’est la vie.

It definitely showed that I haven’t been to a Bagels & Beans in a while. I forgot that you need to pay inside. Which worked on in the end, since we were also asked to leave our contact details for corona purposes. Unlike other places (with a QR code you scan) you simply wrote your details in a notebook with a pen.

In other news, The Hague library no longer requires online registration before visiting the library (article in Dutch from the library website). The rule only lasted about two days, but was temporarily required after the press conference last Monday. A few days later the library received status in The Hague’s emergency ordinance as a doorstroomlocatie, or basically a place where people walk through it to experience something or get something (museums, monuments and attraction parks are other examples). This was probably for the best, since the link above mentions that there were long lines outside of people waiting to get in. Face masks are still urgently advised the library, like all public indoor locations in the Netherlands.

Here is your Awww moment for the day. The first color photos of the panda cub born earlier this year in a Dutch zoo are available:

The panda definitely knows how to pose for the camera.

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Oliebollen and coffee (Or: The perfect pairing)

As noted in an earlier blog post, I stopped by the oliebollen stand in the city centre today (in the area of Blokker and Xenos). Luckily the stand is big enough for good social distancing – there are two lines in the middle, with exits on either side. I didn’t have too wait that long either. I ordered two oliebollen and four krentenbollen (oliebollen with raisins). The two regular ones are for me and the four krentenbollen are for Marco and Roger.

Preparing the goods… bag of oliebollen with a canister of powdered sugar. And here’s a look at the oliebollen with some coffee:

Not the best pictures in the world but you get the idea. The one on the left is a krentenbol and the one on the right is an oliebol. Normally we douse them with even more powdered sugar, but not this time. The dough itself is pretty sweet anyway.

The reason we can have oliebollen already is because The Hague (along with a few of the other larger Dutch cities) decided that oliebollen stands would be allowed to open a month earlier, from 1 October, rather than the usual 1 November. This is to help combat the loss of revenue due to all of the cancelled festivals this year, where oliebollen is also traditionally sold. Oliebollen sales will peak around New Year’s Eve (the busiest day of the year), although some stands will stay open through the end of January.

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Don’t eat those bagels! (Or: Safety warnings)

For the first time in my life (at least, that I can remember) it was useful to pay attention to the safety notice sent out by the local grocery store, Albert Heijn. In this case the notice was about the sesame bagels they sell. I first heard about the issue on Tuesday when they sent customers an email about it.

I’ll admit I had no idea what “gewasbeschermingsmiddelen” was, but Marco explained it was basically pesticides – during a routine safety check they noticed that the amount of pesticides left over on the sesame seeds was too high. After the email I didn’t think too much about it for two reason. First, because the original dates listed didn’t match the date on our package and second because we already ate two of the four bagels over a week ago and didn’t get sick. (These are bagels which you finish baking at home with expiration dates 6-8 weeks in the future. They are also packaged in two groups of two, which is always handy when there’s only two of you.)

So on the one hand I’m thinking “Okay, different batch, and we didn’t get sick from what we already ate… let’s keep it.” and on the other hand I’m thinking “Hmm. I’ve seen this happen before. Let’s keep the remaining bagels, but not eat them right away. Just in case they change their mind.” Which they did on the following day, as you might be able to read in my screenshot. Now it says that they are removing all sesame bagels from the store shelves as a precautionary measure. So into the trash our poor remaining bagels go. Thud. We never even got the chance to invite you over for breakfast…

Helaas. Or as Dutch kids like to say because it rhymes: Helaas, pindakaas. Which translates to “Unfortunately. Peanut butter.” Which isn’t as cool as it is in Dutch, I know.

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Ginger molasses cookies at Lebkov (Or: Spicy and sweet in one bite)

Check out this photo of a lunch I recently had at Lebkov café here in The Hague:

Sparkling water, a BLT sandwich and a ginger molasses (!) cookie. The cookie was awesome. Perhaps they added a bit of black pepper to it? It had a kick, that’s for sure. It was interesting to taste both spicy and sweet at the same time.

A bit of corona-related news, since it has been a while:

  • from nltimes.nl: infections are increasing. There has been talk of extra measures in the three big cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. The number of infections there has been high. However for now the three cities have agreed with the Dutch cabinet to be more strict about corona rules and close down areas of concern faster (read: not much will change, I think).
  • from omroepwest.nl in Dutch: Sinterklaas festivities in The Hague altered this year. There will be no parade, but Sinterklaas will still arrive by boat in the Scheveningen harbor. (If you are not sure what the Sinterklaas holiday is, check out this 2013 article over at utoday.nl: What the bleep is… Sinterklaas & Zwarte Piet?)
  • from nltimes.nl: Amsterdam postpones New Year’s fireworks ban over Covid-19. It really, really seems like a lifetime ago, but in January 2020 there was was a lot of talk about banning most consumer-bought fireworks due to a number of incidents, including incidents against paramedics, police and firemen. Yikes. Amsterdam has put a temporary hold on the ban due to the fact that the promised alternatives (city sponsored fireworks shows and similar) just aren’t reasonable in these socially distanced times.

Otherwise, the days are blending into each other now. I really had to stop and think of what month it was the other day. I was trying to remember when certain TV shows would restart, and then I realized it’s impossible to tell for most shows. But otherwise Marco and I are doing fine.

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SpiZe (Or: First time back in a restaurant)

Well, Marco and I can add “went back to a restaurant” to our lists – on Sunday we met up with Roger and his mom to enjoy Thai food at the SpiZe restaurant. Yes, the Z is officially capitalized in their name.

I had Keng Massman: The menu description is: Tender sliced beef in Thai brown curry with coconut milk, potatoes, cashew nuts and onions. I can definitely recommend it.

Above is Marco’s dessert – spekkoek (Indonesian layer cake) with pandan ice cream. Yum!

And how was our first trip to a restaurant in these corona times? Not too bad, actually. The official rule in the Netherlands is that two or more households need to keep 1.5 meters distance from each other inside a restaurant. SpiZe requests that if you fall into this category you should send an email to them (versus placing an online reservation). That way they can seat the party at one of the tables by the window. These tables are definitely wider which helps you keep your distance.

Between each table was a glass shield, although I can’t remember if they were always there. There were also arrows on the floor telling you which direction you could walk in. Roger also received information and a QR code to scan so that he could register the group online and answer the obligatory health-related questions.

It’s not perfect, but it’s probably as close as you can get while still having a relatively normal restaurant experience. I’m definitely glad we went as the food and company was good.

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Brownies? Spinach? (Or: Commercials are weird)

Let me paint a picture for you. In the Netherlands you will see this pattern frequently:

  • commercial #1 (normal length)
  • commercial #2 (normal length)
  • commercial #3 is the first commercial, reprised; shorter, about 5-7 seconds

I will admit that I have gotten used to this oddity. But a few days ago I found myself in a confusing situation.

  • commercial #1: Iglo spinach commercial
  • commercial #2: Dr. Oetker brownies commercial
  • commercial #3: a few more seconds of spinach
  • commercial #4: a few more seconds of brownies… and now I’m just feeling confused and slightly put off by the thought of making brownies. Ew.

Side note #1: I don’t think I liked spinach as a kid. But as an adult I like spinach, and enjoy having it every month or two. My favorite is deep freeze cream spinach, since it’s hard to clean fresh spinach.

Sie note #2: I have been in the Netherlands too long. I can easily type spinazie, the Dutch translation, but need to Google the English and triple check it to make sure I am spelling “spinach” right. Hmm. It still looks wrong.

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Let’s just skip to Christmas (Or: Kruidnoten spotted!)

Marco spotted some kruidnoten (Wikipedia) by the local Albert Heijn today. If you’re keeping track, today is 31 August. Traditionally they appear in the grocery stories by 1 September, although we spotted them on 23 August back in 2018. So we seem to be on track this year.

Flavored kruidnoten are also available already. Caramel sea salt, white chocolate, truffle, stroopwafel…
And some speculaas

Marco was sweet and bought some gevulde speculaas (Albert Heijn recipe) for us. It is speculaas cookies filled with almond paste. Yum yum yum.

Of course you can’t blame anyone for wanting to skip to Christmas (and New Year’s, and 2021…) in these crazy times. Give me a shout when you put up your Christmas tree. Good riddance to 2020, I say!

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Finally (Or: Weekend!)

I always joke that workdays go by really fast – but weekends go by even faster. I’m glad when they finally come around again, but just about the time I start to relax it’s time to start work again.

Today we made okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes, you choose the filling) for a late lunch/early supper. Even though I was not the one julienning the carrots, I still managed to cut myself on the device while trying to clean it. Ow! Typing with a band-aid can be a bit difficult at times.

But I’ll still leave you with a feel good story – Pierre the rockhopper penguin, rehabilitating at a zoo in Perth. Apparently he passes his time in isolation by watching penguins on an iPad (from far away zoos like in Kansas City in the US and the a zoo in Scotland). He also spends his iPad time watching Pingu, a clay animation TV show about a family of penguins. Awww.

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