I had always heard that Amsterdam took snacking to another level. Considering the city's legal access to certain leafy controlled substances, one might imagine that Amsterdam's love of snacks is driven by the munchies. But as I packed my bags for a trip to the city, I refused to believe that an obsession with snacking needed to be artificially induced. Sure, some might feel otherwise when it comes to the Dutch fascination with pickled herring, but I had a hunch there was a full spectrum of Amsterdam snacks that went beyond slabs of Gouda, paper cones mounded with French fries, and the ubiquitous deep-fried Dutch croquettes known as bitterballen.
Determined to get the inside track on Amsterdam's snacking hot spots, I sought the guidance of local food blogger Jennifer van der Kwast, who is known for taking "food porn" to a new level in Amsterdam Porn Guide, a cheeky site which combines photos of scantily clad models posing in the area's trendiest dining rooms with news and views on the city's food scene. Meeting me at my hotel in the Museumplein district only an hour after arrival, Jennifer promised that we could keep our clothes on for the whole of the tour. In addition, she recommended that I bust out my sneakers, since our grazing game plan was going to require a solid walk through the heart of the city.
As we ambled towards the De Pijp neighborhood, a bohemian area not unlike New York's East Village or Paris' Latin Quarter, Jennifer began to explain that snacking is a way of life for Amsterdammers. It is virtually impossible to even get a coffee in Amsterdam without a small snack being provided alongside. Not only do residents nibble their way through the after-work bar scene, with menus offering borrel hapjes ("bar snacks") by the dozen, but snacking goes well into the evening, too. The Dutch have coined the term "natafelen" for staying at the table long after dinner for drinks, conversation, and, of course, a bit more sustenance.
Herring and bitterballen are certainly still on traditional menus, but the city now welcomes a host of ethnic snack options, as well as some locals-only bites most tourists completely miss. Here's a look at some of my favorite bites from the Amsterdam snack circuit.
About the Author: Laura Goldberg is a New York-based writer who covers food, drink, and merriment from a decidedly decided perspective. She blogs at www.vittlesvamp.com