Customer: "Do you have bitterballs?" Barman: "No idea. I've never tried sucking them."
Dutch pubs do some things very well. Not buggering up the interior with cheap, crappy renovations is one. Letting my kids in is another. And let's not forget the almost universal availability of Westmalle Tripel. (For those days when you need to reach oblivion fast.) Korenwijn. That's a good one, too. Though I had promised myself not to reveal the pleasures of jenever in case it got too popular and the price went up. (Even Bols Korenwijn is eminently drinkable. Not a patch on Janssens 1 year old Rogge, but still drinkable.)
That's not too bad a list of positives. But there's one thing Dutch pubs are (in general) crap at: food. Given their average size, I can understand why few sell hot meals. The snacks aren't great, either. Tostis (toasted sandwiches), sliced osseworst, cubes of cheese - that's about it. If you're lucky, the cheese will be decent. Many beer pubs have Trappist cheese. My son Andrew finds that a bit too stinky for his taste. He prefers jonge or belegen Dutch cheese.
Larger pubs, especially those going for the after work trade, often sell hot snacks. In Holland that means fried things. Dim sum, mini spring rolls or bitterballs. My favourite are the dim sums. Depending on my level of starvation, I will also tuck into the other two.
What are bitterballs? A sort of kroket. I know your next question: "What's a kroket?" It's a staple of Dutch snack bars. You can spot them drying out under the lights in the coin-operated hatches in Febo. Basically they're a breadcrumb tube filled with gravy. Sound yummy, don't they? (I shouldn't get too nasty. One of my guilty pleasures is a "broodje kroket" - a flattened out kroket in a spongy industrial white roll.) Bitterballs are mini, spherical krokets, about the size of a golf ball and ever so slightly less edible.
A Copenhagen exclusive: Carlsberg fills a wooden cask with lager - If anyone ever declares again that keg beers cannot ever be as good as cask beers, I shall tell them of the night I spent at the bar of the Taphouse pub in...
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