…And Delft Again

Before I start with the promised second half of our trip to Delft, I must apologize for the hiatus. It’s been a little while since you have heard from the two little piggies and we are going to rectify that now. We’ve got lots of upcoming trips planned, along with a few voyages past that we plan to share with you over the coming months. We hope you will join us, and forgive our “slight” delay.

At the end of our last post about our visit to Delft we promised to tell you about some wonderful locally made artisan chocolate. Also, we’ll share our favorite restaurant for Indonesian rijsttafel (rice table), and talk about the ultimate Dutch cookie, the stroopwafel. We promise not to keep you in suspense any longer so let’s get going.

Artists at work

It’s no secret that Bill and I are big chocolate fans. We have tasted some of the best varieties that Europe has to offer. Belgium has usually ruled as the victor in the chocolate taste test battle. There was that moment in Troyes, France at Pascal Caffet Chocolatier where we were transported by the most scrumptious chocolates, but I digress. Give me a moment to wipe the drool from my mouth. We were pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful chocolate shop where everything is handmade on the premises in the lovely city of Delft.

The wrappers are nearly as tasty as the chocolate!

We happened upon Van der Burgh Chocolate while blissfully wandering and peering into shop windows. Our chocolate radar is always on and the window display at the building located at Vrouwenregt 2 immediately set off our alarms. The array of lovely blocks of chocolate all neatly wrapped up in exquisite papers had us intrigued, so in we went.

As we walked through the doors of the building that dates back to 1610, we met Richard van der Burgh, the owner and Founder of Van der Bergh Chocolaad. He and his wife Joyce have been creating heavenly handmade indulgences since 2011. They pride themselves on working with small, Fair Trade chocolate producers and utilize only the best ingredients. You’ll bite into hazelnuts from Italy or taste the intense coarsely ground coffee from Ethiopia. But the taste is only one aspect of these delightful treasures. They look stunning as well. Each bar is lovingly created and then hand wrapped on the premises in some of the most beautiful papers. A wide array of bars are clad in designs from Italian Florentine, to images from famous paintings by Vermeer. They make wonderful gifts since they delight all the senses. You can peruse and order from their website at: https://www.vanderburghchocolaad.nl/

Indonesian Rijsttafel

When you think of Dutch gastronomy, some minds usually wander to the old standbys of herring or possibly Dutch pancakes. But did you know that it is also famous for its Indonesian cuisine? It was brought back to the Netherlands by former colonials returning from the Dutch East Indies during the 19th and early 20th century. The spicy and varied dishes which are almost ceremonially presented are a true feast! We made reservations at our favorite Indonesian place, Restaurant Redjeki at Choorstraat 50 in Delft for rijsttafel (rice table). We have enjoyed this banquet in several different establishments in the Netherlands, and Redjeki is one of the best. The rijsttafel is not for the faint of heart, or small of belly. The trick is to show up hungry, eat slowly, and enjoy every morsel. The meal consists of plenty of rice dished up with a variety of seven or more entrees of varying levels of spiciness served alongside accoutrements that might be pickled, hot, cold, salty, or sweet. The dizzying variety of flavors somehow all work together and make for a fantastic and belt-loosening experience. Interestingly enough, you might have a difficult time finding rijsttafel back in Indonesia where it fell out of fashion after that country proclaimed its independence in 1945.

A heavenly feast

Of course, after a meal you want something sweet. And nothing fills that role better than the Stroopwafel. They are not usually served in restaurants, so we have them with a pot of tea when we get home. This divine concoction is a combination of crisp, wafer-thin waffles filled and glued together with a special caramel syrup. They are usually about 4 inches in diameter and sold in packs of 8, stacked like a cylinder. They are heavenly eaten out of the pack or perfect to rest on top of a mug of tea or coffee, where the heat melts the syrup inside. Of course, the best way is to

Filled with crispy, gooey goodness

find one of the outdoor vendors usually out on market day. Your nose will alert you if there is one nearby well before you see it because they are usually found making stroopwafels fresh on hot waffle irons. Hot syrup from an open vat is spread on the freshly split waffle as it comes out of the iron. These are not the small crisp 4-inch models. They are usually about the size of a salad plate and handed to you in a wax paper sleeve soft, warm, and gloriously oozing syrup in the middle. They also sell packs of pre-made waffles in lidded porcelain jars decorated with traditional scenes of Dutch life. The containers make wonderful souvenirs.

Delft is a lovely and often overlooked destination frequently overshadowed by the larger cities like Amsterdam. It is certainly worth a visit and one of our favorite places. We hope it becomes one of yours as well.

Troc and Titi and Cheese, Oh My!

There are many benefits to living overseas—like the opportunity to hunt for great antique or second-hand items that we’d never find back in America. Or we can go shopping in a large grocery store in say, France, and it’s filled with French food! Yes, retail therapy is a little different over here. Flea Markets abound with everything, from stuff that looks like it fell off of the back of a delivery truck to beautiful antiques. We woke up on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago and felt the thrill of the hunt come upon us. We took the back seats out of our trusty Honda Odyssey van (just in case) and the we were off.

We had heard about two secondhand stores near Metz that we wanted to explore. They were only a little over 2 hours away and it would be an easy day trip. Plus, our favorite French hypermarket, Auchan was only about 30 minutes away from our planned stops. So the die was cast—ROAD TRIP!

Aladdin’s Cave?

Our first stop was “Troc” in Forbach, France. Troc is a large consignment store filled with treasures (and some trash). Mid-century modern chairs sit next to Edwardian marble-topped sideboards, which stand beside

I love this stuff

Bavarian farmhouse tables. The place is massive. And it’s not just filled with furniture, but also artwork, china, crystal, lamps, chandeliers, and tons more. But there’s also the junk. They have the inevitable ceramic clowns and various items from the 60s or 70s that make you shake your head and wonder what possessed someone to buy this on its first go-round. We found ourselves going down aisle after aisle of furniture and other treasures. They had a fairly large selection of shiny lacquered Italian inlaid wood furniture. These pieces when new are rather expensive, but here at Troc their prices were just a shadow of their former selves.

A few dainty morsels

I found myself attracted to the vintage dishes from the town of Obernai in Alsace. They bore the scars of many a meal, with the odd chip or discoloration here and there. But to me, this was just evidence of a very happy life, and now I can display them with all their history. I thought they would look splendid hanging in a grouping on a wall. The plates were cheerful and full of colorful scenes of Alsatian village life. Obernai pottery is quite expensive when new and a bit too rich for my blood. But these were going for a paltry 1 Euro apiece for the well-worn and well-loved dishes. I splurged on a large presentation platter that was newer and in perfect condition for 5 Euros. By the time I was done, I had spent 14 Euros for the lot. I couldn’t even purchase a new saucer for that price. I left Troc a very happy girl.

It doesn’t look like much on the outside, but..

Next on our itinerary was Titi International. Okay, everyone can stop making those little snickering noises now. I think the name is a bit silly as well, but the contents of this place are anything but. The prices seemed a bit higher than Troc, but the quality was a bit higher too. The furniture was gorgeous! They had a number of beautiful vintage pieces that I would have been happy to take home immediately. Even the smaller home décor and china seemed nicer. I’m still kicking myself for not purchasing the vintage transferware tea set from Maastricht in the Netherlands. Like Troc, Titi is basically a large warehouse filled various kinds of stock in widely varying conditions. Unbelievable as it sounds, we walked out

A Dutch treat

without purchasing anything, but  it’s not likely that we’ll get away unscathed on our next visit. This trip was sort of our maiden voyage, and we decided that we need to come back once every three months or so and check out their inventory. Of course, the seats in the van will stay home, just in case!

Poking around in second-hand shops is hungry work! So after rummaging through all kinds of treasures, we were off to what is to us, the highest expression of the French supermarket, Auchan! There are certain stores in

Where to start?

France that earn the title of hypermart and all of them are great. Names like Cora, Leclerc, Intermarché, and Carrefour are certain to make our mouths water. Picture the finest gourmet shop you have ever seen (or even imagined), then expand it to the size of a large Costco. Throw in a few dry goods for variety and you have a French hypermarket. The French have a very well-deserved reputation for fine cuisine and it all starts with the very best ingredients. The typical hypermarket is filled with glorious French produce, wine, meats, cheeses, fresh seafood, and of course, a huge variety of baked goods. We have visited many of them, but Auchan (and especially the one in Semécourt, near Metz) gets our vote for the best selection and best quality. It’s always a major hub of activity and we start to drool whenever we get within a kilometer.

Inside the building is a mini-mall of smaller interior shops, eateries, and even a carousel for the kids. But the main event is the big store itself. This company is way ahead of the technology curve with something they call, “Rapid Auchan.” As customers come in, they can choose to get their own scan device that fits in a holder in their shopping cart. They self-scan their items as they go about their shopping. They go through a special line, pay for their purchases, and out the door they go. It’s a pretty cool system and certainly shortens wait times in the lines. Auchan embraces this technology as a way to free up their employees to offer one-on-one customer service throughout the store.

And it’s all good…

To us, Auchan seems like Disneyland for foodies. The cheese aisle—which seems to go on forever—always takes our breath away. The fishmonger calls out the specials of the day as if she were in an open-air market in an Atlantic port. We saw some prawns that looked (I swear, I’m not making this up!) to be about the size of a small poodle. There were several aisles of high-quality French wines, some at rock-bottom prices. The meats, patés, breads—Oh, The breads! Bread is like a religion in France. A fresh loaf is purchased every day in any self-respecting French household. And their bread is best served up with some glorious, creamy, butter from Brittany. I really like butter and to me, pretty much any butter is good butter. But the creamy product of Brittany is a cut above. It’s really special.

The staff of life

Even their “generic” aisle at Auchan is something to behold. Breads, cereals, canned goods, and candies all bearing plain generic labels with super low prices are equal if not better in quality to many of the name-brand products we’re used to in the States.

We rolled our cart to our waiting van and carefully packed out treasures into a large cooler for the trip back to Germany. Of course, a few “small” items were set aside to fuel the car ride home. I mean, after an exhausting day like that, you’ve got to keep up your strength!

The Jack Horner Pub, Fitzrovia, London

I’ll admit it up front, I’m a sucker for Fuller’s beers. This is especially fortunate because London has a lot of Fuller’s pubs. They have become quite a large brewer but they have not lost the knack for making very tasty brews. However, a visit to a pub is certainly more than just an excuse to drink beer and a good pub has to have a bit more going for it than a line of beer engines on the bar. I like a pub that makes me want to have a seat and relax. The Jack Horner in Tottenham Court Road is one such place. When we were in London over Christmas, we stayed in a flat in Fitzrovia and the Jack Horner was right on our most common walking route.

A feast for a weary traveler

Staying in a flat was great but it was not without a downside. Whenever we have stayed in hotels in London (or elsewhere in the U.K.) they have almost always included a full English breakfast. Renting a flat meant we were on our own. So when we spotted an item on the menu posted outside one of the doors as we walked past the Jack Horner one morning touting a full English breakfast starting at 8:00 am (9:00 am on Mondays), we decided we needed to investigate further. The barmaid handed us a menu with a number of tasty options but there was really only one choice for me—the Full English.


I have to say that one item on the bill of fare gave me a moment’s pause. I had never eaten black pudding and it’s not something that struck me as particularly appetizing. But I have spent a lot of time in the U.K. and I love pub food, so I reasoned that this represented a gap in my education that needed filling. For those unfamiliar with the finer points of English culinary practice, black pudding is an English form of blood sausage, typically made from oatmeal, pig’s blood, fat, spices, and sometimes barley or oat groats. In a breakfast context, it’s usually sliced and fried. I’ll try (almost) anything once.

If you’ve never eaten a full English breakfast, you should try it at least once in your life. In this case, it consisted of eggs, bacon, toast, baked beans, half a grilled tomato, a large grilled portobello mushroom, sausage, and black pudding. Not surprisingly, this will probably fuel you through a whole day, even if you walk all day long. It was all very nicely prepared and I must admit, the black pudding was good. I don’t think I would go out of my way to find it but I’ll eat it if it turns up with my breakfast rations again. A pot of tea to wash it all down and we were set for a full day’s exploration.

A proper pub

We liked the Jack Horner and decided to have dinner there later in the week, an easy choice as it was only a few minutes’ walk from our flat. It is certainly a comfortable and inviting establishment. A long and attractive mahogany bar greets you as you enter. I counted a total of twelve beer engines, although some selections (notably London Pride and ESB) were offered on multiple pumps. Still, there was a good variety of Fuller’s ales on offer, and that is never a bad thing. Lots of mahogany wainscoting and comfortable seating made for a warm feeling and there were snug little spaces throughout the interior. We settled down to a table, got comfortable, and started perusing the menu.

Where to start?

The Jack Horner is one of Fuller’s Ale & Pie Houses, so there was an emphasis on pies in the menu. I ordered the Ale & Pie Tasting Board while Mary settled on chicken and chorizo pie (sadly no longer offered) and a cider. I really like pub food and to me, pies are the most eloquent expression of the genre. They are typically served with mash (mashed potato in American), and a small pitcher of gravy. Many people would think that this is a bit too much starch, but it works. I actually got two varieties of gravy with my sampler and both were delicious. I was a bit leery of the vegetarian pie but it was excellent. The steak and ale pie was quite tasty, as I have come to expect in Fuller’s pubs. The chicken and chorizo was probably my least favorite of the three in the sampler, but still quite enjoyable. The three ales were ESB, London Pride, and Seafarer’s (in a Frontier lager glass for some reason) and all three were delicious, though I have to say the London Pride would be my choice with a meal.

Come on in

I intend to include write-ups on other pubs we have visited, but the Jack Horner was a good choice to start with. It’s a good, friendly pub in a great location. The Fuller’s ales are well kept and the food is delicious and filling. I admit to a bias here. I love well-prepared meal and I’ve enjoyed some memorable dining experiences in restaurants from Portland to Paris. But sometimes you just want comfort food and few things fill that bill for me better than a good steak or chicken pie and a glass of well-brewed ale. Cheers!