Last year at this time, we had just returned from a wine-tasting river cruise from Amsterdam to Paris with Amawaterways. We had never been to Europe, never been on a river cruise and never made friends while traveling that we would actually keep as friends once we returned home.
We stopped in Montreal, Quebec for a few days on our way to break up the flights and fell in love with old Montreal, then added time in Amsterdam and Paris as well so it was a good, long, quite fabulous and incomparable trip. We absolutely fell in love with river cruising and recommend it highly. You can actually listen to a radio interview I did about the cruise here, if you are so inclined.
I wrote thousands and thousands of words about the trip, most of which disappeared into the cobwebbed and inaccessible Interweb basement when the travel company I was working for deleted the blog. A few posts survived that we quickly saved and those I wrote in print were also saved but the rest…are gone. It’s sort of heart-breaking because it was so much work and so many memories. At least we have all our thousands of photos to help us reminisce. This is one of the posts that I managed to save that I thought you might enjoy because seriously? Who does not like cheese? I may add others as I find them, call up the memories as I sort through pictures, and find things I think you might like.
We stepped out of one of the ubiquitous Amsterdam canal boats onto the cobblestone path which ran beside the scenic canal. Many-leveled warehouses with big, shuttered windows which had been converted to homes and apartments overlooked the canal and hundreds of bikes – the transportation of choice in Amsterdam – lined the streets. But we didn’t pay much attention to these uniquely Amsterdam sights because we were on a mission. A cheese-tasting mission.
And cold, icy rain was not about to deter us from any mission that involved food. Braving the icy fall rain and clutching
a note with directions in my hand which included confusing words like Dam/Raadhuisstraat, we headed to the Reypenaer Cheese Tasting Rooms.
Reypenaer makes some of the most delicious Dutch cheese you have ever tasted. They have a 100-year-old warehouse on the Oude Rijn in Woerden where the cheese matures naturally as it has done for three generations of the family, resulting in a distinctive and complex flavor and aroma. The historic ripening process of the Reypenaer cheeses is unique in the Netherlands and these artisan cheeses were different from anything we had ever tasted.
They also have a lovely little store, tucked away on a side street in the middle of Amsterdam that we finally managed to find where they sell a variety of cheese and, in a quiet and hidden little basement furnished with wooden tables and chairs like a schoolroom, they have cheese tastings with the guidance of an expert cheese taster.
Each cheese tasting session lasts approximately one hour, and is designed for a maximum of 20 people per tasting. Tasting workshops take place every Wednesday to Sunday throughout the day and the basic introductory workshop costs €7.50 per person. There is also an advanced tasting with wine and a connoisseur tasting with wine and port. They will cater to private groups and parties as well as corporate events.
We shook the rain out of our coats and settled down at our little table for two with several others who had braved the rain for the love of cheese. We watched a little video clip about cheese and then we began with the sampling. On our small wooden table we had a cutting board with several large chunks of cheese, all with different colors and consistencies.
We learned that the longer the cheeses had been aged, the more crystals formed, which meant the older cheeses were more salty, strong-tasting, and even had some granules in them. It’s all a matter of taste as far as which cheese you prefer; we both liked the milder cheeses. We had small glasses of wine to accompany our tasting which enhanced the flavors. Each bite was better than the last as we worked our way through the big hunks of cheese.
As the cheese taster (would you not love that job?) explained about how the cheese was aged and what we should expect to taste, we cut slices, sampled them and made notes to compare the different experiences so we could decide which cheeses we preferred.
Once we had sampled our fill and had eaten almost enough cheese to keep us happy, we all went upstairs to the little shop and chose the cheeses we wanted to purchase and take home.
And then. Even though we had just eaten our weight in cheese, we proceeded to a walk to the Pancake Bakery and eat big plates of pancakes. But pancakes in Amsterdam are really thin, more like crepes. So, even though I had cherries, cherry liqueur, candied pecans and a pile of whipping topping as big as my head on mine, they were really very, very light.
Or so I told myself.
This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday. Don’t go there unless you want to get hungry!