The Trek to the Utrecht Food Truck Festival

The title is a lie. It wasn’t a trek at all. The festival is so close I can smell the BBQ inside the house. But Utrecht’s first proper food truck festival is called TREK, and it’s been going on since Friday and finishes up tonight. The four-day festival has been a delicious way for Utrechters to enjoy the long Pinksterdag holiday weekend.

There have been a number of food(truck) festivals taking place in other cities for the past few weeks, so it’s great to see Utrecht get involved. Although I was sad that the Mac & Cheese truck that appeared in Leiden didn’t make it here. I’d really been hoping to be yet another American making a beeline for their truck. Instead, G and I tried a couple of other American classics: pulled pork and nachos. bbqporkThe pulled pork was cooked in a proper big smoker/BBQ and was moist and soft and really quite good. The only drawback is that I think it was lacking in seasoning. It needed a proper rub and the BBQ sauce was pretty unnoticeable, too. I may be extra picky, though, as I’ve spent a lot of time smoking/cooking pork on the grill and making my own rubs and sauces. This is serious stuff in the south!nachosnachosfoodThe nachos weren’t quite Doritos with salsa (as is common here in the Netherlands), but it was all a bit sweet, particularly the salsa. Nice enough, but definitely needed some deeper, richer spices and some heat. They did have bottles of hot sauce available, though. Still, definitely different from what I’m used to in the US.

There was one last southern staple that I was tempted to try, but I was hesitant after the first dishes that weren’t as hoped for, and the slightly higher cost eventually stopped me from giving it a shot. Because if you’re going to make fried chicken, you’d better do it right, especially when you call it the ultimate comfort food. Because it is. Don’t mess with comfort foods! Having seen what was being served, it looked more like chicken fingers. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE chicken fingers and they may have done a great job, but for €6.50, I just didn’t feel like taking the chance. They were probably awesome. Oh well. kipNext time maybe I’ll stick with the Dutch classics, including croquettes, poffertjes, and the ubiquitous saté. I really was tempted, but after a less-than-healthy food weekend, I figured I’d be good. Plus, it was getting really hot! Still, despite the complaints, it was fun and still more than edible and I hope we get some more food festivals like this. I joked with G that maybe we should do the wine bar during the winter months and start up our own BBQ food truck for the summer months to show how it should really be done!sate(Apologies if I sound like an annoying expat, but pulled pork is where I get fussy. I generally recall the words of my great-grandmother who was known to say, “It’s different. It’s good, but it’s different.” That’s what these dishes were, but when you have certain expectations, it can be a bit of a let-down. But more power to them for working that grill all weekend in these really hot temperatures!)

It’s not all food at the festival. There have been musical performances, and even a DJ booth (spinning real vinyl) in the shape of an old tractor going by the name De Witte Snor (The White Mustache).djAnd if you were feeling a bit shaggy, you could also get an old-school shave and a hair-cut, although for more than two bits. G was particularly sorry to have shaved this morning, as he’s always wanted one of the proper barber shaves. Fortunately, Pappas is here in town. I think I might know what to get G for his birthday this year!shave

Bevrijdingsdag in Utrecht

BevrijdingsdagToday is Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) in the Netherlands. It marks the 69th anniversary since the Germans surrendered at the end of World War II and signed the capitulation documents in Wageningen. There are various celebrations held throughout the country today, including here in Utrecht. Today is also one of the official days when the flag is flown and there are flags fluttering in the sunshine across the city and on most streets. Our neighbor is flying the flag and it looks lovely against the bright blue sky.

Although today marks the liberation of the Netherlands, the full component of allied forces didn’t arrive in Utrecht until 7 May (and later in other areas). However, in the days leading up to their arrival, food began to make its way into the city as part of Operation Faust. Food had been dropped by airplane in various cities in the country and then was gradually distributed to help feed the starving citizens of the Netherlands.

The Utrecht Archives has some photos of the early arrival of these important food deliveries, which I found particularly fascinating and poignant, as many were taken here in my neighborhood. This first one shows some of the trucks arriving on the eastern edge of the city center, having driven up Biltstraat (in the background) and then crossing over to Wittevrouwenstraat. On the right is the turn to Lucas Bolwerk.
http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/97576In fact, in this next photo, you can see the trucks lined up along Lucas Bolwerk. There’s a narrow park that runs along this street, with the city ring canal on the other side. It’s where we used to take our dog Pippo every day, so it’s an area I know very well. That makes it seem that much more real and not just a historic photo.
http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/22187The final photo is of an allied motorcyclist riding up Voorstraat in the last few days leading up to the liberation of Utrecht. From the waves of the hats, he was surely a wonderful sight to see. And once again, it’s a street I know so incredibly well — in fact, we walked along there on King’s Night last week — which makes it more personal and yet still so hard to imagine.http://www.hetutrechtsarchief.nl/collectie/beeldmateriaal/fotografische_documenten/1940-1950/97699After the liberation of Utrecht, a tree was planted on the south-eastern side of the city, in the park area at the end of the Nieuwegracht. It’s where my beloved Spoetnikkijker statue now stands. The Bevrijdingsboom (Liberation Tree) has a painted, ironwork sign in front of it to mark its commemoration of the liberation of Utrecht and the country in May 1945.BevrijdingsboomDirect links to the photos:Wittevrouwenstraat
Lucasbolwerk
Voorstraat

Happy King’s Day

KoningsdagFijne Koningsdag! So far the first King’s Night/Day has gone really well. We’ve certainly had a lot of fun. I’ll post a few more photos tomorrow, but couldn’t resist sharing this photo that I took today. I originally posted it to Twitter, and someone there caught something in the photo that I’d missed both when I took the photo and looked at it later. If you look at the open window on the left, you’ll notice a couple of pairs of feet sticking out! I’ve seen lots of people hanging out of open windows this weekend, but solely soles is something new!

Signs of Spring in the Griftpark

Spring in the GriftparkA picture of two little lambs curled up together seemed appropriate for today. They’re some of the animals that live at the Griftpark, which we visited the other day. We went because I’d heard there was an International Market taking place through the 21st and I was curious to see what they had. Plus, the Griftpark is just a nice little park located nearby, at the end of a picturesque walk along one of the canals.

When we first got to the park, I realized that the kermis (fair) was also there. We were there pretty early in the day, so nothing was in operation yet and staff were getting some of the rides ready for the day.Spring in the GriftparkSpring in the GriftparkSpring in the GriftparkThe International Market was also just getting started, with a few stalls still shuttered. The offerings were mainly food, but there were a few stalls with clothing, handmade baskets, and the somewhat random stall selling necklace chains by the length. There were a number of nations represented, including Spain, Germany, Britain, and France, but the Italians seemed to be out in force. There were a number of Italian stalls selling cheese, meats, olives, nuts, and sweets. Spring in the GriftparkSpring in the GriftparkSpring in the GriftparkHowever, it was the animals that we spent the most time watching, particularly the pigs. They have a lovely curly, wiry coat that I was dying to touch, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had that urge, so they sensibly put up a warning sign telling people to be careful, because the pigs can bite. Duly noted! Spring in the GriftparkSpring in the GriftparkThere were also a few swans and a mix of ducks hanging around the small pond, as they often do, enjoying the sunshine and perhaps hoping for a few bites of pretzel from one of the market stalls. In all, it was a lovely little outing on a beautiful spring day.Spring in the Griftpark

The Agreement’s In The Bag

The AgreementLast year, as part of the Treaty of Utrecht anniversary celebrations, a massive photo canvas was hung from the front of the Stadhuis, signifying the various parties involved in the historic agreement.

The image was a composite of photos taken by artist Red Saunders, melded beautifully into a fascinating tableau. After the celebrations, there had been the hope that a place would be found where the image could hang on permanent display. Unfortunately, the sheer size meant that it just wasn’t feasible. It could have been folded up and left somewhere to gather dust, but an alternative solution was agreed upon.

The variety of cultural festivals and events that take place here in Utrecht produce a number of sturdy banners that would become garbage if someone didn’t find an alternative use. As part of the duurzaamheid (sustainability) that is of growing interest, many of the old banners have been transformed into sturdy, unusual, and stylish bags. The people who have been doing this are going to do the same with The Agreement. Rather than have the large image languish in oblivion, it will be turned into a bag that can also be used as a picnic blanket, perfect for the Bevrijdingsfestival. Anyone interested can order one for just €20, and have their own personal and functional keepsake.

Now if only I could get a bag made out of the section with the dogs …The Agreement

A Trip to the Handmade Market

Zelfgemaakte Markt
The winter market season is in full swing, it seems, with the Zelfgemaakte Markt (Handmade Market) today, the Christmas edition of the Streekmarkt tomorrow, and the Christmas market that runs from 19-22 December around the Ganzenmarkt/Stadhuis area next week. Lots of great stuff to be found for last-minute Christmas gifts (or for yourself).

The Zelfgemaakte Markt is held a few times each year, but I keep missing it, so I was determined to finally go today. I’m so glad I did! So many pretty/funny/cute/useful/gorgeous things for sale! I saw some decorative plates and bowls that I almost bought, but then I came across the Studio Ellessi stall and I knew that was where I’d be spending the small bit of cash I had with me.
Studio Ellessi
She does these wonderful line drawings of various Utrecht locations and I wish I’d had more money with me, because I was having a hard time making up my mind which print to get! In the end, I went with a view of the Domtoren along the Oudegracht/Vismarkt, since it’s a favourite view and also goes well with one of the vintage prints I’ve purchased recently. Along with the Paushuize print, I’ve now got a nice little collection of Utrecht prints to frame and hang somewhere.
Utrecht Kunst
At some point, I’ll probably be ordering her print of Orloff at the Donkere Gaard, another favorite of mine. In fact, we walked past there today and I couldn’t help but stop to admire their Santa decoration.
Donkere Gaard KerstmisSantaSo the next time the Zelfgemaakte Markt is in town, definitely make a point of stopping by. There’s a fantastic mix of stuff and much of it is really affordable, on top of being well made. I was particularly impressed by the variety of items on offer, too, as sometimes it seems like the bulk of stuff is for children. There was plenty on hand for adults — of all maturity levels. There’s also food and drink for sale, including gevulde speculaas and cranberry gluhwein, and a few spots to sit and enjoy them there in the market.
Zelfgemaakte Markt
Zelfgemaakte Markt
Zelfgemaakte Markt
Liefde
Mariapomp

Bock Bier Festival in Utrecht

Ledig Erf Bock Bier Festival
It’s that time of year again! Time for the annual bock beer festival at Ledig Erf! Lots of delicious bock beers from a variety of breweries, and various typical Dutch snacks to soak up some of the alcohol.

The festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday. We’ll be there Saturday afternoon, hoping the rain stays away. It’s always been gorgeous the past years we’ve gone. Hopefully our luck hasn’t run out! Say hi if you spot us.

If you go, take cash. You pay a deposit on a glass (which you can keep or return for your money back) and you buy coins that are used inside the tents to pay for the beers.

As well as looking forward to seeing friends and drinking tasty beers, I’m also looking forward to seeing what strange, new creatures will be roaming the festival this year.
Friendly CreaturesStrange Creatures

Lekker Utregs

Lekker Utregs
After being housebound for five days thanks to a vicious cold, I was feeling better today and headed out briefly to Neude to check out Lekker Utregs. It’s a festival celebrating regionally produced food, grown by everyone from balcony gardeners to professionals.

It was a nice mix of stalls selling their wares — vegetables, meat, honey, jams, cheese — as well as more interactive displays, including a chance to learn how to milk a cow, or should I say a “cow”.
Lekker Utregs
There was also a small petting zoo for kids, with a small pony, some sheep, a goat, a couple of rabbits, and some fluffy chickens who looked suspiciously like one of our neighbors.

There was also a display of “extreme groenten”, showcasing some of the more impressive and unusual vegetables locals have grown.
Lekker UtregsIf all the food was making you hungry, some of the stalls had some free samples. I particularly enjoyed the fenugreek cheese. In addition, there were food trucks and other stalls set up offering burgers, pizza, desserts, and pancakes to sate your appetite.

It wasn’t all food, though. There were a few musical performances, and in the center of the square stood an art piece by Utrecht wood artist Jules Enneking, which turned the Domtoren into festive tree.
Lekker UtregsNumerous events were planned for throughout the day, including discussions and debates about the value and importance of local food sourcing. All in all, it was a nice way to ease my way back into life in Utrecht.
Lekker Utregs

As a side note, unfortunately, my camera is having issues, so photos were limited (and others disappeared) that better represented the event. Think positive thoughts that it can be easily and cheaply fixed!

Back in Utrecht

Gouden Kalf
I’m back!

After a gruelling trip back, which included a missed flight in London and what seems to be an elbow injury and too many bruises to count, I finally made it back to Utrecht yesterday. I saw the Domtoren on the taxi ride home and managed to get a quick shot of the Gouden Kalf (Golden Calf) before they take it down. It’s part of the decorations for the annual Nederland Film Festival, which I missed this year. I always get a photo of the kalf, though, so I was glad to not completely miss a year.

More NC photos and stories to come, interspersed with regular Utrecht content, but for now I’m cuddling the cats and the boyfriend and enjoying being able to walk everywhere.