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

Musings on Minor Dutch Differences

Pretty Clouds [Day 109/365]
After living here for four years, I’ve gotten fairly used to life here and don’t really notice some of the little differences any more. But every once in a while something catches my attention and makes me smile.

For example, the molen (windmill) in the photo is here in town in an urban area. It’s also where we went to buy some special cuts of meat, because the base of it is now a butchery. How many people get to go to a butcher housed in a windmill?

On the other hand, while visiting the kerstmarkt (Christmas market) the other week, we got to try a BBQ pulled pork wrap. The guy making the food had a large BBQ grill/smoker like the ones you see in the US at BBQ competitions, etc. Pulled pork isn’t common here, so as he was serving it up to us, he asked if we’d ever eaten something like this before. I had to laugh. Actually, I thought I had misunderstood what he’d said, since we had been ordering in Dutch. It turns out I did understand him, but the question threw me for a loop. Growing up in the South, there’s no shortage of pulled pork. In fact, there are whole regional differences in how you cook and dress your pulled pork. For example, vinegar sauce vs tomato-based sauce.

The funny thing is, it’s not the first time someone has asked me that about a food I take for granted. While visiting a local baking supply shop that also sells some treats, they were giving away cheesecake samples and they asked if I’d ever tried it before. That one surprised me even more, but I guess it was new to enough people to warrant the question! I know my friends at American Baking Company have had fun introducing some American desserts to a Dutch audience, but they seem to be winning them over!

To finish off this look at small differences, I’m going to move away from food. This one isn’t particularly Dutch, but the constant wet weather makes it somewhat typically Dutch. We’ve had rain (more drizzles than heavy rain) for more than a week now. Every time I look out the window, if it’s not actually raining, the streets are still obviously wet. Every time I went out in the past two weeks, I’ve gotten rained on, except for the past two days. That just means I’ve gotten lucky.

The part that makes this somewhat amusing is the fact that our house, which dates to the late 1800s, gets temperamental with this much moisture. More specifically, our front door gets temperamental. It getting a bit sodden, I suppose, and doesn’t want to close properly. Once it is closed, it doesn’t want to open, at least not from the inside. Our front door also is a bit curious in that it doesn’t have a typical handle on the inside. There’s a latch on the lock that we usually use to pull the door open. However, when the door decides to stick, it’s hard to get a good grip on the latch.

For the past two days, when someone has come to the door (mainly delivering/picking up packages for neighbours), I’ve been physically incapable of getting the door open! I’ve been pulling on the latch with one hand and using the other hand to get an awkward grip on the mail slot in the door in an attempt to get enough leverage to open the door. In the meantime I was also calling to G for his help and was tempted to yell through the door to have the other person push!

If the rain isn’t going to stop, I’m going to need some rope to fashion a handle so I can pull more easily. At least we have a back door that works, although even the garden door is starting to get a bit sticky now!

Southern Food Goes Fancy

Pulled Pork on Corn Cakes
Corn cakes and pulled pork. That’s pretty southern to me. It’s also pretty much heaven on a plate. I love corn and I love the pig in all its many cuts. Recently, while checking foodgawker, I came across this recipe for Mexican Corn Cakes and Shredded Pork. As the blogger herself put it, southern, southwestern or what, it’s a great dish. I couldn’t resist, and since I still had some corn meal left over that needed to be eaten, I figured now was a perfect time to try this dish.

I kept pretty true to the recipe, only subbing parsley for the cilantro, since G isn’t a fan, and swapping out goat cheese for the feta cheese, since I already had some that needed to be finished. I left off the final tomato slices and I swapped out red pepper flakes for the jalapeño. I also cut the recipe in half, and served it with some asparagus tips that were on sale that day.

Overall, I was really happy with the recipe. The corn cakes were delicious and now I need to remember to track down some more corn meal either at the Saturday market or at the toko. It’s one of those ingredients that was easy to find in the southern part of the US, but requires a bit of hunting now that I’m living here in the Netherlands. The only thing I would do differently in the future is to maybe add some vinegar to the pork and maybe serve the pork on the side, instead of atop the corn cakes. I’d still keep the avocado and sour cream on the corn cakes, though. I just thought the taste of the pork got lost against the corn cakes and sour cream. Ultimately, though, this is definitely a dish to make again. It looked so pretty, too!

For my vegetarian friends, you could easily just skip the pork part of the dish. As I said, I’d serve the pork (or maybe some shredded chicken) on the side the next time, or just serve it without the meat, as well! It was a nice taste of home and inspired me to make some BBQ pulled pork sandwiches a few days later. Yum! (It should be noted that I made a ketchup-based BBQ sauce, not a vinegar sauce. North Carolina readers will understand.)