It’s easy to pick up some gouda at your local Albert Heijn grocery store in Amsterdam, but you want the real experience! You want to be fed slivers of salty goodness by a plump gnome-looking woman wearing wooden shoes. Well, I can’t promise you that entire experience, but I can provide you with tips to make your first trip to a kaaswinkel a success.
Educate Yourself on Types of Cheese
Sure, that little Dutch woman can teach you about specific brands of cheese, but show that you’ve done your homework by boning up on the primary types. First, there’s gouda, the best-loved cheese in Holland. You can buy different ages of gouda, including:
jong (1 month)
belegen (4 months)
oud (10 months)
overjarig (1 year or more)
The older the gouda, the drier and tangier it is.
Other cheeses worth trying:
Eitenkaas (goat cheese): a bright white semi-hard cheese good for grating & slicing.
Maasdammer: filled with holes and with a sweet nutty taste similar to Emmentaller.
Boerenkaas (farmers cheese): made of fresh unpasteurised milk, and has a mild flavor compared to other blue cheeses.
A Mini Dutch Lesson
While many people speak English in Amsterdam, it always helps if you have a few phrases at the ready. When you enter the shop, you will likely be greeted with goedemorgen or goedenavond (good morning or good night), followed by kan ik je helpen (can I help you?).
Don’t panic and run away! Simply ask if they speak English: Spreek jij Engels? and then you should be on your way. If they don’t speak English, you can always point to what you want to try!
Don’t be shy about asking for samples. You will be amazed at the differences from one gouda to another, especially compared to what you can buy (or rather, what you can’t) in the United States.
You are able to bring back hard cheese to the States. If you aren’t sure if a cheese is okay to travel, ask. Your cheesemonger may be able to advise you on a cheese that will travel well, or may be able to ship cheese home to you. Plan to enjoy any soft cheese while still in Amsterdam.
Buying cheese from a cheese shop is a world away from what you’ll get in a grocery store, so amp yourself up for the experience.