The dutch Pea Soup, or "snert' at Moeder's Restaurant in Amsterdam, is the closest I've found to homemade.

Traditional Dutch Pea Soup Recipe–the Taste of Family and Memory

In a country not famous for gourmet food, real Dutch Pea Soup stands out as one of the Netherlands’ great contributions to the culinary world. Hearty, filling, and redolent with the scents of peas and pork, of memory and home. This old family recipe takes me back to an Amsterdam apartment and a dinner table surrounded by love.

The Oranjebrug--Orange Bridge--over the Browersgracht canal in Amsterdam, in summer.

Ah, Amsterdam, you are so beautiful, especially with the green of summer and fresh flowers all around.
Is it any wonder I fell in love with you all those decades ago?

Food and Memory–Lifelong Triggers

Many years ago, I lived in Amsterdam. Beautiful city… city of my heart. It was my first time traveling outside the US, my first time living so far from my family. I had a dream job doing what I always wanted to do, a nice place to live, and a busload of wonderful friends, both Dutch and other ex-pats. It was then I fell in love with Holland and the Dutch, a love that has never faded.

When my dream job ended after several months and I could no longer afford my own place, a Dutch friend, Inez Hendriks, invited me to move in with her. It was another step in my education in “being Dutch.” Every Tuesday, Inez went home to her parents’ apartment for a family dinner. Once I moved in, I was “family” too. So of course, I was expected for Tuesday dinner as well.

Mevrouw Hendriks was a good, basic home cook. One Dutch specialty after another appeared on her lace-covered table—hutspot (a one-pot meal of potatoes, carrots, onions and a smoked sausage or meatballs), stamppot (potatoes mashed with a vegetable, often kale), kibbeling (chunks of white fish breaded and fried), pork chops, sausages, stewed pears. But my favorite, the one that always had me thinking “I hope… I hope…” as Inez and I strolled together along the canals toward her house, was Erwtensoep, the thick and smoky, traditional Dutch Pea Soup. It’s so much a part of Dutch family meals that it has a nickname… snert.

A bowl of hearty Dutch Pea soup, so thick it's more stew than soup.  This is what the Dutch call Erwtensoep, or  more commonly "snert."

Of course I don’t have a photo of Mev. Hendriks’ Dutch Pea Soup, after all these decades. But this is close… a bowl of goodness so thick it’s more stew than soup. Photo by the Master Experimenter on flickr. CC 2.0 license

Dutch Pea Soup had been a favorite of mine almost since the day I arrived in Amsterdam. During my days of being pretty broke, I often stopped into a workingman’s café for lunch of a steaming bowl of erwtensoep met broodje, pea soup and a soft white roll spread thick with butter. I slurped it up surrounded by Dutchmen young and old, mostly dressed in blue coveralls and wearing soft caps, hurrying to get the last drops before heading back to work. Back then, such a lunch cost less than a dollar. It was a filling and tasty meal.

Some cooks add potatoes to the peas, some dump in schunks of carrot. Fancier cooks might add a few dollops of sour cream on top. But to me, Mev. Hendriks’ homey snert was the best. Always the best.

Memory can play tricks on us. On recent visits, I’ve never managed to find Dutch erwtensoep in any Amsterdam restaurant with quite the same richness and depth of flavor as Mev. Hendriks’. Is it because hers was seasoned with love and a warm welcome that really did make me feel like family? Was it because it’s hard to find a restaurant in Amsterdam with a traditional tablecloth trimmed in lace, with white lace curtains at the windows, and with the perfume of Mijnheer Hendriks’ scented pipe tobacco still hanging in the air? Perhaps.

Eating Dutch Pea Soup at Moeders

The Dutch Pea Soup, or "snert' at Moeders Restaurant in Amsterdam, is the closest I've found to homemade.

Try this Dutch Pea Soup–Erwtensoep–at Moeders, in Amsterdam. It’s the closest thing I’ve found to Mev. Hendriks’ home-made snert. Served with fresh bread and a little pot of house-made hummus.

I continue to search for the real thing on every trip back. The closest I’ve found is served by my favorite restaurant in Amsterdam, and it’s got just the right name: Moeders… Mothers. It offers a slightly modernized take on traditional Dutch food. It’s smallish, with tables pushed close together. The dishes and glassware are mismatched and homey, walls are lined on every side with photos of mothers… brought by years’ worth of patrons wanting to add their mom to this great altar to motherhood and mom’s cooking. See my full review of Moeders here.

But when I want true Dutch Pea Soup, the one that brings back that cozy apartment, soft Dutch accents, and my struggles with the language, I make my own using Mev. Hendriks’ recipe. I’ve been carrying it around the world for over 45 years and through more than a dozen moves. She was a “handful of this and pinch of that” cook, so her measurements were guesses. But I’ve made this soup several times and they seem to work. The celeriac/celery root is a crucial ingredient to get the flavor true, but it may be difficult for some to find. You can substitute chopped celery hearts with the green tops and a bit of celery seed. It won’t be exact, but it will be close.

Mevrouw Hendrik’s Echte Hollandse Erwtensoep (Real Dutch Pea Soup)

(Copied from a page in my journal, dated December 8, 1971)

INGREDIENTS

  • 750 grams/1½ lb. dried split peas
  • 1 medium celeriac (celery root), diced
  • 2-3 large green onions, chopped
  • 1 med. onion, finely chopped
  • ½ lb sliced pork (with fat) or one ham hock
  • 1 med. beef cutlet or 1 lg. slice ham, cooked
  • 1 large smoked sausage, sliced into large chunks
  • Salt, parsley & garlic powder

PROCEDURE

Wash the peas and let them soak for a few hours. Then bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the celery root, green onions, and onion. Stir well. Let cook 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until peas are soft.
Add sliced pork or ham hock and the beef cutlet or ham, shredded into small pieces. Cook another 30 minutes.
During the last 10 minutes, add the sliced smoked sausage.
Season with salt, parsley, and a little garlic powder to taste.
Serve with soft white rolls slathered with good butter.

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Three bottles of rum ready for tasting at Outer Banks Distilling, in Manteo, North Carolina

Rum Days at Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo, NC

On a visit to Outer Banks Distilling, in Manteo, on the beautiful North Carolina Outer Banks, prepare to be shocked… then delighted… and then oh so mellow.

Three bottles of rum ready for tasting at Outer Banks Distilling, in Manteo, North Carolina

The Shock of the Raw… Rum in the Making

Raw rum, right from the still is…an experience. A pretty shocking one at that. As a small glass of the stuff was handed to me, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I held it to my nose. Whoa! The fumes knocked my head back. Gingerly, I brought mouth and glass together and sipped. Whoa again! At first touch, my lips were burning. Within seconds, my tongue was numb.

“At this point, it’s 180 proof,” said Scott Smith, one of the four owners of Outer Banks Distilling, who was leading my group on a tour. “It’s got a long way to go before it’s drinkable.” He was not exaggerating.

I’m not a heavy drinker by any stretch, but I do like rum. It has long been my spirit of choice. Hot and buttered, mixed into a Cuba Libra, with a tropical Latin touch a la mojitos and piña coladas, most of the cocktails I actually enjoy include rum. So I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit the first “legal” distillery on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Even better was the chance to taste several of their flavored Kill Devil Rums and see where and how these deeply-flavored spirits are made.

Note: My trip to Outer Banks Distilling was sponsored by the Outer Banks Visitors’ Bureau, to whom I am very grateful. Their generosity had no effect on my opinions expressed here. I truly was blown away.

Four Men and a Passion

Opened in 2015, the distillery was started by four local pals—two brewers and two bartenders. Bonded by their common love for good beer and rum, they decided they wanted to kick the Outer Banks alcoholic scene up a notch. They started a self-designed crash course in rum, including the horrible sacrifice of sampling as many kinds of rum as they could get their hands on.

They taste-tested rums from the Caribbean, from Fiji, and from other US craft distilleries. They took university courses in distilling and tried and tested everything they were learning until they were satisfied they could produce a world-class product right on the Outer Banks.

As a first step. they found a perfect 65+-year-old brick building in the town of Manteo, reinforced the floor with concrete to bear the weight of four 1200-liter tanks and the 300-liter copper pot still from Arnold Holstein, a world-renowned manufacturer of distilling and brewing equipment. Beautiful in its industrial detailing, it looks for all the world like a giant copper oboe standing upright in a stainless steel tub.

The 300-liter copper pot still from Outer Banks Distilling looks like a giant copper oboe in a stainless steel tube.

The 300-liter German copper pot still at Outer Banks Distilling is a beautiful piece of equipment.

Formal studies and travels behind them, the foursome brought in their first barrels of molasses, thick and dark and oozing. They fired up that beautiful still. And then they made their first batch of Outer Banks Distilling Kill Devil Rum. In the short 2½ years since, they’ve racked up several international awards.

Outer Banks Distilling—Rum Strong Enough to “Kill the Devil”

The name of the rum they create actually has two sources. The first is the Kill Devil Hills, just north of Manteo. In earlier times, rum was made almost exclusively in the Caribbean, the source of the sugar cane that created its molasses base. After manufacture, more than a little of that rum was shipped north. Unfortunately, some of the ships didn’t make it to their destinations. Instead they were caught in the shallow shoals that line the North Carolina Outer Banks—often referred to as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.” In those turgid, shallow waters, many foundered and sometimes broke up, and barrels of rum washed ashore…a fact the locals did not seem to mind at all. Delighted with their windfall of rum “strong enough to kill the devil,” locals fondly began calling the area the Kill Devil Hills. Three of the distillery’s four partners live in these beautiful sandy dunes.

The dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina have been nicknamed “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” for the large number of ships
that have been wrecked on its rocky shoals, sometimes washing barrels of rum ashore.

The second name association is the rum itself, and it goes even further back. In 1650, rum from the Barbados was called “Kill Devil.” The owners liked the double meaning and its association with the location. Kill Devil Rum was born.

An Appropriate Motto at Outer Banks Distilling–”From Molasses to Glasses”

Good molasses is still at the heart of making good rum. Today the distillery gets most of its molasses from sugar-cane fields in Florida and Louisiana. “We just don’t grow sugar here in North Carolina,” Scott explains. Sometimes demerara sugar is also added. They use yeast from the island of Guadaloupe. For their specialized, small-batch rums, it’s the balance of molasses, demerara, and the type of barrel used for aging that tells the tale, affecting the flavor profile and highlighting the versatility of rum.

After it emerges from the huge copper pot still, that nose-widening, mouth-numbing spirit I tasted is blended and aged. One of the goals of the foursome of owners is to show the wide variety of styles of rum that can be produced. They turn out silver, gold, aged, and seasonal spiced rums. These varieties are aged in a range of barrels that affect the final flavors, including used Jim Beam bourbon barrels for their signature Gold Rum.

Outer Banks Distilling co-owner Scott Smith tastes the 180 proof pure spirit rum straight from the still.

Outer Banks Distilling co-owner Scott Smith tastes the 180 proof pure spirit rum straight from the still.

The distillery offers tours for guests over 21, by reservation, in their lovely, wood-lined tasting room. I found the tastings eye-opening. My favorite was the Kill Devil Pecan Rum with Honey. Creamy smooth, with a light honey-sweet finish, it seemed to kiss my tongue. It was inspired by the giant pecan trees surrounding the distillery. Both the pecans and the honey are locally sourced. A delightful by-product, the rum-soaked pecans are candied, packaged, and sold in the distillery.

We also tasted the their flagship rum, Kill Devil Gold. Its rich color and depth of flavor come solely from aging in those bourbon barrels. No flavors or colors are added. When Gold hits your tongue, there’s a sudden feeling of evaporation that leaves behind a hint of sugar and cream.

Kill Devil Silver is their example of rum in its purest form. The molasses comes through, lightly touched with notes of vanilla and créme brûlée. It’s an excellent rum for mixing into cocktails.

Pouring the samples at Outer Banks Distilling for a taste test.

Pouring the tastings. Tours and tastings are available by appointment.

Finally, the distilling foursome has fun a few times a year with their specialty rums. Once a year, they drop a new version in their “Shipwreck” series—another homage to their location. Twice a year, at the winter and summer solstices, they bring out their very popular Sol-Spice creations, which commonly sell out in hours, if not minutes. This year, their 2018 Summer Sol-Spice version was barrel-aged and then spiced with a Thai accent—with kaffir lime, lemongrass, and ginger. Last year’s Winter Sol-Spice Rum was aged in once-used apple brandy barrels and flavored with coffee, cocoa nibs, vanilla and cinnamon. Last year’s was made with two different kinds of orange peel, lemon peel, and coriander. Just imagine the luscious combinations still to come.

The ship's wheel from the wrecked schooner "Irma" hangs on the wall of the tasting room at Outer Banks Distilling.

In the distillery’s pretty tasting room, the ship’s wheel of the schooner Irma, which sank in waters nearby, adorns the bar.

As I admitted at the start of this post… I love cocktails made with rum. And so I asked the guys from Outer Banks Distilling if I could share a couple of their cocktail recipes from their website. And they said yes!

Salud! Prost! Cheers!

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada Cocktail from Outer Banks Distilling, Manteo, NC.

The Devil Wears Prada cocktail

2 oz Kill Devil Silver rum
½ oz cranberry juice
½ oz Grand Marnier
The juice of one lime wedge

Combine all ingredients into a shaker
tin with ice. Shake and strain into
a chilled cosmo glass and garnish with
an orange twist.


OBX Dreamsicle

An OBX Dreamsicle cocktail made with Kill Devil Gold Rum, garnished with a orange wedge.

Oh yum… An OBX Dreamsicle cocktail made with

Kill Devil Gold Rum.

2 oz Kill Devil Pecan Honey rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ oz simple syrup
1 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin
with ice. Shake and strain into a glass
over ice. Garnish with an orange wedge.


For more recipes and information about their rums, visit the Outer Banks Distilling website.

Distillery tours are available Tuesday thru Saturday at 1 & 3pm by reservation. Tours cost $10 at the time of writing, and you must be 21 years or older.

Outer Banks Distilling
510 Budleigh Street
Downtown Manteo, North Carolina

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A visit to Outer Banks  Distilling in Manteo, North CarolinaA visit to Outer Banks Distilling in Manteo, NC

Bosche Bollen - a huge ball of the creamiest sweet cream encased in a layer of chocolate. A fabulous Dutch dessert.

Two Dozen of the Best European Desserts You Need to Try

Ahhh…. European desserts. Lives there a woman traveler who can resist them? Certainly not me. Because one of the great joys of traveling is… eating. And one of the great joys of eating is… dessert!

A plate of poffertjes in Amsterdam, slathered in butter and hidden under a thick coat of powdered sugar.

A whole lot of travel and food bloggers seem to be just like me—unable to resist desserts in Europe. So I asked some of them to share their favorites with us. Together, we’ve come up with a list of an even two dozen of the best European desserts you need to try on your next trip. Let’s begin with one of my own personal favorites.

Poffertjes in the Netherlands

Poffertjes come directly from the gods, I swear it. These little pockets of heaven are small, puffy buckwheat pancakes (seen in the photo above), baked in a special cast-iron pan with shallow spherical depressions. Once baked, they are slathered in butter and covered in large driftings of powdered sugar. When I first went to Amsterdam, more than 45 years ago, poffertjes were usually bought from special circus-style stands that set up around town at various holidays. Today, you can find them at the street markets, such as the Albert Cuyp Market, and in many cafes. I’ll eat them anywhere I find them, but one of my favorite poffertjes stops is Café De Prins at Prinsengracht 124. This really is one of my very favorite European desserts. You need to try them. Trust me on this.

Lebkuchen in Nuremberg, Germany

By Sage Scott from Everyday Wanderer

A plate of lebkuchen in Nuremberg, served as a traditional Christmas treat.

Lebkuchen is a traditional German Christmas treat. Although the word kuchen means cake in German, I would describe lebkuchen as the love child of a gingerbread man and a spice cake. These German sweet treats are baked on a thin, white, edible wafer called oblaten that always reminds me of a Communion wafer. As it turns out, that’s because the 13th Century German monks who invented lebkuchen in Nuremberg used larger, unconsecrated hosts to structure the cakes and keep the dough from sticking to the baking surface. The cake itself can range from sweet (also known as honigkuchen or honey cake) to spicy (also known as pfefferkuchen or pepper cake).

Typical lebkuchen ingredients include some combination of honey or molasses, spices (like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg), nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts), and candied fruit (like dried apricots or candied lemon peel). As a final step, lebkuchen is dipped in a glaze or dark chocolate. In the country that invented the Christmas tree and is the setting for the Nutcracker Ballet, no Christmas would be complete without soft, sweet, and spicy lebkuchen! They are available at every bakery and every Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market) in Germany throughout the holiday season.

Follow Sage on Instagram

Skyr in Iceland

By Danielle Desir from The Thought Card

A cup of Skyr, a yoghurt-lilke snack or dessert available all over Iceland.

Skyr is one my favorite treats in Iceland. Pronounced “skee-er,” skyr is a dairy product that resembles yogurt but has a milder taste. It is one of Iceland’s oldest dairy products and has been around for nearly 1,000 years. Instead of having a sour and tart taste like yogurt, the cultures that make up skyr have a rich and creamy flavor. Skyr is also very good for your health. It contains more protein and less sugar than yogurt. In Iceland, you can find all sorts of flavors like peach cloudberry, strawberry, banana, apple, raspberry, coconut and more.

Trying skyr is one of the inexpensive things I recommend doing in Iceland on a budget. It costs around 200 ISK or $2+ USD. You can find Skyr at grocery stores, gas stations and even some restaurants.

Churros and Chocolate in Madrid

By Tom Bartel & Kristin Henning from Travel Past 50

A plate of churros and a cup of thick, dark hot chocolate makes a perfect Spanish breakfast.

For your morning coffee or chocolate and churros in Madrid, you must visit Chocolatería San Ginés in the center city. It’s just off Calle Arenal about halfway between the Puerta del Sol and the Plaza de Ópera. If you go at the typical breakfast time of mid-morning, you’ll stand in line for a few minutes to order at the cashier. You pay, get your ticket, and then wait a couple more minutes for a table to open up. The place has seating on two levels in the main shop, and another large room next door. The turnover is quick, so the wait is never long, but even if it were, it would be worth it.

Basically, there are four combinations that are the standard fare. You can either have coffee with milk or hot chocolate, and you can either have churros or porras, which are basically just bigger churros. Churros are the Spanish equivalent of donuts. They are fried dough, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar, although they are so delicious, you can certainly forego the sweet garnish. I do. However, the essence of the Spanish churro breakfast is not the churros. It’s the chocolate. This isn’t the thin gruel that Americans call cocoa or hot chocolate. This is a thick, dark, bitter chocolate that comes in a cup, but is really too thick to drink. It exists solely for dipping your churros. Enjoy.

Read more about Tom & Kristin’s take on Madrid with this Madrid mini guide.

Sebada in Sardinia

By Claudia Taviani from My Adventures Across the World.

A popular European dessert is Sebada in Sardinia. Served with honey.

One of the yummiest sweet treats in Sardina is the sebada (or seada), generally referred to in its plural form—sebadas or seadas. These are made by preparing a very plain dough which is then laid very thin and filled with a mild cheese (it can be Dolce Sardo, but it should traditionally be a sweet and fresh pecorino cheese) and grated lemon or orange rind. The pastry is then folded together carefully, and deep fried. It’s cooked until crispy and then served with honey. The end result is a sweet, salty and at the same time crispy and tangy dessert that makes any mouth water. A classic among European desserts.

Read more about Claudia’s favorite food destinations around the world.

Snow-White Cake in Bucharest, Romania

By Iulia-Alexandra Falcutescu of The Traveling Tulip

A plate of rich and creamy Romanian Snow White Cake, cut into small squares for serving.

When you visit Bucharest, one of the “must have” sweets is a typical Romanian cake called “Snow-White.” I know, it has a funny name, but it is so delicious, light and sweet, that you will immediately fall in love with it, just like the Prince did with the real Snow-White. This is my childhood’s cake. My grandma used to make it, as it is a favorite amongst children and adults alike. It is a layered cake, made from three thin sheets of cake with vanilla-lemon cream in between them. That fresh cream perfectly balances the sweetness of the pastry layers to create a fresh dessert.

Typically, this is not found in your average cake shop in the city, but look for the cake shops that sell “home-made” cakes. It’s a must for them to have it and for you to enjoy it! Better yet, find a Romanian grandma to make one for you. If you can’t manage that, you can always try Lulu’s Cake (located at Strada Bogdaniţa, Nr. 8-10, in Bucharest). It’s a cake shop that makes “home-made” cakes, and they are my favorite when it comes to bringing me back to my childhood.

Follow Iulia-Alexandra Twitter at @thetulipjul.

Gelato in Florence, Italy

By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Gelato in Florence comes in a wide variety of flavors, like these.

Florence, Italy, is considered the birthplace of not just the Renaissance but also my favorite sweet treat, gelato. Story has it that in 1565, Bernardo Buontalenti, the man in charge of setting up fabulous events for the Medicis, decided to chill pastry cream for a dessert offering at a banquet. And that’s how gelato made its debut! Without a doubt, Florence is home to some of the best gelaterias on the planet. But even in this land of plenty, there are standouts that you absolutely must not miss when you visit. Stop by Vivoli for unsurpassed renderings of classic flavors. Pay Gelateria dei Neri a visit for daring and contemporary flavor combinations. Stand in the inevitable line at La Carraia for gelato that oozes decadent richness. Visit Carapina for the most purist take on gelato artigianale. And why not stop by Perchè no! for its cute name and delicious gelato?

One of the tests for whether a gelateria is great is supposedly to see if it carries nocciola (hazelnut) gelato as a stand-alone flavor. Hazelnut is an expensive ingredient, and only top gelaterias offer real hazelnut on its own. Fior de latte, translating literally to flower of milk, is another test…if a shop can do a great sweet cream flavor, which contains nothing but milk and sugar, you can be confident its offerings will be delicious. Happy tasting, and happy gorging on gelato in Firenze! One of the best European desserts in one of the best cities!

Learn more about Dhara’s fave places to try gelato in Italy.

Kürtőskalács in Hungary

By Gábor Kovács from Surfing the Planet

Hollow tubes of the crisp pastry called kurtoskalacs, sold in Budapest, Hungary.

The Hungarian language is full of words that are very hard to pronounce, but one of these unpronounceable words, kürtőskalács, quickly becomes part of the vocabulary of those who visit Hungary. Kürtőskalács is a cake that comes originally from the Hungarian speaking part of Transylvania in Romania, but it is one of the favorites not only in Hungary, but also other places in the region. During your walk around Budapest, you will easily find a food stall that sells this beauty, and you will also find another version in Prague that is called trdelník.

Kürtőskalács is a spit cake (sometimes they translate it to chimney cake), prepared in a special oven where the dough is wrapped around a wooden spit. The cake is baked slowly over a wood fire and then is glazed in sugar. There are different versions with cinnamon, vanilla, or even walnut added to the sugary glaze. A new trend is to put ice cream in the middle, but that cools it down, and I think it’s much tastier when it’s warm.

Follow Gabor on Twitter at @surfingplanet

Brunsviger in Funen, Denmark

By Line Olesen from Nordic Travellers

Danish Brunsviger with its think, gooey topping of caramelized brown sugar.

Brunsviger is a Funen cake that will make your blood flow a little slower due to a butter and sugar overload, but boy is it good. The cake is a yeast dough covered in a sugary mass made out of butter and brown sugar. The icing has to be soft, smooth and without crunch; the sugar grains have to be melted. If you get a piece of brunsviger with a crunch, the baker didn’t do a good job. On Funen, it is customary to have the baker make a brunsviger shaped as a boy or girl and decorate it with candy for kids’ birthday parties. The name of the cake is derived from the German city Braunschweig, but other than that the connection is uncertain.

Although the cake is hugely popular on Funen, people from other parts of the country don’t really understand it. But if you have grown up with brunsviger, you will keep craving it for the rest of your life. I, the writer, was once forbidden to eat brunsviger in the car by my boyfriend because he was tired of putting his hands on a sticky and greasy steering wheel every time I had been to the bakery. Have I stopped? Only I and the car know.

You can follow Nordic Travellers on Facebook.

Sticky Toffee Pudding in England (one of the best European Desserts)

By Claire Sturzaker from Tales of a Backpacker

A rich, cake-like sticky toffee pudding topped with vanilla ice cream and sitting in a luscious pool of caramel sauce.

Sticky toffee pudding has always been one of my favourite English desserts. It is one of those desserts you can find in all kinds of restaurants, from pubs and chains, to high-class gourmet restaurants. The combination of gooey sponge pudding with a sweet toffee sauce and ice cream or custard is hard to beat, and the perfect way to finish any meal!

There is something incredibly satisfying about a warm, sweet sticky toffee pudding which never fails to put a smile on my face—British comfort food at its best. There is some contention about the best recipe of course, mainly whether to include dates in the sponge mixture. Personally, I prefer it without, but there is no right and wrong when it comes to a good dessert. Either way is delicious! The most recent sticky toffee pudding I had was in London, in a restaurant on the South Bank of the Thames, as part of a food tour. Even though I was already stuffed, I still found room for it, and am so glad I did!

Follow Claire on Twitter at @clairesturz

Cranachan in Scotland

By Kirstin McEwan from The Tinberry Travels

I pretty glass full of cranachan, with layers of goodness.

Cranachan is a traditional dessert well worth a try if you find yourself in Scotland. A classic after-dinner accompaniment, a cranachan (occasionally spelled crannachan and pronounced kran-nuh-kun) encompasses a whole host of local produce that make it a quintessentially Scottish pudding. The layered dessert was originally made at the end of summer to celebrate the harvest but is now served at any time of year. It contains layers of toasted oats, cream, honey, fresh Scottish raspberries, and of course a little dash of whisky!

You’ll find this on most Scottish restaurant menus and it is certainly a staple at many occasions such as a Burns Night or at a Hogmanay meal. We even had it at our wedding! There’s also plenty of variations on the standard recipe, but you’ll usually have a tall glass with layers of each ingredient. It should be made with fresh raspberries, local honey, and should be light and sweet rather than heavy, but don’t be surprised if it has a kick as some places can be a little liberal with the whisky!

Follow Kirstin on Instagram.

Hungarian Dobos Torte in Budapest, Hungary

By Eric and Lisa from Penguin and Pia

This multi-layered slice of Dobos Torte shows the hardened caramel topping that seals it and keeps it fresh.

Exploring the Hungarian capital city and looking for something sweet to eat? If this is you, then trying a slice of Dobos Torte in Budapest is the answer to your cravings! This classic cake contains 7 spongy layers with chocolate buttercream icing in between each of them. The top decoration is where Dobos gets its signature look: a hardened, shiny caramel layer is waiting for you to break through when you enjoy a slice.

The cake itself was created by József Dobos. a Hungarian pastry chef. in the late 1800s. As the legend goes, József was a creative baker who was tired of his creations going stale shortly after baking them. His solution? Create a dessert where all the exposed cake was covered up! He whipped together (pun intended) a chocolate buttercream icing and covered all the layers and the exterior edges of the cake. Finally, he drizzled and spread the caramel until it hardened on the top. This combination sealed the cake inside, keeping it moist and fresh. From that experiment, Dobos Torte was born! Whatever you have planned for your time in Budapest,, there are lots of confectionery shops around the city that serve a great slice of Dobos. We’d recommend Café Gerbeaud for an authentic Hungarian experience.

Berliners in Lucerne, Switzerland and Germany

By Halef and Michael, The Round the World Guys

A plateful of Berliners, the popular donuts filled with jelly , marmelade, or cream, one of the most common European desserts in the German areas.

The world was introduced to the complicated German Berliner dessert in 1963. That year, John F. Kennedy made a famous (and what some considered to be erroneous) speech. “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Urban legend has it that he stated, “I am a jelly donut!” That’s because the Berliner is a popular pastry you can get in any German region. It is a sweet dough, fried in oil to create a donut. Instead of a hole in the middle, the Berliner is typically filled with marmalade or jam. You can also find Berliners with chocolate or custard fillings. Obviously, there are many versions of the Berliner, including with powdered sugar toppings or icing.

In parts of Germany, including in Berlin, the Berliner pastry is more commonly known as Pfannkuchen – literally “pancake.” In Switzerland, however, you’ll find the true and classic Berliner, filled with jelly (hence the jelly donut). I had my first Berliner in Lucerne, Switzerland. Because Lucerne is quite culturally German, you can find many pastry shops and cafes which have their own Berliner specialties.

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Pastel de Nata in Lisbon, Portugal

By James from Portugalist

A pastel de nata, or Portuguese custard tart, with its flaky, layered crust and egg custard filling.

Portugal’s best and most well-known pastry is the pastel de nata (often called a Portuguese custard tart). Made from layers of filo pastry and egg custard, this sweet may be simple in its ingredients, but its flavors are complex. It’s best enjoyed with a small black espresso (called a “bica” in Lisbon) outside a small cafe, as you sit and watch the world go by. You’ll find pastel de nata in just about every cafe in Portugal, but the best ones come from the city where the recipe originates: Lisbon.

Pastéis de Belém is credited with the original nata recipe, and it’s definitely worth making a special journey to this pastelaria. Recently, however, a number of newcomers have sprung up and many have even won the coveted annual “melhor pastel de nata” award. Which is the best? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to work your way through the entire city.

Read James’ take on pastel de nata.

Also, read about my own NomadWomen love affair with Pasteis de Belem when I was in Lisbon.

Strudel in Italy (and other places)

By Margherita Ragg from The Crowded Planet

Strudel is one of the European desserts you can find in Italy, Germany, Austria and other places.

One of my favorite sweets ever is strudel, a roll of pastry cut into slices and served with whipped cream, custard, or ice cream. It’s found all over the Alps. You can also find strudel filled with ricotta cheese, forest fruits, or other types of fruit; but the best and most common filling is definitely apples and cinnamon.

I love to eat strudel after hiking because I found it satisfies my cravings for carbs and sugar without feeling too heavy on the stomach, like many other types of sweets and cakes. Recently I went on a three-day hike around the Brenta Dolomites, staying in mountain huts, and while everyone was having beer or radler at the end of the day, I was happily munching away on a huge slice of strudel! The best strudel I’ve ever had was at Rifugio Alimonta in the Brenta Dolomites, but I think the fact I had it after hiking for seven hours is part of the reason why I found it so delicious!

Bosche Bollen in Den Boscch, Netherlands

By Karen Turner from WanderlustingK

Bossche Bollen - a huge ball of the creamiest sweet cream encased in a layer of chocolate. A fabulous Dutch dessert.

Bossche Bollen are the traditional sweets from Den Bosch, the Netherlands. ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) is a beautiful city in Brabant about one hour from Amsterdam with a rich culture. Their own delicious pastry is one you’ll want to try, especially if you love chocolate and cream. This Dutch sweet is made with cream and melted chocolate in a giant ball.

When visiting ‘s-Hertogenbosch, you can find these delicious specialties all over the city, although the most famous come from a bakery close to the central train station, Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot. Most of the cafes around town will serve fresh Bossche Bollen, so don’t worry about finding them within the city. Even outside of Den Bosch, you can find them at some bakeries around the Netherlands. I recommend sharing one with a friend and saving plenty of room for later as they’re quite filling.

Learn Karen’s advice on how to spend a day in Den Bosch.

Rote Grütze in Northern Germany

By Cate Brubaker from International Desserts Blog

Servings of very berry Rote Grutze, topped with whipped cream and a chocolate garnish--a traditional German dessert

One of my all-time favorite European sweet treats is Rote Grütze, a delicious traditional summer dessert from northern Germany. If you like berries, you’ll love Rote Grütze! It’s basically a compote made from simmering blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and red currants in red fruit juice and a bit of sugar. When I was served Rote Grütze at a friend’s house, it was typically served warm with a small pitcher of cold, fresh cream to pour over the top. SO good! However, if you order it in a cafe or restaurant, they’ll probably serve it cold or at room temperature and topped with vanilla sauce, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Don’t worry, no matter how it’s served, it’ll be amazing! Rote Grütze is super easy to make from scratch, but if you’re in Germany (especially northern Germany) you’ll find a jar of it in any grocery store. Rote Grütze: the perfect local sweet treat to enjoy in your AirBnB!

Check out Cate’s recommendations for things to do in Hamburg, Germany.

Trdelnik in Prague, Czech Republic

By Kris from Nomad by Trade

Trdelnik, cooking on a hot rod over the grill, is one of best desserts in Europe, found on the streets of Prague.

I love trying new foods when I travel, especially when they’re sweet, and I fell in love with trdelnik in Prague during my first visit there. Trdelnik are pastries made by wrapping dough around a spit and then roasting it over a grill. Once cooked, they’re coated in sugar and nuts. Nowadays you can even get them filled with chocolate, pie filling, and whipped cream. My favorite version has melted white chocolate drizzled all over the inside.

Watching them being made is almost as fun as eating them. They’re a great snack to eat while walking around Prague’s historic streets, though if you want to minimize the mess while you explore, opt for one of the simpler flavors, because the fancy ones full of creamy fillings can definitely get messy. You can find variants all over central Europe, but they’re absolutely everywhere in Prague. Don’t miss out on a chance to sample these tasty treats during your visit.

You can follow Kris on Twitter at @nomadbytrade13

Schwärzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake)

By Erin from Erin at Large

A slice of Black Forest Cake includes layers of chocolate cake, buttercream, and tart cherries laced with Kirschwasser.

Black Forest Cake is indeed from the Black Forest region of Germany, but there is debate about in which town it originated. Some of the first published recipes for the cake date from the late 1920s. You can see one of these recipes at the Black Forest Open-Air Museum, in the town of Gutach. You can have a large slice of the cake in their lovely restaurant as well.

The Black forest region is famous for its cherry trees, so much so that the women’s traditional local costume includes a hat with giant red pom-poms on top, resembling cherries. It’s no wonder the cherries and Kirschwasser (cherry liqueur) made their way into the famous dessert. A proper Black Forest cake layers light chocolate cake with whipped cream or buttercream, with one layer of sour cherries and Kirschwasser. It’s then topped with buttercream dotted with chocolate swirls.

Read about Erin’s trip to the Black Forest Open Air Museum.

Lokum, aka Bulgarian Delight, in Bulgaria

By Sarah Carter from ASocialNomad

Squares of Bulgarian Delight are coated with powdered sugar for eating.

Bulgaria has been conquered and ruled by many over the centuries, so there’s little wonder that her rulers left their culinary influences on the country. Lokum/Bulgarian Delight may be presumed to have arrived with the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Bulgaria from late 14th century to 1878, but it also could have arrived earlier, as Middle Eastern cuisine features heavily in Bulgarian food. Bulgarian Delight is, like its Turkish neighbour, made of a gel of starch and sugar. The primary Bulgarian Delight flavour is rose—for which Bulgaria his famous. Bulgarian Delight is eaten in small cubes dusted with icing sugar. You’ll find boxes available in tourist stores and be able to spend your last Leva on it at the Airport.

As in Turkey, Bulgarian Delight is known as lokum, and in the Bulgarian alphabet is written as “локум.” The sweet is served at room temperature and often given as gifts.

Learn more from Sarah’s guide to Bulgarian food.

Scones in England

By Liliane Fawzy from My Toronto, My World

Scones with jam and clotted cream--the traditional Afternoon tea in London

Now when you think of British desserts, I’m sure a couple of them come to mind. But the one that typically instantly comes to mind? Scones! If you for some reason happen to not know what scones are, they’re a baked good made of wheat or oatmeal and baked in the oven. There are many varieties of the scone. Some scones come flavored with things like lemon. Some contain fruits like berries or raisins mixed into the dough. While there are savory versions (total sacrilege in my opinion), scones are usually sweet and best eaten with jams and/or clotted cream.

The actual best way to take in a scone is with an afternoon tea. Afternoon teas typically serve you scones with an assortment of jam flavors in addition to clotted cream. It’s a great way to try scones for the first (or tenth) time as you get to try a couple of different flavors. Plus you get to drink tea and dress up!

Read about a unique way to take tea—with scones—in London, on a double-decker bus!

Kaiserschmarrn in Austria

By Linda de Beer from Travel Tyrol

Kaiserschmarn are shredded sweet pancakes covered with powdered sugar and served with fruit compote.

Traveling to Austria and not trying Kaiserschmarrn, the favorite dessert of Emperor Francis Joseph, would be like going to Paris and not having crêpes. Kaiserschmarrn is a thick, fluffy shredded pancake dusted with icing sugar and traditionally served with raisins and fruit compote. It’s so filling that many Austrians even have it as their main meal. There are different stories as to how Kaiserschmarrn was named after the emperor. A favorite is that it was prepared by a nervous farmer who served it up after Francis Joseph and his wife unexpectedly stopped by for lunch.

The secret to making the perfect Kaiserschmarrn is in preparing and frying the batter just right. To ensure the thick and fluffy texture, many eggs are used with the whites beaten stiff before gently stirring it into the rest of the batter. Generous helpings of the batter are then fried in real butter while “shredding” it into pieces with a fork. Not everyone likes raisins in their Kaiserschmarrn, so there’s often an option to have it without. The most popular kinds of fruit compote to accompany the pancakes are plum and apple. A traditional Austrian restaurant without Kaiserscmarrn on the menu is just as unusual as one without Wiener Schnitzel!

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Cannoli in Sicily, Italy

By Steph Edwards from The Mediterranean Traveller

Cannoli, filled with sweetened ricotta with chocolate chips and disted with powdered sugar--a delicious Sicilian dessert

The sweltering Sicilian capital of Palermo is a paradise for foodies with a sweet tooth. Sicilians love their sugar, and its capital city is the spiritual homeland of one of the island’s most famous exports: cannoli. These iconic, deep-fried tubes of pastry adorn the windows of bakeries and patisseries around the island. The tasty tubes are filled with a sweetened sheep’s milk ricotta and topped with a variety of crunchy chunky things. The most common is chopped chocolate chips with candied peel or a glacé cherry.

Although you can now find cannoli (the word is plural) around the world, the freshness of the ricotta in Sicily ensures these will be the best you’ll ever taste. Fresh quality produce is a serious business on this island. Rumor has it that the best cannoli is to be found in the twin villages of Piana degli Albanesi and Santa Cristina di Gela, just south of Palermo. Cannoli is just the beginning of Sicilian sweets and desserts though; don’t miss a helping of gelato wedged into a brioche bun for breakfast (yes!), or its famous sponge cake cassata with its neon colors, or the utterly divine setteveli chocolate hazelnut tart. They are all exquisite european desserts.

Follow Steph on Facebook.

Kremna Rezina in Slovenia

By Kay from Jetfarer

A view of Lake Bled, in Slovenia, the perfect backdrop when eating a Kremna Rezina cream cake.

Many people flock to Lake Bled for its spectacular views and historic marvels, but fewer people know about its best-kept secret: kremna rezina or kremsnita, a traditional Slovenian cream cake. Among one of the best things to do in Lake Bled, trying a slice of this cake is a must for visitors to the region. Between layers of fluffy, soft cake is some of the most delicious and drool-worthy sweet cream in the world. Whether you’re trying to satisfy a sweet tooth craving after dinner, or as a reward after a taxing hike in Triglav National Park, kremsnita is definitely a treat you can’t pass up if you’re visiting the area.

Several cafes in the town of Bled serve kremsnita, but the original and best variant is at the Park Hotel. Here, you can order a slice of cake with a coffee or tea and admire the amazing views of Lake Bled from the hotel terrace.

So….what’ll it be? What will be the first of the many delicious European desserts you’ll try on your trip around the continent? Calories? What are those? You’re a Nomad Woman, an adventurer. It’s your duty to try everything, taste everything. And you know, really, calories don’t count when you’re traveling.

What are your all-time favorite desserts in europe. Let us know in the comments.


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Photo of the Week: Our Christmas Cocktail (with Recipe)

Every family has its holiday traditions. In mine, it’s a Christmas cocktail. Every year it’s different. But always yummy.

The tradition started when my brother-in-law, Matt Worrix, decided to invent a cocktail for a big family celebration. It was such a hit, that it continued. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving or family birthday, Matt would invent a new cocktail to celebrate the occasion. It was something everyone looked forward to.

A Christmas Cocktail of hot cider, bourbon and Grand Marnier, garnished with whipped cream, an apple slice and a cinnamon stick.

The “Tempo Toddy,” named for my sister’s business in McMinnville Oregon.
It has now been adapted for this year’s Christmas Cocktail for the family holiday celebration.

Matt and my sister, Marilyn, would spend a week or more working out the finer points of the cocktail–mixing, tasting, tweaking, mixing some more, tasting again. Adding a bit of this or a touch less of that. Agonizing over the proper garnishes. Figuring out the quantities needed for 15-20 people!

After a few “taste tests,” they were often giggling so much they had to stop. But the final Thanksgiving… or birthday… or Christmas cocktail always ended up a winner.

Sadly, we lost Matt this year. The holidays will not be the same. But by general agreement, his spirit will be with us as we celebrate with a new Christmas Cocktail.

Deciding what to make is always fun and challenging. What could my sister and I come up with that would stand up to the Matt Worrix standard?

We were out Christmas shopping last week, on a freezing, snowy day, and stopped for a late lunch at Golden Valley Brew Pub, a wonderful and cozy spot in McMinnville, Oregon. We definitely needed something hot to warm us up, so we asked the waiter for a suggestion. And boy, were we glad we did? What he brought us was one of their popular seasonal concoctions, a wonderful combination of hot apple cider, bourbon, and Grand Marnier, topped with fresh whipped cream.

We knew immediately we had found this year’s Christmas Cocktail.

With a bit of tweaking, testing, tasting, and tweaking again, here is our version of the “Tempo Toddy.” Feel free to tweak the proportions to your personal taste. Try it. I think you will like it!

Tempo Toddy Christmas Cocktail

For One Christmas Cocktail

4 oz. hot spiced apple cider
1 oz. bourbon
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier.

Mix well together.
Place a whole cinnamon stick in each glass/mug and add the hot mixture. (If using glass, be sure it can withstand the heat without cracking.)
Top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with a thin slice of apple on the rim.
Think up the perfect Christmas toast, raise your glasses all high, and enjoy!

(Alternately… add one pair of warm, fuzzy slippers, a roaring fire, some holiday music and a good book–with the air scented by the piney bite of the Christmas tree. Enjoy!)


If you find yourself in McMinnville, Oregon (and you should–it is a delightful town) do stop in at Golden Valley Brew Pub for a meal or one of their terrific craft brews. You won’t be disappointed.


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I bite into my first ever Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal.

Hooked on Lisbon’s Delicacy: Original Pastéis de Belém

When in Lisbon, Portugal, eating Pastéis de Belém, the iconic Portuguese egg tart, is an absolute requirement, whether you’re a foodie or not. Here’s why you must try it and how to enjoy it at its best.

I admit it. Last year in Lisbon I became a junkie. Obsessed. Hopelessly addicted.

My drug of choice? The Portuguese egg tarts that fall under the general term Pastel de Nata. And for the best fix of all? The original, the only, the best… the supreme Pastéis de Belém.

Portugal is famous for Pastel de Nata, and you’ll see them all over Lisbon. Most are good, a few are great. Some are just… meh. But once you learn to spot the good ones—and it’s not hard to do—it’s near impossible to pass them up. Or at least it was for me.

A plate full of Pastéis de Belém egg custard tarts of Lisbon.

The beautiful, delicious and iconic original Pastéis de Belém egg custard tarts of Lisbon. Photo by Jordiet on flickr, CC license.


A Religious Source-Tarted Up Like Sally Fields

So how did these pastry treats come to be an almost universal symbol of culinary Lisbon?

Back in the day, say in the 17th century or so, many priestly garments, nun’s habits, headdresses and such were heavily starched. (For our generation, think Sally Fields lifting off as The Flying Nun and you get the idea.) Can’t you just imagine the intimidating “swish” of the stiffened underskirts as they glided past? Anyway, to get that desired stiff and glossy finish, they used beaten egg whites.

But this practice of basically painting their clothes with meringue made for a whole lot of leftover egg yolks lying around monastery and convent kitchens and laundry rooms. What to do? Wasting them would surely be a sin, would it not? Such thrifty folk couldn’t simply toss such golden goodness down the drain.

So the nuns in the kitchens began inventing a lot of special dishes to use up all those otherwise-to-be-wasted egg yolks. (Apparently gluttony must have been seen as a sin of a lesser order than waste.) As it happens, there was also a sugar cane refinery next door to the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a monastery in the Belém area southwest of Lisbon, so sweet desserts, cakes and pastries became the use-up-the-egg-yolks recipes of choice. Convenient how that worked out, no? Clearly, the religious folks there dined well and often.

Skylinde detail of the wedding-cake Manueline style architecture of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery.

Detail of the elaborate Manueline architecture of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery in the Belém section of Lisbon, where the famous Pastéis de Belém egg tart was created and just 100 meters from the bakery where it has been sold since 1837.


Pastéis de Belém as Financial Savior

The sweet egg tarts might have remained safely hidden away within the walls of the convent and monastery of Jerónimos forever, fattening only the prayerful and lucky few. But in 1820, there was a liberal revolution in Portugal, and things did not go well for religious institutions. By 1834, monasteries and convents had been closed down and the inhabitants lost all public and government support. The days of dining on sweet pastries were over. They were left to fend for themselves and hunger was looming.

In order to survive, the nuns from the Jerónimos monastery had the idea to begin selling their delicious egg tarts. The sugar refinery had a small store attached, and this became the first outlet for the Pastéis de Belém (Pastéis is plural for pastel, which means cake or pastry in Portuguese.) Eventually, the nuns sold the recipe to the refinery bakery.

At around that same time, the grandeur of the Manueline architectural style of the monastery itself (which is beyond amazing in its size, wedding-cake ornamentation, and beauty) and the nearby Tower of Belém, became popular tourist attractions with the good folk of Lisbon. They could take a steamboat from the city for a day excursion and sail right up to the monastery’s own docks. The fame of the delicious sweet treats sold at the sugar refinery store, now officially known as Pasteís de Belém, began to spread. By 1837, their popularity had outgrown the small store, and the baking moved to larger premises about 100 meters away. The visitors quickly made their pilgrimages to the new location.

They are still doing it today. Now they come in hordes, both locals and tourists. But these tarts are so good almost nobody minds standing in line for them.

Bue and white sign of the Pastéis de Belém bakery with the date, "since 1837"

In 1837, the business had outgrown the tiny refinery store next to the monastery. They moved 100 meters down the street
to a larger location, where they are still do business today.


A Secret Signed in Blood?

Even 180 years ago, when the recipe was first passed on to the sugar company, the secret of making the perfect Pastéis de Belém was entrusted only to a few “master confectioners.” That still holds true today. And those few who do know it are sworn to secrecy. One guide told me, in hushed tones, that it is a blood oath. Another said it was a signed and sealed sacred legal contract. Then he added that the few people who know it are never allowed to all travel together. Imagine if they were all lost! He rolled his eyes and shuddered quite dramatically while telling the story. Apocryphal or not, it’s a good one, you must admit.

There was a line outside when I got to the Café Pastéis de Belém, just as I had been told to expect. I had also been told it would move pretty quickly. But I was hungry, my feet hurt from wandering the vast halls and lovely cloisters of the Monastery, and I felt like sitting down. So instead of getting in the take-out line, I went in the door to its left, which had no line at all, and into the café itself.

The place is much larger inside than it looks from the street, with many tables winding through several small rooms. Except for the very busiest times of day, it’s generally possible to find a seat without much of a wait. If it looks full, just keep wandering through the corridors towards the back, through room after room, until you find a free table.

You will also find clean bathrooms inside as well as a glass window where you can watch the magic happening in the kitchens as the bakers produce dozens upon dozens of tarts as well as other bakery treats.

I found a seat at a table in a front room, beside a wall covered in traditional blue-and-white Portuguese tiles. In only a few minutes, I’d ordered a pastel and a galea—a tall glass of milky coffee. There are also beer, soft drinks and other options on the menu, but for me, a coffee drink is the perfect accompaniment.

As I bit into this warm piece of heaven, the look on my face must have been like something out of a movie—a sort of Meg Ryan look in “When Harry Met Sally” prompting the woman at a neighboring table to say “I’ll have what she’s having!” The young German couple at the next table started to chuckle. Then with sign language, they offered to take a photo of me enjoying my treat. How could I refuse?

I bite into my first ever Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal.

As I bite into my very first original Portuguese Pastéis de Belém, I am tasting a bit of heaven. I will never be the same!

First, you realize your tart is so fresh it is still warm, just out of the oven. The first thing your mouth encounters is the crust. It’s super flaky, like a thousand layers of phyllo-type dough have been gently laid atop each other, with crispy bits offering gentle resistance. Then you reach the warm custard, soft, almost-but-not-quite runny enough that you think it really has melted in your mouth. The top is lightly blackened is spots, like the best crème brulée. Shakers of powdered sugar and cinnamon are offered on the table. Add them if you like—or you must—but necessary they are not.

Ordering a single tart was a mistake obvious from that first bite. It was never going to be enough. I ordered another as soon as the waiter passed by. When I asked him how many of these delightful treats are swallowed here or toted out the door every day, he happily answered. “We bake 20-22,000 on a normal day.” While I was still blinking at that enormous number, he added, “but on special days, holidays and such, it can be 40,000.”

Yeah, you might say that Pastéis de Belém are just a mite popular.

If your goal on heading to the Café Pastéis de Belém is to have some of the tarts to take home for later, my advice is still to go inside and find a seat, order a pastel and a coffee, enjoy it at your table, order more to go, which your waiter will happily bring all wrapped up in a lovely box, and then go on your way. You’ll have your pastéis to take home, you will have had a nice break and a treat, and you will probably still have saved time!

If you can’t wait until you get back to your hotel to tuck into that pretty blue-and-white box for more, the tranquil Jardim de Belém park, directly across the street from the café, makes a refreshing spot to sit and down another one—or more.

Pretty take-out boxes await customers buying Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal.

Pretty take-out boxes lined up and ready as the crowd throngs the counter at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal.
There’s always a line, but it moves quickly. Photo by Andres Monroy Hernandez on flickr CC license.


Good Pastel de Nata Beyond Belém

While the original Pateís de Belém recipe is so secret is has never been precisely duplicated—and likely never will be—you will find similar egg tarts everywhere you go in Lisbon. These copycats are called Pastel de Nata and their quality ranges from excellent to good to meh to awful… basically a dollop of thickened custard pudding in a pre-baked mini pie crust, and the whole thing’s been in the display case too long. Most of the Pastel de Nata I had was quite good, and I would have been happy to have it every day, had I never eaten the real deal in Belém.

The best Pastel de Nata I ate in Lisbon, almost, but not quite, as good as the original, was at a small café just outside the entry gates to the Castelo San Jorge at the top of the city. Its name, appropriately and accurately, is The World Needs Nata. The tart was served warm, and I had it with a glass of galea. The custard was rich and smooth, the pastry light and crispy. When I came out from exploring the castle a couple of hours later, I sat down and ordered another!

My personal bottom line for Lisbon: Do not—repeat, DO NOT—fail to make the trip out to Belém while you are in this beautiful city. There is much to see and do there, including the Monastery, the amazing collection in the Coach museum, the Monument of the Discoveries, the Belém Tower and the Presidential Palace, among others.

But for me all that is icing on the tart. The TRUE reason to go to Belém is the egg custard bites, the true, the original, the one-and-only Pastéis de Belém, eaten right where they were created some 200 years ago.

Powdered sugar and cinnamon shakers and a box of napkins sit on the table to add to your egg custard tarts.

Shakers of cinnamon and powdered sugar sit on every table for adding to your egg custard tarts–a nice addition, perhaps, but not really necessary. They are perfect just as they are! Photo by Inayaili de León Persson on flickr. CC license.

As for me, I am jonesing for more Pastéis de Belém as I write this. And since I quite fell in love with Lisbon on my last trip and have plans to go back as soon as possible, I have no intention whatever of looking for a recovery program for my addiction. On my next arrival in this gorgeous city on the Tagus River, I’ll hit the ground running—toward the first tram that will get me out to Belém, a tall glass of galea, and a plate full of warm, crispy-crusted, runny-fillinged goodness. With my plate of Pastéis de Belém before me and a look of total joy and satisfaction on my face, I will be fine once more. Just look for me there.

 

For more information about the original Pastéis de Belém and more pictures of the bakery and restaurant, visit their website here.


Café Pastéis de Belém
Rua de Belém, 84-92
Belém, Lisbon, Portugal
Open 8 am -11 pm in winter, 8 am–midnight in summer

The World Needs Nata Café
Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo 7,
Lisbon, Portugal
Open daily, 9:00 am-9:00 pm


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How to get hooked on Lisbon's genuine egg custard tart - pinnable image

Eating Genuine Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon

A beautifully packaged box of the best chocolate truffles, from the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

Are These the Best Chocolate Truffles in Oregon? In the Country?

Recently, my constant search for the best chocolate truffles wherever I may roam took me up a small country lane in Oregon’s Willamette Valley to a place of peace, quiet… and Heavenly Chocolates.

Lives there a Nomad Woman on this earth who does not love chocolate? If so, I have yet to meet her. I most definitely am NOT her. I love chocolate in just about any form—hot, cold, bars, bonbons, drinks, sauces.

A sign at the Brigittine Monastery in Amity. Oregon reads "I need more balance in my life: Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate, Milk Chocolate

Obviously, the monks of the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon, have a sense of humor. And they know their chocolate is the best.

But truffles? Oh, truffles! Chocolate truffles! The magic of the hand-rolled ganache. The densely flavored outer coating of chocolate. The closing of the eyes and the sinking in of the teeth. Oh yeah. I do love me a truffle or two… or ten. And when they happen to be among the country’s very best chocolate truffles? For truffles that good, I’m even willing to tote some extra baggage weight to take a few boxes of those babies home with me, for myself and for friends who are high up on the “I love you lots” scale.

When it comes to the heavenly qualities of chocolate, the truffles I recently toted home have a unique advantage—being crafted by hand in a monastery. I’m talking about the gourmet chocolate confections made by the Brigittine Monks of the Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon.

Chocolate cherry truffle, best chocolate truffles, Brigittine Monks, Amity, Oregon

A chocolate cherry truffle from the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

I discovered this place and their products years ago when visiting family in the Willamette Valley, just south of Portland. My sister was a real estate broker at the time and mentioned that she’d just sold a piece of property to a group of monks. And that they intended to support their monastery by making and selling fudge. And that it was astonishingly wonderful fudge. She was right and it was. It still is.

In fact, the fudge is so good it has been written up in The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Chocolatier and even People Magazine, among others. It’s been talked about on The Food Network, CNN and ABC Nightly News. It was even featured on Jeopardy! Yeah, see? This is good stuff!

A sign points the way to chocolate samplings--fudge and the best chocolate truffles--at the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

Chocolate sampling? Why yes please! Right this way to taste great fudge and the Best Chocolate Trufflesat the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

The monastery, the only male Brigittine monastery in the United States, has been making this amazing, super-creamy, wonderful fudge since the 1970s, when they were still located in San Francisco. Then a few years after settling into their Willamette Valley home in the ‘80s, they added chocolate truffles to their product mix.

The Best Chocolate Truffles…Created Directly from Heaven?

With such a reputation for excellence with their fudge, of course they were not going to be satisfied with anything less than making the best chocolate truffles possible. So that is what they did. And while it is that melt-in-your-mouth fudge they’re most famous for, it’s the truffles that have me driving these Oregon country roads. It’s the truffles that have visions of chocolate-covered creaminess dancing in my head. It’s the chocolate truffles….

As you’d expect, the monastery is a peaceful place, set in pastoral farmland at the end of a mile-long gravel road. The grounds include a vineyard, a small orchard and a veggie garden tended by the monks to help them be self-sustaining.

The Brigittines are a contemplative order and one of their missions is to support themselves “by the labor of their hands.” “We don’t go out into the world,” explains Brother Steven, the monastery spokesman. “But all monasteries have to make a living. Chocolate is our means of support.”

A view of the lovely Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation, home of the best chocolate truffles in Oregon.

The Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon, is a place of peace and contemplation… and chocolate.

The road ends at a tree-shaded area beside the Priory church. When I arrive, mine is the only car in sight. The main sounds are the breeze in the pine trees, an occasional bird tweet and my footsteps on the gravel. But then I step into the lovely small church, which is open to the public, just in time to hear the monks chanting the last of the mass. The sound wafts up into the wooden beams and falls onto me in a peaceful sigh. As it dies, they file out of the church to their lunch.

Interior of the priory church at the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

Priory Church of the Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation, Amity Oregon

I stop to admire the quartet of jewel-toned stained-glass windows spilling colors onto the wooden floor at the back of the chapel-sized room. The space seems filled with grace.

Stained glass windows in the Priory Church at the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

Stained glass windows in the Priory Church at the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

Back outside again, the air seems even purer, softer, the clear Oregon air more benevolent. The shop where the confections are sold is just to the left of the church. Ring the bell next to the door and someone—a monk or lay worker—will come to greet you.

The entrance to the Brigittine Monks gift shop, Amity Oregon, just beside the church.

The entrance to the gift shop is just beside the church. Just ring the bell to be warmly welcomed.

In the small retail space, you’ll find not only the heavenly fudge and those best chocolate truffles ever, but also dozens of books on saints, the liturgy and Catholicism in general. There are rosaries and medals and images and other holy items to remind you how blessed this place and these sweets are.

You’re also greeted by a sign with the purely pragmatic reminder: Chocolate is cheaper than psychotherapy and you don’t need an appointment.

And we know it’s the chocolate you’re really here for. Don’t try to pretend otherwise. You can pick up a T-shirt with the logo of the monastery and a Book of Saints, but we all know why you’re really here. It’s the chocolate….

How Do They Do It?

So what makes this chocolate so good? What makes the fudge so creamy and the truffles possibly the best chocolate truffles you’ll ever eat? Are they really touched by an angel?

A Brigittine Brother adds the monastery's signature swirl to top of one-pound tubs of fudge ready for shipping.

A Brigittine Brother adds the monastery’s signature swirl to top of one-pound tubs of fudge ready for shipping.

Well for starters, they use only the highest quality ingredients: pure cream and fresh dairy butter, local filberts and walnuts, genuine natural flavors and only Guittard chocolate, which comes from the oldest family-owned and operated chocolate company in the U.S., founded by a noted French chocolate maker in 1868. No preservatives of any kind are used either.

Also, the candy is made in relative silence. As a contemplative order, the Brigittines don’t talk as a general rule. It is not a strict silence—speaking is allowed when necessary to communicate—but there’s no chit-chat in the kitchen. “That’s what’s nice about the candy business,” says Brother Steven. “It is something we can do in silence and keep in communion with God.”

Perhaps there is something in this quiet, contemplative life that adds a special richness and depth to the product they produce. Perhaps it’s the level of concentration and attention to detail. Or simply the spirit of peace that permeates the walls and grounds of the monastery itself. Whatever, the chocolate seems just that little bit richer, smoother, more mellow for it, as if this amazing fudge and these best chocolate truffles do have something of the presence of God mixed right into their DNA.

A monk from the Brigittine monastery prepares a batch of the best chocolate truffles for shipping.

A monk from the Brigittine monastery prepares a batch of the best chocolate truffles for shipping.

With modern equipment and old-fashioned commitment, the fudge is mixed and poured, the signature swirl added to the one-pound blocks by hand. The chocolate truffle centers are hand-rolled then hand-dipped before packing.

The fudge comes in seven varieties, including the basic original fudge, with or without nuts, and varieties such as amaretto, extra dark, chocolate cherry nut, hazelnut and pecan praline. Prices range from $11.95 to $13.95 for a one-pound box.

The chocolate truffles come in a dozen varieties. To my mind, the maple ones are clearly touched by heaven and the butter rum chocolate truffles are most definitely inspired by an angel. Then there’s amaretto, mint, cherry. Or maybe you like orange, raspberry, or extra dark chocolate truffles. You will have to decide for yourself which ones you think are the best chocolate truffles. If you simply can’t make up your mind, the assorted box gives you six big bites of yumminess in one package for $13.95.

Whichever you choose, buy more than you think you’ll need or want. Trust me on this.

A beautifully packaged box of the best chocolate truffles, from the Brigittine Monastery in Amity, Oregon

You’re likely to find yourself toting more than one of these babies home with you. Pretty enough for gifts… if you don’t eat all these best chocolate truffles yourself!

Discover Amity, Oregon

Before leaving the area, you should definitely check out the sweet small town of Amity. Step into the Coelho Winery to try some fine local wines. The tasting room is a comfortable space more like an oversized living room with a big wooden bar made of wine barrels and a cozy fireplace for drizzly Oregon days.

Visit the Coelho Winery and Tasting Room in Amity, Oregon before or after a stop at the Brigittine Monastery for the best chocolate truffles.

Visit the Coelho Winery and Tasting Room in Amity, Oregon before or after a stop at the
Brigittine Monastery for the best chocolate truffles.

If you’re hungry, you can’t do better than to stop for a meal at The Blue Goat on Amity’s main street. This very comfortable, locally run place features wood-fired dishes cooked in a specially built cob oven. They use seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The menu changes almost daily but standard items include goat empanadas and their signature cob-oven pizzas. Innovative salads and small plates are giving The Blue Goat a growing reputation for excellence and drawing foodies from all over the Willamette Valley and beyond.

The Blue Goat interior, a cozy, comfortable place with seriously good food in Amity, Oregon.

The Blue Goat on the main street of Amity, Oregon has been drawing serious foodies from all over the Willamette Valley with their wood-fired, locally sourced creations.

But wherever you stop and whatever you eat and drink… be sure to save room for dessert. Because once you’re back in the car, you’ll remember. You’ve got some of the world’s best chocolate truffles in there! And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hard pressed to stop yourself. You will have to open one of those boxes for “just a taste” of those Heavenly Chocolates.


If you can’t get to the Brigittine Monastery to buy their amazing fudge and chocolate truffles, not to worry…. You can order them from the Brigittine’s online store. They are also available in several retail outlets in the area and in the Made in Oregon stores in downtown Portland, Salem and other locations. Most convenient for me is the Made in Oregon stores right at PDX airport! If you forgot your chocolate truffles, you can pick up a couple of boxes just before your flight home!

Contact Info:

The Brigittine Monks – Priory of Our Lady of Consolation

Amity, Oregon 97101
Phone: (503) -835-8080
www.brigittine.org
E-mail: monks@brigittine.org

The Blue Goat
506 S. Trade Street
Amity, Oregon 97101
503-835-5170
www.amitybluegoat.com

Coelho Winery
111 5TH Street
Amity, Oregon 97101 USA
Phone: (503) 835-9305
coelhowinery.com/tasting-room-winery


For a glimpse of the modern preparation process of the best chocolate truffles and fudge at the Brigittine Monastery—but always with that blessed human touch—check out this video from.
Travel Oregon.

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