As we huddle around a tiny table crowded with broodjes, koffie and kaas, circled in the soft embrace of cheerful candy shelves and old wooden bookcases, Lia Middelhoven leans back in her chair and beams. "Now we have gezelligheid, " she tells us. The equivalent of what Americans might refer to as "that warm, fuzzy feeling," the term fits Dutch American Market Import like a custom wooden clog. Established by Dutch immigrants in Beaverton 40 years ago, the market is the only 100 percent full-service Dutch store in the Northwest, working through five different importers in the Netherlands to bring the lekkerste (most delicious) foods to PDX's large Dutch community and growing legion of American enthusiasts.
Lia and her husband, Hans, who both immigrated from Holland after World War II, have owned the tiny trove of rarities since 2001. From jarred vegetables grown in the oceanic Netherlands soil to dry mix for pankoeken (pancakes) and murky bottles of stroop (Dutch syrup), the store is teeming with only-from-the-Netherlands delicacies. Here are just a few of the jewels found exclusively at Dutch American Market.
Extra Creamy Gouda
Hans' claim to fame is his open cheese-tasting policy. "You don't want to buy it if you're not going to like it," he calls from behind a hill of cheese wheels, slicing away.
What it tastes like: Brie's badass big brother—tangier and brighter, and can hold its own without a cracker.
American equivalent: American cheese comes in squares and is the color of Paris Hilton's fake tan. There is no equivalent.
Eat with: Caution—this luxuriously smooth kaas (cheese) is over 50 percent milkfat. But take Hans' solid advice: "Forget about the fat. Just taste it." Your hips will pay, but your tongue will dance like a drunken Dutchman on Queen's Day.
Hagelslag Candy Sprinkles
What it tastes like: Sugary kitten kisses, sweet unicorn dreams, chocolate-flavored sunshine.
American equivalent: Sprinkles, or jimmies for all you geezers. But the tiny morsels normally reserved for cupcakes and sundaes in the U.S. are sold in a wider variety of flavors, colors and sizes.
Eat with: Sliced bread slathered with butter—make it rain hagelslag until you've reached desired coverage.
Americans usually abhor black licorice, but Dutch people devour the confectionary reject by the handful. The Market offers more than 60 varieties.
What it tastes like: A more complex incarnation of black licorice, with undertones of honey and gingerbread.
American equivalent: Drop is to the Dutch what MMs are to Americans—unanimously appreciated and hopelessly addictive.
Eat with: An open mind. Start sweet and work your way to salted, then double-salted if you're really adventurous.
What it tastes like: Two doll-sized waffles smushed together with a gooey layer of caramel filling.
American equivalent: Like a sophisticated albino version of the Oreo.
Eat with: A blue Delftware mug of koffie—strong Dutch coffee that's less acidic than its stateside counterpart.