If I'm honest, food plays a huge role in travel. I'd never forego delving into the history or architecture of a place, but food and drink has always been a major part of exploration. I love finding national and regional food specialties that really add to the experience of a culture. Here are my top picks from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Please note that no herring in any way, shape or form (especially pickled) will be mentioned because bleghhh.
(Spoilers! My favourite speculoos was from Phillip's Biscuits in Antwerp at Korte Gasthuisstraat 39, 2000 Antwerpen.)
2. Nürnberger Lebkuchen
Another wondrous biscuit, the stroopwafel has gained popularity outside of the Netherlands and is now available worldwide. Let yours soften slightly atop a cup of tea (or coffee) before eating to allow the caramel inside to melt. Mouth-wateringly good.
Available at any supermarket in Belgium, the Netherlands or France, Côte d'Or produces damn fine chocolate for affordable prices. Try the filled varieties such as milk praline or dark truffle. Originating in Belgium, it's here that you can find the widest array of flavours. My all time favourite were the Chokotoff bars with dark chocolate covering a chewy toffee centre. We kept a huge stack of different varieties at all times, and that doesn't count the other brands of chocolate we bought!
Pretzels, while simple, rank so highly on this list because they are versatile. You can have them at any time of day as a snack or in addition to a meal. When done correctly, their chewy texture and salty taste have you visiting every bakery you can see. In Germany you can find pretzel rolls with fillings that make a great alternative to sandwiches for a quick lunch. I've also tried pretzels with melted cheese on the top, and pretzels with a covering of sesame seeds rather than salt.
7. Bossche bollen
Native to Den Bosch, these pastry balls are filled with a sweet, light cream and covered in chocolate ganache. Much airier and less filling than I thought they would be, the chocolate and cream worked together in blissful unison. We purchased ours at Jan de Groot In Den Bosch (Stationsweg 24, 5211 TW 's-Hertogenbosch).
8. Nürnberger Rostbratwurst
9. Dutch pancakes
While I still prefer the thinner French crêpes, Dutch pancakes are delicious and filling. We ate them for lunch and breakfast at Pancakes! in Amsterdam (Berenstraat 36, 1016 GH Amsterdam).
Like apple pie, but better. With tender chunks of apple in a cinnamony melange, apfelstrudel is the apple pie of the movers and shakers - you can pick it up in one hand and be ready to go! What's more is they're available in many bakeries across Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. If you're stuck for lunch ideas, grab a pretzel and an apfelstrudel and you're good.
11. Aachener Printen
Another PDO, the printen biscuit can only be found in the Aachen area in Germany. Also a type of gingerbread but chewier and with the unusual addition of aniseed, we bought a packet of mixed printen from Noblis on the Munsterplatz, Aachen - right across from the cathedral. The original flavour appealed the most to me, but the iced version and chocolate and nut covered printen were also excellent.
12. Rhein Valley Riesling
Now go forth, and eat stroopwafel!