Are the Dutch so tall because they consume so much dairy? Hard to say, but the important thing is that delectable cheese made from the milk of cows and sheep grazing on lush pastures in Holland is sold throughout Amsterdam. Netherlanders have been making cheese since 400 C.E. and the product is as synonymous with Holland as tulips, clogs, and windmills. The country is the world's largest cheese exporter, with a dairy industry that generates around €7 billion annually. There are touristy cheese markets in Alkmaar, Hoorn, and Edam where old weighhouses form the backdrop for the traditional cheese trade. For Amsterdam visitors, shops like Henri Willig Cheese & More proffer everything from mild Gouda and mellow Edam to Boerenkaas (literally, farmers' cheese), an artisanal raw-milk product. The mini chain of cheese manufacturer Henri Willig was founded in 1974 and now has six shops in the center city and six others elsewhere in Holland. Over 1 million customers visit Henri Willig annually for organic, goat, and smoked cheese, as well as Dutch specialties like Frisian clove cheese (made with low-fat milk, cumin, and cloves) and Leidse kaas, the piquant, cumin-scented variety from Leiden. Henri Willig shops also sell cheese graters, slicers, fondue sets, and other accessories, as well as sweets like Dutch drop (licorice), chocolate, and stroopwafels. An export division ships products to 25 countries. Stop in for a snack, as samples are always set out for hungry customers.
By Melissa Adams, AFAR Local Expert