|Welcome to Econ 050: Economics and business that matters to the Netherlands and the world. In each episode, Northern Times editor Traci White interviews a new expert about everything from trade wars to the psychology in your shopping cart. This podcast is a co-production between The Northern Times and the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Groningen.|
For many internationals, food is an integral part of your sense of cultural identity, and moving abroad can often mean finding yourself longing for your favorites from home and missing the social element of a shared meal. But a region’s food scene is also very much an economic and business matter: how do you balance out chains and locally owned establishments? How does having a big student population influence the dining scene in a city? How cost effective is it to own and operate a food truck in a country that isn’t exactly known for excellent weather?
Through her culinary blog De Smaak van Stad, freelance journalist Saskia Jonker has gotten a taste for what’s happening in the culinary world of the north, and she sat down with us to share her thoughts on the latest food trends and her personal favourite places to grab a bite in Groningen, Drenthe and Friesland.
On the differences in the dining scene in Groningen and Leeuwarden:
Saskia Jonker: Leeuwarden is a smaller city of course, so you do see that there’s not as much choice as you have in Groningen. And I think also that the demography there is a slightly different, and you see that reflected in the kind of restaurants that you have there. You have more of the casual eateries, but I do think that you do see that Leeuwarden is sort of catching up now.
On how food trucks and street food in the Netherlands are influenced by culture, costs and climate:
Jonker: I think that you don’t have a lot of casual dining because people here are sort of used to eating at home at 6 o’clock exactly, and they don’t want to spend a lot of money, and if you go out to dinner, that’s more expensive than if you cook yourself. That’s not the case in some other countries. So it is also a case of the Calvinism in the Netherlands, where it’s seen as overindulgence to go out to dinner and have a three course meal. But I also think that it’s a question of costs. Cost of labour is very high in the Netherlands, which automatically makes it expensive to go out to dinner. And I think that the reason there’s not a lot of street food and food trucks is that, you know, the weather is not really conducive to eating outside. And also the Netherlands is a highly regulated country.
What are some up and coming cuisines in the restaurant scene?
Jonker: I think that Korean food is definitely an up and coming cuisine. Not really in the north – you have a Korean restaurant in Leeuwarden, but other than that you don’t really have a lot of Korean restaurants in the north. What you often see is that it starts in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and then slowly makes its way to the north. So like in a year, we’ll probably see a Korean restaurant in Groningen. I think Ethiopian is also something that’s being discovered… And I think in the whole of the Western world, Peruvian food is very much the current hipster food. But I haven’t seen that in the Netherlands, to be honest.
Is there a good balance between chains and more locally run restaurants?
Jonker: I think that the balance is good so far, in Groningen anyway, because you do see that a lot of new places that are opening up are actually locally owned. It’s just that there is not a whole lot of variety. You know like I read that there’s a new pizza place opening up on the Zuiderdiep. I read that and I was like. oh well, we didn’t have any pizza places. So that’s sort of depressing to me that most of the new places then do open up are like pizza places or pasta places or sushi or you know that that fast wok type of places. And there’s not a whole of invention, I guess. Where are the Korean restaurants are the Peruvian restaurants?
What are the some of the best fine dining restaurants in the north?
Jonker: I’m a fan of Voila, and of course Viva la Vie is very good as well. And there is Alice, which is like an Italian fine dining restaurant. And that’s very good. I think that’s probably the most expensive restaurant in Groningen as well. And one restaurant that I’m going to next week but which has had a lot of rave reviews is De Haan, which is an interesting restaurant because they don’t have front-of-house personnel so you do have to pour your own drinks…
…in Leeuwarden there’s Eindeloos, which is a very good restaurant. And the chef there, he also owns Proeflokaal, so he’s very into head to tail cooking. There’s Elevee of course, which despite losing its Michelin star is still very much worth a visit. And the Vlindertuin in Zuidlaren is also very good, and if you live in Groningen, it’s like maybe 15 minutes by car.