New Jersey Dispatch: Going Dutch at a Touch of Dutch and Holland American Bakery
I must admit that Dutch is not New Jersey's most well-known ethnic cuisine. It's not around every corner like Italian or Chinese and doesn't have any major enclaves like Indian or Portuguese. Still, there are plenty of Dutch people here and their two most well-known shops are worth a drive.
And drive you will, because these outposts of Dutch food are in remote places: A Touch of Dutch in Warren County and the Holland American Bakery in Sussex County. Dutch expats and food fans should head right over, and for the rest of us, they're both worth keeping in mind if you're out there hiking, biking or doing farm visits. (The bakery isn't far from Bobolink Dairy, actually.)
A Touch of Dutch is located in one of those small, wood-frame buildings that was put up as a roadside stop before I-80 came through and took all the traffic away. Walk in and you'll find the largest assortment of Dutch import foods in the State. Shelves of groceries, baskets of candies, and a cooler filled with cheese and herring greet you.
And Burt the owner will greet you too. Perhaps he's the best Dutch import of all. Let me put it this way: If you were a casting director and needed to find the archetypal Dutchman, he's the guy you'd go for. When I asked him why he started the place, he told me, "We need our food!" I appreciated his spirit and frankly envy anybody whose needs include three kinds of pickled herring and imported premium butter.
While cheese, herring, and candy are reasons to stop here, it's the run-of-the-mill Dutch grocery items that make the place stand out. If you're Dutch and homesick, you should head over here even if you have to crawl. Roggebrood (rye bread), Vollkornbrot (German rye bread), smeerkaas (cheese spread), and three shelves of Dutch-made Indonesian products should do it. And if that doesn't get you, a package of rusks (twice-baked bread) and some frozen croquettes will.
Burt boasted of being open twenty five years without advertising. Of course, when I questioned him, he admitted that there's no place for him to do it. He does have a website though (atouchofdutchonline.com) and you can order whatever you need through it (and deprive yourself of a pleasant day out in rural Warren County.) One warning though: Burt told me that "the nicest thing about the place is that we're only open three days a week."
The Holland American Bakery is at least easier to find—you can't miss the windmill on the southbound side of Route 23 just south of Sussex. It's been around even longer (since 1954) than Burt's place, and Owen the baker is both the third generation owner and fourth generation at the ovens. He told me that his grandfather brought his great-grandfather over to help him start up and after nine months, he decided he'd seen it all and went back home.
Here it's obvious that you're in an American outpost. Typical rural American Christian radio plays, a faux Dutch storefront gives way to classic American bakery cases, and thermos jugs of self-serve coffee sit on a shelf at one side.
While the Holland American has some imported stuff, the items they make here themselves are the big draw. Check out the boterkoek (butter cake), speculaas (thin, spiced cookies), stollen (fruit cake), and a wide variety of other cookies. If they don't make you cry for your long-lost Dutch home, I don't know what will.
One other similarity is that both shops are filled with what I would politely call "gift items," such as porcelain windmills and miniature klompen—those Dutch wooden shoes. If you have a low tolerance for this sort of stuff, just grab a honey cake and look the other way. One bite and you'll know why you came.