Bitterballen

Try some bitterballen to celebrate King’s Day.  

My favorite color is orange.

It probably goes back to my younger years when my passion for the Baltimore Orioles was first ignited. Given their performance last season, however, there are fewer of us sporting our orange jerseys with pride these days.

Thankfully, there’s one place in town where orange attire is encouraged. For them, the color is a cultural bedrock and a shining symbol of honor.

But this isn’t about baseball. It’s about bitterballen and other classic dishes and drinks that will commemorate Koningsdag, or King’s Day, on Saturday,April 27 at The Dutch Eatery and Refuge, 943 E. University Blvd.

“Koningsdag is a national day of celebration everywhere in the Netherlands, in every bar and in every city,” said Marcus van Winden, owner and executive chef at The Dutch. “And at King’s Day events, soccer games, and parties, everyone wears oranje,” he said, noting the traditional Dutch spelling of the national color.  

Growing up near Rotterdam in South Holland, van Winden has fond memories of his childhood and all the extra candy and pastries that he was afforded on King’s Day. It was clear after chatting with him that this annual fusion of food and festivity helped to shape his career, a journey that included stints at several Michelin Star restaurants before settling in Tucson.

King’s Day at The Dutch will feature regionally inspired dishes with the personal and authentic touch of this native Nederlander.

van Winden will showcase a traditional harring fish dish, which he compares to the more widely recognized herring, that will be cured and served with raw onion. He’ll also plate-up some Dutch pancakes known as poffertjes, which he tells me are lighter, airier and smaller than their American counterparts.

No Koningsdag would be complete without frikandels, of course, which are fried sausage snacks that resemble hot dogs to the American eye, and for those with confection cravings, Dutch pastries known as tompouce will be ready to render aid.

There will also be drink specials running from one side of the bar to the other, but the commemorative beverage for van Winden’s Koningsdag will be the kopstootjes.

These are side-by-side servings of beer and Genever, a Dutch botanical spirit, which are meant to be ceremoniously slurped and sipped in an alternating rhythm. But heed my words: You may wish to log some practice sessions before showing off your kopstootjes skills in public.

So what about that bitterballen? This is one of those dishes made for celebrations. They’re essentially braised, breaded and fried beef balls with a beef stew flavor profile. Get started with a plate of bitterballen and a bucket of Heinekens for the table and boom—consider yourself an honorary member of the van Winden family.

The idea behind this event is to expose the community to the rich traditions of the Netherlands, and, as van Winden says, “to show how a small country can be big in celebration.”

The Dutch’s King’s Day doors open at 9 a.m. on April 27. The frolic is expected to intensify throughout the day and into the evening with the party wrapping up at 10 p.m. Reservations will not be taken for Koningsdag. Accommodations will be provided on a first come-first served schedule. 

Expect a repetitive chorus of “Proost” to reverberate throughout The Dutch during this 13-hour affair. And don’t forget to don your orange, or, oranje.  

 Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com, a regular contributor to “Tales of the Keg” on ESPN Tucson, KFFN 1490 AM & 104.9 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.