Category Archives: Foodie Finds

HOLLAND: Worlds First Floating Farm, Rotterdam

I’ve been wanting to visit the floating farm since I heard that it was being built, I’ve been patient. I’m interested in food production, in processing and processes, in environmental innovation, and I like cows.

I was welcomed by Minke van Wingerden, who handed me a small plastic bottle of cold velvety milk, fresh from the previous day – pasturised, homogonised and bottled on site. (I had been expecting unhomogenised milk with the cream on top, but apparently this is not in demand in the area).

The floating farm opened in the summer of 2019 in the busy port of Rotterdam and now houses 35 red and white Maas-Rhine-Ijssel cows. It’s a compact and fascinating production plant which I am yet to fully understand, or maybe just yet to embrace.


The cows live, work (I class milk production as their job, even if it is forced employment), eat and sleep on the platform as it moves up and down on the water by up to two metres, tethered by the piles it’s centered on.

They are fed with hay, laced with leftovers from beer production and other tasty waste. Food troughs around the outside of their enclosure allow visitors to get up close and personal with the cows – whether they like it or not!

A robot milking machine lures the milk laden ladies with cookies, the machine reads the tag on their ears to determine if they need milking yet or they are just abusing the snacking station. The milk is then sent straight downstairs for processing and bottling.

Unlike on grass, the cows waste doesn’t have the space or other environmental factors to enable the formation of dried cow pats or the natural filtration through the ground. Instead, on the platform, a robot scoots round and scoops up the poop. The poop goes into a poop chute. A poop processor separates solids from fluids, and the liquid is piped off into large tanks to be collected for disposal elsewhere, whilst the dry matter is repurposed as bedding materials for the cows to sleep on. There’s no mud on the platform, everything brown you see there is excrement – cows make a lot of poop!

Across the bridge from the milk production pontoon is a small paddock for the cows to exercise and graze in. In the few months they’ve been there they’ve not yet had the chance to leave the platform, but when they do, now they have their sea legs, I wonder if the cows will get motion sickness.

From the platform, looking across the water, on the land, you (and they) can see the calves that have been removed from them. Three girls, two boys, destined for milk and meat. Skittish little things, big eyes, soft coats, very cute.

The concept of the floating farm is to bring food to the city, save food miles, and save space. I can see the benefits for the humans, but I’m not sure what the cows get from it.

Minke told me that they developed this farm because of concerns about rising water levels, the changing environment, transport and space, and because they want people to be able to come and see how hard the farmer works.

They call it Transfarmation.


I have so many questions, and I think the floating farm team do too. We should always ask questions – that’s where true innovation comes from. This floating dairy farm is the first in the world, a prototype, something to be learned from, a work in progress to be developed, and improved.

What happens to the land the cows would have normally grazed? Animals grazing land is a big part of land management, a big part of fertilization and regeneration, what will that space be used for instead?

Will the cows be as happy on a floating farm as they would be in fields? Does this affect their milk production, or quality of produce? Does it affect their longevity of production? More importantly, does it affect their quality of life?

What’s the difference in ‘food miles’ between bringing milk from a rural farm to a city shop for sale, and having one city spot where everyone goes specifically to buy and collect milk?

Will that paddock be big enough for 35 cows and their 140 hooves, stomping, grazing, pooping? The slurry robot is struggling to keep up with the job on the platform. Where does all that waste go when the lorries come to collect the full tanks of fluids?

Where do the tiny plastic milk bottles come from? Where do they go? Could they be replaced with glass?

What about the cost of the materials (financially and environmentally) of creating platforms for cows? For the building and maintaining, for the shipping of materials, for the production of the solar panels that run the machines, for the robots that have replaced the work of men – milking, feeding, muck shoveling.

Have we just got really lazy and selfish?

Ultimately, if we don’t have space to meet our demand, perhaps we should stop demanding so much?

I don’t know the answers, and I certainly don’t mean to sound righteous – I drink milk, I eat meat. I’m kind of asking, kind of thinking out loud, looking for conversation and thought, for explanations and further innovations.


I really hope the floating farm encourages people to learn about food production, to think about their own intake and waste, to think about animal welfare, and to cut down on consumption. I hope the extra knowledge about where food comes from helps us to reconsider what we buy, what we use, and what we might otherwise throw away.

As a visitor attraction as well as a working project, I hope the balance here swings away from that of a novelty cow petting pontoon and more towards a place of education and development. And really, I’d like to see the cows back in the fields where they belong.

These living creatures exist solely for our purposes and every day I wonder, are doing the right thing by them?


Floating Farm Gustoweg 10, 3029 AS, Rotterdam

With thanks to Floating Farm for inviting me to visit and ask questions. As always, my opinions are my own.

 

Holland: Sweet Dreams in Cheese Valley

‘And this is the Rockefeller Centre, and this is the Empire State Building,’  the lady in the next seat told me, as we trundled down the runway, ‘And this is the view from the Statue of Liberty, and this is the hotel, and this is the rubbish outside the hotel in the morning, and this… look!’ she exclaimed as she zoomed in on the clear plastic bin bags, shuffling back and forth on the screen, ‘That’s our rubbish, in there! That bag!’
I was, of course, enthralled.

I’m getting used to travelling alone. I am happy with my own company. I am happy talking to strangers. I feel pleased that I can drive–train–train–fly–train–train, to another city, in another country, and meet up with a bunch of other people who are equally as interested in all the things as I am.

In Gouda’s Unique restaurant I sat at the end of a long table, surrounded by fabulous Italians. I soon found myself speaking fluently, sharing knowledge and chatting about wine. That’s not true. I just kept saying ‘Tutti Biscotti’ and ‘Buono buono’ whilst smiling in between mouthfuls. Luckily, they all spoke great English and were willing to do so, for my sake (and theirs).

Gazpacho. Steak tartar. Risotto with Chicken of the Woods mushroom and Madeira jus. Dutch beef with asparagus. Apple tarte tatin with basil ice cream. Only five courses. Eyes bulging.

I’ve never eaten Chicken of the Woods, to be honest, I didn’t know it was edible. The texture of chicken, but it’s a mushroom – some sylvan trickery right there. It used to grow from a tree trunk in our garden, and when it looked ripe to spore I would walk past with my breath held, just in case. Had I known it would make a delicious dinner I would have gone at it with a knife and fork.

I realised that I really was living the dream when I reached my hotel room and found a wheel of cheese, a packet of stroop waffles, and an informative cheese factsheet on my bed.

We stayed at the Best Western Plus City Hotel Gouda, next to the former gas and light factory, with the river in front. Lining the corridors, outside each room, was a large photograph of a local scene. I thought mine was of a toilet. Turns out it was actually a basin from the 17th Century fish market. And those sedatives on my bed? Complimentary mints.

My peaceful slumber was interspersed with mushroom night sweats and dreams of yellow gold. Should have had those mints.


We walked through the city, taking in the grachts (not canals!) and making our way, via a small house with a panther-like cat called Freddie, to the Kamphuisen siroop wafel factory.

Through a hidden door in a room at the back of the shop, we discovered the factory.

Climbing the spiral staircase, we watched the conveyor belt from above. Double baked waffles with sticky caramel syrup clip-clopped their way past below. Downstairs we could collect a hot, fresh waffle. There was a slide to take you straight to them.

Throwing myself down a chute in a food factory has never seemed quite sensible to me, (I’ve seen Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) so I took the stairs.

The smell of warm waffle wafted.

In the centre of Gouda, opposite the magnificent Town Hall, is De Goudse Waag. What was once the Weigh House for all the cheese of Gouda, is now a centre for cheese tasting, cheese buying, and cheese museum-ing (You’re right, I didn’t think that one through).

We rummaged round the museum, marvelling at the frames full of fascinating (and often quite amusing) cheese labels, and ate cheeses of different ages – young cheeses just four weeks old, and old cheese that had been matured for two years or more. Good cheese. None of that springy rubbery supermarket stuff you might have been misled to believe was Dutch cheese.


Cheese Valley is a small region in an area known as the Green Heart of Holland, covering four towns and cities, each with its own cheese history and traditions. Bodegraven-Reeuwijk, Gouda, Krimpenerwaard, and Woerden.

They call their Gouda cheese ‘yellow gold’. For centuries these cheeses were made in the region and traded in Gouda city. Not made there, just traded there.

In and out of the courtyards of the hofjes, peering in windows at beautiful homes, finding cats and roses. Maybe this story should have been entitled ‘Cats and Cheese’? In fact, I’d be happy to dedicate an entire website to that, or my life.

Leaving Gouda we drove alongside the green covered canal, a crow flew, same speed, beside my window for a while. It was magic. Gliding past neat houses and lush fields, Grandmaster Flash, it’s like a jungle sometimes, playing quietly on the radio.


We squeezed through the narrow streets and arrived at De Munt, a restaurant located in an old bank in Bodegraven. We were welcomed with plates of local cheese, served traditionally with mustard, and trays of drinks. At first, I thought we would need to choose a drink each, but no, all five glasses were for me. Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, a couple of different Leffe beers and a very grapefruity double beer from the local brewery, de Molen.


Then came the fondue. I’ve never had fondue before, ever.

Everything was local, top quality, easy to source, and delicious to eat. Goose with strawberries and raspberry vinegar. Crayfish with local beef. Beef with tomato and herbs. Chips with truffle mayo. Cheese fondue and bread. I repeat, cheese fondue and bread!

Gratefully clutching cones of award-winning full-fat vanilla ice cream in hand, we continued on to the brewery (what kind of dream world is this that I am living in?)

Brouwerij de Molen is one of the top 100 breweries in the world (and number one in The Netherlands) making 20 regular craft beers, and over 1000 variations – they like to experiment, and they’re good at it!

Back on the road, and a short trip down narrow lanes with steep banks dropping away, down to the dykes and the fields, goats and cows, we arrived at De Twee Hoeven.


Milking 180 cows each day, this fourth-generation farm produces 150,000 kilos of cheese every year. We toured the farm, saw the cheese making facilities, the big salt water baths that the cheeses are dropped into, the stores and then, the cows. It was coming up to 5pm and the ladies were wandering in from the fields for milking time. Everything was immaculately clean, spacious and genuinely top-notch, but I couldn’t help but think it was like a cattle work camp, with the best conditions though, and how horrible some dairy farming methods are in other parts of the world.

A cow licked my elbow and I thought my day was made, until I discovered a pile of cats, and had my second fondue of the day. Second fondue of my life. The dream!


Making room for more food, which is not so hard to do when it’s delicious (and I do think all the good cheese acted as a digestif) we spent the evening at De Florijn in Nieuwerbrug, on the Rhine.

The restaurant has been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand for nine years in a row. Chef Brenda de Graaf greeted us with a delicious, and in many ways, rather unusual, menu.

Broad beans with egg yolk and courgette. Local beef with caper berry and sunflower seeds. Asparagus panna cotta with tarragon meringue, apple and watercress. Turnip top soup with tomato. Lamb with white asparagus and peas. And a dessert of rhubarb – sorbet, ice cream, mousse, macaron.

I don’t think I’ve had a savoury panna cotta before, certainly not with asparagus and meringue. On the first mouthful I was disturbed – my brain knew the consistency and said it should be sweet, not savoury. I persisted, my brain learnt something new.

Everything was great, but the dessert was greatest.

When I woke up it was Grass Cheese Day.

Excited, I rushed down to meet the others. After a short walk around Woerden, taking in the Mill de Windhond (windhond means greyhound) with it’s paper bags of pancake flour for sale, and the 100 year old Reypenaer cheese warehouse, on our way, we arrived at the Cheese Experience Centre.

We were greeted by the mayor of Woerden and watched a film about cheese. Grass Cheese Day is all about celebrating the start of a new cheese season. In the spring the cows are let out into the lush green meadows to feed on the fresh grass, the first cheese made with this milk is the Grass Cheese.

Woerden’s first farmers market was held in 1410 and is famous for its regional products. The cheeses arrive on tractors, and on Grass Cheese Day, the dignitaries and visitors arrive in horse drawn carriages.

Climbing up into a traditional carriage, drawn by two horses, we became cheese guests on parade. Through the streets, behind the band, waving at passers-by and cheering children, a line of carriages behind us, and somewhere, a massive 150 kilo cheese to be auctioned off for charity.


Four men wrestled the cheese beast onto the stage, the crowd went wild, press camera-flashes firing, the band playing on. There was even a special cheese song. Someone told me the lyrics said ‘on your breast, cheese tastes best on your breast’. I’ve google translated it. Bread not breast.

“The cheese the cheese, everything is smooth
Nothing is better on your bread
He is keen on big people
Everyone praises the cheese on the cheese
Hooray, you are full fat”

There was also something about a magic wand taking care of the peasant women, but I forget. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life, and I just went with it, embraced it, and thought about the cheese, and the waffles.


I was watching the auction (and managing to keep my arms from flailing high in biding motion), the show, the old-fashioned traditions, the heritage, costumes and community. Apart from a few signs of modernity (like the camera in my hand) this could have been any year, any era.

A familiarly sweet smell wafted in the air, I looked round, Joel appeared behind me, can of Red Bull in hand. ‘Supermarket,’ he said, shrugging his shoulders. Illusion broken, we wandered the market stalls, rows of cheeses and smiling faces. A bull having its bottom washed, a man making clogs. My cheese allowance didn’t quite reach to the €15,200 of the charity mega cheese, but Joel lent me five euros for some ginger cheese and I was content.

We ate a quick lunch in Van Rossum, a converted arsenaal, now a hotel with a welcoming and relaxed bar and restaurant – open kitchen, big oak beams and excellent decor. Salad with roasted carrots and Blue de Grave cheese. Perfect entrecote. Gutted I had to leave before the strawberry madeleines came out.


I rushed to my train, and it seemed like it was no time at all before I was sitting  on the flight home, the woman next to me chatting away, drinking her own bottle of pink wine and talking me through her bag-full of sweet smelling roses from the Amsterdam flower markets.

All I could wonder was, when the alarm goes off in the morning, will it be Grass Cheese Day all over again?

With the greatest thanks to Visit Holland and Cheese Valley for making this trip possible. As always, my opinions are my own (and my ability to eat cheese is unsurpassed).

Foodie Finds: TOZI Italian Restaurant, London

You might already know, I like my dinners. I like flavours and colours and thoughtfulness. I like chips with condiments. I also like biscuits. I don’t like peas. Every month I write a feature called Foodie Finds for Surf4. It’s a mixture of all things food, that I’ve found… genius.

I try to share a bit of everything – eating out, new products, old favourites,  cookware, tableware, kitchen gadgets and anything else that takes my fancy (ideally chocolates, every month). I thought it was about time I shared some of these delights with you, here, starting with this lovely Italian find from February.

Off the beaten track, but only moments away from London’s Victoria Station, is TOZI. A Venetian Italian restaurant, offering comfort, good service, and delicious cicchetti (tapas-style) food.

Make sure you’ve got enough time to settle in and enjoy each dish as it comes. The menu is quite large, and there’s something for every taste. Our waitress recommended we choose 3-4 dishes each, and that was more than enough for a long lunch.

Favourites from the menu include the coated cauliflower with truffle mayo (most probably the best thing to happen to a cauliflower), Buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle, and the 31 day aged rib of beef with rosemary and garlic.

I couldn’t fault a thing. The food was absolutely delicious and the service was spot on – friendly and helpful, but not too intrusive.

I’m looking forward to going back and treating the menu like an i-SPY book – ticking each item off as I go!

TOZI 8 Gillingham Street, London, SW1V 1HJ

We were guests of TOZI and lunch was complimentary.  As always my opinions and ability to eat are my own.

The Netherlands – 2 Nights & 100 Years of Dutch Design (1/2)

I left Adam at the airport. I was off to Amsterdam, he was off to Oslo. Our flights were due to leave within 10 minutes of each other. I wondered how this life had happened to us.

‘What are you visiting for?’ asked the man at passport control. I hesitated. ‘Business?’ I answered questioningly. I had to explain. How can you call it work when you know it is going to be so much fun? He said it was good that he’d asked, and that I answered, because it gave me a chance to think about how lucky I was, and that I would surely enjoy my trip even more. I had to agree (and not just because he had hold of my passport).

I met up with Simone, we waited for the others, stocking up on all the bananas and mars bars (balanced diet), before getting the train to Ede.

The neighbourhood appeared sleepy; thatched cottages and tidy gardens. Someone had a Porsche. Across the road the neon glow of the Reehorst Hotel lured us like a Las Vegas show. Pink neon lights, multi-coloured chandeliers, red velvet curtains, gin.

The rooms were fitted out like modern day caravans, all MDF and crystal lights. Satin fabric covered walls and a wave of purple brocade wrapped it’s way around the bed. I slept well.

After breakfast, an investigation of carpets for my growing collection, and a lot of pointing at strangely scaled ‘object d’art’ we headed off to the Kroller Muller Museum, in the Hoge Veluwe National Park.

We drove up to the museum, through tall trees and fallen branches with the promise of wild boar and deer wandering free. ‘I’m totally getting a wild boar!’ I exclaimed, perhaps too eagerly.

In 1909 Anton and Helene Kroller-Muller, with the dream of bringing art and nature together, began to gradually buy plots of land, stitching them together to create 5400 hectares of magic. In the centre of this, nestled perfectly amongst the trees and undulating earth, the most beautifully fitting low-line buildings, and art, so much art. I can’t imagine many better things, than to be surrounded by trees and sculpture.

I don’t think you could ever see all of the collection and give it the time it deserves. Over 20,000 pieces of art, including over 150 sculptures – Jean Arp, Herman de Vries, Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world.

I was amazed at how close I could get to the paintings. No wire ropes, no one telling me off. No, I didn’t touch anything! I’m not a huge Van Gogh fan (don’t hate me!) but I can appreciate the work – the texture, the flow of motion in the marks.

For me, a piece of kinetic sculpture by George Rickey was the dream to behold. L’s – One up one down eccentric II caught my eye and held my gaze. Never wanting the two metal forms to clash, watching to see if their full dance could be performed without the two parts touching. Fascinating. (You can see it in action on my Instagram, here.)

We ate our lunch outside, under the cover of a marquee that made the light glow and framed Barbara Hepworth’s and a Herman de Vries perfectly through it’s ropes and poles.

Then it was our chance to preview the exhibition, Jean Arp: The Poetry of Forms. I’d been waiting for this for weeks, to see sculptures, reliefs, works on paper, poetry, writings and publications from one of the most innovative and influential artists of the European avant-garde… Jean (Hans) Arp.

I turned the corner and nearly cried. Something about the perfection in form, the tone, the feeling – it just resonated with me. Such beautiful works, and titles too – ‘Milky Way Tears’ and ‘Sculpture to be Lost in the Forest’. This then, the perfect setting.

Jean Arp’s work is stunning. I was especially drawn to the woodcuts on Japon Nacre with their playful shapes and perfect palette.

The sculptures were harder to see. The glass cases, built purposefully to house each piece for protection, cast straight line shadows and dull reflections on the perfect curves and tactile flowing forms. I couldn’t see enough, couldn’t get close enough, not this time.

I didn’t get a glimpse (or a cuddle) of a wild boar either.

Outside in the bright light and sunshine, we stepped onto a blue and yellow coach from the 1980s and were transported via the 1920s modern building of Arco (they make tables) to Villa Mondriaan in Winterswijk.

We ate little cakes and drank lemon tea before taking the tour of the house. Piet Mondriaan lived here from age eight to twenty. We saw the Figuration in Style exhibition, a brilliantly presented exposition of works by artists including Piet Mondriaan, Theo van Doesburg, Bart van der Leck and Vilmos Huszár. All pioneers of De Stijl, the movement they founded 100 years ago that is still inspiring people today.

Also at the Villa, an exhibition of modern ceramics, Cor Unum, in the Arco Pavilion. Some stunning and fascinating design. ‘What is this?’ one man kept asking me. It was this… I couldn’t tell him!

Back onto the time-travelling coach, we headed off down a slim avenue of tall straight trees to Strandlodge. This close-to-nature restaurant boasts a Michelin star (except chef Mike Vrijdags doesn’t shout about it. Apparently people of this region are known for their modesty) and sits beside its own beach and lido, amongst the trees.

The Strandlodge motto is ‘think global, eat local’. I was totally willing to partake in this attitude, I ate the closest thing I could reach. Cured ham with creamy smooth truffle and egg yolk. Followed shortly by a veal tartar lolly pop with wasabi and sesame seeds.

We ate the most delicious dinner in great company, and as the sun set beyond the trees our next stop called to us. Bed.

With the greatest thanks to the wonderful people of Visit Holland for hosting me in their beautiful country. 

What I Wore to British Pie Weekend

When the invite dropped into my inbox I couldn’t believe it – was this really for me? Perhaps there’d been a mistake somewhere? Of course, I’d have to put an outfit together.

I thought about wearing a fancy frock, or a specially made outfit… was theming going too far?

In the end I opted for the classic pie weekend look – dark glasses and an elasticated waistband.

We arrived fashionably late (there had been a mix up with our booking) clutching knife and fork in hand. Everything felt so ‘British’ – Rolls Royces lined up outside (there was a wedding show going on next door) and a gentle drizzle began to fall. I’ll admit now to coming away with a full belly and a rash, and skirt over this later.

We were ushered to our seats, ready for three courses of pie. Pie, pie and more pie. First up, pork pie. Then a pie that wasn’t a pie – so avant-garde. You can see it in my polaroid pictures. A jaunty cobbler with seasonal vegetables. On trend.

Pudding time: pecan pie – game changer, peach pie – rash maker.

I didn’t get any outfit photos as my Go Pro, Olympus Pen and Instamax were all out of battery (and I had gravy in my hair).

No sooner had we begun than we had finished. They say that time flies when you are having fun, also, I am a fast eater.

Style notes:

Blackbird brooch: Rachel Jackson, The Museum (gift)
Beret: Cheap tat from eBay.
Sunglasses: Marni ME102S in brown and black, from Shade Station. (gift)
Watch: The Williamsburg, from Wanderlust Watches. (gift)
Tote bag / Card holder / Pouch: All Hills and West. (gift)
Shirt dress: Uniqlo.
Cutlery and ability to overeat: models own (gift)

Did you see me at London Fashion Week? Get the goss here.


Thank you to Squires Restaurant at Bedford Lodge Hotel for the lovely lunch invitation. As always my opinions and ability to eat are my own.