Last week we visited The Dutch Epicure Shop Bakery in Connecticut, one of nearly 50 Dutch restaurants, bakeries and stores in the United States that we know of.
The Dutch Epicure Shop Bakery is a Dutch bakery and grocery store in Litchfield, Connecticut. It’s located on a small strip mall on highway 202, about 45 minutes east of Hartford, the state’s capital.
The store was founded by a Dutch baker in 1967 and a few years later purchased by Wolfgang and Betsy Joas. Mr. Joas, an German-born pastry chef and Mrs. Joas, a Dutch national from Diemen, the Netherlands, met on a ship of the Holland-American Line and started a Dutch-German-American family and store. Eight years ago their daughter Wilma, who is trained as a chef at the Culinary Institute of America, took over the business and continued the tradition of friendly service and high quality products. Her mother Betsy still assists in the store and the ordering.
A friendly Dutch bakery
Over the years the family built up a successful bakery and grocery store with a loyal following, in Litchfield and far around it. “There’s only one other Dutch family in Litchfield”, Mrs. Joas explains, “but we receive Dutch customers from all over the Tri-State Region, coming as far away as Boston and New Jersey”. About 20% of the customers is Dutch — the store is also the bakery for the local community.
Popular items from the bakery are the bitterkoekjes and Amsterdams krentenbrood (baked on Fridays and Saturdays). They sell out quickly — “the people know about it and show up early!”
During the holidays Wilma bakes banketstaven and other traditional goods. Dutch cookies year-round include speculaas, hoefjes and bokkenpootjes. We can vouch for the Almond bitterkoekjes (of which we received a free sample) and the quality of the Dutch-style bread.
Customers are received with happy smiles and service in either English, German or Dutch.
Wilma and Betsy repeatedly warned your correspondent that “the store is empty because of our upcoming vacation”, but the shelves were still overflowing. The store closes each year for a few weeks in February to allow a vacation break. Wilma was born in the United States but learned Dutch from her mother and speaks Dutch fluently — something her mother is proud of.
The biggest selling item are the Dutch cheeses in many varieties and are available for a sample — “Ik zal hem even laten proeven because hij is zo lekker”. The store carries a large supply of Indonesian spices and condiments, including the Dutch Conimex brand. The store has about 30 varieties of drop, Dutch licorice.
The store combines German and Dutch influences, a nougat and strudel are joined with beschuit and Delft Blauw on the shelves. Mrs. Joas mother frequently visits the Netherlands to stay up-to-date on trends and new styles in food. Frozen herring is supplied by Vishandel de Otter from Den Haag (www.vishandeldeotter.nl) and the store carries gele vla and chocolade vla.
The Dutch Epicure Shop Bakery
491 Bantam Rd.
Litchfield, CT, 6759
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