FORT MYERS — It seems like an odd combination: America's pastime and Dutch delights. But these days at JetBlue Park, almost as many baseball fans are holding Stroopwafel's (caramel filled wafer cookies) as super nachos.
When most Americans think of concessions at a game it is usually hot dogs and cheeseburgers that come to mind.
However, there is a new vendor at Fenway South, and at any given Boston Red Sox spring training game, the line to get a taste of Poffers at Dutchkinz is as long as the line to get beer.
Sebastian Hermans, owner and CEO of Dutchkinz, conceptualized bringing traditional Dutch foods made from scratch to Southwest Florida. He said he never had any doubt that the baseball crowd would embrace his food.
"Initially, of course, people were not aware our product, so we had to give away a lot of samples and educate people about the food," said Hermans. "But as more and more people have tried our delights, low and behold, they love them."
One item on the menu that is quickly becoming a fan favorite is the Dog 'of Poffers. It is a juicy hot dog with a Poffer Pancake (batter with powdered sugar and butter) as a bun and is topped with a drizzle of maple glaze.
"They're catching on," Hermans said. "People say 'What? You put a hot dog in a Poffer Pancake, how is that any good?' But then they try it and they think it is awesome."
Anthony Nardone, who is a longtime Red Sox fan and is visiting family in Naples, gave his opinion of the Dog 'of Poffers.
"It's delicious. I'm not sure why I ordered it, it just sounded interesting," said Nardone. "I thought 'I'm going to love this or hate it.' I loved it. I live just outside of Boston, been to Fenway many times, and I think these guys would do great up there."
Hermans has already considered the idea.
"We would love to go from Fenway South to Fenway North," he said. "We should probably keep our feet on the ground, but you never know. Maybe they'll send us an invitation."
Dutchkinz is a young company; Hermans started it in January 2010 and it was first located the Big Cypress Marketplace, a flea market along U.S. 41 East, east of Collier Boulevard, that's now closed. Dutchkinz now operates as a mobile operation along with its JetBlue Park location.
Hermans approached JetBlue Park officials and Aramark, which is the concession company at the park, this winter and provided a presentation. Dutchkinz is one of four local companies selling food in the park.
"We have this beautiful park in our backyard and we wanted to be a part of that, so I sent them some nice presentations," Hermans said.
"I think they fell in love with it on the spot. To be invited as a small, local, startup company should tell you something about how good the product is."
Hermans was born and raised in the Netherlands. It was there that he met his American wife and they soon moved to Florida. He has had traveled all over the world as a diving instructor and also worked as a real estate agent in Bonita Springs. When the recession hit in 2008, Hermans decided he would pursue his passion of creating Dutch delights.
"I was flying home to Europe and it just hit me," he said. "You can enjoy delights anywhere in the Netherlands. A lot of people pack their bags with these each day before they go home. Why not have it here?"
Though his food has some influence from his family recipes, Hermans says he is a self-taught chef who learned some of the recipes from family.
"My wife asks me to whip things up, so I just open up the refrigerator and start working. It took me over a year to perfect our batter," said Hermans. "You can't find it anywhere else right now."
Hermans said it is usually around the third inning that fans in the ballpark start getting a sweet tooth and start lining up at Dutchkinz. The most popular item at right now is the Apple Poffers, which are bite-size with fresh Fuji apple in vanilla batter, dressed with butter and powdered sugar.
"When people bit into them, they are biting into my mission statement," said Hermans. "The description I give them is bite-size smiles for the whole family to enjoy."
Hermans said bringing a touch of Europe to Fenway South has only been positive for the company.
"I like celebrating the magic of family," said Hermans. "People go out to a ballgame to have fun, and we like being a part of that nostalgic moment. Maybe months or years later, someone in the family will say 'remember that day at JetBlue Park' and we want to be part of making that a good memory."