Back amid the city’s historic canals, former film and television art director Alexander Six flaunts his flair for cinematic style and meticulous attention to detail at Six & Sons, the eye-catching concept store he opened last December. From taxidermied animals and gumball machines to archery supplies, wearable sleeping bags, and sophisticated unmentionables from Dutch lingerie brand LoveStories, the mise-en-scène here is a winsome collage of vintage and handcrafted goods presented like pop-up art installations. Don’t be fooled by the intricate nature of the displays—everything here is for sale, including all the furnishings in the second-floor café. “It’s nice to see how a piece of furniture can look in a real environment,” Six says. “I’ve been telling visual stories for more than 10 years, and now I tell stories in the shop. It’s a little hard to describe—we are just a little department store selling beautiful and unique products.”
Taking the spare approach favored at Butcher’s Tears and Staring at Jacob to an extreme is Vera van Stapele, the twentysome- thing owner and head baker at Van Stapele Koekmakerij. A psychology graduate with no baking experience, van Stapele found herself obsessing over a chocolate-chip cookie she tasted while vacationing in London, so she decided to re-create and improve it. Five months of baking experiments and countless batches of cookies later, she taste-tested the winning recipe on friends and family, quit her job, and last winter set up shop in a small space previously occupied by an antiques store.
On the menu? Artisanal loose-leaf Kusmi Tea, organic coffees from Amsterdam-based importer Trabocca, van Stapele’s cookie—and that’s it.
“I really liked the concept of a store with just one thing,” she says. “If I had two ice cream shops in front of me, and one was selling one kind of flavor and the other was selling 20 flavors, I would always go to the shop with one flavor because I would think that it must be a very good one.”
Baked for exactly nine minutes and cooled for no less than15, her signature cookie is an ambrosial blend of dark, delicately crisped Valrhona chocolate dough enshrouding a creamy white-chocolate center. Van Stapele calls it “the world’s tastiest chocolate cookie,” and it’s hard to disagree. She’s already baking more than 350 cookies during busy days, with some orders packaged in cute, handcrafted gift boxes shaped like Amsterdam’s old canal houses.
Van Stapele also gutted and renovated the shop herself. The result, with its handmade wooden appointments, vintage crystal chandeliers, lazy-Sunday-afternoon jazz soundtrack, and toasty scent of baking cookies, is the convivial embodiment of gezelligheid, a Dutch term for what you might translate as a state of complete coziness. And in Amsterdam, be it at home or around town, gezelligheid is a guiding principle—that much will never change.
Butcher’s Tears (45 Karperweg; 31-65/390-9777)
Staring at Jacob (215 Jacob van Lennepkade; 31-20/223-7498)
Six & Sons (31 Haarlemmerdijk; 31-20/ 233-0092)
Van Stapele Koekmakerij (Heisteeg 4, 31-65/424-1497)
As for where to stay, consider The Dylan (384 Keizersgracht; 31-20/ 530–2010; doubles from US$360). Set in the heart of Amsterdam’s 17th-century city center, it has an ideal canal-side address, 40 stylish rooms and suites, a pleasant courtyard garden, and a Michelin-starred French restaurant, Vinkeles.
This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Dutch Touch”)