Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New King Mandarin Cuisine, Amsterdam

I was really very pleased with my recent meal in New King chinese restaurant in Amsterdam. It's nicely decorated, and I just had the feeling that I was in a place that valued style over substance. However, I was proved wrong by the food. I chose duck hoi-sin pancakes while himself had the shrimp dumpling soup. The soup was a clear, lightly-flavoured broth with lots of choi, with several large dumplings filled with juicy prawns, flavoured with sesame oil. The duck pancakes did not feature the usual thin paper pastry, but instead came pre-assembled in thick, freshly-fried, slight sweet pancakes. Fantastic start.

I chose the mixed meat plate for my main which featured roast duck, chopped on the bone, along with char siu pork and roasted pork. The char siu was exceptional, with a lovely carmelised texture. His dish of beef with morning glory featured a whole heap of wilted greens and tender meat. 

Two glasses of wine, 3 small beers, 2 starters and 2 mains came to an exceptionally good value total of €50.

New King, Zeedijk 115-117, Amsterdam 1012 AV, The Netherlands. +31 (0)20 625 2180

Monday, May 24, 2010

Creative Composition - Harold Davis

I'm a pretty keen amateur photographer and I'm always on the lookout for great photos and descriptions of how those shots were acheived. I hope that by studying and thinking about great shots, I can improve my own style and become more original and creative. Therefore I was really looking forward to receiving this book as part of the Amazon Vine programme.

This book breaks down into 2 parts - the first part deals with the basics of modern photography such as aperture, focus and ISO, while the second part deals more with composition. The book features many photos taken by the author, but the print quality of the book removed the impact from a lot of the photos. Print quality aside, I found myself looking at many of the shots and feeling uninspired - I simply didn't consider some of them to be good photos. However, that's a matter of subjectivity, so let's leave that aside for now.

I'm also unsure as to the proposed audience for this book - it's published by John Wiley & Sons, a famous textbook publisher, but it's not detailed enough to be a textbook for the serious photographer. On the other hand, the material is a little too advanced to be suitable for the beginning photographer.

There's no doubt that the author, Harold Davis, is an enthusiastic photographer, that much is evident from the text. However, I really think that this book could have benefited from a bit more focus (no pun intended) when in the development stage

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Stoop & Stoop Eetcafe - Amsterdam

Stoop & Stoop is a very typical Dutch eetcafe, located off Leidsestraat, in the centre of Amsterdam. Eetcafes are a cross between pubs and restaurants and often serve straightforward food - in Stoop & Stoop, I enjoyed a fantastic rib eye steak served with garlic butter and accompanied with salad and fries.  Total cost along with a glass of house white wine was E19.10. Well recommended for any visitors to the city.

Stoop & Stoop, Lange leidsedwarsstraat 82, Amsterdam 1017 NM. +31 (0)20 6200 982

No One Would Listen - Harry Markopolos

Bernie Madoff has gone down in the history as the man behind the world's largest known Ponzi scheme. When his scheme collapsed following the market crisis of 2008, hundreds of investors lost their savings with the total loss estimated at being in excess of $50 billion. 

The truly shocking part of this story is that this terrible loss could have been mitigated - if the Securities Exchange Commission had heeded the warnings of Harry Markopolos. In the years preceding the collapse, Markopolos had filed no fewer than 5 complaints against Madoff, all of which had been lost or ignored by the SEC watchdog. It is tragic to read of Markopolos' repeated efforts to bring this to the attention of the authorities and the mind boggles at how all these red flags could have been ignored.

Markopolos does tell an intriguing and well-written story. However, I must admit that it is rare to read a book where I've actively disliked the author. Markopolos has a strong character (stubbornness is especially obvious) and I can see how individuals in authority might have taken a dislike to this man. But when fraud on such a massive scale is being alleged, personal likes and dislikes should not come into the picture.

Markopolos' revelations led to him testifying in front of government and has triggered a review of staffing and procedures at the SEC. His work has led to significant change and it cannot be underestimated. Read this story and marvel at a tale of ineptitude and dedication.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Apothecary's House - Adrian Mathews

The Apothecary's House is a story set in wintery Amsterdam, with a story which stretches back over 250 years. Ruth Braams is a solitary art-historian working on processing claims on artwork stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands. One day while working at the Rijksmuseum, she meets the elderly, and possibly dotty Lydia who has registered a claim on an odd little painting. However, an opposing claim has also been registered and soon Ruth finds herself being drawn into a dark and dangerous adventure.

Matthews has really captured the essence of the city of Amsterdam in this novel - from the foggy mornings to the frozen canals. He has also done an impressive amount of research, stretching from 18th century Amsterdam right through to the goings-on in Nazi-occupied Holland. 

However, the novel is lengthy (700 pages) and this does detract from what could be a decent and interesting art history mystery. The twist and revelation is good, but is overwhelmed by overuse of arcane writing.
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