Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, October 22nd, 2017

Cocktails, from classic to creative

We, and when I say we I mean the team of Island Temptations Magazine, launched the Bartender Brawl three years ago, with the desire to promote excellence and creativity in bartending. Apparently, it was a good strategy, because craft-cocktails have been added to many bar menus, reaching beyond classic preparations to also included herbs and vegetables, besides fruit, juices, and bitters.

We have been writing and documenting those creative efforts, in Island Temptations Magazine, for the past 15 years.

The recent 3rd edition of the Bartenders’ Brawl unfolded at the Renaissance Ocean Suites beachfront, on Saturday night. It crowned two talented mixologists Yanis Garcia, with Mad Magdalena, as the Judges’ Champion and Nelson Molina with Tropical Shades of Grey, as the People’s Choice Champion.

The Mad Magdalena had a lot going for it, the judges admired the combination of salty, sweet and peppery, and praised the great balance it achieved. Apparently BALANCE is to craft cocktails what SYNERGY is to a marriage. The cocktail had a Tequila Corazon and Cointreau base, flavored with muddled cucumber, Jalapeno syrup, lime juice, grapefruit, served with a ring of sugar, Himalayan pink salt and chipotle.

Congratulations Pepia Est, for creating a great cocktail, we hope to see it show up on drink menus around the island, perhaps at Azia restaurant & Lounge where Yanis works. Yanis got in touch with me in July, and volunteered for the contest. Perhaps he had a hunch he’d win, if he applied. Finally he got hitched with Pepia East, resulting in a successful partnership.

Tropical Shades of Grey, was a complex drink with VSOP Cognac, butterscotch and passion fruit garnished beautifully with a candy surprise on top. Bartender Nelson Molina who works at the Renaissance Blue Bar, competed on behalf of Tropical Bottling, purveyors of Grey Goose. He landed the Peoples’ Choice trophy, voted by participants as the best for the night.

In total, the Bartenders’ Brawl 2017 showcased 7 competitors; the 8thpurveyor/bartender team, Playa Trading bowed out last minute, they promised however to show up next year, and I am planning to hold them up to their promise.

Manrique Capriles Aruba, importers of Lolea sparkling wines, from Spain, received generous compliments from the professional panel of judges for coming up with a sophisticated, tasty, wine cooler, a perfect brunch or Sunday afternoon treat, called Lolea Sparkling Rose Cocktail. Stylish bartender Juan Camilo Gomez, on the team at the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, created an excellent libation, with fresh watermelon, a drink that deserves being featured on the local brunch scene from now on to eternity. Kudos to Cristine Hintz Assistant General Manager, Manrique Capriles, for being a good sport and throwing herself into the food & beverage arena fearlessly!

Arion Wine Company introduced the only female bartender, Carmen Hurtado, working at the Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. She presented an elegant, martini style drink, made with organic wines and essences, carried by Arion Wine Company. Big on smiles, and colorful displays, Carmen’s stand at the brawl was very popular. The general manager of her resort, Edgar Roelofs, and his wife, bought tickets to the event, providing total support and encouragement.

Divino NV with Bartender José Mestanza, the manager of BLT at The Ritz Carlton, took great risks by mixing goat cheese into their craft cocktail; the concoction was well liked, flavored with watermelon!  Jose’s bar hand, Danovick v/d Linden, is an experienced craft-cocktail mixologist, and can be found at the Divi Bar at The Ritz Carlton.

The Aruba Trading Company was also in a risk taking mood with bartender Giovanny Tromp from the lobby bar of the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino, a second time competitor, basing their delicious pistachio and toasted coconut cocktail on Hennessy cognac. The cocktail was gorgeous and yummy, practically dessert, served with a leafy spoon to scoop up the creamy top, which Giovanni  caramelized, a la minute, with a mini blow torch.  Nice touch.

La Cava contributed greatly to the success of the event, first and foremost with an elegant performer/bartender, Johan Luque, who works at Azia Restaurant & Lounge. The cocktail they presented was based on Ron Diplomatico, from Venezuela, “one of the best rums in the world, with a unique rum-making style that combines Hispanic, American and British distillation traditions.” Diplomatico is new to the island but is gathering recognition fast, as an excellent sipping and mixing rum.

The company also showcased celebrity bartender Cesar Diaz, from Venezuela, as a guest star at the event. Cesar also conducted a few seminars on the island while here and happily posed for photographs with  Maite Delgado former Miss Venezuela candidate, and TV star, whose husband Alfonso Mora is a former professional tennis champion, and the co-owner of La Cava.

Thank you to the professional panel of judges Tina Bislick, creative editor of Island Temptations magazine, professional event planner, Barbecue Grill Master and craft-cocktail whiz;  AJ Tromp, Owner Operator of Private Bartending Aruba, Ashley Tromp, an experienced bartender, who works at Private Bartending Aruba, and musician, connoisseur, marketing virtuoso Jairo Boekhoudt.

The event team of Renaissance set up a gorgeous arena at the edge of the water, with delicious food stations, and cool lounge music. The weather was perfect. What more do you need? Great cocktails, sand under toes, clear skies up above and beautiful people.

An audience with the Island’s Governor

I enjoyed an audience with the island’s Governor last week. It was a memorable experience, visiting his headquarters in town, across Fort Zoutman.

Occupying the highest office in the land for less than one year, I already met Governor Alfonso Boekhoudt on several informal occasions, once as a volunteer at a nursing home, and once as an invitee of a local designer’s fashion show. Encouraged by his openness and accessibility, I asked his office staff for an audience in order to present him with my book, Island Life, published in March.

Imagine mid coalition talks, the Governor graciously made time for me and publisher Karin Swiers. We sipped coffee; I enjoyed the cookie, made even tastier by candid conversation.

The official agenda got out of the way at the beginning of the audience, as we posed under the picture of the Dutch king, Willem-Alexander, and I handed the governor my book, a compilation of articles from yesteryears, many of which are still relevant, others nostalgic and documentary. The picture will appear on https://www.facebook.com/Gouverneur.vanAruba/, once the Governor’s Aide-de-Camp gets around to posting it. Aide-De-Camp B.F. Breitenstein, a Lieutenant in the Royal Netherlands Navy, was also the helpful photographer.

We sat down at the conference table, the same one used for coalition talks, I described the process of writing and how the book came about and Karin then added her flowery account of its content.

True to my journalistic nature, I secured permission to ask a few questions next, and was rewarded with genuinely heartfelt answers. My eyes almost welled up a few times, especially when the Governor talked about his children and the emotional price they paid, following an unfortunate political mud-slinging period, at the wake of his nomination. But we quickly moved on to other subjects, living in the now, coming to terms with the past, viewing that chapter as a mere test to the Governor’s resolve to serve his country.

What the Governor said:

He said he is motivated by the need to be himself, in order to bring authenticity to the island’s highest ranking job, as he works for his island out of a great sense of duty.

Quoting Shakespeare’s famous line from Hamlet, to thine own self be true, he further explained, “You don’t turn down this kind of a job offer.” Then he added, ”You don’t say, no, I don’t think, I might be busy elsewhere, with other projects, when the king of the Netherlands comes calling.”

And while he was not sure he will be the chosen one, he answered the call of his destiny, honored, with the firm belief it was meant to be.

The nomination process was testing, he admitted, and the fact that his candidacy prevailed, proved to him and his family that the Governor’s office was his calling, for possibly the next 12 years.

As the head of the government here,  he takes the formation of a stable, long term  government for the island,  very seriously, and while much of his time is dedicated to state affairs he makes sure to encourage athletes, writers, NGO’s, and conservationists, allowing space in his agenda for the humanities.

As a father of nine, ranging in age from 8 to 24 he is proud of the six living in Aruba, and three studying in the Netherlands.

On a person note, it is good to acknowledge that our first family has 2 foster-kids from Jamaica, and that the first lady cooks a family meal every day. The Governor also reports he likes, time permitting, to do his share of driving the kids around to their late afternoon activities. His daughter, a student in the law faculty of EU, moved out to live on her own, wishing to downplay her status as the Governor’s daughter, trying to blend in with her peers, as much as she can.

The Blue Mansion? It’s just too small, with two bedrooms, and some public spaces, and while the Boekhoudts are living in Noord at the moment, the family will eventually be moving into a more spacious residence.

Not surprisingly, as the former director of the Aruba Ports Authority, the Governor maintains strong emotional ties with APA, and he likes to continue watching over his former baby, and shows interest in the future development of the Oranjestad Harbor.

As a private citizen he is very involved with the Red Cross, and keeps informed as to the situation on neighboring islands, following the devastating recent storms. The Red Cross is very dear to his heart, he shares, having spent time as its director.

Predictably, the Aide-De Camp walked into the room, it was time to go, the audience came to an end, and I turned to Karin to announce that the country is in real good hands, and we can go on with our carefree lives under the protection of a benevolent, perfectly prepared Father of a Nation.

We also enjoyed the quiet and intelligent contributions of cabinet director Rajen Budhu Lall, to our conversation. I think the Governor is in good hands there too.

Oil, black gold, dirty and destructive

On Monday, October 16, 2017, a media release announced that an oil spill took place on Sunday, October 15th, in Chaguaramas, Trinidad.

If you look at the map, the spill location is a bay, north-west of Port of Spain, the Bay of Paria. The bay, hugged by the coasts of Trinidad and Venezuela has a northern opening to the Caribbean Sea, nicknamed the Mouths of the Dragon. Some of the oil will drift north, find the mouths of the dragon and enter the Caribbean. A Delta pilot flying over the area yesterday reports the shimmering stain is substantial.

Last time Trinidad had an oil spill, it took the oil three-four weeks to arrive here. Then my girlfriends hit the beach, with buckets and sieves to try to collect the gook off the white sand.

And that was Aruba’s response to the calamity. A motley crew beach clean-up. We need more than that this time, Trinidad needs to step on it. And the way it goes right now, the bureaucracy is moving in slow-mo.

I understand that the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) received a report from the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) of an oil spill near Carrere Island on at about 9am. (They like these long and impressive official names in the remnants of the British Empire.)

Three hours later the IMA accompanied EMA personnel to do a visual assessment of the impacted areas, samples were collected and sent to the laboratory.

Then on Monday 16th October 2017, an IMA team along with a representative from another ministry, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries, joined the EMA, for a marine survey of the oil-impacted areas, they took some more samples to measure dissolved and dispersed hydrocarbons (DDPH) at oil-affected sites. They found many areas affected.

With the samples, they will try to fingerprint the oil found in order to determine its source; it’s a complex procedure, designed to reveal “whodunit,” so basically the spill area is a crime scene that must be investigated in order to clarify where the oil might have originated, and, hopefully, who spilled it.

But meanwhile clean up is delayed, the oil is spreading, and fishermen conduct emergency meetings.

Gary Abound, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011803891670, who lives in the area and belongs to an environmental organization, Fishermen and Friends of the Sea, reports the cleanup is minimal.

For the umpteenth time, they are circulating a petition addressed at the Honorable Minister of Energy of Trinidad and Tobago Franklin Khan, asking for permanent protection of their water!

We need BIG GUNS here, some international experts, as I said, the girls and their buckets on a Sunday, is not an appropriate response. Trinidad needs to deal with the mess faster!

Which reminds me that I owe you a story: On the night of the elections, September 22nd, 10:15pm, a tanker, by the name of Thayer, got stuck on a reef in Aruba, about 100 meters off shore, next to Renaissance Island. It came so close the Captain claims, following the request of a local tugboat, tasked with making a crew member exchange. At the time we were all glued to the TV, and the incident was reported on Face Book by a few die-hards, Captain Anthony Hagedoorn among them, but by morning, the tanker managed to unstick itself and anchored off shore below the lighthouse. We found out it was empty, and in the spirit of DODGING THE BULLET we were saved. Would you be surprised if I told you the Maritime Police asked the captain to take a sobriety test and he blew FOUT TIMES the permitted limit, twice. His blood alcohol numbers were off the chart. As a result, the Captain enjoyed our full-board jail hospitality for 10 days, and the tanker, with 24 crew members on board was under investigation for a number of days. The local authority also went on an inspection underwater, there is some broken coral and damage in the area. And the company and the Captain will be fined. We’re lucky!!

Cocktails with Carlos Cabrera

I already reported on the return of GM Carlos Cabrera in a previous column, when it was breaking news. This week at a small cocktail party under the stars, at the Hyatt Regency on the garden deck, a modest number of old and new friends gathered to celebrate the occasion.

Carlos Cabrera is back on the island as GM of the Hyatt Regency. He says his years in Aruba in the 90s were formative and enjoyable and having completed almost four-decades with the Hyatt Corporation, he wanted his last position prior to retirement to be joyful, hence Aruba, and the Hyatt Regency Resort.

Cabrera shared with his guests some entertaining anecdotes from the pas,t how on opening day it rained cats and dogs and the just-installed landscaping washed into the pool and the planned VIP reception had to move to the ballroom, and how the then Japanese-partner grabbed the microphone and announced the rain was a sign of prosperity for thirty years, and how right he was; and the time, his Harley Davidson got joy-ridden, and radio personality Ruben Garcia got on the air, reprimanding the kids whodunit, sending Cabrera to pick up his bike, almost intact, at an island neighborhood; and how together with Eduardo De Veer they humbly visited the powerful, almost omnipotent American Airlines VP, Peter Dolara,  Senior Vice President of Miami Caribbean & Latin America Operations, in order to secure air lift for the island.

Cabrera also said the company will be reinvesting greatly in the Aruba property over the next years, and that we should expect greatness because in his travels around the globe as Senior Vice President, Global All Inclusive Operations at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, he has seen and experienced many wonders some of which he plans to introduce in Aruba.

A slide presentation brought back memories of that time then, under construction, and a good number of the fresh new faces on the pictures, still look amazingly cute, still working for the resort after 27 years.

Geraldine Coutinho-Meyers, Associate Director of Sales & Events, helped welcome guests together with the executive team; Geraldine was the first employee hired by the Hyatt Regency, pre-opening.

The mood of the gathering was Cuban, serving mojitos to the music of sax player El Prove, and we all appreciated the lechon asado, some people whose name I won’t mention, broke their diets big time, snacking on the browned to a crisp, piglet skin.

FOOTNOTE: If you recall, the 1990 Luzon earthquake, in the Philippines, on July 16th. It destroyed one of the more prominent buildings in town, the Hyatt Terraces Hotel. It was an estimated 7.7 quake. Many of those well-trained Hyatt employees found their way to Aruba to work at the Hyatt Regency and La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino. Many of them are still here, and have prospered.

Incidentally I noticed, among voters in the 2017 elections, in the list of foreign-born Arubans with a Dutch nationality, I found zero Philippines-born voters. Our Philippine community sticks to its original nationality, and apparently doesn’t apply for the Dutch passport.

AAF, coming in November.

Mark your calendars for the Aruba Art Fair 2017, November 24th, 25th, 26th, in the streets of San Nicolas.

A recent press conference at Fusion Wine and Piano Bar starred Tito Bolivar, Director di Aruba Events Foundation, as he outlined the program for this year.

In 2016, for the first edition of AAF, we were totally surprised by the excellent content on display and by the great interest it provoked among islanders, when in September 2016, AAF attracted 10,000 visitors in just one weekend and injected a tremendous energy into the otherwise sleepy town.

The local artist community and a remarkable number of foreign artists left their mark on walls and building around the main street. The murals stayed behind to tell the story. And I love visiting them, combined with lunch at O’Neil’s Caribbean Kitchen or Kamini’s Kitchen, I don’t get there often enough.

This year three local artists Robert Solognier, George Rosel and Paul Wong, will be contributing to our collection of murals, Robert is a repeat offender, his mural of the whale from 2016 is spectacular. Additionally, eight international artists, most of them 3D street painters, will be spotting our walls. You may check out the impressive lineup: Juandres Vera, Mexico, WD Street Art, Greece, Lina Arias, Colombia, Odeith, Portugal, Chemis, Czech Republic, Zedz, The Netherlands, Adele Renault, Belgium, ASA, The Netherlands, Jorit Chi, Italy, and Dopie, also from the Netherlands.

Tito reports most of these artist applied for the opportunity to come here following the success of last year’s AAF 2016.

At the press conference, Alice van Romondt explained on behalf of Prins Bernand Cultural Fund, that efforts are being made to bring artists from the other Dutch Caribbean islands to Aruba, but that might be a challenge in view of the fact that some of the artists lost their homes in the recent devastating storms.

Alex Nieuwmeyer, Managing Director Divi Resorts Aruba, a great supporter of the AAF, will be one of the host hotels for visiting artists. Divi already commissioned a mural from last year’s renowned muralist, Dutch artist Leon Keer. He created a life-like 3D painting depicting a turtle in a clear aquarium, set on the beach with the horizon on the same line, as the actual, real life horizon. Divi guests take pictures there all the time.

What you need to know: Wednesday November 22nd Fashion meets Art, curated by Swesdy Beeldsnijder. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, street fair, with 150 artists, pop up galleries, and public murals.

AAF will host 7 educational programs, during the week, including Art Talk, a photography contest, and school art activities. We’re in for a treat!

AAF is supported by the Aruba Tourism Authority, Divi Resorts, Prins Bernhard Fund, and unfolds in San Nicholas.

Recuperating from Birthday Party

No column today….

Had a lot of fun.