Bati Bleki, June 30th, 2014

COFFEE FULL HOUSE. This week I endured a nostalgic moment. When I first arrived on the island light-years away we used to heap powdered Nescafe into a cup, and chase it with two overflowing spoons of Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk. While the water was getting ready to boil I used to make a caramel-colored cream from the coffee and gooey milk, then drown it in hot water. Ta-dah! That was coffee full house, and admittedly at the time, I thought it was delicious. Then our taste buds matured and with the arrival of the expensive Espresso machines I went back to Cappuccinos and Lattes. Now that milk has acquired such a bad reputation, I gave the Cafe au-lait and the Cafe verkeert up, in favor of Macchiato, strong, black, short, just spotted with foam. Bottom line, coffee no longer tastes like dessert.

PEDRO VARGAS NOW AT THE SUFT CLUB. My friend Pedro accepted the position of Director of Operations for the Marriott Aruba Surf Club, as of July 15th, 2014. His last day on the multi-talented Divi team is tomorrow. While he enjoyed the Divi experience he is excited about the new challenge, he says, and I know he is packing his enthusiasm and perseverance to go. Good luck, we’ll drop in for a visit, so you can show us around.

NEW FILM CAREERS. Did you notice our national heartthrob, singer C-Zar Olarte is looking pumped. He shows off his newly-found muscles in a tight, white, wife-beater, and explains that he is looking buff in preparation for a movie role. Basically playing himself, for a production that will be filmed in Las Vegas. Cesar is not the only one diversifying, my fellow-writer Charles Croes is also busy concluding a script about an imaginary character, an American woman, looking to establish herself on the island. He asked me to participate in the production and I said yes, of course, hoping it will never come to that, my film role, not the script as such!

EVERT BONGERS, THE HISTORIAN. We all know Evert Bongers as a school teacher, French & Guidance, as the stickler-to-detail weekly quiz master at the Plaza Cafe, and the race director slash official at the Aruba Hi-Winds, now in its 28th edition and unfolding July 1st to 7th, at Fisherman’s Huts, Malmok Beach. Evert’s interest in the recent history of Aruba fuels his website, historiadiaruba.com, and his published works, Augustus Scur, describing a period of inter-island political unrest in August of 1977, and Creating One Happy Island, the story of Aruba’s Tourism, published on the occasion of the island’s 50-years-of-tourism celebration. In recent weeks, Evert is onto a new project, as he explained: Since I am always writing stuff about the history of the island(s), I am currently publishing some small articles about buildings, potential monuments that are no longer there. You might have seen the first three articles already. I am now preparing an article about the vanished commercial buildings in the former Nassau street, like the S.N. Ecury building and the Spritzer & Furhmann’s and Fuchs & Gelbstein’s enterprises. I am searching now for people who can tell me more about the latter two, maybe you know something worth putting in the article, about the owners, about the opening and closing of their businesses or some anecdotes? Or maybe you know people who know more to tell me about ‘those days’?! Please let me know. Having received Evert’s note I put him in contact with David Cybul, the island’s youngest nonagenarian, who is filled with interesting and detailed information about the island’s merchants, the main street and the Jewish community. I was privileged to listen to them talk, not too long ago. David speaks vividly about the old days, and he continues to be very active. One of his most recent accomplishments was fundraising for the Anne Frank memorial, at Wilhelmina Park.

TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY. According to Ariana Santiago, the evening at the Renaissance Conference Center was really nice. Food was exceptional and the auction was a huge hit with over 25k raised for charity and then doubled by the birthday boy himself. We’ll post pictures soon, Ariana added and since I know her as a woman of great taste and sound judgment, I almost took her word for it, concluding that DJ Chuckie’s birthday celebration was an amazing event, I shouldn’t have missed! But then I heard some hilarious blow by blow descriptions of the Airline Catering make-no-sense dinner served with Tsunami’s blaring dance music as backdrop, and the abandoned sponge birthday cake, and realized that the event was over-promised and under-delivered, and if I missed it, it was god’s way of protecting me from culinary flops. But DJ Chuckie’s after-party was fun, with free flowing booze, and divine music, so not all was lost.

SERVING DELICIOUS FOOD. I just watched the Netherlands Vs Mexico game at the Hollywood Smokehouse over great food and cocktails, with lots of fun people around. The Taco Wrapped Smoked Grouper with black beans and sautéed onions, was accompanied by a cilantro and garlic sauce, and washed down nicely with Simply Sour, made with a single malt Scotch, cherry and herbal liqueur, fresh grapefruit and homemade sour-mix. The Hollywood Smokehouse, owned by Mike & Tina Bislick, found a new home at the Alhambra Casino & Shops, in the former Fusion location, and now serves its signature Low & Slow Southern-style BBQ, pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs and fish paired with innovative cocktails by legendary bartender AJ Tromp. Taylor Escobedo is in charge of the friendly and efficient service in the dining room. The legacy of hospitality started in 1941 by Mike’s great-grandfather in San Nicolas at the Hollywood Hotel lives on four generation later, at the Alhambra Casino & Shops, enjoying colossal FIVE Trip Advisor stars.

LOOKING GOOD. Sushi Salsa, one of Aruba’s favorite sushi bars located within Amazonia deserves our renewed attention and devotion. The food has always been spectacular, but now that the bar moved into an extended area facing the tree-lined Palm Beach road, it is truly gorgeous with striking decor, LED lights, and acid-washed natural stone walls with giant colorful banners. Come in and experience the ambiance and design, then linger after dinner at the Sports Lounge, one of the busiest FIFA World Cup 2014 locations, the perfect place to meet friends and enjoy finger foods, cocktails and cold beer, showing all games on large TV screens, in air-conditioning.

SURRENDER TO ATLANTIS ESCAPE WITH VOLCANIC STONES. We heard so much about ESPA Body & Lifestyle Solutions, the new natural body products at Larimar Spa that we decided to try them ourselves. Propaganda no paga: I arrived mid morning on Saturday and surrendered myself to Elizabeth a hard working, skinny-mini therapist. I emerged 110 minutes later with dreamy eyes, and glowing skin, and lingered longer over a few flutes of champagne. At the time it was constructed a number of years ago, the spa cost $5.2 million to build, and the resulting 13,000-sq.ft. of the stand-alone oceanfront Larimar, is still beautiful and nicely maintained. We didn’t use the sauna & steam cabins, nor the plunge pool, but we enjoyed the relaxation garden, with spa manager Albert De La Cruz, checking on our wellbeing periodically. Best of all, the easy of the pocket, local prices.

CHEF DENYSE FINGAL IS A SUPERSTAR. Talented Chef Urvin Croes, owner of White Modern Cuisine has been mentoring Denyse Fingal, his sous chef, for over two and a half years. The dedication paid off, and on Saturday night, Denyse conceived and executed a stellar 7 course menu at the restaurant, in honor of the 2nd annual ATHA fundraising dinner. Diners were enchanted with the food and wished her continued success in her new role, having been promoted to Chef de Cuisine. Chef Urvin is undertaking an additional challenge. He is now in the opening stages of Mirador Tapas, Wine and Sunsets, located at Blue Residence on Eagle Beach and the Kitchen Table by White, a culinary studio, also at that same residence. While Chef Urvin will oversee the new operation, Denyse will remain in charge at the Palm Beach Plaza Mall. RC@visitaruba.com