Bati Bleki, September 16th, 2013

WOMEN FOR WOMEN, AN EYE OPENER. According to statistic quoted by Minister Michelle Winklaar-Hooyboer the majority of women vote for male political candidates. They do not as a rule, support female candidates. By organizing the conference last Friday at the Seaport Conference Center, Joyce Bartles Daal and Maria Silvia and their respective teams, tried to change that. Kudos. They succeeded in providing a platform on which female voters and female political candidates can meet and mingle across party lines, in a Happy Hour atmosphere that was totally civilized and fun. Conspicuous in her absence Marisol Lopez Tromp. Joyce reports it was a lengthy process in which she repeatedly assured all candidates they will be safe and respected, no stink bombs, no rotten tomatoes, and indeed at the designated hour 29 of the 31 women participating in the upcoming elections showed up and spoke. Some parroted party-line text, but the majority showed up in person, with their real personalities on display. They had of-course time to prepare, since most questions were communicated to them ahead of time, thus the afternoon became a bit repetitive, but thanks to the generous contribution of the Aruba Trading Company, wine was served continuously, taking the edge off boredom and restlessness. We all settled nicely into the air-conditioning and worked on our buzz! And the new Moet champagne on ice, was nice, served by Glenn de Kaey, in fancy oversize chalices. So what did I learn? I learned we have some pretty cool chicks in politics. The surprise of the season Djanira Frank, eloquent and charismatic same goes to Stephanie Croes, Setty Christiaans-Yarzagaray, Irene Boezem, the spunky Mijenou Tromp and Mirella St Jago, the Funchi Girls’ super woman Amy Richards, Xiomara Ruiz Maduro and Maisa Faro, who all sounded educated and intelligent, and I was very happy to finally meet them in the flesh, as they walked off the pages of the newspapers into the packed room. Our big guns were predictably wonderful, from the incredibly accomplished Michelle Winklaar Hooyboer, to fountain of knowledge Desiree Croes, Evelyn Wever-Croes, and Lorna Varlack. We can certainly trust their common sense and their resourcefulness to lead us. Roxanna Halley provided the comic relief, but at least she wasn’t boring.

WESTIN STAGES AN INCREDIBLE IRON CHEF COMPETITION. We look forward each year to the Westin, Wine, Food & Art Festival, and this past Thursday, fans of the event were not disappointed, by the latest, just-added attraction—the island’s version of the Iron Chef competition, inspired by the Food Channel. The Grand Ballroom received a super cool set up with gleaming glass & tableware, deejay music, and club lighting.  A tasty 3-course dinner was served while on stage three of the island’s best chefs competed for the coveted Iron Chef title.  The men on stage were chef Scott Scheurman from Aqua Grill, chef proprietor Urvin Croes from White Modern Cuisine and chef proprietor Erwin Husken from Screaming Eagle. PS. They can cook for me anytime, I’ll eat anything they serve!  As the show began the chefs each received a Mystery Basket of 4 items, with which they had to create an appetizer, then another Mystery Basket was presented for the main course and another for dessert. In a fight against the clock the chef delivered their creations to the Judges who had the privilege of selecting the first IRON CHEF of Aruba. I was biting my finger nails. The competition was tough. Hotelier  Paul Gielen, one of my table-mates declared I was not very good under pressure, but it was a cliff-hanger, entertaining yet stressful. You should have seen the items in the baskets. Half of them I never heard off, and the other half I never tasted. Exotic Bhutanese red rice from the Himalayas. A steak cut so rare, there is only one attached to the last rib and the spine of the steer, and butchers often keep it for themselves. Aromatic dry mushrooms, Indian Pickled Lemon, Turkish Pomegranate Syrup, Bourbon Vanilla Beans from Madagascar, spiny Lion Fish, Japanese Miso Paste and Yuzu Marmalade, Tunisian Brick Dough, and an Italian wine reduction I cannot even find on line, plus a set up that was much too small and often malfunctioning. The genius chefs still managed to produce highly praised food for the judges: Tina Bislick, creative editor of Island Temptations Magazine and BBQ pit master of the Hollywood Smokehouse, chef proprietor Eduard Ellis, Papiamento restaurant, surgeon, wine and food connoisseur Dr. Patrick Haime and  food consultant and chef Ronald van Hasenbroke. The winner of the appetizer and the dessert rounds, the brilliant chef Urvin Croes, plucked the Iron Chef trophy, though I was worried that the meticulous-perfectionist chef will run out of time. Imagine, under competition rules, they had to finish cooking and plating the appetizer in just 30 minutes, and the main course and dessert each, in just 45! But it all worked out and chef Erwin’s Husken’s main course, presenting a cut of meat he has never handled, got compliments for excellent flavor and tenderness, while chef Scott Scheurman stuffed brick dough triangles for dessert, turned out yummy, though he’s never been to Tunisia . Three local wine purveyors provided 6 different so-so wine choices paired with the evening’s meal, created ahead of time by the competing chefs. Bright-eyed Sommelier Raymond Kok from Pepia Est, became the People’s Choice with his wine pairings, winning the trophy of Best Sommelier. Justin Carson and Gino Schwengle of the Food & Beverage Department deserve compliments for the organization, if you missed the event, make sure you make reservations next year!

FOOD & FIESTA HEADQUARTERS. While we still miss Jesus Chucho Zendejas, his replacement, the Senior Frog’s recently-arrived Manager Alejandro Wong is an equally cute and charismatic operator. Alejandro who was born in Columbia comes to us from Mexico, yet he reports having paternal roots in Aruba, and I suggested he look up the equally enterprising Ethan Wong at Palmera Rum, and the gifted Clifton Wong at Blossoms, surely his once or twice removed cousins. Alejandro told me that with a new chef, and an excellent dinner menu Senior Frog’s is ready to serve family dinners in the early evening hours just before turning into a crazy fun dance club in the late hours. I’ll tell you about it, when I try it out! RC@visitaruba.com