The future is in donuts and pizza
I left for a few days to keep a warrior girlfriend company as she battled cancer, in a hospital in Miami, not any hospital, but a really great, supportive center helping thousands of people heal.
My girlfriend did her share of the fight, following the challenging protocol to the letter, with an attitude of gratitude. She ate very little, so we tried to surprise her with small treats from the outside world, seeing that food was unrestricted.
Go to Salty Donuts, said one of the nurses. Their donuts are out of the world, and your girlfriend will like the sweet sensation.
Indeed, the one we got, made with a brioche recipe, filled with guava & cream cheese swirl, cream cheese glaze & topped with a crushed Galleta Maria cookie crumble, was tasty. We waited twenty minutes in line. The small bakery in Wynwood was hopping.
I later read it was started by a young student couple, selling their made-from-scratch donuts, 3 days a week, from a camper parked more or less where their store stands today. Finally beaten by the heat, they graduated into a brick and mortar location, now super popular.
Donuts?! Yes, the simplest food form, with elaborated decoration and edible bling. I was impressed. This husband and wife team took such a simple idea and spun it to the next level.
I was never a fan of the yeasty donut, but you may give me some malassadas, Portuguese Doughnuts, or soufganiot, the Israeli doughnuts or legendary New Orleans beignets, at Café du Monde, any day.
We also visited Mister01 Extraordinary Pizza for a friendly lunch and take-out. The inscription on the wall says it all: Individuals with extraordinary ability. To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim.” And this is what we call a good concept to understand who we are.
Legend has it, that the original founder got his license to stay in the US, by making extraordinary, irresistible pizza. Renato Viola’s pizza-making skills dazzled the U.S. government to the extent of granting him a special 0-1 visa for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement. His pizza was pretty awesome. I had the star-shaped Michelle, on paper thin dough, layered with grilled eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers and cut/folded in a star-shape, creating little pockets for soft heaps of melt-in-your-mouth ricotta cheese, on a carpet of Mozzarella.
Pizza?! Yes, the simplest food form, with a clever twist. I was impressed. This Italian immigrant took such a simple idea and spun it to the next level.
He now also has a pizza school, in Wynwood, and a few other locations, next time if girlfriend is well, perhaps we should consider becoming recreational pizza making students, for the day
Who knew that 90 could look so good?
She was born in St Martin, there was no hospital at the time on Saba, lived on Aruba, Curacao and in the Netherlands before settling down in my neighborhood about 30 years ago, in a modest cottage overlooking the ocean.
She was a teacher by profession, Dutch, English, French, and in recent years I came to view her as the ultimate Papiamento expert, it flows like honey when she speaks it.
Yesterday, we were invited to Sheila’s 90th birthday party, and before the bulk of the guests appeared I tried to figure out the chronology of her life, with Tony van Veen, the apple of her eye, her son, a CEO of a music production company, but failed, as it comes and goes, there is a lot to it, but suffice to say that Sheila is a well-respected and feisty member of our community, daughter of Wim Lampe, the island’s former Minister Plenipotentiary in the late 50s – 60s — the beloved cousin of Padu del Caribe, the Father of Aruba’s culture and that is as close as you get to island aristocracy, an off-spring of a well-connected, educated, and politically involved family.
Preparing for the party organized by Tony and his sister Louella Brezovar, a hospitality executive, Sheila supervised the thorough cleaning of the house, standing on a step stool, dusting: “We should all be in this kind of shape at 90,” Tony remarked on his Facebook post.
The gathering at the cottage overlooking the ocean at sunset included a great number of septuagenarians and octogenarians, walking sticks and assistive canes, but the open bar, delicious party snacks and the music worked their magic to produce a memorable event, that went on long after bedtime.
I met the catering crew in the kitchen, chefs Ricky Croes and John Lejuez, lending their personal touch to traditional local bites. We had the entire list of treats from pastechis to croquets, and mini skewers, all made a la minute, chased by tremendous tapa desserts, and a bomb of a cashew birthday cake.
Troubadour and entertainer Etty Toppenberg came for one hour and stayed for the duration, playing old time favorites on his guitar, then pianist Livio Hermans fell in with Etty, performing some classic Padu Del Caribe compositions, supported by singer Victor Samuel, and finally, Vivian Lampe took over the show, a consummate performer of her father’s intricate and lively music.
Then Tony took Sheila for a spin on the dance floor, and at 90 she is as light and as graceful a dancer as ever.
Marketing Is Everything
Romar Trading and wine artist Clive Faustin invited for a reasonably priced event at TDB, not long ago, a wine tasting and pairing of the Federalist Wines.
You heard me. The Federalist, doesn’t sound too sexy, but Clive and his audience of 60 bon vivants in the private dining room of TDB, said the wine was most enjoyable, and Clive told me the marketing of the brand includes an image of wine poured into a whiskey glass,” because anyway you drink it, it is excellent.”
Basically, do away with traditional wine drinking ritual and it’s still big and bold, like a Chevy Silverado truck, no need to buy any elegant stemware. Who cares about Riedel.
I decided to read a bit about it, and indeed, the new wine brand targets MEN. I am not going to get into politics, but it seems to me the NRA will be especially fond of the Dueling Pistols Red Blend commemorating a famed American gun battle. The bottle label carries an etched image of two old-fashioned hand guns.
Then there is the Statue of Liberty Chardonnay. Poor lady. Her image is in the public domain, so naturally, anyone can use it to sell anything from condoms to life insurance.
Other victims of mercantilism includes other Founding Fathers such as Ben Franklin, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, nothing is holy, everything is fair in marketing.
The bottle labels however are beautiful with their retro-style etched portraits of American legends.
Not surprisingly, the macho brand was incredibly well received, the winery couldn’t keep up, and it’s not cheap. Priced between $18 to $34 in USA wine stores, three of the five wines sell for $17.76 (in honor of the year the U.S. ratified the Declaration of Independence) and a few are priced $14.92 (when Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas).
I found a quote: “We completely underestimated how well it was going to do,” Terlato Wines Chief Executive Bill Terlato told Fortune. He said the wine producer could ship more than double what it had initially anticipated “if we can get the wine bottled up and produced in time.”
It was an overnight success.
The Federalist explains that winemaking began in the U.S. shortly after Columbus arrived and was an economic goal for settlers. Shortly after arriving in California wine country was discovered and America’s ‘New World’ style Zinfandel took root.
Visionary Zinfandel is considered the flagship wine of the Federalist brand and it features the #1 Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, riding the coat tails of the most successful Broadway musical about a statesman cum politician who died in a duel gunfire.
School shootings on one hand, and guns on wine labels on the other. We live in a confusing culture.
We’re Talking About Cannabis
I am siding with the recently published press release by Rocco Tjon, leader of MEP’s parliamentary faction, who clarified what we already knew, that MEP will not support nor approve legalization of recreational cannabis.
I looked at the picture of the 9 MEP parliamentarians and realized they have some expertise among them: A trained drug counselor, Hendrik Tevreden, lawyer Adi Thijsen who knows something about the subject and Rocco Tjon, who accumulated much experience in the field, in his former capacity at KIA.
Medical yes, we don’t argue with that. Research shows that cannabis is helpful in alleviating the effects of chemotherapy, and helpful in reducing seizures, caused by a number of terrible chronic diseases.
As for the other claims about the wonders of cannabis and its related products, I don’t think there is any reliable research to back them up.
I keep hearing about the inevitability of also sweeping recreational cannabis in, my friends say that ship has sailed, and we’d better legalize recreational use now, with over 1 million tourists a year, if Aruba executes the project well and maintains the complete process under government control, from growing to processing and distributing, our financial crisis will go away, within two years! We will have so much money; we will not know what to do with it. As the first island in the Caribbean to legalize, with a steady flow of visitors, we will be hitting the jackpot, but you’d better do it now, early in the game, before the rest of the Caribbean wakes up, build two dispensaries, one in Noord, one in San Nicolas: Show us your cash and we’ll get you high.
It all seemed so inevitable, like it is stupid to resist.
Until the recent press release by Rocco Tjon, that refocused our blurred vision.
As a Caribbean island in the sun we are already laid back and drifting by nature. Add legalized cannabis to that mix and you will get some more disconnect, some more drifting, with a significant chunk of the young population that is marginally engaged and minimally interested, Dolce Far Niente to the extreme, looking at the world through pink glasses.
I have never met a cannabis-using over-achiever.
If and when the political will changes and recreational cannabis is legalized, you’d better put significant amounts of money in the budget so you could effectively discourage our population from using it.
I recently went to the opening of the Bulldog Café in Aruba at Paseo Herencia.
The place is reportedly associated with the popular Amsterdam cannabis coffee shop, where I had my first space-cake, in the 80s.
The message was confusing: Were they gearing up for the legalization of pot here? Did they really mean to operate a pot-selling joint, in the open air, in the tourist sector, in a mall attracting families and kids? Did they think that by coming here, they will be getting their foot in the door, in line for a piece of that fat pie? Did they think they could do it for us? Show us how it’s done?
In both cases, medical and/or recreational, the process of growing, processing and distributing, should remain in Aruban hands, no BIG PHARMA coming in to show us the way, no friends and family concessions.
If you hand it over to a foreign expert, they will dedicate marketing funds to the expansion of the market, and the acquisition of new users.
It’s exactly what we don’t need.
The Border Is Closed
Aruba decided not to dance to the erratic song of the Venezuelan despot and when he declared earlier yesterday that the border between Venezuela and Aruba is open Aruba’s MInPres took a decision in this island’s favor and said, no thanks, it is inopportune, inconvenient, we need to figure things out first, not now.
So why did the crazy bus driver turned disastrous head of state decide to all of a sudden ‘permit’ the opening of the closed-again border?
I asked around.
The Chavistas ran out of cologne and needed to go shopping. Panama is too hot!
They had a surplus of bananas
They decided to ‘punish’ Curacao for serving as a US hub, and demonstrate their fondness of Aruba’s so-called impartiality.
In support of Aruba Air that is making hand over fist money, running that route.
And the best was: Honestly Rona, I really cannot come up with anything that makes sense.
But all my friends agreed the border should remain closed. Less influx of people, and the threat of immigration. Less dependence on a capricious dictator’s whims.
Tourism from Venezuela? Those still coming here squirreled their money away in US banks, and travel via Columbia or Panama to get on vacation on their favorite island.
Produce? The Dominican Republic, Columbia and the US fulfil our produce needs, more expensively, but then what’s new, Aruba is an expensive island.
The core of the issue is immigration. As it stands right now, in accordance with international treaties, if a Venezuelan national lands on Aruba by plane or boat from that country it is within his rights to file a petition for asylum, at the airport or anywhere else, at any time.
GOA is making good progress debating the issue, reportedly MinPres and MinJust are spending considerable time making progress in the right direction.
We are a tiny speck of a county and cannot be overrun by newcomers but there are things we can do, and the job-market could use an influx of qualified hands, so once they figure out the how, MinPres in her weekly news summary promised to let us know.
Breaking news: A press release that flew across my desk from the office of Prome Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes asked for a National Prayer Hour. We were all instructed to conduct a prayer session on Sunday from 9am to 10am, sixty minutes of reflection and positive thoughts towards four subjects: Family, Unity, Venezuela & GOA.
You can announce you will be conducting a prayer hour, you can invite us to join, but you can’t petition us to pray. I thought we lived under separation of church and state.