Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, December 14th, 2015

DELIFRANCE, SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE. Riccardo Solci bought the well-established lunch-room with the addictive bread in 2006 and has been renovating it since then. Why? Because every time he finishes a project, the cheese moves, prompting him to tweak his already excellent product even more. This week, I heard that it was finally perfect. A renovated, tastefully decorated, nicely air-conditioned dining room, an oceanfront terrace, a comfortable bar, the BEST breakfast in town, the yummiest sandwiches, the tastiest soups, a tempting buffet line with quality meats and fresh fish, and daily, reasonably priced specials by famous chef Edwin Geerman, who now works in Delifrance’s kitchen. Riccardo is a perfectionist, which is both a blessing and a curse. He came to Aruba on vacation in 2005. At the time he was looking for his perfect Caribbean island, a dream place where he could live and work. Originally Italian, he has been living in Miami for many years, and longed for a more laidback environment. He checked out the Bahamas. He checked out the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean destinations but when he arrived here he thought: This could be pretty perfect. Ten years into his adventure, he doesn’t regret the decision to settle, BUT he never got to live a laidback life, dolce far niente, because of the island’s ever-changing, ever-challenging business climate. Together with his Brazilian born partner Shirley, they look after customers every day, until 4pm, and would be happy to stay open later for special events; Chef Edwin has a great banqueting background and he can prepare just about anything. So if you are looking for a convenient Christmas dinner location, or a family get together spot, or a lecture space, a conference hall with lots of parking and interesting F&B possibilities, Riccardo is your man! Delifrance is open every day from 7:30am, AND THEY DELIVER, just call 588 6006.

RBC BANK ALWAYS UNPLEASANT SURPRISES. RBC clients know, there is never a dull moment with this financial institution. It recently so called ‘upgraded the system’ and shazam, you can no longer print a transaction backup or a statement from your net banking.  Just like that, no warning, no explanation. Want more?  The standing-order feature, or the recurring transfer on the RBC net banking is often forgetful. You put a request for a recurring payment in, you press the token confirming the transaction, it goes from approved to released status, and then you’d better make a notation to check on the next date, on the next payment, because 9 out of 10, the bank just ignores your instructions and the payment doesn’t go through without another token pressing. So, what is the use of a standing order feature if it fails to execute?  A few days ago I started noticing a new guy in town, Mr. Sundry Debtor, whose long fingers keep dipping into my accounts, shamelessly. Apparently Mr. Sundry Debtor is employed by the Central Bank and he now has the power to freely help himself to my resources with EHEMTax, EREMTax and EEMTax, and mind you I never received notice from the bank or anything, god forbid, if they should ever communicate, that will be the end of the world as we know it. I am now thinking it’s time to move our business to a cash economy, kiss plastic goodbye, it just got very expensive to use it!

GRAFFITI A LA CARTE. If you drive down the street behind the Yrausquin garage, you will see it got an upgrade with almost 20 colorful panels of amazing graffiti. Apparently Ruben Yrausquin tired of having to paint his back-wall every week offered it as canvas to Elvis Lopez, and the Atelier 89 students. So Elvis gathered some crazies to paint day and night and finish gorgeous masterpieces.  Guided by Tess Miller, Aruba’s street artists included: Samuel Sarmiento, Nuris Lampe, Wil Quintero, Suzanne van Spall, Farley Croes, Ester Lamber, Lilli Peterson, Herdigein Vittorio, Facundo Franken, Romelinda Maldonado, and Kelsey Westerburger. I met Elvis as he was receiving a donation from the Salamander family members on Thursday Night, at Caribbean Queen Boutique at the Palm Beach Plaza Mall. Atelier ‘89 is annually the recipient of some funds collected by the Salamander family members from sales at that location. Elvis told his audience at the boutique that he uses the money to fund an art program in San Nicholas, in the village, taking kids off the street weekly and offering them a few hours of artistic activity, fruit, cookies and a soft drink. Some come for the treat, but more are there for self expression that is only affordable via generous donations. Elvis also shared that MinTour, also in charge of culture, but you cannot call him MinCul, it just doesn’t sound respectful,  is the first minister to ever be nice to him. Yes, Elvis is sensitive, and MinTour is the first to ever endorse Elvis’ activities, and perhaps it is politically motivated, but Elvis now feels appreciated in government circles. MinTour graced Opposites Attract, the recent Fashion Show at the Nicholas Store, with his presence and he promised to show up for Undercover Spectre, the Graffiti a la carte workshop exhibition, on the street behind garage Yrausquin, Friday! I can only add that when we went to Cartagena, Colombia, we took a walking tour of the city’s famous street art and graffiti sites, and enjoyed an underground experience, visiting some underprivileged neighborhood, finishing up at a bar, in a slum, drinking Hendricks Gin and Tonic cocktails with thinly sliced cucumber, which I will never forget!

PRESERVA MALMOK. The residents of Malmok and Arashi formed a neighborhood association recently because they were concerned about the commercial development and the imminent opening of a hotel in their residential area. Their mission statement reads the following: Preserva Malmok is an organization of neighbors dedicated to protecting the quality of life in the Malmok and Arashi residential areas for present and future generations, preserving nature, beaches, and tranquility. We do not oppose low-key apartments and guest houses used as residential accommodations, which already coexist peacefully and quietly with us, the residents. What we are opposed to is granting a permit to operate a commercial hotel, with bar, commercial kitchen, and which organizes large parties and corporate functions. The neighborhood is in court this morning, to defend its right for nature, beaches, and tranquility and I believe they will win the case. Vacation rentals? Yes. Entertainment? No. I will follow up on the subject.

TWO INSPIRATIONAL STORIES. Marny de L’Isle and Cedric Wever met in Aruba, they then went to the Netherlands to continue their academic education. As boyfriend & girlfriend Marny bought Cedric a silver Kokopelli bracelet, you know, the icon depicted as a humpbacked flute player on the Rage Silver logo. So she bought him a bracelet, and he thought, aha, that might be something for Aruba. That was more than 17 years ago, because they have been in business for that long. Their first joint venture was a cart on Plaza Daniel Leo, which they never got a permit for. So they rented space at the Holland Mall, below Senior Frog’s. From that location they went on to the Seaport Marketplace, where they are still headquartered, occupying two store fronts. Over time, they added Rage Oro to Rage Silver, but because of gold price fluctuations, they gave it up and continued to offer silver as well as popular brands, first Buddha to Buddha and Viventy, then Chamilia by Swarovski, and Ti Sento Milano. Beck Dutch Caribbean was a big hit and recently the Italian big-bang-for-your-buck Rebecca, made a splash. Somewhere in the middle they opened and closed South Beach Centre and successfully opened Royal Plaza. Then Uno de 50 arrived on the scene. Marny has a good eye, says Cedric, and when she sees something, she goes for it. Uno de 50 was one of those brands which commanded her immediate attention. It even offers a super popular gold line right now. So that’s it after 17 years, the happy partnership celebrated the red carpet reopening of Rage Silver boutique on the ground floor of the Palm Beach Plaza Mall, Thursday evening. Catered by White Modern Cuisine the event attracted a lot of elegant people, who toasted to the success of the biz, and its continued growth. Marny reported she was carrying gold again, and was wearing a beautiful Joya brand necklace, combining a gold chains with semi-precious stones…Across the courtyard at the Palm Beach Plaza Mall, just one day before, Anju and Dinesh Wadhwani, threw a holiday party at their store, Jewels in Paradise. I remember Anju as a super sales associate from years ago working at Diamonds International but I imagine she lost her job there when her husband opened his own jewelry store. Anju has a particularly fancy taste and all the pieces in the store reflect her insatiable passion for over-the-top, vavoom, sparkly bijoux. Their collection is hip and modern, but the only way to really describe it is to say: People will never believe that what you’re wearing is real! They will always assume you’re wearing custom jewelry, because the stuff is so opulent and lavish and luxurious. I imagine Anju comes up with the fantasy and Dinesh goes out and makes it happen with his connections with jewelry manufacturers in India. The Wadhwani’s invited a mix of beautiful people to attend their yearend celebration over flutes of French champagne, and violin music. So what did these two parties have in common besides the address, Palm Beach Plaza Mall, and White Modern Cuisine catering? They were both hosted by married couples who are successful entrepreneurial business partners.

PRIDE ARUBA. On Wednesday night T.H. Palm & Company, a boutique streetside at Playa Linda Beach Resort hosted the first annual Rainbow Event under the slogan Live & Love. The party kicked off the holiday shopping season, and tied up nicely with the fact that Venezuela just elected the first transgender congress woman in the Americas. Tamara Adrian, a lawyer and advocate for LGBT rights, is part of the opposition coalition that overwhelmingly conquered Venezuela’s National Assembly. On the island, ALFA, Alternative Lifestyle Federation of Aruba, organized Pride Aruba 2015, starting on November 13th. The ALFA program featured a number of activities, including the opening ceremony at Fort Zoutman, and a lecture about Equality at the University of Aruba. I attended the lecture of Boris Dittrich at UA, and was impressed with his personal resilience and determination, serving an international Human Right Watch Group. Aruba has a split personality about the LGBT issue, accepting alternative lifestyles on the outside and resisting on the inside. I personally think that one day after the upcoming elections it would be politically appropriate to legalize same sex marriage and finally grant the LGBT segment of our population equal rights. ALFA, was established in 2005 with the mission to bring awareness to the community, that this whole LGBT issue is a human rights violation and not a political, religious, moral or social consideration. The evening at UA was organized by the Bachelor of Art in Social Work and Development department. The department offers a four year, full time program, training competent social workers. The party at T.H. Palm & Company at Playa Linda Beach Resort, was much-enjoyed by invited guests. Jodi Tobman who owns the store is a progressive, trail-blazing retailer, always ahead of the pack, taking her social responsibility and her position as a role model in the community, with utmost sincerity. The catering by Chef Bas Kuurstra contributed nicely to the total success of the island first annual Rainbow Event.

FORMAL APOLOGY TO FORMER MINISTER RUDY CROES. When Rudy Croes was the minister of Justice he was the punch-line of a lot of jokes, boy, how we used to make fun of him, left, right and middle, criticize his traditional views, his old fashioned ways, and that was just for starters, you know what I mean because you were one of the culprits, laughing your head off every time he came up with a silly rule, and pulled back the public’s free reign. Well, I am hereby apologizing to the Minister for our bad behavior because in retrospect, he was a competent Minister of Justice, we didn’t like everything he had to say, but we had a good thing going as far as public safety, and security. Sure, I like everything about MinJust, his elegant ways and his groomed and cultured demeanor, HOWEVER, I do not like anything I read in the news these days, and nothing I see in the street, and I live in a bubble, so I see very little, but I resent the fact that he does not act again RHD cars, that he does not act against illegal Venezuelan trade – PS the island struggled with 40,387 entrepreneurial Venezuelans last month, that he did not institute the beach policy, and that he cannot impose law and order in one, I repeat just one nigh-clubbing zone, the hell hole we used to call the Olde Molen. Show us a sign that you are alive, demonstrate that you are in charge. You have the resources and you are capable, so please live up to your job requirement, or call Rudy Croes back from retirement!

THE QUESTIONABLE INTEGRITY OF AWARDS. Awards in general are tricky, because the award recipient has to really feel that he deserves the recognition. If we do not feel down-deep-inside that we deserve praise, we suffer guilt pangs, we realize that the show is politically, or commercially motivated. Let’s take for example the much written about Prestige Awards. I am immediately suspicious when the name of the perfume or a restaurant, tells me how I am supposed to feel about them. A restaurant called Delicious cannot be good. The biggest offenders are fragrance companies that define, Joy, Obsession and Allure for us, with the pompous names of their products. I say: Let me be the judges of how I feel about you. So when Prestige Awards came along and I had to instantly accept how prestigious they were, of course, I did the opposite. I questioned their integrity. Who is funding the program? Who are the sponsors? Who are the judges? How is Diana Croes involved? I really wanted to know, who owns and operates the foundation. Then I found out it is endorsed by MinTour. Power to him, he is allowed to have two programs, Shoco and Prestige, but it has to be TRANSPARENT. Someone has to openly say these are government-sponsored awards given to our people, those who are helpful to us. We fund it, we stand behind it, and it is prestigious to us. Moreover, for-profit initiatives should never receive public awards. Does Aruba Bank need an award? They make a lot of money off us, and they give a little back, as part of their social responsibility. So why award them anything? Believe me, G4theneighborhood is its own reward. I can go on, but you get my drift. The Prestige Award “Woman of the Year” accepted the plaque. She has her reasons. But I doubt it that your designated “Man of the Year” will. He shies away from the limelight. He doesn’t not promote himself publicly, and that is why doing business with him is considered prestigious, by everyone who meets him. Which brings me to the Shoco Awards. They should go back to the private sector. Our private sector is well prepared to host events and organize banquets. I join the opinion of many that the ceremony should be entrusted to professionals that would surely do a great job at setting a perfect stage. Then you can record the evening, go home and edit the footage, add nice graphics and captions, and voila, an interesting and educational one hour of good TV, instead of three-hours of torture.

STEAKHOUSE MENU AT FUSION. We sampled to Kobe Beef Sliders with caramelized onions at Fusion last Friday, and immediately wanted to order more. No yet, said Freddy Zedan, this is just a sample to drive you crazy with desire for another one. We are finishing the construction of the exhibition kitchen at Fusion, he explained, and then we’ll offer our new steakhouse menu starting December 18th. Ok, Freddy we’ll wait patiently. The Kobe beef Sliders went well with the Moët & Chandon Moët Ice Imperial, offered by the Aruba Trading Company, that evening.

TAN’DẺ MONUMENTAL CAFÉ. Tan, short for Tanchi. De, short for Daisey. Very cute name. Auntie Daisey’s monumental café opened in town facing Plaza Padu and the government’s Cocolishi Building. They are again digging up the street so the view in imperfect. But turn your back to it. On the right hand side Yemanja Woodgrill Restaurant and the gorgeous rustling tree with brown pods. A few elegant Bordeaux umbrellas provide the shade over the sidewalk. There is no inside, just the kitchen. But you are welcome to visit and admire the display of local sweets, also greet the most adorable cooks. We were welcomed by Kylie, a fantastic hostess/waitress, with a huge personality, who made the experience unforgettable, down to the last detail. And the devil as you know is in the detail. We had the tomato and carrot soup, with too much cream, but it was amazing, served with sliced bacon infused white baguette. Then we shared the Roma Panini, nicely pressed with brie and prosciutto. For dessert Lavazza espresso coffee and freshly baked tert di pruin. I love prunes, so it was perfect. The café is the brain child of Tai-Foo Lee, an off-spring to a creative family with inborn, instinctive, culinary and décor talents. The café is dedicated to Padu Del Caribe, whose plaza it occupies and to Padu’s wife Daisey who died in 1993. Her nick name Tan De, served as the inspiration for the whole concept. With Padu’s music wafting in the air, the menu offers lovely choices, and the ambiance is just irresistible, against the backdrop of the historic Cosecha building. We loved the lacy bread cover in the kitchen, the cuckoo clock, the gold leaf on the menu covers, the staff uniform and the embroidered crest, the café’s hanging sign, the performing emerald-green iguanas in the tree, the hand carved bill boxes, the candy cane that came with the bill, the small wooden, delicately engraved table-top merchandisers recounting the legend of Padu & Daisey, the blue-eyed water boy, the edgy short haired supervisor, and the interestingly flavored breads! We will be back.

COSECHA DESIGN STORE, As we finished lunch we took our time to inspect neighboring Cosecha. We have to admit, the store is stocked with beautiful, unique gifts and souvenirs. Carina Molina’s belts and bags made from rubber inner tubes, Deborah de Weerd’s stunning glass jewelry and abstract paintings, Carolina de Waard’s gorgeous ceramics and sea glass pieces, Ciro & Marian Abath’s blown glass jewelry, more sea-glass jewelry by Gabriela Gonzalez, Hendrik Schouten’s paintings and copper jewelry and the Ramona “Mimi” Verbeek-Geerman’s collection, all super attractive. The design store is open Monday from 12noon to 6pm and otherwise every day except Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The store carries crafts by artists who received the seyo certification, by the Department of Culture, awarding them the official seal of local craftsmanship, meaning made in Aruba by an authentic artisan. The seyo is awarded to artisans for craftsmanship, originality, esthetics, material use, local identify and commercial value, and it has so far helped boost Aruba’s creative industry.

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December 13, 2015
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster