Bati Bleki Weekly Recap January 22nd, 2017

The Sands Eatery, Marriott Ocean Club, BEST kept secret, for seafood on the edge of the beach!

What used to be the Marriott Ocean Club, Pool Bar & Grill, is still that during the day, but in the evening hours it recently got a serious upgrade, offerings an excellent dinner menu as the Sands Eatery.

Adolfo Bonarriva who manages the restaurants for both the Marriott Ocean Club and the Marriott Surf Club reports that when Simply Fish transformed into Atardi, his F&B team claimed the lovely, now abandoned menu and adopted it with just a few modifications at the Sands Eatery.

“We buy the best seafood,” he says, “we cook it lightly, and serve it to our guests with a variety of sauces, so that dinner becomes a customized affair Grilled, Seared or Blackened.”

The terrace restaurant enjoys spectacular sunset views and great proximity to the beach. Dinner patrons are entertained by Lazarus, a Cuban sax player, who can raise the dead with his soulful tunes. Best of all, Chef Miguel Garcia drops in to check on guests. As Executive Sous Chef for the entire Marriott Complex, he is always on the go, stirring the pots in at least one dozen kitchens!

Miriam Gomez Barret, the Operations Manager and General Manager Erwin Noguera, were on hand that night to offer commentary and entertainment.

I met Miriam when she was interviewing for her first hospitality job at age 18, at Divi resorts. We share a bundle of unforgettable experiences from that time. Erwin Noguera, has also been my friend for a number of years, and what we perhaps lack in duration, we make up in depth: Erwin is a candid, nonstop commentary machine, and one of the world’s most motivating individuals. So in answer to your question, yes, we had fun!

We shared everything, the table was heaving with small and big plates, but we were determined, to study that menu, crack its code. While Miriam was on a bit of a diet, I did not disappoint. I also demolished her share.

The appetizers arrived in fast succession, Crab Claws Al Ajillo, with parsley, thyme, basil, cilantro and garlic butter; Ancho Fried Shrimp with plum tomatoes and red onions; Sautéed Clams in a light Saffron Balashi beer broth with garlic butter and Roma tomatoes; Fried, Tempura Dusted Calamari with sage and spicy marinade. Attention Chef Garcia: I need that Ancho Fried Shrimp recipe.

The main courses followed as Adolfo predicted, beautifully plated just-caught Mahi Mahi, Grouper, and the best looking Tuna I have ever had, Scallops in a Lemon Caper sauce, and Caribbean Lobster Tail with beurre noisette. I might have overlooked the Chicken Schnitzel!

Of all the sauces, the Coconut Curry Sauce was my favorite, but all others including the Mango Chutney, the Roasted Peppers, and the Creole Sauce, were pretty fantastic.

Needless to say, we also ordered some sides the Creamed Spinach, the Funchi, and the Fried Patacones.

You guessed: We took it easy for dessert, a Coconut, Pineapple Island Cake and an off-the-chart warm Apple Rum & Raisin Tart.

After that I wanted to dance naked under the moon and the starry skies, but opting for propriety, we kissed goodbye and vowed to return.

Nice spot.


Asi Es Mi Peru hosts an intimate opening dinner party

Jan van Nes and his wife of 25 years, Roxana Salinas, hosted an evening affair in honor of their new joint venture Asi Es mi Peru Restaurant at Paradise Beach Villas.

I was happy to say to the Resort Manager Freddy Albertus that his property is slowly transforming into a culinary destination with two excellent chef-owned eateries in residence, Terrazza Italiana, on the ocean front roof top and Asi Es Mi Peru, on street level, across La Cabana Beach Resort & Casino, both easily accessible to outside guests, with ample and convenient parking.

We were greeted with bottomless Pisco Sours, a classic Peruvian cocktail as invited press and family members congregated on the enclosed terrace; then in her own words, Roxana told us her life’s story, about coming to Aruba on vacation 25 years ago and meeting her husband Jan; settling on the island and learning to love and appreciate her new home, raising two boys who now study in the Netherlands, and all along maintaining a very special relationship with her native country, Peru.

Having operated an all day Italian-inspire dining terrace and gelateria on Palm Beach, Roxana recently decided to fulfill a long time dream, plunging her even further into hospitality, by opening a classic, authentic, Peruvian eatery.

She got a bit emotional at one point, expressing joy and gratitude, thanking family members for their steadfast support of her dream, but she forged on to present the local cancer fund, Queen Wilhelmina, with a generous check, money raised from the proceeds of the tiny artisan market at the entrance to the restaurant.

“We are a restaurant with a social conscience,” she said, “and we will make monthly donations, to social causes,” she added. Then Jan ventured forward with a hug and a kiss. It was a great, feel-good moment!

The subsequent ribbon cutting ceremony starred a great number of Roxana’s broadly smiling, proud family members, and having enjoyed the picture-opportunity, we then sat down to a sumptuous tasting, of all the restaurant’s hits, a Seafood Ceviche, Causa, Aji de Gallina, Lomo Saltado, and for dessert Arroz con Leche and Mazamorra Morada.

Albertus, remember, he is the resort manager, is very enthusiastic about the new addition to Paradise Beach Villas. He was just introduced to the classic recipes of the Peruvian kitchen, and is now a Leche de Tigre aficionado, appreciating the citrus-based marinade, with thinly sliced onion, smoky chilies, salt, and pepper, that cure the seafood in his Ceviche!

Peruvian cuisine was born when indigenous cooks met European immigrants, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese and Japanese, mixing local ingredients such as corn, potatoes — growing more than 3800 potato varieties – and quinoa. Apparently, the whole world is now interested in native Peruvian foods and culinary techniques. This kitchen has a long multicultural history, and is ready for the world stage!


Hyundai Ioniq now available at Garage Centraal

Last Thursday the garage hosted the unveiling of the new Hyundai Ioniq, a midsize all electric hatchback, equipped with Blue Drive technology for lower pollution and higher performance.

Aruba’s MinPres was on hand to personally unveil the car and take a test drive and I heard from Rodney Kock the garage marketing manager that the official had great fun driving the sporty car and streamed his experience live on line; after all his government promotes its support of sustainability and all electric car does just that.

Imagine never having to stop at a gas station anymore? Cool.

The event also hosted some of our electric company, ELMAR officials who promoted their car charging stations. There are currently five charging stations on the island and they promise to widen and broaden the options to cover all districts, but of course you could just plug your car in at home, if you run a dedicated cable from your electric box, and the option to have a pre-paid meter is available.

I visited the garage and Rodney offered a test drive, which I will take him up on, this weekend.

Sitting inside the Ioniq feels very sporty and dynamic, the compact wheel and the hooded dashboard have a sports car feel about them.

The car has an automatic transmission and is fully equipment with LED headlamps, airbags, electric folding mirrors, power seats, locks and windows, parking assist, Bluetooth, wireless phone charging, rear camera and rain sensor.

Best of all, most alternative fuel cars look goofy. Not this one. This one is super smart AND stylish.

Rodney told me that there are many more models arriving on the market in the near future, mark my words, my next car is an all electric Hyundai small SUV.

The price? Super affordable, because of lower import taxes on alternative fuel cars and low monthly payments because the banks joined in with a lower interest rate on behalf of the environment.

While the garage is still collecting data about range, they predict 200KM between charges and the car accelerates in just 9 seconds from 0 to 100/kmh!

You should know that the Ioniq Electric was released in South Korea in July 2016, and sold over 1,000 units during its first two months in the market!


Shame on Senor Frog’s and its operator Grupo Anderson’s, from Mexico

If you recall in November, Grupo Anderson’s sneakily sent a representative to Aruba to close their business here and mass fire the staff.

The stealth operation was to take place under the cover of night. The hatchet-man arrived, emptied the safe, pocketed whatever he found, fired 32 employees and headed to the airport, ready to leave, when he was intercepted by the enraged yet restrained employees who recruited the tax authorities to help prevent the man from leaving the country.

The strategy was successful. The tax man walked in, held Daniel Orosco for as long as it was legal, and then sold the restaurant equipment to pay for some arrear taxes, and let him go.

Those left with their hands empty were the employees, who have been cheated out of their wages, vacation pay, pension plans, and most importantly a steady, monthly income.

So now you know the story. It happens you say. People go out of business. The employees should have read the writing on the wall.

In this case I beg to differ. Grupo Anderson’s has been exploiting business opportunities on the island for many decades; they have had a very successful relationship with Aruba where their shoddy “Spring Break” “anything goes,” type of party product was well received.

I have seen companies going out of business in Aruba before, it is an economic reality. Some of my friends had to fold their businesses, making sure they pay every single cent they owe because they wanted to continue to live here, and if you want to continue to live here you pay your debts and start anew, because it is the best long term strategy.

And as a community we go on, only remembering how honorable, ethical, and well behaved you were.

The shameless Grupo Anderson’s on the other hand did not give a damn. They made a killing here for many years, enjoyed the good times, and bailed out as soon as the going got tough. And no, there is no protection against unscrupulous employers, at least very little.

The issue was in the news again this week because Grupo Anderson’s local lawyer dumped them. She has political aspiration and cannot be associated with a scandal. She shouldn’t have picked them up in the first place. But she did, making false promises on their behalf, declaring they will pay the employees and take care of their obligations, which was all bogus.

On a funny note, the pressure on her is mounting, to dedicate her upcoming fund-raiser cum birthday party proceeds to the abandoned employees of Grupo Anderson’s instead of to her political campaign.

As for the Grupo Anderson’s employees, go find another job, with a local employer with deep Aruban roots, you might be better protected there, no guarantee, going out of business is tough.


Welcome to Aruba, Chef Lij

I met chef Lij twice this week, once for coffee in the lobby of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, then for a photo shoot, he was plating some food for the camera – his classic Sunset Grille dishes looked like Japanese paintings, picture perfect.

Over coffee I discovered the chef was an easy talker; he loves commenting about food and travel, he speaks softly, and doesn’t seem to carry any sticks!

The days when chef screamed and hollered in the kitchen are over, he said, we work in the heat, under pressure, it’s a team effort, and I need every one of my people to be at his best.

Originally from Jamaica, Chef Lij Heron is now the dedicated culinary boss at the Sunset Grille. He was warmly welcomed, he says, by an experienced and professional dining room and kitchen team.

So where did he work before?

At the United Arab Emirates. Chef Lij went on to list all the exotic places on my bucket list. He worked in Dubai, on the 27th floor of Burj Al Arab running the Al Muntaha restaurant, serving the finest French Cuisine with a spectacular view of the city and the sea and at the Rib Room at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, which is an award winning steakhouse of incomparable quality.

He now comes to us from the Waldorf Astoria at Ras Al Khaimah, also in the United Aruba Emirates, where he was responsible for the delicious cuisine at the legendary Peacock Alley, the Camelia Lounge and the Lexington Grill.

You have to admit, it’s quite a resume.

So what’s your signature dish, I asked, expecting fireworks, and you won’t believe what he said. He said: “My mashed potatoes will blow your sock off.”

Yes, apparently the simplest things are the most difficult, and the chef’s mashed potato recipe was handed down to him by a Micheline starred chef, and it calls for a warm cream and butter reduction, gently folded into the mash of potatoes cooked in their skins.

It’s the detail that’s important, the chef explains, don’t cut corners, never rush, grind fresh pepper, don’t use a pre-packaged, factory-produced shaker, use the best olive oil money can buy, the best aged Parmesan cheese, speak to the farmers in the neighborhood, get them to grow your herbs, and be nice to your team, coach them gently, and you will achieve great results.

The chef who started out as an electrical engineer, before opting for his passion, and heading to NY to the Culinary Institute of America, reports that his technical knowledge comes in handy in the kitchen, and he is not easily scared by any equipment breakdown.

He met his journalist wife in Jamaica, and together they developed one of the top food blogs in Dubai and the UAE. Check out for recipes, healthy lifestyle, style, travel and family tips. The couple is celebrating their 7th wedding anniversary these days and parenting an adorable little boy.

The Sunset Grille is a popular dining destination seven days a week, from 6-11pm. The culinary team is in the process of developing an a-la-carte brunch concept that will offer a new and exciting culinary experience to guests, combined with stunning views from the Sunset Grille Restaurant new deck and terrace.

For Valentine’s day the resort is planning a spectacular beach dinner starting with an Amuse Bouche featuring Foie Gras, sweet bread and onion confit, followed by a Poached Pear Salad on a bed of mixed lettuce, with ginger and honey dressing; a Passion Sherbet & Prosecco intermezzo, and for main course Black Angus Beef Tenderloin and Caribbean Lobster Tail, truffle mashed potato, zucchini, coconut & Vanilla Butter. The dessert, Textures of Strawberry, layers meringue, cheese cake and compote. Please call +297-526-6612 for reservations!


Female hotel managers wanted!

The Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association held a general assembly on Friday afternoon. Apparently, last year’s turbulence surrounding the relationship of the former MinTour with the association had a positive effect on membership, because the room was full, every seat at the Alhambra Ballroom taken.

Jim Hepple, the association slow n’ steady CEO made his way through the agenda, reporting on AHATA’s recent activities; he then commented on AHATA’s financial status, outlined the plans and programs for 2017, and presented the proposed budget.

So far so good. The room was breathing. The hoteliers even put down their phones. They were engaged. AHATA had better get some work done between now and September, as outlined in the meeting with the current MinTour on November 14th and the entire government on November 16th, involving improvement of ongoing marketing in the US, the notorious legislation which changes the way hotels are to be licensed, the urgently needed, practically abandoned beach policy, the revision of import duties, the restructuring of the price of electricity, the mysterious whereabouts of the proceeds from the Environmental Levy, education, casino operation, timeshare resorts, and the needs of the allied members such as restaurants and retail stores.

As outlined in the newspaper, the assembly was about to vote on the slate of the new Board of Directors, business as usual. We thought it was a done deal. Then Rene Kan, representing the ownership of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort and Casino asked a disruptive question.

He wanted to know why the Board of the Directors wasn’t shrunk to nine as planned, why the assembly was still proposing a slate of thirteen. He thought the downsizing of the board was a done deal, in the name of efficiency. He wanted to see a change of pace, an adaptation, a transformation, no same-old-same-old.

In retrospect they all agreed that they expected Kan to push the envelope somewhere, that’s his style, he changes trajectories to move things along.

AHATA’s board went from fifteen to thirteen; Kan proposed between 5 to 7. Then someone offered 9 as a compromise.

The shrinking of the board was definitely discussed. AHATA was going to send some of its directors to the supervisory board of ATA, and keep a smaller core. Somehow a more gradual approach was adopted.

At the networking opportunity, after the assembly, I joined a table of girls at the end of the room and we all decided that this was the most exciting General Assembly we ever attended, it was not predictable.

Tom Calame made two noble, persuasive attempts to reach consensus.

And my girls at the back felt all these boys were much too emotional and needed some females on the board, to mitigate circumstances, and round up the rough edges. Alas, because of the association by-laws, the members of AHATA must be resort managers and we haven’t had a female resort manager here, in a while.

EPILOGUE: At the end of a short discussion the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino withdrew its AHATA membership and its board member candidate, in protest. Kan stated publicly that AHATA informed him that it would reduce the size of the board from fifteen to nine – the size of the board was initially one of the reasons the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino resigned from AHATA in September, 2016. Kan informed AHATA in writing, that the resort was willing to return to the association, providing it elected a smaller, more efficient board but AHATA opted to act differently. “AHATA spends too much time on plastic bags and trying to lower energy bills – which will probably never happen after the government recently lowered tariffs for households to a level where Elmar loses money, and needs to supplement it by commerce. AHATA should be talking about more important issues in 2017, such as AirBnB and the other accommodations, and the 4,000 additional rooms in the government pipeline,” Kan added.



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January 22, 2017
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