New Orleans Comes to Aruba

A few years ago a Minister of Tourism, whom we all try to forget, had a brilliant idea to take a delegation of local movers & shaker to New Orleans, Nola, to learn a trick or two about tourism, food and Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler.

Following a successful, fun filled trip, the initiative died, nothing happened, but it is still a good idea.

Kavey Yarzagaray, TEC INC., is a fan of New Orleans and over the years made good friends among the city’s Food & Beverage professionals, then one evening, over great food paired with Bourbon, he invited them to Aruba to show us a good time. Their response was, as expected, “Well, that just dilled, our pickle!”


In collaboration with top Dutch chef Martijn Liebregts, Papillon restaurant, the casual suggestion, morphed into an impeccably orchestrated event.

Food in New Orleans is a serious business and saturation or no saturation, good places enjoy long lines of people snaking around them. They all tell a fun story, with historical references — Napoleon, almost stayed here; the mother of Princess Alice lived there — most serve generous portions of really great products, with a secret ingredient, which for lack of other descriptions I decided to call Flair, French-inspired, Cajun flavored and Creole spiced.

You should also know that everything you eat in New Orleans, is rich, as in butter. Butter makes food better. Then add the Creole roux, with a bit of flour, onion, celery, and bell peppers, an abundance of garlic, paprika, thyme, parsley and green onions, voila, simple.

We sampled some of that simplicity at Papillon restaurant on Saturday night when Chef Geordie Brower, and sommelier Tyler Cox, invited here by Kavey, helped host a Bourbon food pairing, to announce the debut of Aruba’s Bourbon Society.

Chef Brower is a 4th generation family member of famed Brennan’s dynasty. Among New Orleans’ many famous restaurants, those owned by the Brennan family gained a fantastic, worldwide reputation; they now run 6 award-winning eateries there alone, ranging from fine dining to casual & family-friendly, including Palace Cafe, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House, Tableau on Jackson Square, Acorn Cafe adjacent to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, and The Commissary, the newest eatery with an in-house market.  Among graduates of this family business, Chef Emeril Lagasse and Chef Paul Prudhomme who worked in the basement kitchen of Commander’s Palace, and became international household names.

Joining Chef Bower, Tyler Cox, a sommelier at the Bourbon House, on Bourbon Street, New Orleans. In 2002 the Bourbon House started collecting expressions of American Whiskey and founded the New Orleans Bourbon Society which meets regularly for tastings and events with master distillers, at the restaurant. Tyler Cox, shared some of his profound knowledge of the subject with diners at Papillon restaurant Saturday night, opening a window into a new sip and & savor world of craft distillers and blenders.

Going from Sazerac Rye at the beginning of the evening, to Redemption Rye midway, Elijah Craig Small Bath later, and as the highlight of the evening, the 2019 release of Old Fitzgerald, a wheated bourbon Whiskey from the Heaven Hill distillery, matured for 15 years, and presented in a glass decanter bottle with a crystal stopper.

It was a sold out event.

In the spirit of the times, Kavey remarks, I made sure everyone invited is vaccinated, surely a first, on the island.

The evening took off with a Sazerac cocktail, invented circa 1850, Rye Whiskey stirred with lemon peel and a sugar cube, a classic sipping beauty. Tyler reports the bar tenders at Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa and the bartender at Papillon Restaurant, mastered the recipe in no time.

Appetizer – Grilled Peach and Duck Prosciutto Salad: The duck prosciutto was home cured and smoked, then thinly sliced, the creamy burrata, local; drizzled with Bourbon vinaigrette, on a bed of arugula and accompanied by toasted baguette, the dish was paired with Sazerac Rye.

Seafood Course – Louisiana Blue Crab Claws Bordelaise: An interesting presentation of sautéed crab claws, in a New Orleans Bordelaise sauce — different from the French classical version, here the basic flavor is butter and garlic, instead of red wine; drizzled with zesty Bourbon grilled lemons, the dish was paired with Redemption Rye Whiskey

Main Course – BBQ Caribbean Lobster and Grits: This combo converted us all into grits lovers, as the puddle of New Orleans Style BBQ sauce, combined with creamy Louisiana grits, and sweet, whole, sous vide lobster tail, delivered a most enjoyable sensation, paired with Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon.

Dessert – If decadence had a name, it would be Bourbon Sticky Toffy Pudding, with whipped creamer, that small, warm, pot of gooey molten chocolate, served at the end of our meal, was paired with Old Fitzgerald 15 year. I reckon this was incredibly calorific. Bless their hearts!!

The music was perfect, by Angelo Koolman, including Jazz, and Dixieland.

Nice wine pairing by Kavey Yarzagaray and Raymond Kok, available for the faint of heart, unfamiliar with Bourbon.

Fantastic service, by owner Tina van Mal, Michael and their attentive crew.

What makes Bourbon, Bourbon? It is an exclusively American spirit; distilled from a mash containing at least 51% corn, getting aged in charred NEW oak barrels, and being bottled at a minimum of 40% alcohol content. In other words, fire water, but perfumed and smooth.

Join the Aruba Bourbon Society by messaging Kavey!

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August 16, 2021
Rona Coster