An executive chef, sous chef, pastry chef, bartender, wait staff — these are the typical professionals you expect to be part of a food and beverage function. But an artist and a musician? During the Aruba Tourism Authority’s “Taste of Aruba” event, all of them were integral to the success of the evening. This event intertwined the artistry, culture, and cuisine of Aruba.
The cold, slushy Manhattan streets were forgotten as guests descended into The Kitchen NYC, a state-of-the-art kitchen studio, production, and event space that was transformed with the colors and warmth reminiscent of the island.
A heartfelt welcome speech was given by Otmar Oduber, Minister of Tourism, Transportation and Labor Affairs, who is said to be the driving force behind Aruba’s growing and evolving tourism industry. Lobster was served with a cilantro avocado crème, compressed watermelon, cashew nuts, and a lemon-lime dressing that together resembled a coral reef. Not only did the dish evoke the sea but so did the beautiful piano arrangement performed by Jonathan Vieira, director of Aruba’s Center for the Performing Arts, Cas di Cultura, and the founder and executive producer of the Aruba International Film Festival. Viera performed a different song for each course.
The evening’s master of ceremonies was Urvin Croes, one of Aruba’s most famous resident chefs. Chef Croes received his training in the Netherlands and Italy and has worked in a number of fine establishments, including the Michelin-starred Grand Hotel Karel V in Utrecht, Holland. After returning to Aruba, Croes joined the culinary team at Windows on Aruba and served as a sous chef at Amuse Bistro, before opening White Modern Cuisine in February 2012. The restaurant focuses on the harmony between food and wine, balancing quality and flavor.
For the main course, Chef Croes paid tribute to the island’s culture with a veal strip loin served with stewed plantains, semi-roasted tomatoes, plantain chips, caramelized onions, and soft polenta.
“This dish was inspired by our love and commitment to our Aruba,” Croes says. “Banana Stoba is a real traditional dish, cooked for more than 100 years. Traditionally, it is made with pork instead of veal, but I wanted to give it a more refined jacket.”
The evening culminated with a delectable dessert that celebrated the island’s diversity. With more than 90 nationalities, Aruba is a cultural melting pot, offering Amerindian, Latin, and European influences in every aspect of life. Tres leches sponge cake was served with an eggnog soup, vanilla custard, milk granita, and Italian meringue. “The custard in the dish is called maizena in the Dominican Republic,” Croes explains. “The eggnog is called advocaat in the Netherlands. I added the Italian meringue because the Italians and Europeans came to Aruba in the 1950s and made it a culinary destination.”