Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bacanal Loves Pan Dulce (Panettone)

This is the end of the Panettone (Pan Dulce) season for us. When we started Sugar & Spice, the idea was to bring to the market what was missing. We did not want to make alfajores for example because you can get one in every corner. We made one exception and that was Pan Dulce (Panettone).

Most Panettone in Argentina is made with candied fruit and I just do not like it. I know it´s a matter of taste--to each his own. However, there were so few options for those of us who only liked the more noble inclusions like hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts laced with orange peel and raisins soaked in cognac. Now it looks like there is some competition in the market place.

Bacanal went through the trouble of selecting their top 8 "most delicious and original" offerings and Sugar & Spice was among those chosen. We are rubbing elbows with the likes of Jean Paul Bondoux (Alvear Palace Hotel), Plaza Mayor, Beatriz Chomnalez (Ceasar Park Hotel), Las Violetas, etc.

If you click on the picture below you will be taken to the scanned images of the full article in this month´s Bacanal.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Faena Hotel+Universe, Buenos Aires

It was just a matter of time. I mean, I always thought so. I had contacted them about 2 years ago and for the life of me I never understood why they didn´t bite right away. Now one of Argentina´s premier hotels and residences can also claim to offer their clients the best cookies in the market. Maybe that can go on their little list of awards at the bottom. What do you think?

By clicking on the picture below you can go to their website.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Who is This Woman?

No she is not missing. She actually went to High School with me. These days she has a fantastic blog called "Oh, The Joys", of which I am a new and big fan of, and she is currently living in Atlanta with her family (Husband K, and kiddies). Her name is Jessica.

So why the title...? I can´t remember her!

I am a bit absentminded mind you. I mean I have been known to walk into a room and all of a sudden wondered to myself what I went in there for. However, I do tend to have a pretty good long term memory, or at least I thought I did.

In any case, I am glad she found me.

So far she has reassured me that I did not have a crush on her, even though I gave her a mixed tape. One of the bands on that mixed tape was Black Flag so the music choice tends to back her up. I mean, how many women can you swoon while Henry Rollins yells in the background?

She has promised to scan some high school pictures and send those to me and hopefully that will help out a bit.

Meanwhile, if you feel like reading from a talented, funny writer that happens to be a working mother of two, then by all means you should read her stuff. I really can´t say enough about her... or I wish I could not say enough about her... or... oh never mind.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fundacion Leer Reading Marathon 2007

A while back, I wrote about Fundacion Leer (Reading is Fundamental Argentina) and their reading marathon, which took place on the 5th of October. I promised that I would write the results of this year´s events and so as promised here are the results:

  • 2,401,099 children participated in the marathon
  • 162,158 adults from over 8,000 institutions volunteered and helped those kids develop a love for books and reading on that day.

Mind you, these are kids that live in homes where the only book the family does own, most likely, is that same book those children chose to be their very own that day.

"Wow" does not even begin describe what I think, but it is the only thing I can think of saying when I think about it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Have You Ever Wanted to Write a Comercial?

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.
--Thomas Jefferson

This post is mostly directed towards my native Argentine Castellano speakers. I will explain in English at the end of this post.

Aspen 102.3 nos esta dando un spot de 30 segundos. Buenisimo! Pero ahora que digo? No tengo la menor idea que decir y bueno, esto es todo nuevo para nosotros.

La primer tanda la hicieron ellos y fue asi:

Sugar & Spice, el sitio de las delicatesen elaboradas con el placer de
comerlas de inmediato, te invita a degustar su Panettone Unforgettable.

Un Pan Dulce Inolvidable, con calidad de exportación y realización
Presentado en caja con una pieza de 700 grs. y también en otros tamaños
para regalos corporativos.

Sugar & Spice
Guatemala 5415 esquina Juan B. Justo

Y ahora pensamos en algo como lo siguiente:

Ya probaste Sugar and Spice? Son unas galletitas deliciosas, unos budines
increibles, un pan dulce inolvidable....
Conoce, proba, regala..........Sugar and Spice.
Guatemala 5415 esquina Juan B. Justo.

Si alguien piensa que puede hacer algo mejor, y lo usamos en la radio, les daremos un regalo compuesto de nuestros productos.


We have been given a 30 second spot for a local radio station called Aspen on 102.3fm

This is great news, but I also don´t have a clue as to what to say on that spot. The first week they made one up. This time we are trying to come up with something and I was asking for any ideas. If anyone comes up with something that we like and that we can use on the radio then we will give that person a gift made with an assortment of our products.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Interviewed by Negocios y Pymes

I know I am a bit late with this, but I was featured in an on-line article and I am also going to be on TV again. I don't have the date for that very short television appearance, but if you can read Spanish you can read the article.

Interview with Negocios y Pymes

By the way, PYMES stands for small and medium sized businesses.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sugar & Spice Has a New Web Site!

Sugar & Spice has a new web site!
I think it looks way better than the old one. It is still a basic site, very few bells and whistles.

So far it's only in Spanish. I have to get working on the English part, but that might be in January since we are way, way busy right now.

Some of the segments that are getting more visitors than others is the corporate gift section or regalos.

Under the section called "venta al publico" there is a map showing our location. What do you think of this map? Is it clear enough?

So please take a look and if you spot any errors please feel free to let me know about them. The designers are going to be making some changes but we decided to let them post it before they finished with the modifications that we suggested. Currently the site itself links back to my old blog URL which had a funny little mistake in the spelling; in Spanish it spelled out Species instead of Spices.

Basically there will be several minor changes to the site on any given day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Awsome Blogger

Tatiana who has two blogs; Totally Useless and iPhone Gossip gave this award to me. This was a while back, but I have been so busy and it just kind of fell through the cracks. I am sorry for taking so long to post this but better late than never.

Thank you Tatiana!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mom is Santa

This is a public service announcement. I have learned firsthand how quickly kids find "things" that are new to their world in their parent´s nightstand. This video captures that perfectly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 2007 Roundup

I don't think I have gone so long without writing and for that I apologize. It's not laziness, writer's cramp or apathy. I just have way too much going on right now. So I thought maybe I could sum it up a little bit in this post.

I managed to loose a long time client and then get them back. I have a client with a chain of locations throughout the city that manages to get into cash flow problems around this time of year. We find out on payday when we get a check payable for 90 days (Ouch!). I overreacted and they didn't take it well and we eventually kissed and made up, all in the same month.

I have been flying to Uruguay, Chile and Cordoba to meet with a mixture of new, current and potential clients. This sounds more glamorous than it really is. I get to experience flight delays on every single one of my flights for example. I also get to go to new unexplored cities (unexplored by me) with only enough time to maybe walk 6 blocks before I have to go do something. They stayed mainly unexplored. I get to take lots of pictures of stores and store shelves and get to wait around for meetings. All of this would be enough to drive me to suicide, but since I am doing this for the sake of my business, I have to admit that my curiosity drives me to do that job well.

I joined a political group called Democrats Abroad. For those of you who know me I can just picture your eyebrows going up. I have never been much of a joiner of groups. However, all the shenanigans that have been going on in the name of my country have just gotten me sick and I felt that I had to do something; voting obviously isn't enough. I guess that if I had written a post on this subject the title would have had been "The Devil Made Me Do It". If you would like to read a little bit about this group you can click - here - for Yanqui Mike's posts on the subject and - here - for 99's posts.

I have a new client! Normally I don't mention this until I have a purchase order in my hands but these guys have been so enthusiastic during the whole sales process that only a natural disaster or an act from God can keep them from following through. The chain is Libertad. It is a supermarket chain that is positioned mostly in the north of the country and they were purchased by Casino (French multinational) back in 1998. They also form part of a large group of supermarket chains in Latin America that are owned by Casino. This should help us get into these other countries. As for Argentina we pretty much have the whole country covered with these three clients (Jumbo, La Anonima and Libertad) now I can focus on exporting. You can insert a big sigh of relief from me here.

I have another new client in Blockbuster Video. No, I am not going into the DVD business. Blockbuster is actually hurting big time from the sale of illegal DVD's. They are forced to think out of the box and try something new. Sure you always had that option of buying some snacks from there to go with the movies but now they are going all out gourmet. There first gourmet store was on Callao (& Santa Fe) and from the looks of their purchases the trial must have worked and they are expanding the concept to other stores. Where else can you get the world's best chocolate chip cookies to go with that movie? If you answered your grandmother's house it's time to get off your lazy ass, get a job and limit your PS2 gaming time, unless of course you are 14 years old.

I managed to read some blogs and managed to be impressed by some of them so much that I want to share them with you:

Taos finds out one of the things that Argentines are super efficient at doing... and that is killing themselves behind the wheel of an automobile. It's actually very tragic and depressing but he's just presenting the facts people. You can click - here - for that article. However, he also finds out that Argentine women love having sex more than women from other countries. He also found that 97.2% of Argentines are literate. Somebody give that guy some Scooby snacks. He is churning out way too many interesting articles.

Pablo in Rosario also touched on a depressing topic in the state of abortion in Santa Fe (The State in which he lives in). He has also started assigning names to the power outages in his city like how they give names to tropical storms. The latest outage is called Carlos. You gotta love that.

Ian finds out why "one should not fuck with the French". This little episode happened in my neighborhood.

Robert Wright has the skinny on the Recoleta Cemetary.

A Texan in Argentina discovers Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sugar & Spice Gifts 2007

This is an online photo album of the gifts we have this year. Most of them will not be around next year. These gifts have been very popular with companies that buy end of year presents for their employees as well as people stopping by our store.

I am also leaving a slide show on my side-link so that it will be easier to find.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Growing a Forest

The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, 'In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!'
John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963)

I was just thinking about how growing this business is kind of like growing a forest from scratch. I am still in the process of planting trees and the first few rows are starting to show promise. Meanwhile I have to keep planting while taking care of those promising saplings. But while I am waiting for those small sapling to grow I am going to try planting some bigger more advanced in age trees.

So what are some of those new trees like that are taking up so much of my time?

Jumbo supermarket is a new client of ours. They have our brand in their three top stores. They refer to them as their three P´s; Palermo, Pilar and, uh ...Unicenter. Okay, the word play is supposed to be location, location, location but you know I didn´t think this stuff up. I am just repeating what has been told to me. The pound cakes have been literally flying off the shelves. We actually had stock-outs (sold out) of these products. Everything else has been doing good. I mean it is selling, it´s just not selling out. This is mostly due to them underestimating how the pound cakes were going to perform. This coming weekend we are going to be sampling at the three stores (Thursday at the Palermo store and Sunday at both the Unicenter and Pilar stores -tentatively).

Exporting possibilities: We just finished participating in the first Alimentaria Mercosur Expo at La Rural. The expo was great because they had rounds of meetings set up with supermarket chains from other countries. These meetings were prearranged ahead of time so basically I got a chance to present my products to people that already expressed an interest in seeing them. I had to do my bit of homework and read up on them and their respective countries i.e. Peru, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Uruguay and Venezuela. We also had a booth set up so that also took a big chunk out of my day.

Now I am running around and arranging meetings with some of those people. Just this week I have to fly off to Uruguay and Chile. Next week I need to fly to Cordoba as a result of this expo as well. Falabella Chile already has our products in two of their stores: Parque Arauco & La Dehesa. I am going over there to meet some of the people at the stores, hopefully do a little training, and talk about how the sales are doing, and see what we could do to improve those numbers, if they need improving.

And to top this off I am doing all of this during November. Just in case you are not in the baking industry, November and December are absolutely crazy for us. This is Pan Dulce (Panettone) season and we make, what I believe to be, the best Pan Dulce on the planet. When I first came to Argentina I was not a big Pan Dulce person. I started trying out the various Pan Dulce offerings here. I tried just about all of them and I realized that there was one trait that just about all of them shared. They all were made with candied fruit. I hate candied fruit.

We make ours with almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, plump juicy raisins and glacé orange peel. Okay, that last one is actually a candied fruit, but one thing is a candied orange peel and something entirely different is a varied colored piece of fruit that you can´t discern a taste from. Anyway, the nuts and fruits are immersed in cognac and we top the whole thing off with a crunchy almond topping.

Last year Falabella ran out of it with one whole week left until Christmas. This time they are ordering a few more and Jumbo is also going to offer them as well. One little guy getting into the Pan Dulce game for us is LeShop.

Hopefully, one day, I will be able to see the trees for the forest and the forest for the trees.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

El Cronista

El Cronista ran an article on us on Thursday the 11th of October. For those of you who know Spanish here is the link. They actually wrote two; here is the second link. Yes, I know, I am a little late. I have actually been up to quite a bit and I will let all of you know shortly all the new developments.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Corazon Rompido

“The heart was made to be broken”
--Oscar Wilde

My two year old: "Papi, mi corazon esta rompido / My heart is broken"

Me: "Why sweetheart?"

2 year old: "Lucas no me quiere mas / Lucas does not like me anymore"

Lucas is supposed to be her "boyfriend".

And so I get a peek into the future. For now, she makes me laugh and makes me wonder why I didn't have children earlier in life.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Small Time Crooks (true story)

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!

Marmion. Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Sir Walter Scott

It was a warm sunny beautiful day. I was walking my daughter to school and my cell phone rings...

caller: Is this number 15-1234-1234?
me: yeah, who´s this? (I flinch a little knowing I just goofed up confirming my phone number to a complete stranger)

caller: we have a relative of yours in the trunk of our car. If you want to see him again you have to do as I say. You got that?
me: relative? who?

caller: did you not understand? You have to do what I say.
me: okay, what do you want me to do?

Mind you the whole time I am very calm, almost as if I am talking about work with an employee or something similar.

caller: I mean it. We will hurt him and you wont see him again in one piece!
me: um... I am still waiting for you to tell me what you want me to do.

This guy hands me off to his partner. I can just imagine him throwing his hands in the air and cursing at me. At the sound of the second guys voice I am actually smiling now.

2caller: I need to clarify that you understand that we have a relative of yours and that you need to do what we tell you.
me: your friend has told me that already. Can you please tell me what you want me to do?

I reach the school and ask the guys to hold a second while I kiss the teacher hello and kiss my child. This leads the second guy to hand me back to the first guy. I am now free from my child so I can actually enjoy this a little more.

caller: (some swearing) I don't know if you understand?
me interrupting: let me guess, I have to do what you tell me?
caller: yes! (more swearing)

he takes a breather and there is an awkward silence moment on the phone.
caller: you need to go to a cyber cafe (internet cafe).
me: anyone will do?
caller: (I imagine him rolling his eyes) No! Where are you right now?
me: I am outside. I don't know the area too well so I can't really help you. Maybe if you tell me where you want me to go we can get this over with faster. Oh, there is a cop. I can ask him for directions.
caller: (swearing) No! (more swearing and threats).

and obviously telling me that it would be a bad idea for me to go to the cops. At this point I tell them that they need a little more practice and hang up.

I don´t know why I picked up on that fact that they were lying. For those of you from the States and elsewhere. It is fairly common for people to call you (sometimes from prison) and lead you to believe that they have kidnapped a loved one. They then pressure you into acting quickly to save your loved one´s life by going to a drop off with money. They take it, walk away and nothing else happens. You eventually find out that your loved one was just going about their day. I haven´t been called since then, and if they ever do I hope to keep my head about me once again.

Virtual Kidnappings: Taking advantage of Panic

Virtual Kidnapping on the Rise in Latin America

The following was a link to yet another occurrence that was sent into La Nación. This one was sent to me via e-mail.

Pésimo momento. Inflación. "No es tan alta". ¿No aprenden?. Seguridad vial. Policía eficiente. Anestesia. Burladores burlados. Los colas en los bancos. Subte aventura. Abogada. Agradecimiento | Opinión | Jueves 11 de octubre de 2007

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Starbucks and Argentina

This coffee falls into your stomach, and straightway there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move like the battalions of the Grand Army of the battlefield, and the battle takes place. Things remembered arrive at full gallop, ensuing to the wind. The light cavalry of comparisons deliver a magnificent deploying charge, the artillery of logic hurry up with their train and ammunition, the shafts of with start up like sharpshooters. Similes arise, the paper is covered with ink; for the struggle commences and is concluded with torrents of black water, just as a battle with powder. ~Honore de Balzac, "The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee"

This quote was actually about drinking a concentrated coffee on an empty stomach and its effects on the author as he sits down to write. It did remind me though of all the passion that the topic of coffee brings up when you mention it to local Argentines and expats.

The locals don’t really like what is normally consumed in the States (drip style coffee) and the expats don’t really like the coffee beans that are available in Argentina. When the topic of coffee comes up both sides just don't understand each other. Now just to clear things up a little. There is one local type of coffee that is virtually undrinkable unless you were brought up on it. I make this last point because it is the majority of the coffee available in the supermarkets so someone is buying this stuff. This is called Torrado and basically what it means is that they use sugar in the roasting process. This does not mean that the coffee made from these beans is sweet. It is an awful sour tasting concoction that results from roasting sugar and coffee beans together. It’s just plain nasty.

Argentina does have a strong and healthy coffee culture (not built on that Torrado crap thank God). There are many old style coffee houses. The city of Buenos Aires has even put together a list of cafes that have a historical relevance. And they have some newer modern coffee chains, kind of like Starbuck’s. The most important players in this category being Café Martinez, Bonafide, The Coffee Store, Havanna Café, McCafe and Aroma Cafe. The demand is so great for this that even the gourmet ice cream shops have gotten into the coffee game. Freddo offers coffee and tea and in some cases shares a store front with Aroma Café. Persicco and Volta offer coffee as well. Chungo does the same and basically just about all the gourmet ice cream stores do this.

So why on earth can’t you buy a decent coffee bean to take home? This is what most expats are complaining about. The only chains that offer coffee beans for home grinding are Café Martinez, Bonafide, The Coffee Store, La Bolsa del Café and Estación General de Café. Some of these businesses have been around for a long time like Café Martinez and Bonafide but the current day concept of gourmet coffee shops are fairly new. I mean those businesses started out as importers of coffee and eventually morphed into what they are today. This is still relatively new to Argentina. My impression is that most people only go out for coffee. There has been little demand for that gourmet mono-source coffee bean from Guatemala or Jamaica, but I also see that changing. Bottom line is they make their coffee with espresso machines here and sometimes they will cut it with milk. That’s pretty much the two main variations and they go by either “un café”—no milk, straight shot, or “cortado” –for the one with milk, or “lagrima” –mostly milk with a little bit of coffee, or cappuccino. There is one more variation that is called “café con leche” and this is normally served in the morning. It is the only one that comes in what would approach an American sized cup-a-joe and it is more like half milk, half coffee. Some places even leave a container of milk and a separate one for your coffee and you mix it yourself. For the other coffees, they are served in small cups that can be ordered a bit larger by ordering a double or “doble”. You can forget about drip style coffee. I have never seen it offered.

So why does Starbuck’s want to be in Argentina? I am sure it’s the same reasons why you would find that gas stations, car washes, movie theatres, ice cream stores and even some furniture stores all trying to get into the coffee market here. Just about everyone goes out for coffee. Argentina should actually be a no-brainer for a brand like Starbuck’s to be attracted to it. The real question is where will Starbuck’s fit into this local market? Are they a little late? Will locals go to Starbuck’s? I am not in the coffee business but I do supply it with baked goods. My impression is that there is room enough for another player in the market. Starbuck’s should be a catalyst for a lot of healthy competition among the gourmet coffee segment. Their focus should be on offering high quality gourmet products as well as integrating some of the local staples like medialunas and reacquainting the local Italian segment with their beloved cantuccini while offering authentic chocolate chip cookies to those American expats and tourists. They will be held to a pretty high standard so they will not be able to get away with giving out cheap products with their coffee like some local chains do. However, their main sex appeal will be there never ending variety of coffee drinks. This will be a novelty because no one has tried that approach here really. It will be interesting to see how locals will take to some of these new novel coffee drinks added to their current short list of coffee options. That I think is a crucial key to Starbuck’s success in Argentina.

If you would like to see some of the posts and comments regarding this topic I have collected several posts from other bloggers in Buenos Aires and an article on the subject. There were many comments flying around the expat sites as well but I can not publish those here. The topic makes for some interesting passion filled reading….
Expat Argnetina - Time to Cry for Argentina... Starbuck´s is Coming!

Cafe Culture in Buenos Aires - Not a Starbuck's in Sight.

Do Argentines Love Coffee or the Experience of Drinking it?

Your Set of Works - by Yanqui Mike

Yanqui Mike on Coffee Beens

Starbucks abrira en dos meses. - 283 comments and counting (in Spanish).

A Texan in Argentina: Confessions of a Former Starbucks Addict

Picture of Starbuck's coffee with brownie I found at this site.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Casa FOA 2007 and Sugar & Spice

If you are in town you should consider visiting this annual event. Every year they pick out a space to rehab and use as an architectural contest. Architects get to show their stuff, and before it is open to the public, they get their unique spaces reviewed and judged. This is capped off by a huge inaugural party and award ceremony.

This year we were invited to attend this party, and a couple of other smaller ones leading up to the big one. This meant that I supplied them with our cookies and I received a space for a stand where I could give out cookies and coupons.

Now, I went to this thing with the intention of taking pictures of some of these stands; I could not because it ended up being too crowded and the sun was going down quickly. The only pictures I managed to take were the ones shown below. They are not the greatest but it was what I could do at the time.

One of the pictures is of a glass jar filled with our cantucci. This jar belongs to the restaurant that is operating inside during the whole event so if you do go and you get a cookie craving you can go to this restaurant and have a cantucci and coffee.

Casa FOA´s official site
Gridskipper post on casa FOA by Ian Mount
Trendy Palermo Viejo post
Buenos Aires Times post - added information on the building that is being rehabbed as well.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Vení que te cuento

This past weekend was the first of four reading events organized by Fundacion Leer. They normally organize events in communities outside the city. This new series is aimed at approaching the local urban community. They are actually mini-versions of their full blown out events that they hold at little towns and communities throughout the country. So what was the first event like?

I walked into the basement of the bookstore and it was decorated like it was Halloween. It was very cute. The theme was scary stories. The kids would look around as they started coming down the stairs holding on to their mother´s hand. They wanted to touch the paper ghosts, skeletons, plastic spiders and spiderwebs decorating the room.

Story time creeped up and the storyteller thanked everyone for coming and organized everyone into a circle on the floor. She lit a candle, as a nod to pre-light bulb days of storytelling and reading, and started her scary story. The children were all quite, captivated by the story unfolding before them and in their imagination. After the happy ending the organizers brought out black paper that was already cut into the shape of a haunted house. They also brought out glue, scissors, crayons, etc. All the kids loved this part and some parents even got into it as well.

Afterwards, the children gathered around the storyteller one more time. This time the storyteller had some parting gifts for the little ones. Each child received a free book and a giant Sugar and Spice Chocolate Chip cookie (with no nuts). As you can imagine, there were lots of smiles, laughter and even some dancing. My own daughter broke out into a dance with her new book in one hand a giant cookie in the other.

If you are around Buenos Aires on the weekends and you have kids you might check this out for them. The next events are:

"There´s a Monster in My Closet"
Libreria Santa Fe
Santa Fe 2376
29 September at 4pm

"The Monkey That Speaks"
Boutique del Libro
Thames 1762
Palermo SoHo
6 October at 4pm

"One That We All Know - Classics of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"
Libreria Hernandez
Av. Corrientes 1436
13 October at 4:30pm

Monday, September 17, 2007

ELLE and Sugar & Spice

For my English readers please bear with me. This post will be translated towards the bottom and all will be explained.

Tuvimos un concurso dirigido a las lectoras de la revista ELLE. Las primeras 15 lectoras que nos escribieron recibieron un regalo de un set de budines (Super Chocolate, Banana Nuez, Ingles, Limón & Amapola). Como tuvimos tanta repercusión (190 mails desde las 15 horas del día lunes 17 de septiembre), decidimos hacer un regalo de consuelo para las que no llegaron a escribir a tiempo. Es nuestra forma de agradecer el éxito de este concurso con todas las lectoras de Elle que se tomaron el tiempo para escribirnos. Durante los próximos días, las que nos escribieron (como detalla la revista) recibirán detalles de su regalo de consuelo.

Nos alegra mucho que nos escribieron y espero les guste sus regalos dulces.

Las ganadoras del concurso son:

Margarita Henriquez
Carolina Perez Aguirre
Haydee Patricia Besada
Georgina Paris
Mariela Cavanna
Vanesa Susana Vila
Julieta Bermudez
Cristina Noemí Dominé
Silvia Sagatelian
Carolina Caicedo
Miriam Gandolfo
Sabrina Corbetta
Paula Fernandez
Maria Irene Lopez
Anita Bottaso

***English Post Below***

We just ran a contest for the readers of Elle Argentina. The first 15 readers who wrote in to us following the instructions laid out in the magazine received a gift pack consisting of one of each of our pound cakes (triple chocolate, Lemon Poppyseed, Banana Walnut, Fruit & Walnuts). This little promotional action was a great success. We had, as of Monday the 17th at 3pm, 190 responses. Since we had so many responses we decided to give a consolation prize. For those ladies who wrote in they will be receiving the details of that prize in their e-mail. This prize is my way of saying thank you to all of the women who took the time to write to us.

I hope they like their sweet gifts. Oh, and if you are wondering, that list of names are the women who won their pound cake gifts.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mountains, Whales and Cookies

First I want to apologize to all of you. I have been absent for a while and this post will be more of an explanation as to why and will be more like a diary type of post. I have been extremely busy and have actually felt a bit overwhelmed.

I do have a new client called La Anonima. They are THE supermarket chain that covers the south of Argentina. They loved our cookies and they wanted to start introducing them to the rest of the country.

I went on a trip to the south of Argentina to visit some of the stores and see firsthand how the cookies were doing on the supermarket shelves of La Anonima. I Also wanted to kick myself for forgetting my camera at home. You will see why later on.

The first cities I went to where Trelew and Pto Madryn. My hotel was actually in Trelew which made sense to my tourist agent since it was closer to the airport. However, it is such a small city and it did not look like it had much of a tourist trade going on. Bottom line was that I did not like my hotel very much. The city itself was clean and orderly. The people were really nice. They had these car park attendants that gave out receipts and they were actually cheerful and chatty. Every time I parked my car I got into a brief, nice conversation...for example:

me: Good morning. How much do I owe you?
car park girl: Oh, hi! It's 50 cents per hour. Are you a tourist?
me: No, I am just a big fan of Avis.

me: Okay, yes, I am a tourist from Buenos Aires, but I am actually an American.
girl: Oh, you come from such a lovely place. Why did you come to live here?
me: Argentina has its charms too.

And speaking of one of those charms... I received compliments from two different women. This has never happened to me in Argentina and it really surprised me. One woman was working the gift shop in the dinosaur museum and the other one was a flight attendant. I was obviously flattered but mostly pleasantly surprised. Both of them really liked my hat and they were both very attractive. I am happily married but it's nice to get little comments like those.

Anyway, Trelew does have a very nice paleontology museum called MEF. In the future I would stop by the museum from the airport and then schlep 56 kilometers to Pto Madryn and stay there. Again the town was small but the hotels looked nice and there where a bunch of restaurants. In Trelew, at 2pm the place emptied out. Everyone would go home for lunch basically. The few restaurants I saw where mostly empty. After eating at one I could understand why. Anyway, back to Pto Madryn. After checking out the local supermarket I decided to drive over to one of the beaches. It was a terribly windy day so when I finally pulled the car up to a beach there was one other car there. About 50 meters from the shore was an old boat wreck; about 10 meters from the shore was a whale! This is the part where I really was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. It was actually swimming down the shore. After it left the other people got in their car and drove off. As soon as they did I noticed that the whale was actually turning around and was coming back. I could have pulled up a beach-chair and just waited despite the rather nasty wind. The flying sand was pricking at me as if the wind actually picked up little sewing needles and they were flying into me sharp end first. I didn't care though because right in front of me was a WHALE. I have never seen a whale in person before and I was entranced. I want to come back and bring my whole family to see them. Also, off in the distance I could see other whales jumping out of the water and splashing around. I so wanted to go on a whale watching tour but that wind was just relentless.

I drove back to Trelew cursing that wind that was now rocking my car making it difficult to drive. I just had to ask a local about the wind and they said that even though the area is known to be windy this was an exceptionally windy day. I spent the rest of the night watching TV in my crummy hotel room.

The next day I went to Ushuaia. I had originally been there in 2000 as part of my honeymoon trip and the place has grown. It was actually difficult to find a parking space. The hotel was very nice and very new (Lennox Hotel). The view from the breakfast area was just stunning and it is right in the middle of town so you can walk everywhere.

I did not have much time for sightseeing though. I was busy visiting with my new clients, seeing our products displayed, giving their employees information about us and the cookies. Now I am putting it all together in a report that I am going to share with the buyer back in BsAs. Actually when I got back I started receiving calls from some more new businesses that want to be clients. I am also organizing a stand in Casa FOA for a couple of events, not for the whole event. I was also meeting with some Coffee Store locations that want to continue buying from us in spite of what had happened previously. I was also writing or answering questions in Spanish for Clarin. They are going to do another piece on us and the reporter just had to have it yesterday. I have a million other things that I could write about but those are just part of my to-do list and would make for very boring reading.

In the end I learned a lot about my new client and scoped out some future vacation trips. Not a bad way to make a living visiting with whales and having breakfast while looking at the majestic snow capped Andes. Next time I will have my camera with me.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sweet Home Chicago...

I am so happy there will be a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Chicago. If there is one thing that I really hated when travelling with a 2 year old and a 5 year old it was making connections at airports.

Apparently American Airlines will use Boeing 767-300 with 30 next generation business class seats (whatever that means) and 191 regular seats. Flying with the little ones there is little hope of me sleeping like in the picture above, but at least I will not have to change planes.

Here is the tentative flight schedule:

From Chicago:
AA961 Departs: 8:10 p.m. Arrives: 10:20 a.m. (next day)

From Buenos Aires**:
AA964 Departs: 8:55 p.m. Arrives: 5:10 a.m. (next day)
** effective Dec. 14, 2007
Yahoo Biz article

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reading is Fundamental Argentina

One of the non-profits that I am involved in is the local license of Reading is Fundamental. Their main goal in life is to promote literacy and they target children specifically. They have made a huge impact here in Argentina and I can´t say enough wonderful things about them. They go to the most needy communities and they get everyone involved behind their efforts to flourish a love for books and reading in the hearts of the children. Once you see this in action you can not help but be touched.

Please take a moment to read the following and if you can find it within your hearts to help out a little it will go a very long way. I also promise to post the results here of the latest reading marathon. So if you are here in Argentina or even in the United States you can contribute. Also, if you have a blog and you decide to contribute please let me know. I am not part of RIF Argentina, which locally they are known as Fundación Leer. I am just a contributor donating proceeds from my sales and, whenever I can, my time as well.


Reading brings us together again on October 5th.
Together we can improve prospects and opportunities for children’s education in Argentina.

Your support can make a difference.

In 1997 Fundación Leer signed a license agreement with “Reading Is Fundamental, Inc” in the United States. Through this partnership, we are able to operate RIF programs in our country.

What is the 5th National Reading Marathon?

For the fifth year running Fundación Leer invites children and youngsters, with their families and the rest of the community to enjoy the magic and joy of reading for a day.

October 5th is the date set for thousands of children in schools, community centers, clubs, libraries, soup-kitchens, hospitals and health centers, to share multiple activities based on reading: narrations, theatre productions, workshops, reading in parks, amongst others.

Through this free and non-competitive initiative, we propose to create an awareness in the community as to the importance of awakening children´s interest in reading, and to afford all children equal and enriching opportunities for literacy.

Using “Enjoy Reading, share a book with a friend” as our motto for this year´s Marathon, we propose to highlight reading´s potential for developing relationships and communicating.

What is a Reading Corner?

Reading Corners are informal, happy areas, furnished with books, where children and youngsters are able to select their favorites, touch, leaf through and read them at will. They are created as literacy-promoting environments by the school community, aided by volunteers, and following experts’ guidelines. The Reading Corners offer the chance of bringing community members together, inviting them to be a part of the proposed literacy-promoting activities. The Reading Corners are created specifically as spaces for children and youngsters to read, based on the fact that reading is a key element in their personal development.

Why contribute?

The participating schools will take part in a draw for 200 new books to set up Reading Corners.

The winning establishments will receive new books and attend a training session run by Fundación Leer team for guidelines as to the creation of Reading Corners and ideas as to possible activities to carry out in the pursuit of motivating reading.

In this way, Fundación Leer proposes to motivate reading and promote literacy of children and youngsters nationwide, generating a long-term positive impact on their personal development, and easing their full insertion in society.

Your donation contributes to increasing the number of Reading Corners to be raffled at the close of the 5th edition of the National Reading Marathon.

How to contribute

In order of being able to receive donations from other parts of the world, Fundación Leer signed an alliance with Help Argentina. If you would like to contribute please enter the following link: and click “donate”.

What is your contribution worth?

US$ 12 equals 2 new books for a Reading Corner.

US$ 100 equals 18 new books for a Reading Corner.

US$ 500 equals 90 new books, making up a full Reading Corner.

US$ 1100 equals 200 new books, making up a full Reading Corner.

You may assign your contribution to a specific locality.

Should you carry out the donation of a full Reading Corner (200 new books), you will be able to specify which locality or area within Argentina it should be assigned to in the draw. In this way, the establishments in that locality not only participate in the general draw, but also increase their chances of winning a Reading Corner in this “exclusive” draw for their area.

To find out more about this possibility, please contact us at

Some results from the 4th National Reading Marathon 2006 .

1.719.284 children
5.511 establishments
120.684 adults (teachers, parents, community leaders, paediatricians, nurses, librarians)
23 provinces and the City of Buenos Aires
20 Declarations of Interest: from the National Ministry for Science and Technology, and from
15 Provinces and the City of Buenos Aires

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Bake Shop Ghost and other books

**originally this post came out on the 19th of June, 2007. I have added to it.**

I seem to get a lot of hits on my posts regarding children so I thought I would add another entry for those people looking up things kid related. I can´t come up with a list of great children´s books because that list would be so long. I wanted to maybe limit it to the most recent additions to the library that I think are outstanding. This one I picked up on our last trip to Chicago and I liked it so much that I decided to review it in Amazon. If you click on the picture you will be taken to that site. If you would like to see all of my reviews in Amazon you can click -here-.

I have very few reviews but at least they are very helpful if you go by the votes I have received.

Some other books that I think are great follow:

"I´m a Manatee" It comes with a CD of the song. It's very catchy, clever and sprinkled with sophisticated vocabulary. Adults will need to translate some of these verses. For example, "immune from human folly and inanity".

We loved this one so much we bought another John Lithgow book called Mahalia Mouse Goes to College. This one also comes with a CD featuring the author reading the story as part of his commencement speech to the Harvard's class of 2005. Just like the other story, this one is also full of sophisticated vocabulary. In this one Mahalia goes out looking for food and scurries into a college student´s backpack sniffing out some cheese when all of a sudden the zipper closes. She comes out later in the middle of a class and is entranced by the professor´s words warning his students that this is a very advanced class. She stays on to study and eventually graduates and is finally reunited with her family at graduation day.

We are having so much fun with these books that we are going to try more John Lithgow books and CD´s. He even has a website that I think is pretty cool.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Loosing a Customer

In case you don’t know, or in case you work for the Argentine Federal government, Argentina is experiencing inflation. How much is hard to tell since the numbers are being fudged all the time and the government’s official stand on this topic is that there really is no inflation or at least not enough to be a problem.

However, I am not going to talk about inflation and the Argentine economy. There are other sites and resources to go to for that sort of thing. I want to talk about a victim of this inflation.

When we started selling to The Coffee Store I quoted a very economical product for them with the agreement that they had to eventually have other higher margin products of ours as well as allowing us to use their retail shelf space to sell our brand name products. I did this to get our foot in the door. I mean once they start offering our cookies they are going to sell so many of them that I can afford to not make so much on the economically priced and low margin cantucci that they give away with their coffee.

They wanted and insisted that the brand name products I leave on consignment. I really disliked the whole consignment scenario thinking it more appropriate if you are selling bubblegum or chocolates at kiosks not for high end gourmet cookies. However, they did argue that they had great exposure so I went ahead and agreed reluctantly and hoped that they would prove me wrong.

So far there are three components to this approach and I will expand on each one:

1. Economically priced cantucci that they give away with their coffee

2. They would add higher margin products to their product mix.

3. I would leave, on consignment, our branded products.

1 & 2. We made countless samples of different cookie flavors and different sizes. We also rushed to modify one of our brownie pictures so that they could use the picture (and eventually our brownie) in a promotion they were thinking about having. None of those things panned out. Instead, we started to see sharp increases in just about everything related to our factory and the cookie making business. Obviously we had to pass those increases on to our clients.

What kind of increases did we see? Well from the period between January of 2007 and May 2007 we saw our chocolate chips go up 48%, margarine 70%, butter 39%, eggs 27%, etc. In addition, in July there was a wage increase handed down by the government that was retroactive to April. These price hikes are felt immediately when you have low margin products so our economically priced cantucci needed to have price modifications consistently, on a monthly basis. Since May we have seen more price increases, but that’s not a problem right.

All of these price variations have forced me to have monthly meetings with my largest clients and for the smaller ones they just have to take it but I at least let them know beforehand what’s coming. This is really not all that much fun. There is a lot to prepare for these meetings. Basically I have to prove to them, every month, how the price increases I am suffering every month are impacting the price of the cookies they are buying. All my clients have reached the same conclusions as I with the exception of The Coffee Store.

3. There were some stores that really did not like working with consignment either. As a result I changed things around so that for those stores that would pay on delivery I would give them a discount. This was a cost cutting measure for everyone. There were plenty of stores that took me up on the offer, but there were holdouts. And as I would have guessed, the locations that sold very little really had no intention of ever going off the consignment trap. I mean, I give them cookies to decorate their shelves with and they don’t pay anything until they sell something. It was completely painless to them. It is also the very last time I ever give anything out on consignment.

So in the end, the Coffee Store managed to prove to some of their franchisees that consignment does not really work and to the others that it is a great way to decorate your store; not only did they not add any more products but decided to throw in the towel.

Yep, The Coffee Store is no longer a client of ours. There was a mutual realization that this was not going to work. However, it is still sad when this sort of thing happens. So what did I learn from this failure?

I will never leverage entering into a business by giving stuff away (low margin items and consignment).

I am the one at fault here because they just asked, I was the dope that went “yeah, okay”.

I will never sell anything on consignment again, ever. If a client does not believe in your product enough to buy it then they will never be any good at selling it themselves.

I will never give credit to franchisees again ever.

So who is the victim here? I honestly believe it is The Coffee Store.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Espacios TV Interview

A while back I was interviewed for a cable TV Show called "espacios TV"and I wrote about it. The video is out now and you can see it on their website.

The interview was done by Sofia Alurralde and I get another excuse to, yet again, put a pretty face on my blog.

When you go there you click on the little TV.

A little window will pop up within the site and the first show that pops up is show 121. It will start streaming and you can watch as it plays out.

You will see a report on a fashion show first and then the report on us starts.

Happy watching.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

7 Random Things

Pip just hit me with a meme in which I am to write 7 random things about myself. This is the first time I do one of these so if I commit some sort of meme faux pax then it's just too bad.

1. I used to be in a garage band. I played bass and we actually played at a party. We did mostly covers of the Clash, Black Flag, Naked Raygun, etc. I didn't have any formal lessons. I just picked up the bass and started to hammer at it. Our guitar player, who along with out drummer, where the only real musicians in the group. I have to say though that we weren't so bad. Of course I am biased and I loved the attention I got from women as a result of playing at that party. To bad I had my girlfriend with me. Hey what do you want? I was like 20 years old.

2. I was a UPS driver. Yep, I had the brown uniform and drove the little brown vans and the bigger brown trucks as well. I never thought that women would be attracted to a brown uniform. My stint at that job proved me wrong. Secretaries and UPS guys, they just go together like PB&J.

3. I used to love to go out dancing. Yeah, we never called it that. We would always go out to the bar and drink and try to pick up women. But, we spent a lot of time on the dance floor and it also helped being able to dance. Heck, I met my current wife in those circumstances, but at a different club. The place I always went to was The Smart Bar on Clark Street. It has changed since my days. It used to be kind of grungy. The dance floor would have sawdust even. You could pick out the drunks a mile away since they were the ones with sawdust all over them from falling on the dance floor. Together with Metro upstairs, they just celebrated 25 years. I got a call at 1:30am from my friends that night. I wish I could have been there to see them all again.

Okay, I just realized that the underlying theme here so far has been women. I guess it has to do with what was most on my mind during my youth. I guess I should pick something from a different time period just to shake things up a bit.

4. I used to own a motorcycle. It was not a crotch rocket. It was an old Kawasaki and it was similar looking to this but old. Obviously I did not stray to far from the underlying theme on this one. I will do better on the next one. I promise.

5. I am actually quite shy. Always have been. This comes as a surprise to many people who have met me. Mostly in the States (surprised that is) since over here I think my shyness comes out a bit more due to the added difficulty in communicating in my second language. This also surprises people because I have worked in sales and have been pretty good at it also.

6. I can´t really bake. I can follow directions but the talent behind the cookies, cakes and what not is my wife, not me. I can grill pretty damn good though.

7. I studied Tae Kwon Do when I was little. I grew up in the west side of Chicago and sometimes we were the only non-black family in an all black neighborhood. My dad would always work two full time jobs, always trying to get his family out into nicer neighborhoods and better schools. Which, is something he ultimately managed to accomplish. I obviously fought quite a bit and I think it was my dad´s idea for me and my little brother to take those lessons. I can´t quite remember though. I will have to ask the old man to see if he remembers whose idea it was. Anyway, it sure helped because once you beat someone up decidedly there are not too many kids that want to try a hand at you. However, I never really liked fighting. Even when I won. I did like the science of it though. Throwing a punch or a kick just so. Blocking and countering was fantastic. Later in life, in my 20´s I took up Karate. Nothing formal. My best friend was a black belt and he would give me lessons on the weekend. I think he really enjoyed beating the hell out of me every weekend. However, he was a good teacher and he showed me very little mercy. Thanks Scott! I will just wait until he is 70 and then trip him down the stairs. I would like to see his black belt save him then. (just joking people)

Well there you have it, seven random little things about me.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is a CAFO?

One of the things I love about living in Argentina has been the wonderful steak. I have always been amazed by just how much steak I could actually put away compared to those rare times in which I would have steak in the States. It turns out that steak in Argentina comes from grass fed, free range roaming cows, not feedlots. What is a feedlot? It is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. According to the EPA there are AFO and CAFO. This is just their way of trying to define sizes and scope for these operations. Like just about everything in life they come in small, medium and large. One of the complexities of running these things is being able to handle the large amounts of waste. Yep, we are talking cow pies here on a massive scale.

Now how does Argentina raise cattle? They do it the old fashioned way, by letting them walk around the grass lands (called the Pampas in this region) and let the animals go and find their food. The result is that these cattle have less trans fat in the meat than their feedlot cousins where they are in confined spaces, with no grass in sight and their food is brought to them. The food, by the way, that is not part of their natural diet.

I have read that grass fed meat is tougher than feedlot beef. I think this is just a theory or at the very least a bad definition though since I have had more marvelous steak here than I ever had in the States. It is true that I occasionally ran into some tough meat but that has been the exception, not the norm.

In any case, what prompted me to write about steak this time? It was Yanqui Mike. You should go and read his posts on this subject. He should know more about it than me since he actually has cattle down here. He is not a born gaucho but more a self made one and he comes from my neck of the woods. That´s right, he´s from the windy city itself. Click on the picture below to go to the post in question. And if you ever see a guy on a horse dressed like a blues brother well it just might be him.