Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Great American Ambassadors

I am very flattered that a local techie blogger has given me a great compliment. I happen to read his blog (Fernando of "The Spirit of Discordance) as well and I guess after commenting a couple of times on his site he decided to pay me a visit and the best part is that he liked what he saw.

I am borrowing this shield temporarily until I can have one made for myself and Yanqui Mike. The site itself where I borrowed this image is called appropriately enough:
(I don't know what the site is about or anything. The link is just there for informational purposes and courtesy.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What is a Toll House Cookie?

This is another example of great things born out of mistakes.

Ruth Wakefield messed up. She was the co-owner, manager, hostess and cook of her new Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts so she really had no one to blame but herself. When she took her cookies out of the oven one evening in 1937 she must have felt like nothing else could go wrong.

First of all she had run out of crumbled bakers chocolate to make her famous and favorite "Butter Drop Do" cookies. She was not in a good mood. Ruth liked to run a tight ship and running out of chocolate was a sloppy mistake. Luckily for her she had a bar of Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate. Good old Andrew Nestle was nice enough to have given her that bar as a gift and now she was going to use it in her cookies? What could she do? She was desperate. Her guests were going to start ordering dessert any moment now. She took the knife and started chopping away at the bar. She had no time to melt chocolate like her recipe dictated and how she had been doing it.

Moments later she brings out the cookies from the oven. "The chocolate didn't melt!"

What was she going to do? The inn was full and people were starting to finish their meals which meant that they would be asking for dessert. Her beautiful and well known Butter Drop Do cookies were ruined. What the heck. The way the day has been going she might just be able to salvage this nightmare. She put on her game face and told everyone that she had something "special" in store for dessert.

She had a new cookie.

Soon after, Nestle took notice of an increase in sales of their semi-sweet chocolate bar in the area. No readers, this was not due to the consumption of the little Toll House Inn. This was due mostly to Ruth not being very quiet about her recipe or could it be that it leaked out? Whatever the reason her recipe started appearing in Newspapers throughout the Eastern Seaboard. In 1939 Betty Crocker used it in her radio series "Famous Foods from Famous Eating Places". This was a nationally syndicated show. Now all of the USA had heard about this new cookie recipe.

Ruth and Nestle struck a deal. Nestle would give Ruth a lifetime supply of chocolate if she would give them the rights to the name of the cookie. The Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie was born. Soon after, Nestle decided to score the bars and included a cutting instrument in the packaging. Eventually, they invented the chocolate chip and put Ruth's recipe on every bag (It is still printed, even today).

Nestle's trademark continued until 1983 when they lost it in a federal court. Toll House is now a descriptive term for a cookie.

We currently make our Sugar & Spice Chocolate Chip Cookie using the original recipe as inspiration for our own recipe. We make a true home made style cookie using small batches, cutting the chocolate by hand, and using real whole eggs for example. We started making our cookies back in 2002 out of our own home. We now have a 600 sq meter building which houses a state of the art baking facility, warehouse, offices, dispatch, and store. We currently supply some of the biggest names in retail in Argentina as well as the most demanding delicatessens, coffee houses, restaurants, and small independent retailers.

We may not have started out with our left foot forward but we do owe some of our success to Ruth's original "mistake" back in 1937. Where would we be without those mistakes to enlighten us every once in a while? I for one, could never have dreamt that I would be in Argentina baking and selling cookies. I am sure that Ruth had no idea her mistake would produce the most popular cookie ever made in the USA.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

What do I like about Argentina?

A while ago I posted about raising bilingual kids in Argentina and very few people read that post. Now with time, it has gotten quite a few visitors and as a result I have gotten some questions about how it is like living in Argentina. One of the things that people ask of me is for a sort of top 5 list. Well I just started writing one without numbering them in any order. These are some of my favorite things about Argentina in General.

Grilling without starter fluid and self starting coals. You might wonder why I put something that sounds inconvenient as opposed to setting up the coals and just throwing a match into the pile and forgetting about it. However I love the taste of grilled foods when you use wood and/or charcoal minus the lighter fluid. One thing I do miss about grilling in the States is that you can grill just about anywhere whereas over here you can not grill at the beach, or most parks unless they have grills there for public use. No such thing as using a Weber grill over here folks.

The Steak (click on the picture if you go to the link for an up close view of my handywork) is fantastic here. There is just no way around this one. There is no negative side to this point over here. The steak just flat out beats steak back in the States. Leave your steak sauce at home people, you are going to want to really taste the steak. No contest.

Fresh Pasta - In Buenos Aires you have fresh pasta stores all over the place. You feel like having fresh made raviolis for dinner? All you have to do is just stop by your nearest fresh pasta place on the way home. If you really want it easy you could also buy the sauce there as well.

Ice Cream - This point is similar to the earlier one about steak. This has to be the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Yes I have been to Italy, this is still better. Yes, I have been to gourmet ice cream shops in the States, this is better. The only thing I miss about the ice cream back home would be the variety of flavors. There is no Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chunky Monkey, Cookies and Cream, Rocky Road, or Cherry Garcia over here.

Restaurants and kids - for those of you who have children and thought about ever taking them to nice restaurants know that most places in the States tend not to really take them into account. Here you can go to most nice places and they make them feel like home. This is not a policy thing, it´s a cultural thing.

Maid service - I had to get used to the idea of having a live in maid but after we got one I wondered how on earth I ever even considered living without one. This is not a luxury lost to the filthy rich over here. Everyone has a maid it seems. You do have a choice of having them come several times a week or staying in. This one is life changing dear readers.

Walking - This is a walkable city. You can walk to most everywhere. The subway system is a bit limited but they are working on expanding it even further so this is just getting better. When you walk you get an opportunity to discover so many great spots. You get to know your neighborhood better. Something similar to this probably happens in New York. The only down side to this is that since traffic is a bit chaotic you have to be extra careful crossing the street. Also, there is a large percentage of dog owners who don´t clean up after fido so you have to watch where you are steppin´. Believe me, this annoys all non-dog owners and I imagine those few responsible dog owners even more.

Good looking women - Yes, I know I am happily married with kids, but who could argue that having a good looking population is a negative? It seems that the norm here is stressing having a good figure, and looking fashionable. I have never seen a good looking woman wearing sweats to go down the street to the corner store for a quick purchase. Woman here look like they care about how they look 24/7 and the only thing I am saying is that the majority are easy on the eye and that is always a good thing. Okay, so the negative side of this is that there is a high rate of eating disorders here. I don´t know the figures to this, but it is a known problem.

Small neighborhood stores - I remember having some in Chicago as a kid. Here you can have everything from a fruit stand, shoe repair, hardware store, tailor, small grocery store, hair salon, to pet food store, pasta store, candle store, newspaper stands, etc. Basically you can have an endless variety of shops just around the corner. These are mostly small, owner operated stores. Some of these will have smart competent people running them and others might be disinterested ones. Just like in life and in every where else you have good business owners and ones that would rather be doing something else.

Old world charm architecture - This place just looks cool. Argentina, at the turn of the century, was the world´s 8th richest country and it shows. Obviously, this country has been punished with unstable governments and economic mismanagement since then and currently has a large segment of the population under the poverty line. It is like a living museum though. Some buildings are hundreds of years old and they live side by side with more modern buildings.

Beautiful and varied climates and regions - This one reminded me of the United States in that both countries have such different and varied regions. I personally have visited the Glaciers in Patagonia, Wine country in Mendoza, the Amazon jungle bordering Paraguay and Brazil. Every region having it´s own unique beauty and majesty.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cyranno deYourearsarelarge

It is a fact of life that you have to live with trolls. You just can´t get rid of them. They are like roaches lurking about and once in a while you spot running across the floor of your living room or kitchen. And just like in real life, in the virtual world you just virtually smash them into oblivion by hitting the delete key and not give them a second thought.

Every once in a while though you just have to show them just how dumb they really are. Mostly because it´s fun.

A while back I had a troll send me insults. It was childish stuff, mostly name calling. This is where he sounded so stupid. All he could come up with was big ears. So this is my Cryano de Bergerac inspired moment. This guy was so dumb that he could only repeatedly come up with "big ears". I mean multiple times, not just once.

So I wanted to show a little pity for this simple minded troll. Maybe if I can help him see some more imaginative remarks he might head over to his nearest library and pick up a book and read a little. Grant it, I did take about an hour to come up with these but then again I was working and I kept getting interrupted.

Here is my top ten list of insults with flair:

10. Joke: "Why do elephants have big ears? Because Noddy wouldn´t pay the ransom."

9. Scientific Theory- "If a butterfly flaps its wings in brazil and causes a tornado in Texas, you could wipe out a whole country with those"

8. Idiomatic: "Man, you really do mean it when you say You´re all ears."

7. Plagiarism: "Dumbo called, he wants his ears back" - okay this one is so close to Steve Martin´s quote from "Roxanne" but I just had to use it. I couldn´t resist. For that troll´s sake...Roxanne was a Hollywood comical modern version of "Cyrano de Bergerac" with Steve Martin in the lead role - by the way, both of these movies would not be possible if it were not for the original play.

6. Observation: "If you twirl around you can cool a whole room better than a ceiling fan"

5. Health related: "At the beach you don´t need a beach umbrella for your kids"

4. Observation: "Impressive Wingspan!"

3. Musical: "What do you get when you cross Jay-Lo, Frank and Barney? "A big butt, big eared, flying purple people eater...."

2. Inquisitive: "Do you get an aviators license with those?"

And the number one insult is.... just imagine a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

10. Darth Vader comes face to face with me and he says (imagine the sound effects now)"Impressive"

That my simple minded troll is how you insult someone with style, panache and a little bit of imagination.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

D for Disorientation: Sad story

There is a blog out there of which I am a fan. I mean, I like the writing style. He comes across as an intelligent, well read, and educated person. His name is Pablo Flores and his blog is called "D for Disorientation".

In his latest post, of which I borrowed the title for this post, he describes a series of events that lead to him being attacked on another blog site. I wont repeat those events since he did a very good job of detailing them. This other site, I had concluded before, that it was just a site aimed at whipping up hatred for expats or foreigners in general in Buenos Aires. The original idea of this offending site was pretty good. She would translate English written blogs into Spanish and therefore people who's English was not so great or nonexistent could get a view into what the foreigners were writing about their home country of Argentina.

As Pablo noted in his blog, they picked on several expat writers and, in one case in particular, twisted the original intent of the blog. I mean, the blog was actually trying to be complementary to Argentina and critical of the USA and they turned it completely around as if this person was bashing poor Argentina from his high and mighty perch of being from the USA. Yes, it is generalized but Pablo and I couldn't have been the only ones that read this as Ken's way of picking some things out from Buenos Aires that reminded him of HIS 60's USA and that he was actually trying to say that Buenos Aires has something that the USA has lost along the way.

I read Pablo's comments on that site trying to reason with those people on the fact that maybe they were being a little too trigger happy and that maybe they had gotten this one wrong. He did so politely and was answered with unreasonable attacks. These attacks on Pablo just reinforced my views that this offending site was nothing more than a xenophobic site, interested only in whipping up hatred and confusion and targeting foreigners in Argentina.

I have never met Pablo. In fact, never until this moment even exchanged e-mails. I am basically a reader of his blog. If you would like to follow the trail of this blogger drama you can go to his site linked above. He has the links to that offending site (I wont link to them).

If you want even a bit more behind the scenes read of this drama you can go read these in order and after you read Pablo's blog:

1. Yanqui Mike linking to the offending site and getting lots of comments. (By the way, I like his site too but don't know why he likes that offending site so much)

2.Bob Johnson speaks to Yanqui Mike and gets lots of comments as well.

3. Yanqui Mike and 99 and that offending site catch a Troll.

By the time you get to this last one and if you don't know Spanish you might be wondering who is a troll and who isn't. There is one clearly identified troll (that I have taken off of my link page by the way) and the rest I myself am trying to piece together.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My 5 Year Old's Favorite Restaurant Short List - Albamonte (1 of 5 )

Normally you don´t let a 5 year old make too many decisions for the home. You really can't rely on them to decide what car to buy, what TV to buy, or what airline to use for your vacation trip. However, one day I asked her to name her 5 favorite Buenos Aires restaurants and her list was quite impressive.

I decide to share some of them with you. They are in no particular order because when you ask a 5 year old to rate them, the rating changes by the minute. However, if I put them all in one post it would make for a very long post. I will make this a current, up to the visit series taking pictures of the dishes as we go visit the restaurants. This past weekend it was Albamonte´s turn at bat.

Av. Corrientes 6735

You wont find too many foreigners here. The wine list is very short, they have cheesy plastic plants for decoration and it looks a bit old. However, it is a local classic and the food is great so who cares about the other stuff.

We start out with pizza as an appetizer. As you can see from the picture, this is thin styled pizza. The girls then have their plain pasta, dressed with a little olive oil that they bring to the table and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. How on earth can a 5 year old discern between having pasta at this place versus any other? Well she does. Believe it or not you can mess up pasta. If she doesn't like the combination of olive oil, grated cheese and pasta then the restaurant will not get into her short list.

We then have one of my favorite dishes in all of Argentina Pollo a la Gasparini. This is a braised chicken with white wine, garlic and rosemary. Throw in some hand cut french fries and you have heaven on a plate. I love soaking the fries in the white wine mixture on the bottom of the pan. This one takes a while to make so we always call it in before we get there.

I am so picky about dessert that I often don´t order any. My daughters love chocolate ice cream and I do admit that it is hard to find bad ice cream here so once in a while I will have it as well, otherwise it´s a cortadito and the check.

There is usually a long line of people waiting for a table. We always get there at 8pm sharp and avoid the waiting. If you go any other time you can't say I did not warn you.

By the way, I found a recipe on Epicurious for this dish, you just need to replace rosemary for the thyme. In case you can't make it down here you can try making it at home.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Sugar & Spice event for Bloggers

** UPDATE **

For all of those people that read this outside of Buenos Aires, please excuse this particular post. I am going to have a small event for reporters and bloggers at Sugar & Spice. If you are a blogger in Argentina (specifically Buenos Aires) and you would be interested in coming please send your e-mail address along with your name and your blogg´s title. The sooner you send this to me the better.

Some of you, whom I have contacted before via e-mail-you know who you are, I already have your info so don't worry I will write directly with the invite.

For the rest of you please send it to the following:

If you would like to see some pictures of the store.....

Sugar & Spice Buenos Aires Store

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Washington Post Mensa Invitational?

Every once in a while I get some good jokes, videos, games, etc. from my friends. There is one that I seem to get every year and I started wondering if this thing really exists. It is usually called the Washington Post Mensa Invitational. This time my good friend Christina Pulawski sent it to me. She usually sends me only great stuff that makes me laugh out loud.

Well, it doesn´t exist really. I mean something like it exists and it is called The Style Invitational and it is part of the Washington Post.

This is a weekly game in which the grand prize is a trophy called The Inker and maybe some other small prize that may have something to do with that week´s contest and that are also given to the 1st runners up. The other runners up get a Style Invitational Loser T-shirt. Honorable mentions could get a magnate.

It is not always based on writing. In fact, week #713 is titled Paintings. If you go to week #713 you are going to see a picture making reference to a winner from a year ago who took a picture of his feet, or tried to anyway.

You can go -here- to see what this weeks contest is.

Meanwhile you can also take a look at the following list, which I think is actually from 2005 as opposed to 2006 like it says in this recycled e-mail.

I did find them funny though. Don´t worry, you might see them every year in your mailbox. At least now you can tell whomever it is that is sending these things to you that you know the Mensa Invitational doesn´t exist really, sort of.

Here is the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational, which once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter and supplying a new definition.

The 2006 winners are:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying (or building) a house, which
renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period
of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until
you realize that it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows
little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of
getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the
person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running

10. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

11. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra

12. Karmageddon: It's when everybody is sending off all these really
bad vibes, and then the Earth explodes and it's a serious bummer.

13. Decafalon: (n.): The grueling event of getting through the
day consuming only things that are good for you.

14. Glibido: All talk and no action.

15. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when
they come at you rapidly.

16. Arachnoleptic Fit ( n.): The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

17. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

18. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in
the fruit you're eating.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

To the Cheese, cheese

Al queso, queso is a privately held, family run business. They started with one store and they have grown to somewhere around 19 locations. They were one of our first big clients and the owner (Hugo Diaz) just loves our savory cookies.

They now have a website where you can buy some of their products. Unfortunately he does not have Sugar & Spice products on the site. I will have to have a talk with him about that.

Regardless, I do hope that they are successful with their website and that it does help them get more sales. Meanwhile I have created a little list of what I would like to see on his website:

1. A list of his stores with phone numbers and hours.
2. Pictures of the products and some more descriptions
3. Maybe a map of the zones where they deliver
4. A Little history of the company.
5. Information about some of the companies that they buy from

This last one could be more informative like a little history about each firm. I happen to know that many of the products that are sold at his stores are from small companies. I would love to read a little about each of them and what makes their products so special.

If you have any suggestions that I may have missed send them to me. I could even send him a link to this blog so he can view all the comments directly.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Radio Provincia de Buenos Aires

This time we are going to be on Radio Provincia on their show titled "Economia Real" (Real Economy). The frequency is AM1270 and if you would like to listen to it on your computer you can go -here-.

Unfortunately this was a taped interview and they did not tell me when it was going to air. Apparently the Radio Jockey Horacio Sola tapes his interviews and sends them to the radio. They put the tape in and play his show. For this interview they called me and it was conducted via the telephone.

The show runs every Sunday from 6am to 7am. I am pretty sure that I won´t have any of my friends from the USA listening at that time (Chicago time 4am to 5am) and not too many in Argentina for that matter since I can´t imagine anyone waking up at 6am on Sunday just to listen to me except for me, and that is only since I am up anyway at that time. I am going to see if I can tape it and somehow put it up somewhere.

This time they had me talking quite a bit. It was a little bit longer than the Radio Palermo interview.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Working with Inflation

Today I got a very interesting e-mail from my wife who happens to have the CEO (and production) role of our company:

Friday 6pm the boxes went up in price; Monday 4pm, the plastic bags went up in price (boxes and bags 21%); Tuesday 1pm, the chocolate went up (10%); Tuesday margarine went up in price as well (10%).

These are increases that are on top of what was increased a couple of weeks ago. Yep, it´s not every month anymore it´s within a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile I have clients who demand that they be given 30 days notice for price increases.

What does this mean to me? I will have to spend yet more of my time in meetings explaining why our prices have to go up. I have been preparing the little businesses by telling them that I can no longer give them any forward notice at all regarding price increases and they took it very well. I imagine that I am not the only one telling them this.

I remember when I used to increase my prices once a year and I would get flack from them but not this time. Now I get flack from the big clients and they also require a big investment of my time. At least my business Spanish is getting polished with all of these meetings.

You can be the judge of that though tonight when you listen to the interview at 8pm on 94.7 Radio Palermo.

Radio Palermo 94.7

Yesterday Sugar & Spice appeared in La Nacion and today we are going to be on the Radio. I have been invited to appear on a radio program called Compartiendo. You can hear it at 8pm on 94.7 Radio Palermo.

This is a radio station that is based in Palermo Hollywood. If you are curious give it a listen.

Monday, May 7, 2007

La Nación Interview II

Today the interview came out in La Nación. It is in the Economic section under Emprendedores. I wrote about it previously -here- and you can go to that previous post to see how it compares to what actually came out.

One glaring but minor error is that I am not from Washington. I am from Chicago. Go BULLS!

Here is the link to the article: