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The shift has started -- and it's a celebration of two of life's greatest pleasures -- food and champagne.
Indulge in new gourmet delights of an invigorated Hope Town Lodge culinary team and sip on bubbly libations of Nassau-based distributor, Young's Champagne, during an amazing weekend, September 14-16 that is being billed as the "Great Love Affairs Start with Champagne" weekend. It will definitely be a food lover's paradise kind of event wrapped up into a romantic weekend.
To introduce Bahamians to the new Hope Town Harbour Lodge, a special package that includes roundtrip airfare, two nights and three days accommodation at the lodge, taxi and ferry to the lodge on Elbow Cay, along with the fabulous eating events -- the Bubbles and Bites, the Wine and Dine, the Trunk Show and the Mimosa Brunch - is being offered at $395 per person.
"We're trying to target locals from Nassau to come in and experience Hope Town, so I think it's a great opportunity for us to showcase our menu and start showcasing the shift," said Leesa Fountain, a representative at the lodge, "Because the menu items at this event will slowly be integrated into the menu at the lodge over time."
The menu items will be integrated into the two food and beverage restaurants at the lodge -- The Reef Bar and Grill, which is the poolside and ocean side bar and grill where they serve breakfast and lunch, and where cocktails are offered in the afternoon, and The Great Room and Ray's Place, their fine dining room where dinner is served.
The new menu will showcase small bites and tapas-style dining.
At Friday's Bubbles & Bites event, Henriot Brut Souverain (superb balance and finesse) will be served with avocado gazpacho spoons. Laherte Freres Brut Nature (superbly light, delicate and with a slight oak note to finish) will be served with seafood samosas and lobster spring rolls. Fernand Thill Millesime 2006 - Grand Cru Champagne (buttery, soft, delicate tour de force) will be served with smoked guava BBQ riblets and Caribbean spice chicken wings and Ellner Brut Rose (great fruit and subtlety) will be served with grilled fruit bruschetta and hand-wrapped dark chocolate.
Saturday night's Wine and Dine event will feature a glass of French Chardonnay or French Pinot Noir with a choice of roasted corn chowder or HTL house salad, lionfish ceviche, catch of the day or sage and olive stuffed lamb loin, warm coconut and cranberry bread pudding with coconut vanilla sauce and a glass of Ellner Brut Rose and tea or coffee.
The mimosa brunch event will feature Bertrand Devavry Brut Extra Quality Grand Reserve with a medley of orange, mango and passion fruit juices. A roasted vegetable quiche will be served with the savory first course. With a sweet stuffed island French toast served for the second course, followed by tea or coffee.
Fountain encourages people who want to experience the weekend to book early, as the lodge only has 25 rooms.
"Don't wait, especially if you're coming from Nassau, because we only have 25 rooms and it's a really good deal," she said of the $395 package they're offering.
Patrons will also get to experience the resort that is seeking to increase sustainability by focusing on local buying power.
"Sustainability is by no means a new term at Hope Town Lodge as a number of best practices are already in place, but thanks to its new owners, the Bahamas Boutique Hotel Group and its partner UpSouth Resorts and Hotels, Hope Town Lodge will expand its sustainability efforts by developing stronger relationships with local business owners by supporting locally owned Abaconian and Bahamian businesses.
"Buying local is simply better business," said Mike Hartman, founder of UpSouth and former developer and operator of the award-winning Tiamo on South Andros.
"Not only does it reduce the environmental impact associated with the transportation of imported goods, but buying local promotes food security, ensures freshness and quality product," he said.
"With Abaco's network of fishermen and farmers, creating a farm to table or sea to table dining experience that reflects and supports Abaco is better for our pockets and for our guests," said Hartman. "With 90 percent of the entire food supply for The Bahamas being imported, creating relationships with local suppliers is critical in reducing time and costs. Furthermore, guests can learn the who, how and where of the food they enjoy, creating a direct connection to place and in turn leading to a deeper, more authentic experience," he said.
"It's going to be different from anything The Bahamas has ever seen because we're going to be sourcing locally, and drawing inspiration from all the different Caribbean islands and maybe even Latin America, so I'm excited for that," he said.
Great Love Affairs Start with Champagne
Bubbles & Bites
Henriot Brut Souverain (superb balance and finesse) with avocado gazpacho spoons
Laherte Freres Brut Nature (superbly light, delicate and with a slight oak note to finish) with seafood samosas and lobster spring rolls
Fernand Thill Millesime 2006 - Grand Cru Champagne (buttery, soft, delicate tour de force) with smoked guava BBQ riblets and Caribbean spice chicken wings
Ellner Brut Rose (great fruit and subtlety) with grilled fruit bruschetta and hand-wrapped dark chocolate
700 Experience Trunk Show -- A sneak peak of the lodge's new 700 Experience Boutique which is scheduled to open mid-November. The show will feature a small collection of Bahamian sourced resort wear, jewelry and home décor. Tea and light bites will also be served.
Wine and Dine
A glass of French Chardonnay or French Pinot Noir
Choice of roasted corn chowder or HTL house salad
Catch of the day or sage and olive stuffed lamb loin
Warm coconut and cranberry bread pudding with coconut vanilla sauce and a glass of Ellner Brut Rose
Tea or coffee
Bertrand Devavry Brut Extra Quality Grand Reserve with a medley of orange, mango and passion fruit juices
First course (savory) roasted vegetable quiche
Second course (sweet) stuffed island French toast
Tea or coffee
A Bahamian-owned company has been selected to open four restaurants within the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel.
The move is set to lead to the hiring of as many as 400 people and the raising of tens of millions of dollars locally, Guardian Business understands.
The Skandalaris brothers, Johnny, Tony and Manoli, known for their ownership and development of Skans restaurant in downtown Nassau and, more recently, the popular Olives Meze Grill restaurant and ar on Cable Beach, are partners in the company with others, sources have disclosed.
Contacted for comment on Friday, Johnny Skandalaris confirmed that he and his brother are involved with the development of some restaurants in Baha Mar, but declined to comment further.
The $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort had planned for a December 2014 opening, but recently announced that it would push back its grand opening to spring 2015.
The restaurants are under development at present, Guardian Business understands.
Since it opened in 2011, Olives, located a short distance from Baha Mar, has become one of Nassau's most popular restaurants/bars. In late 2013, the business expanded due to overcrowding of its original space, extending its hours at the same time.
An official announcement from Baha Mar is anticipated within the coming week.
His name is Keith Gray, but to the people who heard him perform at the Extraordinary People concert in Paris, France, the gospel artist is known as "Halle", short for "Hallelujah".
The 21-year-old busboy, who works at the Bahamian Club restaurant at Atlantis, began using his singing talent to praise God shortly after he attained his 17th birthday, when he said he realized that doing anything unless it was for and to God was selfish. Since then, he has grown from singer to a Christian youth activist. In October 2013, he won the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture's Pacesetter Award in creative arts.
The award was given to the most outstanding Bahamian under 25 who had contributed significantly to arts and culture. Gray did it not only with his singing but by helping other young people find and express their talents.
As the founder of OCD (Obsessively Christ Driven), Gray uses the platform to bring together various Christian artists to stage concerts that include music, dance and poetry. OCD also regularly does community service, which Gray said is critical to its mission "to display God's glorious grace that will stir a passion in the hearts of people for him through love service and ministry".
The success of OCD led to Gray's latest initiative, Four-Walls Down, which encourages church members to go out into the community, providing love and service beyond the church's four walls. Gray hopes that more young men will be inspired to live better lives through the work of his team.
"We don't have a gang problem or a drug problem, but an identity problem," said the activist. We need to go back to what gives us identity and purpose and that comes from the creator. Go back to the creator and find true identity in him, and that's where you find real purpose. Be everything God wants you to be, instead of others. Don't live your life for other people who won't be into you anyway. Live your life for God."
Gray, who maintains a full-time job while working on obtaining a degree, performing and engaging in community organizing, said he is able to do it all because of a combination of balance, God and an intense desire to learn and give.
"Take everything one day at a time" is his advice.
With millions in investment and hundreds of employees, the rela- tionship between Atlantis and The Alicart Restaurant Group now represents an integral driver in the New Providence economy and there is reason to believe it could get even bigger.
Virgil's, the $10 million restaurant, held its grand opening this week amid great hopes and expec- tations. Boasting around 470 seats, it joins Carmines as another large- scale eatery on the resort.
Combined, that means there are more than 1,000 seats flying under the Alicart and Atlantis banner, creating jobs for nearly 400 Bahamians.
"In high season, we can probably push the number of seats at Virgil's to 650," said Jeffrey Bank, the CEO of Alicart.
"Carmines has around 350 or so. What we have done is fulfill a need brought on by a tremendous volume of guests. Our partnership with Kerzner International is great and we're open to more concepts. They get us and we get them. We'll stumble into the next project with them."
The grand opening of Virgil's at Atlantis is just the latest develop- ment in a company under rapid expansion.
Bank told Guardian Business that Alicart generally tries to open an new restaurant "at least once a year". Prior to the $10 million Virgil's, Alicart launched a Carmines in Washington D.C., and the company is currently in advanced talks to bring the fran- chise to Las Vegas.
In total, Alicart owns and operates seven restaurants, employs more than 1,000 people and owns the rights to 29 different restaurant concepts.
The other Virgil's, located in New York City's Times Square, is "one of the busiest restaurants in the country", according to Bank.
It's a hefty resume that has fit in well with the Atlantis business model.
And while there is room for further projects down the line, Bank said Alicart is still grappling with the giant that is Virgil's.
"For right now, this is obviously a big project," he explained. "This has got to be the biggest barbecue restaurant in the Caribbean, if not North America. We need to ease into things gradually."
Virgil's is in the midst of a "soft launch", whereby it's taking on limited capacity as it kicks the tires and trains its staff. The restaurant served around 500 guests on its opening day on Tuesday, Bank
said, and employees were forced to turn some guests away.
"We are big believers in the soft opening," he added.
"Every day is a judgement in terms of ramping things up. We want things to go well and it's no fair for someone who is on a vaca- tion to not get excellent service."
A huge part of that process, Bank felt, is training.
There are currently five Alicart employees on hand at Virgil's showing the nearly 200 Bahamian employees the ropes.
The company's presence will be lessened over time, followed by monthly visits from senior execu- tives. Meanwhile, Alicart is engaged in a training program with Bahamians that will see a handful fly to New York City in January to gain further expertise.
"We are always looking for peo- ple to move up," Bank said.
"Now that we have opened, we'll be identifying people to bring back to New York."
Perhaps one of the more specialized positions at Virgil's is the role of "Pit Master".
Bank told Guardian Business that the current Pit Master is on hand from New York. The Pit Master of the future, a Bahamian, spent six months in the U.S. prior to the opening of Virgil's. He's now back in Nassau and working under his American counterpart.
Within a year, the Bahamian will be taking over the smokers.
Time may not be completely on their side, however. Bank said Atlantis is expected near full capacity over Thanksgiving Weekend, as a number of special events, such as the college basket- ball tournament, are being planned.
"We expect to be off the races by Thanksgiving Weekend," he added.
"Many of the teams have booked private rooms. Atlantis will be at full capacity and I'm expecting it to be a happy problem."
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By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
BAMBOO Shack owner Elaine Pinder has told Tribune Business things were looking "positive" in terms of franchising the restaurant chain in the United States while locally plans were on stream for the introduction of its first drive-through service and expansion to Freeport.
"We're expanding a lot locally but we are preparing ourselves for expansion abroad as well," said Mrs Pinder.
In terms of expanding abroad, Mrs Pinder could not give a definitive timeline on when it would take place but said it was a process.
"It's a process. It takes a lot of work and lot of planning. Standards, rules and re ...
EXUMA, The Bahamas - The Ministry of Tourism proved that its sports tourism initiatives are not limited to New Providence, as the island of Exuma hosted the inaugural Sandals Celebrity Getaway and Golf Weekend at the Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma this past weekend.
A number of celebrities made appearances at the event, including the husband and wife team of Rodney and Holly Robinson-Peete, Alan Thicke, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, Steven Bauer and Garcelle Beauvais, just to name a few.
Golf legend Greg 'The Shark' Norman flew in from China on Friday evening and was the featured attraction. He conducted a clinic for about 50 Bahamian youngsters at the driving range on the golf course and led a team of five celebrities trying to sink a historic "hole-in-one" for a $1 million donation to charity.
Pet Hanna from the Ministry of Tourism's office in Exuma said that when you have this caliber of visitor coming to Exuma, the benefits are going to be endless.
"Exuma on the whole was very excited about this tournament," said Hanna. "This is going to bring benefits for years to come. Just the idea of celebrities coming here for golf brings a lot of excitement to these shores. They will go back to their respective shows, or areas of work, talking about how they spent the weekend at Sandals in Exuma," she added.
There were a number of activities planned for the celebrities this past weekend, and some of them even ventured out of the regular confines of Sandals Emerald Bay to tour the island. Some of the guests even swam with the pigs at Staniel Cay. For most, the many amenities of Sandals Emerald Bay were quite sufficient though.
"People are going to want to come down and see where Sandals is, see the beauty of the water and the island itself," said Hanna. "The Ministry of Tourism is very excited about projects like these because they are high end and they will pay dividends for Exuma and the entire Bahamas for a number of years.
"When you look at the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the on-shore activities, the water sports, all of these entities are going to benefit. This is just the beginning. Next year, the tournament is going to be bigger and better."
As the event grows from year to year, Hanna expects the number of participants to increase as well. It is the first high end celebrity golf event to be held in Exuma, and just the second in The Bahamas, following in the footsteps of the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational which was held at the One&Only Ocean Club Golf Course, for 10 straight years, from 2000 to 2010.
"The more we could get the word out about Exuma - the beauty of the waters and the hospitality of the people, the better for the tourism product in Exuma," said Hanna. "I'm very excited, and on behalf of the entire Exuma community, this is the kind of events that we are hoping that the government continues to support," she added.
Proceeds from the event went in support of the Sandals Foundation, which funds projects in the Caribbean in three key areas - education, environment and community.
Despite the decision of restaurant chain Sbarro to file for bankruptcy this week in the United States, and business in The Bahamas dropping by 50 percent over the past five years, sales at the local restaurants are looking up, according to the brand's Managing Director Charlton Knowles.
He confirmed to Guardian Business that sales "have been climbing every month" within the last year for the company.
"While it's unfortunate what's happening in the U.S., that will not impact our business in any way here in The Bahamas," he explained.
"Sales have been encouraging but it's not definitely at the levels they were prior to the recession. We're still a long way from achieving those numbers.
Between 2008 and 2013, sales dropped by about 50 percent. But now, we are starting to see sales climb back up. It has been gradually going up from year to year. From 2013 to 2014, sales are coming back. For us, sales have been climbing every month since the new board of directors was put in place a year ago."
Knowles believes a full economic turnaround for the pizza eatery will depend on the success of the multibillion-dollar Baha Mar project, the impact it will have on the Bahamian economy and the access that travelers will have to disposable income.
On Monday, Sbarro filed for Chapter 11-bankruptcy protection. According to court filings, the pizza chain and its affiliates have between $100 million and $500 million in debt. It is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy in less than three years. Sbarro had filed back in 2011 and was working its way out of debt.
The franchise has four locations locally: Downtown, in the Mall at Marathon, on Cable Beach and Carmichael Road, with 68 employees.
"Our company is a separate holding company from the U.S. chain," he said.
"We're not affected by what's going on at the Sbarro corporation. That's a U.S. affair and not a Bahamian affair. Now had we had been corporate owned like the one in the U.S., their operations would have impacted us here in The Bahamas. But that's not the case because we are operating independently."
Sbarro, including franchises, has more than 1,000 locations in 45 countries. The chain opened its first location in Brooklyn in 1956.
Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in The Bahamas are being encouraged to explore opportunities in the tourism industry, with CARICOM officials arguing it offers personal and national benefits.
"The SMEs within tourism really make the product," said Allyson Francis, trade in services specialist with CARICOM. "When we highlight the tourism sector, we're not only talking about persons related to tourism but all tour operators and tour guides, restaurants, people with dive fishing. . . it's not all about the sun, sea and sand and if you don't have these activities, persons may not even be attracted to the destination.
"These persons are already critical in the whole development of the tourism product."
It's a message she hopes to drive home with industry insiders yesterday at the first Regional Seminar on Tourism - SMEs and Tourism Development in the Caribbean Region. Francis said the mindset of tourism centering around only hotels should be changed and that the tourism product will only become more competitive with more projects outside of the hotel doors.
The argument has been made several times in the nation, but analysts insist it still remains relevant. Still, Francis notes challenges that many businesses face with trying to fill the void in terms of offerings.
"From a regional stand point, the issue there is financing available that they are not fully aware of," she added. "Even if they are aware of financing, the mechanisms or the procedures they have to go through to access the financing are difficult.
"It's not a Bahamian issue, it's a regional issue in terms of accessing funding that is available."
She encouraged businesses to make better use of support organizations like the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, that have access to information. She said they also play a critical role in growing SME involvement in the tourism industry.