St Maarten/St Martin
24 January 2004 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday 18 Jan brought rainy weather and large waves onto Cupecoy. Monday was better and Tuesday was spectacular. The rest of the week was pretty good, with the clearest weather in a long time. Sometimes just a deep blue sky with no clouds. The air was clear also, ie the water vapor was low. We could see Saba, Statia, St Kitts and Nevis from our balcony.
Beaches: The little cove at Cupecoy was back and beautiful on Tuesday, but the NW end was almost gone. Still like that at the end of the week. Grand Case Beach Club has sand on its eastern beach, but the western side toward the center of town is still a bit sparse and moist.
Photo feature: There are some photos of the week's activities at a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. There is no link from any SXM-Info website and I won't post the address on any bulletin board. There is a shot of the cliffs of the little cove of Cupecoy with the beautiful deep blue sky above. There are also some photos from a late night at Amandier.  Last week's photos were posted late, so they are still at www.SXM-Info.com/photos/secret1.html.
Grand Case News: The second Tuesday night entertainment on main street turned out quite well. Gerald, from Escapade and Josie, from Tastevin, are in charge, and moved the bands around so that all concerned are happy. We had a late dinner at Sunset Cafe and missed most of the shows. See the photos of the previous week on the Grand Case website (www.GrandCase.com).
We stopped at the Vinissimo (www.SXM-Shopping.com/vinissimo) wine tasting on Thursday. They were pouring about ten different bottles, half white, half red, and serving some very nice cheese, pâté, and bread. They are open until 7:00 PM. We showed up at 6:00 PM and used the experience as our appetizer and aperitif before a dinner at Montmartre.
The Inn at Cupecoy is sponsoring the current contest. Just go to their website (www.theinnatcupecoy.com), find the link to sign up for the SXM-Info newsletter, click it, sign up, and you are entered. Obviously everybody that is getting this email is already signed up for the newsletter. Just tell me you are already on our mailing list, and I'll leave you signed up for the newsletter and add your name to the contest list. You could get $100 off your next meal for two at Citrus. Even if you don't win, you'll get to look over a lovely Inn. The photographs on the site were all done by local photographer Jim Johnson, whose work graces many of the glossy magazines here. The contest runs until the end of the month and there are only 44 signups, so your chance of winning is pretty good.
At the New Year, the Euro hit a new high against the dollar, almost a  30% premium and on 21 Jan it was still at 1.26. French side restaurants with many costs in dollars and many American (or Canadian) clients have been offering more favorable exchange rates. To our list of 1 to 1 restaurants that include California, Escapade, Balaou, and Rainbow, we can now add Le Santal. Many restaurants will offer you a better rate than you can get on your credit card, so you can allow them to convert and charge in dollars. Note that California only offers 1 to 1 on cash purchases. As always, know what the euro is worth, what the restaurateur is offering for an exchange, and what the costs are on the menu. Finally, you are here to have fun and fine food, not complex financial calculations, so don't worry about it too much.
We ran into Bill and Phil on the beach. Splash has reopened across from the Atrium. They were on vacation in France.
We went to California Restaurant (www.California-Restaurant.com) with two other couples on Monday night. The specials board was filled and most of our dinners came from it. We started with a lobster bisque, some escargot, and a couple servings of the foie gras pâté. It came with two thin slices of foie, toast points, a bit of salad and a tangy mango chutney (16€). We ordered a bottle of 97 Volnay Taillepieds from Bouchard (49€). The wine was outstanding, but the bottle was too small. It was gone in a heartbeat and a more sensible (22€) Bourgogne from Bouchard was substituted. Pork tenderloin in a caramel sauce, lamb tenderloin in a garlic cream sauce, lotte in a saffron sauce, shrimp in a spicy Thai peanut sauce, and a crusted perch fillet with a creamy vegetable topping were the dinners, almost all from the specials board. Everyone agreed that they were special.  A couple desserts and lots of complimentary banana-vanilla and orange-ginger rum finished a wonderful evening by the sea. California is giving 1 to 1 on the exchange, so our dinner only cost about $110 per couple.  
On Tuesday night we went to Sunset Café (www.GrandCase.com/sunset) in the Grand Case Beach Club. It was the second Harmony Night event in Grand Case and we could hear the bands as we walked into the restaurant. The restaurant really is a deck out over the sand with an awning. The views, the waves slapping the shore, and the soft breezes are wonderful. We had a glass of chardonnay with the shrimp and tuna salad in a light vinaigrette. A very nice 99 Chassagne-Montrachet from Bouchard accompanied the lamb in puff pastry and a stuffed chicken breast with a morel sauce with lots of real morels in it. Very tasty food with a wonderful wine at the end of a fantastic day in Saint Martin.
After dinner we stopped in at Hibiscus (www.Hibiscus-Restaurant.com), somewhat outside the pedestrian zone. As he was closing, Thierry said that his night was a bit slow and invited us for a drink at New Orleans, the tapas bar at Amandier (www.AmandierPlage.com). Pedrin Pacheco and his orchestra were playing salsa. Several drinks later at 2 AM we wandered back to our car and drove past a party in progress at Le Maëva (www.GrandCase.com/maeva).
On Wednesday, we had a dinner at the new Sitar (www.SXM-Restaurants.com/simpson/sitar)  next to Cheri's in the Maho complex. It has just reopened and the interior is looking much better than last week. Ricky is still the owner and the chef is the same, so the food is still high quality Indian in a classy setting. It was amusing to sit in Sitar and see and hear the show at Cheri's. It's still possible to have a tasty and quite filling meal for about $50.
On Thursday, after a visit to Vinissimo, we went to Montmartre (www.SXM-Restaurants.com/lowlands/montmartre) for another fine meal with excellent service. Because we had enjoyed Vinissimo's wine and cheese tasting, we skipped the aps and had a fisherman's pot (fresh fish in a saffron lobster bisque with a pastry crust) and the roasted tuna steak with artichoke hearts and a tomato confit. Both were good and so flavorful that the light French Burgundy recommended by Olivier was perfect.
On Friday we headed for the bouillabaisse at La Marine (www.RestaurantLaMarine.com). We just had one ap and one bouillabaisse. It was more than enough. The ap was an aumôniere of crab and shredded vegetables in a light curry. Aumôniere is translated as a purse, possibly a beggar's purse. The circumflex over a letter (in this case, the hat on the o) usually indicates a dropped s in the original word. Using a somewhat free association, you can see the English word alms is etymologically connected to this word. Yes, but what does that have to do with food? In this case, the aumôniere is a thin bit of dough (generally phyla) wrapped around the crab and veg, tied with a string, and dropped into the fryer. Instead of a few coins or alms in a scrap of cloth secured by a string, it's an edible version. The bouillabaisse was wonderful. Fresh fish arrives on Air France on Thursday evening and by Friday the restaurants are making wonderful preparations. We had a bottle of Pommard and it did not overwhelm the bold flavors of Gilles fish dishes.
Next week's etymology lesson will delve into why curries are called columbos here the islands. No, it has nothing to do with Peter Falk and his detective, but you could work in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. One dinner of THAI ISLAND COCONUT RED CURRY CHICKEN BREAST (tender strips of chicken breast sautéed with red and green peppers and finished with a coconut red curry sauce) from Hot Tomatoes to the first person who can type up the answer to this conundrum.