St Maarten/St Martin
14 February 2004 Newsletter

Other newsletters


Weather and Beaches: Sunday was still pretty breezy and cloudy. Monday was a great beach day. Tuesday and Wednesday deteriorated into clouds and sprinkles, but Thursday was great as Saba and the rest of the islands emerged from the haze. We went to the little cove on Cupecoy, but we think we missed a green flash through inattention. The sky and horizon were clear, but we just forgot to look. Friday was another beautiful day that we spent taking lovely photographs in Oyster Pond.  We returned to our home at Sapphire Beach Club at about 5:00 PM and had bumped into the owner of the hardware store Salem, NY our summer home (population 4000). He had just checked in and while his wife and three children were heading to the room, he was heading into the garage to park the mini-van. We invited them to our room for a sundowner and a bit of island chat, mentioning the green flash. One hour after arriving at the hotel, they watched sun drop into the sea and turn green from our balcony. Some people haven't seen one in years of visits and they have one in the first hour! Not to mention the beauty tonight, Valentine's Day, ordered special for my valentine.
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 rather large moth that came to visit us one evening, not as large as the Atlas moth at the Butterfly Farm, but impressive. If you haven't been to the Butterfly Farm, consider it. It is a bit pricey, but you can go in the morning, see the butterflies emerge as it warms up, go to Orient or Galion Beach for the lunch and a loaf on the beach, and return for the afternoon's festivities.
Restaurant news: Scuttlebutt says that the building next to the entrance to the new Isla del Sol marina near the Dutch bridge, will be a restaurant featuring seafood. Wajang Doll has opened in the Royal Village complex next to Three Palm Plaza (home of Peg Leg Pub). That is a pretty quick move. The Pburg boardwalk extension project is slated to start in July, not April, still getting done before the next high season. Norm Dysart at Vacation Suites on Oyster Pond says that Mahogany Restaurant has closed and Mississippi Hotel is now doing long term rentals.
Scavenger's Beach Bar is sponsoring the current contest. Just go to their website (www.SXM-restaurants.com/orient/scavengers), 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. This contest is a bit different, as Scavenger's is offering a day at the beach for four people. You get four chairs, two umbrellas, four lunches and four drinks. It's still worth about $100 and it could be yours. In September of 1995 Hurricane Luis came in from the east and destroyed the Dawn Beach Hotel, one of the most beautiful hotels on the island. Scavenger's is located in one of the units and the bar and tables were scavenged from the wreckage. It's still a lovely spot, partially because 900 tons of wreckage were carted away, but also because of the superb beach and great views to St Barts. We've got about 60 entries, so your chances are good, although they won't improve by entering the same email address several times.
Look for future gift certificates from:
Thai Garden - 25 Feb to 20 March
Unity Car Rental - 21 March to 20 April
Temptation Restaurant - 21 April to 31 May
L'Auberge Gourmande - 1 June to 31 July
Sunset Café - 1 August to 31 September
Montmartre Restaurant - 1 October to 31 November
On 7 Feb the euro was at 1.27 and today it's at 1.28. French side restaurants with many costs in dollars and many American (or Canadian) clients have been offering more favorable exchange rates. Some restaurants offer a 1 to 1 exchange. These include California, Escapade, Balaou, Santal, Enoch's Place, Au Beaujolais, and Rainbow.  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. 
On Monday night we went to Hanabi to try the Hanabi special sushi and sashimi platter ($45). That's not cheap, but it came with miso shiro (fermented bean curd soup) and a Japanese salad and it was for two. We added some spring rolls as an ap and several beers, but still didn't get over $65 for a dinner for two. That is cheap. Joe has added a Chinese chef and is serving a few Chinese dishes in addition to the Japanese menu.
On Tuesday night we experienced Harmony Night in Grand Case from L'Auberge Gourmande front porch. The event is much the same: three bands in three locations stretching from Il Nettuno to Rainbow Café, lots of vendors, the lolos put tables on the street, and no cars from Nettuno to Rainbow. We started by parking near Rainbow Café. We met Yvan, late of Portofino, then BDLG, sitting at Portofino. It's now a bar and the restaurant below is still for rent. He is thinking about it.
We crossed over to Rainbow and talked to Nori. They are still offering 1 to 1 on the €uro, but I was given a new wine list to upload to the site. They cannot buy French wines in €uros and charge for them in equal dollars. Many costs can be switched to dollars, but these cannot. I do note that most of the French wines went up by about 10%, considerably less than the real difference in the exchange rate. Most of the US wines did not increase. Obviously, the wines on the list change from year to year and the underlying wholesale costs change also, so individual numbers may vary. Sounds like EPA gas mileage, doesn't it?
We walked down to Le Maëva and checked out the lovely Paella on the outdoor grill and the fantastic selection of seafood that was waiting to go into the Plateau des Fruite de Mer. I took photos and put them on their site.
We continued to Michael's Café, now open for great sunset views and light dinners. Michael (and wife Marilyn) are from Boston, specifically Medford (please inquire for pronunciation instructions) and serve Sam Adams lager. I have found that Sam Adams goes especially well with sunsets. Seriously, Grand Case Bay has some rather nice sunsets, including the composite photo on the Grand Case website taken from Sunset Café. There is no shortage of places to view the sunset, as Escapade, California Restaurant, Domaine de L'Amandier, and Calmos are also open at this time. Currently, the sunset occurs behind Molly Smith Point, but soon the sun will move north and set into the water as the composite photo shows.
Eventually we made it back to L'Auberge Gourmande where we started with a lovely bottle of 99 Chassagne-Montrachet. We have been sampling many bottles from Vinissimo, largely 96 Bouchard Burgundies, but also a 99 Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet that we think is better. Unfortunately, we have just bought the last two bottles. We started dinner with the chicken liver salad, possibly an acquired taste, but we do like it. Our dinners were both specials: snapper in a pink peppercorn sauce with braised endive and a saddle of rabbit in a reduction sauce with fried polenta. We liked both and again rabbit is something of an acquired taste, but is quite good, very lean and the saddle (or tenderloin) is quite tender. We had a great night savoring our coffee and armagnac watching the lively action on the street.
On Wednesday evening we dined at Spartaco Restaurant in the Almond Grove development across from Ram's Supermarket in Cole Bay. The refurbished plantation house with its veranda wrapping around three sides is as lovely as ever. Francois, the valet parker, met us at the steps to take our car away, and Spartaco met us at the front door, leading us to a table on the veranda. A new chef has tweaked the menu considerably. The basic dishes are there but the sauces and spices have changed and a few more things have been added, including a braised baby octopus with tomato garlic and parsley served on a bed of soft polenta that we couldn't resist. There was also a special of wild mushrooms in a cream sauce on rigatoni. For the first time in years, we ordered two aps, both delightful. We had the veal vesuviana, a veal scaloppini served with tomato sauce, oregano, and topped with mozzarella and the breaded lamb chops with herbs in a red wine sauce. Spartaco recommended the 2000 Frescobaldi Chianti ($36). The appetizers are $12 to $14 and the main courses range from $20 to $24, quite reasonable for this quality of food in such a wonderful setting. A 15% service charge is noted on the menu and displayed on the bill. Our total was a bit under $130. As we settled the bill and headed for the door, Francois drove up with our car. Valet parking is a thing of beauty.
We were taking pictures at Vacation Suites in Oyster Pond and went for lunch at La Planteur. This is about as far from our home as one can get, so we had never been here. The views are quite nice and while I didn't take any photos from here, the ones on the Vacation Suites website are quite similar. They are doing a 11 and 15 €uro set lunches. It includes a drink and a plate of the day. The more expensive version includes a salad and a dessert. The drink is basically plonk de plonk, but the food is pretty good, as is the price, and the view can't be beat!
Friday night we went to Bistrot Caraïbes again. We arrived at about 7:45 to find a rather full dining room that got a bit fuller. Nonetheless service was fine and the kitchen hardly seemed stressed despite a table of twelve. We started with the smoked salmon, always a melt-in-your-mouth taste sensation with toast points for a textural counterpoint. We had a 1998 Chorey Les Beaune from Drouhin, a lighter Burgundy from a good negotiant. It was in good shape, not overly powerful, but a good complement to the salmon. Martha tried the grilled ribeye steak with spring vegetables in a wine and herb sauce and I went with a special that featured lamb chops on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes with asparagus and butter beans in a red wine and herb reduction sauce. The lamb chops were tender and tasty, and the crisp asparagus and butter beans were a welcome addition to the creamy mashed potatoes. Surround it all with a red wine reduction sauce add a bottle of Burgundy and you'll have a great meal. Ribeye, of course, is known more for flavor and quantity, rather than quality - this was 14 ounces, not exactly our style. Thus, we have a major chunk of meat in our fridge waiting to become Philly cheese steak lunches!
The woman at the able next to us was trying to decide on a lobster thermidor from a 1 lb or 2 lb lobster. In a gentlemanly gesture, I offered to help her with any leftovers. Try this approach. I actually got several bites of a very tasty lobster thermidor. In another aside, the wine list said that the wine was a 1998, but a 1999 arrived at the table. Thibault noticed this, explaining the obvious: that the supplier had run out of the 98 and was now supplying the 99. I said that I wasn't terribly concerned, but was impressed that it was from Drouhin, one of my favorites. I said I hadn't noticed this on the wine list. He came back shortly thereafter and said that the wine list hadn't mentioned the supplier. All this took place in the middle of a rather full dining room. Good service, like valet parking, is a good thing to find.