St Maarten/St Martin
13 March 2004 Newsletter

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Weather and Beaches: Saturday turned out to be pretty good. We got to Cupecoy and found the little cove in good shape, room for at least a row of chairs, two in some spots. However, there was a spot of rain in the evening. Sunday was more of the same only better: no rain, few clouds, lots of sun and good, but not howling winds for the regatta. The far NW end of Cupecoy is very small. Monday was another lovely day but Tuesday started out fairly cloudy, ended up OK.Wednesday was pretty good, a bit breezy at Orient, but plenty of sun until about 4:30 when the dark clouds rolled in but they dropped little rain. Thursday wasn't bad but a downpour hit Cupecoy about 2:30. Friday was cloudy, but no rain. Seas have been fairly calm all week.
Last week I reported on a commotion at the Perch on Orient Beach as three lovely ladies in their altogether started serving drinks. My newsletter was passed along to one of them who promptly signed up for future copies. Just thought I'd say hello and sorry I missed the show.
Regatta news: The Heineken Regatta finished up on Sunday. There were 255 boats in several classes and on Sunday they went from Margot to Simpson Bay. The 12m boats came by our balcony at about 10:30. At that time we could still many boats milling around in Marigot Bay waiting for their start. Some of them had a course that took them over near Creole Rock in Grand case, out into the Anguilla channel and then back to Simpson Bay. We headed over to Nettuno in Grand Case for lunch and the view as we crested the last hill and saw all the boats in Grand Case Bay was fabulous. After lunch, we came back to Cupecoy to see the last few boats straggle in. There are more photos on the SXM-Activities site taken from the cliffs of Cupecoy.  
Restaurant news: La Case Creole is reopening in essentially the same spot across from US Imports/Magasin du Pont on the outskirts of Marigot. La Dolce Vita is about to open next to Mario's and Marius Andrew's father, Rocky, has converted his grocery store next to US Imports/Magasin du Pont into a Creole restaurant, Rocky's Ideal Snack.  
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. Last week I thought I saw the Queen Mary 2, world's largest passenger ship, on her maiden voyage into Pburg, coming past our balcony. Martha disagreed. I got an email from Veronique, wife of Jean-Pierre at Antoine in Pburg, with a subject that said, "Martha is right!" Attached were her photos of the massive ship (140 longer than the Eiffel tower is tall and as tall as a 22 story building) at anchor in front of their restaurant and a great sunset shot.
Wines:  We went to the Thursday wine tasting at Vinissimo on Friday (plausibly live, a la the Australian Olympics) and sampled a 99 Mouton Cadet Graves, a 97 Chablis Grand Cru from Verget, a 97 Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot Grand Cru from Bouchard (37€), and a 96 Ch Brown Pessac-Leognan. Needless to say, the Chassagne-Montrachet was a clear winner, but I still think that is a lot of money for a white wine. The reds included the 98 La Courtade from Porquerolles (17€), a small island off the south of France, Bouchard's 96 Volnay (20€), and 97 Mas de Daumas Gassac (22€). The Courtade was a very tasty blend of Mourvedre and Grenache and the Volnay was drinking quite well. I remember the Mas de Daumas Gassac from tastings in the US a dozen years ago when I could get it for less than $10. It is a simple country wine from the south of France (Mas means farm in the local dialect) with no standings in the French wine ranking. It is so good, large, rich, complex, yet smooth, that it can now only be purchased as futures at quite elevated prices.
Thai Garden is sponsoring the current contest, which will run until March 20. Just go to their website, 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 just add your name to the contest list. You could win a $100 toward a meal for two at Thai Garden.
Here is the list of future sponsors. We urge you all to sign up ONCE for each contest. Our clients want you to see what they have to offer. Go to their websites at the appropriate time, click the link, and you could be a winner. Look for future gift certificates from:
Unity Car Rental - 21 March to 15 April - $100 off a week's car rental
Temptation Restaurant - 16 April to 16 May - $100 off a meal for two
Vacation Suites - 17 May to 30 June - prize: 1 free week over the summer!
L'Auberge Gourmande - 1 July to 15 August - $100 off a meal for two
Sunset Café - 16 August to 30 September - $100 off a meal for two
Montmartre Restaurant - 1 October to 15 November - $100 off a meal for two
Sealine Charters - 16 November to 15 December
Chez Pat/Tropical Wave - 16 December to 6 January - $100 off a day at the beach: food, drinks, chairs, windsurf lessons, etc
Marci's Mega Gym - 7 January to 28 January - a week of gym usage for two
On 6 Mar the euro was at 1.24 and today it's at 1.22. 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. To the list that includes California, Escapade, Balaou, Santal, Enoch's Place, Au Beaujolais, Rainbow, Oizeau Rare, and Pirate, we add Restaurant du Soliel, Pedro's (priced in dollars - no conversion ever), and Paradise View. 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 Saturday evening we (the six unindicted coconspirators from last week's dinner at Temptation Restaurant) went to Auberge Gourmande for a dinner in a lovely restored Créole house. My last two meals here had been on the porch watching Harmony Nights. We started with a Quincy, a lovely sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley. It worked as an aperitif with several onion soups, an asparagus soup with scallops, and my frog legs. We did need to bring in a rare white Mercurey chardonnay to finish up the aps and please the fish eaters who loaded up on mahi-mahi, whole sole, whole French seabass, and an expanded shrimp ap that became a dinner (an accommodating wait staff and kitchen are a wonderful thing). Two orders of the lamb chops required a Gigondas from the Rhone Valley, lots of flavor to play off the big flavors in the lamb and the olive mashed potatoes. We stopped at this point, had a few complimentary flavored rums. We headed over to Sapphire for a replay of the previous week's cognac tasting at Vinissimo. We had been given several nips of the various Chabasse and Bowen cognacs after the tasting. We broke out the VS, VSOP, Napoleon, and XO varieties. The bad news is that most people agreed that quality moved up in lock step with age (and price). The good news is that we had a fine evening.
As mentioned earlier, on Sunday we went to Nettuno for a lunch on Grand Case Bay. It's a lovely double wide dining room on the water. The first room has a series of mirrors on the street side wall to give it a feeling of space and the second room has windows on the Bay and on the street side. We had a bottle of the 2002 Tommasi Pinot Grigio ($35) that was crisp with a hint of sparkle, quite nice with our house salad featuring shrimp and a roasted salmon filet with a thyme and lemon sauce. Martha liked the salad featuring tasty sautéed shrimp and pineapple. The roasted salmon was still moist on the inside but crispy on the top for an interesting taste and texture combination accompanied by what the waiter called fusilli in a light red sauce. I think it was rigglitoni, as looked like earthworms. This led to a discussion of the various pasta types. Rigatoni is a tube with squared ends. penne (meaning quill) is a smaller tube with ends cut on a slant, like a quill pen. Penne rigate is ridged penne. Rigglitoni is a figment of my overactive imagination.
On Tuesday we went to Spartaco Restaurant for a lovely Tuscan dinner on the wraparound porch of a restored plantation on the hillside above Cole Bay. Two couples split an arugula salad made of fresh, spicy arugula from Spartaco's garden and a tomato and mozzarella salad. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar were brought to the table so we could adjust the salads to our taste. A soft Montepulciano ($35) was a welcome accompaniment to the flavorful appetizers. Dinners started with pancetta wrapped scallops in a lobster sauce on a bed of spinach ($20), fresh grilled tuna served in an avocado, mango, tomato, and red pepper sauce ($22), grilled baby chicken seasoned with garden fresh herbs ($19), and a seafood risotto with mussels ($19 as a main course). The pancetta and scallops are a great combo, especially with lobster sauce, but not for those on a low salt diet. The tuna was as fresh as could be and cooked (which is to say hardly cooked) to perfection. The sauce is more of a salsa as it is uncooked. The chicken was quite tasty with its spices and the risotto was wonderful. Note these prices, high teens, low twenties, and in dollars. This is one of the best bargains on the island. We had the homemade ice cream for dessert, four spoons, and complimentary after-dinner drinks, spending $120 per couple with a 15% tip added and prominently noted. Needless to say, we felt that the fine meal and great service deserved a bit extra. PS: Martha brought home a bit of the bird and we had a bite or two for a late morning snack on Thursday shortly after I wrote this. It was great. Martha said that Spartaco liked the looks of her bird so much that he ordered one for his dinner!
On Wednesday we went back to Nettuno for a photo op with the two chefs and then strolled down the street to Escapade for another lovely Grand Case lunch on the water. We ordered a crab and exotic fruit salad ($11) and a roasted St Marcellin cheese with thyme on toast salad ($11) with a bottle of Ch Pampelonne rosé ($28). Gerard is offering 1 to 1 exchange, so those are the euro prices and the dollar prices. Crab is crab and if you love it, you can hardly not love a salad loaded with it and mangoes, etc. Steve Jenkins in his Cheese Primer says that "in its crèmier version, no finer cheese exists". Add thyme, bake it a bit, and serve with a rosé and a great view on a sunny afternoon, and it can't get much better.
That evening we had a light meal at Sitar in the back of the Maho complex, next to Cheri's. We had a few beers with garlic nan (flat bread), a somosa (potato and pea dumpling), a lamb masala, chicken korma, and a dal (a thick soup of split peas and spices). They can all be prepared from mild to hot, so walk on the wild side and try some great Indian food. When it was all over, we had more than enough to eat and spent only $53. We stopped across the street to hear Chocolate Sax Watts at Paris Bistro and noted that they were quite busy, as was Charme Restaurant after changing its name from Wellbeing!
Thursday night we dropped in at Montmartre. We noted that they were repainting the outside which we thought looked fine. We also heard that they were about to change the menu, which we thought was pretty good, but as it is one of the closer restaurants to our condo, we certainly had worked our way through much of the menu. One thing we hadn't tried was the Gambas Ravioli, home-made ravioli stuffed with shrimp and drizzled with a seafood sauce containing sea urchins? I certainly did not detect whole shrimp in the ravioli but they were quite tasty and the sauce was spectacular, sea urchins and all. It was not overwhelmed by a 97 Beaune Premier Cru Champs Pimont. Our dinners were the filet of beef with Roquefort sauce, a wonderful combo, and the tuna with artichoke hearts and tomato confit. Both dinners came with lots of veg: mashed potatoes, puréed sweet potato, baby corns, zucchini, and roasted tomatoes.
Friday lunch at Oizeau Rare in Marigot was a real pick me up after a morning at the dentist. A bottle of 99 Givry Premier cru started to work as the last of the Novocain was wearing off. We had a tuna tartare with real pomme frites and a pizza. The tuna tartare was fresh as possible and very tasty. Real pommes frites are cooked in low temperature oil to cook them throughout and then flashed in a very hot oil to crisp up the outside, turning them a deeper brown and adding a satisfying crunch. The pizza was a Reine, the queen, with tomato sauce, ham, mushrooms, and mozzarella. The French really do have them named and standardized. This pizza is the same all over the French side. I won't pick a best, but Oizeau Rare, Belle Époque, and Kakao are in the running. Hot Tomatoes on the Dutch side has the only wood-fired pizza and has named several interesting varieties of pizza that they make, but they also let design your own pizza. So will most French side places, if you ask.
After lunch we went over to the West Indies Mall next door to ogle the clothes, visit the over the top rest rooms (they should be on everyone's must see list), and have an after shopping glass of white wine at Keops in the basement. The top floor has Hediard, a gourmet shop that serves a light lunch, and Le Gaiac, said to be a very good restaurant by several people that we trust, but the menu just hasn't tempted us yet. The view over Marigot harbor is quite lovely from their perch on the third floor.