St Maarten/St Martin
1 May 2004 Newsletter

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Weather and Beaches: It has been a very warm week with hardly any rain, but very breezy. There were whitecaps and big waves all over the island. Unfortunately, Friday, the day of the big Dutch side carnival parade, dawned to thick clouds and waves of rain. Fortunately, the storm passed over and we had a lovely time watching the parade from the front porch at Escargot Restaurant. Saturday arrived with a few dribbles, much needed at this point, but we had a mostly sunny afternoon on a very small beach at the little cove on Cupecoy.
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 are some shots taken by Laurie Watson on a dive with Dive Adventures and a bonus sunset shot from the Gypsy Queen anchored off Grand Case.
Wines:  The regular Thursday wine tastings at Vinissimo have been cancelled in low season. Print the coupon from the Vinissimo website and Sylvain will give you 10% off and a few samples whenever you show up.
Temptation Restaurant is sponsoring the current contest, which will run until 16 May. Just click their name to 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, but you are not automatically signed up for the contest. You do have to go to their website and click the email link to show you visited their site. 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 great meal at Temptation.
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:
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 27 January 2005 - a week of gym usage for two
California Restaurant - 28 January to 17 February 2005
Escargot Restaurant - 18 February to 4 March 2005
Hot Tomatoes - 5 March to 26 March 2005
The Horny Toad Guesthouse - 27 March to 24 April 2005 - seven low season days for the price of five
Celine Pub Crawl - 25 April to 5 June 2005 - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl
Another contest: Hot Tomatoes has a contest on their website to kick off their combination lagoon cruise/dinner package. You can now take sunset lagoon cruise on White Octopus  and follow it up with a dinner at Hot Tomatoes. They are giving away a two pizza dinner with a bottle of red, but you have to go to the website, click the comments link, and send in some comments. Somebody's going to get two pizzas with a bottle of red just for saying something that tickles our fancy. I talked to Brad last night and we're looking for 25 entries. As soon as we get 25, we'll post them, and pick a winner. While you are there, look over Brad's site, check out the coupon, and take a look at the White OctopusWe have almost enough entries, but there is room for a few more.
On 17 April the euro was at 1.188 and today it's at 1.???. Not much going on there, but it's still heading in the right direction. 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. This list includes California, Escapade, Balaou, Santal, Enoch's Place, Au Beaujolais, Rainbow, Oizeau Rare, Pirate on Orient (not Repaire du Pirate in Grand Case), Restaurant du Soliel, Pedro's (priced in dollars - no conversion ever), Saint Germain, Le Cottage (for cash), 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. Some restaurants have lowered their prices.  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 had lunch at Sunset Café on Monday as we needed to talk to Sebastien at the watersports desk about a website. It was a very hot day, but a good breeze and a bottle of chilled rosé made it bearable. Sunset Café is the "house restaurant" at Grand Case Beach Club, so it is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, giving it a huge menu. We just had a caesar salad and a smoked fish salad, eating light after several major celebrations last week. The salads were fine and the view of Anguilla plus the close-up of Créole Rock makes this a lovely spot for any meal.
Previously, we had sailed from Simpson Bay to Créole Rock on Random Wind as an all day sailing and snorkeling expedition. The rock is one of the best snorkeling spots on (OK, near) the island. While some people could swim out to it, a boat would make it a lot easier. For those who don't want to invest a whole day in sailing, Sebastien at Snorkel Trips will take you out to the Rock for a couple hours of guided snorkeling.  
On Monday night we went to  Bistrot Caraibes yet again. Our nerighbors in Sapphire unit 254 had taken their boat out of the lagoon and were anchored off Grand Case. Kathy asked us to go to dinner with them and said that Bistrot Caraibes had the appetizer she wanted: goat cheese and smoked duck breast in a puff pastry. We drove over to GC and met captain Gary at the dock. We dinghied out to the Gypsy Queen for drinks and snacks before dinner. We then headed back to the dock and walked over for the aforementioned ap, a caesar salad, sautéed sea scallops and royal shrimps with crispy vegetables in a garlic sauce, and a bit of the best smoked salmon on the island. The big flavors in the goat cheese ap demanded a flavorful wine like the Crozes-Hermitage "Les Jalets" 1999 Paul Jaboulet Aîné, but even the fish dishes had enough flavor to stand up to the wine. For the main course, three people choose the special lamb chops on a bed of creamy garlic mashed potatoes with tomatoes, asparagus, and butter beans in a reduction sauce. At 20€, it is about the chepest set of lamb chops you will find on the island. Not only that, but they are very flavorful and the entire dish is a treat of textures and tastes. A shrimp and scallop special rounded out the dinners and a hot chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream and coffee sauce with four spoons and several Armagnacs finished a wonderful evening. As always, we thank Fish Pot across the street for providing such a lovely water view to Bistrot Caraibes customers. Fish Pot really does have one of the most spectacular lobster aquariums (it's not a tank) on the island. Bistrot Caraibes really has lowered their prices, so they use a real exchange rate, but all this food with two bottles of wine came in at a bit under $120 per couple.
On Tuesday night we went to Sitar in Maho for our regular Indian meal fix. We had the garlic nan (garlic infused crispy flat bread) and some somosas (fried pastry dough wrapped around a seasoned vegetable and potato filling). We then had a shrimp vindaloo and and chicken tikka masala, both ordered very hot. One of our favorite beers, Stella Artois, is available if you get things a little too hot. Prices are good, only $50 for more food than we could eat and several beers. We stopped in at Paris Bistro for an after dinner cognac and a few songs from Chocolate Sax Watts. It was my father's 80th birthday, so we got Mr Watts to play Satin Doll for Dad. His hearing is pretty good, but I doubt that he heard it in Florida. It's the thought that counts.
On Wednesday we had a light sushi lunch at Old Captain in downtown Philipsburg before some serious end-of-season shopping at The Place for sapphire earrings and Endless Summer for bathing suits for my favorite beach babe. It is now pretty conclusive that Everyting Cool will be closing as the building is remodeled along with the extension of the boardwalk up to Sea Palace this summer.  Andy is looking for another spot, but little is available any closer to the cruise ship docks
Wednesday night was a final dinner at Temptation. We walked into the restaurant for a consult with the chef, who was nervously watching a table of about 20, waiting for their order. Dino has added several new Pinot Noirs to his wine list and suggested the La Crema ($45).  He also suggested the hot and cold soup and the prime beef filet. Martha had the duck with white beans sausage ($27). The soup was an interesting contrast of hot Cuban black bean soup and chilled gazpacho coupled in the same bowl ($11). The soup had hot crunchy black beans on one side and smooth tasty dark red gazpacho on the other, contrasting colors, temperatures, and textures in a beautiful and tasty presentation. We have had the duck and sausage before and the tastes are wonderful with a big Pinot. The beef came with herb roasted smashed potatoes, Argentinean chimi-churri, and cebollita ($34). The beef is probably the best available on the island and the preparation doesn't hurt either. The prices aren't cheap, especially as the service charge is pointedly not included, but we certainly had more than enough to eat and one of the finest meals of the season for about $140 with the tip and a $45 bottle of wine. In addition, there is parking with security from the casino, always nice. All that is missing is a water view, so Dino put water windows on the restaurant and on the outside pavilon. Add in live piano and a stunning interior, and it is worth a bit more than most places. 
We had stopped at Bruno's house above Orient Beach to take photos for a Villa Djaba website. That's the house next door to his, with great views of the northern reaches of Orient Bay. This reminded him that he wanted new photos of his staff and some new photos of various dishes on the menu at Le Cottage. This is the way our winters on the island always end. Everybody who has been too busy to think about their existing website and those who are too busy to think about a new website finally have time. I have done little but type for the last week, which made the beach report above rather short. Thus, after taking photos for the villa website, we got reservations at Le Cottage for dinner (and another photo shoot) on Thursday. They do have new fixtures this season and the chairs and table are visible in the photo at the bottom of the home page, so some things should change. however, the food is as good as it always has been and Chef Chrisophe's stage in France over the extended summer vacation last season brought him back brimming with new ideas. There is always a page of specials and we usually order them. This night was no different. Our ap was snails in puff pastry in a creamy reduction sauce with a hint of ginger and some spicy tomatoes: tender snails in a crunchy puff pastry with a lovely sauce. Stephane had started us with a Ch Reynon white Bordeaux that was a mixture of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, cold, refreshing, with a hint of citrus, and brought 99 Les Hauts du Tertres (2nd wine of Château du Tertres) for the ap. It's a Margaux with plenty of cab taste, but mellowed by five years of age. For our dinners he poured a Ch de la Negly La Falaise Languedoc-Roussillon from the extreme southern part of France near the Spanish border. We had a chicken and lobster dish and a sea bass. The chicken was a farm-raised French bird, much like those we get at the supermarket here. There were several bits of breast and a leg, but we like the leg better than the breast. Martha's seabass came with aumoniere (beggar's purses) pastry filled with crab meat. Our great picture taking expedition came crashing to a halt as the restaurant filled to capacity on what is usually a slow night in the off-season and the oven started acting up in the kitchen! How Christophe managed in the kitchen, we don't know, but good food came out, and we ended with coffee and Armagnac. We paid cash and got a 1 to 1 exchange rate.
Friday lunch was at Escargot Restaurant on Front Street, followed by the big carnival parade. They had two specials: osso buco and coq au vin. These are poor cuts of meat, slow-cooked with very tasty sauces, to make them tender and tasty. While Dino's tenderloin was fantastic, my hat is off to a chef who can make a really wonderful meal from the lesser cuts, and these were two very tasty lunches. I was cutting the veal with my fork as it fell from the bone and the chicken (I doubt very much that any purveyor supplies intact roosters these days) was similar. Photos from last year's parade already on the Escargot site and this year's photos will get up there in my next available minute.
We will be leaving the island in about a week. Our one bedroom condo will be available for rent until we return in mid-December. Last year we replaced the microwave with a new GE Advantium model and this year we replaced the refrigerator and dishwasher. The unit was painted. New drapes were put in front and back. All the upholstery was recovered and a new cover was put on the king size bed. We rent it for $1000 per week and throw in a $50 voucher on a dinner for two at Hot Tomatoes and a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers with any reservation. As a special offer for newsletter subscribers, we'll take another $50 off for any reservations made before we leave the island on 10 May. That's a net of $850 for a sixth floor one bedroom unit. The rest of May is lovely and our on-island friends tell us that June is calm and quiet. July is largely taken already and August is when the French arrive for their month's holiday, so the restaurants are all open. September is probably the hottest and wettest month, so many restaurateurs close and take their vacations. We have been here in October and November and loved it. By then the restaurateurs are back and trying out new ideas. Go over to our website, check out the unit and its fabulous views, check the calendar for availability, and send us an email if you are interested (mention that you are newsletter subscribers for this discount).
Look on the SXM-Restaurants website for a list of all restaurants that have coupons for some freebie. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper.
Vinissimo has added a coupon offering a 10% discount on all purchases.
L'Esperance Hotel (www.LesperanceHotel.com) in Philipsburg is bargain at $65 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.
Delfina (www.SXM-Hotels.com/delfina) now charges $95 per night for a double and includes two breakfasts and evening cocktails. They are in the Cupecoy area, not on the beach, but close enough to walk and they have a pool. You also get a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers with any reservation.
The Banana Cabana (www.SXM-hotels.com/index.html#bc), a one bedroom studio on the lagoon in Cupecoy, is only $695 for the week all taxes and service included.
California (www.SXM-hotels.com/california has two apartments for rent that are right on the water in Grand Case. The one bedroom, sleeps four, is $550 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $900 for the week.