St Maarten/St Martin
15 August 2004 Newsletter

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Weather and Beaches: In early July, David at Rainbow Cafe was reminding me that this was their twenty-fifth season and telling me that it was very hot and a bit slow. By mid-July Zouzou at California Restaurant and hotel was telling me that the weather was beautiful, but asked me to add three new photos to the hotel website and note that they were air-conditioned.
Vero at Antoine Restaurant says the beach in Great Bay is beautiful these days, very calm, but last week we had swell coming from the tropical depression passing through the southern Caribbean. You might see it still on this weather link. "It's a pleasure to swim in the sea which is at the perfect temperature for me: warm !
Otherwise the weather is particularly humid since we are back, but sometimes also nice and breezy. It's  very hard to find a parking place on the shade, especially given the Front Street Construction (see below)."
Elisa from Bikini Beach reports that it's beautiful in St Martin: hot, sunny, perfect Caribbean weather to here on Orient Beach. The occasional shower here and there with big puffy clouds in the sky. She just returned from 3 weeks in Thailand. She took some cooking lessons and now has some new and improved Thai recipes on the menu at Bikini Beach! Also at the beginning of September they will re-open the beach bar with a change of theme....( In recognition of France's crackdown on drunk driving !): The "Fresh Squeeze" will serve fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, batidas, fruit salad (with or without yogurt and muesli) and more healthy stuff ! Also they will be promoting "Liver Flush" drinks and diets for those of you who want to repair after or before your big party days and nights in SXM. They stay open through September at Bikini, but do not serve dinner.
Richard Scott at Cliffhanger says because of the to the big weather we have been having lately there is very little beach at Cliffhanger. However the water is a warm 26 degrees (almost 80F) and sky blue.....some good fish have been spotted off Cliffhanger as well as a few big stingrays...some good snorkeling....as always the beers are cold!!

Martyne at Mario's Bistro called on 12 July to report that they are back on the island and reopening after their summer vacation. The weather on the island is nice, a few scattered showers, but they are keeping the island green.

Concerts: Jim Goldman at Bamboo Bernies  reports that they just confirmed Kool and The Gang in concert on Saturday, December 18.
Front Street Construction: Vero at Antoine Restaurant said that when she returned from a nice vacation in France in mid-July the construction on Front Street had started. There is a website that shows what they intend to do and gives updates on progress. For those who haven't heard about this, they will be repaving Front Street, eliminating all parking (!), making better sidewalks and adding palm trees. It sounds as if it will be quite pedestrian-friendly, especially with the boardwalk extension on the seaside of all these buildings. In addition, the Dutch side government recently announced that they will be planting about 250 Flamboyant trees all over their side of the island. That's good news for summer tourists who will see the trees in all there glory.
Sonesta chain brands Maho Beach: Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of Sonesta International Hotels Corporation Stephanie Sonnabend and Leader of Government Sarah Wescott-Williams illuminated the Sonesta sign on the Maho Beach Resort tower for the first time in a ceremony in early July announcing the official branding of the resort as a part of the Sonesta chain. Wyndham did the same with Sapphire, to little effect. Radisson tried it with Oyster Pond and pulled out after a year or so.
Lagoon cleanup: The fourth annual Simpson Bay Lagoon Cleanup took place on 17 July. Organizers Pablo Piscione of Tri Sport and Sue Atchley of American University of the Caribbean (AUC) Medical School said that it went quite well.  For the most part, I think that that the American tourists are pretty good about keeping the island clean, but we should be thankful that some people on the island clean up after others. Pablo and Nora at Tri Sport deserve our thanks and support for their business. Did you know that the green and blue boxes (about the size of a Port-o-Potty) distributed throughout the French side can be used for recycling glass and packaging?
Romare Bearden: There will be a big retrospective on Romare Bearden (1911-1988). SXM-Info's resident art historian notes that he was a famous African-American collage artist heavily influenced by the Jazz Age. While he spent much of his life in America, he did have a home in St Martin and there was a gallery on Front Street in Philipsburg. There will be a show in NY at the Whitney opening in October, another in Washington, and lots more. See the schedule of events here. The Philipsburg gallery is closing over the summer and hopes to reopen in the fall.
Stay-over tourism: The latest Quarterly Bulletin issued by the Central Bank says stay-over tourism in St. Maarten was up a 19 per cent from January through March, compared to the same period last year. The also say that the increase was mainly due to growth in the North American and European markets. Given that it is the middle of summer in South America, who did they expect to visit a warm Caribbean island? I must admit, I thought it was a bit more crowded last spring.
Photo feature: There are some new SXM photos at secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. There are some goats out by Oyster Pond and some nice shots of the gardens and waterfall at Oizeau Rare in Marigot. When we were there last, they were advertising a three-course meal for about $30.
Bonus photo feature:  We have put up some photos from a snorkeling trip we took on the Random Wind. This will be turned into a regular feature on the website and if you have any photos and text that you would like posted here, send it to SXM-Info. If we like it, we'll put it up with credit.
The week at L'Auberge Gourmande was won by D. Grover. Congratulations.
Sunset Cafe is sponsoring the current contest, running from 16 August to 30 September. Just click their name to go to their website, find the link to sign up for the SXM-Info newsletter and contest, 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 really 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. The prize is $100 off a meal for two.
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:
Montmartre Restaurant - 1 October to 15 November - $100 off a meal for two
Rainbow Cafe - 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
Escapade Restaurant - 6 June to 17 July 2005
On 1 July May the euro was at 1.219 and today it's at 1.236That's not much, but a distressing trend over the last several months. Still, we must remember that it was at almost a 30% premium as the year began last January. 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. We will no longer publish a list of them as it is hard enough to keep track of them while we are on the island and impossible from NY. 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 to do complex financial calculations, so don't worry about it too much. 
New restaurant: Dino Jagtiani of Temptation reports that he is well on his way to a second restaurant. "Rare" is due to open in the former Sitar Location.  It will be a creative spin on a "typical upscale steakhouse," such as a Morton's or Smith and Wollensky.  They will feature USDA Prime Aged steaks, as well as Maine lobster, and King Crab Legs.  For vegetarians we are planning a antipasto and bread bar, with over 20 different antipastos and a tan oven sending out a variety of flavored nans (breads) with dips such as hummus, tapenade, or eggplant dip. In the menu trials he's planning to play around with the tandoor and see how a filet mignon or porterhouse turns out. " Rare" will have a full wine list, sharing the cellar of Temptation as well as the white table cloth service.&?bsp; The price range will cater to a broad base of budgets as you can order your antipastos and bread and eat nicely for $20 or if you decide to splurge for steaks, lobster, desserts, etc, you will be in the $60 range similar to that of Temptation. 
Temptation is open throughout the off season, but still closed on Monday.  Some new menu items include a soft shell crab served with a Creole style ragout of eggplant, watercress, cabbage, tomatoes, and carrots and a moo-shoo Duck breast, which has a chipotle glaze and served with a mango-mint salsa, along  with the Chinese pancakes.
Foie gras: We purchased some foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, NY, just south of the Catskills. We got the B grade, rather than the A grade, and at less than $30 per pound (versus about $45 for the A grade), it seemed quite good. Martha actually had used this product when she was a chef in the Saratoga area about 20 years ago. She remembered that she had to clean up the B grade a bit and was pleasantly surprised to find no waste in the two pound lobe that we received. She cut off about a dozen quarter inch slices, floured them lightly, and sautéed them for about 30 seconds on each side in a very hot, dry pan. The slices of foie gras were surrounded by arugula, various other greens, and tiny beets, all dressed with sherry vinegar and truffle oil. A shallot and duck demi-glace with sherry vinegar was drizzled over the entire plate. A luscious 75 Ch Rayne Vigneau Sauternes was a wonderful addition to the rich tastes on the plate. You can get truffle oil in many of the specialty shops on the island, especially in Marigot. Check Hediard in the West Indies Mall, Epicerie Marie on Rue de Hollande, the Gourmet market in the center of town, or even the grocery stores. Online you can try Gourmet Mushrooms in California or Club Sauce in Denver which has an excellent selection of many gourmet items.
If you are looking for foie gras on the island, Saint Severin in Marigot is rumored to have the best. When we were there last, it was sautéed in a truffle sauce ($29), but Dominique changes his preparation yearly. If you want to try cooking foie gras yourself, Chez Rene across the parking lot probably has the best available (at a price) but we have had excellent foie gras from the US Import/Export Supermarket at the French bridge. Another standard approach to foie gras preparation can be found at California Restaurant where we had a foie gras pate from the special board. It came with two thin slices of foie, toast points, a bit of salad and a tangy mango chutney ($16). Alain frequently has the pate and changes the chutney as the mood strikes him. Another great standard preparation of fresh foie gras with roasted pears can be found at Auberge Gourmande. Fancier preparations last season included a well-conceived capon leg and thigh stuffed with foie gras and liver at Montmartre Restaurant. We tried this as a special and extolled its virtues to Karen and Pascal so much that they have added it to the new menu. We also had a special of sausage in a brioche with a bit of foie gras plus oyster mushrooms and a bit of salad at Montmartre earlier in the season. The brioche had the sausage baked into it and more sausage with a slightly spicy red sauce drizzled atop. The oyster mushrooms were sautéed, probably with some veal stock. The foie gras was melt in your mouth delicious and even the salad was made of good lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes with a nice light vinaigrette. As a dish, this is all over the culinary map from the lowest of the low (sausage) to the highest of the high (foie gras) with some very good things in between. Legendary island chef Thierry Delaunay of Hibiscus Restaurant in Grand Case served us a course of sautéed foie gras as part of his six course gourmet meal. The standard toast points were transformed into platform that held up a piece shaped into a duck. The duck's wings were thin slices of parmesan cheese that swept back and enclosed a bit of foie gras in a balsamic reduction sauce. Another memorable foie gras preparation was at  Le Cottage where the whole foie gras was roasted with white beans flavored with cocoa beans and aromatic vinegar. It is served for two people because it is a whole foie gras and more than enough. It was luscious and the dish was a careful blending of flavors and textures: smooth, buttery foie gras on a bed of beans with a bit of crunch to them suffused with a reduction sauce and a hint of cacao.
Restaurant Vacations
Antoine no closing
Bamboo Bernies no info
Auberge Gourmande
1 Sep - 14 Oct
Belle Epoque no closing
Bikini Beach no vacation, but
no dinners in September
California Restaurant 16 August - 16 October
Hotel remains open
Chez Pat
Tropical Wave
no vacation, but
closed on Monday
Citrus Restaurant 20 August - 20 October
Escapade no vacation closing
closed on Wednesday
Mario's Bistro 8 June - 15 August
Montmartre 30 September - 4 November
Paradise View Open for lunch throughout
closed for dinner from 20 June until 1 October
Sol e Luna 6 September - 1 October
Temptation no closing
but taking Monday off in low season
Thai Garden 1 September - 15 October
Our one bedroom condo will be available for ret 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 Bella Jewelers with any reservation. We include a special invitation to Vinissimo where you will get at least 10% off and a few samples. There's more: Pascal, owner of Auberge Gourmande, Sunset Cafe, and Montmartre Restaurant, is offering a welcome champagne cocktail and an afterdinner drink at one of his restaurants to any of our renters.  Take 20% off the price of a sunset cruise on the White Octopus. It's normally $25, but for our guests, it's only $20 per person for a great sunset cruise on the lagoon. There's snacks and plenty of drinks and as the White Octopus is berthed next to Hot Tomatoes, this would be a perfect time to use that gift certificate also! Finally, Unity Car Rental is offering 10% discount off already low website prices on any week's rental. That's a net of about $800 for a sixth floor one bedroom unit. 
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.
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. (www.SXM-Restaurants.com/coupons.html)
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 $5 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 from this we?site.
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.
Erich S. Kranz
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