St Maarten/St Martin
15 November 2004 Newsletter

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Weather, Hurricanes, and Beaches: Many people have written to say how rainy it was in October and early November. The island is as green as can be and no major hurricanes have even been close this season. Some sand has been shifted around, but things look pretty good.
New Grand Case Building: Cecile Petrulluzzi of The Perfect Ti Pot wrote to say that a restaurant, a potter (that would be her), a jeweler, and a masseuse (AIA Massage Therapy) have moved into her new building in the center of Grand Case, next to Le Cottage Restaurant.
Trip report: Wendy K reports they arrived Tuesday afternoon (2 Nov) after a very easy, uneventful trip from Boston. Lefty, the cat, did well with 1 tranquilizer. (Note, there is more info on traveling with animals on the SXM-Info website.) Our flight was in a bit early and we breezed through immigration, got our luggage quickly, and were on our way "home" in no time. The island is greener than I've ever seen it. It has rained nearly every night, but nothing in the daytime. There was a wonderful breeze the first two days, which has diminished some. It's taken us a few days to get settled, acclimated, and stocked up, but we're there now. Lefty is "tres content" and so are we!
We had our first restaurant meal last night at Durreche on the Marigot waterfront. Our favorite waiter, Regis, is no longer there, but the place is really fixed up, with iron grills, painted floors & beams, and lots of plants. There was a new cat, as well. Moules/frites were as good as ever.
The building on the island is incredible. Rainbow & the Cliffs have progressed significantly. Boniface's property, next to us on the lagoon near Delfina Hotel, was sold to the people who own Goldfinger. They are making villa lots, and there are dozers and trucks at work every day leveling things; leaving a few trees here and there. It was quite a shock at first, but it actually looks quite nice. And we are certainly relieved not to have an apartment building going in next door. We haven't been to Cupecoy yet - will go tomorrow. But we did go to Mullet yesterday and it was lovely. Just the right amount of waves.
Windward Island ATMs: From Jeff Berger: "In the last few years, there have been several incidents involving fraudulent duplicate withdrawals made from the Windward Islands Bank ATM in front of Casino Royale, and we've posted warnings about it. Americans used the ATM and discovered when they got home that their accounts had been debited for multiples of the true withdrawal amount.
Now we hear exactly the same thing about the WIB ATM near the Peli Deli at Pelican Resort. Bottom line: This has gone on for years. At this point, we urge you to never use any Windward Islands Bank ATM for any reason. Until we hear that a few people have wound up in the slammer on SXM because of these fraudulent transactions, this warning stays put. Don't use WIB ATMs."  

This may be hard to believe, but I have never used and ATM, although I also have heard complaints about these ATMs. Almost everyplace (except gas stations and a few small restaurants) accepts credit cards and the exchange rate is generally better than what you can get at the change places or from the retail establishment. One note, many places are now offering 1 to 1 exchange rates, a savings of about 30%. Sometimes, but not always, this is applied only to CASH, not credit cards.
Tourists: KLM says that starting 4 November, they will have three flights per week to SXM, up from two, adding a Thursday flight to their current Tuesday and Saturday schedule. The Daily Herald reports other airlines are following suit and tour operators report that bookings are up. It seems to be shaping up as a good season. In late October, the cruise terminal received its one millionth passenger of the season, marking three years in a row that they have achieved that mark.
Gas price increase: As of 9 Oct, unleaded gasoline will cost NAf. 1.36 per liter, an increase of nine guilder cents. That's about $2.80 to 2.90 per gallon, depending on the exchange rate offered by the gas station. I have seen some postings as to whether this is an Imperial (British) gallon or a US gallon. The truth is that they don't use any gallon on the island so the gallon quoted above is based on my calculation of a conversion from a liter to a US gallon (3.8 liters = 1 US gallon).
Sailing: Neil on Celine has set up a charter on the Saturday of the Heineken Regatta (5 March 2005). At $75 per person, it includes a complete day on the sea with all food and drink. It is a long way off, but the island gets pretty crowded and the charter boats fill up. If you want a front tow seat for the action, go to Neil's website, check  out the regatta page, and send him an email reservation. 

Concerts: Just a reminder that Bamboo Bernies  has confirmed Kool and The Gang in concert on Saturday, December 18.
Photo feature: There are some new photos featuring flora, mostly from the lovely gardens at The Horny Toad Guesthouse in a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location.
Bonus photo feature:  We have put up some photos and a recipe from a mushroom hunting journey here in NY. This ties in with the fabulous meals we had at Manoir Hovey in Quebec (see below). Not exactly SXM, but they speak French and have some of the food we love, right next door.
The $100 gift certificate at Montmartre Restaurant was won by Debbie Schenkel. Congratulations. Karen at Montmartre reports that they are back in full operation at all three restaurants (Montmartre, Auberge Gourmande, and Sunset Cafe) with some menu changes and new wines.
Rainbow Cafe is sponsoring the current contest, running from 15 November to 15 December. 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:
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 30 Sep the euro was at 1.240, in early November it hit an all-time high against the dollar at 1.3 and today it's at 1.295. 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. David at Rainbow Cafe has thrown in the towel as the rate hit 1.3. So many of the fixed costs (rent, staff, taxes) and some of the variable costs (notably French wine and food) are in euros that it became increasingly difficult to hold the 1 to 1 ratio as the real rate hit 1.3. In addition, many people didn't realize the sacrifice that was being made and some even suspected that places advertising 1 to 1 exchanges had raised their prices. As the guy who typed the menus into the various websites, I can attest to the fact that many restaurants were taking a hit to keep business from Americans.
Bar de la Mer may have been a casualty of the high euro. I always thought their prices were high, especially for a place that lost its waterfront appeal to a parking lot. I remember being asked to pay $35 for grilled ouassous (large freshwater shrimp, usually from Guadeloupe). That seemed pretty high five years ago, but as the euro crept up to a 30% premium to the dollar, the Marigot waterfront became less and less crowded. Messalina, Frigate, and the Poisson d'Or (although it translates to Goldfish, most Americans called it the Poison Door) closed. Coté Provence was open for a season. Even KFC has closed.
Los Gauchos has just started running a banner on the TTOL bulletin board and added a coupon for a glass of Argentine Malbec to their website. Print one out and have a great wine with a great steak on the pond in Pburg.
Christian at Sol e Luna has added a new menu to his website. They kicked off this season in mid-October with a three course dinner that started with a flute of Vueve Cliquot. At only 35 euros per person, it sounds as if it was a great evening. You missed that, but their apartments will be ready for high season. If you like Orient Beach and great food, here and in Grand Case, I can't think of a much better location.
A Taste of the Caribbean: Several locals battled for a chance to represent SXM in a TV show featuring a Taste of St Martin. The participants were Michel Arrindell of Chesterfields, Rudy Santana of Los Gauchos/Great Bay Beach Hotel, Alain Delage of Les Boucaniers, Marco Ferrante of La Gondola, Cyril Rouverot of Tropicana, Theirry Le Queau of Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Patrick Desmaris of Le Soleil, Dino Jagtiani of Temptation, Mario Tardif of Mario’s Bistro, Cecile Briaud of Le Chanteclaire, and Ryan Halsey of Halsey’s Restaurant and Lounge. The overall best chef was Cecile and both she and Mario received gold medals for their work.
Bernard Rolin of Paris Bistro has sold Le Charme which is now open as Terra serving new American cuisine from a former chef at Citrus. He notes that Dali and Sitar have both closed, but his big news is that he has opened The Wharf on the lagoon at the entrance to the Isla del Sol Marina in Simpson Bay. The phone is 544-4133 and they are open from 5 to 11 pm, serving great bbq, seafood, and more. There is a coupon for 10% off on the website.
Dining in Quebec: For Martha's birthday we drove a mere five hours to the eastern townships of Quebec and stayed at Manoir Hovey, a lovely converted summer cottage (like the "cottages" in Newport) on Lake Massawippi. The eastern townships (ie, the small towns in the eastern part of Quebec) pride themselves on their produce and Manoir Hovey serves it in wonderful combinations with an outstanding wine list. We paid about $300 per night for a very large room with a fireplace and a view of the lake plus breakfast and a three-course dinner. This experience reminds me of France more than St Martin. Very few places on the island have the three, four, or five course prix fixe meals which were so prevalent in my travels around France. The beauty of this approach was that you could get an ap, main course, and a dessert (frequently a cheese course would count as a dessert) for considerably less than the cost of ordering the same ap and main course off the dinner menu! For Martha's birthday, we spent even more by taking the five course menu featuring a "taste of the townships" paired with Burgundy wines. We asked the wine steward if he could pair it with Canadian wines instead as we had most of their Burgundies in our cellar back home. He thought about it for a moment and said he thought he could amuse us. We started with a bit of pan-seared red mullet with local sunchokes and oyster mushrooms.The next course was a warm local cheese from Sainte-Edwidge with cep mushrooms. This was followed with a roasted saddle of local rabbit and sautéed local wild mushrooms. A loin of venison from a local farm with chanterelles in a reduction of local black currant liqueur followed. Dessert was a peach melba with local yellow raspberry syrup. The first two courses had Canadian white wines and were followed by red wines and finally an ice wine from the far end of Lake Erie. Breakfasts were equally fantastic with a large buffet plus a plate from the kitchen featuring eggs any style or a special of the morning. Typically, they managed to get local berries, local maple-smoked bacon, and local maple syrup into the mix. For more info on Quebec, visit our Washington County website. For similar experiences in SXM, Hibiscus has a multi-course tasting menu that we sampled last spring and Cottage has a multi-course lobster menu.
Magret de canard (Duck Breast) and Foie Gras: The eastern townships in Quebec also has Brome Lake Ducks, raising ducks for meat and foie gras. They sell fresh duck and a variety of prepared products. Unfortunately, US regulations to safeguard our food supply against terrorists prevented us from bringing fresh duck back to the US. We brought back a cooked duck and some paté de foie gras that we thought were excellent. Alas, I cannot find any way to order online but the local Hannaford Supermarket carries Lac Brome fresh duck! This is not surprising as Hannaford is a Canadian company. 
St Martin features some fabulous duck and/or duck breast. Both Mario's Bistro and Rainbow Cafe, where Mario and Martyne used to work, are famous for a crispy duck.  Saint Severin in Marigot imports duck breasts and foie gras. We had a great grilled duck breast with a caramelized shallot sauce for only $20 last March. L'Escargot in Pburg has an award from Gourmet magazine for their duck and they feature it during the cabaret show. If you haven't seen it, you should and if you haven't watched a carnival parade from their front porch, you haven't really seen one. Lots of photos on the website.
Restaurant Vacations: This section will cease to exist now that all restaurants are back in operation. Maryline at Le Mambo wrote to say that they reopened on 24 September. I'll leave the page up on the SXM-restaurants website, as it will give people an idea of when restaurants will be closed next summer, but don't make terribly important plans based on the previous year.
Erich S. Kranz
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