St Maarten/St Martin
29 January 2005 Newsletter

Other newsletters

Newsletter report: For most of the week, my main laptop was still waiting for a part, but we had two spares and were limping along. On Thursday the part arrived and the laptop was fixed by 10 AM, which leads to an island story. We went to Marci's Mega Gym as usual, had lunch, and were heading into Pburg to pick up the laptop when my pocket vibrated. It was a cell call from Karol at MVG Technology, saying that she had to go shopping at Ace Hardware and would be closing the office for two hours. I said that I was heading over the Simpson Bay Bridge and would be there in a few minutes. She said she would bring the computer and I should meet her at Ace! Traffic was light and we moved right along, passing the rotary at the top of the hill. Normally, I would have taken the cutoff past the Belair Hotel to go downtown to MVG, but Ace is on the normal route to the back of Philipsburg so we headed down the hill in that direction. I remarked on how light the traffic was and how we would be there shortly unless that smoke on the hill was a fire. It was and as we passed Ram's and could see Ace, we were detoured to the right because a fire hose was snaked across the main highway. Karol called again and said that she had had a hard time getting to Ace, but would wait for me inside as the traffic was bad. Being trapped in a massive traffic jam just behind Ace, I said "Tell me about it!" Eventually, we got there, I found her in the paint aisle, and we went to her car where my laptop was returned to me.
Weather and Beach report: Saturday was a lovely day, but still a bit windy, and the sunset was another stunner (see the photos). Sunday was another beautiful day, and not just because the Patriots beat the Steelers. The wind virtually died, planes were taking off from the airport heading out to sea, and the sky was clear. We could see Saba, Statia, and St Kitts. On Monday, the lagoon was like a mirror, reflecting the hills on the far side (see photos below). The lack of a breeze left the humidity in the air and Saba disappeared in the haze. Same thing on Tuesday. If you didn't know Saba was there, you wouldn't see it in the haze, but it's fairly calm with large puffy white clouds and blue sky. It's also 80F and our NYT homepage says it's below zero at home. This generally indicates a shift in wind directions and by Tuesday night the wind picked up. On Wednesday morning the sea had turned around and major rollers were pounding Cupecoy. Thursday arrived with more of the same but departed to sunshine through broken clouds. Friday was sunny through scattered clouds and a few sprinkles.
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. We start with a champagne breakfast as we exit the lagoon on the 9:00 AM opening. Chicken and ribs will be available for lunch. We return late in the afternoon after a great day on the water among the boats. It is a long way off, but the island gets pretty crowded and the charter boats fill up. If you want a front row seat for the action, go to Neil's website, check out the regatta page, and send him an email reservation. As his email is frequently lost in cyberspace, I have included my address there, and I see him frequently. Currently there are 10 confirmed signups and four maybes for a trip that is being capped at 20 participants.
Jewelry shopping: Martha's Christmas/anniversary present came from DK Gems and there are few jewelry shopping expeditions as pleasant as dealing with Deepti and Jeff.  On our anniversary we were driving to Mario's Bistro for dinner when an old strand of pearls broke. After finding them, we stopped headed over to DK Gems and found them to be most helpful, even though these pearls came from someplace else.
Photo feature: This week's photo feature has a shot of Grand Case Bay, a beautiful sunset taken on 22 Jan taken from our balcony, some waterspouts dancing off Cupecoy, and more. The link only goes to subscribers. There are recent Orient Beach photos on the regular beach pages of the SXM-Info site.
The entries for the Chez Pat/Tropical Wave contest that ran from 16 December to 6 January were trapped in the broken laptop and now it is revealed that J.D. McKnight has won $100 toward a day at the beach. The winner of the Marci's Mega Gym contest is Michael Blair.
California Restaurant is sponsoring a contest that started yesterday, 28 January, and runs until 17 February 2005, giving $100 toward a dinner for two. $100 goes further at California because they are doing 1 for 1. Just click their name to go to their website, find the contest code and the link to our new signup form, fill it out, click send, 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.
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:
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

The Thursday tasting at Vinissimo was skipped because on Friday 28 January Jean-Jacques Girard from Savigny-les-Beaune showcased his wines at Ti' Provencal in Grand Case. We really liked his 2002 Savigny-les-Beaune Premier Cru and are looking forward to trying his other wines. This tasting was arranged by Vinissimo and Marina assured me that we would enjoy our dinner after the tasting. (see below).

A shopping expedition to US Import last Saturday turned up some lieu noir, despite the name, a white-fleshed fish, essentially a pollack. It's about the cheapest fish in the case and pretty good in spicy tomato sauce. We finally stopped at the Boucherie in Concordia and were thrilled with what we found. It's not cheap, but we got some wonderful pate de lapin (rabbit) and saw some beautiful meat. They had nems (that's the Vietnamese word for eggroll, and as that was a French colony, at least until 7 Feb 1954, they use that word). We got a free sample and thought it was quite good. They also had a scaled down version of one of our favorite dishes at Montmartre Restaurant: the stuffed capon leg (stuffed with foie gras and more). The butcher version had the nems stuffing (generally veg and pork) stuffed into a chicken wing. The end bone is left as a handle, the next bone is removed, and the space is filled with nem stuffing. We took a couple home for lunch and thought they were great.
On 22 Jan the euro was at 1.305 and today it is at 1.305. honest, I checked, no change. 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 got that at Restaurant du Soliel, California, Auberge Gourmande, and La Marine. We noticed Rainbow Cafe, Escapade, Balaou, and Marlin's Cafe were offering the same. Note that some only offer this rate for cash. We will let you know about other places as we find them. 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.
The Daily Herald's Best of: This is a mail-in poll of the readers. Highly unscientific, and liable to ballot-stuffing. Possibly that's why Domino's wins the pizza contest. In any event, Temptation won the best high end restaurant award and Sol é Luna won most romantic, yet again. Best happy hour and best place to play pool went to Greenhouse. Best Chinese went to White Swan in Simpson Bay, a stunning upset of Old Captain, the long time winner.
Dining: On 22 Jan we went to Orient and had a tasty lunch at Baywatch. The ribs are steamed and then cooked to fall-off-the-bone tenderness and served with crispy fries. I had a sausage and peppers sub with Andy's marinara sauce, also good. With three beers and the added 15% service charge plus a poir boire it came to $35. They are doing 1 to 1, but as far as I can recall the prices have been in dollars.
On Sunday we watched the games at the Horny Toad Guesthouse and ordered pizza from Philly Joe's. They have a sign up at the moment offering three medium pizzas for $15. Their medium pizzas are about 13 inches in diameter and come with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Extra toppings are mostly $2 each. We ordered six with various toppings for nine of us and paid $44. I'm currently putting Bello hot sauce on one of the leftover slices for an excellent breakfast. They claim to deliver and have no website, so here's the phone number: 545 2297.
On Monday night we strolled Grand Case from Ti Coin Créole to La Marine (closed on Monday, so don't walk that far unless you are going to Rainbow Café). Eventually, we made it back to Il Nettuno Restaurant for Italian with an accent on seafood. The room is large, two normal size lots were used to make Nettuno and most of the back of the building along the water is dining room. It has three rows of tables with the inside row raised up a few steps so that even the worst tables have a pretty good view, but make a reservation and get a table on the open windows. The menu is almost as large as the room and there were about four special aps and four special main courses. Four small bruschetta topped with tomatoes and onions arrived with our water as we pondered our choices. A bottle of Chianti Ruffino Ducale (37 euros) proved to be quite good and not overly powerful as we started with a delicate dish of scallops cut into quarter inch slices and lightly sauteed in olive oil, white wine, onions, tomatoes, and garlic (12 euros). We moved on to two veal dishes: the scugnizzo (23 euros, it means street urchin, in Italian) and the Milanese (20 euros). The scugnizzo had tomatoes, mozzarella, and eggplant wrapped around the tenderest veal and the Milanese was simpler having just arugula and fresh diced tomatoes on several tender slices of veal. We ended with coffees and grappa as we gazed out at all the boats in the bay and Anguilla. The total dinner came to 120 euros and a rate of 1.25 turned that into $150. Certainly, it's not the best rate on the street, but there are not too many 20 euro main courses of this quality on the waterfront. As I said earlier, check out the prices on the menu and the rate.
On Tuesday I was still depressed about the laptop and struggling with the other two computers, so I needed cheering up. Few things in life can cheer me up more than having Karen lead me to a corner table in Montmartre Restaurant, perhaps leading me to an outside table on the beautifully-landscaped terrace would be better, but the weather was not cooperating. Another thing that cheers me up is having Olivier, one of the best waiters on the island, deftly open a bottle of Beaune Champs Pimont Premier Cru. We started with French onion soup, the French equivalent of chicken soup, and it worked, although I'm sure the wine was helping. I had the special capon breast with a foie gras topping and morel mushrooms (again) and Martha had the tuna steak with a sesame crust in a tomato and caper sauce. By now I was positively cheered up. Coffees and Laubade Armagnac made us euphoric.
I had bumped into Bert from Oasis Grill while talking to Marius from St Louis Car Rental at Ocean Club. Bert and his wife, Jill, run Oasis, a bar and grill next to the pool inside the Ocean Club Resort. You can visit Oasis, but parking is limited (and assigned) inside the grounds, so park across the street or in the beach parking lot, next to the five-story tower. It's a great spot to stop after a tough day on Cupecoy, but do remember to put your clothes back on. We went over for the Wednesday night all-you-can-eat barbecue party. The Duke of St Maarten plays any song you can think of, and several that I don't think I ever heard, and you get great ribs and spaghetti with $2 beers. There really is a full bar, so you can have all the tropical drinks that Bert, voted best bartender on the island in one TTOL poll, can mix up. For an even better deal, go to the website, print out the coupon, and have him mix up a FREE one!
On Thursday we went to Restaurant du Soliel in Grand Case. It's on the water between Fish Pot and Il Nettuno Restaurant. There were two owners of Domaine de l'Amandier. They originally were going to sell, but in the end, one bought out the other and it is still open. The departing owner took Cedric, the manager, and Frederic, one of the best waiters, and took over Restaurant du Soliel. It's been brightly repainted and fitted out in a blue and yellow scheme. We started with flutes of Champagne to celebrate the return of my laptop and ordered a red 2001 Saint Aubin Premier Cru ($38). It was a bit metallic in the finish, but after breathing and warming up, was quite nice. The food is French and we started with a terrine of rabbit and prunes with a balsamic reduction containing a hint of caramel ($14). The terrine was essentially bits of rabbit and prunes and the balsamic/caramel sauce was quite tasty. Our dinners were a tuna with two sauces (a Creole sauce and a soy and sesame sauce) and a lotte and shrimp dish with a lobster sauce. Coffees and Armagnac finished a very pleasant evening on the water. It is a pleasure to watch such skilled waiters. They are doing 1 to 1 for cash, so our total bill was only about $110.

On Friday we headed over to Pburg again to talk with Alberto at Arthur's Car Rental about a long term rental. He offered some pretty good rates for long term, which in our case was five months. We then had a brief stop at DK Gems to pick up a strand of pearls that Deepti had repaired. That brought us to lunch at Shieka's Bistro. Actually, breakfast was just finishing and we got a plate of salt fish, smoked herring, and three breads: coconut, carrot, and regular. The home-made hot sauce on the table made it an interesting appetizer for our lunches of oxtail stew and steamed fish. All authentic and all good. A cold passion fruit drink hit the spot. Shieka's is on Back Street, one block off Front Street in the Philipsburg Community and Cultural Center, quite near the courthouse.  
That evening we went to a wine tasting at Le Ti' Provencal in Grand Case sponsored by Vinissimo featuring the wines of Jean-Jacques Girard who just happened to be in town. He doesn't have too many wines as he concentrates on vineyards near his home. The Rhoin River (really a stream) has carved a major valley east/west through the north/south hills of Burgundy at Beaune, the ancient capital of Burgundy. When the autoroute from Paris to Lyon and the French Riviera was built, it followed this route, bypassing Dijon, the much larger current capital of Burgundy. Savigny-les-Beaune is in this valley and several acres of vineyards were lost to this bit of "progress". This is where Jean-Jacques Girard makes his home and his wines. We started with two whites, a 2002 Savigny-les-Beaune and a Pernand-Vergelesses. The town just north of Beaune is Chorey-les-Beaune and Aloxe-Corton is just north of that. Aloxe-Corton contains one of the most famous vineyards in the world: Corton, gracing the eastern-facing slopes of the hill of Corton. The southern and western sides of this hill are home to Pernand-Vergelesses which borders on Savigny. they both make lovely wine, maybe not as good as their more famous neighbors, Beaune and Aloxe-Corton, but very good wine at pretty good prices. The 2002 vintage was one of the best in the last several years and these wines were quite good. The reds were all from Savigny-les-Beaune, a 2002 La Serpentier, a 2003 La Serpentier, and a 2003 Les Lavieres. the last seemed to be the best, showing some hope for well-made 2003's although the consensus is that 2003 will not be as good as 2002. The restaurant was sending out so many plates of tasty appetizers (a vegetable terrine; pissaladiere, essentially a bruschetta with tomato paste and anchovies; saucisson slices; many cheeses; and crudites with a garlic and cheese sauce) that many people stayed for dinner. We were glad we had made a reservation as it secured a waterfront table.
By the time we sat down at our table, we hardly needed any more appetizers, so we just had two fish main courses: dorade (sea bream) Nicoise and a mahi-mahi with Creole sauce. The whole sea bream arrived at the table and required several minutes of deft work by the server to lift out four delicate filets to add to the potatoes, tomatoes, and olives. The mahi is a bit more rugged fish and was quite tasty with its Creole sauce. A bottle of Chinon, a light red from the Loire valley, was fine with Herve Sageot's tasty fish dishes. Herve's wife, Valerie, runs the front of the house, making this another Mom and Pop restaurant, although there is a bit of help in the kitchen and out on the floor.

Look on the SXM-Restaurants website for a list of all restaurants that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper.
L'Esperance Hotel in Philipsburg is bargain at $80 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.
Turquoise Shell Residence in Simpson Bay is bargain at $100 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen, all taxes and service included. It's across the street from the water and they have a pool. Make a reservation and get a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers and a $25 coupon to Hot Tomatoes.
The Banana Cabana, a one bedroom studio on the lagoon in Cupecoy, is only $695 for the week all taxes and service included.
California has two apartments for rent that are right on the water in Grand Case. The one bedroom, sleeps four, is $750 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $1100 for the week.
Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she has negotiated a great deal at Alamanda and has can't beat rates at Le Petit, L'Esplanade, Maho, and La Plantation.

Erich S. Kranz

SXM-Info newsletter 29 Jan 2005