St Maarten/St Martin
12 February 2005 Newsletter

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Weather and Beach report: Saturday was a quite nice and produce the third green flash in a week See the photo spread for the sunset, but I still have not captured the tiny green dot. Sunday was very nice and the rollers have not destroyed Cupecoy, but Sebby at the activities desk at Grand Case Beach Club said that they had taken away a bit of his beach and made the snorkeling less than ideal. I like an honest divemaster. Monday was spectacular, ending in the fourth green flash in a week, but big rollers pounded much of the island. By Tuesday the far end of Cupecoy was gone and the little cove was very little. On Wednesday it was back, but we got hit by a large wave, although they are finally subsiding. the weather is great, another green flash. Thursday turned hazy, but it was warm and the rollers were gone. On Friday morning I could see the houses on Saba glinting in the morning sun and I could NOT hear the waves crashing on the shore below. These certainly proved to be harbingers of a fabulous day and lovely evening.

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 18 confirmed signups and four maybes for a trip that is being capped at 20 participants.

Sapphire Beach Club: For the first time in many years both elevators in tower two have been operating consistently for a two week period. The ground floor doors were both painted. It's a small thing, but doesn't seem so small when you are checking in/out on a busy Saturday.

Photo feature: This week's photo feature has the sunset taken on 5 Feb from our balcony. The photos show a large orange disk sinking into the sea. There was a green flash, but I didn't get it. I did manage to get a sugar bird and a gecko who was happy to see someone. Two more sunsets later in the week yielded two more green flashes and two more failures to get them on film. There is also a photo of the illegal cheese. Finally, there is a photo of the new St Maarten license plates which sport a photo of Mullet Bay. The link only goes to subscribers.

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

See below


On 5 Feb the euro was at 1.293 and today it is at 1.285. This is the best the dollar has been in three months. It's still not very good. 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 Escapade, Bikini Beach, Restaurant du Soleil, California, Auberge Gourmande, and La Marine. We noticed Rainbow Cafe, Balaou, Santal, Sebastiano, 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.

Dining: On Saturday we went to the Marigot Market and picked up several pieces of jewelry from Octaedre. They actually mine garnet near Friar's Bay and make some lovely jewelry from that and other stones. After a tough morning of shopping we headed over to Durreche Restaurant. previously Durreche Traiteur. Most Americans can translate restaurant from the French to the English: restaurant, but I suspect that Traiteur posed problems. It means a type of caterer, limited by US standards, in that they mostly deliver their restaurant food to other places, without setting up extravagant parties in that site. As the building actually served food to all and sundry, restaurant seems more to the point, while the truck still says Traiteur. At the early hour of 12:45 we had our choice of tables and chose a corner in the front overlooking the street and the market. The menu is large and there were four special plates, three of which were under 10 euros. My kidneys with pasta were quite good and my samplings of the seafood salad, chicken salad, and the goat cheese salad revealed that this is a great place for a lunch while shopping at the Marigot Market. With water and wine, our bill for four lunches came to $75. They use a real exchange rate. This is a place where the local restaurateurs eat. We say Patrick Le Black from Saint Germain there.

We dined at California Restaurant on the water in Grand Case. The menu is large with many items you would expect on a French list, including dessert crepes and savory crepes, but it also includes pizzas. In addition, the specials board generally has about four aps and four main courses. There were eight of us so I don't remember everything but the aps included a sea scallop salad and a large mussels in garlic butter, both specials. Dinners included whole grilled lobster, a fabulous pork tenderloin with a fig sauce, lovely lamb chops with a topping of baked goat cheese, and more. We had a bottle of white Macon-Village to start and switched over to a Savigny-les-Beaune for the meat courses, followed by a Bourgogne Pinot Noir "La Vignee". Desserts were sprinkled about, coffees, and complimentary rums followed. For all this, the bill was about $125 per couple thanks to the 1 to 1 exchange and a very reasonably priced menu and wine list. Photos have been added to the site.

Super Sunday was spent at the Horny Toad Guesthouse, enjoying a steak dinner and a great football game under the barbecue pavilion on the beach. All guests (and webmasters and guests) were invited. Betty supplied the steak and lots of aps to start. Most people brought along something. I don't promise garlic mashed potatoes with white truffle oil next year, but you never know.

On Monday we did some more shopping in Marigot and had a lunch at L'Oizeau Rare overlooking the waterfront from a slight rise at the end of town. The baked goat cheese was very tasty, and the chicken salad was fine, but Martha and I really like the tuna tartare - absolutely fantastic tuna chopped into quarter inch chunks and mixed with tomato chunks, basil, and Jean-Christian's secret spices. the tuna comes with Jean-Christian's hand cut French fries and we asked for extra crisp - fantastic. With a bottle of rose, dinner came to just a touch over $100. They are using a reasonable exchange rate. They tried 1 to 1 for a while but have had to give it up. It's a really lovely spot up on its hill with waterfalls and gardens on two sides of the wide open dining room.

That evening, our guests chose Le Cottage Restaurant for their final dinner on the island - a wise choice, in my opinion. We had reservations and requested the end fourtop on the veranda. It was a lovely evening and we had a great time watching the passersby. Stephane started us with a 2003 gew?miner, a spicy and fruity aperitif. We moved on to a Pouilly-Fume from Pabiot with the appetizers of onion soup and lobster ravioli. I had a glass of Domaine Hauvette Amethyste mouvedre with my duck breast tenderloins (the French is aiguillettes). The lobster raviolis were fabulous and the duck tenderloins came on a bed of arugula with a bit of foie gras on a brioche and a hollowed out roasted tomato filled with cooked citrus pulp, a rather complicated dish and well done. A cinnamon flavored shaved ice palate cleanser arrived between courses and Bruno brought a 98 Cornas from Chapoutier for our main courses of the duck plate (four different approaches to duck), lamb chops, duck breast with Asian flavors, and a special pintade (guinea fowl) breast with aioli and veg. All of the dinners were well-received. An apple compote with home-made vanilla ice cream with real vanilla pleased our dessert-tester. The rest of us sample Trois Rivieres rum and coffees. The total bill for four was about $300 by virtue of some serious drinking. An exchange rate of 1.25 to 1 was used.

On Tuesday we wandered around Marigot for a while, checking out art galleries and restaurants. Au Beaujolais is still on one of the back streets, but is no longer offering 1 to 1. We stopped into Vinissimo and were treated to a morning pick-me-up of Crozes-Hermitage. Sylvain and Marina said that last Thursday's wine tasting was well-attended and things seem to be picking up. We were invited to a tasting at Cerulean, the new restaurant at Bliss, on Friday. Eventually we made it over to the marina and had lunch at Saint Germain. Patrick Le Black was his usual playful self, although he is now a married man. Martha had a shrimp salad and the rest of us had crepes forestiere (ham, emmental cheese, mushrooms, and bechamel sauce). With a bottle of rose, our bill came to a bit over $100. It's a pleasant spot overlooking the marina and the hills behind Marigot. There is a coupon on his website for $5 off on a meal for two.

On Wednesday evening we had a dinner at L'Escapade on the beach in Grand Case.Gerald has bought new chairs and after several years of upgrading, has one of the smartest looking restaurants in Grand Case. Take a look at the color scheme on the website. It extends from the wall trim, to the trim on the artwork, to the napery and chairs, to the bar, and finally, to the plates. It's a great look and being on the water, it has a great view. What else do you want? How about great service. Gerald worked at La Vie en Rose, one of the finer restaurants on the island and has brought in Christophe's (of Auberge Gourmande) brother, Arsene, as maitre'd. Christophe and Arsene are two of the better waiters on the island. Want more? Try one of the largest wine lists on the island topped off by the legendary Romanee-Conti vineyards. We chose a 2001 Volnay Premier Cru Cailleret from Champy that was impressive as it warmed up. I suppose you'll want some food. Gerald has a new chef and we think even the food is better this year. We started with frog legs, not in garlic and butter, but in garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, and herbs - different and quite good. Our dinners were a Black Angus filet mignon topped with foie gras and surrounded by shallots in a red wine reduction sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes and a bit of veg and a veal tenderloin in a light cream sauce with a very tasty potato gratin and veg. Both meats were tender as could be and done to our specification. There was more food than we could finish, so we skipped dessert and went straight to coffee and armagnac. Need another reason: it was Sempe XO cognac in the gold bottle! How about a final reason: the prices are set at seaside dining level, BUT Gerald is doing 1 to 1, so our food (arguably some of the most expensive cuts) came in less than $100. Our wine pushed the total bill up to $150, but for a great experience on the water in Grand Case, I think L'Escapade should be considered.

Speaking of Auberge Gourmande, we stopped in for dinner on Thursday evening. In a bit of sibling rivalry, Christophe tried to outdo his brother. The corner table next to the fountain is perfect on not too warm evenings, but when the air is still and the temperature is high, I suggest a retreat into the beautiful (and air-conditioned) interior rooms. We started lightly: six snails. However, the garlic butter may have had a few calories. The sea bass, expertly deboned at the table, was delicate, tasty, and floated in a sea of herb oil surrounded by veg. The Cajun spiced tuna served with crab risotto and vegetables was a lovely piece of fish and crab risotto is a thing of beauty. Florence had recommended a wonderful Rully to accompany the fish, an excellent compromise between the delicate sea bass and the Cajun-spiced tuna. Coffees and armagnac helped us along our way, as did the 1 to 1 exchange rate!

Just before lunch on Friday we stopped in at the Horny Toad Guesthouse to see if we could fix the high speed internet router. As it turns out, GEBE had shut off the electricity as they completed connections for the new underground electricity alongside the newly paved street! Roy Marlin must be up for re-election - lots of highway projects going on. I may be pretty good with computers, but a lack of electricity generally slows things down. Nonetheless, we were invited to the barbecue pavilion for cosmos and lunch. All the guests were there. One of them had made sandwiches on crusty baguettes with thin-sliced roast beef, caramelized onions, greens, blue cheese, and greens and loaded bowls with kettle-cooked crunchy potato chips, making a pretty good, if impromptu, lunch. While there, we were invited back for champagne sundowners and hors d'oeuvres on Saturday because some guests are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary. Betty, any-excuse-for-a-party, Vaughan also reminded us of the annual Valentine's Day brunch. She only has eight rooms and as we were leaving a couple of first time guests rebooked for the same three week slot next year. If you can get room, you'll have a great time.

Friday night we went to Vinissimo's wine tasting at Bliss. This is one beautiful location on the western edge of the island next to Sunset Beach bar. It is fantastically set up with a dining area and a sloped-entrance swimming pool surrounded by huge couches next to an outdoor bar. We chatted with Walter Hinds, executive chef and owner, and in the course of our conversation, he asked where we were from in the US. Now every state has at least one Salem, and NY's Salem is one of the smallest with about 4000 people, but Walter knew of it. Turns out he went to Adirondack College in Glens Falls, a metropolis so large, it publishes our local newspaper. I admit it is 40 miles away and we can't get home delivery, but one does pay a price for living three miles up a dirt road.

The wine tasting featured
anjou blanc 2003 - Chateau Pierre Bise 6.50 euros
Gewurztraminer 2002 - Boesch 10.50 euros - a very nice aperitif
Macon Charnay 2002 tete de cuvee- Jean Manciat 11.60 euros - a pretty good
Marsannay Blanc 2002 Domaine Bruno Clair 19 euros
St Veran 2002 vieilles vignes "Les Pommards" - Robert Denogent 20 euros - a bit pricey for St Veran, but it was more like a fine white Burgundy than a crisp St Veran

Chateau Couloumey 2002 Graves 17.80 euros (Pierre Bon is the owner, couloumey it's the Gascon name for Colombier, dovecote in English, and that is a house for doves) this chateau is close to chateau Haut Brion, a few km away
Chateauneuf du Pape 2002 "Soleil et Festins" - Domaine St Benoit 19.90 euros
Alycastre Rouge 2003 Domaine de la Courtade, C? de Provence (island of Porquerolles)10 euros - very interesting wine from an island that is essentially a nature preserve
Mas Cremat 2003 C? du Roussillon 8.20 euros
Chateau Bouscass 2001 Madiran - Alain Brumont 12 euros

Billecart Salmon Brut 30 euros - good
Billecart Salmon Brut Rose 49 euros - very good
Billecart Salmon Blanc de Blanc 1996 91 euros - very, very good!!!

and some appetizers from Walter including smoked salmon and accras with a lightly spiced sauce. The area was filled with illustrations and paintings by Mah Nyamu. This week's feature has several photos from the evening.

After sufficient wine-tasting, we wandered over to Walter's restaurant and found Dominic, previously at Temptation. He escorted us to a corner table on the water. The rocky shoreline is lit up at night and the evening was perfect for seaside dining. The menu featured fish and as we had already had several appetizers, we went straight to main courses of bouillabaisse and tempura tuna on a bed of crunchy wakame seaweed. All the fish in the bouillabaisse was cooked to perfection - no small task - and the tuna was a delight. We had a bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir ($42) with dinner and finished with coffees and Armagnac in the soft shoreline breezes as we talked with Ezgi Ulker, general manager and owner. She's a charming new Yorker by way of Turkey. Our bill came to $137 with 15% service included. We added a bit more and headed home as the dance floor was warming up.

In one final dining related matter, I received two emails this last week. One from a gentleman thanking me for all the dining reviews and wondering if I was "big as a house" - a small Creole cottage perhaps, but not house-sized yet. The other came from a lady who actually met us at a Los Gauchos TTOL party last year wondering "How you both do not get overweight with all the terrific food and wine you consume, is a secret I wish you'd share. You're both so slim!" The truth, in this case as in many others, is somewhere in between, at least according to my doctor. there are two secrets, however. In all the dinners noted above, we had only one appetizer and two main courses. We also head for Marci's Mega Gym 2000 six days per week. Marci, unfortunately, will confirm that we only make it there on about four of those six and this is one area where it is NOT the thought that counts.


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. They have just added a villa next door on the beach, three bedrooms, great views, at only $2800 per 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
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SXM-Info newsletter 12 Feb 2005