St Maarten/St Martin
19 February 2005 Newsletter

Other newsletters

Weather and Beach report: Saturday was another beautiful day with a great sunset. Sunday morning was a bit hazy, which cleared out but clouds rolled in - no rain. Monday it was solid gray and raining. Happy Valentine's Day! Stayed that way most of the day. Tuesday broke ugly, but cleared by noon for a fabulous day at Cupecoy. Wednesday was the opposite starting quite nicely but deteriorating to clouds and sprinkles. Thursday was fab and Friday was the same, although the waves were kicking up! Still no sand at the far end of Cupecoy, but the cove is fine, there is a bit at Sapphire and plenty under Cliffhanger. Orient is looking better than ever.
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.
Photo feature: This week's feature is in a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. It has the a shot of Saba in the late afternoon and the sunset taken on 12 Feb from The Horny Toad Guesthouse. There are several shots of Cupecoy Beach, including the large beach beneath Cliffhanger. There's a final shot of Lambada going out on her sunset sail.
The winner of the California Restaurant contest is Jennie Smith. Escargot Restaurant is sponsoring the contest that runs from 18 February to 4 March 2005, giving $100 toward a dinner for two. 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:
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
Villas in Paradise - 18 July to 24 August 2005
Thai Garden - 25 August to 30 September 2005
too busy, sorry
On 5 Feb the euro was at 1.293 and today it is at 1.307. Our recent gains have evaporated. 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: I got an email from WendyK on TTOL saying her new favorite restaurant in the Durreche style is La Pichounette, in Concordia, next to Pain du Soleil, amongst a row of restaurants. Very "Paris", as we are told by our French neighbor, Laurence. The chef/owner was formerly at Sol e Luna, and the menu is similar to Bistro Nu, with some very "French" dishes such as langue de boeuf, riz de veau, and tripes. It's a limited blackboard menu that's been different every time we've gone. Nice veggies and great roasted potatoes. Last night Tony & Laurence had cioppino, which contained mussels, scallops, salmon, octopus, and shrimp surrounding a scoop of rice. Bernhard had foie de veau with shallots, and I had a delicious magret de canard. With 2 bottles of wine, a bottle of water and 2 desserts of Spanish strawberries with ice cream, chantilly cream, and fresh raspberries, and 1 espresso, the bill came to 100 euros. They don't take credit cards. Only about 10 tables.
We had Valentine's Day brunch at the Horny Toad Guesthouse. I should make it clear that all these lunches and dinners at the Toad are private affairs for guests at the Toad and Betty's invited friends. If you stay there for a week you will probably experience one of these parties as Betty is always ready to have a good time at the beach. Mary's Boon, just down the street, does dinners on the beach for anyone by reservation only.
For Valentine's Dinner we went to Lal's Indian Cuisine for authentic Indian food. Not very romantic? It's got a lagoon view! Actually, we thought we'd avoid crowds, but it was pretty full and Lal warned us that it would take an hour to get food! Lal's is full of locals, so we spent the hour talking to Cathy from the Endless Summer beach attire shop and Judy, previously at Sapphire here and in the US, but now the new owner of Island Reps. Eventually, we had an onion kulcha, flat bread with onions, a chicken tikki, tender chicken in a red sauce, and lamb vindaloo - all good. Lal has some of the best rock and roll music and best beer on the island: Leffe and Stella Artois from Belgium. Our four beers food and rice came to $30. He even has a small parking lot where the Stop and Shop used to be. We use him or Café Juliana as our airport waiting lounge. Lal has a coupon for a free bucket of Heineken on his site.
We talked to Leroy (King Beau Beau) and Anne-Marie (his wife) at their new restaurant, Beau Beau's, at the Oyster Bay Beach Resort. The resort looks good and the restaurant has some fabulous views from the deck. They are just finishing up their new website and put up a coupon for a free drink with a meal.
We talked to Bernard at The Wharf Restaurant. They are now offering 15% off on meals from 5:30 until 7:30 Monday through Thursday. There is still a band every night. Their first set from 7:00 to 9:00 is at the entrance and at 9:30 they move inside for after-dinner dancing. On Sunday there is body painting (keep your clothes on) from 5:30 until 11:00 and a Limbo party from 8:30 until 9:30. The big news is a TTOL party with various pizzas, chicken wings, and mozzarella sticks available  from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the end of March (exact date to be confirmed). We can have the dance floor, next to the bar for the party. After 8 we should start to move to tables for dinner but everyone is free to drink/dance.
We had our real Valentine's Dinner at home with an Angus Beef stew. The beef came from Grand Marche in Pburg. The wine was a fabulous 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers from Bruno Clair that we got at Vinissimo.
On Wednesday we went to Thai Garden for some very tasty sushi, sashimi, and Thai cuisine. There were four of us and we started with combination sushi/sashimi platter. There is a new sushi chef this year and the platter seemed better than ever. The fish was very fresh and the chef's rainbow roll with fish, seaweed, cucumber, and avocado was an explosion of flavors and textures. For our main courses we had very tender calamari and ginger, flavorful beef with mushrooms, and two shrimp dishes: green curry and musaman with lots of vegetables. We added two bottles of Sylvaner, a white grape similar to gewurztraminer, from Alsace. It stood up to the exotic flavors in our dinners. Prime sushi is not cheap, but our dinner for four came in at about $200. Vincent agreed to sponsor another SXM-Info contest and has been added to the list.
On Thursday we went to Montmartre Restaurant at Atlantis Casino. There were four of us and we started with the usual 1997 Beaune Champ Pimonts, which is a very good Burgundy with a bit of age. We split up two aps: foie gras terrine with toast points and the tuna and scallops on a brioche. Our friends got to try the Monbazillac sweet wine with the foie gras and were pleasantly surprised as the two luscious tastes complemented each other perfectly. Our dinners were the capon leg stuffed with foie gras, hare in a very good red wine sauce, rack of lamb, and duck confit. Most dinners came with a squash puree, a potato gratin, broccoli, roasted garlic, and carrots. The hare came with fettuccini, ratatouille, and a roasted tomato. I have raved about the capon leg so much that all our guests get it. Consequently, I look for other things on the menu. The rack of lamb was well worth finding. The hare, like the capon leg, had a bit of foie gras in the center. A capon is most of a rooster raised a bit longer, giving it a bit more flavor. The hare has darker, more flavorful meat than rabbit. Montmartre tends to have these more flavorful dishes on the menu and then adds foie gras for even more flavor. Our friends had creme brulee with raspberries and a pineapple surprise for desserts and they seemed quite happy. Coffees and Armagnac finished off a wonderful evening.
On Friday night we went to Hibiscus for a very interesting dinner. Thierry Delaunay fuses cuisines from around the world, and having picked up some of the dishes and concepts from his now-closed Charme Restaurant in Maho, he presents them on amazing serving dishes. Previously, he used fantastic china from Faience, France, his home town. These colorful plates are still there but now he has added the whimsy that existed at Charme to the repertoire. We had a bottle of 1999 Fixin from Fougeray de Beauclair (49 euros), a light burgundy that we felt would be quite good with a tuna ap, a pork dish, and a parmentier of lobster. First, of course, Thierry delivered an amuse bouche: a small bowl of chilled sweet potato and saffron soup. We had ordered a "marbre" of tuna tartare with an avocado cream topping (hint of wasabi?) with wakame seaweed in a cucumber shell, sun-dried tomato bits, and a sesame crusted bit of puff pastry. "Marbre" means marble and we had no idea what this really meant. It turns out that the whimsy from Le Charme exerted itself as the tuna was delivered on a "plate" of stone. Truth in advertising requires me to say it was polished granite, not marble, but chefs only have to know about food. The sushi platter, served only on weekends when fresh fish is arriving from France, is served on an even larger chunk of granite. Our dinners were a pork tenderloin with oyster mushrooms and a creamy emulsion of goat cheese, a crottin de Chavignol. The dish was quite tasty with the tenderest of pork, layered with  minced veg and mushrooms all flavored with a goat cheese sauce.  Steven Jenkins in his Cheese Primer translates crottin as horseball and he is correct. It is the shape of the goat cheese from Chavignol that is being referenced. Martha had the parmentier of lobster in sandalwood essence. Parmentier means garnished or made with potatoes, named after Frenchman Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (see tedious potato dissertation below). In this case, the potatoes were mashed sweet potatoes containing lobster bits and sandalwood essence. It was all held in a rough circle by snow peas. Both dishes arrived on strange plates. The website has photos, so that will save me 2000 words. Both dishes also were quite flavorful and were not overpowered by the Fixin. We ended with coffees, a ten year old rum, and a platter of cookies (no charge). Our bill for dinner was 70 euros, plus 49 euros for the expensive wine. There were quite good wines in the 30 to 40 euro range. Thierry uses a realistic exchange for the euro, but the prices are quite good. It is a very cute restaurant (not on the water) and for those interested in new taste combinations, this is one of the best places on the island.
Tedious Potato Dissertation: The potato did not exist in Europe until the Spanish brought it back from Peru around 1550. It traveled around the Spanish Caribbean and the Mediterranean, but not to England (and Ireland!). One story is that Raleigh, reprovisioning in the Caribbean, got some, brought them to Virginia, and by 1590 they had made it to England but were thought to have originated in Virginia. As potatoes are not mentioned in the Bible, many protestants wouldn't plant them or eat them. The Irish Catholics sprinkled them with holy water and planted them on Good Friday. Stories circulated saying that they were an aphrodisiac (Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor) or poisonous. They are part of the solanum or nightshade family, containing tomatoes and deadly nightshade. Certainly one should not eat any of these leaves and the admonition to avoid green spots on potatoes is based on the high arsenic contest in those spots. Count Rumford (of fireplace fame) was hired to determine how to feed prisoners cheaply in Bavaria and had to disguise the fact that he was putting potatoes into their gruel. Parmentier - remember parmentier? - This is a story about Parmentier -  was a French Army officer imprisoned in Hamburg during the Seven Years War, where he was fed potatoes. After his release, he convinced King Louis XVI and the court to try them. He then planted huge fields of potatoes near Paris surrounded by ditches and patrolled by guards. The fields were lightly guarded at night (on purpose) and the local peasants, thinking the produce must be quite valuable, snuck in, stole the seed, and planted it in their own gardens. The potato became more and more popular such that any dish in France that uses potatoes frequently has the word parmentier associated with it.
Tedious Wine Dissertation: We received an email asking how to learn about wine. Martha and I agree that the best way to become knowledgeable about wine is by drinking a lot. Not too much, as you may forget something, but a lot. Seriously, the best way is to find a wine store with a knowledgeable person and let them guide you. When I was 22 I walked into a store in Cambridge, MA (it was Savenor's, where Julia Child shopped, very close to my apartment) and told Joe that I knew very little about wine but wanted a mixed case in the $3 price range. A lot of wine has passed somewhere since then, so let's update the price point. I think that you could find drinkable wine at $10, decent stuff at $15, and quite good wine below $25.
We also think you need a cellar, small closet, or something that will hold at least three cases. You'll get a case discount, making it a bit cheaper and even at $15 average price, your investment will be less than one airfare to SXM. You don't have to store them forever, but it's nice to be able to choose a wine for dinner and it's nice to be able to try a different bottle if you didn't like the first with your dinner. Put a cork in the one you didn't like and try it with something else. It helps to write down which ones you liked so you can get more on your next visit. Moreover, a good wine shop can then use that knowledge to recommend something else.
After you get some wine, it is important to taste wines together. In this case, we mean together as in a couple wines (at least) and together as in a couple people who talk about what they like and don't like in what they are tasting. Obviously, if you can get another couple or two interested, you can open more wines and have more discussion. Add some cheese and have a great time. Nobody is right. Nobody is wrong. I like Burgundy, most people think Bordeaux is the best wine in the world, Parker gave a Rhone the first 100 rating. Most of what they are talking about is beyond everyone in the $15 range anyway. The important thing is to find wines that you like with the foods that you eat in a price range that suits your pocketbook.
There are lots of books, I like Hugh Johnson. Martha likes Kevin Zraly. Martha says Johnson is out of date. So am I. We actually have Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 2005 Edition : A Lively Guide (24.95, $17 used) on CD, albeit an earlier edition. In my (and Hugh Johnson's defense) his World Atlas of Wine was updated in 2001 with Jancis Robinson, the first woman to pass the Master of Wine course. There is also a pocket edition  updated for 2005 for about $10.
Repeat until satisfied! Have fun!
To do this in a small way on the island, print out the coupon on Vinissimo's website, go in and taste some wines, discuss them with Marina and Sylvain, and have them choose a few wines for you to sample over the following week or two.  In restaurants, ask the sommelier. Tell him (or her) what you like (a good one will already know what you ordered for dinner) and give them a price range that makes you comfortable. Stephane at Le Cottage Restaurant always has several bottles available by the glass and is more than willing to discuss them and many others with you.

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 $75 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 $700 per week 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. If you like great food, Le Petit and L'Esplanade are the two bookends on Grand Case's restaurant row. Maho is in the thick of the action in Simpson Bay and if you're part of the birthday suit crowd, La Plantation is a lovely place within walking distance of Orient beach. I've never been in Alamanda, but it's even closer to Orient Beach.

Erich S. Kranz
Click here to unsubscribe
SXM-Info newsletter 19 Feb 2005