St Maarten/St Martin
16 April 2005 Newsletter

Other newsletters


Weather and Beach report: Saturday was hot and hazy. Saba cannot be seen! Same on Sunday, possibly warmer. Same on Monday with no breeze. The planes are landing from the east and taking off to the west. Tuesday was cloudy and hazy with a hint of a breeze. By Wednesday the breeze had turned around and was picking up. The rollers were hitting the little cove from the SE and the little cove was heeding to the NW. There was still plenty of sand and we had a great time playing in the large, but not dangerous, surf. Still hazy and hot on Thursday and Friday with swirling gusts. Saba seems to have sunk beneath the sea. Same on Saturday: warm, hazy, not much breeze. Sunset is at 6:25 and the moon is in its first quarter.
Dutch Carnival: The carnival village opens on 14 April, the grand final parade down Front Street in Philipsburg is on 30 April, and the final jumpup and burning of King Momo is on 2 May this year. Here is the full schedule. We will be having lunch and watching the parade from the porch at L'Escargot. If you are on the island and want to join, make your reservation early. The restaurant generally is not full, but the front porch and street are quite crowded.
Fast-breaking news: Statia has voted to remain in the Netherlands Antilles. Unfortunately, the other members, in referenda starting in the previous millennium and continuing until the present time, have voted to move out in various ways. Consequently, Statia will become the only member of the Netherlands Antille. That's a joke, as we all know that the final result will require several more referenda, but things are going full Caribbean speed ahead and I fully believe that a final resolution will be achieved in this millennium. Stay tuned.
Sapphire Beach Club: For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. The first ten weekly listings are free. After that, we will charge $25 per year and have only received one request. So this offer is still out there.
Construction: You should visit the construction site again if you are interested in what is happening at Cupecoy. The largest undeveloped section of land that stretches from the Caribbean to the lagoon now has a sign announcing the development and an ad appeared in the Daily Herald. There are 44 lots, the largest near 3 acres, that will become villas and probably remove access to the remaining beach in the little cove. In another late breaking development, Mel, captain of the White Octopus, is currently docked behind Hot Tomatoes and has an excellent view of the current filling of the lagoon to create the runway extension. He sent a letter to the Daily Herald stating that the extension would go about halfway across the lagoon and at that point, the roadway around the airport would head into a tunnel to emerge at Port de Plaisance, reducing traffic problems in Simpson Bay. The tunnel would be deep enough to allow passage of mega-yachts and would be of modular construction. A spokesman for the government urged Mel to contact Jeff Berger before his plans were finalized. That's a joke also, but the Daily Herald will print most anything you send in, so join the fun.
St Maarten Open: SXM-Info is sponsoring a hole at the Golf tournament that will be played on 30 April and 1 May. We have donated $600 worth of website work that will be auctioned off. The proceeds will go to charity. Last year the I Can Foundation, the St. Maarten Medical Center, the St. Maarten Welfare Foundation, and the St. Maarten Golf Association Junior Golf program were chosen to receive funding.
Bikini Beach Tsunami Relief: An Arts and Entertainment auction at Bikini Beach with a free Rock & Roll concert featuring 5 great local bands raised $9000 on 13 March. On the website is a photo of Lisa with the check for "Feed the Children". Her new charity is a Buddha sculpture by Greg Bowering that, in true Orient Beach fashion, has no covering . Please help "Gild the Buddha". Come by Bikini and pledge a square of real gold leaf for $5 or take a piece of real Thai gold leaf home for a $10 pledge. All pledges go to charity as well.
Le Perroquet: We bumped into Thea from Le Perroquet last week. She has been trying to sell the building but has finally decided to rent it out. She believes the deal will go through and a restaurant more in line with present trends in Simpson Bay will open. That means casual, lower-priced dining.
Hans Meevis: We stopped into the new showroom and studio of Hans Meevis in Simpson Bay. It had been shown in the construction feature and now that they are open we stopped in. The showroom features furniture and showcases made by Hans and, of course, his jewelry is displayed on the tables and in the showcases. His studio is directly behind the showroom and separated by a wrought iron gate. If you are looking for custom made jewelry or repairs (or just a clean and polish) this is a pretty handy place with parking at the eastern end of the runway.
Arts in the Park: On Sunday there was an outdoor art show at Emilio Wilson park in St Peters. It's a pretty little park that is badly in need of some rain, like most of the island after this long spate of sunny weather. We saw some amber art from Plata del Sol, some shell art from Edith, interesting photos and note cards from Captain Jack on Changes in Latitudes, some interesting paintings by Freddie who signs them Fin and has a gallery on Hope Hill next to Paradise View Restaurant, some mini-gardens from Marci Cooke, some watercolors and prints from Jill Alexander, some flavored rums from Rhum des Pirates, some Presidente from the Navy League, and more. There are some photos as our current feature.
Speaking of Paradise View Restaurant: We stopped in recently for a beer or two and a great view out over all of Orient and Galion beaches. Look further and you see Green Cay, Pinel, Tintamare, and St Barts. They are open for lunch and have a Creole buffet on Sunday.
Nannette Bearden Fine Arts Gallery: After Nannette Bearden's death, the gallery closed in Philipsburg and has now reopened in Simpson Bay above Artsen Travel and Tours and Telem. Nannette founded the gallery a year before Romare Bearden's death in 1985. Dourthe Dow, Nannette's sister, keeps it open from noon until six, Tuesday through Saturday.
Sunset Beach Bar: There have been several complaints in the Daily Herald from locals about how the new owners have changed things at SSBB. The complaints rail about prices (even though locals get VIP discount cards - honest), too may TV screens - can't see the planes as well, not allowing kids on the dance floor, etc. I did get an email from Janis C telling me what a great newsletter this is (such a perceptive reader). She said she was sitting at SSBB using their FREE wireless internet access as she waited for her daughter and friends to take off. No complaints from her.
Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou says that for the month of April, and possibly longer, she has a seashell art exhibition in the restaurant containing mirrors, mobiles, jewelry boxes, seashell boards, cards, and more. There are a couple examples on the boutique page of the California website. 
Car rental: We just picked up a new Getz from Brinks Car Rental. This is the second time we have driven this car as we rented one last year also. I've seen complaints about their power, but this seems fine for the two of us. Four people and luggage would be a problem.  
Photo feature: This week's photo feature is in a secret location not posted here. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the location. It contains some Cupecoy beach sunsets. There's some Marigot shots showing the wall at the cemetery and the prices at the gas station at the entrance to Concordia. The government on the Dutch side announced that gasoline prices would be rising on their side. Currently they are about $3.00 per gallon compared to about $3.50 on the French side.

Several businesses in Simpson Bay are sponsoring the contest that runs from 27 March to 24 April 2005, offering prizes worth about $100 each. Just click their name to go to their website, find the contest code(s) and the link to our new signup form, fill it out, click send, and you are entered. Put all the contest codes for the contests you want to enter on ONE entry. Do not send multiple entries.
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. We have so many prizes that we will be doubling and tripling up for several contests and producing feature photo spreads in conjunction with the contests. Here is the list of future contests and feature photo spreads:
Simpson Bay Feature - 27 March to 24 April 2005:
    Horny Toad Guesthouse - seven low season days for the price of five
    Hideaway Restaurant - $75 off a dinner for two
    Unity Cars - $100 off a one week car rental
    Tri Sport - Kayak Snorkel Tour for two

Charter Boat Feature - 25 April to 5 June 2005:
    Celine Pub Crawl - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl
    Sealine Charters - $100 off a half day or full day charter

Grand Case Feature - 6 June to 17 July 2005:
Escapade Restaurant - $100 gift certificate for two
GCBC Snorkel Trips - A guided snorkeling trip for two around Creole Rock and an afternoon on our lounge chairs on Petite Plage
GCL Car Rental - $100 off a one week car rental
L'Esplanade Hotel - $100 gift certificate toward a week's stay
AIA Massage - Two massages for the price of one

Cupecoy Feature - 18 July to 24 August 2005:
Cupecoy Villas - stay seven nights, pay for five, only $1750 for a two bedroom, three bath villa on the beach
Villas in Paradise - $100 gift certificate to Temptation for two
Cliffhanger Beach Bar - $40 gift certificate for two

Marigot Feature - 25 August to 30 September 2005:
L'Esperance Car Rental - $100 off a one week car rental
La Vie en Rose - $100 gift certificate for two
Thai Garden - $100 gift certificate for two

Orient Beach Feature - 1 October to 15 November 2005:
    Chez Pat - $100 toward a day on Galion Beach
Kakao Beach Bar - $100 toward a day on Orient Beach
    Sol e Luna Apartments - $100 off on a one week stay
Nono Car Rental - $50 off on a one week rental

Philipsburg Feature - 16 November to 15 December:
Vacation Suites - a free low season week!
Lucky/Hibiscus Cars - $100 off a one week car rental
Antoine Restaurant - $100 off a meal for two
DK Gems - $100 gift certificate

Karen and Pascal's Restaurants - 16 December 2005 to 6 January 2006
Auberge Gourmande - $100 off a meal for two
Montmartre Restaurant - $100 off a meal for two
Sunset Café - $100 off a meal for two

We picked up some beef tenderloins at the Food Express at Maho. The price was 80 Nafl per kilo. Divide by 4 to get $/lb, so they weren't cheap, but they were pretty good. They also had green beans, not haricots verts, but still good at a fraction of the price. It was a Sunday and we had wasted too much time in the early afternoon so the normal (ie, unattached markets) were closed. Markets attached to hotels and gas stations can remain open. We put some blue cheese on the tenderloins (specifically Forme d'Ambert from the Auvergne region by way of US Import/Export, see the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins), something that Mario at Mario's Bistro does with his wonderful tuna on gnocchi. We had no doubt it would work on beef, also. Martha slipped a bit of garlic into the mashed potatoes and I popped a cork on a bottle of Pommard. US Import/Export also had some of the wildly flavorful Fleur de Sel from the salt ponds of the Camargue in the south of France. Our batch was hand harvested by Luc Verhes. It all seems very much over the top, but the taste is amazing.

On 9 April the euro was at 1.293 and today it is at 1.285. 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. La France in the Marigot marina, Rainbow Cafe, Balaou, Santal, Sebastiano, and Marlin's Cafe were offering the same. 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 Monday night we visited Amaury and Thibault at Bistrot Cariabes for good food and great service. The great service was even easier as the island is about as slow as the breeze that left the lagoon looking like a mirror. The nights do cool off and our table by the door and lobster tank was quite pleasant even though it was well removed from the A/C. We perpetually order the smoked salmon (about the best on the island) and that leads to a bottle of the white Rully and that leads to more fish for the main courses. This is not a bad thing as we really like the French sea bass and the fisherman's stew among other dishes. However, on this evening the snails and mushrooms in a garlicky cream sauce were available as an ap. The veal stock reduction has enough pepper or the garlic has enough punch (or both) to add just a hint of heat to the finish of this tasty, multi-textured dish (10 euros). We added Drouhin's 2001 Chorey Les Beaune (red) and had a great combination. With a bottle of red wine firmly planted on the table, we proceeded to the roasted duck breast with veg, in a sweet and sour honey sauce (19 euros) and a veal scaloppini layered with veg and mozzarella (20 euros). In both cases the veg included skinned and pulped tomatoes, leaving nothing but an interesting texture and great taste. The duck breast must have come from a giant prehistoric duck as it filled half the plate. The other veg was the crisp tips of some asparagus and the stalks of same, skinned and diced - lots of tasty texture to add to the flavorful sauce. Obviously, the tomato, veal, and mozzarella was a good start and when the chef added some eggplant, this dish became another multi-layered taste treat. So now you know that there is more on the menu than smoked salmon and fish, moreover, it's pretty good! We finished with coffee and armagnac. The bill came to about 110 euros and, having lowered their prices, they used a realistic (though good) exchange rate of 1.25 to get to about $135. They both are getting a bit tired after a season of seven day work weeks. Amaury, however, looked surprisingly good considering that he is the father of a six-day old baby girl! Mother and daughter are doing fine.
On Tuesday night we had more good food and great service, this time at Montmartre Restaurant at Atlantis Casino. It was a slow night. I guess everyone on the island, which isn't too many people for this week, was at Harmony Nights in Grand Case. We may have been a bit early also, as the restaurant did reach about half capacity as we were finishing. We started with our water and Olivier appeared at the table with the usual bottle of 97 Champ Pimont Beaune. I said that I hadn't looked at the wine list in months. He wisely set the bottle on the table. This Premier Cru costs $45 (and it is dollars here on the Dutch side). The next step up in Burgundy is almost twice as much money and doesn't have as much bottle age. That Volnay may be better than my Beaune, but my pocketbook does have some limits. Olivier appeared shortly thereafter with a knowing smile and expertly opened the bottle. It was great. The bread basket contains the usual baguette slices, but also a wonderful whole grain breads loaded with flavor and texture. Stop the presses: Martha ordered an ap! The new waiter, Eric, who has replaced Arsene (who is at the Boathouse), said something in French about a crab and shrimp appetizer. She was thinking a small bit of crab and a few shrimp and neither of us listened enough to realize that it was a plateau de fruits de mer, like those that we get at Saint Severin. This, at least, was a mini-version of that, but there was a whole crab, six shrimp, and a dozen bulots. We asked Karen, the manager and part-owner with husband Pascal, whether this was a winkle or a whelk. She replied that she didn't know as she didn't eat either! A pity, as they were quite tasty with the very garlicky home-made mayonnaise or even the less garlicky version with more parsley. I ordered the tuna and scallop tartare on what seemed to be a round of the whole grain bread. If the three textures of the scallop, tuna, and bread weren't enough, a dollop of wakame seaweed was provided to give a satisfying pop in the mouth. I had ordered my favorite Capon leg stuffed with foie gras and mushrooms and Martha experimented with the Duck Supreme which has duck breast and nems featuring shredded duck. (Nem is the Vietnamese version of spring rolls or egg rolls). They serve a similar ap at Sunset Café, Karen and Pascal's restaurant at Grand Case Beach Club. The crispy outer wrapper encloses shredded and tasty duck mixed with crunchy veg. Both dinners were great, enhanced by a variety of veg, including roasted garlic. We were forced to retire from the fray and move on to coffee and Armagnac (They have a Laubade 92). There was enough wonderful food left to provide a great lunch the next day. Very good food, excellent service from friendly and knowledgeable people, a large wine list, and an improved view as the plantings around the outdoor dining terrace have grown up a bit over the high season.

We had a bit of business in Simpson Bay on Thursday night and as usual we couldn't get there. Between the bridge openings at 4:30 and 5:30 and the obligatory broken-down truck on Cay Hill, traffic was backed up to the airport. We turned around, apologized via cell phone, and took respite at Bamboo Bernies. We also took a couple mudslides and Heinekens to some lovely cushioned chairs and enjoyed the sunset. As we had arrived between 5:30 and 6:00, the drinks were 50 cents each. A bit earlier, they would have been FREE - honest. A bit later they escalate to $1 and at 7:00 they reach $2. (It's just mudslides, margaritas, and beers that follow this pricing.) This truck required a tow truck, which given the backed up traffic, required an hour or so to get there and traffic began to clear after sunset.

Thai Savanh has opened at Atlantis Casino and serves Thai food (duh!) and sushi.  Deepti and Jeff at DK Gems had recommended this place. Jeff speaks Thai and insisted that we convince the chef that we want the real Thai cuisine, which, having worked in Thailand, I remember as being quite spicy hot. We did our best. There are several tables out on the terrace between Thai Savanh and Dino's two restaurants, Temptation and Dare to be Rare (opening in May?), and a few more inside plus a sushi bar. It's not posh but the prices are quite good, aps $6-10 and most main courses $12-15. We had a shrimp pad Thai (shrimp and noodle dish), a beef with basil, and chicken with cashews. They were all $12 and with a quartet of Kronenbourgs the bill came to a mere $52. That is a pretty inexpensive dinner and the bowl of Thai chilies that the chef provided could turn a campfire into a five-alarmer. Thai Garden in Sandy Ground is certainly more posh, possibly more flavorful, and a bit more expensive, especially given the euro's current strength. We've never been to Mai on the back side of Marigot or Phuket (it's new this year in a frequently changing restaurant location) in the Marigot Marina. There will be a new one in Orient over the summer. Stay tuned, we have been offered the website.
For lunch on Friday we headed out to Orient and ended up at Kakao Beach. Of all the big places at the northern end of the beach, this one seems to have the most "tables" out in the sand. Tables is in quotes because they are frequently boats outfitted as dining pavilions complete with roofs to keep you dry and even drop down plastic windows if it really starts howling. We knew we were going out to dinner so we tried to eat light: a salade Nicoise and a pizza with a bottle of Guigal's Cote du Rhone. Even that was too much as the salad contains tuna, haricots verts, marinated anchovies, frisee, endive, a hard-boiled egg, potato slices, and tomatoes, filling a large plate and Martha. I had their thin crust pizza that I like as well as any on the island with the exception of Hot Tomatoes wood-fired version. These restaurants at the northern end of the beach (They have a separate website and call themselves the Five Stars of Orient) have full service kitchens, turning out serious food. Yes, you can get a hamburger (and possibly pay too much) but the last time I was here I had a half duck with girolles, potatoes, a bit of veg, and a lovely sauce. The restaurants also have boutiques, massages, bars, bands, and watersports. The grill shacks at the southern end of the beach turn out good grilled food (hamburgers should be bought here) but up northern end you can wine and dine. Take your pick, we do both!
Our dinner was at Antoine Restaurant on Front Street in Philipsburg. The new bypass makes it possible to get from the top of Cay Hill to Front Street easily and quickly. Antoine's valet then takes care of all your parking problems. We were sitting at our table a mere twenty minutes after leaving Sapphire. This included a bit of time for getting around the obligatory broken-down truck on Cay Hill. This one was at the bottom of the hill where the road is three lanes wide, so traffic wasn't totally stopped. Nonetheless, it was nice to be sitting in a beautiful and peaceful dining room looking out over the palms that Jean-Pierre had planted on the beach to the wide sweep of Great Bay. There were specials of snails Chablissiene ($12.75) and lamb chops ($27.50), among others, and JP said the tuna was quite good ($18.50). That took care of dinner and we ordered the 1997 Volnay Taillepieds from Bouchard ($66). That's a bit pricy, but think of the money we saved on the tuna! I was a little worried that the delicate Chablis used in the snail dish would be overwhelmed by the Volnay. It turns out that the snails, mushrooms, and veal stock had already done this and a very tasty dish with a dark brown sauce arrived shortly and held its own against my Burgundy. The tuna was everything that JP had promised with an olive oil, lemon, and chive sauce. The lamb chops were very flavorful with a nice crisp crust. Both dishes had a nice cauliflower puree with some chunky bits for texture, some sculpted zucchini slices, and a bit more. It was a slow night by the time we were drinking our coffee and some major gossip ensued. On the way out the door, JP invited us for more gossip and Delamain cognac at the bar. When we finally turned to leave our car was waiting at the front door. I can't promise as much gossip if you go, but I can tell you that there are no finer hosts on this island than JP. He, and chef Pierre-Louis, have been on the island for over 20 years, much of it right here on Front Street.