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St Maarten/St Martin
15 January 2006 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS

Weather: It rained considerably overnight on Sunday, but not much during the day on Monday. After writing that, the heavens opened again and Monday afternoon has been moist, to say the least. I was about to write that my earlier forays into the Caribbean in the 70's to the early 90's, including St Martin, led me to believe that it usually rained at night in the dry season, much like these last couple weeks. Possibly we were just lucky on early visits, because after we started spending much of the winter (or dry) season here, we found plenty of rainy days. Lots of rainbows, too! Still cloudy and in the low 80's on Tuesday, but the heavens opened many times in the afternoon and we were in the soup by sunset. So much so that the first Harmony Night in Grand Case was cancelled. Wednesday was not much better, still cloudy with some torrential downpours. Thursday was pretty bad until the afternoon when this tropical depression stopped depressing everyone. It was not totally finished on Friday as we got wet a few times on a trip around the island. The wind has turned bringing rollers onto Cupecoy - not good. The sunset (if it can be seen) is still at a little before six. The moon is full.

Beaches: Mullet has plenty of sand and even tiny Maho between SSBB and the Royal Islander has some sand at the moment. Simpson Bay is looking fine. We passed through Philipsburg and Great Bay looks great. A stop at Beau Beau's Restaurant and Mr Busby's showed quite a bit of beach, but the skies opened as we pulled in on Friday. Daniel has closed Da Livio's on Front Street and moved his staff and menu to Busby's for dinner. Galion Beach looks fine at Tropical Wave/Chez Pat but the entrance road rivals the entrance to Cadisco's cheap gas on the lagoon in Marigot. Orient is in great shape. We stopped at Pedro's Beach Bar and immediately noticed the new construction and bright paint job. We walked to the front of the building and found enough sand to walk the length of the beach. It got a little thin at the end of the free public parking lot next to Pedro's, but they had plenty of sand in both the nude and prude sections. We headed north and noticed that Paradisio is now Brice's Paradise and Paradisio's Israeli flag is now at Baywatch. Kakao Beach looks better than ever after another year with no major hurricanes and plenty of rain. They will be having their Superbowl Party as usual. At Bikini Beach, Lisa was excited about her enlarged and fully revamped kitchen. Olivier, the head chef, is still here and a new sous-chef, Patrice, who has a restaurant and cooking school in Ibiza during the summer, has added to the menu based on his experience there and his abilities with Thai food. The kitchen stays open until 9 PM and the bar until 11 PM.

New Pedro's From Pedro's looking south From Pedro's looking north

Construction: No new photos on the construction feature. It was too rainy to slog around construction sites.

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 a few requests. So this offer is still out there.

Select Wine Cellar: We tried a COTEAUX DU LANGUEDOC 2003 MONTPEYROUX. The wine is from the town of Monpeyroux in Languedoc near Monpellier in the south of France. It's a blend of 5 different grapes (grenache, mourvedre, syrah, carignan, cinsault) making it a medium-bodied red wine, with red fruit flavors (cherries), good structure with long and nice clean finish.

Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou says that for the summer, 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. Zouzou reminds us that she is still offering $1 for 1 euro for cash and traveler's checks.

Art at Atelier des Tropismes: There is an exhibition by Carine Hurstemans from the 21-30 January with an opening from 5 until 10 on Friday 20 Jan.

Delfina paintings Art at Delfina Hotel: Boris and Michael at Delfina are hosting an art showing of the works of two German sisters, Corinna and Norma Trimborn, who live on the island. The artists provide red and white wine, some cheeses, etc. Beer and other beverages are also available from Delfina at a small charge. This will be happening on Fridays during the high season from 5:00-7:00 pm. The paintings are eclectic and interesting, although not inexpensive. For a preview, check out at their website. Delfina paintings

Painting by Carine Hurstemans

Groceries: On the rainy Monday we zipped over to France and got groceries at US Import on the outskirts of Marigot. Given the euro/dollar situation, it's not cheap but they have some amazing things. This week the cheese case had Petit Billy, a goat cheese. Seems obvious from the name, but in reality (or at least according to the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins) Billy is a region of France in the Loire Valley that makes this cheese. Thus, not related to Billy goats, then again, cheese has very little to do with Billy goats. Petit Billy is worth seeking out says Jenkins and we agree. It cost $5 for the round which weighs about 250 grams or half a pound. We also picked up some duck pate en croute on sale at 12.90 euros per kilo, about $7 per pound. Two nice slices cost less than $5 and with a baguette from the bakery next door and a nice red wine from Select Wine Cellar, one has a great lunch for two at a bargain price. Petit Billy

We stopped at Lido Food Express in Maho on Tuesday and picked up three rose (Carte Noir from an island near St Tropez ($9.30), a Rose d'Anjou Les Merles ($7.45) , and Gris des Plages (about $7) - all 2004) wines with another Guadeloupe melon. The Carte Noir was a "better" wine but the Rose d'Anjou, being a bit sweeter, worked better with the sweetness of the Guadeloupe melon. BTW, this Lido, like the one in Cole Bay, is selling take out food for $7 per kilo, about $3.25 per pound. Fill up a styro container with any of 20 or more offerings from fruits, salads, chicken, bbq, veg, potatoes, etc. Last year, we got several of these from the Cole Bay Lido for a party of some description at the Horny Toad Guesthouse and they were great - great when we had them and great again as leftovers the next day. It's more food than you should eat for less than $5 a person.

Photo feature: This newsletter with many photos is posted on SXM-Info.com

CONTEST

Karen and Pascal's Restaurants - 31 December 2005 to 27 January 2006
Auberge Gourmande - $100 off a meal for two
Montmartre Restaurant - $100 off a meal for two
Sunset CafÚ - $100 off a meal for two
Panoramic Car Rental - $100 off a week's car rental

Let's go over the rules:
Rule #1 - Visit the websites and find the entry code.
Rule #2 - Send in ONE entry using the form with all the contest codes for the contests you wish to enter.
Rule #3 - There is no rule number three.

We choose an email randomly from all those received. If that person has entered multiple times, we throw them all out. If not, that person will win all the prizes for which the correct contest code has been entered. If all the contests have not been won by this person, another email will be chosen, etc until all prizes have been won.

Future contests:

Round the Lagoon - 28 January to 17 February 2006
La Vi B˘ Kaye - Seafood or barbecue buffet for two - two prizes - four dinners total
Select Wine Cellar - $100 off on a case of wine

ACTIVITIES

RESTAURANTS

On 8 Jan the euro was at 1.215 and today it is at 1.210, appears to be stuck. 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 just got it at California Restaurant and Bistrot Cara´bes and noticed it at Restaurant du Soleil and Marlin's Cafe. Note that some only offer this rate for cash. 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.

On Monday night we were preparing to stay in for a dinner of pasta, petit pois, and leftover smoked salmon (from New Year's) in a cream sauce and listen to Eduardo Filho who was playing piano beneath our balcony at Blue Sapphire Cafe when the Dutch side was plunged into three hours of darkness. GEBE (Gonna Expect Be Electricity, sometime, but don't know when) totally collapsed. Luckily, Sapphire has emergency generators. Unluckily, only one kicked in. Luckily, they managed to get the other one going. Unluckily, neither of them feed our stove. Luckily, France is nearby and they have a pretty much separate electrical system. Theirs runs at 220 volts while our side runs at 110. In truth, that is not the power up on the poles as it is transmitted at much higher voltage to reduce transmission losses and stepped down by transformers shortly before entering the final users. Both sides use 60 cycles as in the US rather than 50 cycles as in Europe. That way, the two sides can swap power as transformers easily adjust the voltage, but would have had a very hard time with cycles.

Eventually we headed over to Marigot for something casual and wandered from the Sandy Ground side entrance to the marina all the way around. Le Petite Auberge des Isles, Saint Germain, Tropicana, Belle Epoque Restaurant, and Chanteclair were busy. We continued to Le Lafayette where we were one of the two tables. This is a pretty good place, esp considering the prices, that suffers from being the last restaurant on the marina. It is nothing fancy. The view from my table was of the condenser coils on the back of four refrigerators in the bar, although I could look to the sides and see boats in the marina. The menu consists of standard French bistro food and a few specials. We had two of them: mussels in white wine, onions, parsley, and garlic and conch in butter, garlic and parsley. The were about 11 euros each and the bottle of Monredon Cotes du Rhone was 16 euros. Add in some water and a 6% additional tip and the bill was $60 for very tender and tasty conch, not easy to do, and some very fresh mussels in a lovely broth. We have friends that have recommended this place, so we were not worried by the lack of patrons or the less than splendiferous dining room. It's clean, inexpensive, and good. Take a walk to the far end of the marina and save some money, esp if the other places are full.

The next night, we had reservations at Restaurant du Soleil for the first Harmony Night of the season, but as it was cancelled we postponed our visit for a week. It gave us a chance to have the dinner of pasta, petit pois, and leftover smoked salmon that was cancelled the night before by GEBE. It was a nice dinner even with the frozen peas from the French side (US Imports). Also, while I was there I picked up the end of one of the hams used for slicing. They call these talons and sell them at half price. Cut them into chunks and substitute them for the salmon and one gets another tasty and inexpensive meal. Either one is good with a crisp and flavorful white wine or a light red wine.

On Wednesday night we tried Grand Case again. The weather was a bit more cooperative in that we made it from the parking spot to our reservations at Le Tastevin without getting drenched. I remember this as the first restaurant that I tried in Grand Case in 1993. There is a photo in the entry showing the old building listing on its foundation after Hurricane Luis 1995. This gave Jose and Christine a chance to rebuild an even more beautiful place. The entry to the restaurant and the entry to the kitchen are together as one steps off the street. Thus, all commotion is back on the street and the only sound in dining area is of waves slapping the shore (or the occasional torrential downpour). Moreover, the dining room does not have a straight facade along the shore, but has a couple indentations with beautiful plantings. We were in a "room" with three widely spaced tables. Two tables were essentially corner tables on the water and the third lingered in the background, unoccupied all evening. At its back was another planting area and the walk-in wine cellar with a glass front. On our side in an indentation was another garden area with two large palms and much more - altogether lovely and quite private.

We ordered water and looked over a rather large wine list, about 50 Bordeaux and 25 Burgundies and more. The Bordeaux clustered around the year 2000, quite impressive. We chose a 2002 Gevery-Chambertin from Bouchard (61 euros) to go with our shrimp and chorizo with peppers, onions, and pine nuts. The wine was certainly big enough to stand up to the big tastes in our ap. The shrimp were real and flavorful, not farm-raised and flaccid. The chorizo is a toast to Jose's homeland, although he left Spain for France as a child. Our dinners were the beef filet on a bed of olive oil laced mashed potatoes with shallots in a Sauternes sauce and a lotte (monkfish) with bits of Serrano ham in a lobster sauce. The beef was tender, tasty, and cooked to perfection and the sauce was an interesting complement. While lotte may be a more substantial fish (often called the poor man's lobster because of its texture), the air-dried Serrano ham (another nod to Spain) added considerably more texture and a concentrated bit of taste. The lobster sauce certainly tasted of lobster, but not overly much as some can. Service was attentive and friendly. My only complaint is that the bottle of wine was too small or possibly the night was so wonderful that we happily lingered through the wine, coffee, Armagnac, and another downpour before we ran for the car. The dinners were in the 20's for the most part and the aps were in the teens. With our wine and water, our bill came to about 130 euros, which is about $160. It's expensive but it does provide a wonderful night on the water in Grand Case.

On our way home we stopped at Mario's Bistro and caught up with Martyne, Mario, and Didier. The restaurant is as lovely as ever and was quite busy, even at 10:30. It cleared out as we told what we did on our summer vacations over more Armagnac. The major news is a new flash website with music.

On Friday we headed around the island and got most of the info under beaches above and ended up at Thai Garden Restaurant in Sandy Ground. It has changed hands, but is one of the longest running Thai restaurants on the island. The kitchen chefs remain the same but new owners have a new sushi chef. We made a note to stop in soon.

Tuna Saturday evening we went down to Blue Sapphire Cafe to sample the normal menu. It's always available, but we tried the $25 three course bistrot menu on our last visit. This time we ordered just main courses of tuna breaded with sesame seeds in a mango vinaigrette with rice ($24) and veg and the beef tenderloin with morels in a rosemary sauce with smashed potatoes and veg ($25). As one would expect from the two restaurateurs involved, JosÚ from Le Tastevin, Pascal from L'Alabama, the beef and tuna were of excellent quality, flavorful and tender. Our compliments to the chef as the sauces were wonderful additions to the fine beef and tuna. We had ordered the 2002 Santenay again, but it was out of stock, so we were upgraded to the 2002 Domaine Perdrix Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru. It's a lovely wine and played nicely with the flavors in the dinner. A couple balloons of Armagnac at the bar aided the first quarter of the Pats/Broncos game, but not enough. Beef

Changes: Christophe Martinez, the former chef at Le Cottage Restaurant, has opened up Le Bellevue in Bellevue quite close to Saint SÚverin Restaurant. It's only open for breakfast and lunch.

BARGAINS

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.

Those who like Club Orient might be interested in Club Fantastico. Check it out.

Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she can generally beat any rates you can get from the hotels. Give her a shot.

Regards,
Erich S. Kranz
www.SXM-Info.com
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