St Maarten/St Martin
Bamboo Bernies' Sunset
From our balcony
From our balcony
Waves near Beau-Beau's
Waves near Tabba Khaddy
Best of St Maarten - First, let's make it clear that the voting is done by the people who buy the English language, Dutch side Daily Herald and send in the voting form. As such, it is probably even less legit than normal elections and certainly ignores a lot of the French side. Moreover, how serious can any of it be when there is a "Best Hot Dog" category? Hot dogs come in packages. They're just heated up, already cooked. It doesn't matter which way the gizmo rotates, they still taste the same. This prize should go to the hot dog manufacturer, the guy who came up with the recipe for the correct proportion of beef lips, beef anuses, sawdust, and disinfectant to produce the taste we all love. Note that this is only the recipe for all-beef hot dogs. If you eat the other kind, substitute in chicken and pork for beef and remember that chickens don't have lips.
However, as Temptation Restaurant won best high end restaurant I can't complain too much about this. Terra and Halsey's Restaurant came in as runners up. Terra is fairly pricey and has good quality fixtures and furnishings and by all accounts good food. Both Scott Clegget and Dino at Temptation are graduates of the Culinary Institute. What baffles me is Halsey's, as the tag line on their website and menu is "Fine dining, Unrefined". My review below says that we did indeed have some good food, but the beauty of the place is the low prices, partially from the decidedly not high end furnishings and fixtures.
Best new restaurant went to SkipJacks'. No complaint there. Brad as owner/manager and chef Greg are trying mightily to produce some high quality food in a lovely place with a nice view. Bringing all this together in a matter of eight weeks (they opened in November) is an accomplishment. The next two are the The Wharf Restaurant and Halsey's Restaurant. Both good restaurants and I just ate in both of them in the last two weeks, but I also ate in both of them last year. It doesn't stop them from being good, but it does suggest they aren't new. On an island where it is estimated that 50 restaurants opened over the summer, you'd think that they could find three.
At least the best Indian restaurant is Indian (Shiv Sagar), as are the runners up (Lal's and Anand's). Similarly, the best Chinese and runners up, serve Chinese: White Swan, Pink Pearl, and Mambo (presumably not the French/Creole one in Grand Case). Best Seafood went to Lee's, with Boathouse and SkipJacks' as runners up. Lee's also has a fishing boat and SkipJacks' has a fish market. We haven't been to Boathouse since it was sold recently, but we do know the manager. Good fish requires more careful buying (and culling) and less preparation than most other main courses. I believe he could do this or insist that it was done.
Best Italian was La Rosa (Gondola Restaurant and Carlo@Bella Napoli were runners up), Best BBQ went to Johnny B's, Best Sushi to Bamboo Bernies. If you care, the best hot dog is at a Shell Gas station and second best is at a Texaco.
Construction: Some new photos of the seawall at Cupecoy and construction at Oyster Pond were added to the construction feature.
Princess Casino has a pre-Valentines fashion show on Saturday February 11 plus a cash raffle of $1000.
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 tasted LES JARDINS DE BOUSCASSE PACHERENC DU VIC BILH SEC, made from the petit courbu grape. The wine was well balanced with fresh citrus aromas, unctuous and long on the palate. It should be drunk young while it still is quite fruity and is ideal with fish and seafood. It is available at Enjoy Restaurant. Use the coupon from their website and get a 10% discount.
Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou 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 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.
Groceries: Lido Food Express has taken over the Ram's in Cole Bay and is back to calling it the Food Center. We picked up some very nice beef tenderloin at the Food Express in Maho.
Photo feature: This newsletter with many photos is posted on SXM-Info.com
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 - If the prize-awarding entity goes out of business before you claim your prize, you are unlikely to get your prize.
Rule #4 - Prizes are valid for one year from the award date.
Rule #5 - There is no rule number five.
Yes, we added 3 and 4. Still, it's a lot easier than other contests and there is no timeshare presentation. 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.
SXM Ultra Luxe - 12 March to 2 April
Dawn Beach Villas - $350 off a weeks rental
Dare to be Rare Steakhouse - $100 off a dinner for two
Temptation Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
La Samanna - $100 off a dinner for two
La Vie en Rose - $100 off a dinner for two
Antoine Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
L'Escargot Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
On Sunday we went to Enjoy Restaurant in Grand Case. They have a parking lot across the street from Le Petit Hotel. As they are on the main road heading into Grand Case, it's pretty difficult to park on the street. This is the old Balaou, which was a fairly funky beach shack. It has been renovated and is now quite chic. They have an interesting menu and a superb wine list. We were with friends and sampled widely: veal kidneys in a mustard sauce, pad Thai (Thai beef and noodle dish), Salmon with olivade and Greek feta cheese, and roasted sirloin stuffed with goat cheese (all 13 to 16 euros). The bottle of Paul Jaboulet's Crozes-Hermitage was quite good with all the dishes (34 euros). I certainly thought my kidneys were very good, done perfectly and in a fine sauce. It's a standard preparation, but done well, it's lovely. I also liked Martha's Pad Thai and didn't get a taste of the others, but as there was none left, I assume our guests were pleased also. When we made reservations, we were offered lounge chairs on the beach after lunch and it seemed inviting, but on this particular day, the wind and waves caused them to pull down the shutters on the dining room. Not much chance for a lazy afternoon on the beach, but on the right day, this would be a beautiful idea.
On Monday we headed out to the windward side of the island. The web version of this newsletter has photos taken of the waves that were still being kicked up over there. We had a nice lunch at Mr Busby's. The conch was tender with a nice Creole sauce and Martha's shrimp caeser salad had a real caesar dressing. Daniel complained about the weather over the last couple weeks and how he had spent so much time moving the curtains up and down as the winds and rain swept through. It has been quite the couple weeks. We went on to Orient, got a couple beers from Pedro's Beach Bar, and tried to sit on the chairs. We've been here too long to put up with that breeze when it's near 80F and the sun is behind you. I can't say we checked at the Orient Resort concerning parking, but the area where Bimboland was previously is now a parking lot charging a mere $3. We found a free spot anyway.
Monday night found us at The Wharf Restaurant for some Stella Artois and Hoegaarden on tap along with some spicy wings as we listened to the band before our reservations at Halsey's Restaurant in Simpson Bay. Halsey's bills itself as Fine Dining. Unrefined. The unrefined refers to the setting: it's a dock over the water with a canvas roof, no tablecloths, and may refer to the laid-back, friendly service, but it certainly doesn't refer to the food, unless it refers to Ryan's penchant for big, bold tastes rather than the esoteric pursuit of a fifth flavor element. It starts with the bread. It was fine bread and came with a butter dish, but lurking nearby was a similar greenish dish. We were warned that it contained garlic and leek puree. We had ordered a rather large Estancia Pinot Noir and were quite happy to dive into the full-flavored spread. Our ap was the same, only more so, seared scallops on a spicy black bean paste. The scallops were seared ever so slightly and were wonderful and light, but if one dipped into the black bean paste a major shift occurred. It was positively fiery. Jessica said that Ryan eats habanero peppers. I have eaten jalapenos and certainly chopped habaneros for addition to some dishes, but you wouldn't catch me biting into one! Martha had a duck and foie gras napoleon with a duxelle of mushrooms and a bit of garlic - very nice, refined almost. I had a special of monkfish in a caper beurre blanc on a bacon and shallot risotto. This actually was fairly refined, though very flavorful. The pinot went well with everything. The total bill with a $39 bottle of wine was only $98. There are benefits to unrefined dining.
After dinner we passed Skipjack's as we walked back to the car. As they had just been rated "Best New Restaurant" in the Daily Herald's poll, we thought we would congratulate Brad. The restaurant is beautiful and spacious right on the lagoon. They have a fish market at the entry of the restaurant and serve the freshest fish you are likely to find.
On Tuesday evening we stopped in for sunset and free drinks at Bamboo Bernies. Mudslides, margaritas, and some beers are free from 5:00 to 5:30 and cheap until about 7PM every night of the week. We did this last Tuesday also. This sunset was better. It's on the web.
We went to Sunset Cafe on the water at Grand Case Beach Club. They are another of Karen and Pascal's restaurants and are still doing the Pamper me coupon, so we started with a free drink and ordered the duck roll appetizer and a bottle of 1999 Chassagne-Montrachet from Bouchard. The duck comes shredded in a crispy wrapper with a tangy brown sauce containing a hint of vinegar and was great with the pinot. Our dinners were the confit of duck en croute and the seafood combo that features a half lobster, several jumbo shrimp in a Creole sauce, and grouper in tangy cream sauce with chives. They are doing 1 to 1 on the euro, so this dish only cost $26 and it was one of the more expensive main courses. We saw several beautiful desserts go by, there are photos on the website, but we ended with the free rum punch parade. Martha is partial to the passion fruit and I covet the coffee-flavored variety. Given a free aperitif and free rum punch as bookends for a $1=1 euro dinner, this is a pretty inexpensive meal on the waterfront, especially as you park free in their gated parking lot!
Thursday lunch at SkipJacks' was delightful. It's a beautiful place, if you appreciate lovely wood, hand-finished. If not, just enjoy the view of the mega-Yacht marina and the hills in the distance. We had a scallop ap to start - good scallops, bits of crab, white cheese sauce, scallions - essentially Coquilles St Jacques, but we were on the Dutch side with an inventive chef, so there was a bit more. Our dinners were a smoked salmon sandwich on a nice baguette and crabcakes. Martha allowed the crabcakes were very crabby (like her husband) and nicely spiced. We had Aleth Le Royer-Girardin's Borgogne and I have to think that this is his declassified Pommard that we have been getting from Francois at Philipsburg Liquor Store.
Friday was a miserable cloudy morning, but by 11AM it looked so good that we drove over to Galion Beach and had lunch at Tropical Wave. The breeze had died and the sun was up, a beautiful day for a bottle of rose on a beach! It was accompanied by snapper caught yesterday in a tasty Creole sauce with fries and salad and a shrimp salad in a tangy vinaigrette. You gotta love a day when you can eat this with your feet in the sand looking over a lagoon to the waves crashing on the reef and see St Barts in the distance.
That night we went to La Guinguette Restaurant at Princess Casino. We showed up rather late and they were quite busy. Nonetheless, we got a deuce on the porch overlooking the marina. The menu is inexpensive with most aps near $10 and most main courses under $20. The luscious beef carpaccio was only $11 and tasted like a million. The 2002 Borgogne Cote Chalonnaise from Chateau de Cray was only $27 and was just as luscious, complementing the beef perfectly. Despite the red wine, the fresh wahoo special beckoned and Martha had calamari Provencale. The wahoo arrived with an oil and garlic sauce on the side, but fresh wahoo, lightly grilled, salted, and drenched in lemon is something to try once in your life. The calamari was also done well, surprisingly tender in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Despite the crowd, service was good, but we didn't get much time to chat with Elena. Our total bill was under $100 with a 20% tip and our wine. They also have three course meals at $20 and $25! No worries about parking either, as the restaurant is inside the gated Port de Plaisance grounds.
On Saturday night we went to a Creole Buffet at Le Mambo Restaurant in Grand Case. We normally don't do buffets as we feel the major attraction is quantity rather than quality. We currently have enough quantity, possibly too much, according to my doctor. However, Chef Eric has always pleased us with his French creations, so we thought we would give it a try. The cost was 32 euros which given the exchange a bit of a tip was about $40 for a three course meal. We ordered a bottle of Jaboulet's 2003 Crozes-Hermitage (a sturdy Rhone) to keep up with the spice in the cuisine and a bottle of water and prepared for a feast. I said it was three courses, but there were about ten appetizers and Maryline encouraged us to try each! At some point, all of this will be on her website, but for now, we really liked the sweet potatoes with garlic, the crab with hearts of palm and plantain in a light curry, and the mahi ceviche with coconut milk and coriander. Some things were quite spicy and we were warned about a white bean croquette, but for the most part, Eric's cuisine relies on interesting combinations of flavors, not heat. The heat arrived on the table in a separate bowl and you could use it at your discretion. Main courses were four (not counting the base of rice and beans, possibly mixed in with a bit of shredded, marinated veg, largely cabbage): pork curry with coconut milk, goat meat masala, mahi with ginger and tomatoes, and baby octopus in red wine. Again we were encouraged to sample all and return for our favorites. I liked them all and was especially pleased the goat did not include bones. There were four desserts: a luscious chocolate mousse, flan with coconut bits, leechees in spiced syrup, and fruit salad with rum. So, after about two hours we had eaten more than we should, loved it all, and spent a mere $120 to sample a couple dozen Creole delicacies - no chicken and ribs here!
Changes: I have found out that Picante, which just replaced Indiana which had gone through several owners of late, was closed only for a few days by the immigration authorities. By now it is back in operation and the person who reported this to me said "It is owned by an extremely nice gentleman, Phillipi. He has reopened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He is trying so hard to offer good service and food and we hope he makes it!".
Look on the SXM-Info 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. Here's a partial list of what you'll find:
Le Baccara Restaurant
Pirate Beach Bar|
Pedro's Beach Bar
Select Wine Cellar
Those who like Club Orient might be interested in Club Fantastico. Check it out.
L'Esperance Hotel has great rates and is conveniently located. It's quite handy if you just need a night or two at either end of your vacation because of the wretched flight schedules. They have a lovely pool and offer free wireless internet access.
Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she can generally beat any rates you can get from the hotels. Give her a shot.