St Maarten/St Martin
19 March 2006 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday was lovely, breezy, sunny, but hazy - Saba was just barely visible. On Monday, the wind slowed and the haze seems to have blown away. That evening produced a cloudburst that still filled the low spots on Tuesday morning. The days have been beautiful, but we got another cloudburst on Thursday. It's starting to become summer, warm and hazy from the humidity. We can barely see Saba and the other islands are lost in the haze. The sunset is about twenty minutes after six. The moon was full on 14 March and is waning.

Beaches: Simpson Bay looked great on a stop at the Horny Toad Guesthouse for a sundowner. Sunset at the Horny Toad

Construction: No new photos on the construction feature this week. They are starting to almost fully enclose Marina Fort Louis in Marigot. The swells from the Anguilla channel are more than the megayacht set can endure.

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 only four requests, so this offer is still out there.

Select Wine Cellar: The wine of the month for March is Champagne Deutz Cuvée William Deutz 1996 (wine spectator rating 93, wine spectator price: $158) Select wine price: $99 (normal price 115$). We just had the 2002 Savigny-Les-Beaune Premier Cru Les Peuillets from Girard with our lunch of rillettes, some baguette, and salad. A fabulous Burgundy for $26. Use the coupon on the website and get it even cheaper.

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.

Art Lovers Opening on March 17 from 6PM to 9PM at La Plantation Mont Vernon 2 - Tel 05 90 29 50 62. Open house of 25 workshops and galleries from 10 to 6 PM Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 (today is the last day) of March. About thirty artists with some new participants including Saint Geran art gallery in Philipsburg, the copper sculptor Douglas Hazelton,the photographer Erwan Andrieux and the painters Salome Langevin, Asif et Asha, Trifan, and Dago. More info on the website.

Gas: We stopped at the Blue Point on the shortcut from the Marigot waterfront to the Agrement roundabout on the way to Grand Case. They are asking about 0.9 euros per liter and offering 1.20 dollars per euro. It's the same at the Gess in La Savane outside of Grand Case. These are as expensive as the Dutch side. Cheap gas can be found at the Cadisco between Orient and Grand Case and at the Cadisco between Sandy Ground and Marigot. The sell it at about the same price, but offer 1 to 1 on the exchange. That's a 20% savings, bringing the cost down from about $4 per gallon to $3 per gallon.

Cars: We just got a rather large Elantra from Panoramic Car Rental, who showed up on time for the transfer. Always nice. The Elantra just consumed $49 worth of gas. I hope that lasts me until I return in May, but I doubt it. Few gas stations take credit cards, so factor in some high gasoline prices into your cash budget, especially if you don't want to go over to the French side.

Groceries: They had a sale on the pate en croute with pistachios at US Imports and as long as I was there, I got some rillettes of pork (17.90 euros per kilo, $10 per pound), duck, and goose (both 19.90 euros, about $11 per pound). Slather it on the crusty baguettes from Ted, the bakery next door, add a Savigny Les Beaune from Select Wine Cellar and stare at Caribbean for a couple of hours over lunch. Call it research. The results of this research suggest that the duck and the goose versions are worth the extra $1 per pound.


We just added a new client and in lieu of payment, I went out with Roy from Roy Deep Sea Fishing on his 25 foot Bertram. It fits under the bridge (with a bit of a fuss), but it means you can leave whenever you want. He's docked at Turtle Pier and we arrived at about 8:30 for a half day charter to Dog Island on the far side of Anguilla. There's nothing like a few hundred horsepower to melt the miles and we arrived in about 45 minutes. As noted earlier, the day was great for motorboats, not much wind and clear skies. We brought in a 60 pound yellowfin tuna and lost a larger marlin. I'm saying 200 pounds and you can't prove otherwise. That is the beauty of the fish that got away. Roy is a great guy and seems to know where the fish are. The prices seem reasonable and he sends you home with some fish. Moreover, Turtle Pier will cook it for you and add the usual sides for only $8 per person. We have all the facilities to cook in the condo and a woman who loves to cook, so we just took it home. We started immediately with sashimi substituting harissa for wasabi and bemoaning our too heavy soy sauce. Nonetheless, it was fabulous, especially with a glass of Amiot-Servelle's 2003 white Bourgogne from Select Wine Cellar. The bulk of the fish was saved for Tuesday's dinner with a spicy sauce chien and a Crozes-Hermitage from Select Wine Cellar.

On Wednesday we headed over to Grand Case Beach Club for a snork with Sebby at the activity desk. It's rather simple as you rarely need a reservation. If the day looks great, call to make sure that it is great in Grand Case (sometimes a swell from the NE makes snorkeling less than pleasant despite clear skies), and that Sebby can take you. If all systems are go, just drive over, pass through the security gate, park, and enjoy the day. We try to snorkel in the morning, have lunch at Sunset Café, and loaf on the beach in the afternoon. The protected reef has some of the best snorkeling on the island and a dive instructor who knows the reef takes you out and leads your dive.


Win $100 in the weekly Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest. Get $50 in casino action and $50 off a dinner for two at Baccara Restaurant, just above the casino floor. Make it a spectacular evening as you will be picked up and returned home in a chauffeured Bentley. You must enter this contest each week and you must use the entry form for this contest to be considered.

Martin Conway, GM at the casino, says that they offer free pick up service by Rolls Royce or Bentley and can send a bus for larger groups. Distance is no problem. With this service, there are no worries about security or drinking and driving. Our motto is Good Gaming, Great Entertainment, and Fine Dining.

Last week's winner: Georgia Baxter

(Mostly for locals as you have to be here, but if you are here on 29 March, check it out)

The Princess Casino will be raffling a Ford Escape on Wednesday March 29.
All tickets collected from 5 March until then will be valid.
To participate in the drawing players must write full name on ticket stub before placing it in the drum.
Winning ticket holder must be present at time of drawing.
Winning ticket holder must produce a piece of ID that matches the name on the winning ticket.
If no winner on March 29, draw will be repeated on a later date.


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

You'll note there are seven prizes and only five entry slots on the contest form. You must choose the five you want and allow someone else to share in this $950 prize. The rules make all other contests look like do-it-yourself brain surgery. Just go to the SXM Ultra Luxe feature, find the codes, enter them on the form, click send - one form per contest. Good Luck.

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.

Future Contests:

Grand Case - 2 April to 14 May
L'Alabama Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
Tastevin Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two

Orient - 15 May to 31 July
Beau Beau's - $50 off a dinner for two


On 12 March the euro was at 1.191 and today it is at 1.220. That is actually one of the larger changes recently. 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 it at Ti Sucrier, Auberge Gourmande, Sunset Café, California Restaurant, Bistrot Caraïbes, Le Cottage Restaurant, Rainbow Café, Pedro's Beach Bar, and Restaurant du Soleil and noticed it at La Marine Restaurant, Layla's, Santal, Chez Martine, Marlin's Cafe, and all the lolos in Grand Case. 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 Sunday afternoon six of us headed over to Spinnaker Bar at the St Maarten Yacht Club next to the Dutch Bridge. A Day at the Beach was doing a set here as the sun set. They were outside on the deck right next to the canal.

Matthew, Billy, and Michael Moonrise over Ecstasea Sunset behind the bridge

Matthew, Billy, and Michael Matthew, Billy, and Michael Neil Rooney and Tracy

Matthew, Billy, and Guest Matthew, Billy, and Michael These are more or less in order as the night progressed. That's Neil Rooney, owner of Spinnaker and Buccaneer Beach Bar with Tracy who also sings with the band.

We walked from there to SkipJack's for some fresh fish: an order of mussels in Thai spices, three orders of blackened grouper, two mahi Creole style, and a Caribbean lobster. The mussels were very good, a bit more spicy than the usual preparations, so now you have three approaches: Sunset Café's creamy version with white wine, onion, shallots, parsley, a splash of cream, and a secret ingredient and Mario's tomato and cheese approach at Mario's Bistro. Martha asked for extra spice on her grouper and was quite happy with the result. I had extra Creole sauce for my mahi and was also pleased. We added in a couple appetizers and three desserts. A couple bottles of Beaujolais were fine with all the spice. The bill was only $100 per couple with a tip.

On Monday evening we went to Antoine Restaurant in downtown Philipsburg for a wonderful dinner and a perspective on how things are going in Philipsburg from Jean-Pierre. Here's a bit of history for you. A gentleman named Antoine opened this restaurant in another location many years ago. Eventually, he decided to get out of the business, but his son was a bit young to take over the restaurant, so he made an arrangement with Jean-Pierre, the maitre'd, and Pierre-Louis, the chef, to take over the restaurant. Things went swimmingly until Hurricane Luis, when things went swimming in the restaurant. They moved to their current location and endured a few tough seasons but now they have a new street on one side and a beachfront boardwalk on the other. JP says that lunch business is down, because there are so many more beach joints open along the boardwalk before Antoine. He does have palapas, chairs, umbrellas, and an inexpensive lunch menu, but most tourists stop sooner. The part he really likes is that the beach joints close and he stays open getting a larger dinner clientele. Indeed, we haven't seen so many people in for dinner in years. Many of them strolled in from the boardwalk, although there is valet parking available out front.

More history: The son, Daniel, eventually took over the operation of Da Livio, even further down the street and ran it until this year. He has now moved into Mr Busby's with much of his staff and does essentially the fine Da Livio Italian menu in the beach bar. He rented Da Livio, from Livio, of course. Livio Bergamasco is Lara Bergamasco's father and she and husband Ciro Russo are turning out fine Tuscan food in Spiga on the outskirts of restaurant row in Grand Case.

Enough history and chit-chat, how was dinner? We ordered a 2001 Ch Gloria, one of the most respected producers in Bordeaux ($69). We actually have a case of this in the cellar and were pleased that it is coming along well. I admit that it was not the finest pairing with our delicate scallops in a creamy sauce, but they were so good they didn't last very long. Our dinners were fish, but not quite as delicate as the ap. I had the duo of baked snapper and salmon in a mustard sauce and Martha had the garlic shrimp. Both had big strong flavors that went well with our red wine. A coffee and a balloon of cognac completed and evening that included a major cloudburst. Valet parking is a thing of beauty. The total cost was $172 including our rather expensive wine.

It had stopped raining by the time we reached L'Escargot Restaurant so we ducked into their parking lot and had more cognac as we gossiped with Joel and made reservations for lunch the next day.

Thus, on Tuesday we headed back to Philipsburg for a bit of shopping and a lunch at L'Escargot Restaurant only to get caught at the 11:30 bridge in Simpson Bay. We parked noticed that there was a Dutch side blackout in progress. I bought some nice sunglasses for $5 across from the street from Marci's Mega Gym 2000 and strolled down to Good Cards to take some photos for a website in progress. Eventually, the bridge opened on standby power and we arrived late and hungry to a restaurant with no power. They cook on gas, so that was no problem. We had a sampler of snails (it is their signature dish, of course, and quite nice). Martha had a conch salad and I had the calamari steak with capers and lemon butter. It was all wonderful with a Pouilly-Fuisse and eventually the power came back leading to more cognac in air-conditioned comfort. It's a wonder I get anything done.

We shopped, strolled about town, and ended up getting 2 for 1 Caribs at the Greenhouse Restaurant while we watched the St Louis Cardinals defeat the evil Yankees. It's only the grapefruit league, but as a Red Sox fan, I take my victories where I can. They are few and far between. We strolled back along the boardwalk marveling at how nice it all looked and how lively it was even after the tenders had tendered their last fares back to the ships. I remember ten years ago that Ric's (yes, it started on Front Street) were essentially closed by 5 PM. They, like Antoine and everyone else, were hit hard by Luis.

On Wednesday it was so lovely that we went for the aforementioned snorkel with Sebby and then went over to Sunset Café for lunch. Taking things easy, we had the seafood salad and the shrimp and tuna salad with bottle of water and a bottle of rose. It's an extremely pleasant spot and knowing that your car is safe in the gated grounds makes it even nicer. So much so that we repaired to the beach with the remainder of our water and wine.

That evening we had 7:30 reservations at Marrakech Restaurant. That is unfashionably early on the French side, so we had some water and a Moroccan Cab/Syrah blend from Domaine Mayole as we took our time looking over the menu, chatting with Toufiq, the owner, and Laetitia, our waitress. We dined on the porch overlooking the interior courtyard and the sky was lovely with the just past full moon rising late. The restaurant itself is so lovely that I used it to photograph some jewelry for Octaedre Gems. Some pita bread and house-made harissa arrived. Harissa is hot, but good. We eventually ordered the starter sampler plate. It had a dozen small bowls: chili peppers, grated carrots with orange and fig, bell pepper with vinegar and garlic, cucumber with time, tomato and cayenne, wheat berries with lemon confit and herbs, sweet potato with cinnamon and sesame, tomato and caramelized tomato, bell pepper with tomato, cumin, and coriander, potato salad with egg, garlic, and parsley, mashed green peas with paprika and olive oil, and beets with ginger, vinegar, and almonds. That was enough, but we went on and ordered dinner. Martha had a kefta tajine, meat balls with a poached egg in a very flavorful tomato-based sauce. I had a Cous-cous royale featuring nine vegetables with cous-cous and a wonderful broth plus chicken, merguez, pork, beef, and lamb. We now have about half of both in the fridge, but not for lack of trying as both were exotic taste treats. Laetitia and appetizers

Laetitia asked if we knew about Ti Sucrier. We have been driving past it every time we come to the French side as it is in Nettle Bay. A friend had said it was quite beautiful and pretty good. It's in the old Salsa and Pasta Restaurant location which is in the old Entre Deux Mer location where I had a decent dinner in the early 90's. It was quite lovely but that's difficult to tell from the website, as it is essentially content-free. So, we stopped in on the way home. Sylvain is the chef/owner and he was previously at Panoramic in Anse Marcel and at La Playa on Orient. It is lovely, on a deck with the swimming pool overlooking the lagoon. We had a couple balloons of cognac, looked over an interesting menu, and made reservations for dinner next week.

Thursday night found five of us at Belle Epoque Restaurant in the Marina in Marigot. We love the good food at good prices. It reminds us of the bouchons in Lyon, lots of action, lots of commotion, lots of good food, and people who love it. It was crowded on a random Thursday night a testament to the quality of the food and service. They always have a wine of the week and it broadens my horizons. This week was a Vervous, a Medoc, at $24. It was fine, but we switched to the Cotes du Rhone from Monredon (also $24) which I liked better. We started with salads, onion soup, and beef carpaccio. The carpaccio had thin sliced beef with almost as thin shavings of parmesan and arrived with two sauces. Dinners were two tuna steaks ($18), two ouassous plates ($24), and a veal chop ($29) with assorted veg and a sweet potato puree. With another bottle of wine and two waters, we managed to leave a respectable tip for only $50 per person. Not bad for good food and service at a wonderful table on the water. It did rain a bit, but we had an umbrella and all the people on the deck only got a little moist as the awning was put out quite quickly.

Friday was St Paddy's Day and many places do something special. SSBB was selling any beer in a green bottle (Heineken and Presidente - not very Irish) for a buck, Ric's had Jack, an Irish singer, etc. We were invited to the Horny Toad Guesthouse for the usual corned beef and cabbage dinner. I do Betty's website so we get invited to almost every party she has and if you are a guest thre, you'll get invited also: Christmas, New Years, Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, Heineken Regatta mornings, St Paddy's Day, ??? make a reservation and start your own reason to party on the beach.

Saturday night was a return to an old friend. We have been pretty busy trying to visit all our clients and stop in at a few new places and as a consequence, we have not been to Montmartre Restaurant in a while. It is still lovely and not so busy on a Saturday, timeshare changeover day. We had a lovely table by the window and were pampered with a glass of champagne and a kir royale (champagne and cassis). Just say "pamper me", and they are on the house. We ordered a 1998 Clos Vougeot and Olivier let it breathe as we had our aperitif. Our ap was the usual, a bit of creamy goat cheese topped with chewy sun-dried tomatoes and wrapped in a brique crisped on the stove and placed on a bed of interesting greens with a vinaigrette and a balsamic reduction. The tastes and textures are fabulous and a great Burgundy really goes well with them. Our dinners were the sashimi tuna steak, so rare it was cool on the inside (it's a matter of taste and the chef will do as you ask) with a dipping sauce on a bed of potatoes with broccoli, snap peas, a puree of broccoli, a puree of sweet potatoes, and a grilled spring onion. Martha had the Chilean seabass with a similar array of veg. Mine was much better with a hearty Burgundy. The molten chocolate cake was a wonderful end to dining. We took coffees and rum on the patio, enjoying the night air.

Changes: Georges at Belle Epoque Restaurant told us that JP has closed Elyse Matignon at Caravanserai.


Look on the SXM-Info website for a list of all restaurants and others that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper. Here's a list of what you'll find:

The easiest coupons are from:
Auberge Gourmande
Sunset Café

No coupon needed. Just say "Pamper me"
and get a free welcome champagne cocktail!

Le Baccara Restaurant
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Kakao Beach
Los Gauchos
The Greenhouse
Oizeau Rare
Pirate Beach Bar
Paradise View
Paris Bistro
Pedro's Beach Bar
Saint Germain
The Wharf
Lots here
and here
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)

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.

Erich S. Kranz
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