St Maarten/St Martin
26 November 2006 Newsletter

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Beaches and Weather: The sun sets at about 5:30. The moon is in its first quarter. There are only a bit over 11 hours of daylight, heading for the yearly low on 22 Dec, which is only a bit under 11 hours. Compare that to about 9 hours in NYC at this time. Wendy K is back on the island and reports that the weather has been pleasantly warm [86] with a nice breeze and a couple of "sun showers". The golf course is really green. There appeared to be a lot of sand in front of the Royal Islander, as seen from the airplane. At Mullet, the sand has eroded a bit, but the water was super clear, with gentle swells. The two beach bars have nice new umbrelllas and the porta-potties were gone. No sign of any jet skis or those dreaded all-terrain vehicules. In fact there weren't many people on the beach at all. Maho seems pretty empty and, alas, my hairdresser there has closed up shop. (Ed note: that was an outpost of Jean-Claude who is still at his little Creole cottage on the side street in Marigot across from Le Patio Hotel.) She reports that there's lots of sand at the far NW end of Cupecoy, the part near the monolith is eroded, but has a bit of sand, and there is no sand in the little cove.

Traffic: Wendy K reports in early November that the front page of the Daily Herald stated that the bridge would remain closed to marine traffic indefinitely while they waited for a part to be delivered. Apparently, the government was notified a year ago that a bearing would need replacing, and did nothing about it. Imagine if the bearing had gone when the bridge was up!!!

The shelves at the Food Express in Maho were a bit empty and the new Gourmet Marche [where Hot Tomatoes used to be] didn't look enticing, so we continued on towards Philipsburg to the big Grand Marche there. There is serious road work going on in Cole Bay on one of the "short-cut" roads through Cole Bay; this one just after the Tropicana Casino. It looks as though they may finally be doing a good enough job that the water problems here will be allieviated. We'd anticipated horrible traffic, but it actually wasn't too bad. People seem to be allowing others to take left turns, which greatly aids in the traffic flow.

Construction continues. You can see where the land has been cleared for one of the new developments from the hill just past the tourist look out. They are putting windows in the Cliff and I've heard that one of the Rainbow buildings is open, although you can't tell from the street (ed note: I have been in one of the second floor units, they are indeed open). They are up to the 5th floor on a new building [more student housing for the Med school] across from Delfina Hotel, which is blocking some views of the lagoon from Arbour Estates, and there's another building going up where the Chinese restaurant, laundry, and little grocery used to be on Jordan Road. Arbour Estates had a new, higher wall, which looks quite nice. Nothing has been done on the property next to us [you can see the planned development on Tendal Real Estate's site], but there are 4 trailers on the property. The building at the end of Tigris Road continues. We're still not sure what it will be. There are periodic pile drivers working across at Cupecoy Yacht Club. The Kadaster still has not given permission for their new road, which has been completed. The buildings at Shore Point, above Cupecoy beach, can be seen from the street.

Carter from Turquoise Shell Inn reported that the bridge was operational by 10 November. The new "roundabout" near the Daily Extra grocery has also opened and is very effective.

Four Star Cargo has reported that their shipping rate has gone down as the fuel surcharge has dropped recently. We have used them to get appliances from Sears in the US to the island. Even with the shipping, it was cheaper than buying locally and the selection was much greater.

Christian from Sol é Luna Apartments sent along a new photo of the pool at the complex and said that November was very quiet.

Sapphire Beach Club: On a bright note, when Queen Beatrix opened the new airport, she stayed at Sapphire. 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. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal) and if you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. Given the large assessment that Sapphire just levied, there may be a lot of sales. At present, there are about 20 sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

Passports: This has been postponed once, and once again, but now they are saying that all travel to the USA will require a passport after 8 Jan 2007. If you are coming next year, think about this now, rather than at the last minute. Life is pretty easy if you allow enough time to renew by mail. All the details can be found at this State Department page. You can go away for the holidays and get by with a birth certificate and a driver's license, but after that, Get a Passport! I just got an email from Continental who is taking us to the island soon and they reminded me to get a passport!

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.


Summer schedule: the contests will last for two to four weeks. Win $100 at 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.

Martin also notes some changes at the Princess. Le Baccara has a new chef. We have a new restaurant: the “Rock House”, restaurant and sports bar. Another new area “Just Sushi” and a terrace restaurant to open mid-November, the “Surf & Turf” Island Grill and Bar. The entertainment is great with a special themed evening every weekend. Examples so far, Miss Princess, Caribbean Night, Oriental Night, Mr.Princess, Victor-Victoria. Halloween is coming up as is Indian Night. Friday Night in the Rock House is Karaoke with over 2000 songs in English and French. Monday night is, of course, Football night and we have 7 large screens and a couple of pool tables.

Last week's winners:
Two winners as it has been five weeks!
Nancy Dallas and Linda Benoit


26 November to 24 December
California Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
California Apartments - $100 off a week's stay
Rainbow Café - $100 off a dinner for two
Ti Coin Créole - $50 off a dinner for two
Atelier des Tropismes - signed print from Paul Elliott Thuleau
Grand Case - Grand Case Cookbook
12 meter challenge: America's Cup Racing - two for one ticket on the number one activity in the Caribbean

The previous Grand Case contest winners:

L'Esperance Car Rental - $100 off a weekly low season rental - Mary Simms
12 meter challenge: America's Cup Racing - two for one ticket on the number one activity in the Caribbean - Mary Simms
Blue Martini - $50 off a dinner for two - Mary Simms
Hibiscus Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Mary Simms
Grand Case - Grand Case Cookbook - Mary Simms

The rules make all other contests look like do-it-yourself brain surgery. Just 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 website(s) 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.

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. It isn't mentioned, but there are five slots for contest codes on the entry form. Thus, one entry can win five contests.

Future Contests:

Stay tuned. They'll be back after Christmas.


Club Fantastico is giving away a free week every month over the summer. Get to their website to enter.


On 23 Oct the euro was at 1.255 and today it is at 1.31602. That is the biggest change all summer - and in the wrong direction. 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 Bouchon, Ti Sucrier, Auberge Gourmande, Sunset Café, California Restaurant, Bistrot Caraïbes, Le Cottage Restaurant, Rainbow Café, Pirate Beach Bar, Pedro's Beach Bar, Bikini Beach, and Restaurant du Soleil and noticed it at 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.

Club Fantastico announces that Chef Antonio will be making his way to SXM soon. He plans to be there the week after Thanksgiving, New Years Week, and the first weeks of February and March 2007. Fine Italian dining with lots of cool tunes after dinner will be the norm. The Club owners look forward to seeing you all there this season.

After shopping at Grand Marche in Pburg, Wendy K had a lunch at Mark's Place. The restaurant had quite a following in French Cul de Sac before it was destroyed by Hurricane Luis in 1995. They have rebuilt at the roundabout just outside the Grand Marche with a great view of the parking lot. However, the interior is nice and they serve good local/Créole food. I wouldn't make it a destination, but it is a fine spot for a good lunch, and it has parking!

In mid-October we caught up with Martyne from Mario's Bistro in Nashua, NH for a great lunch at Michael Timothy's Urban Bistro. She was at the printers, supervising the new cookbook that Martha had worked edited. The wood-fired pizza had me from the start and when I saw one with Chorizo and corn, I read no further. It reminded me of my favorite at Hot Tomatoes: pork sausage and caramelized onions - but alas, no more. Martyne had a special seafood pizza and Martha had another special: homemade pasta course with a bright tomato sauce and langoustines. The cookbook will be out shortly after Thanksgiving. Check the restaurant website and order one for Christmas.

Shortly thereafter, we flew to Denver for another dining extravaganza. Our first dinner was at Frasca in Boulder, about a 45 minute drive out of Denver. They are a member of the Slow Food Movement featuring northern Italian food. We started with a bottle of 2003 Domaine Drouhin's Pinot from Oregon ($65) followed by Sinskey's 2004 Pinot from Carneros $59). All agreed that the Sinskey was better. Dinner started with Salumi, a platter of Prosciutto San Daniele from Friuli, Italy; Speck from Alto Adige, Italy and Fra’ Mani Salame Toscana from California. You can get platters of meats like this at Chez Bernadette and René in Marigot. Our next courses were “Žlikrofi”, (Serbian ravioli) Shell Bean and Mortadella Ravioli with Brown Butter, Ricotta “Affumicata Carnica” and Nutmeg; “Toç”, Soft Anson Mills Heirloom Polenta with Chestnuts, Sage and Honey-Crisp Apple Sauce. Hand-Made Russet Potato Gnocchi with Buttercup Squash, Spinach and Salumeria Biellese Mortadella; (reminiscent of the gnocchi that Mario puts under his tuna in SXM - feather light and smooth as silk), and a bonus bit of braised rabbit. Our dinners were a sea bass, Sliced Four Story Farm Rack of Veal with Abbondanza Farm Sweet Carrots, Chanterelle Mushrooms and Housemade Ricotta; and a two capon thighs, Crispy Wapsie Produce “Cappone” Thigh with Creamy Farro, Violet Wave Kale and “Sugo Naturale”. The capon brought back memories of the stuffed capon leg at Montmartre Restaurant, although it has been off the menu for a season or so.

We had another dinner at Mizuna, rated one of the best restaurants in the west by Zagat. We started with a bottle of the Chardonnay Au Bon Climat 2002, awesome Starters were Butternut squash bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds and spiced creme fraiche, truffled potato gnocchi with braised rabbit and chanterelle mushrooms (more gnocchi !!!), Mac and cheese (it really is macaroni with mascarpone and poached Maine lobster!). Dinners were Grilled Colorado Lamb Loin with Spinach & Goat Cheese Dumpling, Braised Shoulder Ragout and Local Carrots; Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Crispy Asparagus, Prosciutto Di Parma, and Potato Mousseline; Harris Ranch Beef Tenderloin with Lobster Potato Gratin, Roasted Shallots, and Sauce Béarnaise; and Roasted Alaskan Halibut En Croûte with Baby Artichoke & Petite Herb Salad, Barigoule Emulsion, and Pine-Nut Pistou. the dinner featured fine igredients, tastfully blended with interesting textures, one of the finest meals we have had in quite a while. We enjoyed an Au Bon Climat Chardonnay to start, more food friendly than most California chards because of its light oak, and moved on to a 2004 Ch de Maltroye Santenay from southern Burgundy for the meat courses.

At the beginning of November, we headed south to visit Martha's brother, Pierce, and family in Pawley's Island, SC. Pierce Culliton is the executive chef at Frank's and Frank's Outback. Frank's was a grocery store now slightly remodelled into a restaurant. It's not terribly fancy but does serve fine food and has a fabulous wine list. Outback at Frank's is even less fancy and open to air, which at this time of year requires a dining area near the huge fireplace or under propane heaters. In warmer weather (when most of the tourists are here for golf at Myrtle Beach), it is delightful. At this time of year, it is still busy, a testament to the quality of the food. We started with she crab soup, which is made from female crabs, not that anyone spends too much time sexing crabs. One of the main ingredients at least from a flavor standpoint is the roe. Pierce's version was quite thick with crab, very flavorful, and perfect on a cool evening. That, of course, is why you don't find too many dishes like this on the island. Our shared ap was fried oysters with some salad and a bit of spicy mayo-based sauce. A few slices of jalapeno were included for the intrepid. Dinners were grouper, crabcakes, and a bistro steak. When SkipJack's (or anyplace on the island) has fresh grouper, try it. For crabcakes, look for crab backs at any place featuring local or Créole food, Mark's Place in Philipsburg, Ti Coin Créole or Le Mambo Restaurant in Grand Case. The bistro steak was very flavorful and fairly tender, not tenderloin tender, but close enough. It is from the shoulder/back of the cow and rarely used in the US, much like the similar hanger steak from the diaphragm muscle. Look for this at Ti Bouchon in Cul de Sac. Our wines were the Kenwood and Saintsbury Pinot Noirs from California, both good.

We continued on down to Edisto Island, south of Charleston, to spend a rainy week with some friends in a timeshare condo at Fairfield Ocean Ridge, recently bought by Wyndham and going through a few changes. Their restaurant had just opened, a bit before the liquor license arrived, but the breakfasts were quite nice. We had brought pheasant, elk, and stone crabs that covered three dinners and had a fourth at The Old Post Office Restaurant in Edisto. It really is a defrocked, refurbished Post Office serving old-fashioned low country food at remarkably good prices, made even better by the $50 coupon from Ocean Ridge garnered by listening to an informative discussion on timeshare points. Our aps were grilled sausage, onions, and black beans; fried oysters with two sauces (mayo-based and a hotter, tomato-based sauce); Manhatten-style clam chowder; and a shrimp stuffed with crab. Our dinners were firecracker frioed flounder, shrimp and scallops on grits, Créole grouper, and pork tenderloin stuffed with bacon smothered in ham gravy. All came with black-eyed peas and very good grits. The low country obviously is near the water and the weather is similar to the islands, so the food is similar with an emphasis on seafood and lots of tomatoes with various degrees of spice. The main difference is grits and I can't send you to anyplace on the island that has them. Otherwise, all the local and Créole places on the island can produce food like this.

We went up to Charleston for lunch on a lovely day. After a stroll around the city, we made our way to Magnolias for a spectacular southern lunch that lasted until 4 PM. Charleston is worth a visit. The downtown has been redeveloped, partially because of the damage from Hugo, but also because cities, in general, have benefitted from suburbanites wishing to escape from long commutes. Before the revolutionary war, Boston and Charleston were the premier cities in the US.

Changes: Simpson Bay news: Aqua Restaurant has closed, Maria's Deli and the neighboring Burger King have finally been demolished. Bananas has reopened as Topper's. Iron Horse Saloon became Coconut Joe's which is now called Mist. Stone restaurant and Lounge has opened at 23 Airport Road, on the western side of the bridge. They are cooking meat and fish on hot stones. On Friday December 15th they are having a five course tapaa meal with four wines and a finishing digestive.

Wendy K also reports that the bakery at US Imports (it's called Ted, but never had a sign) is no more. The whole area is walled off with plywood, so maybe they are expanding??? The road in front has finally been repaved. She stopped at Mario's Bistro for reservations and noticed that Bobby, the guy who used to work the bar but went to Dare to be Rare, is back at Mario's.

Wendy K reports and Zuzu confirms that Vanessa (the Grand Case flower girl) and Patrick from Galion Beach have taken over California Restaurant. Alain will continue in the kitchen for a while. Zuzu and Alain's son, Johann, will open Rancho del Sol at Orient.


Coupons: 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:

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. Richard says "At Club Fantastico the Jacuzzi is percolating and the pool is a perfect temperature for skinny dipping late into the evening. The Caribbean Sea is aqua blue and warm as can be. They welcome all of you who are taking in the peace and restful summer with us. Starting September, things will be gearing up, so make your reservations now, and get a special deal. Chef Antonio plans his return in the fall. Dates not yet set. Music and fine cuisine will be the norm."

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.