St Maarten/St Martin
25 March 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday was still hazy from the Montserrat volcano and there were plenty clouds. At times there was enough rain for a rainbow, but the winds battled to push the bad weather away. On Sunday night we caught a spectacular sunset while drinking free Amstel Lights, mudslides, and margaritas at Bamboo Bernies. Monday was still hazy and a shower passed over Cupecoy in the morning. Tuesday had intermittent showers and the haze that is obscuring Saba seems to be water vapor, not volcanic ash. It's still a bit cool with an afternoon temperature of only 80F. Wednesday had showers and Thursday was a bit cool with a morning shower, but no rain after that. Friday was lovely and Saturday arrived with no whitecaps on the lagoon, small whitecaps on the Caribbean, and a haze that obscured Saba. Still hazy and warm on Sunday morning, but up to 79F at 9AM. Here's Sunday's rainbow coming down at Ocean Club (it's a pot of gold for the developer!), and the sunset at Bamboo Bernies. Sunset will be at 6:22PM on Sunday. Full moon dates for 2007 are: Apr 2, May 2, May 31, Jun 30, Jul 29, Aug 28, Sep 26, Oct 26, Nov 24, and Dec 23. May 31 will be a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. Note that these are full moon dates for the Caribbean. A full moon occurs at an exact instant when the moon is opposite the sun with the earth in the middle. This happens at 24 different times in the 24 different time zones, some on each side of midnight, leading to European, American, and Asian calendars sometimes having different dates for full moons and, rarely, different months for blue moons. rainbow
Bamboo Bernies Bamboo Bernies

SXM-Beaches: The little cove at Cupecoy had room for five beach chairs on Sunday and none after that. The far NW end has sand. We found more sand than ever on both sides of the Grand Case Beach Club when we went there for a snorkel and lunch on Thursday. Plenty of sand at Orient later that afternoon at Pedro's Beach Bar. On Friday Wendy K reported sufficient sand at the NW end of Cupecoy. We had to go to the far NW end of Cupecoy to find sand on Sunday, but there was still plenty there although the waves were a bit rough.

Beach Reading: Finished Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen - $16.35 hardcover - Pretty good in the usual Carl Hiaasen way. While we were at Orient on Thursday, I found that the two people on either side of me were also reading this book. The last time I was this trendy a white disco suit was involved.

France and French: Martha, whose French pronunciation is so good it gets her in trouble as people think she is more fluent than she really is, brushes up at this site on About.

Construction: Front Street in Philipsburg was reconstructed last year. It now has pavers, sidewalks, seats, garbage cans, iron streetlights, and palm trees. Frequently, it is closed to vehicular traffic, depending on the number of ships in town, making it a pedestrian paradise. They are currently working on Back Street and even more parking on the salt pond. The Back Street renovation is scheduled to be completed by 17 April.

The Daily Herald reported that Caravanserai has not received its casino license for The Dunes and the construction project is now slated to finish at the start of the 2008/9 high season. I know that there is little construction going on in the complex at this time. I guess that they think they can make money running a casino, or at the least, renting the space to someone who can. How badly they need that money is anybody's guess.

Activities: We went out for a 10AM snorkel with Sebby from the actities desk at Grand Case Beach Club on Thursday. The day was a bit cool and overcast and we were rained on as we snorkeled (no problem there), but Sebby found us plenty of interesting fish. He brought up a sea urchin and a bright red brittle star with five 2 inch long legs. He found an eel in a crevasse, a sand diver hidden on a rock, and a large puffer hiding under a ledge. It really is helpful to have an experienced guide. At times we were surrounded by schools of needlefish and at other times fairly large jacks would be congregating. The stoplight parrotfish, bright blue tags, and the blueheads seemed particularly colorful on such a gray day. It was a bit rough and though we did investigate the reef with its amazing coral, we did not cross it. On the return trip we crossed over the eel grass and spotted a small sting ray gliding gracefully along. A great time, even on a gray day, all for $35 a head.

Traffic: On Monday we made it from Cupecoy to the bridge in about 20 minutes starting at 10:25. It took us an hour to get to Cul de Sac on Tuesday at 4:30PM. A large truck was pulling a very large excavator on a flatbed through Marigot and into the lowlands. When we got past that we encountered an accident on the hill heading out of Marigot.

Fan mail: I received this from a newsletter admirer: "Again, a HUGE thanks from the bottom of my heart!! However, don't give us crap about not seeing Saba....no sympathy here......I can't see my freakin' LAWN!! We had another blizzard on Fri. night and it SUX!" For what it is worth, I do empathize and can even sympathize. I've had my driveway in NY plowed twice in an attempt to get the propane truck up to the house so I can keep it heated. No luck yet and the tank is down to 10%.

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. 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). 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 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.

Travel: Daily Herald had a story featuring the last KLM 747 to visit St Maarten. They will be replaced by smaller planes (under 300 passengers rather than over 400) and as we are moving into low season, fewer flights. If you missed your photo of the KLM 747 landing at the PJIA, you have now missed it forever! Some charters may still be bringing in 747s.

All travel to the USA now requires a passport. Note that says to the USA. You still can get here on a driver's license. You just can't get back home, although I've heard that they just make your life miserable for a while. Life is pretty easy if you allow enough time to renew by mail. All the details can be found at this State Department page. Get a Passport!

Groceries: After our company arrived, we did a more shopping for cheese at US Imports, buying a fresh chevre that rivaled Petite Billy, Chaumes, Mimolette, and rillettes of goose. Jenkins in his Cheese Primer calls Petite Billy excellent, but the random fresh chevre was very good. He downplays Chaumes as a factory cheese from Perigord in SW France that is the "merest hint of the raw, nutty, piercing flavor of Munster". Perhaps, but US Imports doesn't always have Munster. Mimolette comes from Flanders, Normandy near Belgium and Holland and resembles Edam and Gouda. According to Jenkins, "It was General Charles DeGaulle's favorite cheese. Obviously, he ate too much army food." It is what it is, and one thing is that it is half the price of Chaumes and Munster. We have been having cheese, pate, baguettes, and wine for lunch. The baguettes have been coming from Toufiq's Petite Market in Cupecoy as US Imports was out of Ted's baguettes the last time we were there.

Guadeloupe melon with air-dried ham Guadeloupe melons and tomatoes have been widely available this season and are quite good. We have been having the melons with air-dried ham from Grand Marché in Cole Bay, slightly cheaper for Bayonne or Prosciutto, or Vendee or Sec Des Ossée (dry deboned) at US Imports, which are cheaper cuts. The real named air-dried hams are $15 to $20 per pound and the others come in at $10 to $15. On the left is a shot of the melon and ham with La Coste's Rosé and on the right is a salad made from Guadeloupe tomatoes and canned hearts of palm.

As our article in St Maarten Events said, you can do some pretty amazing dishes in your condo.

Guadeloupe tomatoes with hearts of palm

Small island story: About a month ago, I had mentioned that Jill Alexander was leaving the island toward the end of May. We hadn't seen her since then and bumped into her at the checkout line in the Cole Bay Grande Marché. We proceeded to say goodbye again. The small island story is that the next day later we bumped into her again at Pineapple Pete's where we had stopped to listen to Ronny.

Club Fantastico

Winter special: buy 5 nights, get two free, buy 7 nights, get 3 free, though March 31, 2007. Not all rooms and dates are eligible, but it is a great deal for last minute travel plans.


For those staying elsewhere in St Martin this season, we welcome you to visit the Club and spend the day with us for $125 per couple, enjoy our facilities and make your future reservations to stay with us. This includes use of our property including open bar, beach transport, Pool, Jacuzzi, Satellite TV (NFL Football) and more fun than you can have anywhere else in the Caribbean. For more info on the club, visit our website. Hope to see you at Club Fantastico this season! And while you are there, enter the summer contest where they can enter to win seven nights during June, July, or August.


Winter schedule: Win $100 at Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest every week until April 2007. Get $50 in match play 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 for this season. Le Baccara has a new chef. The casino has two new restaurants: the “Rock House”, restaurant and sports bar with “Just Sushi” at one end and a terrace restaurant called “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. Friday Night in the Rock House is Karaoke with over 2000 songs in English and French. Monday night (in football season) is, of course, Football night and we have 7 large screens and a couple of pool tables.

Last week's winner:
Ron Barton


Current Contest - until 13 May Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form:

Horny Toad Guesthouse - seven low season nights for the price of four
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
L'Esperance Car Rental - $50 off a week's car rental
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill

Future Contests:

13 May to 5 August
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
SkipJack's - $50 off your bill
Alizes Car Rental - $50 off a low season weekly rental
Bikini Beach - A DAY AT THE BEACH
(including 2 chairs and a parasol, 2 welcome punches and $50.00 credit towards food and drink)

5 August to 4 Nov
Azure Guesthouse - seven nights for the price of four
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Bistrot Caraïbes - $100 off a dinner for two
Restaurant du Soleil - $50 off a dinner for two
Pack Light Rentals - Your choice: 2 chairs and 1 umbrella for a week or
one free cell phone rental for a week or
free snorkel gear for 2 for a week

4 Nov to 30 Dec
VistaRoyale - seven nights for the price of four
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Valley Car Rental $50 off a week's rental
Ti Coin Créole - $50 off a dinner for two
DK Gems - $50 off a purchase of $100 or more

30 Dec to 2 March 2008
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
DK Gems - $50 off a purchase of $100 or more
Antoine Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two
Le Cottage Restaurant - $100 off a dinner for two

2 March to 27 April
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride


On 18 March the euro was at 1.332 and today it is at 1.329. A small victory for the greenback. This season, some restaurants are still offering a 1 to 1 exchange, but my list of restaurants is smaller this year. Moreover, it is getting to be something of a gimmick as by now the prices have been adjusted to enable a profit at 1 to 1 or else the restaurant would be out of business, so it merely helps with the math and eliminates currency transaction costs, not insignificant benefits to Americans. To further confuse the issue, others are offering an advantageous rate, but not as good as 1 to 1. In any event, these still have pretty good prices and as many restaurants have online menus, you could do the math (if the websites were up to date). We noticed 1 to 1 at Blue Martini, California Restaurant, L'Escapade Restaurant, Hibiscus Restaurant, Restaurant du Soleil, Ti Bouchon, Rancho del Sol, Kokomarina, L'Estaminet, and La Marine. Pedro's Beach Bar and Pirate Beach Bar on Orient are something of a special case as their prices have always been in dollars and still are. 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.

Shortly before I sent out last week's newsletter mentioning Paradise View Restaurant, I received this email from Cindy Finch: "The view was spectacular from the outside gazebo high above Orient Bay - our island lunches were delicious, matched by the service! Nowhere on the island, in our three visits there, have we found scenery this perfect at a restaurant with such reasonable prices and fine food! Ocean breezes kept the air comfortable as we ate that afternoon of 22 Feb 07. And a row of nearby shopping kiosks added more island flavor. We will definitely eat there every year during our St Martin trip." As far as I know, she is not on my newsletter list and her email arrived about 8 hours before I started to send last week's newsletter.

sunset Last week I also mentioned that we had St Patrick's Day dinner at Horny Toad Guesthouse and that the corned beef, finished on the barbecue, was spectacular. I was a bit busy last Sunday morning, so here are some photos from the event.


We had dinner on Sunday at Montmartre Restaurant outside Atlantis Casino in Cupecoy. Having had aperitifs at Bamboo Bernies and Pineapple Pete's, we ordered a bottle of water and the 2002 Beaune du Chateau Premier Cru from Bouchard. It's a lovely wine and will probably be getting better for a few more years. It comes from Bouchard's Chateau du Beaune where they blend all the Premier Cru Beaune vineyards to produce a signature wine. Having decided on the wine, we proceeded to wrap several dinners around it. We chose the French onion soup, lobster raviolis, and scallops wrapped in bacon with a creamy pea sauce. The lobster and scallops were quite nice and the four of us sampled them as we waited for the onion soup to cool. The scallop dish has the smooth texture of the scallop and the crunch from the bacon plus the even creamier sauce. Just for fun (and more taste, texture, and color) Thierry, the chef, added a bit of sun dried tomato and a breadstick. For the main course we chose one of the prime rib dinners for two and the sweetbreads sautéed and served in a light, creamy morel (replaced with girolles this evening) sauce with seasonal veg. This isn't prime rib as in the US, it is a Cote du Boeuf, essentially a rib, weighing in at about two pounds. It's grilled and then sliced at the table, making it rather easy for Titan to spread a dinner for two over three plates. It's good beef and it came with four sauces: béarnaise, peppercorn, bleu cheese, and a red wine variety. The sweetbreads were also quite good, tender and tasty, with the girolles adding more texture than the sweetbreads. The beef came with a dish of scalloped potatoes and a pastry basket containing a purée of sweet potatoes topped with carrots, zukes, and some broccoli. The sweetbreads had a crispy potato wafer and the basket of goodies. This is not simple cooking, but it is not silly either. The flavors go together and the ingredients appeal to the eye. Our guests even had a dessert, something we usually forgo. The Grand Marnier Soufflé was a fitting end for such a lovely meal (although a few balloons of 1992 Laubade Armagnac added a bit also). Thierry Delauney was the chef at his own restaurant (Hibiscus Restaurant) in Grand Case, but he sold it two years ago. He is widely recognized as one of the better and more inventive chefs on the island. It is great to see him working before a larger audience.

sunset On Monday we went shopping in Philipsburg, visiting Deepti at DK Gems who sent us to her cousin at Klass Electronics where our guests got a great deal on an Olympus camera. Afterwards, we celebrated at Antoine Restaurant with two salads Niçoise, two chicken salads, and a bottle of rosé. The online version of this newsletter has a photo of the Segways heading down the boardwalk and a great shot of a sailboat in Great Bay. Both were taken as we dined. The food is good and the entertainment is free. sunset

wines and cheese On Tuesday we went to the wine tasting at Ti Bouchon and stayed for dinner. There were just the four of us sitting in a corner table as Momo poured a 2004 Côtes du Rhône from Perrin, the same family that produces the justifiably famous Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape. This was made from 60% grenache grapes, 20% Syrah or Shiraz, and 20% Mouvedre. It certainly was young and fruity. The next wine was a 2001 Côtes du Rhône Village, from the same general region, but an area recognized as providing better wine. In this case the town was Vinsobres and the vineyard was Les Cornuds. The grapes were 50% grenache grapes and 50% Syrah (or Shiraz in English) and a third of the wine spent some time in oak barrels. A Rhône red wine can use any of a dozen or so grape types, but most of the mixtures are field blends, which is to say, the vineyards have mixed grape types and they are picked and mixed together before they are squeezed. Thus, the wine maker is not mixing the grape types to get a specific taste, but is getting the mix that someone planted years before and the mix depends a bit on which grape type has produced best in the current vintage. This can be contrasted with a visit Martha and I made to Windsor Vineyards. Our eyes (and tongues) glazed over as we tasted about 50 barrel samples that winemaker Carol Shelton was blending into the various chardonnays that she would make. They were all chardonnay grapes, but there were different vineyards, different pickings, different fermentation techniques, different yeasts or no additional yeasts, and different amounts of time in oak. I know I had a headache when we were done, although it may not have been from thinking about the blending possibilities. For the grand finale, Momo brought out some slices of bread topped with goat cheese, a walnut, and a bit of strawberry and a bottle of Chapoutier's 2004 Beaumes de Venise, a sweet wine made from the muscat grape. The combination was wonderful. These Tuesday wine tastings are free, merely reserve a spot via email.

We finished the last of the Côtes du Rhône Village and moved over to the table we had reserved for dinner. We thought about having a white wine with our aps, but decided to continue with red, ordering the 2004 Crozes-Hermitage Meysonniers from Chapoutier ($31). We ordered the chorizo and scallop ap that Martha and I had shared earlier this year, a cassoulet of snails with quartered potatoes and a bit of salad, and a bit of goat cheese, nuts, and grains wrapped in phyllo on a bed of crisp greens. I went on about the wonders of the chewy and spicy chorizo contrasting with the mild and smooth textured scallops when we had it earlier. Everything I said is still true. There is a similar experience lurking in the phyllo "bag" wrapped around the creamy goat cheese with nut and grain surprises. Our dinners were a rack of the tenderest veal chops in a reduction sauce, a long-cooked fall-off-the-bone lamb shank, and some crispy monkfish (lotte) with a tomato and chorizo topping. We had a special dessert: mango, banana, and pineapple crumble with strawberries and whipped cream for which Momo sent out the last of the Beaumes de Venise. We ended with espresso. All aps are $10 to $15 and the dinners were $20 to 25. Our total bill was $163 (if you use cash at 1 to 1) for two couples, although if you were counting, you see we had three aps, three main courses, one dessert, and one bottle of good, but inexpensive, wine. If you like wine and good, inventive food in a casual atmosphere, this is a great place, esp if you can make the Tuesday wine tasting and bring greenbacks. The physical plant is the old Créole cottage previously occupied by Piccolo. It has a new and striking paint job, but you still dine in the open air on the porch. Momo has a good, but not huge, wine list and lacks high end wines. He recognizes this and been known to allow diners to bring their own bottle ($10 corkage). In keeping with the "Bouchon" tradition of cooking what is available at its peak, he shops frequently. If you ask nicely for a "special" bottle he may find it for you in his travels. We, and many others, have met him in wine shops around the island, notably Select Wine Cellar and Cave de Marigot. wines and cheese

After our snorkel, we joined two more friends and the six of us had the usual lunch at Sunset Café. The moules were running (actually flying in from PEI in Canada) and six of us had two orders of the fabulous mussels in white wine, cream, onions, shallots, garlic, a bit of cream, and ??? with crisp fries. The fresh grouper was quite good and the various salads were fine. The window flaps were down, but the view was still great. They do 1 to 1 on cash, so the mussels flown in from Canada are only $17 (and they could feed two people in a pinch, but add an ap if you have a big appetite. We had a couple Carte Noir Rosés and finished with complimentary passion fruit and banana flavored rums.

We went for drinks at Club Fantastico on the hill above Orient. We had made an appointment to check it out. As they are a nude resort, they are not exactly open to all and sundry walking in unannounced. However, there is something of an invite sign with the phone number to call . The sign also says "naked ladies drink free", taking the Sunset Beach Bar approach to the next level. It's a beautiful villa with fantastic views. Later this week I'll get a feature up on my site, but it has been a hectic week.

We then went down to La Place, the square, in Orient Village, for an early dinner at Tai Chi Restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Chapoutier's Chateauneuf du Pape (49€), a bottle of water, and a boat of mixed sushi and sashimi. There are a couple photos on the website, so if you are interested, take a look, but in words, there were about 15 pieces of sushi and 15 pieces of sashimi plus quite a bit of veg, lots of ginger, and killer wasabi (30€). We required another bottle of water and a bottle of Drouhin's Laforet Pinot Noir (22€) before we finished this ap. After that we moved on to a couple Thai dishes: squid in curry sauce (15€) and duck with a spicy Thai sauce (19€) - both interesting and neither was very spicy hot. Now it is possible that the overuse of the killer wasabi had inured our tastebuds to the heat from Hades, but we had applied liberal amounts of quenching fluids. The squid was the tenderest that we have tasted in a while and that is no small trick. The duck was similarly good and everyone liked that preparation quite a bit. We ended with espressos (6€) and complimentary rum drinks with a Thai twist. Dinner came to $234 with the conversion to dollars and an additional 10% tip. That's a bit much for Thai food, but sushi is not Thai food and a $60 bottle of wine is not Thai food either. We had a great time sitting outside on the square watching the bocci ball players and all the other action.

On Friday we went with Wendy K for lunch at Durreche on the Marigot Waterfront. Durreche, according to Wendy K who has spent far more time in this restaurant than I, says that it started to serve the crew filming Speed 2, an execrable film from the mid-90's that featured a cruise ship about to crash into the oil tanks in Cay Bay, then into the Cliffs in the French lowlands, and finally running into the sandy ground of Marigot Harbor and ringing the church bell with its prow. Cruiseships generally take half a week to visit that many ports. However, we cannot blame Durreche for effectuating the production of this putrid film and certainly no one can be blamed for going to Durreche to get plenty of very good food for very little money. The local gendarmes know this and about a dozen of them were dining at two tables while we were there. No crime here! There is a menu, quite long, and Wendy had the beef tartare, I'd guess about a pound of beautiful beef and half of it went home with her to become part of a dinner. The rest of us focused on the blackboard specials: moules frites (13€), lamb stew (6€), and grilled shrimp (12€). Having done the moule frites the day before, we divvied up the lamb stew and shrimp. Each came with a bit of salad and a couple side dishes that included frites, scalloped potatoes, sautéed carrots, and more. Don't expect lamb tenderloin in a $14 stew, but you can expect flavorful, though bony, lamb in a deep brown sauce, some great scalloped potatoes, tasty carrots (probably grown in real dirt), and a nice bit of salad. The shrimp really was grilled, imparting an extra bit of flavor. The house wine costs under $10 a bottle and in the course of a two and a half hour lunch we consumed five bottles. Service was good and friendly. The physical plant is an open air deck looking out over the road to the market and the waterfront beyond. The best part: $50 per couple included a very generous tip and made dinner much smaller.

At about 8PM, we tore ourselves away from the Gators vs Butler and went downstairs to Blue Sapphire Cafe at Sapphire Beach Club. At night, it is called Opus Restaurant, but as you'll never see a sign for either. It is owned by José from Le Tastevin and Pascal from L'Alabama Restaurant and another partner. Last year José and Pascal were here almost every day, but now that things are running smoothly, they are rarely seen, although there is a photo of the wait staff and José with ties on (!) serving the queen of The Netherlands in the menu. She had stayed in one of the villas at Sapphire this summer. After our large lunch, the four of us split two vegetable soups (quite tasty thanks to a generous portion of leeks) and two dinners: grouper in a spicy tomato sauce and the very tasty, though subtle, shrimp on a bed of pasta with a lobster sauce. A bottle of Bouchard's 2002 Savigny Les Beaune ($44) and some water were added to bring the bill up to about $100. It was a pretty good dinner at a pretty good price, made even more wonderful by the fact that we could take the elevator to get there. Unfortunately, many other guests are getting the same idea and it was a bit crowded on a Friday night!

On Saturday night, for the last dinner with our guests, we went to Le Cottage Restaurant in Grand Case, parking in the central lot. We had an 8PM reservation and found our four-top on the porch waiting for us, while Bruno was turning people away. Reservations are good. Stéphane provided us with a glass of Viognier from the Rhone region. Viognier is one of the white wine grapes permitted in the Rhone and it has an aromatic nose and when chilled, is a great aperitif. We ordered two aps from the menu, foie gras with a soft boiled egg (14€) and the taste of crab (12€), and a special scallop sashimi. As we waited, two warm, crusty breads (one dark, one white) arrived with great butter and then an amuse bouche appeared: a monkfish mousseline with creme fraiche on a crisp bit of toast. While thinking about all the flavors and textures, a bit of heat snuck into the equation. Our friends began to realize that this was going to be a special night. The aps arrived with a mystery white wine from Stéphane. It was very cold and we all tasted, but didn't even recognize the grape. We were quite surprised to find that it was the 2005 Savigny Les Beaune from Girard, one of our house white wines from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar. Only as the wine warmed up, did we recognize it as chardonnay. I liked the warm version better and thought it was better with the wonderful aps. What to say about foie gras and soft-boiled egg on hazelnut toast with Szechuan pepper? If you like foie gras, this is an excellent preparation. The scallops came in a crispy napoleon accompanied by a mache salad (from Nantes) with a dressing containing hints of lobster on the side. My crab was in a cylinder about two and a half inches high and an inch and a half wide. Moreover, there was an outbuilding constructed of potatoes run through the mandoline twice to produce lots of surface area to crisp up in the fryer. Several of these crispy chips were interspersed with a superbly spiced bit of fresh tomato. A small glass of juice heavily flavored with celery was also supplied. This was just one dish but it had textures running from liquid, to a soft crab, a bit more substantial tomato, and ending with a decidedly crisp potato chip. It was truly heaven to start with a bit of crab and wash it down with the celery drink, and then add some crunchy chips with a tart tomato topping and finish with a sip of chardonnay. Things got better as the main courses arrived. Stéphane brought a 2004 Crozes-Hermitage from Louis Belle, also from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar to go with the taste of pigeon (26€), the taste of lamb (28€), and the taste of monkfish (24€). Most of the dishes are called "a taste of" to indicate that the chef may be rearranging things on the plate. The lamb was a very tender rack as one might expect with the addition of fairly normal white beans in a light tomato sauce and a new take on provençal vegetables. Martha's pigeon was roasted, but the tender breasts were removed while still rare, the leg and thigh were cooked a bit longer, and the heart and liver were presented on a skewer. It came with a mushroom foam, probably porcini, and asparagus spears. My monkfish was roasted with olives and French bacon, formed into a cylinder, and placed on a bed of gratinated eggplant. This was topped with a crispy baked parmesan cracker holding a chilled dollop of red pepper sorbet that featured a bread stick rising even higher. Frank Gehry would have been impressed. We passed on dessert but did get some sweet dessert wine (Ch Menates Sauternes) and Armagnacs along with our espressos to finish a wonderful evening. If you want to taste (and see!) some of the most inventive food on the island, this is the place. Moreover, with the Gault-Millau sommelier of the year (Stéphane) doling out fine wines by the glass at reasonable prices, you'll have a great time and great food without a large mortgage. Bruno is no longer doing 1 to 1, but is offering 1.2 to 1, even on US credit cards.

Changes: Tai Chi Restaurant has a new sushi chef. They are a peripatetic lot and I had quite a chat with this one who was from Thailand and had seen almost as much of the world as I have.


Every Tuesday afternoon from 4:30 until 6:00, Ti Bouchon will host a small (ten people maximum) wine tasting on their porch. There is no charge, but if you would like to attend, please visit the website and call or send an reservation request no more than one month in advance. Be sure to mention a date and the number in your party.

Friday night sushi and happy hour (from 4 till 6 PM) is still happening at Halsey's Restaurant. We had a great time when last we were there.

Bali Bar in Marigot's Marina Royale generally has live music or a DJ starting at 7:30 CST (Caribbean standard time) on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Roy Deep Sea Fishing is looking for two more people at $150 each to fill out a morning half-day charter on 1 June. Send an email if you are interested.

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. The easiest free welcome champagne cocktail from Auberge Gourmande, Montmartre, and Sunset Café is no longer available, but here's a list of what you'll find:

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

We have a car from Don at GCL Car Rental. They have always been good to us and you can read several testimonials on their site from others. He and Daniel are certainly worth an email when you want reliable, yet inexpensive, transportation. I've never tested them, but they say they will come and pick you up if you think you have over-indulged.

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. Chef Antonio was here over the holidays and will be back, so stay tuned. Music and fine cuisine will be the norm."

The Mario's Bistro Cookbook is now available. They are shipped via UPS and cost $49 for one, $87 for two, and $123 for three, delivered. Delivery via UPS should take a day or two in the US.

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 offers personalized service to fit your needs and budget.

Erich S. Kranz
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