St Maarten/St Martin
15 April 2007 Newsletter

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Weather: Sunday was a bit clearer and the breeze died out a bit. It was 84F in the afternoon. The week continued in that vein, hot, humid, and hazy with Saba barely visible. Things were clearing up on late Thursday, so much so that we got this great sunset shot looking over the brush atop the Cupecoy cliffs. On Friday Saba, Statia, and eve St Kitts were visible. Saturday was slightly clearer, Sunday slightly less, warm and humid. Sunset will be at 6:26PM on Sunday. Full moon dates for 2007 are: 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. Cupecoy sunset

SXM-Beaches: Wendy K says "Sand split between the main and middle beaches. A lot of rocks exposed at the main beach, but the current seems to be bringing the sand back there. There was a remarkable change in the feel of the water - much warmer than just 2 days ago. maybe it was yesterday's 87 degree temps. There's a new structure, of sorts [maybe a food stand] on the cliff next to the last Shore Pointe structure. Back home on Cape Cod the water temps have DROPPED 2 degrees in the last two weeks!" On Saturday our beach reporter, Wendy K, said "Beach was great today: water clear and very calm. Sand at all three Cupecoy beaches and hardly any people" That would be the three beaches starting at the little cove, near the monolith, and at the far NW end.

Construction: The roundabout on Pondfill is almost complete and on Tuesday night it was put into operation, completely replacing the traffic light at the entrance to the university.

This Simpson Bay market was dedicated on Wednesday night in a ceremony that turned into a DP campaign stop. It had traffic backed up for a good half hour. As we drove by we heard that the DP had built this structure just for the people of Simpson Bay. The next sentence proclaimed that the DP was for everybody.

Traffic: Not a bad week, except for bumping into campaign rallies at odd places and odd times and the Dutch side carnival started with the Unity Jump-up on Saturday night. Several bands on trucks and hundreds, if not thousands, of people followed the bands from Marigot, the French capital, to Philipsburg, the Dutch capital and site of carnival village. It's not a good time for driving between those two cities.

Simpson Bay Fish Market

Activities: We bumped into the owners of the Butterfly Farm at a dinner party on Saturday night. That is a link to some photos that I took on one of our visits there and their site has many more photos from three farms in the Caribbean. On the site they say:

"An essential part of the visit to all the farms is the famous “guided tour”. Visitors are shown the evolutionary cycle from microscopic eggs, to strange and exotic caterpillars, pupae resembling exquisite designer jewelry. If you come early in the morning it is quite possible to see the birth of a butterfly and watch the newly emerged butterflies take their first flight!. The tours are also very amusing and an amazing source of butterfly facts and stories. Our guides will show you how to handle the butterflies with care and caterpillars if you dare! Visitors are given a complimentary return ticket for the duration of their vacation, so don’t save the best for last!!. Wear bright colors and perfume if you want the butterflies to land on you!"

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: 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: You can buy harissa, a spicy red pepper sauce used in Moroccan cuisine, at US Imports in something much like a tube of toothpaste. Do not confuse the two. The Guadeloupe melons are still here and we kept one a bit long as we had so many leftovers to consume from our marathon dining sessions. If anything, the melon was too sweet. Just add ham and a rosé for a great light lunch. You can get all three at Grand Marche, Maho Food Express, or US Imports. We stopped into the Gourmet Marche in Simpson Bay again and again failed to find what we wanted. They do have ample parking. Then again, the lack of product may explain the ample parking.

We stopped at US Imports to get some cheese and picked up Morbier, Comte, Chaumes, Mariolles, and a Blue d'Auvergne. We noticed that many of the cheeses available at the Select Wine Cellar and Champagne Snack Bar wine and cheese tasting last week were now available at the cheese counter. We picked up one of Martha's favorites: Selles sur Cher with the ash covered rind (photo on right).

Selles sur Cher

Small island story: We used to like the Greek yogurt they had at Le Grande Marché in Cole Bay but haven't seen it in weeks. It's probably the same old story that it kept selling out and they had to keep restocking it, so they quit getting it. The related story is that some tourist complained that the yogurt was beyond its expiration date. Ignore the fact that yogurt is already fermented milk, so how could you tell if it has gone by. The stockperson said that the expiration dates only applied in America, as if shipping milk products on a weeklong container journey across the Caribbean enhances their shelf life.

Club Fantastico


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 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 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:
Joan Daniels


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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

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
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket

2 March to 27 April
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant - $100 plus limo ride
Halsey's Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two
Hibiscus Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket


On 1 April the euro was at 1.337 and today it is at 1.353. That's another 1-2%. It was 1.317 at the start of the year and 1.184 at the start of the previous year. 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, Spicy, 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.

Last week I said that Easter dinner would be spectacular leftovers from Marrakech Restaurant. We got an email from Martyne at Mario's Bistro inviting us meet them in Grand Case, so the couscous with meatballs became a wonderful lunch with a bottle of non-vintage Vedema made from the mandilara grape on the Greek island of Santorini. Vedema is related to the French vendange, or in English, harvest. The wine claims to be good with spicy foods so we obliged it by adding a dollop of harissa to Toufiq's couscous. The wine actually was much better for the effort. (This is the same Santorini that just made headlines because of the cruise ship sinking on its coast). We met Martyne and Mario (and their son, Emile) at Calmos Café for drinks, followed by dinner at Ti Provençal.

Hervé Sageot is the chef/owner of Ti Provençal, a small restaurant on the water toward the eastern end of restaurant row. It doesn't have much road presence, but there is a small placard on the side of the road and a couple signs, one at the end of an alleyway that leads to his door. You enter a hallway that leads past his kitchen to the dining room on the water. All this gives him a spectacular view of the water, from a pretty nice dining room, but you have to have faith to get there. Our dinner photos are here, as he doesn't do much advertising and there is no website that I can find. This is probably why I was not aware that he had won the Taste of St Martin cooking competition for the last two years. While dining at Temptation Restaurant last week, Dino remarked that the Taste of the Caribbean cooking team centered around Cecile Briaud from Chanteclair, Mario, and Dino was in trouble because Cecile and the manager of the team were not returning. Mario was thinking about being the manager, but that left two very large chef slots to fill. It turns out that John Jackson from Saratoga has decided to be the team manager, leaving Mario as a chef, and Hervé will take Cecile's spot. Michael from Kontiki will once again be the pastry chef and Paul from Temptation will reprise his bartender's position. Thus, this evening was a bit of a celebration followed by a bit of strategy discussion, at least between the two chefs after we finished dinner. But how was dinner? Masterful. Shortly after we sat down, the waitress presented a tray of fresh seafood that contained several of our snorkeling buddies: triggerfish, trunkfish, parrotfish, snapper, and local lobster. There was also some Brazilian lobster and some giant shrimp. She took an order for water and the 2005 Petit Chablis from Ch Maligny. It was crisp enough for the fish that we knew we would be having. We ordered a trunkfish salad, a shrimp soup, a risotto with asparagus and truffle oil, and a salad with baked chevre on toast points. The trunkfish has a delicate tasting soft white flesh that is quite good in a salad with oil and vinegar. I really like baked goat cheese, warm and wonderful creamy tastes on a crunchy bit of bread. The risotto and the shrimp soup were also good. Next the chef sent out a surprise: a inch square bit of tuna and a large scallop in a glass dish with two indentations that mirrored the shapes of the seafood contained therein. Both had interesting sauces and the tuna had a sprig of rosemary encased in a bit of lime foam while the scallop floated on a bit of argan oil and was drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Argan oil comes from the argania spinosa tree in Morocco and has a soft, nutty flavor. We switched to a Mercurey for the carnivores in the group, but Martha drinks red wine with most anything and, as it turns out, a soft Mercurey did not trouble her flavorful fish. Our dinners were leg of lamb with asparagus, grilled squash and zucchini, and very tasty small potatoes, grilled parrotfish with grilled vegetables and rice with scallions, a grilled lobster for Emile, and grilled triggerfish in a saffron sauce with grilled vegetables. Both fish came with a lime foam on a rosemary sprig. The lamb was very tender and flavorful and the potatoes were in a fabulous sauce. The fish were fresh and rather mild, but picked up some flavor from the grill, especially the crisp skin of the parrot fish. Desserts arrived but I retreated to a snifter of old rum. As there were no desserts left, I surmise that they were well received. The prices weren't too bad, but we did eat and drink well and considerably. In the end, the tab came to about $80 per head for some very good food.

On Monday we went to Restaurant du Soleil, also in Grand Case. It's across the street from the central lot. It's a cute place with a great view of the water and the town pier. Cedric does a great job in the dining room and brings out some very good food from Sam in the kitchen. The wine list comes mostly from Grand Vins du France (exclusive importers of Bouchard's wines) and is quite large and thoughtfully chosen. We started with a two flutes of champagne and water as we decided on the rest of the meal. There was a special carpaccio of scallop with a tomato/tapanade napoleon that featured fresh, creamy smooth scallops and the tasty tomato and tapanade combo ($13). We moved on to the 2002 Savigny les Beaune from Bouchard ($39). The 2002 Beaune du Chateau was available at a bit over $50, but this tasting reminded us that the Savigny is almost as good. Martha choose the chicken breast stuffed with essentially a ratatouille and I had the napoleon of sweetbreads. Both came with mashed potatoes and a garnish of fried leeks and I got several spears of asparagus. The slightly chewy sweetbreads contrasted nicely with the smooth potatoes, crisp pastry, and crunchy asparagus. We ended with espresso and made it an early evening. As they are still doing 1 to 1 on the euro, our bill was only $123 for fine food on the water in Grand Case. Hurry, however, as Cedric warned me that as the real rate is approaching 1.37 he cannot continue the 1 for 1 much longer.

Tuesday evening we had some neighbors over for cocktails and six of us headed for Ti Sucrier in Sandy Ground. It's quite close, has parking, and a lovely view of the lagoon. All that before you even taste Sylvain's wonderful French cuisine. As we had drinks at our condo, we went straight into the red wine, having the same 2002 Savigny les Beaune that Martha and I had the night before. For a starter, I had the new approach to goat cheese salad that is not yet on the menu. Creamy goat cheese and walnuts are placed in large mushroom caps and broiled. A lightly dressed handful of mache (lamb's lettuce) graced one corner of the plate and some sautéed peppers graced another. Very good things were said about the cucumber vichyssoise also. Martha had the cod with seaweed sauce which she liked. I had the rabbit with oyster mushrooms and tagliatelle in a rich brown sauce. My neighbor had the wonderful sweetbread casserole with porcini mushrooms and tagliatelle that I had here last season. An order of breast of pintade (guinea fowl) was also well received. With no desserts, a couple bottles of water, a glass of chardonnay, and another bottle the red wine, our bill came to less than $120 with some additional tip. That's pretty good for such a lovely, quiet spot on the lagoon.

On Thursday evening we went to Bistrot Caraïbes with Carina and Michael Dingemans of St Maarten Events. We started with a bottle of the Rully, dry, white, and somewhat midway between the crispness of a Chablis and the round, fullness of a chardonnay from the heart of Burgundy. Our starters were the smoked salmon, smoked in house and served with the crispest of raw, but sweet, onions and the snails in a creamy garlic sauce. These are two of my favorites here and they were well received. Dinners were the whole French sea bass (another favorite), the fisherman's soup bouillabaisse style, and the scallops parmentier, actually three favorites. The sea bass is a real fish, caught in real water, shipped here really fast. It's fresh, it's tasty, and comes with a buttery sauce and a tomato sauce arranged artfully around the whole (but deboned) fish atop a bed of veg. The fish stew shares some of the flavorings and many of the seafood choices of bouillabaisse and has always been quite good. Parmentier is the French general who introduced potatoes to the French after enduring a diet consisting largely of potatoes while imprisoned in Germany during the 100 Years War. Now, any dish with potatoes featuring prominently is called parmentier. In this case a bed of mashed potatoes is held in place by strips of bacon and topped with luscious scallops. Pairing scallops and bacon is a standard approach and mashed potatoes are pretty good with anything. Two more bottles of Rully were required for all this seafood and then the chocolate cake with the liquid center arrived. This was featured (with a recipe) in the article that Martha and I wrote for St Maarten Events this season, a fitting end to a great meal. The cost was a bit over $300 for four. Sadly, Bistrot Caraibes has joined the ranks of those forced to abandon 1 to 1 pricing, but it is still a bargain.

We headed over to Blue Martini and caught several songs from Lou Lou and several Stella Artois from the bar. There is always a crowd here on Thursday night. Well worth a visit.

On Friday we took it easy and avoided crowds by going to Sunset Café at the Grand Case Beach Club. Stop at the gate and they'll buzz you in to free, and protected, parking right next to the restaurant. You also get a great view of the well-lit beach and Anguilla in the distance. We just had the rack of lamb and the duck breast with a Savigny les Beaune. The lamb came with crisp potato slices, mushrooms, and a medley of veg. The duck breast was sliced and came with a rich reduction sauce, mashed potatoes, and the veg. All very nice with a good Burgundy. Good dinner, good service, great view, and they still do 1 to 1.

On Saturday we had accras at L'Escargot Restaurant in Philipsburg with a glass of chardonnay. The article we are planning for next season will feature a Créole meal with these accras and Christophe's recipe for both the accras and sauce chien, the hot sauce that accompanies them.


We are heading back to the US on 25 April. As usual, our loss is your gain. Our one bedroom condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week until we return in December. Several weeks are already taken by repeat visitors, but for those remaining weeks, I'll take $100 off the rate for newsletter subscribers. That's about $125 per night for a bedroom with views of the lagoon and a kitchen/living room/porch that overlooks the Caribbean out to Saba, Statia, and St Kitts. It's all included, there are no service fees, timeshare taxes, energy surcharges, or anything else that can add 20 to 30% to your bill. You also get coupons from several of our website clients to save you money and get you great service. Go to the website, check the calendar, and send in a reservation. Mention that you are a subscriber to get the $900 per week deal. Mention that you like this newsletter and I'll get a Hyundai Getz from Don at GCL Car Rental for you for only $75 per week.

Wine & Cheese Party: Select Wine Cellar and Champagne Snack Bar are hosting a wine and cheese tasting on Friday May 4 at 6 pm. This week spotlights the wines and cheeses of Provence. Send an email to Sylvain for a reservation.

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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