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St Maarten/St Martin
29 March 2009 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday turned out to be lovely. It got a bit cloudy and dark just before lunch, but did not rain and we had a great time on the beach having lunch at Les Boucaniers in Nettle Bay. We've lost the sunset view at our condo, but that evening was one where the entire sky lit up in reds and blues. The photo on the right shows the sky, the edge of the Ocean Club Villas, and a cruise ship heading back toward Puerto Rico. Monday and Tuesday were lovely warm days with no rain, but quite a bit of cloud cover at times. Wednesday was more of the same, getting up to 82F, with a great sunset lighting up all the clouds. The large photo below, taken from our back balcony, shows another cruise ship heading toward Puerto Rico. Immediately thereafter the photo below left was taken from the front balcony looking over the Blue Mall and Cupecoy Yacht Club projects, silhouetting the SXM state bird, the construction crane. Thursday was very windy with whitecaps on the lagoon and rollers kicking up on the western side of the island. It was warm if you were out of the wind, but that's a bit hard to do on the windward side (Orient, etc), and the waves were a bit much on the western side (Mullet and Cupecoy, etc). By Friday the wind had died down, but the rollers continued, bringing out the surfers at Cupecoy (below right)   Sunset on Sunday

Wednesday sunset

Wednesday sunset   Saturday was very nice, still a bit windy, and Sunday has arrived looking better still. No whitecaps on the lagoon, but the wind picks up as the day warms up and it's already 75 at 6:45AM. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Here's the current local conditions and here's the forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. the days are getting longer. Sunset today is at 6:21 and the moon is a waxing crescent. Full moons for 2009 are 9 Apr, 9 May, 7 Jun, 7 Jul, 6 Aug, 4 Sep, 4 Oct, 3 Nov, and 2 Dec. Surfer at Cupecoy
SXM-Beaches: On Tuesday Cupecoy today turned out to be lovely. Sand was still at the little cove and it was fairly crowded. There were periods of large swells and breaking waves and periods of calm. By Friday morning Mullet looked way too rough for normal sorts. The waves were crashing, although the sand has leveled out. A friend spent the morning there, but didn't go in the water. She said there were surfers and the usual "young folks" who don't mind getting clobbered, in the water. Another friend went to Orient on Thursday but left because the wind made it seem too cold! I think the best spot for sun was the pool at Sapphire. The tall building blocks the wind and there are no waves. Another good spot was our balcony overlooking the pool.

Beach reading: The Heartbreak Grape: A California Winemaker's Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir by Marq De Villiers (out of print, get it used for $2) - De Villiers embarked on a quest to learn more about an unknown vintner responsible for the superb wine he happened upon in upstate New York. His narrative introduces Josh Jensen, a wonderfully original personality and extraordinary wine maker, who produces California Pinot Noir wines comparable to the fine French burgundies. De Villiers traces the history of the Calera vineyards from Jensen's grape-picking days in France to the purchase of limestone-rich California land for his vineyards--which was done in spite of prevailing opinion in the wine trade that the Pinot Noir grapes could not be grown successfully in the U.S. This engrossing account has a real air of mystery about it and should have appeal for a broader audience than simply connoisseurs impressed with Jensen's prizewinning wines. The book is so old it is out of print and nowadays California is awash in Pinot Noir, most of it vinified to be extremely fruity and drunk extremely young. Josh Jensen pioneered Pinot Noir in California and also produced Pinot Noir worth cellaring. See more about him in the alcohol section below.

Here's breaking news on the Odd Book Titles contest.

Cover

Random Wind   Activities: Diane just annoced that Random Wind goes GREEN: "From the very beginning we did away with disposables on Random Wind. We wash everything with sea water & rinse in rainwater that we catch & route into the tanks. We have just gone one step further we now use 100% BIODEGRADABLE TRASH BAGS! We found a company called Good 2 Go. All of their products are 100% biodegradable! On At Random, we now use biodiesel from a small company called St. Maarten Biodiesel. The fuel is made from used fry oil from local restaurants. Watch us as we continue our efforts to maintain & improve the quality of LIFE ON EARTH. Soon we will be involved in reef monitoring efforts to protect & bring back our oceans beautiful reef." Enter the SXM-Info contests for a $40 coupon aboard Random Wind. Five lucky couples win this every year. It might as well be you."

Construction: The Daily Herald had an article reporting on the obvious: there has been no work at Aquarius above Red Pond for about a year, Indigo Bay below Cole Bay Hill is stopped, and so is Barbaron in Belair. Aquarius was the second major project started by the Erato family recently, the first being the still unfinished Rainbow Beach Club, which has several unhappy tenants in various phases of litigation.

We've been told that the Indigo Bay project has been taken over by the bank. Basically, a developer gets a loan from a bank, gets a long lease on land, and starts work, which in this case involves big plans with an eight year schedule and massive earth-moving. Don't know about you, but I don't want to live next to an eight year project and especially don't want to live in one! It appears that few other people wanted to join in and after rearranging all the earth on the site, the developer parked the trucks and quit. The bank now owns the lease and a site prepared for a project that didn't fly, which is to say all the money spent on earth moving is pretty much linked to the previous project. A new developer will have to regrade the project or cob a new project onto the existing site. Good luck. As for living in a construction zone, Martha and I looked out our bedroom balcony one morning and saw a huge plume of smoke drifting shoreward off the Cove at Cupecoy site. The smoke was so thick that we couldn't see what was producing it, although we guessed it was the tugboat that had pushed over a barge. A few hours later we got the photo on the right in an email from Wendy K who lives between the Cupecoy Yacht Club project (which is scooping out muck from the yacht basin) and the defunct Cove at Cupecoy site (where some of the muck is being dumped).   Cupecoy Yacht Club bringing dredged material to the Cove

Sapphire Beach Club: Our condo will be available again in really low season (starting 15 June) for $900 per week. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

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.

  ginger

Shopping:: This may not be of interest to timeshare or hotel tourists, but those of us who own homes or condos here need to do something about furniture. We just got all our living room furniture, a total of 14 cushions, recovered at Ayman Mattress Factory for $276. The material was a mere $10 per yard, which says we only paid about $10 per cushion for the sewing. They did a fine and fast job, which was greatly appreciated as we had nothing to sit on for a couple days! They upholstery shop is on south side of Orange Grove Road, down the hill from the Orange Grove Shopping Center and the Harley Davidson Store. Across the street is their mattress warehouse, but the sales showroom for furniture and mattresses is on Welfare Road in Cole Bay. It's called Geotrad and is located on the south side of the road between the cinema and the big rotary. We bought a medium firm king size mattress there for $276 and they delivered it the next day, even bringing it up the elevator and installing it. Good work, good service, and good prices.

Michelle the Gardener   Groceries: There is an article on Food Myths in the NY Times. One of them points out that regular sugar is just as bad as high fructose corn syrup, healthwise. My argument against making sugar from corn is that the carbon footprint for sugar from corn is higher than sugar from cane. The Caribbean, which has the requisite sunshine, should be sending cane sugar to the US and the US should not be subsidizing cane growers in the the southern US, and certainly should not be subsidizing corn to become fructose.

Here's an article from Mark Bittman that says "Americans eat so badly we get 7 percent of our calories from soft drinks, more than we do from vegetables; the top food group by caloric intake is sweets; and one-third of nations adults are now obese". Whether you are getting that many calories from sugar or corn syrup will make little difference. He also states that "the evidence is mixed on whether organic food is more nutritious" but "under the United States Department of Agricultures definition, [organic] means it is generally free of synthetic substances; contains no antibiotics and hormones; has not been irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge; was raised without the use of most conventional pesticides; and contains no genetically modified ingredients." These are not insignificant benefits to the environment and to humans.

There is some good news. There will be a garden at the White House for the first time in many years. Our town (Salem, NY) has started a community garden. We have already ordered 7 yards of compost/topsoil from a dairy farm that turns their manure (and that of several other dairy farms) into top quality compost for gardeners. In our case, it is to add to the 6000 square feet of raised beds that already produces most of our summer vegetables. I know I go on about global warming but it really is an issue for an island nation especially. The day after I wrote the the first two paragraphs of this section, the Daily Herald had a front page story about tripartite talks (between the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and Suriname) that led off with discussions on global warming.

We picked up this salt fish at Sang's Supermarket at the head of town in Pburg. The Spanish on the wrapper claims that this is cod, but the English says pollock. It cost about $3 for a pound of fish, no bones, no skin, no fat. Salting cod was the way to store it before refrigeration and figured heavily in the circular trade between Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the US. Europe always provided manufactured goods, including cloth. These and rum were traded for slaves on the coast of Africa. The trade winds brought the sailing ships to the Windward islands, somewhat south of SXM, where slaves were traded for salt and molasses. The ships headed up the coast of the US dropping off slaves and manufactured goods and picking up cotton bales in the south. At one point Newport, RI had over 20 distilleries turning the molasses into rum, although eventually rum was produced in the islands. The ships took on salt cod in New England and the Canadian Maritimes, dropping off the salt from the Caribbean and headed across the northern Atlantic on the prevailing westerlies. Salt cod had a very low carbon footprint as the salt was produced by sunlight in Caribbean ponds and the cod was dried on open air racks after salting. After that, it needed no refrigeration. And all that is the reason that you can get a pound of protein for a mere $3 today. Martha soaked the cod in fresh water, changing the water a half dozen times, and poached the cod for about 10 minutes before adding it to a salad with hearts of palm, tomatoes, shallots, and scotch bonnet peppers.

  Salat Pollock
Alcohol: This isn't exactly about St Martin, but there's a lot of pinot noir to be had here, and here's some thoughts from the other Eric(h) in the NY Times. (If this sounds familiar, it's because Eric Azimov had an article on Chardonnay that I brought to your attention a few weeks ago.) In this article, Azimov speaks well of the finesse brought to pinot noir by Josh Jensen of Calera Wine Company, inter alia, and quotes Leslie Mead of Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, north of Santa Barbara County, who makes fresh, earthy pinot noirs that would do well on any table. Yet for herself, she appreciates the other approach, saying, I think theres a place for every style. Sometimes I like water with dinner and wine on its own. Azimov continues, saying I can respect that point of view, but I cant understand it. For me, wines place is with food, and thats why I had begun to despair of so many California pinot noirs. Their power and sense of sweetness were overwhelming at the table. But it turns out that more than a few California producers share my feeling, like Ehren Jordan of Failla and Thomas Brown of Rivers-Marie, Joe Davis of Arcadian, and Alex Davis of Porter Creek. Almost to a person, they make no secret of being inspired by the wines of Burgundy.

And there you have it, the reason my wine cellar contains many cases of Burgundy aging nicely, and only a few cases of California pinot noir, mostly for early consumption and generally not with dinner. However, as Azimov says In the current issue of Wine Spectator, the highest-scoring pinot noir from California is described as super-rich, bordering on syrupy. Those are apparently compliments. He ends the article by listing 16 wineries that are producing wines that he feels are good with food. You won't find many here, even at Temptation Restaurant and Rare, which have the largest selection of US wines on the island. The easiest to find in the eastern US would be Au Bon Climat and Calera Wine Company.

  Calera Pinot Noir

Travel: The Daily Herald reported that Anguilla's tourism dropped from about 16,000 visitors in January 2007 to 12,000 in 2008 and to about 9000 this past January. Curaao also reported drops in tourism. We've already dropped the rental rate on our condo to $900 per week after 15 June and as always, our last minute special has any available weeks within 30 days for $700 and our hurricane special has $700 weeks in September.

Nature: We saw this odd couple sharing a small rock near the shore in the Great Salt Pond, a duck and an ibis.

Crime and Small Island story: Speaking of odd couples, I just love it when the crime section is also the small island story. There was also an interesting juxtaposition of these two stories and a third one in the Daily Herald. The front page news was that Derrick Holiday who was arrested about a year ago for forgery and fraud while he was the police commissioner, has finally been sentenced. He received no jail time, a one year suspended sentence, two years probation, 180 hours of community service, and cannot be a policeman for three years. Page three news was that Geert Wilders, the head of some minor political party in Holland, has suggested that they tie a bow around the Netherlands Antilles and sell it to Chavez of Venezuela, bidding a fond farewell to, as he called it, "the pia colada mafia." Sandwiched between these two was the editorial on page two, containing not the least bit of irony as it decried Wilders vilification of our beloved island.

  The Odd Couple


SXM-INFO'S CONTESTS


Current Contest: 1 March to 26 April 2009
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
GCBC Watersports - Two for One snorkel trip to Crole Rock
Tijon Perfume - One free bottle
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
PassportMD - Six months free service
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more


Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form.

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities.

Future Contests:

26 April to 26 July 2009 | 26 July to 25 October 2009 | 25 October to 27 December 2009
27 December to 28 February 2010 | 28 February to 25 April 2010 | 25 July to 31 October 2010
same cast of characters as current contest

 


RESTAURANTS


On 22 Mar the euro was at $1.358. Today it is at $1.330. Vanessa at California Restaurant confirms that they are still doing 1 to 1. Pirate Beach Bar's menu is in dollars, no conversion necessary. Momo at Ti Bouchon says his menu is in dollars also. We had a lunch at Kokomarina where the menu proclaims 1 to 1. Le France in Marigot's Marina Royale is doing 1 to 1 also. L'Auberge Gourmande is doing $1.2 to 1 . We'll let you know as we hear from more of them.

Les Boucaniers
On Sunday we met John and Cyndi Berglund from Tijon Parfumerie at Les Boucaniers in Nettle Bay. Boucaniers looks across the Anguilla channel to Anguilla and across Marigot Bay to Marigot. It's a lovely setting and there are several tables out on the sand and many more indoors. That's Marigot behind the bottle of Saint Veran that we ordered.

Our lunches were a Caesar salad (below left), a warm goat cheese salad with Serrano ham (below center), the Crole plate (below right), and an octopus stew with red beans (bottom left). John was well pleased with his salad as it contrasts crunchy toast and crisp greens with creamy goat cheese and melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham. Starting at 12:00 on the plate Martha's Crole platter had accras, boudin noir, chicken salad, salt cod salad (much like the lunch we mentioned under groceries), a tuna tartare salad, a crabcake, and avacado and salt cod. My octopus was great, chewy, but not tough. Most Crole food is not spicy hot, but most Crole tables have hot sauce on them. Our waiter mentioned a home made hot sauce and it was a worthy addition.

As the blancmange dessert here is featured in the current St Maarten Events, we ordered one with four spoons and some homemade coconut rum (bottom center). I know it's white on white, but you can see a hint of the dark passion fruit sauce in the tiny cup. There's a much nicer photo in the article. The dessert is sweet, smooth, and the passion fruit adds another layer of flavor. The coconut rum is actually quite heavy on the coconut milk, hence the color, and rather light on the rum - not such a bad thing at two in the afternoon. Chef Nicolas came over for a visit and was quite pleased to learn that the island now had a resident parfumerie.

  Saint Veran
Caesar salad Chevre and Serrano ham salad Crole platter
Octopus stew Blancmange Beach and Marigot

 
Karakter
At sunset we stopped in at Karakter, just past Mary's Boon in Simpson Bay, for a sundowner. There is a kitchen, but the bar is an old school bus and the dining is open air on the beach or on a platform around the bus. The views are quite nice with Saba dead ahead and the sunset off to the right. It's a great place for sunset watching, but I confess this was not a great evening for sunset watching, so I have reused a photo taken last week from the Horny Toad Guesthouse, about a half mile away. They have lots of drinks, some of them healthy. There is a light menu featuring tapas and a more filling lunch menu, both have an accent on fresh and healthy, without vegetarian or organic claims.

View toward Pelican Sunset on Simpson Bay  

  View

Three Palms Resto Lounge
After sundowners at Karakter, we headed over to Three Palms on the other side of the bridge in Simpson Bay. It's in the space formerly occupied by Peg Leg Pub. Luc Barr and his partner have gone to considerable effort to change the space from a pub to a smart lounge with a lovely restaurant having most of its tables on the deck overlooking the lagoon. We had reservations for four at 7:30 and arrived at about 7:00. Our table on the lagoon awaited and we settled in to have another drink as the twilight disappeared and lights came on around the lagoon. The wine list had a Concannon Pinot Noir ($37) which was young and fruity. We had barely tasted our glasses when our friends arrived. No one wanted an appetizer, so we split the conch and crabcake ($14). It came with two sauces, a remoulade and another that was a bit spicy with a tomato base. This was a chef's specialty according to the menu and I rather liked the chewy bits of conch mixed in with the crab.
Salmon
There was a rather large selection of appetizers in the $10 to $14 range and the main courses were in the low to mid-20s, although they do add a 15% service charge to these numbers. Our main courses were the salmon (above right), the shrimp (below left), the sole (below center), and a pork tenderloin, also a chef's specialty (below right). Most of the dinner items could be grilled, blackened, or sauted, your choice, a nice touch. As you can see all dinners were nicely arranged having a bit of loft and a sprig of rosemary. Martha liked her fish and sweet potato pure. My pork tenderloin had a nice bacon wrap and some very nice plantains. The salmon had a nice sauce on a bed of greens and all I can say about the shrimp is that I was lucky to get one before they all disappeared.

It was a pre-birthday celebration, so although we skipped dessert, we did end with a round of drinks including espresso martinis, Angostura rum (that Martha liked so much we bought a bottle the next day), a bit of bourbon, and a gallon of gossip. Luc has been on the island for a long time and we have known his wife and him for much of that time. While we knew that he had built this plaza, we hadn't known that he was running this restaurant. Moreover, Chocolate Sax Watts came in and played through the late dinner service and on into the night, another old friend that we hadn't seen yet this season. Bottom line, even with a 15% tip added (which you should add if they don't), these are pretty good prices for some interesting food in a very chic location with great views of the lagoon.

Shrimp Sole Pork tenderloin

 
Antoine Restaurant
On Tuesday we went over Pburg for a lunch at Antoine Restaurant. We ordered some sparkling water and Bouchard's non-vintage chardonnay ($32), getting the view of Great Bay and Fort Amsterdam on top of the Divi peninsula at no extra charge. The sky looks pretty grey, but the eastern sky was quite clear and we didn't see a drop of rain all day. Martha ordered the shrimp salad and requested some anchovies - not a problem and there is the salad on the left ($18). I asked what fish looked good and got a fresh and firm piece of grouper with spring onions and olive oil that flavored the pured cauliflower and sweet potatoes ($28). The total bill with the 15% added service charge came to a bit under $100. It was a lovely day with boats running around Great Bay. On the right is one of the 12 meter yachts out on the bay with one of Antoine's palm trees as a frame.

I admit that traffic and parking are a bit of a problem during the daytime, but we always combine trips for jewelry or electronics shopping or even a trip to Cost U Less and take time to enjoy a fine lunch in town. At night, however, driving is a snap. Take the link 1 exit off the roundabout at the top of the hill and you end up at the foot of town on Front Street. Link 1 is the first exit off the rotary and goes past the hospital and Belair Hotel on the way into town. Antoine's has free valet parking and two other excellent restaurants on Front Street (L'Escargot Restaurant and Fusion Restaurant) both have parking. It couldn't be simpler.

  Chardonnay with Great Bay and Fort Amsterdam on the Divi peninsula
Shrimp and anchovy salad Grouper with spring onions and olive oil Chardonnay with Great Bay and Fort Amsterdam on the Divi peninsula

Bistro Carabes' logo  
Dining with Deepti
at Bistro Carabes
As usual, I have a hard time choosing my dinner here. I think their smoked salmon is my favorite on the island and Thibault usually starts to write that down without asking. However, I really like the sauted snails and mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce when it is available as a special. It was, so there it is below left. Deepti asked if Thibault could do some interesting vegetarian dishes for her relatives and he mentioned several things including the the same mushrooms in a creamy garlic sauce in a puff pastry (center). Thibault still brought out a small portion of the luscious salmon (below right). We started with the 2005 Chateauneuf-du-Pape, possibly not the perfect wine with smoked salmon, but Deepti thought it was the second best wine she had ever had (thinking back to our dinner at Bajatzu where we had a Chateau de Beaune).
Snails and mushrooms Mushrooms in puff pastry seabass
Our main courses were the stuffed chicken breast with mushrooms on a bed of mushroom risotto for Deepti (left), the whole French seabass, grilled, deboned, and served in a chive butter sauce for Martha (center), and the parmentier of scallops. Parmentier was a French Army officer who lived on potatoes while imprisoned in Germany during the Seven Years War in the late 1700s. He convinced King Louis the XVI to eat them and contrived a few ruses to get the rest of the population to follow suit. His reward is that now any dish with parmentier in its name has potatoes in it. In this case the very tasty grilled scallops rested on a bed of mashed potatoes encircled with bacon - three textures and three tastes in every bite! The seabass is a wonderful dish and I did get to have the last few bites of this tasty speciman. Deepti liked her chicken and I concurred based on the small taste I had. As we had finished the Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I switched to the less expensive 2006 Crozes-Hermitage from. It's not as smooth and long-lasting as the CdP, but it is made from a similar grape mixture a few miles further north in the Rhone Valley.
Chicken Seabass Scallops
Our dessert was the chocolate fondant, chosen by the reigning dessert queen. I did admit that Martha and I liked this dessert so much we featured it and its recipe in the first article we wrote for St Martin Events. It came with three spoons and a scoop of Etna ice cream. Martha and I added espressos and Thibault added complimentary balloons of 1986 Laubade Armagnac, a wonderful end to a wonderful dinner. The total bill was $202 using a rather kind exchange rate, so it was under $140 for a couple, a very good price for a meal of this quality. Service, as always, was superb and friendly. One further note, we had reservations and when we arrived at 8PM our table was the only empty one in the restaurant on a Wednesday night. Until tourism falls off a cliff, you may need reservations at the finer restaurants if you want good tables at popular hours. Chocolate Fondant

 
Bali Bar
On Thursday we headed over to Marina Royale in Marigot for some dinner with jazz from JFK (it stands for Jazz, Funky, Kool). There is plenty of parking in the lots on either side of the marina, more next to the cemetary, and even some on the street. Bali Bar is quite spiff and has Alex at the bar doing Tom Cruise from Cocktail and making some quite tasty and fresh cocktails with ingredients that Tom couldn't even dream of getting in the US. The menu is not large, but starts with a nice selection ot tapas and salads. There are four fish and four meat courses and several desserts. The wine list is not large, but well considered. We had been dining out entirely too much, so we skipped aps and Martha ordered a tasty beef salad with mint (12) and I had a veal chop (25) to go with a nice Burgundy. The band was quite accomplished and not so loud as to drive one from the room. The menu and a lot more photos are on the website and there is even a video of Alex juggling a bottle and his shaker. It's good, interesting food, priced quite well. The veal was the most expensive dish on the menu. Between 6:00 and 9:00PM the bar offers 1 to 1 on the euro.
  Veal chop  

 
LE TI COIN CROLE
On Friday we headed over to Le Ti Coin Crole at the far end of Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We found some on the street and walked in to a corner table. We ordered water and the Cotes du Rhone. Crole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some wonderful home made hot sauce. As we make use of it, a sturdy syrah from Rhone is a wonderful accompaniment. Our starter was the conch salad, amazingly tender conch in a tasty and somewhat hot dressing. Martha ordered the stewed conch for her dinner (below left) and I took the red snapper (below right). Both were quite good. The conch was tender, the snapper was fresh, and the preparations were tasty. We skipped dessert and finished with a complimentary white rum drink that Carl made. Total cost $60.
  conch  
  Stew Conch Snapper  

News and Changes: I've known this for a while, but as there are signs up at the old Picante location on Kim Sha beach, it can be said that Greenhouse Restaurant is opening a branch there. Expect it to open in a week or two, Caribbean time.

The SXM Culinary team chosen to represent island at this year's Taste of Caribbean will be Raymond Southern from Westin, M. Geoffrey from Le Pressoir, Stephane from L'Astrolabe, and Paul Peterson and Dino Jagtiani from Temptation Restaurant. The team manager is John Jackson of Saratoga. Mario Tardif from Mario's Bistro, and Cecille Briaud-Richard from Chanteclair are coaches. The competion will be 12-14 Jun in Puerto Rico

We've heard that Jean Rich's new restaurant Bel Mar in the old Bec Fin location in Simpson Bay has been shut down because a neighbor complained of noise. Seems a little strange given that it had been a restaurant for quite a while, although Le Bec Fin was pretty quiet.

It appears that the Blue Martini on Airport Road in Simpson Bay will be presenting semi-famous musicians: Firefall and Al Stewart on 11 April.

John Abbot is playing pop/rock at Sopranos in March.

Karakter, on Simpson Bay Beach near Mary's Boon, is having a beach dance at 6:30 on the first Friday of every month. This week!


BARGAINS AND HAPPENINGS


Gunslinger's Steel Pan Band Tuesday Night in Grand Case: Grand Case is again having a Harmony Night on Tuesday. Restaurant Row will be blocked off and filled with street vendors, music, dancers, and parades. Here's some photos from previous years.

Friday Night in Orient Village: Once again Orient Village is bringing in a band and several vendors on Friday evening for a lively time in their square.

Band in the square at Orient

  Our condo: We are here until 15 April and have a good bit of the following two months rented already. The condo will be available for rent at $1000 per week from 15 April to 15 June, $900 per week from 16 June until 1 October, and $1000 per week until 15 December 2009. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients. The holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season that is available at $1500 per week. It will be unavailable from 15 January 2009 until 15 April 2009. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. The rate is so good and the coupons are so popular that we get about 60% occupancy in the low season (we are already at 30%). If you want a week, it's best to book early.

It's hard to use the words Cap Juluca and bargain in the same sentence, but having just spent $20 million on renovating the resort, the new owners are now offering two nights for the price of one from March 14 - April 12, 2009. If you are coming late in the season and wish to experience awesome luxury at half price, consider a two day trip. Stuck at the beginning of a timeshare week, you may save a few bucks on airfare by avoiding Saturday. You'll certainly avoid the crowds at the airport. We stayed here about two years ago and wrote about it in our features section. It will cost about $70 each way for the ferry and a taxi (per couple). Fantastic late breakfasts that carried us thrugh to dinner were included in the room cost, but you'll spend a few bucks on dinner. Import duties are quite high in Anguilla so wine and food, almost all imported, costs more than on SXM.  

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed as our preferred medical travel insurance partner. Any medical travel insurance will get you back to the US, but SkyMed takes you home. Where's home? From their website: "Our definition of home is simple: Home is where you say it is. When struck by the unexpected, our service takes you home.  

PassportMD provides many things, including access to Monthly Harvard Health Letter and the Harvard Mental Health Letter, savings on prescriptions, medical reminders, an ability to email your doctor, and more. The most important benefit for travelers on cruiseships or those who take extended vacations in the third world is the ability to have your medical records stored in a secure server that will allow quick access in your time of need. SXM-Info has teamed up with PassportMD to provide these services with a two month absolutely free, no strings attach trial.

 

  Our article featuring four recipes from four restaurants from Cupecoy to Sandy Ground has been published in St Maarten Events and is available on the island. Look for a moules appetizer from Mario's Bistro, a vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier, lamb chops from Montmartre Restaurant, and a blanc mange dessert from Boucaniers. I had taken several photos for the article and Michael Dingemans, the publisher, was on the island just before high season taking more photos. As always, his wife, Carina, turned it into a beautiful layout. The magazine is distributed free throughout the island and contains a useful island map as the centerfold.

Amazon: I'm not convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach, but it sure is a lightweight way to get some of your favorite books to the Caribbean, especially now that the second bag costs $25 or so on most flights! They just came out with the newer version and it's barely a quarter inch thick and weighs about 10 ounces. It has 16 shades of gray for the page background and reads well even in direct sunlight. Maybe it is the best thing to take to the beach? Here's a NY TImes review of the Kindle. Martha has been downloading audio books from our local library to her Zune (an iPod knockoff) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well.

 

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:
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Diamonds International
Escargot
Kakao Beach
Oizeau Rare
Paradise View
Pizza Galley
Pirate Beach Bar
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems

Mario's Cookbook   The Mario's Bistro Cookbook is still available online. 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.

Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel offers personalized service to fit your needs and budget.

Colombus Hotel in Oyster Pond has some lovely rooms in a convenient location between Dawn Beach and Orient Beach. They have just announced new lower rates from April first to the end of August: double suite 105, triple suite 115, quadruple suite 125, master room 150, and junior room 95. All rates are include the local tax and breakfast!
  Pool