St Maarten/St Martin
11 September 2011 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Hurricane mushrooms Weather: SXM issued a warning for Tropical Storm Irene on 20 Aug and rescinded it on 21 Aug as Irene passed to the south before heading north over Puerto Rico and through the Bahamas. It continued toward the US east coast, slowly turning north, crossing North Carolina's outer banks, skimming the Jersey shore, before checking out the Big Apple. It then proceeded up the NY/CT border across MA and then up the Connnecticut River valley, producing severe flooding in VT and NY. We got 10 inches of rain on 29 Aug, but as we are on the highest hill on our 82 acres, the rain merely carried our driveway downhill. Tuesday was beautiful and clear, a perfect day for collecting all the mushrooms that loved the infusion of rainwater. On Wednesday we had a Tuscan lunch featuring a plate of sautéed porcinis.

Not exactly weather, but an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 on the Richter Scale shook the island about mid-day on 22 Aug. The earthquake epicenter was about 15 miles southeast of Philipsburg, near St Barts. It's the closest epicenter in some time.

Tropical Storm Maria was barely a storm as it passed over the island. Today it will continue over the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico reaching the lower Bahamas by Monday. Some forecasters predict it will strengthen to a hurricane in about five days, but the predicted path shows it taking a sharp turn to the north and sparing the US East coast.
The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:18 PM. In 2011 the full moons will be 12 Sep (tomorrow), 12 Oct, 11 Nov, and 10 Dec. In 2012 the full moon dates are 9 Jan, 7 Feb, 8 Mar, 6 Apr, 5 May, 4 Jun, 3 Jul, 1 Aug, 31 Aug (a blue moon), 29 Sep, 29 Oct, 28 Nov, and 28 Dec. Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast

Bernie SXM-Beaches: The panorama below is a shot over the top of Orient Beach to St Barts taken from Hope Hill. At this lookout point, Bernie (left) gives hope to abandoned animals on the island and hopes you'll stop in to buy some local rum (there's plenty of Ma Doudou and more!) and/or spices. We always bring back some hot sauce and some curry powder.

Stop in next door at Paradise View Restaurant for this view of paradise from on high. They are open for breakfast, brunch, and lunch every day (except Tuesday). On weekends (Friday to Sunday evening) look for a cheese party, tartiflette, raclette, Fondue Savoyard, and Fondue Bourguignonne.

Paradise View

St Barts

Cheese Primer Beach reading: Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins - About $12.00. From Amazon: For 20 years, Steve Jenkins has led the way in upgrading the quality of cheese sold at fine food stores in the U.S. Finally, in this volume, he shares his encyclopedic knowledge. Jenkins tells all about cheesemaking at the commercial as well as the artistic level. Generously punctuated with maps and photos, the book includes all kinds of historical and other relevant information. Jenkins seems to describe every kind of cheese made in the U.S. and Europe, including when to eat them, how and with what. His passion and blunt opinions make it easy to travel the 548 pages of this book if you have even the smallest interest in cheese. The guide to pronunciation is particularly helpful. I can reach this book with my right hand at my desk here in NY and I have another copy within arm's reach at my desk in Cupecoy.

ginger   Sapphire Beach Club: We are back in NY at this time, so our condo is available. The rates range from $700 to $1000 per week until 15 Dec, when high season kicks in again. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2011 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the third year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

The shot on the right is a view off the Caribbean balcony with a sailboat on the left and Saba on the right (peer deeply into the haze, it's there).

  French lowlands

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. At present, there are several 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.

Beach at Azure at night SXM-Hotels: Mike and Fawnette at Azure Beach Studios have just changed their 50% off notice to 20% on their lovely rooms on Simpson Bay. On the left is a nighttime shot of the beach and the studios.

A thread on TTOL decried the problems at Caravanserai, although there has been some progress.

Carter at Turquoise Shell Inn says that the "road repairs are driving us crazy but hey.....it has to be done. At least, they ARE making improvements. Rumor has it that the new arrival and departure system will be in place at the airport by the start of high season, barring any glitches in the beta testing." Turquoise Shell has fully furnished units with cooking facilities in the heart of Simpson Bay, across the street from the beach. You could easily stay here for a week without a car. They have a pool in addition to the beach and there are plenty of good restaurants within walking distance, even a few grocery stores.

Possibly this is a construction story, or at least a lack of construction story, but Today newspaper had an article suggesting that the Blue Mall's latest opening date won't be met, much like all previous proposed dates. Below is a plot of the Orient Express group's stock price. You'll note a precipitous drop in 2008. You should recall that banks collapsed in September 2008 and that led to a bear market that continued until March 2009. However, sharp eyes will note that the OEH stock lost over one-third of its value, dropping from over 60 to under 40 BEFORE the crash. Moreover, since the recovery started in March 2009, OEH has not participated. This does correspond to the opening of Porto Cupecoy in the teeth of a recession. Admittedly, the stock market moves in mysterious ways and there may be many more reasons for this underperformance.

OEH price
Roquefort Activities: Susy at Trisport: sent this photo of Andrew, Gijs, and Juan Pablo (her husband, in the center) showing the Tiaras they won for their tremendous performance in last Sunday's Kayak Race at Kim Sha Beach. She also noted that the annual Tropical Duathlon takes place on October 2nd. You can join up as an Individual or a Mixed Gender Team. The course is a safe and flat starting with a 5K Run to start off in the Port De Plaisance Resort property, followed by a 5-lap bike ride to Home n Tool and back to the entrance of PdP. Finish up with a 2.5Km run inside of PdP once again and call it a day! Trisport rents both road and hybrid bicycles, so no excuses!

We have added a BOB Underwater Adventure to the SXM-Activities site. BOB is a Breathing Observation Bubble mounted on an electric scooter submarine. It appears to be straight out of James Bond and a lot of fun.


Roquefort Groceries: The gizmo on the left actually keeps Roquefort fresh and prevents crumbling. It's so new that Jenkins doesn't mention it in his Cheese Primer. I've seen them in US Market on the island and BJ's here in the US. Also in the US, the Gourmet Food Store has some Roquefort and conveniently suggests related cheeses if you search for Roquefort. They have Fourme d'Ambert from France and Maytag Blue from the US, and yes, it's the same family that started the Maytag Corporation, now sold to Whirlpool. Olive Nation has Stilton and Gorgonzola, but no Roquefort.

On the right is a Salade Niçoise a la Salem. We have haricots verts, new potatoes, tomatoes, lots of greens, eggs, and even the venison (rather than tuna) right here on the farm.


On the island it's possible to buy these ingredients at Grand Marché or US Market, but tedious to put them all together. Thus, we generally get this at a restaurant, unless some leftovers serendipitously combine to make a Salade Niçoise. Martha likes the plate at Kakao Beach and we love the setting.

Alcohol: The wine with the salad above is a 2002 old vines Savigny-les-Beaune from Marechal. Last season we drank the 2008 from Girard, buying it at Select Wine Cellar. Sylvain is currently out of stock but expects the 2009 in October. The 2008 was not the greatest of years, but it was drinkable when young. The 2009 is a better year, but will probably be even better in few years. Savigny-les-Beaune is behind Beaune and Aloxe-Corton in a valley formed by the tiny Rhoin River.

Burgundy has been my favorite wine ever since I graduated from rosé as I graduated from college. I thank my uncle for introducing me to some of the best (Musigny, Echézeaux, and Corton). After his introduction, I wandered around Burgundy on many vacations, seeking the lesser known vineyards and lesser known winemakers, looking for bargains. Burgundy stretches from Chablis in the NW, down through the Cote d'Or bracketing Beaune, through Rully, Mercurey, Givry, and Montagny, to the Mâconnais, to Beaujolais. The best wines come from the Cote d'Or and most people would further specify that the northern part, the Côte de Nuits named after the village of Nuits-St-Georges, has the very best. Here all red wines are made from the Pinot Noir grape and all white wines are chardonnay.

Bordeaux producers were classified in 1855 mostly based on the prices fetched over the previous decade or so. This has generally held up well, possibly because it is self-reinforcing. If Chateau Nuits-St-Waga-Waga is top-rated, it will command a higher price, allowing the owner to hire the best winemaker. He will be able to have a swarm of experienced harvesters picking the ripest clusters and leaving the others. He can afford new oak barrels. And indeed, the premium one pays for the best four (now five with the elevation of Mouton Rothschild in 1973) has increased. That sentence, however, has a hint that the 1855 classification was not perfect in that Mouton was overlooked. Less well known is that M. Lavalle produced a classification of Burgundy in that same year, taking price into account, but basing it on location of the vineyard, not the producer. This is somewhat related to the fact that during the French revolution, the large estates in Bordeaux tended to remain intact while the large estates in Burgundy (frequently owned by the church) were divided among the revolutionaries.

This in turn led to the rise of negotiants who would buy grapes or barrels of freshly squeezed grape juice and make wine with their name and the name of the location of the grapes. Thus, it becomes important to know both the ranking of the various locations and the reputation of the negotiant.

This article continues in our Burgundy write-up in our features section, ending with some recommended books: The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, The Great Domaines of Burgundy by Remington Norman and Charles Taylor, and Burgundy: The Country, the Wines, the People by Eunice Fried.

Here's an amusing take on wine: Keith Levenberg's Cellar-Book/Devil's Dictionary.


Travel: The Today newspaper had an editorial about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty. Stating that it "keeps haunting the government of St. Maarten. Time and again, the courts have ruled that this treaty is directly applicable in St. Maarten and time and again the government has argued against these decisions." The treaty, signed in 1957 between the United States and the Netherlands, states that Americans are entitled to treatment equal to the way European Dutch are treated in St. Maarten. basically, we can go there and work without work permits. The government has, at times, suggested that the treaty only applied to investors and entrepeneurs when the Court in First Instance ruled that the ordinance on labor for foreigners does not apply to Americans. But surely, that ruling suggests that Americans should have no problem whatsoever to come to St. Maarten and get a job.
Nature: Here is the source of the venison mentioned in the salad above. There are five deer visible in the meadow that serves as our front yard. They are the reason that our garden has six foot fences. Local commercial dairy farmers cannot fence their fields so these deer feast on cow corn and alfalfa all summer long. You won't get venison this good on the island, but sometimes the finer restaurants have some from France as a special. It's worth tasting, especially with a good Burgundy.

Green logo Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.  

Venison on the hoof


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest:

24 July to 30 October 2011
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
Peg Leg Pub - $50 off a dinner for two
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Radiant Gems - $50 off a purchase of $200 or more
Lighthouse at Oyster Bay - $1000 off a summer week (June-October)
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two

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:
30 October to 25 December 2011 | 25 Dec 2011 to 19 Feb 2012 | 19 Feb to 15 April 2012
same cast of characters as current contest



On 24 July the euro was at 1.436 and today it is at 1.365. The decrease over the last week was 4 percent and the decrease over the previous five weeks was only 1 percent. This is somewhat surprising given that the German courts rejected objections to the bailout of the PIIGS. To be sure, the economic systems of Europe are under various pressures, but then again, the US just had to appoint a super-committee to sort out our woes. To be sure, the Euro was at 1.3 a year ago, spiking to 1.4 and coming back to 1.3 as 2011 began. It then climbed to 1.45 by mid-May and has stayed quite close to that until this week when it broke below 1.4.

California Restaurant is still offering 1 to 1. La Villa and Piazza Pascal, also in Grand Case, is offering 1 to 1 for cash. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate that we would get from our credit card or a bank. There is no doubt that they want your business.

Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. About a year ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I now use a Capital One card and get an excellent exchange rate. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Note that you won't get frequent flier tickets quite as fast. It may be best to use the Cap 1 card out of the country and take the rewards in merchandise. We picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from the previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM.

2011 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Antoine Restaurant Open all summer, closed only for lunch on Sunday
Barefoot Terrace Closed 5 Sep to 26 Sep
Bistrot Caraibes No vacation
California Restaurant closed on Mondays
Captain Oliver's Restaurant 9 Sep to 8 Oct
Dinghy Dock Open only Thursday-Sunday from 4pm - 10pm until 29 Sep
normal hours after that
Cheri's closed until 1 October
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Jimbo's closed until 1 October
Mario's Bistro 1 September until mid-October
Marrakech Restaurant No closing
L'Oizeau Rare Restaurant
Closed until 29 June
Peg Leg Pub Sept 1 to October 31
Piazza Pascal No vacation, closed on Wednesday until December
Pineapple Pete No vacation
Pizza Galley last weekend of July until 15 October
Skipjack's No closing
Sol é Luna closed September
Ti Bouchon Opening 3 Oct
Turtle Pier closed until 1 October
La Villa No closing
Yvettes Closed until Oct 6

Bistro Caraïbes' logo
Bistro Caraïbes
Late in March we went with another couple to Bistrot Caraïbes. We parked next door in the pay parking lot and a short stroll brought us to the restaurant. We were early for our table and took the front corner offering a view of the street and the lovely lobster tank across the street at Lobster Pot.

We started with a bottle of 2009 Macon Blanc(29€), a full-bodied dry white wine from a lesser known area of southern Burgundy. It isn't as good as the Montagny at 55€, but close at a fraction of the price. It went well with our aps: mussels in white wine, a special (15€), snails in a creamy garlic sauce (11€), and a beautiful garden salad (9€).

mussels snails salad
Our wine for the main courses was the red version of our first wine (34€). Our dinners were rack of lamb with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and ratatouille (28€); a shrimp dish with Asian influences (23€), and two orders of veal tenderloin with asparagus and mashed potatoes topped with mushrooms and watercress (26€).

lamb shrimp steak
For dessert we had the profiteroles and four spoons (10€). We finished with coffees and complimentary spiced rum, although a snifter of Armagnac appeared. With a tip, the total bill came to about $150 per couple for some very good food and great service. They even comp the parking. profiteroles

Champagne Snack Bar
On 12 April we went to Select Wine Cellar for a tasting followed by lunch next door at Champagne Snack Bar. The specials were blanquette de veau (a veal stew) and and a shrimp and mahi kebab. Martha had the seafood and Sylvain and I had the blanquette de veau. Bruno, the owner, noted that the blanquette usually comes on rice but asked if I would prefer French fries. He pays attention to things. The photo is my blanquette with fries and a bit of salad. Sylvain brought out an Hermitage, one of the finest Rhone Valley wines, for lunch. It was possibly a bit much for the delicately flavored veal, but I heard no complaints.
Veal Shrimp and mahi kebab Tart tatin
Fruit and whipped cream Sylvain brought out a sweet white wine for our dessert course. Martha had the beautiful raspberries and blueberries in a sea of whipped cream while Sylvain and I had the Tart Tatin, also with whipped cream. The price for all the food was about $80. You can buy wine at retail from Sylvain and have it with your lunch at Champagne Snack Bar. It's a great deal and we always combine it with a replenishment of our wine closet.  

News and Changes: We have reworked the article on restaurants in the lowlands that we wrote a couple years ago. There are recipes for a four course meal in SXM-Info's features section. You'll find a recipe for Cucumber Vichyssoise from Ti Sucrier Restaurant, a recipe for the famous Mussels from Mario's Bistro, a recipe for Rack of Lamb from Montmartre (no longer with us), and a recipe for Coconut Blancmange from Les Boucaniers. Mario's  logo

Momo has sold MomoVino to someone from Martinique and it probably will have a different format. He still runs nearby Ti Bouchon and will reopening it on 3 Oct with the same team in the kitchen. He says they will get back to the Bouchon tradition with an ever-changing menu on a blackboard, serving the freshest and best of what is available.

Fusion appears to have moved from Maho to Paradise Mall. That was Fu2ion as in Fusion 2. The original Fusion was in Pburg, but is there no longer. There was an outpost at Bliss, but that too is gone. Marvin van Eyck does some very interesting food and his sister Farah is in the front of the house (at least the last time were there). Keeping track of where the house is seems to be the greatest problem.

Word is that Uncle Harry's has closed for good.

The NYTimes had an article by John Tierney on local food that noted that the local food craze can be a bit blind to the fact that local foods usually were not local foods six centuries ago. The vast exploration that eventually "discovered" the American Continents eventually brought tomatoes to Italy, potatoes to Ireland, chocolates to Switzerland, beef to the US, and chili peppers to Thailand. The savings in carbon emissions from going local are somewhat compromised by the fact that sea shipping uses a tiny fraction of the energy consumed by rail cars which in turn use a tiny fraction of that consumed by tractor trailers which are much more efficient than delivery vans which are much more efficient than your car.


SXM Privilege Card   Coupons: The SXM Privilege Card seems to be a pretty good deal. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at 33 restaurants (by my count in the print version). They also cover hotels (mostly spa treatments at hotels), activities, and more. Most of the restaurant perks are a 10% discount. Use it twice in a month and it pays for itself. Here's a link to the SXM-Info website for a our coupons for some freebie or discount. Here's a list of the coupons you'll find:  
Bikini Beach
Beau Beau's
Diamonds Int'l
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Radiant Gems
Tropical Wave

  Our condo: The condo is available for rent at $900 per week until 1 October and $1000 per week until 15 December 2009. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients including one for 10% off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. Other notable coupons are $50 from Skipjack's restaurant, a tasting and a bottle of wine from Select Wine Cellar, a two for one ride on Celine's famous Lagoon Pub Crawl, $50 off a daysail on Random Wind, $50 from Piazza Pascal. The Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season is available at $1500 per week. As always any days within the next month are available for $100 each. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed and MedjetAssist to arrange medical transportation services. We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have. Check out both and see which one offers the best prices your timeframe and traveling group.   Click here to Enroll Now

Kindle: We now have one, so I'm really convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach. It only weighs a half pound and is one-third of an inch thin. Even better, the price has dropped to $139. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
Martha still downloads audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) 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 and keeps us amused as we drive. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."