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St Maarten/St Martin
5 February 2005 Newsletter

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ISLAND NEWS
 
Newsletter report: My computer is back, thanks to persistence from MVG Technologies, Dell's authorized service center in Pburg. Consequently, snippets from the lost 8 Jan newsletter are included. Some of the news is timely and needed be sent earlier but not now. The shopping and dining experiences continue to be valid. Further computer news includes the fact that our wireless internet from www.Caribserve.net is working fine and fast. It is routed throughout our condo, thanks to Trevor recommended by MicroTech SXM next to the cobbler near Ram's and Pro Nails in Cole Bay. We are thinking of leaving the wireless connected for renters over the summer, if there is any interest. I just worked on the system at the Horny Toad Guesthouse and I know that several of Betty's guests make use of the FREE service. Her system requires an ethernet port as she didn't want to broadcast all over Simpson Bay. If you are looking for that, Sunset Beach Bar at the end of the runway offers it, also free. So says Craig at Pack Light Rentals who uses the system when his IDL wireless is toast.
 
Weather and Beach report: Saturday was a lovely day with a beautiful blue sky and clear air. We could see Saba, Statia, St Kitts, and Nevis from the balcony. The wind has died down and the water was calm at Cupecoy. The little cove has plenty of sand. The day ended with a spectacular sunset and a green flash. See the photo feature. The next morning dawned as the last bit of blue sky was disappearing behind gray clouds. By 9AM, there was no blue, and by 10AM it was raining quite steadily. It got better late in the day, but it wasn't much of a beach day. Monday was spectacular, complete with a green flash. Tuesday was also quite nice and also ended in a green flash! Wednesday found the wind picking up and the rollers returning. We sailed on Random Wind (see below) and got some more beach shots that are on the beaches section of SXM-Info. Look for Happy Bay, Cupecoy, and Mullet. The clouds at the end of the day precluded a green flash and presaged a cool and rainy Thursday. Friday was cool, a bit of a breeze, but ended quite nicely. Saturday morning is looking good.
 
Sailing: Neil on Celine has set up a charter on the Saturday of the Heineken Regatta (5 March 2005). At $75 per person, it includes a complete day on the sea with all food and drink. We start with a champagne breakfast as we exit the lagoon on the 9:00 AM opening. Chicken and ribs will be available for lunch. We return late in the afternoon after a great day on the water among the boats. It is a long way off, but the island gets pretty crowded and the charter boats fill up. If you want a front row seat for the action, go to Neil's website, check out the regatta page, and send him an email reservation. As his email is frequently lost in cyberspace, I have included my address there, and I see him frequently. Currently there are 16 confirmed signups and four maybes for a trip that is being capped at 20 participants.
 
Orient Beach happenings: Elisa Cohen at Bikini Beach has imported a container of Green tea ice tea from Thailand and says: "Great product. 100% natural from Thai tea leaf. Lightly sweetened from fructose, also comes in lemon and honey (and you really taste both), plain unsweetened ( a first time find for me who likes it with NO sugar) and Genmai which is a Japanese grain. Good for your health ya know!" I told her I drank red wine to control my cholesterol. She said green tea has twice as much of the compound that is good for your cholesterol (resveratrol) as red wine. I said I'd just double my dosage.

She also said: "Got two Salsa Parties next month, on Feb 6 and 20, both Sundays. We have a Salsa class at 4pm open to all for $10.00 per person including one drink. Great teachers and lots of fun. The DJ plays after till around 10pm. We all dance ! The DJ on the 20th is Henry Knowles and he is the #1 Salsa DJ in the world ! Manages the Spanish Harlem Orchestra too.

I have been horseback riding regularly since April at Bayside Stables in Galion. It is the best !!!! They are great people and the horses are treated very well. They do pony rides as well as beach rides. Nothing better than galloping down Galion Beach with the sun overhead and the wind in your hair ! Next to the Butterfly Farm."  I say: Make a day of it, go in the morning, watch the butterflies come out, take a horseback ride, stop at Bikini for lunch and a loaf on the beach, and return to the Butterfly Farm at the sunset as the butterflies turn in for the night. The morning admission covers the evening revisit.
 
Snorkeling on Random Wind: We went out on Random Wind on Wednesday for a day of sailing, snorkeling, and swimming. It is a sailboat, not a cat, and they try to give you a taste of sailing, rather than motoring. This, of course, depends on the wind, so don't complain to me if they are forced to motor because of light winds. Also, don't complain to me if you find yourself leaning against the rail of a heeled over sailboat. Remember, one hand for the rail, one hand for the rum punch, and focus on the horizon. We sailed from Simpson Bay near Buccaneer Bar at 9AM and headed around the western side of the island and then into the Anguilla channel to reach Creole Rock for some of the best snorkeling on the island. If you anchor on the inside of the reef/rock as Random Wind does, it is fairly calm and an easy swim to see squid, several varieties of parrot fish, trumpetfish, sergeants major, tangs, gobies, and more. We headed back to Friar's Bay for more swimming and lunch and then to Bay Long for a final swim before sailing back along Cupecoy Beach where we got a ceremonial mooning from assembled (m)asses. We got back to Simpson Bay a little after 4PM.
 
 
Photo feature: This week's photo feature has a shot of Saba, a beautiful sunset taken on 29 Jan taken from our balcony, and a major set of photos of the rollers on Cupecoy. The link only goes to subscribers.
 
CONTEST
 
California Restaurant is sponsoring a contest that started yesterday, 28 January, and runs until 17 February 2005, giving $100 toward a dinner for two. $100 goes further at California because they are doing 1 for 1. Just click their name to go to their website, find the contest code and the link to our new signup form, fill it out, click send, and you are entered. Obviously everybody that is getting this email is already signed up for the newsletter, but you are not automatically signed up for the contest. You really do have to go to their website and click the email link to show you visited their site. Just tell me you are already on our mailing list, and I'll leave you signed up for the newsletter and just add your name to the contest list.
 
Here is the list of future sponsors. We urge you all to sign up ONCE for each contest. Our clients want you to see what they have to offer. Go to their websites at the appropriate time, click the link, and you could be a winner. Look for future gift certificates from:
Escargot Restaurant - 18 February to 4 March 2005
Hot Tomatoes - 5 March to 26 March 2005
The Horny Toad Guesthouse - 27 March to 24 April 2005 - seven low season days for the price of five
Celine Pub Crawl - 25 April to 5 June 2005 - two tickets on the Lagoon Pub Crawl
Escapade Restaurant - 6 June to 17 July 2005

 
NAIL SALON
 
Martha has been going to Pro Nails next to the Ram's in Cole Bay. It's essentially a Vietnamese family from Toronto offering manicures, pedicures, waxing, and permanent make up. The prices are quite good.
 

GROCERIES
 
From the 8 Jan newsletter (this was shopping for our New Year's Eve dinner at home): We found a ripe Guadeloupe melon and lovely fresh lobe of foie gras at Match. Turning around, we picked up some Reblochon at Chez Bernadette and RenÚ in Marigot. Steve Jenkins calls it "a triumph of cheese-making" in his Cheese Primer. After tasting both the goose and pork rillete, we went with the goose even though it cost one-third more. Rene also provided us with a very tasty Cote du Boeuf, essentially prime rib. Heading back into Cole Bay, we stopped at Ram's and picked out three bottles of rosÚ to go with the melon. As we came back through Simpson Bay, we realized that we didn't have any mushrooms and groaned that we would have to continue past our home in Cupecoy to US Import and return, when we thought of the Lido Express in Maho. Parking can be difficult, but we got a spot and found that they had beautiful oyster mushrooms and shiitakes from Holland. We have been told that the Gourmet Market in Marigot has sold the building and moved nearby to a smaller location. Our informant was not as impressed with the selection, but did buy her New Years caviar there. Note that the Food Express will now validate your parking in the garage behind the store.
 
This week, a shopping expedition to US Import yielded another Guadeloupe melon and some Serrano and Bayonne ham. We could not tell the difference and suggest the Serrano as it is cheaper by a third. The Virginia baked ham at Lido Express in Maho is quite good, but the texture does not match that of these air-cured hams.
 
RESTAURANTS
 
On 29 Jan the euro was at 1.305 and today it is at 1.293. That's better, and the stock market went up, finally. French side restaurants with many costs in dollars and many American (or Canadian) clients have been offering more favorable exchange rates. Some restaurants offer a 1 to 1 exchange. We got that at Bikini Beach, Restaurant du Soliel, California, Auberge Gourmande, and La Marine. We noticed Rainbow Cafe, Escapade, Balaou, Santal, Sebastiano, and Marlin's Cafe were offering the same. Note that some only offer this rate for cash. We will let you know about other places as we find them. 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.
 
Dining: We had guests arrive on Monday and given their tender condition, we went for a low key dinner at Belle Epoque in the Marigot Marina. We had two bottles of the Saumur-Champigny red (the 20 euro wine of the week), two pizzas, and two tuna steaks with anchoiade sauce. Officially, that's a sauce of anchovies, garlic, and sometimes olive oil. We suspect the chef added a bit more, but whatever he did it was quite tasty. I think the pizzas are the best outside of a wood-fired oven. We also had profiteroles and an old rum. It's a pretty good deal when four people can have more than enough to eat, with two bottles of wine an ap and a dessert for only $115.
 
On Tuesday the lagoon was glassy and we headed for Orient. We had a wonderful lunch at Bikini Beach on a lovely afternoon. Everybody was eating healthy: calamari salad, grilled chicken salad, fruit and shrimp salad, and melted goat cheese salad. We added two bottles of the Moutete rose and given 1 to 1 for cash, got out for a mere $110. We headed on down the beach and got a few beers, chairs, and umbrellas at Pedro's Beach Bar. They are on the edge of the nude beach. Currently they have some clothed chairs in front of the bar, a small area with no sand in front of the parking lot, and a few chairs a bit further along in the nude section. Elise at Pedro's said that she has live music on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. We have a special feature with lots of photos on these two places. Both of them have coupons on their websites.
 
Tuesday dinner was at Montmartre Restaurant at the Atlantis Casino. Olivier walked by and said Beaune Champs-Pimont. I nodded. Shortly thereafter he appeared with a bottle and four large glasses. He offered me a taste and when I approved, he poured for Martha, walked all the way around the large banquette and poured for Phyllis, then Wayne (our guests), and finally walked all the way around the banquette again to finish with me. He knows how to do things right and takes the time to do it. I admit the wine would taste about the same, but a waiter who knows what you want and takes the time to serve it correctly is well worth finding. Our aps were a garden salad loaded with veg, a landaise salad loaded with duck, and a terrine of foie gras. Olivier asked if I would like a glass of monbazillac with the terrine and, of course, I accepted. Sweet wine with foie gras is a great combination. I had raved about the capon breast (and leg) stuffed with porcini mushrooms and foie gras so much that our guests both ordered it. Martha had the duck confit and I tried the kangaroo. They were all lovely dishes, beautiful to look at, with a myriad of veg and potato combinations. The kangaroo was quite similar to duck breast in both taste and texture. There are photos on the website.
 
Wednesday night was an early and laid back pizza meal at Hot Tomatoes after our long day in the sun and sea on Random Wind. A salad, four wood-fired pizzas with great ingredients, a bottle of red (Jaboulet's Cotes du Rhone) came to $100. The great ingredients include caramelized onions and roasted garlic. The pizzas were of a size that we were one slice short of having two whole pies to take home. They made an excellent lunch on Thursday (although I did have a slice for breakfast).
Thursday night we went out to Ti Coin Creole in Grand Case. When we got there, every table except ours was full. That's only about a dozen people as this is a very small place, so reservations are handy. Carl is expanding his appetizer list and had accras as a special. The salt fish fritters were as good as any that we have had and there were about 50% more than most restaurants serve. We made ample use of his homemade hot sauce and were quite happy. He had received some fresh conch, so we got to try a conch stew and there were some conch strips in the seafood pasta. The stew was very tasty and the conch were tender as could be. The seafood pasta at 19 euros included mahi-mahi, four shrimp, some conch, and salmon on a bed of pasta with light sauce that let most of the fresh seafood taste shine through. He also had a chicken breast with a tamarind sauce as a special. You won't find that in many places and he is thinking of adding it to the menu. It was also very tasty, spicy, but not HOT spicy, just that additional flavors beyond the chicken were present. A vanilla creme brulee and coffees with complimentary rums finished the evening. All together with water, a bottle of wine, three aps, four dinners, coffees, and dessert, our bill was about 130 euros or $156 at 1.2 to 1. That's for four people. This is the quiet end of Grand Case. There were very few cars all evening and most passersby were on foot, heading back to Grand Case Beach Club after dining further down restaurant row. Carl has a small parking lot along the side street next to his building.
Friday night we went to Bistrot Caraibes. It also was pretty full when we arrived and stayed that way, although there was always a table or two available. There were six of us and the aps were two salads, two specials of snails and mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce, and the island's best smoked salmon, which, for once, I did not order. I did regret it ever so slightly, but the flavors and textures in the snail dish helped me forget my sense of loss. Three of our dinners were a special of mahi-mahi on a bed of mashed potatoes in a light red sauce with tomatoes, asparagus, and baby lima beans. The flavors and textures just load up the plate. My tablemates also had the duck breast which featured more breast than any duck I have seen, the fisherman's stew (Martha's favorite), and the fresh whole French sea bass (my favorite, although I had the mahi-mahi). Out of habit, we started with Drouhin's Rully (40 euros, now a 2003) and then ordered a second. It's great with the smoked salmon and the seabass and probably helps to cut the oil in salads, but the full flavors of the snails, the magret, and even the other fish dishes could have used a red. The Crozes-Hermitage would have been good and some lighter burgundies would have been great. Service from Thibault and Amaury and the crew was superb, as usual. The dinners came in at about 100 euros, or $130 per couple, including a $52 bottles of wine for each couple. There are many less expensive bottles, including Drouhin's LaForet. Even though they charge the going rate for the euro, their prices are quite good because they have lowered them or held the line over several years. There really is more to pricing than 1 to 1.
 
From the 8 Jan newsletter - Dining: We celebrate New Year's at Chez Nous (home). We had the Guadeloupe melon with the smoky Virginia ham and the three 2003 rosÚs for lunch. The RosÚ d'Anjou Les Merles ($6.25) was too sweet for our taste. The other two were from Cotes de Provence. Saint Roche had a lovely label while the Cartes Noir label was more subdued. One cost $7.70 and the other was $7.00. Unfortunately, there are no stickers on the bottles. Fortunately, we could hardly tell the difference between the two, so buy the cheaper one! Better yet, go to Vinissimo. We went through this last year and Sylvain had better rosÚs at prices that were just as good. This was our punishment for skipping last week's wine tasting. A bit of Chez B&R's reblochon with a crusty baguette finished a lovely lunch and fortified us for an afternoon on the beach. Dinner started with Loriot rosÚ brut champagne and moved to the table for seared foie gras slathered with shallots and balsamic vinegar with a glass of sweet Banyuls. The prime rib was very tasty (although more expensive than the Cost-U-Less version from last week) with the mushrooms, shallots, and herbs. Even the green beans from Lido Express were quite good, saving a bundle compared to haricot vert from US Import. We confess that the potatoes were leftover from last week's takeout rib dinner bought at Lido in Cole Bay. We were very impressed with the quality and quantity of food from this place (Subsequently, it was voted best barbecue on the island). The wine for dinner was Bruno Clair's 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers from Vinissimo, smooth as silk and long lasting.
 
The next day we followed an old South Carolina tradition and had Hoppin' John for breakfast. Hoppin' John is rice and peas. In SC, they really are peas (black-eyed peas) but in SXM kidney beans usually substitute. In our case, the rice and beans were still left over from the good and extremely large takeout from Lido. On bleary mornings, I like a bit of hot sauce on my leftover pizza or Hoppin' John. Possibly that is where the name Hoppin' John comes from.
 
For a late lunch, we went over to Layla's in Sandy Ground. There were few people there when we arrived at 1PM, but it was packed when we left at 2:30. We had a bottle of Clos Beylesse, which may not be the best rosÚ in the world, but certainly has the prettiest blue bottle. Our lunches were a very fresh grilled red snapper and moules poulette (in white wine and cream with onion and parsley). Still one of the best meals you can get with your toes in the sand.
 
On Monday night we stopped in at Hot Tomatoes for a casual dinner. We just had a bottle of Jaboulet's excellent Parallele 45 Cotes-du-Rhone ($21.50), the beef brisket on the menu, and some special lamb chops with a bearnaise-like sauce. the brisket is under $20 and the chops were over, such that our entire evening cost under $70 even after the 15% service charge. The dinners came with veg (cauliflower) and a potato/rice of your choice. The portions are large enough that we have a lunch leftover. There is a coupon on the website, sort of.
 
Tuesday lunch was at Sunset Cafe in Grand Case after Martha got a her massage at Aia Massage. She was very relaxed, but the view over Grand Case Bay to Creole Rock, Anguilla, and Molly Smith Point should relax anyone. If not, add a bottle of Carte Noir Rose and two tasty salads (one seafood and the other turkey and crab). After lunch we loafed on the beach and talked with Sebby from the Activities desk, just outside the restaurant. He said the reef at Creole Rock has never looked better. We were relaxing, so we said we would get him to take us out soon, but not that afternoon.
 
Wednesday lunches were tuna salad and a salad Nicoise at Antoine Restaurant on the water in Pburg. You can't beat the view out over the palm covered huts, through the palms, to Great Bay, especially when the 12-meter yachts are racing. Our lunch with a bottle of Bouchard's La Vignee rouge was a most pleasurable affair.
 
We have made a commitment to go to at least one new (at least to us) restaurant per week for the winter season. Accordingly, dinner was at Toufiq's Marrakech in Marigot. He was doing surprisingly well. We had no reservation and actually had to wait in the opulent bar for about 20 minutes, reclining on the couch, drinking campari and soda -  the sacrifices we make for this newsletter will never be fully appreciated. We moved through the open courtyard to a beautiful table in a well-appointed room and were given the leather menus and wine list. We choose a Moroccan wine, Domaine Mayole, a cab/syrah blend, that got better as it breathed a bit and was positively smooth in a half hour or so. We started with an assorted brochette containing lamb, beef, and sausage with three sauces, chick pea puree, caramelized onions and tomato with honey topped with toasted almonds, and a jam of green peppers and tomatoes. Our dinners were more sausage with a seven vegetable cous-cous and a lamb tajine with prunes. A spicy harissa sauce and a vegetable broth were available to augment the already tasty meal. Toufiq is the chef and he has hired and trained a good staff. Service was fine and friendly. Our entire bill, with water and the drinks at the bar, came to about $125 and we'll be having lunch on that ticket as well. They are located on Rue d'Hollande, the road on the back side of Marigot running from Bellvue to Grand Case. They are across the street from the school/stadium and you usually can find parking there.


BARGAINS
 
Look on the SXM-Restaurants website for a list of all restaurants that have coupons for some freebie or discount. There are several coupons there to make your vacation a bit cheaper.
 
L'Esperance Hotel in Philipsburg is bargain at $80 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen. It's not on the water, but they have a pool.
 
Turquoise Shell Residence in Simpson Bay is bargain at $100 per night for a 1BR suite with a kitchen, all taxes and service included. It's across the street from the water and they have a pool. Make a reservation and get a $50 coupon to Ama Jewelers and a $25 coupon to Hot Tomatoes.
 
The Banana Cabana, a one bedroom studio on the lagoon in Cupecoy, is only $695 for the week all taxes and service included.
 
California has two apartments for rent that are right on the water in Grand Case. The one bedroom, sleeps four, is $750 and the two bedroom, sleeps six, maybe more, is $1100 for the week. They have just added a villa next door on the beach, three bedrooms, great views, at only $2800 per week.
 
Sandy Molloy at Molloy Travel says that she has negotiated a great deal at Alamanda and has can't beat rates at Le Petit, L'Esplanade, Maho, and La Plantation.

Regards,
Erich S. Kranz
www.SXM-Info.com
esk@sxm-info.com
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SXM-Info newsletter 5 Feb 2005