St Maarten/St Martin
Weather-related?: Killer bees have invaded Statia, terrorizing people and killed a dog that was tied up. On Cupecoy a friend set his shirt on the sandstone cliffs and when put it on at the end of the day, it was covered with stinging ants which managed to attack him. Not quite as dangerous, but no fun. He's glad it wasn't his shorts.
|Beaches: On Tuesday morning coming in from the America's Cup Racing on the 12 metre boats we got a great photo of the eastern end of Great Bay. There are plans to extend the boardwalk from the eastern end of the bay to the cruise ships. It will change many businesses in the area, probably for the better. The recent change in political alignment, at least at the NA level, may have some effect on the plans. It may have been a mess while it was in progress and hurt businesses then and it may have been costly, but what has been accomplished is quite spectacular. If you come in on a cruise ship, you'll see it. If you are a timeshare tourist, take a trip to Pburg. Many places have valet parking and Bobby's Marina just opened a new parking lot.|
Orient was looking great on Tuesday. We arrived at Bikini Beach about 1 PM and found a parking spot. After lunch we drove down to Pedro's Beach Bar to use their chairs and found a parking spot. It's not the highest of high season, but at this point all the hoopla about parking seems to have faded. The $3 parking in the field where Bimboland once held sway was not even in operation.
Cupecoy has no sand in front of the Great Wall of Shore Pointe, a bit next to it, and full beaches at the monolith and little cove. (photo right) It appears to depend on the direction of the waves.
|If you ever wonder why the phone calls don't go through or electricity fails, check this out. On the right is the new water taxi waiting area, complete with two island dogs waiting for a taxi.|
Construction: They continue on the new road at the Cupecoy Yacht Club project. Eventually, the steep, sharp corner at the French border will be a distant memory as the road will head into a rotary (roundabout) at the low point. One branch will head toward the project, but the main road will head up the hill on a longer (and therefore less steep) trajectory. It's taking quite a while as they need a jackhammer on the front of an excavator to do it. There is a new photo on the construction feature.
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. The first ten weekly listings are free. After that, we will charge $25 per year and have only received only five requests, so this free offer is still out there.
Select Wine Cellar: The wine of the month for March is Champagne Deutz Cuvée William Deutz 1996 (wine spectator rating 93, wine spectator price: $158) Select wine price: $99 (normal price 115$). Sylvain did a nice tasting at Halsey's Restaurant in connection with a TTOL party put together by Linda Warren. Ryan and Jessica put out some great aps: tuna sashimi, chicken and beef skewers, some lovely smoked salmon with all the trimmings, and more. Sylvain had a couple whites, five reds, and a slightly sweet wine for dessert. In the shop the next day we tasted a nice 2003 Burgundy from Morey ($17), and two more sweet wines: 2004 Rivesaltes Grenat ($14), and a 2004 Domaine POUDEROUX Maury ($18.50). while we were picking up more of the red 2003 Savigny les Beaune Premier Cru from Girard ($26) that we love. They have received more of the white from the same producer and at $22 per bottle, we think it is a great chardonnay. Use the coupon on the website and get it even cheaper.
Art at California Restaurant: Zouzou has a seashell art exhibition in the restaurant containing mirrors, mobiles, jewelry boxes, seashell boards, cards, and more. There are a couple examples on the boutique page of the California website. Zouzou reminds us that she is still offering $1 for 1 euro for cash and traveler's checks.
Art at Delfina Hotel: Boris and Michael at Delfina are hosting an art showing of the works of two German sisters, Corinna and Norma Trimborn, who live on the island. The artists provide red and white wine, some cheeses, etc. Beer and other beverages are also available from Delfina at a small charge. This will be happening on Fridays during the high season from 5:00-7:00 pm. The paintings are eclectic and interesting, although not inexpensive. For a preview, check out at their website.
Groceries: Dietz and Watson Black Forest ham at Lido Food Express in Maho, goat cheese from US Import at the French bridge, and baguettes from Ted next door - need I say more. We also got some crottin de Chavignol at US Imports on sale for about $2, wrapped them in phyllo dough, crisped them in a frying pan, and placed them on a bed of greens. This is the cheese that Steven Jenkins raves about in his Cheese Primer. He also has a blog on the Fairway Market website.
|Center above is the Stars and Stripes, but the similarity of colors caused our captain to urge us to think of the rusting tub on the right as our competitor. It's great fun and they have plans for the future (see below). The menu page on Antoine Restaurant's website has a great shot of the boats racing on Great Bay.|
Win $100 in the weekly Princess Casino and Baccara Restaurant contest. Get $50 in 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.
(Mostly for locals as you have to be here, but if you are here on 29 March, check it out)
The Princess Casino will be raffling a Ford Escape on Wednesday March 29.
SXM-INFO'S REGULAR CONTEST
You'll note there are seven prizes and only five entry slots on the contest form. You must choose the five you want and allow someone else to share in this $950 prize. The rules make all other contests look like do-it-yourself brain surgery. Just go to the SXM Ultra Luxe feature, find the codes, enter them on the form, click send - one form per contest. Good Luck.
Let's go over the rules:
Rule #1 - Visit the websites and find the entry code.
Rule #2 - Send in ONE entry using the form with all the contest codes for the contests you wish to enter.
Rule #3 - If the prize-awarding entity goes out of business before you claim your prize, you are unlikely to get your prize.
Rule #4 - Prizes are valid for one year from the award date.
Rule #5 - There is no rule number five.
Yes, we added 3 and 4. Still, it's a lot easier than other contests and there is no timeshare presentation. We choose an email randomly from all those received. If that person has entered multiple times, we throw them all out. If not, that person will win all the prizes for which the correct contest code has been entered. If all the contests have not been won by this person, another email will be chosen, etc until all prizes have been won.
Orient - 15 May to 31 July
Beau Beau's - $50 off a dinner for two
On Tuesday 18 April, Select Wine Cellar and Enjoy Restaurant will be combining their talents to produce a tasting menu paired with Burgundies. The evening costs 55 euros per person and will start at about 8:30 at Enjoy's waterfront location. We'll be there and if you want to join, make a reservation early as it is a rather small restaurant.
On Monday evening five us went to Sol é Luna Restaurant in Mont Vernon. This is one of the most beautiful restaurants on the island. Most tables are on a wraparound porch and after no serious hurricanes since 1999, the gardens are lovely. The photos on the website are pretty, but cannot convey the serenity of sitting on a quiet porch surrounded by greenery as a gentle breeze drifts by. It is also nice that the food is even better than ever. Chef Christian, hostess Brigitte, and daughter Charlotte came from the south of France by way of San Diego and his cuisine is influenced by both regions and North Africa. The menu is redolent with seafood and he combines it all into a cioppino, a San Francisco approach to bouillabaisse. This is also one of the few places to serve a tajine, in this case, a long-cooked lamb shank with many vegetables and North African spices. The wine list is long enough and has many good exemplars. As usual, I drifted toward Burgundy and found a 1999 Mercurey ($48) that was so good that we ordered two more as the evening progressed. Appetizers included the Baby Vegetable Tart, a warm and light confit with pesto and goat cheese ($12), Lobster Bisque topped with puff pastry ($12), and a foie gras with caramelized apples (guess who). Our dinners were the cioppino ($36), the tajine ($24), two halibut with a tomato and olive paste ($29), and filet mignon with morels ($36, guess who). Don't order the cioppino unless you are hungry, as it a major meal. There is a lovely photo on the specials page that will give you an idea of the magnitude of this dish. The filet mignon came with mashed potatoes. It was tasty, perfectly done, and had a creamy sauce for the morels, making it wonderful with the Burgundy. The halibut is a rather delicate fish but the topping added quite a bit of taste and it was accompanied by a pissaladière (a specialty of Nice) featuring caramelized onions, anchovies, and olives. I have had the lamb tajine before, but this is a different approach. It's essentially the same ingredients featuring a long-cooked shank of lamb, but now Christian is wrapping it in phyllo dough and crisping it up before sending it out surrounded by vegetables and broth. We finished with a chocolate mousse on a bed of caramelized bananas and five spoons. It was a wonderful meal in a magical place.
On Tuesday we went to Orient and had lunch at Bikini Beach. Elisa had given us a tour of her new kitchen and praised a new sous-chef earlier in the year. We think it has worked out quite well. I had my usual calamari salad (with a bit of Chipotle St Maarten Hot Sauce added) and thought it was better than ever - tender squid, crunchy veg, nice greens, in a somewhat Oriental dressing. Martha's Beef Curry was a special and it was. A lovely Thai sauce surrounded tender beef and a myriad of veg. A bottle of Ch Moutete rose and a bottle of water made for a pleasant afternoon listening to the Top Groovers playing in the bar and watching the sights on the beach. total cost was $63 give the 1 to 1 for the dollar (cash only!). There is a coupon on the website.
After a bit more strolling and listening to music, we returned to Auberge Gourmande to find our table waiting. We ordered a bottle of water and said "Pamper me" to get a free champagne cocktail to start. For the meal we ordered the Mercurey 1er 2001 Cru en Sazenay Château de Mercey ($38) to compare with the Mercurey from the night before. The unfortunate result is that in wines without a lot of advertising or hype, one gets what one pays for. This 2001 was quite good but the 1999 was a superior year, the wine had a bit more age, and cost about $10 more. You'll have to try them both. After our large and late lunch, we took things easy, just having two salads: baked goat cheese, Roquefort, and pecans in phyllo, baked apple and balsamic dressing and the chicken livers in puff pastry with a mustard sauce on a bed of mixed greens. Both were wonderful with the Burgundy. We were still a bit hungry, so we finished with their "No way around it" concerto of white chocolate mousse, hot baked fondant, and iced dark chocolate drizzled with hibiscus coulis sauce as we sipped a bit of coffee and Armagnac. They are doing 1 to 1 on the exchange, so I had quite a bit of change from my $100 bill (cash only for the 1 to 1). I left some of that change as a thank you for the wonderful service from Florence and Christophe.
On Wednesday night we went to Le Ti' Sucrier in Nettle Bay. They are rather new, so the first website is nothing more than a title page and a bit of music, but at least you'd get the idea that a Sucrier is the lovely yellow and black sugarbird. It is run by Sylvain Boulais who arrived on the island in 86 and worked at Poisson d'Or, known affectionately to most Americans as the Poison Door, in Marigot. (Note to the French-impaired: this really means fish of gold, or Goldfish, still not a great name in America where the culinary uses of goldfish rarely extend past college hazing, but ???) This was back when la Vie en Rose, nearby Poisson d'Or, and even the MiniClub were waterfront restaurants! He went to the US for a while and came back to Panoramic Restaurant (now closed) in Anse Marcel, and La Playa on Orient. This location has been through two restaurants in my time on the island. We actually went to one of the first one in the mid-90's. It was in Anse Marigot, a defiscalization hotel whose tax benefits ran out and has now been converted into residences. Thus, signage is a bit of a problem as there is very little for the apartments and although Sylvain has a sign on the road and a sign on the old entrance to the hotel lobby, one must pass through the lobby and follow the sugarbird signs to the pool pavilion. At that point, one finds a lovely open air restaurant next to the pool a few feet above the sandy beach with great views across the lagoon. The table cloths are blue and yellow, the cutlery was Laguiole, and the palm trees were lit. We ordered water and a 2002 Beaune du Chateau from Bouchard ($35). 2002 was a year to rival 1999 and this wine showed it. The wine list was good sized with many inexpensive wines, especially given the 1 to 1 rate on the euro for cash! Some hot, crusty, and flavorful bread arrived as we ordered the warm goat cheese with a chopped almond crust on a bed of mache or lamb's lettuce. It arrived with three small, warm, and creamy crottins completely covered in chopped almonds and three dollops of roasted red peppers surrounding the lettuce. For those who think we only have appetizers of goat cheese and greens, I remind you that the previous evening's ap was Roquefort, made from sheep's milk. Our dinners were an interesting take on duck breast featuring mango chutney with tomato and eggplant with a potato gratin and a sweetbread casserole with pasta, carrots and asparagus for crunch, and cepes (porcini). Sylvain says that it is his grandmother's recipe and I thank her for passing it on. It was a lovely meal with fabulous tastes and textures. The duck was also quite interesting, as wild game (and domestic duck comes close) is enhanced by sweet, juicy fruits. The desserts included a tarte tatin (also an old-fashioned recipe that is quite good, esp with a glass of Calvados), tiramisu, fondant (the chocolate cake with the molten chocolate center), and a black forest cake. We passed and merely had coffee and some old rums from Martinique. There is an extensive list of after-dinner drinks including an Armagnac from the year of Sylvain's birth and another from the year he arrived on the island. Our total bill came to about $90 and we took home enough for another dinner. Well worth a visit.
|The restaurant is on the right just after Ma Ti Beach if you are heading toward Marigot from the Lowlands. There is a sign along the road and this entrance will be visible as you turn into the parking lot. Go through this building (the old hotel lobby) and follow the walkway with sugarbird signs to the pool pavilion. It's just a few steps up to the pool deck and the restaurant overlooking the beach, palm trees, and the lagoon. On the right is the goat cheese salad and below are the sweetbreads and the duck dishes.|
|This is how the leftovers came home. The duck is in the duck shaped tinfoil sculpture on the right and the sweetbreads are in the sweet seeking sugarbird on the left. Sometimes chefs have too much time on their hands.|
On Saturday after a tour of the Marigot market we drove over to Grand Case for a leisurely lunch at Il Nettuno Restaurant on the water near the center of town. We parked in Grand Case Parking's lot across the street (it's free until about 6 PM) and strolled over to a waterfront table without a reservation. We had the Clos D'Une Nuit rose (a bit sweet) with a house salad loaded with shrimp and a piece of fresh swordfish with chopped tomatoes, herbs, and spices with home-made pasta in a light tomato sauce. Coffee and grappa ended a wonderful lunch for under $100.
Changes: The 12 Metre Challenge or America's Cup Racing has taken over the Blue Peter at Bobby's Marina and integrated it into their operation. After you sign in for the morning's race, you go to the restaurant for coffee and await the arrival of the launch captain who divides the group into various teams. Everybody then gets on the launch and heads out to their boat. Needless to say, they hope you will stop in for lunch after the race or maybe dinner. They have been doing a soft dinner opening as they work out the kinks, but the menu sounds interesting. Stay tuned.
Livio Bergamasco reports that "Da Livio Restaurant on Front Street was never bought by Daniel. He was my tenant there for nine years after which he gave up the lease and we took the property back into my family. We have since sold it to another company and it is presently closed until the new owners decide what to do with it." In truth, most of the restaurateurs on the island do not own the floor under their feet, the ground under that, or the walls around them. In this case, I used the words "bought Da Livio" while I should have said that Daniel "took over the operation of Da Livio".
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:
Le Baccara Restaurant
Pirate Beach Bar
Pedro's Beach Bar
Select Wine Cellar
Endless Summer Beachwear
Good Cards (and gifts)
Those who like Club Orient might be interested in Club Fantastico. Check it out.
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 says that she can generally beat any rates you can get from the hotels. Give her a shot.