^

Sint Maarten

Where to Stay in St. Martin

duck salad

duck salad

If you’ve read my suggestions on how to find a reasonably priced place to stay while on vacation, you know that I love to stay on organic farms or something similar. Well, in St. Martin this wasn’t possible basically because there are no farms. So we opted for a small apartment-style complex. It was a great decision.

We stayed at Orient Bay in a one bedroom apartment. It is the first complex on the left as you enter the turn for Baie Orientale.

The apartment was very nice and open with clean tile floors.  Upstairs had a nice large bed for me and my husband, they offered a crib for the baby and our older daughter slept on the foldout couch downstairs.  We also had TV with cable (French stations) except for CNN.  The only thing that I would have changed is the kitchen.  It only had to burners and they were front and back and it could barely hold two decent size pans at the same time.  So we ended up cooking things in rounds which took a little bit longer than if we were able to cook in two pots the same time.

In other places where we’ve stayed, we rarely had a chance to interact on a personal level with the property owners.  However one nice touch that they have at the Shamrock is a monthly barbecue they have with visitors.  This happens on approximately the third week of the month. When we were there it happened on the 22nd. This month’s barbecue is on the 23rd to give you some kind of indication as to whether or not one is going to be going on when you get there.  The price was cheap.  I think it was up less than $20.00 per person for adults and kids were free.  And they really fed us more than our money’s worth.

First they started when it’s serving drinks and appetizers like pate sandwiches olives, and potato chips.  After many 30 minutes or so they brought out salads: chick pea salad, carrot salad and another that I cannot presently recall.  And then the grilled meats came out:  Moroccan sausage called merguez, and grilled chicken.  After dinner, we had dessert which was basically a fruit salad along with some cakes. My girls were excited to see coconut waters come out served in the coconut.

Everything was delicious even if it was lower in fat than I’m used to (which made me really really hungry so I ate way more than I normally do at home).  When all the food was gone Stefane, the husband, brought out different kinds of liqueurs.  Some interesting ones were rums from other French islands like Martinique and Guadeloupe flavored with different spices like ginger, vanilla, lemon, nutmeg and many other interesting flavor combinations.

Chantal, Stefane’s wife, and I hit it off so well that a few nights later we did a dinner just for our two families.  We had a great time.  They brought the main course which was a French beef stew called a daube, a bottle of red wine and a pineapple cake.  I made a confit of duck salad with an onion confit in a red wine fig sauce and coconut milk rice pudding for dessert along with some fresh tropical fruits.  It was really a lot of fun.  And we plan to keep in touch.  They are a really sweet couple. I hope you get to meet them during your travels.

Here’s my recipe for the duck salad below.

Ingredients:

Confit:

1 large onion

2 cups red wine (Chateauneuf du Pape in our case)

1 pinch celtic sea salt

1 tbsp raw honey

1 tbsp olive oil

Salad:

Duck confit

Thinly sliced cucumbers

Shredded lettuce

1 grated carrot

Dressing:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

fresh juice of one lemon

1 clove of garlic smashed

1 tbsp honey

The only thing you really need to prepare for the duck confit salad is the onion confit.  I did that by slicing one large onion into long strips crosswise and letting it simmer in about 2 cups of red wine  with some finely chopped figs and a pinch of salt until the wine was about half reduced.  Then I added about a tablespoon of honey and a little extra virgin olive oil and let it reduce some more.

To assemble the salad, I shredded some romaine lettuce to which I added some grated carrot and tossed this with the  dressing. I arranged the cucumbers around the plate and piled the lettuce mixture in the middle. Then I sliced the duck confit and placed it on top of the lettuce and then topped the whole thing off with the onion confit at the top.

I was particularly proud of myself as the onion confit is a French tradition, but our hosts had never had it homemade! They were impressed by the subtle complexity of the flavors. Chantal also liked the accompaniment I served which was yucca chips — instead of croutons. To make these all you do is slice some yucca (aka cassava) root thinly and fry it in a little duck fat (from the confit). Even though they live in the tropics, they hadn’t eaten yucca before either apparently, so they walked away with a new appreciation for a local vegetable.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Where to Eat in St. Martin

Big-Burger.jpg

I was so happy that the food on St. Martin was mainly good. Once I realized that there is virtually no source of fresh water on the island, I was worried what that meant for my 2 week vacation. We are foodies in our family, so going somewhere that has awful food (like Holland or Portugal) would have been devastating.

But like I said, there is very little fresh water to be found on the island meaning that all water is treated or at least desalinated, but also meaning that there is very little farming going on as well. Sure, there are some cattle or goats here and there and coconut palms in various places, but anything you see for sale in any of the markets is shipped in from anywhere they can get it.

So let’s start with the markets. Throughout the island, you will get foods that are grown on other Caribbean islands such as mangoes, pineapples, bananas and various tubers. The Sunny Food supermarket, on the Dutch side around the corner from the Zoo, is considered to a great place for cheap prices and these traditional Caribbean foods including “ackee” the main ingredient in Jamaica’s national dish (I mention this here because it is illegal to get in the US although it’s not completely impossible to find here — so if you want a treat….).

The one market that I was really pissed I didn’t get to until a few days before I was leaving was the big Grand Marché — also on the Dutch side — a few miles south of Marigot. They had the best of the best of everything! Both French and Dutch products as well as specialty items. There was one bucket of some sweet French concoction I found in the liquor section. It said something about Grandmother’s recipe, which always gets me. I assume it was some kind of homemade condensed milk, but it didn’t have an ingredient list on it, so I have no idea, but I didn’t have enough time to finish it off, so I had to pass it up. The Grand Marché is known for having a great combination of prime selection, excellent quality and very good prices. Even though it is on the Dutch side, they have all the French specialties such as foie gras, confit de canard, French cheeses and French beer and wines too. Nice clean and bright store too!

On the French side of the island, you can also go to the US Market in Grand Case. They are expensive, but have good French food (avoid the mortadelle, which was really weird tasting for some reason). This is where we did most of our shopping as it was less than 5 minutes from our apartment in Baie Orientale. I liked the fact that you could buy real French meat there. They also sold American meat, which no doubt many people bought because it was cheap, but a good French steak or chicken can’t be beat. Unlike US “farmers” in France meat is raised for quality. In fact, with chickens, for example, they actually label them by how many days it takes to raise them — the longer the better. So they pride themselves in the fact that it takes 90 days to raise a chicken whereas in the states, we want them raised in under 6 weeks — a practice that involves not only cooping chickens up in disgusting little boxes, but feeding them nothing but hormones in the form of GMO corn and soy. Yuck! but I digress…

Don’t think you’ll get a better deal from the small markets or people selling by the side of the roads. As much as I like to help the locals, their produce is often spoiled and more expensive than what you’d find in the supermarkets. You can find locally raised beef at one small shop that is next to the Marigot market. We bought some beef there one morning when we caught it still open, but I suspect that some people might be a bit leery of how “sanitary” the operation was. Well, all I can tell you is that even though the meat isn’t sold in the most hypersensitive conditions mandated by the US, Marigot is French and therefore inspected regularly by French enforcement, so they are in effect doing all that is necessary to keep the food supply safe.

For organics, try the Bio-Man health food store on the main street in Marigot. The guys in there are pretty helpful and nice. Prices are decent too.

We ate out a little bit while we were there. Here’s what we found. Definitely visit:

The Roti truck along the Salt Pond near Phillipsburg. You’ll know her because she has a big blackboard out front with the simple word “ROTI” written on it. She only has 4 types: curried goat, salt fish, chicken and vegetarian, but that’s all you really need. To wash it down, she has partnered with a “the coconut man” a guy who will serve you fresh coconut water in the coconut out front for only $3 each. Who needs soda? This is what every fast food joint should be about!

Grand Case has lots of high end Italian and French restaurants plus lolos, which are more modest local food stalls. We ate in one lolo one afternoon when look for something to tide us over until dinner. It was quite good and cheap. Grand Case is well-known for its one-to-one exchange rate of the US Dollar for the Euro. So make sure you only pay with dollars since the dollar is pretty worthless compared to the Euro these days!

Le Piment in Baie Orientale was a very good restaurant where we enjoyed our first meal after arriving. I had a spectacular foie gras salad and the service was great that time. We went back a week later for dessert only and the waitress complained that she shouldn’t have seated us had she known as she “had reservations”. That kinda tainted the experience since dessert was almost as expensive as a meal and there were more tables free 20 minutes later when we were done, so who knows why she chose to be a douche at that time….

Little Italy (?) I think is the name of the Italian restaurant two doors down from Le Piment on the other side of the Happy Days restaurant. We had a decent meal there, but to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what I ate. It was OK as I recall though. I’m sure I would have remembered it better if it were awful.

Mai is a beautiful Vietnamese woman who owns this authentic Vietnamese restaurant. Her restaurant is located on the street parallel to the main street along the waterfront. From the waterfront, find the famous Sarafina’s boulangerie (bakery) and walk up the tiny side street next to it. On the next block, hang a right and less than a block away, you’ll find Mai’s restaurant. Mai and her daughter will welcome you with open arms into this quiet little sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of the somewhat chaotic city.

Sarafina’s is hands down considered the best bakery on the island. They have very well made authentic French bread including pain au levain naturel (sourdough) and pain aux lardons (bread with tiny bits of bacon in it). We got the latter along with a few fruit tarts for our flight back home — anything to avoid plane food, but oh, so delicious it was as the other passengers looked on in envy! The other bakery two doors down (I forget the name, but it has sucre in the title) wasn’t  bad either. And the bakery on the main road in Grand Case next to the fabulous Busco, purveyor of fine Caribbean flavors, was very nice as well.

Top Carrot, not to be confused with Carrot Top, was pretty good for their mixed mezze plate. Basically a vegetarian menu with all the trappings that come along with that such as veggie oils and soy-based crap, but you can get decent food. Of course, it’s the kind of meal that leaves real food eaters wanting for more. Apparently, it does with the regulars as well as quite a number of regulars where lighting up cigarettes over their “healthy” meals.

At all costs, avoid the:

Boo Boo Jam – This was unfortunately the beach restaurant to which our apartment had privileges. With our stay, we had full access to using their transats (lounge chairs) and umbrellas plus a 10% discount on food. Well, the lounge chairs and umbrellas looked to be in tip-top shape (although we never got to use them due to time constraints that day) and the drinks were fine, but the food was absolutely abysmal!!!! Just look at the size of this gross hamburger they served my daughter. One bite and she couldn’t even choke down the rest. My husband and I split the local plate — a concoction of various seafood items. Absolutely disgusting! It was mashed whatever with a sour (but not lemon) bite to it alongside some fried then apparently frozen and microwaved shrimp. They had the nerve to charge 20 bucks for it too!

According to our hosts, they and their partners had bought into the establishment and then they realized that the staff there is grandfathered in and have no desire to change. Because of French law, there is no way to get rid of them apparently. So they basically have to wait until the people die, quit or are just put out of business which is likely because they are losing money every day.

Where have you eaten in Saint Martin? Anything else you can add to the conversation?


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Fishing in St. Martin

joes-tarpon.jpg

Over the last year is so, my husband has been getting into fishing. So on this vacation we decided that we were going to do a fishing trip to mix up the experience a little. He went on the web and found a guy named Richard who does fishing excursions on St. Maarten.

We met Richard a few days before Christmas and went out to the Salt Pond to do some fishing for Tarpon. Unfortunately Tarpon is not an eating fish it’s more of a sporting fish. So there’s a whole art to how you catch a tarpon that I wasn’t quite prepared for. But luckily my husband was able to snag a tilapia, which is the type of fish the tarpon eat. So we were able to have the tilapia that night back at the apartment and it was absolutely delicious.

Richard, like me, is also from New York, so we got along really well. Before we parted ways, we decided to meet up again for another fishing excursion. He has two girls ages seven and nine and our daughter is eight so we decided that we would all get together for one night of fishing.

joes-snook.jpg

For dinner, we brought some Jamaican rice and peas and Richard brought delicious Snook dish cooked in coconut milk and we sat by his car and tailgated while the girls swam. It was a lot of fun.

My husband caught a snook, which is a really delicious fish common to the Caribbean and parts of Florida. It was actually the end of the snook season, but he was able to catch a small one. Just enough for the following night’s dinner.

One word to the wise, if you decide to fish while on vacation, either make sure that the person taking you out provides a service to scale and filet or otherwise prep the fish for cooking for you, or travel with your filleting knife.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Things to Do with Kids in St. Martin

daisysbfly.jpg

The Butterfly Farm: Less than 5 minutes south of where we stayed in Orient Bay was a butterfly farm. At the time of writing this, the farm costs about $12 per person for adults and about half that for children and it includes a guided tour pretty much any time of the day you stop in. You can’t miss the sign from the main road. The farm was small, but really have a wonderful array of butterflies and plants on display. If you get there between 9 and 9:30 am, you will be able to see the new butterflies hatch But don’t think it’s a quick process, you may just want to set up a camera and fast forward through the replay later. It is open every day of the year, so there’s no excuse not to get there.

One nice feature is that they will sign a card for you upon entry and any time you visit in the future, you can go for free whether it’s during the same trip or any subsequent trip to the island. The first time we went it was in the afternoon when the butterflies were a bit tired. So a week later we came back in the morning to see the new ones hatch from their chrysalis.

The Beaches: Pinel Island, Anse Marcel, Le Galion

These three beaches were the best we found for visiting with children. My little one was only 19 months at the time of our trip and as much as she loves bathwater, she hates the beach — particularly the waves. However by the time we got to Pinel Island, she started to warm up to the idea because the water is so calm on these beaches.

This is what you need to know. Anse Marcel is a nice beach on the French side. To get there you hang a right at the roundabout just before getting to Grand Case. The sign will say something about a ferry. Drive all the way down that road until you see a sign for the Radisson Hotel. Follow that all the way. You will drive up a really windy and steep hill and upon descending on the other side, you will see parking lots in front of you and a guy controlling the flow of traffic in and out of the beach area. Park in one of the lots and walk down to the beach. Drinks and presumably food are quite expensive there, so you may want to pack your cooler with some pâté sandwiches, fig bars and water bottles like we did or just buy drinks from one of the hotels that are on the beach.

pinelsign.jpg

To get to Pinel Island follow the same ferry sign as you did to get to Anse Marcel, but instead of turning left towards the Radisson, continue straight down to the right. The “ferry” that takes you to the island is more like a refugee boat. If you have a fear of water, you may not like it. I think it was 6 bucks round trip for the boat and the ride was less than 10 minutes. They leave every 30 minutes with the last one coming back before sunset. Pinel Island is uninhabited, so all you will find there are some restaurants. As with all the beaches on St. Martin, you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas, but this beach actually has a better stretch of sand than most, so finding a place to lay out isn’t a problem at all. It seems that the restaurants and even the shops there are somewhat reasonably priced, so you can bring your lunch like we did, or sit down and not blow the bank.

Le Galion was the closest beach to where we stayed. It is just past the Butterfly Farm. Again, you can’t miss the turn off from the main road, just south of Baie Orientale. I’m not sure what was so great about it, but I think it was my personal favorite beach. It had a good mix of just regular people hanging out having a good time. One thing that kids like at this beach is the raft anchored a few feet out. They can walk or swim out to it, climb up and then jump off. The wear was nice and warm at this beach too!

One thing to note about beaches on the island is that they are topless (not forced, just an option). So if you’re prudish or otherwise don’t want your kids exposed to the human body, then you may want to avoid the beaches altogether.

Things to think twice about if you’ve got kids

lotteryfarm-overlook.jpg

Zoo: I wouldn’t recommend this zoo to anyone. It is located on the Dutch side, costs $11/pp to get into and is depressing. It’s bad enough that the whole thing can be done within a half hour, but there’s really not much to see there other than a bunch of macaws. They had some guinea pigs, a few reptiles, a prairie dog of some sort and a cockatoo. It was really a waste of time and money — not much time, but at least the money.

Lottery Farm: Lottery Farm is a gorgeous resort nestled on the slopes of a hill toward the interior of the island part way between Grand Case and Marigot (actually, this was the only source of fresh water we found on the island). Follow the signs for Pic Paradis (Paradise Peak) from the main road to get there. If you are continuing to Pic Paradis, make sure you have a 4×4, anything else might get severely damaged on the steep, rocky roads.

chewbaccarock.jpg

As beautiful as Lottery Farm is — seriously, it looks like a getaway vacation place on the Travel Channel, you may not want to do it with children unless you plan on staying at the restaurant and having a few drinks which is totally cool. If your kids are slightly older, you can do one of their many the zip lines or hike their trail. The trail, however, is quite treacherous. It costs 5 euros per adult whether you do the short or long trail. And basically you walk up a slippery trail along ledges.

At some point, they put a rope, which was helpful, but then at the very end before you get to the overlook, you’d wish you had brought your rock climbing gear. When you get to Chewbacca Rock, you’re at the first summit (actually you’re quite close to Pic Paradis at this point) you can head down the other side. If you have extra time (another hour) you can continue on to the next section which takes you to a cell phone tower.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the walk down is any easier. Well, you don’t have to make the rock climb down, which is good, but it’s quite slippery and muddy the whole way down.

We were really annoyed at the experience simply because we asked the woman at the desk if the trail was doable with a baby and if our shoes were sturdy enough for it and all she said was “You’ll have to carry her”, which we figured, but she clearly had never walked the trail or she would have told us that Daisy’s flip flops were totally inadequate for such a walk. Of course, we were half way through when we realized that it was getting treacherous and almost done by the time we realized going down the way we had gone would have been really really hard!


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.

Surprising facts about St. Martin

St.-Martin-Imported.jpg

Because people had always touted the beauty of St. Martin, I always thought it would be a lush island with lots of natural resources. Instead, we found out that the island has virtually no natural water source. Without a natural source of water, there is no local food. Sure you might find the odd cow, goat or chicken as well as some coconut palms, but there were basically no farms on the island. Everything is imported.

The French side imports everything from France, the US and the other French Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe and Martinique. The French side is actually considered part of Europe meaning that it abides by all French laws including those of sanitation. So you might want to bear this in mind if you have serious concerns about hygiene when shopping in certain markets.

The Dutch side is not actually part of the Netherlands, but still seems to rely on the mother land for certain benefits under the crown. It seems that they are seeking to become part of some sort of Caribbean Union, but haven’t decided if they are ready to go it alone yet or not. From the food standpoint, they also must import everything, but it seems most goods come from the US, the Netherlands and some the Dutch Antilles.

While I knew that people loved the island for buying cheap booze, I had no idea that cigarettes and hard drugs were really cheap and easy to get as well. In fact, it seems that people, especially kids in their late teens and twenties who come there to work, routinely get hooked on drugs because it’s actually cheaper than food! The local police say that there are so many speedboats that come in each night with them that they can’t keep up.

Pretty depressing to think about all these kids getting hooked on drugs to the point that they get fired because they can’t do their jobs anymore. Most shake out of it, but many do not and their lives are ruined.  And so it goes on. I guess there is no paradise where one can escape social ills after all.


About Adrienne Hew

Adrienne-Hew_BlackWhite.jpg

Adrienne Hew is a Certified Nutritionist and the Nutrition Heretic Podcast Host, but is best known online as an author of the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller 50 Ways to Eat Cock: Healthy Chicken Recipes with Balls! Receiving a certificate in Chinese dietetics in 2002 and her degree as a Certified Nutritionist in 2004, she has helped many clients and workshop attendees to decode their own health dilemmas by understanding the inconsistencies in conventional nutritional dogma. She currently resides in Hawaii with her husband and two children.