Food, Salt and Sky at Sint Maarten/St. Martin

As if the irresistible Caribbean waters weren’t enough invitation, theDutch Sint Maarten and the French St. Martin actually have even more tooffer in food experiences for the culinary traveler. Here are somephotos from a recent trip from a stuff-your-face point of view.

A drive to the infamous Grand Case (pronounced “cass” by the locals) in the French side is sure to satisfy one’s craving for down-and-dirty barbecued pork ribs, chicken or fish served with classic Carib sides. In the evenings a strip of higher-end gourmet French restaurants also come alive with their equally delectable fare. Don’t worry about prices listed in Euros, a lot of the places state a 1:1 exchange with USD in their menus,  a pretty good touch in my opinoin.

The Grill Shack and The Talk of The Town are roadside barbecue joints called “lolos” where making a mess while eating with your hands must be the rule. Ceramic tile-topped dining tables and benches are proof of this, as are the very welcoming styrofoam plates and plastic utensils. An in-house bar serves sweet cocktails in thin plastic cups, but the star of the show has to be what’s cooking on their grills.

Pork ribs and chicken cooking on a cast iron grill fashioned into a smoking drum.

 Rib and chicken platters with sides are around $8-10, or you may opt to order just a slab of ribs for $5-6. The ribs are warm, tender and flavorful, but still require a brush of regular BBQ sauce that’s readily available on the tables along with hot sauce and bottled salad dressing.

 Creole shrimp, rice and beans, mac n’ cheese, corn on the cob. Reverse Atkins diet. :o)
 Whole grilled snapper over curry rice.
Stuffed christophine / chayote.
Stuffed crab back.
La Villa (93 Grand Case Boulevard) provides very pleasant evening dining, hard to distinguish from the rest of the equally-enticing restaurants on that strip if not for the friendly host who invited us in without any pressure, but also letting us know that they have a 1EU = 1USD exchange if paying in cash. Also, the complimentary first glass of wine or cocktail helped cement our decision.
Escargot in butter.
Grilled lamb.
A steep walk from the Dutch side and a few steps past the border on the French side is a neighborhood restaurant we frequented during our stay. Le Fregate (Avenue du Lagoon and Rue de l’Escale) is a small and warm restaurant with exceptional dishes, and excellent pizza as well.

Big Fish (Oyster Pond Marina) is a casual restaurant that serves fresh fish and seafood at relatively accommodating prices. We ordered a series of appetizers and found ourselves stuffed and happy.
Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Shrimp Bisque

Escargot and Camembert in a “cassarol”

Escargot in full glory

Anyone looking for a great beach vacation knows that excellent food only completes the package of sand and sun. St Maarten/St Martin, being only three hours away via a JetBlue direct flight from JFK, is an ideal refuge from the East Coast winters. There numerous hotels depending on the budget, and various beaches to choose from, depending on whether you prefer shallow calm waters or coral reefs.

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