Expected high today in St. Maarten is 28c which it probably met. What they didn’t elaborate on was the rain. Admittedly not a lot and it was only torrential for a brief period of time. But really…some people come here to sit on the beach or stay on the ship in and around the pools and hot tubs, so what’s the difference.
As there is simply not enough choice and variety of culinary delights on the ship we are going on a Flavors of St. Maarten food and beverage tour. A walking and riding (in an air-conditioned van) tour all around the island avoiding the main shopping area. Breakfast, although minimal, was probably not the best idea. Such is life.
Philipsburg is the capital of the Dutch side of St. Maarten and is very small. On Nov. 11, 1493 Columbus discovered the island of St. Maarten (who is also the patron saint of beggars, farmers and winemakers). He didn’t stop but claimed the land for Spain. In 1624 the Dutch established a settlement and fought with Spain for 15 years. The Dutch lost but Spain lost interest and left. The Dutch and the French saw the potential and moved in. Legend has it the Dutch lost a drinking battle (because their liquor was much stronger than France’s) and ended up with the smaller portion of the island. They also discovered they could mine the salt ponds. Essentially these are ponds that can be filled from the sea. The water comes in…dries out…the salt is pulled out and the process is repeated. Endlessly.
The French ended up with a bigger portion of the island but it is still part of France. St. Maarten (Dutch side) is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands but is its own country and has its own government. Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao the same way. There is almost no fresh-water so 95% of foods are imported. This also includes the fresh fruits sold at fruit stands.
We begin our tour at the Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor store, in Sint (as spelt here) Maarten Dutch West Indies. Our tour guide Randy is from Haarlem, Netherlands which is where Harlem New York is named after (as the Dutch settled in New York as well). Our other guide, Anouk (polar bear in Dutch), is from Holland but now calls St. Maarten her permanent home (and Definitely does NOT look like a polar bear!)
This stop is all about the cheese with Gouda being the main staple. We start with a young (4 weeks aged and costs about $27 for 4.5 kilos) which is the most well known. This is typically made from leftover cow’s milk. Like other well-known foods and liquors, Gouda has some strict guidelines in order to be called Gouda. It must be from Netherlands and follows a very specific recipe.
The second is a black pepper Gouda. It certainly has a more well-defined flavor than its predecessor. So far these have been paired with a sparkling wine from Spain.
Now the garlic and herb. This becomes the crowd favorite with good reason. Definitely flavored but not overpowering.
Number 4 is referred to as ‘mature’. Aging brings evaporation which brings a drier more intense flavor. Mature = 4 months of aging. This is paired with an Argentine Malbec. A 4.5 kilo wheel is only $65. Really this is not outlandish given what we pay for a sliver in our local store.
#5 is aged around 2 years but tastes like 8 months in creaminess and about $450 / 25 lb wheel. Best of the bunch but I wouldn’t throw any of them out of my fridge.
Last little snippet was a small slice of beer cheese. Very nutty and full of cheesy goodness. 🙂 Cheese, apparently, is best served sliced for maximum bouquet and flavor.
Paradise View restaurant in French Quarter is our second stop. On a sunny day, the name says it all. Today is not sunny however the food makes up for the weather without any problem at all. Bacon, onion and cream sauce filled galette followed by salted caramel crepe. (A galette is a crepe made from buckwheat flour.) All paired with a nice, light apple cider.
The third stop is for some Caribbean BBQ at a local Lolo, Sky’s The Limit. Fresh from scratch every day is their philosophy. Coleslaw, potato salad, chicken, spare rib, and Johnnycake was our meal here. (That used to be called Journeycake as it was meant to take on the day’s journey.) Water here, and much appreciated.
Next is L’escapade By The Sea for a Caribbean infused rum tasting. O K!!!
1 is tropical fruit (red fruit abounds within) 1 is banana and vanilla (my personal favorite) 1 is coconut (a typical flavoring)
Marigot is the French side capital reminiscent of the French Riviera and home of our next stop Sarafina’s for French pastry (essentially the desert to finish our eclectic meal).
Éclair, 2 Macaroons, Strawberry tart, and Merengue. A testament to the tender flakiness of the macaroons is when you can’t use them to scrape the soft chocolate or merengue off the plate. Yeah….I really needed this. (HARDLY!!)
I don’t recommend many tour companies, but I will heartily do so this time. It is worth spending some time with Www.stmartinfoodtours.com. They also have one in San Juan, Puerto Rico and a new one starting in St. Thomas. Hopefully the company gets the same calibre of staff that they have with Randy and Anouk! Job well done.
Tomorrow is Antigua and hopefully somewhat more sunshine.