I have been discovering that St. Martin has a lot of different faces. I got to see it all, from the budget to the luxurious, as we spent most of the day in Phillipsburg.
The first thing on the agenda was the 12 Meter Challenge. This yacht race had sounded really exciting, but my stomach was still a bit queasy and I was told that once I got on it would be four hours before I could get off. I bid the group goodbye and wished them luck, and decided to spend my free time exploring downtown Phillipsburg.
We had come into Phillipsburg the previous two days, but from the other side where all the stores and buildings were. This time I entered through the boardwalk, which had not yet been built on my last visit to St. Martin. In was an amazing array of market booths, shops and restaurants – all bordering on miles of beautiful beach.
I picked up a few bargain sundresses and bought a pair of silver earrings for my daughter, Sam. I also stopped for a while and admired the sea, with some of the bluest water I had ever seen. I was afraid to eat too much, but I found a cute bakery and enjoyed some tea and a croissant. I didn’t realize just how far I had walked until I saw the pier about 10 blocks away. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the walk back there where I was to meet the group for lunch at the Greenhouse Restaurant.
St. Maarten Tourism Board told us about Johnny Cakes, the only food she felt was truly native to the country. We had a hard time figuring out just what it was so the Greenhouse kitchen made some for us. I felt it was a combination of a biscuit and a zeppole (without the sugar) and we all really enjoyed them.
After lunch we took a long ride up to Loterie Farm on the French side. I had no idea what to expect here as I knew they had a bar, restaurant, pool, hiking, ziplining, a bar and a restaurant, yet it was referred to as a “farm.” It turned out the term came from the fact that it used to be a sugar plantation and the current state was much more about luxury.
We wondered through the beautifully landscaped grounds and up into the treehouses that served as lounges and eateries. It was just magnificent and I think we all wished this had been a day long outing. The pool had a lovely stone floor and was surrounded by comfortable lounges and cabanas. It was tough to leave, but we only had enough time to get back to the Westin Dawn Beach St. Maarten and change for our very special final dinner.
The restaurant we went to is Rare and its Chef Dino Jagtiani also has the restaurant Temptation next door. Both have received accolades throughout the Caribbean. Personally, I preferred the menu from Temptation since I can’t eat fish and like to keep my meat consumption down, but we were lucky enough to be able to sample from both menus.
We started with some appetizers and while they were all good, the standouts were definitely the Warm Goat Cheese Bonbons with red wine, poached pears and pecans, and the Seared Foie Gras with Sauterne, poached with apricots. The Bruschetta sampler is also a treat, with combinations like chickpea-sweet potato and eggplant-Portobello.
I had the Homemade Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli. The ravioli were superb, but the cream sauce was a little heavy. Nothing, though, looked quite as heavy as Tricia’s Shrimp. They arrived hanging rather than on a plate, shocking us all!
Chef Dino visited with us for a while and told us how challenging it is to get fresh produce and herbs on the island compared to fish. He does his best to get good ingredients as locally as possible and it was certainly evident in the side dishes we devoured, from Spinach Au Gratin to Truffle Mashed Potatoes to a Macaroni & Cheese that someone referred to as the best they have ever had.
No one could decide which dessert to get so we got a punch and shared. The Crème Brulee with different toppings was smooth and just sweet enough and the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Churros was great. I wasn’t quite sure about the Lava Cake with Pop Rocks, but it seemed to be a hit.
We got back to the Westin around 1:00 am and I was asleep quickly. There was one more day left with the group and I wanted to be ready for it.