Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saint Martin: the simple food

Let's face it: when you and your hubby are spending a week in the half-French, half-Dutch island of Saint Martin your hotel room has a kitchen and this is the view from your balcony,

you'll take a lot of meals out on your private terrace:

We'd buy eggs and juice and cereal and nutty Dutch cheeses (an amazing gouda and a moist mimolette) and bread and croissants and exotic jams from the market or the grocery store (though, oddly enough, we found very few boulangeries on the French part of the island, very unlike in mainland France) and have every breakfast overlooking the Caribbean. I also cooked a few dinners at the hotel (and heated up several days' worth of leftovers one night)--we didn't dine in Saint Martin's gourmet restaurants every night! Every trip deserves picnics.

And then when this
and this
are typical daytime sights, you have little desire to leave the beach and go to a fancy restaurant for lunch!

(Although you'll probably be tempted to order a passionfruit daiquiri or two to sip on the sand after your, say, fourth swim of the day.)

We took advantage of several beach bars and lolos for simple meals. A lolo is basically a shack with picnic table-style seating and a grill--no kitchen, no dining room. Huge tubs hold whatever the day's side dishes happen to be (coleslaw, beans and rice, etc.), while raw meat is on ice--chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, lobster. You order it, they grill it. Done. Good.

These photos are from a lolo in Grand Case on Restaurant Row. We also ate at a lolo-type place in Marigot, the capital city, which boasted goat curry as the local favorite. (I opted for the chicken curry, which consisted of rice covered with a thick and not-too-spicy stew, not a Thai or Indian-style curry.)
Another simple lunch that stands out as one of the best meals we had on the island was one that we really earned: we had spent an hour and a half on a zipline/ropes course tour of the rainforest canopy.

The tour was exhilarating and nerve-wracking and panic-inspiring and sweaty and wonderful. I loved the zipline bits, flying over mango trees and chickens at Loterie Farms, a nearly 300-year-old plantation in the center of the island!

And I loved the meal we had afterwards at the the site's open-air Treetop Cafe. The lentil balls in this picture may not look appetizing, but trust me, with their date-tamarind sauce, they were plenty satisfying (especially after feeling like I had just risked my life swinging from one tree to another). And isn't the plating whimsical? Those side dishes encircling the lentil concoction are sweet and sour cabbage, mashed sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and plantain beignets. Trust me, it was rare to find such an inspired vegetarian dish on that island! After all, a foodie can't order fish every time she goes out to eat.

Not that Mr. Tart had any compunctions about overdosing on the seafood; his crabcakes in a spicy pepper jelly with roe were both humongous (twice as thick as a hamburger patty and nearly as big around) and delicious.
We washed all this hearty food down with Ting, a Jamaican grapefruit soda (very sprightly!). Other fun nonalcoholic drinks we sipped on the island included a strong and spicy ginger beer and some imports from mainland France, like sweetened black-currant flavored water, Oasis fruit punches, and of course the mainstay Orangina. (But our favorites were still the daiquiris!)
All in all, our tropical vacation was a tasty and relaxing combination of all sorts of beaches and all sorts of eating, punctuated by good books, some hair-raising drives in the rental car, dips in the hotel pool, and many opportunities to hear people speaking French as they discussed lobster, wine, politics, and dogs--perfect for this foodie French teacher!

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Blogger tara said...

I've often thought picnics are some of the most memorable meals on vacation. They were certainly our favorite part of eating in Paris.

I love the idea of the lolo. Why is beach food in the U.S. so crappy in comparison? (Not counting the steamed crabs you can buy by the enormous bucketful in Maryland/Delaware beach towns. Throw some newspapers down on a picnic table, grab a mallet and eat. Yum.)

Mark and I are going to Montreal in a few weeks -- has anyone been there? Got any tips, food-related or otherwise? (I'm told French-Canadian bagels are excellent.) We're staying in a B&B, and I think we'll have a kitchen.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Looks like you two had a great vacation - thanks for sharing the pictures. And congrats!

7:19 AM  
Blogger lis said...

tara, gourmet did an issue a while back all about Montreal. I think I still have the copy. I'll check and send it to you.

12:19 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Budget Travel had an article recently on Montreal (written by food bloggers, no less):

12:18 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

Wow! Sounds like you had a great vacation, and what tasty food.

6:42 AM  
Anonymous Estela said...

I'm going to leave the only honest comment for this post: Now you're just showing off! ;)

6:14 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

And who can blame me!?

6:44 PM  

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