My family and I had planned on visiting Panama City, Panama this year. We were all really excited, as we had not been to Central America before. However, due to some last minute complications we ended up not going there.. and by last minute I mean literally at the airport right before our plane was supposed to take off. Luckily we were able to book an extremely last minute trip to St. Maarten & St. Bart’s for the same week.. this gives a whole new meaning to “last minute.”
We embarked on our journey of a direct 3 hour flight to the beautiful half Dutch, half French island of St. Maarten. My family and I are huge fans of tropical weather and islands, so we have visited nearly every island in the Caribbean and West Indies, but this was our first time in St. Maarten. I was expecting the usual- beautiful beaches, friendly island folk, tons of shopping and mediocre food. I was pleasantly surprised to find that St. Maarten had a variety of food, tons of restaurants and plenty of choices, hence not mediocre!
First off, the national drink (rather I should say national liquor) of the island is the Guavaberry Rum. Guavaberry is an indigenous fruit to the island, and the Guavaberry Emporium has been turning this berry into a fruity and sweet rum for years. While we were shopping, we stumbled upon the original Guavaberry Emporium store and were enticed by the colors and smells from the store. From this liquor they make a yummy blended cocktail that includes pineapple juice, coconut cream and ice. It is soooo yummy! It tasted like a mix of strawberry, coconut with a hint of rose. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our next food adventure was at a local breakfast joint called Beau Beau’s. It was beautiful- right on the beach overlooking the turquoise water and in the near distant was our resort.
The restaurant served local dishes and something in particular caught my eye- ‘Johnny Cakes.’ They are a traditional local bread stuffed with all sorts of things. For breakfast, I got it with egg whites and cheese, yum! Its a fried bread that is crispy and golden brown on the outside and soft and sweetish on the inside. It really complimented the eggs and cheese. I dumped some Matouk’s habanero hot sauce on it and it tasted delicious! I love trying local dishes that are not available anywhere else- I mean that’s the whole point of traveling right?!
Next on our list was French! We were determined to try our luck at a French restaurant- I say “luck” because there’s never usually anything for a vegetarian to eat. Our resort recommended a restaurant on the ‘French Side’ of the island called- well this is embarrassing I forgot the name. However, the food was very good and there weer plenty of veggie options and they were very accommodating! I actually was able to experience (and EAT) two dishes that are normally not available for vegetarians (or available in general)- French Onion Soup (yes, I made this a while ago because I was never able to eat it out) AND Baked Alaska- oh my god yes.
We started off with some sweet wine- my parents prefer Muscato, but it was not available. So we basically got the next best sweet wine-
The soup was so yummy- perfectly caramelized onions topped with crusty bread and loads of gooey Gruyere cheese.
The Baked Alaska was everything I expected it to be- a mound of layered cake and ice cream covered in whipped meringue then flambeed in front of me- YUM!
For my vegetarian entree, I chose the puff pastry filled with roasted vegetables accompanied by small side dish samplings and gastrique (and their homemade hot sauce haha). Everything was really yummy, however I do think that the puff pastry basket could have been accompanied by a grain- either pasta, risotto, farrow, etc.
Next we had Italian. This restaurant was also located on the French side and was beautifully situated on the water, so we had a night time view of Simpson Bay. The restaurant was really cute and had its own unique charm. Luckily, since it was low season, we didn’t have to wait for a table or even make a reservation! The menu was full of hearty Northern Italian dishes- not conducive to a bikini body but I was on vacation so oh well!
We started off with an Eggplant Melanzane- layers of eggplants coated with cheese and homemade marinara:
I chose PROBABLY the fattiest dish on the menu- homemade spinach and ricotta raviolis in a sage butter sauce. Yup I am going to die of congestive heart failure.
For dessert I think we initially wanted a warm chocolate brownie of some sorts, but it was not available :(. So we opted for the warm caramel apple tartine. It was very yummy and the caramel was tasty and fresh:
Me and my older sister at dinner!
The next day my sister and I embarked on what we thought would be a calm and peaceful ziplining adventure. No. we were absolutely wrong. The people at the park failed to inform us that the course was in fact this crazy expert Lara Croft Tomb Raider like obstacle course that required a ridiculous amount of coordination and balance. We also had a “guide” that didn’t “guide” us at all, but instead ditched us for his French girlfriend. Seriously?! If you are ever in St. Maarten I advise against going to the Loterie Farm where they have hiking and zipling OR be prepared with proper sneakers, clothing and mind set to get through a crazy tree topped obstacle course. Oh and by the way, my sister got stung by a wasp while we were in the middle of a plank.
After our not-so-fun adventure, we decided to treat ourselves at the Loterie Farm restaurant with some French food. I ordered the Guavaberry Colada
and Baked Brie with fresh Mango Salsa. Out of this entire experience my food was the only this was good! The Baked Brie was the best I ever had- flaky pastry oozing with tons of melted brie and sweet mango salsa- YUM!
The next day was our day trip to the French aka rich people island of St. Barts! I say rich people island because its frequently visited by celebrities many of which have villas there, and the island only consists of very pricey boutique hotels. When you arrive at Gustavia via ferry, the first thing you literally see is a Louis Vuitton store. Now if that doesn’t exude rich, then I don’t know what does! St. Bart’s is beautiful- tons of green mountains filled with red-roofed buildings, turquoise water and tons of palm trees.
They also have an awesome airport that’s right on the water and only supports small jet planes (see another obvious trait of it being a rich people island!!)
Since it is French colonized, everything is in French, including the currency (they use the Euro which is quite unfortunate for us Americans since the exchange rate sucks).
This also meant that the food was generally expensive/overpriced for what they offer. Also, since the island mostly offered French food, that meant a whole lotta nothing for us vegetarians. For lunch we ate at a cafe that seemed to have the most options for vegetarians and it was also called Le Piment with a chili pepper in its’ name and that is always a good sign.
This is a funny story actually.
I had order the Goat Cheese Salad drizzled with island Honey and I specifically said make sure there is no meat or seafood on it please (obviously the waiter didn’t really know English, but I figured he got the point). My dish comes out first and its a Caesar Salad loaded with eggs, bacon, and all sorts on non-veg things. I was like uhh what is this? And they were all like “wee wee wee, french, french..you ordered this etc” and I was like this has meat. So our waiter was like “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” and then comes back with a completely different salad than what I had ordered. Except this time I didn’t complain- instead of a Goat Cheese Salad it was a melted brie on toast salad with dried fig and cashews. It was actually awesome! It was perfectly dressed mixed greens and sprouts topped with crusty french bread oozing with high-quality melted brie along with tons of roasted cashews and dried figs.
FOo dessert we went to a Gelateria across the street that literally charged us 2 EU for HALF a scoop.. that’s like $3.50 aka a LOT. I got coconut flavor, and it was very good but indeed very pricey.
During our last day on St. Maarten we stopped at a local restaurant for some island Roti and curry!
I got it the way they traditionally eat it- Curry Potato wrapped in a roti with a side of salad. We asked for them to make it extra spicy (of course) and it was really yummy! Strong flavors of garam masala, clove and turmeric infused the potatoes and the roti was flaky and layered with what seamed to be crushed moong daal (yellow daal).
Last but not least we tried some Mexican food. Our resort recommended a place called Jimbo’s Rock & Blues Cafe so we decided to give it a try. At first it was a bit difficult to find because it’s hidden from the main road (Airport Road to be exact) and the sign was not lit. It was situated by the harbor and had a very tropical oasis-like feel- with tons of palm trees, a sunken bar and a pool surrounding the restaurant. The atmosphere was really cool!
We were also pleased to find that the menu was filled with a large selection of vegetarian options! We actually met Jimbo himself and he’s a native New Yorker- no wonder the Mexican food was so delicious! He was nice enough to chat with us and tell us about his travels to India and his love for yoga!
I ordered the Black Bean and Garlic Mashed Potato Chimichanga served with Jalapeno Corn Bread and salsa.. yummy!!
Jimbo treated us with some complimentary house-infused Passion fruit Tequila:
I’m not even a fan of tequila but this was very yummy! He told us how he makes it- they take the pulp if the passion fruit and mash it was tons of sugar and let is macerate. Then they add the tequila and let is sit for about 2-3 months until its sweetened and infused with all the natural flavors of passion fruit. It was very tasty and probably the easiest shot of tequila I had ever taken ;)
All in all our trip was great. We had some mishaps here and there but we made the best of it. It also helped that the weather was amazing and it was low season, so we ate, drank, shopped and traveled as we pleased! I definitely recommend visiting and definitely recommend all the restaurants I highlighted here!
Want some recipes?