Winemakers 4th edition at La Samana

Exquisite evening; unbeatable setting!

The evening was sultry; the air luscious with hints of fresh blossoms in the gardens; soft lighting led us into the foyer of one of the most delightful open-air restaurants on island. Belmond, La Samana, was hosting another fabulous evening of wine pairing which we were attending.

Given a beautiful warm welcome at the desk, we were guided through to the lower terrace. Meeting and being introduced to some delightful folk along the way, we were shown directly to the wine cellar, La Cave, where we were to have our first glass of bubbly for the evening.

The wine cellar is an unexpected place; it is the epitome of a true cellar, musty and chilly with the wonderful aroma of barrels, burning candles and of course wine. Deep steps and winding passages run right into the heart of the cliff under the hotel perching above like a shimmering bridal cake.

We were offered our first glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve, the bottles of champagne were displayed on a table with shining flutes awaiting their turn to be filled with golden bubbles and a glorious white arrangement of flowers; we were then taken for a wander through the winding passages to a room where, on occasion, one may dine amidst aged bottles of wonderful wines, the table set with shining silver and glistening glasses. Oh, yes, pure enchantment.

Back on the terrace with our champagne, we stood gazing at the gorgeous view, the calm sea, watching planes come in to land as the gloaming gently turned to night. And then it was time to be seated so that the excellent pairing could begin.

The amuse bouche was heavenly, a small cup of warm asparagus foam soup garnished with a speckling of olive oil and paired with the same champagne we had been enjoying – certainly a promising start.

The following course was quite delightful, a Sea Scallop Carpaccio in Almond Milk garnished with a radish and tart granny-smith apple salad and yuzu vinaigrette; paired with Billecart-Salmon Brut de Blancs Grand Cru. This was the only champagne that did not make full marks on my taste buds; it did, however, go down smoothly.

Warm rolls were being offered constantly, they were perfect to sop up the juices from this and the next dish.

The second pairing was a wild salmon fillet braised in champagne and set on a bed of endive surrounded by a caviar sour cream sauce. Oh my! Paired with Billecart-Salmon Extra Brut 2006, nothing could be more delicious. The smooth sauce, perfectly braised fish, and champagne could not be bettered; or could it?

The next dish, veal fillet tournedos, was slow-cooked and served with roasted asparagus and shallots and a juice of roasted coffee foam; paired with Billecart-Salmon Brut Sous Bois. The woody influence came out strongly, mature and rich, sophisticated and stylish, nutty and full-bodied – certainly a champagne that can hold its own with roasted coffee flavours. A perfect pairing indeed!

Finally, the dessert course, along with some petit fours, equalled fruit salad and cookies of sophistication. The fruit, melon and raspberries, finely diced and artfully displayed with a fruity gel and fruity coulis, wee meringue licks and a Breton Sable brought a light ending to a most enjoyable evening; paired with Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose, perfection in extreme.

Once again, the chef, sommeliers and staff at La Samana pleased all who experienced this Winemakers 4th edition. You don’t want to miss the next one!

Info:

Trellis, Belmond, La Samana

Phone: + 590 590 87 64 00

Reservations recommended

Ratings:

Staff friendliness: *****

Service speed: *****

Restaurant cleanliness: *****

Food quality: *****

Value for money: ****

Ambience: *****

After a four-year hiatus, the ancient and classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam will be showcased on the stage of Belair Community Centre on Sunday, May 28, starting at 6:30pm. The one-and-a-half hour recital will feature some 40 young dancers of Nritya Dance Company and teacher/choreographer Aparna Samaga.

“Recitals like this are so important in keeping classical arts thriving amongst the younger generations. Recitals inspire and motivate them into practicing and training in the classical arts. Our kids become ambassadors of our rich Indian cultural heritage,” said Samaga of the show. “Our main goal in conducting this kind of concert is creating an awareness of Indian cultural tradition to the St. Maarten public and encouraging all youngsters and kids to come and learn this divine art form and thereby help in keeping this art form alive.”

The programme will feature the beautiful South Indian Classical Dance form of Bharatanatyam, group dances to the tunes of Indian classical and fusion music and a Bollywood dance number which dancers recently learnt in a workshop taught by ace Bollywood choreographer Shampa Gopkrishna.

Samaga said a small dance drama, based on an Indian folktale will be staged this year. The story of the cow Punyakoti is strongly rooted in the cultural tradition of the Karnataka state in India. Heard in the past over many generations, and to be heard in the future also, this is the story of truthfulness, honesty and faithfulness. The mother cow Punyakoti, who is very innocent and mild, is caught by a cruel tiger Arbhuth; but she changes the tiger’s mind with her truthfulness.

“The story reveals the importance of truthfulness in our life. Truth is god. Punyakoti touches our heart, appeals to our emotions. Human beings have to learn lessons from animals,” Samaga explained.

The core of the recital remains Bharatanatyam, the ancient traditional art form with its origins steeped in divinity and its reflection of the Indian culture at its best. It is a highly complex movement language that is an amalgamation of multiple layers of melody, rhythm, emotions, story, mime, philosophy, poetry, physical energy and tempo. And yet, beneath all these layers lies the innermost core of the art – a merging of physical energy with spiritual ideals.

The dance form uses a sophisticated vocabulary of hand gestures (Hastas), rhythm (Tala) and expression (Bhava) and is composed of two distinct aspects: Nritta (Pure Dance and Abstract Movements) and Abhinaya (Mime or Facial Expression). Nritta is intricate rhythmic footwork synchronous in time and tempo to the music; and Abhinaya visually interprets the narrative of the lyrical composition.

Looking beyond the music and the drama, the rhythm and the poetry, Bharatanatyam is really moored in something more profound and spiritual. It is very easy to simply appreciate the outer beauty and glamour of the form, but for the audience to experience a Rasa (aesthetic experience) that exists beyond this physicality is the true test for an artiste.

Samaaga said Bharatanatyam isn’t meant to merely entertain. Every performance is an experience for both the artiste and the audience – a spiritual experience of sublime aesthetics. Linear geometrical patterns, a perfect balance of the body, eloquent expression, and precision of footwork to intricate mathematical rhythms are the hallmarks of this dance.

Tickets are US $15 for adults and $10 for children ages five to 10 and are available at National Institute of Arts (NIA) on Longwall Road, Kams Food World on W.J.A. Nisbeth Road, Oro Diamante Jewelers on Front Street, Blue Rivera (next to Cheri’s Café) and Victorious on Rue de St. James, Marigot. Entrance price will increase by $5 at the door.

For more information, contact Samaga at 1 (721) 526-8850.

~ Mother’s Day Black Tie Gala ~

DADA! Dance & Arts Dimension Academy is inviting all families of mothers to stretch the Mother’s Day weekend into a holdover performance. Bring your mom out to Belair Community Centre this Saturday, May 20, for a formal event with prizes galore!

There will be singing, dancing, poetry and tons of fun – and it’s all dedicated to mom. There will be plenty of special surprises and there will even be a prize for the best dressed mother.

The apex of the evening is planned for 9:00 when a jaw-dropping precession of all the moms takes place on the Red Carpet – just as it should be. Hollywood stars gonna take a back seat to the ladies who raised us, after all, who deserves the glam treatment more than Mom?!

Each guest will receive a free welcome drink and there will be additional food and drink on sale. The fun starts at 6:30pm. Prices are $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Get your tickets from any of the DADA family or from Janek’s Boutique.

Call 1 (721) 523-4436 or 522-5801 for more information, or look up their facebook page: Dance Dimensions A.

Basketball Playoffs @ Casino Royale

Who do you think will be the next NBA champion?

Located at Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino Royale is the perfect spot to catch all the sports action! The National Basketball Association playoffs will be showing on HDTV screens throughout Casino Royale.

And don’t forget to place your bets right at our in-house Sports Book!

Made in Spain

~ Tapas done right ~

Want to surprise your friend with an unexpected lunch? Made in Spain is the place, for a variety of reasons! First of all, it’s got the goods when it comes to delicious food. Second, the owners are so personable you are sure to become friends right away. But the best reason of all is the ambiance; no, it’s not a sea view or hilltop veranda, it’s the juxtaposition of warehouse exterior with a quaint and cosy Spanish-style wine cavern.

More than just an eatery, this is a hidden gem with a retail side, stocking lots of imported products from Spain, such as sausages, cheese, ham, olive oils, and a plethora of wines, including cava brut, and even organic wines. The wines are made by hand in one of the biggest wineries in Europe – Garcia Carrion.

Owners Eduardo Vargas and Susana Lopes are from Barcelona and came to the island a few years ago. They started with a wholesale distribution business, then branched out with the shop/restaurant. Made in Spain is part of the company Viva la Vida NV – the distributors and importers of Spanish wine since 2015.

We pulled into the parking spots just in front of the establishment for a nice lunch on Monday looking forward to the typical Spanish tapas. Upon entering, it was as if we were no longer in St. Maarten, but had been transported to a small bistro in Barcelona. We were immediately welcomed by the owners and given a table.

In no time at all, we had selected a tapas platter of sausages and cheese and peppers, we had a basket of bread, a bottle of olive oil and of course a great red wine to wash it all down! Heaven.

Oh, you want details? Okay… There were slices of Manchego cheese from the La Mancha region of Spain. This cheese is made from the milk of the Manchego sheep of that region and is creamy and firm with a nutty and slightly peppery flavour. There were also generous nibbles of spicy chorizo sausage, sweet chorizo sausage, Iberian ham, Llomo ham and peppers. The ham is from the Black Pig of the Iberia region of Spain which is fed on acorns and roams freely producing a well marbled meat with a distinctive flavour.

All of this was complemented by the Pata Negra Rioja Reserva 2014, expertly recommended for our lunch selection by Eduardo. We were advised by Susana: “You should put a bit of olive oil and salt in your plate, then dip the bread or meat through it.” Hey! When in Barcelona, do as the Barcelonians do!

Along with the tapas platter, we had an appetizer bowl of potatoes in a spicy sauce, which was addictive and delicious. But the main dish of the lunch was an exotic arborio rice dish called Black Risotto. This dish is blackened by the ink of the squid and it contains calamari in the risotto which is served with a dollop of aioli.

Some of the black rice dish went home in a Tupperware, as we had to save a little room for a shot of crème brûlée liqueur and biscotti. It all spelled a great experience, this mini-excursion into the land of Spain, the place is a must-see for all who appreciate something fresh and novel. While they are open for breakfast and lunch, they typically close before the dinner hour, but if you have a group, discuss with them about staying open later. There is no problem with that!

Info:

Made in Spain

Wellsburg Road #12

Cole Bay

Telephone: 1 (721) 587-9039.

Reservations not necessary

Open Monday through Friday 9:00am to 6:30pm

Saturdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm

Group dinners possible with reservations

Closed Sundays

Ratings:

Staff friendliness: *****

Service speed: ****

Restaurant cleanliness: *****

Food quality: ****

Value for money: ****

Ambience: ****

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