~ Delightful fare! ~

How I love the evenings out we have – just us girls on occasion! The song “Just the two of us” comes to mind and although that may be meant as a lovers’ song, it can be adapted to being with anyone who has a lot of meaning to you. Of course, having fine wine along with a delicious meal in a great ambiance helps set the mood.

And so it was one evening recently that we found ourselves driving and chatting away nineteen to the dozen, no fixed place that we were heading to, just following our noses. Past Grand Case, one takes the road at the roundabout to Cul de Sac, down that road. Almost at the turnoff to Anse Marcel is a cottage that has changed hands a few times over the years, once it was Hibiscus, then A Pinch of Salt and more recently we noticed it is called A Grain of Pepper.

My companion said she has friends who go there quite often; it is their home away from home. I was intrigued to try it, as the building is painted in the shades of various peppers – not the capsicum variety but the hard pepper-grinding type of pepper – browns, greys and blues. Inside we found that a hint of red pepper was used on the cushion covers on the chairs – pretty whimsical and fun and the welcome we got from the wait staff was warm and inviting.

We were seated at a table by a large, open window. I must say we were both a tad chilly, but knowing that this is the “chilly” time of year, we had gone prepared – must be gorgeous on a hot summer’s evening sitting at the open windows.

This is actually a Mom and Pop place as it turns out. The sweet person who welcomed us so warmly and waited on us is the owner and the chef is her husband. In between being served, we heard a bit of their story. Both French, she worked for some years in London at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants; her husband comes from the Pyrenees. Their sense of whimsy prompted them to put the play on the name of their restaurant.

The walls are adorned with paintings by a local artist, in the same pepper colours – they are mostly of nudes. The tables are laid in an understated simplicity – we could have been dining in an old farmhouse in the middle of the French countryside.

Our first course came almost immediately after we got our cocktails; these were a good Mojito and a G&T (gin and tonic), we also had a very nice rose wine with our meal. Our first courses were delightful, we had Escargot in Puff Pastry and Saumurade of Salmon with a lemon and aneth sauce. The snails in puff pastry was out of this world, the sauce was so more-ish, just not enough of it – snail soup should be a menu item using just that sauce and some of the wee critters. The gravadlax, however, was simply to swoon over; a house specialty that captures all the best of the salmon flavours and the sauce a perfect accompaniment.

Our entrees were wonderful too, we enjoyed a confit of duck and a very good seared tuna, although the tuna was wonderfully flavoured and perfectly cooked, the outside could have been a little more seared to arrive at the table a bit hotter. It was chilly that evening, of course. The veggies were green beans and a puree of carrot.

Our desserts were a perfect ending to the meal – the French styled apple pie won hands down with a thin pastry crust, a layer of apple and drizzled with a gooey caramel sauce, served with a scoop of delicious caramel ice cream; the chocolate lava cake had an awesome, gooey chocolate centre and was served with some vanilla ice cream – perhaps I should recant that and say they got equal points as they were both worthy of a great ending to a most enjoyable meal.

We had spied a side table with homemade rum decanters and were pleased to find that they were not just for show when we were offered a shot of rum to finish the meal – this French tradition of fruity rum shots at the end of a meal is the best.

The entire evening was most enjoyable and not terribly expensive; this great family restaurant is well worth trying out, especially for its satisfyingly delicious repast.

Info:

Le Grain de Poivre

111 route de cul de sac

Cul De Sac, Saint Martin

Phone: +590 690 77-9787

http://legraindepoivresxm.wixsite.com/stmartin

Ratings:

Staff friendliness: ****

Service speed: ****

Restaurant cleanliness: ****

Food quality: ****

Value for money: ****

Ambience: ****

@ Soggy Dollar Bar

Wondering where you can get ice-cold drinks, a banging sound system, the best DJ’s playing the best tunes, a crowd you can get down with, and a venue that somehow gets everyone in the party mood? Look no further, obviously you are going to head to Soggy Dollar Bar!

Every Tuesday head on over to Soggy Dollar Bar for the best Latin Night on the island brought to you by Brugal Rum! The party starts at 7pm with Salsa classes by Laura & Daniel. The two talented teachers can teach you whether you are young and old, beginner and expert, have rhythm or not; all the moves you need to have a great time at Latin Night.

At 9pm DJ Junior takes over the turntables and at 10pm Latin Sugar Band will take the stage and deliver song after song, beat after beat, of your favorite Latin hits, that it will be near impossible not to fall in love with Latin music. Ladies are you not convinced yet? There will be free margaritas and mojitos for the ladies! Come and enjoy the hottest Tuesday Nights now at Soggy Dollar Bar.

On Thursdays enjoy Urban Thursdays with Topadetop DeejBlaze & Guest starting at 10pm. DeejBlaze will play your favourite old school and new school in Hip Hop, Dancehall, Soca, Reggaeton and EDM! Free entrance and crazy drink specials all night long!

On Fridays you can find just about everyone who is ready to party at Soggy Dollar Bar for Soggy Fridayz. DJ Bossman and guests keep the crowd dancing and the sexy Soggy Ladies keep everyone drinking till the early hours of the morning.

Soggy Dollar Bar is open everyday, from 3pm on weekdays and 4pm on Sundays. Happy Hour is every night from 5pm till 7pm. Make sure to keep a look out for the array of special events, concerts and nights on Soggy’s schedule!

For more information about this event or other upcoming great events at soggy dollar bar: surf to www.soggydollarsxm or find soggy on facebook at facebook.com/soggydollarbar.

There seems to be a constant buzz surrounding the newly renovated Refuge Restaurant Lounge, and with good reason as the owners have spared no ingenuity to bring this new place to life. Between the parties, the atmosphere and the overall newness of the place, there seems to be much more in store for them. There has been a lot of chatter in Foodieverse about the restaurant, so much so that it was more a matter of when I would go rather than if I would. So, as it goes, I mentally opened up a button on my jeans and headed over to Sunset Beach. It is child-friendly, which was really convenient, because my nephew was with me. Thus, armed with an empty stomach and a five-year-old, I was ready to finally experience The Refuge and find out if it was worth the hype.

The first impression of a restaurant is always its décor and atmosphere. There was a noticeable difference as I walked from the brightly lit parking lot and stepped into the restaurant. From the moment you step into The Refuge, the lighting is softer and the ambiance consumes you as if to say, “Relax, we know what we’re doing.” I can’t decide if my favourite part was the falling water screen and pool combo, or being seated over the water – I’m a sucker for a view. Let us take a moment to appreciate the world wonder that is a restaurant on a cliff situated directly next to a world famous beach where planes land. Yes, it’s an experience worth having. If it’s your first time there and you or your little one is prone to being chilly, I suggest you dress warmly. We weren’t prepared and the staffers were kind enough to provide a sweater for my nephew when he mentioned he was cold.

The staffers, who I am now obsessed with, are incredibly attentive. There was a point in time that I had to look around to see if it was only me receiving this treatment, but they are generally very pleasant and observant with everyone. Looks of pleasure and wonderment were plastered on the faces of others as well, and it made me wonder if my passionfruit margarita was playing tricks on me. Have I mentioned their margaritas are the size of a small child, and if you so desire can be served in an entire pitcher with a straw.

The menu is short and concise with simple, but tasty options. I saw it and thought, “What diet”? The appetizers were easy enough to choose, because I was in the mood for seafood. The crispy calamari was my first choice, it’s a simple enough dish, but many chefs overthink it and get a rubbery mess and/or greasy batter. In addition to the calamari, I chose the seafood lollipops, for the name. They sounded interesting. There was barely any wait time for the appetizers, which is probably because the night was quiet, but it was appreciated. The calamari and lollipops were cooked perfectly. I looked for signs of too much grease or batter and found none; and the seafood was the right side of tender and the coconut curry sauce was the right balance of savoury and exotic. Time must be a moment taken to appreciate the presentation. The Refuge has an aversion to basic plating and it’s amazing. My lollipops came skewered into a wooden plank next to miniature versions of the Eiffel Tower and ceramic clogs.

After having the appetizers, I wasn’t certain what I wanted, so I sought answers from the chef, who suggested the Cowboy Rib Eye and the Farfalle Giuseppe Verde. Both dishes were ordered and I would usually have the steak, but I chose heads and ended up being the one with the Farfalle Giuseppe Verde. It is a combination of bowtie pasta, shrimp, cherry tomatoes, spinach, fresh basil garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Parmesan is optional, but you should take advantage of it. I was halfway in between mouthgasms with my shrimp dish when I had a bite of that oh-so-tender Rib Eye. There was another bite, then another, until my hand was shewed away.

There is a special place in the Great Beyond for chefs who pay such special attention to their side vegetables, which were grilled just enough to be cooked, but still retained their original crunch. Zucchini isn’t my favourite vegetable, but I would eat it every day if it’s coming from the kitchen at The Refuge. The things the chef does with sides are incredible. If there is anything you do try, make sure the mashed potato is one of them. Pesto mashed potato is a solid 10. As if I wasn’t hooked enough, dessert showed up. They recreated half a coconut using a lightly whipped coconut mousse with a genius chocolate shell and garnished the plate with a refreshing pineapple and guavaberry salad. I don’t know how I’ll get back to my regular life after this.

The Refuge

#2 Beacon Road, Maho

Phone: + 1 (721) 545-2084

Open: 6:00pm to 3:00am

Cuisine: Italian with a Caribbean flare

Price range: $$

Credit Cards, Cash

Reservations: Not necessary, but suggested

Ratings:

Staff friendliness: *****

Service speed: *****

Restaurant cleanliness: *****

Food quality: *****

Value for money: *****

Ambience: *****

The good thing about living on an island with two governments is that they must have two Carnival seasons and it is that time again for the French side to begin their fete, which starts on February 4 and ends on March 1.

I know it still seems far away, but an early pre-Carnival event will be held on January 28 in the Galis Bay village, during which a St. Martin band will be chosen to participate in “Battle of the Bands III” – a Sound Master’s event scheduled for February 24. Participating islands include St. Kitts, Dominica, St. Croix, Anguilla and St. Martin. Those who can’t wait for the fete to begin can start marking their calendar for the Battle of the Bands III showdown.

The 2017 French side Carnival Village will have 12 booth-holders: five of them are regulars and the other seven are newcomers. The containers in Carnival Village will be painted in Carnival colours to make them more presentable for revellers. Other highlights to look forward to are the Individual Costume Competition on February 18 and the Calypso Show with local calypsonians on February 21.

The St. Martin Carnival committee, Festivités Carnavalesque de St. Martin (FCDSM), is working hard to get you excited about Carnival 2017 and will be hitting radio stations, social media and newspapers to get the word out. A Calypso show has not been held on the French side for at least 10 years, but this year’s Miss Pitchounette and Junior pageants will be held on February 12 in Carnival Village.

As far as the parades are concerned, eight troupes have already registered for the children’s parade and six for the adult parade. “Seven Wonders of the World” is the theme for the children’s parade. FCDSM encourages the districts that have never participated in Carnival, or those that are thinking about making a comeback, to consider entering a troupe as the troupes are a very important instrument of Carnival.

FCDSM understands that it is difficult on the French side to put together a troupe and that it takes a lot of funds; this is why it is urging businesses and companies to get into the Carnival spirit by contributing financially to the troupes and giving back to the community. The organization wants the population to support the parades and all the events – not just the shows in Carnival Village. The more revellers there are on the road, the more beautiful the parade looks.

Make it your business to go on social media and look for the schedule, because French St. Martin Carnival is almost here!

Get ready to experience live music like you’ve never felt before. If you’re not familiar with Fantastic 4 the local band – not the Hollywood movies or the comic books – you should get to know it. Fast. Its performances are known for the high octane energy. This Friday, January 6, Dirty Sanchez will be housing the infamous group as band members give the audience an electrified show featuring the alternative rock covers from great bands you know and love.

 

Doors open at 8:00pm, so make sure to get a good place to stand and head bang, because these shows tend to get you off your feet and keep you moving all night long. Fantastic 4 is slated to start its set at 11:00pm. The line-up includes covers of rock & roll legends like Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and much more. Don’t miss this super hype show this weekend! Admission is free and drinks are inexpensive! Come out and rock on the first Friday of the year!

For more information, head over to Facebook page: facebook.com/fantastic4

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