|New this year: Lunch on the Beach at Le Toiny. You can now bask in the sun before, during or after lunch.|
We’re just back from our annual visit to St. Barthelemy or St. Barth or St. Bart’s depending on who you talk to. It was our 25 th visit to this speck of an island, a mere ten minute flight from neighboring St. Maarten. We once made the huge mistake, when the Euro was at its height, of going to neighboring Nevis.
On Nevis, we discovered, there were no decent public beaches, no great restaurants, and worse, not even a passable grocery store. About the only thing Nevis had going for it was that on a clear day you could see St. Barth off in the distance. How vividly I remember quickly writing our agent, Bethany Ludwick of www.wimco.com, begging her to find us a place on St. Barth for the following year. And this was literally on the plane used to escape Nevis, with its mediocre food and barking dogs that are used to scare off that other bane of our existence on Nevis: its marauding howler monkeys. (It didn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that this year Wimco had pulled out of Nevis altogether.) But I digress.
This year, off we went to our own Private paradise in a villa called AYA. This villa was new to us. For the past 4 years we’d stayed at villa called ACE which this year is in a construction zone and so Bethany warned us off and AYA became ours for our stay. Staying in villas as opposed to hotels means great privacy and a great kitchen. Mornings, we run out to the bakery for Croissants for breakfast and Pain Traditionale for lunch.
|Logistical Support Provided by Oscar Car Rental|
We can’t imagine life on St. Barth without our Mini. Mini Coopers are to St. Barth what Range Rovers are to the Hamptons. There are dozens of them. But ours comes from the best: Oscar (http://www.st-barths.com/oscar-car-rental/en/home.html). Philippe Mayet drops off your car at the airport. But the real plus of renting from Oscar is the included parking in downtown Gustavia. This is a big deal, especially with Valet Parking listed 15 Euros at a restaurant within shouting distance of Oscar‘s Car Park.
We spend the morning at the beach, the afternoon at the pool and the evenings going out to dinner. Food is not our only focus but it’s one reason we come back year after year. And the food only gets better. St. Barth attracts gourmands who attract some great chefs. This year, we had everything from Peruvian Teraditos at Bonito to Japanese-French fusion cuisine at a new restaurant called Orega. The latter is run by a Frenchman who last lived in Dubai and his Japanese Chef partner, late of Nobu in Miami. We ate Creole food at La Langouste, Pizza at the Italian-owned and staffed Isoletta. We had foie gras on four separate occasions. We had two meals at two private homes made by two local chef/caterers. We loved the fries at the roadside Kiki e Mo and the sublime atmosphere and food at Le Tamarin. We ate everything from a 1.30 Euro loaf of bread to a 65 Euro entree of Kobe Beef. I can honestly say, we had not one bad meal or one bad thing to eat. But some things really stood out. And here’s a list of our favorites. In no particular order, here are 20 great things to eat and drink in St. Barth.
1. No Contest when it comes to Croissants…La Petite Colombe with its two locations–one in Colombier and one in L’Orient– is the hands-down winner with its 1.90 E Croissant aux Amandes. Imitators don’t use day old Croissants sliced, filled with almond paste and re-baked for this breakfast indulgence we enjoy every day of the week. If you must, a Chocolatine aux Amandes in a great substitute.
2. A bowl of Lobster Bisque at La Langouste. This wonderful old St. Barth’s restaurant in the Hotel Baie des Anges never fails to please with this classic preparation. After all, when your name translates to “The Lobster”, you have certain standards to uphold.
3. Pigeon Roti at L’Esprit de Saline.
This restaurant, set in a garden, has been holding forth on St. Barth for almost as long as we have. Christophe still runs the place and still produces beautiful food like this perfectly cooked Pigeon. Don’t be put off by the name: Farm-raised Pigeon is darker, more tender and tastier than chicken, especially if you’re a dark meat fan like me.
4. A classic Sandwich au Jambon. Horror of horrors, le Hamburger is fast approaching the popularity of the ham sandwich on French lunch menus. The simplest of sandwiches, it’s made by buttering a split baguette and layering on the ham. No mustard, no cheese just this brilliant burst of buttery French goodness.
5. This extraordinary dish is actually two salads: One of lentils and the other of Avocado and Tomato. It was created by a Private Chef named Bernard Javel of Chef’s Services at a Villa dinner party. Bernard, like many island caterer/chefs, spent his career at three top St. Barth’s restaurants in 1988. Now he cooks for private parties. You can hire him for yours.
6. The Crudites at Le Toiny’s new Beach Club Restaurant. When lunching with the French, it’s always so wonderful to see what comes along with your meal that‘s part of the service compris. This lovely vegetable medley with its three dipping sauces was a complete surprise and didn’t even show up on the bill.
7. The Lobster Salad at Le Toiny Beach Club. Quite apart from how gorgeous it is, this wonderful citrus and lobster salad was packed with Caribbean lobster, fresh lettuce and tomatoes. A glass of Rosé and voila, dejeuner sur la plage.
8. Also at Le Toiny was this Tuna Tartare with its seaweed and pickled ginger topping. The lemon sauce, dotted with black sesame seeds, and the droplets of dark soy sauce made the perfect accompaniments.
9. Sticking closer to home for lunch, we put together this platter of cheese, country paté, a couple of slices of saucissons, a little ham sandwich and a Croque Monsieur from La Petite Colombe shared space with a salad dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette.
10. Perennial favorite, Bonito never disappoints. Nico, its irrepressible host, presides over what is truly the only View restaurant in Gustavia. Sitting on its pretty blue and white terrace watching the yachts bob up and down in the harbor below is reason enough to go here. But it’s chef Laurent Cantaneaux’s inventive Peruvian French take on food that keeps us coming back. Menu items like his Tuna Teraditos are just one example of his craft and our devotion to this great restaurant.
Tuna Teraditos at Bonito
11. Kiki e Mo’s Frites. Into each life, some rain must fall. Andrew and I were caught in a tropical deluge while shopping in St. Jean. What else to do but to eat. And where to eat but at the absolute closest place which happened to be directly across the street. Their menu is emblazoned with their slogan “Simply Fresh”. We
could rave on about the wonderful Fish Burger that Andrew had or I could wax poetic about the Beef version, which was all hand cut beef, but it was the superb fries that knocked us out. And even if the Belgians invented the French fry, they’d have to go a long way to beat Kiki e Mo’s version.
12. One of the great delights in going to St. Barth year after year is the arrival of new restaurants. This year, we cannot say enough good things about OREGA. It’s sensational. This is the Japanese French fusion restaurant of my dreams. Gregoire, the Proprietor, just opened this place this season and it’s already a huge success. His chef opened Nobu Miami and at Orega he is creating signature dishes that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat. I never think you can go terribly wrong when you order an item which has been given the restaurant’s name so I ordered the
|Emerald Maki at Orega|
Orega Maki. Yellow Aji Tuna is combined with Eel, Tempura Shrimp for crunch and topped with Avacado and more Tuna.
13. Andrew ordered another Maki that was highly recommended by Gregoire. Beautiful to look at, it was Tuna and Salmon, tempura topped with wasabi tobiko.
|Kobe Beef at Orega|
14. But that’s not all we loved at Orega…For our Main courses, Andrew hit the high mark when ordering the Kobe Beef, in both flavor and price. The tenderness of this beef is impossible to describe. Its presentation is simply beautiful. But after all, it is Orega’s signature dish.
15. My choice for an entree was yet another beauty. On the menu, it is
called Caribbean Beauty. That seems appropriate for a dish that arrives at the table with an orchid swimming in its bisque of roasted wild mushrooms with spiny lobster ravioli and lobster medallions.
16. Another win for Orega! This incredible Tarte Yuzu Meringueé is described as a Japanese lemon tart with an Italian meringue. The depth of lemon flavor and the creaminess here put this dessert over the top. And the Raspberries, Blueberries and Raspberry coulis added to the immense visual appeal of the dish.
|The Dining Pavilion shown above seats 16.|
17. When you ask someone to stay at your house, it’s always nice to hire a private chef to cook their breakfast. That’s just what Fabulous Feasts (www.fabulousfeasts.com) provided.
Included in the breakfast bill of fare were eggs with yolks the color of Tropicana Orange Juice. Note the Mandarin Orange on the plate. Please have an egg on St. Barth’s. It will convince you that Cage-Free Eggs are the only ones really worth eating.
18. The “U” Supermarket is packed with Store Brand merchandise that is reliably good. But the item that I literally have never found an equal to is the extraordinary Greek Yogurt. Specifically, the Blackberry version which is so creamy and so filled with fruit, it beats anything I can find stateside.
19. Surely, you didn’t think we’d leave out the Foie Gras? Yes, we ate it four times in 8 days. Yes, we had Torchons and Terrines served to us with Brioche Toast points. But the winner of the Foie Gras Trophy was unquestionably, Tamarin. The restaurant has the distinction of being one of the prettiest places to eat on the island or anywhere
else for that matter. The lush tropical garden with its lily ponds is just in the second year of its renaissance. Julie and Paco, the owners, are spectacular restauranteurs, attentive, and on top of the wonderful menu. The Foie Gras was listed on the menu as Escalope de Foie Gras Poêlé Mousse de Banane et Coulis de Mangue Acidule. I wondered about the Banana Mousse but it was an amazing companion to the rich and superbly cooked Foie Gras. The serving size was exceptionally large and worth every penny of the 24 Euros it cost.
20. Coca Cola and I go back a long time. Not to quite the point at which Coke managed to hijack Santa and change his long time Green costume to Coke’s iconic Red. But practically that far. So it was jaw-dropping to be shopping at SuperMarché U only to see something called Coca Cola Life. At 60 calories per 8 oz. it’s sweetened with both cane sugar and stevia
which gives it a claim of having 35 fewer calories ‘than other leading colas” I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere around here. But if you’re in St. Barth, try it, you may like it.
So that’s it! And since we’ve already reserved ACE for 2017, same time next year!