Island Adventurer: St. Maarten

Gourmands often call St. Maarten ”the culinary capital of the Caribbean.“ French and Dutch influences merge with Caribbean flavor to create a cuisine unlike any other. Chefs and foodies flock to the small island to taste the amazing variety to be had within its 34 square miles.

We sent Kara Phelps, the communications specialist for Divi Resorts, to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort to report back on St. Maarten’s unique food culture. Here’s what she found:

Hi there! St. Maarten is world-famous for its consistently high level of cuisine. Visiting the island without eating your way around it would be a grave mistake, if you ask me. If you have just a few hours to burn—or if you’re looking to add some excitement to a leisurely vacation—I recommend taking a culinary tour with Flavors of St. Martin Food Tours. They’re one of the best ways to experience the full range of what St. Maarten has to offer, since their signature 4.5-hour tour takes you through the French side as well as the Dutch side of the island.

We began our journey at the Amsterdam Cheese & Liquor Store in Philipsburg, a short taxi ride away from Divi Little Bay on the other side of Great Bay. The owners of the shop, two brothers from the Netherlands, treated our small group of five to a tasting of some of their finest cheeses. We sampled Gouda at various ages and paired it with a range of jellies and jams.

Then we piled into an air-conditioned bus with
our tour guide, Ankie, an outgoing local with an encyclopedic knowledge of the island and its food. She narrated our entire experience with warmth and a wry sense of humor.

In Philipsburg, we stopped at Antoine Restaurant— notable for being a French restaurant on the Dutch side of the island—and sampled classic French fare like escargots and vichyssoise. Then we walked a short distance to Ma Doudou Rum Shop and tasted St. Maarten’s famous guavaberry liqueur, an island staple. It’s the perfect addition to a sweet cocktail.

Soon it was time to get back in the bus and head
to the French side of the island. Ankie kept us entertained until we reached Grand Case, a beautiful town on the north shore. (One of the typical stops on the tour, the creperie Paradise View, was closed for the day.) We stopped near the famous “lolos” of Grand Case, a section of small beachfront shacks serving out-of-this-world food. We tasted island barbecue from a lolo called Sky’s the Limit, eating at picnic tables with the smell of smoked meat wafting through the air. For someone like myself with a great love for barbecue, it was a complete delight.

Another highlight of the tour was the Carousel Gelateria near Simpson Bay, back on the Dutch side of the island and finishing off the tour. The gelateria offers dozens of flavors of gelato from plain to exotic—including guavaberry. It also has, yes, a fully operational carousel. The owner of the gelateria, Diego from Italy, switched it on and we sat astride the colorful circus horses as we finished our gelato.

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