Starry, Starry Night

St. Maarten is part of The Netherlands, but it is home to over 100 nationalities.  And, you know what that means:  lots of good food choices.  No wonder it’s called the culinary melting pot of the Caribbean.  It’s also known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, not only for the variety, but the number of fine dining experiences.  That calls for a celebration, which is what went on during the recent Fete de Cuisine across St. Maarten.  If you were at Divi Little Bay early in November, you sensed the coming excitement.  Toucan’s Restaurant was host to one of the festival’s star attractions and grandest dinners.

It was indeed a starry, starry night with Michelin-starred Dutch chef Paul van Staveren coming from The Netherlands to orchestrate the culinary pyrotechnics. Van Staveren is a food celebrity in Europe, with his award-winning restaurant and a hit TV show.  (Netherlands is mad for cooking shows just like us.)

In the world of food, there isn’t anything better than attaining a Michelin Star. Michelin inspectors analyze a restaurant multiple times under a clandestine cloak, using an evaluation process honed over more than 100 years. Inspectors judge only what’s on the plate, meaning the quality of products, the mastering of flavors, mastering of cooking, personality of the cuisine, value for the money and the consistency of what the restaurant offers to its customers both throughout the menu and the year.  Van Staveren earned his first star in 2006.

“It was an honor and an inspiration to have Chef Paul Van Staveren in our kitchen,” said Celine Van Meer, general manager of Divi Little Bay.  We know that all 120 people gathered at Toucan’s that night already plan to eat at Van Staveren’s Sonoy restaurant when in The Netherlands.

The Fete de Cuisine menu included lasagna consisting of lobster, coquilles Saint-Jacques with mackerel followed by the super delicious Anjou pigeon that made Van Staveren famous.  The evening started with cocktails and amuse bouches, which from all reports, did amuse every mouth.

The five-course dinner served up at Toucan’s during Fete de Cuisine was a splendid example of Staveren’s motto: “Life is too short to eat and drink mediocre.”   To that we add:  “Life is too short not to vacation in St. Maarten.”   Good food and good drink – and a good time – will be had by all.

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