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Monday, March 22, 2010

Seafood Salad....Or?

I have been thinking about the caribbean again and our next cruise.  Caribbean dreams! St Maarten/ St.Martin is one of our favorite islands to visit.  We haven't been there in a few years, so we are really looking forward to returning this year.

St Maarten/ St. Martin is both Dutch and French.  One side is Dutch, the other French.

  We like them both and try to get to both sides whenever we are there.  The French part of the island offers quaint French harborfront cafes and very chic shopping.  The major port town is Marigot where Michael's favorite skin-care company, L'Occitane, has a little shop next to our favorite cafe, Chanteclaire where we have had wonderful brick oven-fired crispy crust pizzas and french onion soup. 

 My favorite thing to do in Marigot is to visit the open market for spices, dried peppers, flavored vinegars, and hot sauces.  As much as I would love to buy the available fresh herbs and fruit, it's not allowed.  We usually buy our stuff, and sit by the harbor drinking wine, eating, and chatting. 

The Dutch side is very different. Phililsburg is the major town on the harbor. We always begin our time on the island there and have our first cocktail of the morning at the same ocean front bar over looking the bay.  We then usually shop, stroll, try our luck at the casinos, and drink  many guavaberry mashups along the way.

 Our favorite restaurant on the Dutch side is actually French, La Escargot.  It sits atop a few storefronts and has open air windows overlooking the street allowing the breezes to flow through.  Michael always has the restaurant's namesake signature offering, escargot.  He tends to go very traditional with the garlic. butter, and parsley combination.  I always get the french onion soup gratinee.  Go figure.

Our first visit to St. Maarten/St. Martin was a completely different story.  We were hyped for the adventure and wanted  to experience the real island  We did the usually shopping, drinking, gambling thing, and had alot of fun.  It became time for lunch.  It was hot.  We were tired.  Time to eat.

We were walking down Front Street looking for a restaurant that would have real St Maarten food.  What was real St. Maarten food?  We had no idea. 

We came across a little open-air cafe, using the term cafe loosely.  It had a dining area with dirt floors surrounded by a white picket fence with chickens and stray dogs milling about.  Perfect, we thought!  We went in, sat down, and dropped our back packs onto the ground creating a billow of dust.  Charming, we thought.  Romantic, even.  We had to wait a few minutes for our waitress, the 7 year old daughter of the cafe's proprietor.  She had to finish her homework in the blazing hot kitchen before she could wait on us.  Eventually, after finishing her homework, she came over and we quickly ordered rum runners.  Yes, it was a bit off-putting to order rum runners from a 7 year old.  You do what you have to do.  When in Rome, we guessed.

While we waited for our rum runners, we looked over the menu as the chickens pecked at our toes and the stray dogs rubbed their bristly fur against our sunburned legs.  We didn't pet them. While perusing, something on the menu really caught my attention.  An entire section of the menu was listed under the heading, Horse Meat.  They had horse meat burgers, horse meat cheeseburgers, and horse meat steaks.  I was dumbfounded.  I thought, where do they get this horse meat?  Do they raise them here for burgers?  Are they shipped in?  Is this where old racehorces go instead of those old-timey glue factories?  Is this where Misty of Chincoteague ended up?  Is this where my cousin's horse, Ryder, ended up  that one year he didn't show up at the family picnic to give us rides?  What?  How?  Why?

Now, I was and am an adventurous eater.  I chose the seafood salad.  Michael had the fried shrimp. His shrimp were perfectly fried and crispy with cocktail sauce to dip and fries on the side.  They were fresh and good.  My seafood salad was beautiful.  Fresh crab, conch, shrimp, and mahi tossed in a lime vinaigrette on a bed of lettuce with lemon wedges and crackers.  In the center of the table was a huge bottle of local hot sauce bubbling away in the 99 degree heat.  Literally, bubbling away.  I poured it over my salad and ate every bit.  It was delicious. Tangy, spicy, and crisp from the lettuce.

I spent the next 24 hours under cabin quarantine  on the ship, while all the officials tried to figure out why I was sick. Luckily, it was a sea day and all I really missed was some time in the sun for precious tanning.  24 hours in the cabin.  It was just me, a few magazines, movies on the television, and a few men in hazmat gear cleaning the cabin. They got it clean. After 24 hours, I was deemed not to be an epidemic threat to mankind and was released back into the general population on the ship.  The rest of the cruise was great.  The weather was perfect and the food was fantastic.

Lesson learned?  Eat the horse meat.

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