St. Barth 2000 - Steve's Food Diary


[Note: We were here in December 2000. This was the first time we flew first class. We were so impressed by the service that Steve was inspired to keep a diary that focused on our meals and other luxuries. Yes, it's a very long story.]

Our journey begins as we board a red-eye flight on TWA 757 for our first leg from LAX to San Juan, Puerto Rico. As we are seated in first class, ahead of all the other passengers, the attendant immediately offers bottled water or orange juice. Sipping OJ as the others embark, we take off soon afterwards.

As our tickets indicated a “Snack” on this flight, we had no idea what to expect for food service, so we had dinner before coming to the airport. Much to our delight, shortly after takeoff, a different attendant asked if we would be having dinner. “Of course”, we replied, in keen anticipation. We were then asked to unfold our tray tables and a linen table cloth was placed, soon to be followed by a plate of nuts & cheese. Not just any nuts, if you please, but macadamia nuts, with small cubes of cheddar. As the drink tray was brought around, she offered us a drink. “Do you have champagne?”, we asked, as our wedding anniversary was about to start at midnight, and a bottle was opened and glasses filled.

Next came the appetizer, a plate with a couple of slices of cantaloupe wrapped with prosciuto and a nice sized crab cake with tarter sauce. Then came the main course - we had a choice of a sandwich with sliced beef, shrimp, cheese and bacon (!), a spinach quiche, or bowtie pasta in a pesto sauce with some sausage. I chose the pasta and Rosemary chose the quiche.

To close this meal, we were offered Haagen Daas vanilla ice cream with our choice of chocolate or mango sauce. We each chose one and traded off half way. Several hours (with Rosemary catching a couple of hours sleep) and some beverages later, we arrived in San Juan.

Having been forewarned, we didn’t expect much at the airport. In fact, although it was cool and clean, the only refreshments were a couple of soft drink and snack machines. We then went through a gangway to get to our next flight to St. Maarten. We knew that it was a Gulfstream but didn’t realize that the end of the gangway were some steps leading to the ground, where we waited on the tarmac with the other 15 passengers. We boarded the Gulfstream for a 1 hour flight on a plane with about 19 seats, lined up 1 seat on each side of the aisle and a VERY low ceiling. The flight was uneventful as we arrived in St. Maarten for our next flight to St. Barth’s.

We assumed that next plane would be even smaller for the 10 minute flight, but this was ridiculous. This plane took off about 45 minutes late and had 5 passengers, plus the pilot. We had been told that the approach to St. Barth’s was interesting but had no idea how true this would be. Seated behind where the co-pilot wold have been, I could see almost everything the pilot could see. What amazed me was my first sight of the St. Barth’s airport. Well, airport may be too generous a word. It’s a short runway, that ends at the water’s edge, and the pilot has to pass over a hillside to get to the runway. How does he do this? He cuts the engine and glides into position. Once he passes over the hillside, he drops down, touches down on the runway and beings reverse thrusting for all he’s worth to avoid going off the end of the runway. Luckily, our pilot was a veteran at this and everything went fine. Still, it was pretty exciting. We were met by a rep from Le Guanahani, our home for the next week, and proceeded wearily to the hotel after having been awake for 30 hours since the morning before.

After check-in, a beautiful fruit basket was delivered with a bottle of champagne, courtesy of The Wolffs (our hosts for this glorious week). We ate some of the fruit and saved the champagne. A short nap and a shower later, we proceeded to the 9:00 seating for dinner at Le Bartolomeo, the fine dining restaurant at the hotel. As part of some promotion, dinner was included with the price of our room and the meal was a 3 course meal off a selected menu where you could mix and match an appetizer, entree and dessert. We found ourselves eating at Bartolomeo several nights in a row, as the food was excellent.

The first night (Friday), they brought a pre-appetizer of guacamole in a little tub, plus some freshly baked rolls of various types. I started with some foie gras and Rosemary had the lobster terrine. For our main courses, Rosemary had sea bass encrusted with macadamia nuts and I had a portion of roasted lamb in a red wine sauce, both with some veggies. For dessert, Rosemary had a chocolate souffle cake on a bed of peach preserves and I had coconut macaroons with ice cream. Rosemary had a couple of glasses of champagne and I had a glass of Chardonnay and an Amaretto on the rocks. A long-needed night’s sleep awaited us.

On Saturday morning, we awoke hungry and went down to the beach restaurant for breakfast, which was also included in the price of our room. We both had some juice, scrambled eggs and a variety of fruits and pastries. We then went back to our room (a 1 bedroom suite with a private pool, thank you!) to sun ourselves and relax in private. It wasn’t long, however, before it was lunch time, so we went back to the beach restaurant. Rosemary had a lovely Cajun shrimp & lobster salad and I had a huge portion of steak tartare with pommes frites. Back to the room for more sun and a nap (still trying to catch up on our sleep) and again off to Bartolomeo for the late seating. This time, they brought some bruscetta as the pre-appetizer. I had seafood & vegetable tempura as an appetizer and Rosemary had an eggplant tart, with tomatoes and a rich cheese topping. For our main course, I had the Cajun flavored cod and Rosemary had some great chicken stuffed with foie gras. For dessert, this time I had the chocolate cake and Rosemary has a pineapple soup, with coconut custard and mango sorbet. We finished a bottle of wine between us and went off to bed happy.

Sunday, we woke a little bit later and skipped breakfast (or more to the point, it skipped us). We decided to spend the day on the beach, so we started with lunch at the beach restaurant. I had some chicken brochettes and Rosemary had some grilled yellow fin tuna. We camped out on the beach and had a couple of pina coladas to help with the heat. For dinner that night, it was back to Bartholomeo’s, with a very unusual pre-appetizer. This is much better than it sounds, but it was a couple of deep fried balls with foie gras inside. The heat from the frying liquefies the foie gras so you have to eat these balls all at once and when you bite into them, the foie gras “explodes” in your mouth. Truly a unique dish. We had brought with us the bottle of champagne sent by the Wolffs and proceeded to drink the whole thing with dinner. For an appetizer, I had the lobster terrine and Rosemary had the foie gras. For the main course, I had some roast beef in a reduction with mushrooms and Rosemary had the scallops. For dessert, she went back to the chocolate cake and I had the roasted pineapple with hot pepper sauce. This was a very unusual dish, as the pineapple was extremely sweet and the sauce very spicy, cooled off with some sherbet. But as much as we enjoyed Bartolomeo, we knew we had to try some other places.

On Monday, after a full breakfast at the beach, we rented a car in order to leave the resort and see some of the island. We got a Suzuki Samurai, a small jeep-like vehicle. Because of the narrow roads and the hilly terrain, we decided to get a car with a stick shift for better control. It also came, however, with no power steering, no shocks and no air conditioning, a mistake we rectified the next day. Driving in St. Barth’s is not for the faint of heart, as the roads barely allow for 2 vehicles side-by-side at the same time. There are lots of narrow passages, which the locals don’t even seem to notice, as they don’t slow down at all. As we took the main road into Gustavia, the main port, the heat, bouncy ride and stress of driving with maniacs took its toll, as I began sweating immeasurably. Upon arrival in Gustavia, the challenge became finding a place to park. With a lot of one-way streets, signs in French (or some symbols that were unrecognizable), this too was a challenge. We finally found a place to park a few blocks from the main center and started wandering the streets in search of gifts, trinkets and memorable items for ourselves. We found some interesting shops and made a few purchases.

We drank the water!

It began to dawn on us that many of the shops closed at lunchtime (being the French custom), so we stopped for lunch ourselves at a local café, Le Repaire. It was full of Frenchmen and refugees from the local cruise ship. Dying of thirst, we asked for bottled water (a mainstay everywhere we went) but broke with tradition by asking for ice. Aside from wine and some tropical drinks on the beach, this was the first truly cold drink I’d had all week. Keeping with my quest for coolness, I ordered some gaspacho and a shrimp & mango salad. Having a naturally lower body temperature than me, Rosemary had a hot creole fish dish. We finished lunch and found our way back to the car, making note of some better places to park.

Driving back to the resort, we kept a lookout for places for dinner, keeping in mind that some places were closed on Mondays. When we got back to the resort, we made arrangements to change to what we hoped was a better car on Tuesday and went through some of the guidebooks in search of dinner. The maps of the island are somewhat misleading because the island is so small (only 8 square miles), that even short roads look long. Add to that the trickiness of the roads, the darkness and the intermittent rain, and driving any distance was a distressing thought.

After consulting with the concierge, we decided to go to Le Gommier, a Creole restaurant at Saline. In checking the map, there seemed to be several different ways to get there, which meant several different ways to get lost, due to some uncharted turns and roads not found on the maps. We braved forward in our little Samurai, secure in knowing that the island was too small to get truly lost in. After a few wrong turns, we found our way to Le Gommier and sat in the car until the rain stopped. Once inside, the restaurant was charming, although almost empty (a phenomenon we would encounter at other restaurants) and the food good. They brought some complementary codfish fritters and we ordered a couple of glasses of wine, wanting to stay relatively sober for the drive home. As a starter, Rosemary had a green salad and I had some mahi mahi tartare. For our main courses, I had some curried goat (a local delicacy) and Rosemary had the pan fried conch. Both came with a columbine, a local vegetable like a potato but different, that was hollowed out, mashed and baked. For dessert, there was a coconut flan and some profitteroles. The trip back was nothing out of the ordinary, unless you consider the wrong turns, the rain and our driving right past the resort.

Tuesday got off to a better start by switching to a Suzuki Vitara, a much better car, with A/C, automatic, padded seats, shocks, etc. After breakfast of the usual stuff, we decided to drive in the other direction, seeing the “back” side of the island and some spectacular scenery. Here is where the rich and famous seem to live, as the houses are lovely and stacked on the hillsides. We drove back to Saline, where we found a beautiful beach, and took some of the back roads towards Gustavia. After stopping in St. Jean for some delicious homemade ice cream, we continued to Gustavia. My good parking karma kicked in and we found a spot right away. We trekked some different streets and shops and bought a few things. Rosemary’s blood sugar began to drop and I found the closest spot to have something to eat, an open air café with some shade and breezes. Please don’t ask the name of the “restaurant” as I’m not sure it had one. The food was pedestrian - we both had a tuna salad, which consisted of some lettuce, a few tomato slices, some canned tuna and some canned corn. Strangely, the corn added an unusually good texture to the meal, which was otherwise forgettable.

We stopped in Lorient for some more shopping and went back to take a nap, deciding to go to the Marigot Bay Club for dinner. After getting lost trying to find the restaurant (which was only 1/4 mile from the resort but had no signs), we entered to find several other tables full already. In looking at the menu, lobster was a featured item, so what choice did we have? Rosemary ordered the lobster Marigot, which was shelled, and stuffed with lobster, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese, then baked. A small lobster was ordered. When I wanted grilled lobster, the hostess advised that only large lobsters were remaining, and that it was probably too large for one person. Besides, they charged by weight for each 100 g. The hostess suggested instead that Rosemary and I split a large lobster, and that they would make each half the way we wanted. After appetizers of conch fritters and columbine stuffed with lobster, the main courses arrived. These boys was huge and delicious! Each of us was pretty full after eating our share and splitting a bottle of wine. This did not, however, keep us from ordering dessert. I had a nice light chocolate cake, filled with mousse in a vanilla sauce and Rosemary had a banana mousse. We drove home satisfied and well fed (again!).

Wednesday began much like the rest of the days, with breakfast at the beach. I might not have given the beach breakfast full credit in previous descriptions. You can start off with either fresh orange or grapefruit juice and help yourself to the buffet of fresh fruits, pastries, cereals and yogurt. You can also order some eggs, either fried or scrambled, with some additions like cheese, tomato, mushrooms and bacon. Service is friendly and efficient. More of whatever you please makes for a hearty start to the day.

After breakfast, we decided to stay and lie on the beach for a couple of hours. The sky was sunny but the ocean breeze kept it from getting too warm. After a couple of hours of sun, we went back to our room to clean up for lunch. I took a quick dip in the pool and Rosemary took a shower. Fully refreshed and hungry, we went to the shopping center at Lorient that we had visited yesterday and had lunch at La Villa Creole, an odd combination of French food, Creole food and pizza. I had the Creole combo plate, which had some friend conch fritters, a stuffed crab, columbine stuffed with some kind of shellfish and some blood sausage, accompanied by pommes frites. Rosemary had grilled red snapper in a Creole sauce and some pommes. A pretty good meal for both of us.>

At lunch, we read the local paper, which was mostly in French but some English, and it dawned on us that we were actually in a part of France, as St. Barth’s is part of the French West Indies. In fact, the St. Barth’s airport is the 10th busiest in France, based upon the number of flights. Of course, when you can only bring in 7 people at a time, that tends to increase the number of planes necessary.

After lunch, we set out to explore some other parts of the island we hadn’t seen. As mentioned before, it’s a small island and nothing is more than 30 minutes away from Gustavia. We traveled the northwest part of the island to Colombier, where we saw an observation point at the Marine Reserve. Although windy, the 180 degree view was breathtaking, as we could see numerous small villages and St. Maarten in the distance, as well as a number of other small, uninhabited, islands. We backtracked towards Gustavia, stopping at The French Plantation Hotel for a drink, but the place was deserted so we left. We found out later that they only have 12 rooms, which explained why the bar wasn’t open at 3:00 PM. We turned off on the road to Flamands and stopped at the St. Barth’s Isle de France Hotel, which had a bar that was open as well as a beautiful beach. We enjoyed both ($11.00 for a pina colada!) and continued to the end of the road. Some of what we passed we had seen from Colombier (hey, I said it was a small island) but got a closer look. Some beautiful houses in this area as well, and the hotel was also impressive.

We cruised Gustavia for a couple more gifts and went back to the Guanahani. At 7:00, the management had a small cocktail party on the balcony behind the reception area and we met the manger and head of reservations. We had nothing but complementary things to say about the hotel, which pleased them both greatly.

For dinner, we went to Boubou's, the restaurant at the Sereno Beach Hotel. Interesting atmosphere, but the food was average. Our waiter's body odor was intense and added nothing to the enjoyment of the meal. Rosemary had a Thai salad, the Thai elements being some sesame oil and peanuts in the dressing, while I had some tuna tartare, which was livened up by some raspberry vinegar. For the main course, Rosemary had the lamb curry with rice (yes, I know - she doesn’t eat red meat, does she?) and I had the fish du jour, which was supposed to come in a Creole sauce but didn’t. Also, it came with some sauteed vegetables. Good but nothing special. The highlight of the meal was splitting a creme brulee, which was very good. They also gave us each a shot of some strong vanilla rhum, which we drank to show what gracious guests we were. After that, back to the room for a good night’s sleep.

"Would you like frites with that?"

Thursday started like the many of the other days. Breakfast on the beach followed by a couple hours of sun. After a quick dip in the pool, we went out for lunch to Le Pelican in Lorient. Rosemary, feeling hungry, ordered a goat cheese salad as well as a chicken brochette. The goat cheese salad was a thick slice of bread covered with dabs of slightly melted goat cheese surrounded by greens. The chicken brochette had an unusual presentation. It came on a plate on top of a silver tray with an arch over the tray, from which was suspended the chicken on a skewer. Fries and a small salad accompanied the chicken. I had the Italian salad, which consisted of a bed of greens, and incredible amount of prosciuto, some cantaloupe and sliced tomato with mozzarella cheese. All in all, a pretty good lunch.

We then set out to see the portions of the island we hadn’t seen yet. We traveled to Anse des Cayes and saw some incredible ocean views and a lovely seaside village. We then went through Gustavia to Gouverneur and sat on an incredible beach and saw some very expensive villas. On the way back, we stopped in St. Jean for some more homemade ice cream, Rosemary having mango sherbert and I had the vanilla/chocolate combination. Returning to the resort, we made a side trip to Point Milou, stopping at the Hotel Sofitel Christopher to view the sea from their breakwall and toured the rest of Point Milou, which also had some great villas. To show how expensive an area this was, there were actually some areas cut out from the road for guest parking for the residences. This sounds funny to us, but parking on the side of the road is the norm, and with the roads being as narrow as they are, makes driving quite difficult. In Point Milou, this problem was somewhat solved by the extra spaces.

After a quick nap and a shower, we went to dinner at Le Rivage. According to the map, it should have taken about 20 minutes to get there but, in reality, it was almost next door to our resort. There were many excellent items on the menu and narrowing the choices was tough. Rosemary started with the gaspacho and I had the gravalax (raw marinated salmon), which came in a huge portion and was very good. For our main course, Rosemary had Coquille St. Jacques, which was scallops in a provencale sauce, accompanied by rice. I had the seafood sampler, which was a large plate full of scallops, shrimp, lobster, tuna, salmon and mahi mahi, topped with a light creamy cheese sauce, also with rice. Both were delicious, as was the wine: a bottle of Macon Villages. After dinner, the waiter brought a small bottle of vanilla rhum, which is made on the premises. Much smoother and more flavorful then that served last night at Boubou's, which pleased the waiter, a nice young man from France. We finished the night with a white chocolate mousse and a peach tart, finished like a creme brulee with burnt sugar on top. We left the restaurant deliciously satisfied.

Friday was our last full day in St. Barth’s, so we tried to make the most of it. After breakfast, we lay on the beach for several hours. I can’t tell you how relaxing it is. The weather is like most tropical locations - sunny one minute, cloudy the next and some brief showers. The wind has been blowing pretty good all week but that just helps cool you off from the heat and the humidity, which never really changes.

As part of our package, we were entitled to a free lunch at the beach restaurant. Rosemary had a crispy mahi mahi, wrapped in some kind of pastry crust (hence, the “crispy” part) and stuffed with some pureed spinach. I had the grilled beef “ribs” (no bones) which had been marinated and then grilled to perfection, plus some sauteed potatoes. For dessert (hey, it was free!), I had a delicious roasted pineapple and coconut cake with some coconut ice cream and Rosemary had a wonderful chocolate parfait. We then retired back to our little cottage for a dip in the pool. We spent a little time going around the resort taking a few last pictures and then heading back to the room for a little more sun and a nap before dinner.

For our last night, since we had turned in the rental car, we ate again at Bartolomeo. Despite the general reputation of hotel food, this was excellent. Our server was a young lady who had served us many times before at all our meals. Claire was from France and traveling the world with her boyfriend, Francois, who was also a server at the hotel. She had been a foreign exchange student in high school so her English was far better than my French. She always made it a point to be friendly (unlike some of the other servers who either didn’t speak enough English to be conversational or just had that French attitude). Claire and Francois were attempting to go around he world together, stopping at one place just long enough to work to finance their next leg of the journey. Had we been younger, we would have tried to join them on their voyage.

For dinner that night, Claire brought us a pre-appetizer of a lobster spring roll, which was very good. For our appetizers, Rosemary tried the tortellini with squid and I had the tuna carpaccio, which was thinly sliced tuna with a puff pastry filled with a very rich bone marrow. Again, both were excellent. For our entrees, Rosemary again had the chicken breast stuffed with foie gras while I tried the duck legs, which were boned, cooked in a red wine reduction and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. C’est magnifique! For dessert, I had the pineapple soup that Rosemary had a few nights ago and she had the frozen coconut macaroon that I had tried. All of this, plus a bottle of wine and an after dinner drink left us ready for our last night’s sleep in the island.

For Saturday, since we had to get up and pack, I ordered breakfast to be delivered to our room. We ate on the terrace next to the pool and soaked up the last of the views. Breakfast was orange juice, cocoa, coffee, pastries & breads and a couple of hard boiled eggs. A lovely experience, all in all.

We then checked out and went to the St. Barth’s airport, where our flight was delayed about 20 minutes. Because of the winds, we switched to a larger plane like the Gulfstream we had taken to St. Maarten from San Juan. Unlike our arrival, we took off over the beach and circled around to St. Maarten. The flight was short and uneventful.

We had a 90 minute layover in St. Maarten, by this time, we were hungry again. We knew that there were some food stands in St. Maarten but Rosemary discovered that there was a restaurant on the upper level. We went upstairs and found the menu to be quite extensive. I had a great seafood salad, with shrimp, scallops and squid that had been marinated in olive oil and spices. Rosemary ordered teriyaki chicken with a huge baked potato with butter & sour cream.

After lunch, in going to the gate for our plane, we had to pass through some security and immigration checkpoints. Ahead of us in line was a couple with a small child in a stroller, several pieces of carry-on luggage and a feeble old woman (the mother of one of them, we guessed) in a wheel chair. The husband a one point left the line, so the wife had to maneuver all of this each time the line moved forward. Just before going through the checkpoint, the husband reappeared to help get everyone and everything through.

Sure enough, they were on our flight to San Juan. They were the last to board and the flight was delayed a few minutes. It was bad enough seeing the woman and baby get on with all their stuff, but the husband had to lift the mother up the steps to the plane. He had her under the arms and lifted her up each step in a seated position. When he go to the top step, just inside the plane, he tried to stand up, not realizing that he was still in the doorway to the plane. He hit his head and dropped the mother on the step. It took a couple of minutes for him to regain his equilibrium and lift her into a seat. I couldn’t tell if she was conscious or not, because she didn’t move the entire flight. When we landed, we all got off the plane before they dealt with the mother. None of us wanted to see how they got her off the plane. Rosemary and I swore never to subject our parents or ourselves to that kind of treatment.

We went through customs in San Juan without a hitch and waited a couple of hours for our plane back to LAX. Boarding ahead of the riffraff due to our first class status, we again were met with offerings of OJ and cold water. Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant came by to see what we wanted for dinner and to drink. Rosemary had some white wine and I, knowing that we didn’t have to drive home from LAX, ordered Crown Royal and 7-Up. Apparently, the airline has a 2 drink minimum, because the attendant poured one of those little bottles of liquor into a glass of ice and handed me another bottle with a can of 7-Up.. The pre-appetizer was a silly plate with some green olives and cocktail onions with a small piece of bread topped with a piece of roast beef. The appetizer was much better, consisting of some crab salad and some delicious fish mousse, with some fresh rolls. We then had a green salad, followed by our entrees. Rosemary had the pecan chicken and I had the “beef ecstasy”, a small filet with some sauteed peppers. Both were very good. Dessert was a delicious tropical fruit mousse pie.

Because the flight was so long (8 hours), there was also a snack towards the end of the flight. Rosemary had some chicken crepes, which looked very good, and I had a Cajun pork turnover, which was disappointing. Got to give the airline credit, though. When the attendant saw that I hadn’t finished the turnover, she offered me the chicken crepes. At that point, I was too full to have another dish. Not too full, it turns out, to have a great dessert. They served a Puerto Rican dish called tres leches (translated as “3 milks”), which was kind of a custard (1) with some sweetened milk (2) topped with whipped cream (3) Umm, umm, good!

A little later, we landed at LAX, met our driver, got our suitcase at baggage claim and took the long ride home. We got home around 11:00 PM (after awaking at 7:00 AM Atlantic time) and found the house to be in one piece and all of our stuff still there. Yippee!

All in all, it was a great trip (as I hope you can see in the pictures) and one that we’ll never forget. This was our first trip going 1st class and we could get used to this. Thanks to the friends who made this trip possible.

Next stop - Tanzania in May!


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