St. Martin Delivers as Caribbean Culinary Capital

St. Martin Proves Title as ?Caribbean Food Capital?

Saying an island is a contender for the "culinary capital of the Caribbean" is no small feat, yet that's what some in the blogosphere have called the half-French, half-Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten -- and for good reason.

If Paris' bustling open-air markets and patisseries are too far for your schedule, try the French side of St. Martin, where European expats and locals alike prepare dishes rivaling the bistros along Montmartre. The 37-square mile island seamlessly blends Caribbean influenced flavors with haute French cuisine. Offering over 37 gorgeous beaches, each with its own unique flair, doesn't hurt either.

Salt fish and Johnny cakes, conch sausage and cod fritters with a side of sauce chien (a spicy vinaigrette infused with herbs) are part of the island's local cuisine.

Affordably priced food prepared by the hands of locals abound in the affectionately known "lolos," simple roadside barbecue pits that emit fumes of fresh seafood, ribs and chicken. No lolo meal would be complete without a side of rice and beans, macaroni salad and fried plantain, with a Carib beer to wash down the less-than-$10 meal.

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Grand Case holds the bulk of the best-known lolos along the water, including Talk of the Town and Sky's the Limit.

Rosie's in the seaside town of Marigot buzzes with reggae music while hungry passers-by gather on the corner to read a simple cardboard sign on a street signal that displays the day's special. Rosie's is the perfect place to pick up a meal before hopping aboard a ferry to neighboring islands St. Barth's and Anguilla.

Dessert lovers will be more than pleased with St. Martin's selection of French boulangeries, particularly in Marigot. Sarafina stood out as a favorite, and once in the open air bakery it doesn't take long to see why. The creative display of macaroons, profiteroles, napoleons and glazed tarts represent virtually every color of the rainbow. Large bites of fresh fruit and cake sit in creamy gelato flavors.

Grab a box full of sugary treats and walk along the marina for a relaxing afternoon. This is la dolce vita, indeed. Other favorites including La Sucriere (which is just steps away from Sarafina) and La Croissenterie (on the marina) are other sure bakery bets. But man cannot live on dessert alone. Or can he? Freshly made bread abounds in these bakeries, as well, from crusty baguettes to moist, chocolate croissants.

Ask anyone who has been to St. Martin of their favorite dining destination, and let the battle of la creme de la creme begin.

Le Cottage, L'Auberge Gourmand and the fairly new Spicy all sit in Grand Case and vie for the title of the best French restaurant on the island, which has more than 300 restaurants on its 21 square miles.

Tropicana is obviously a favorite when one witnesses the number of patrons filling up its seats on the marina among the plethora of other eateries in Marigot.

A simple salad consisting of egg, tomato, olives, onion and zesty vinaigrette gives way to an even fresher mound of greens.

The specialty of the day, a flat noodle pasta swimming in black truffle sauce (straight from France) and parsley encrusted chicken breast was stellar. The buttery undertone of the sauce and the almost impossible tenderness of the chicken created a lick-worthy plate.

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