|After a day at the beach…|
|nothing beats a dinner at Bonito|
|Snag a table overlooking the harbor|
If anything captures what makes this island truly unique, it is Bonito, a new-to-us restaurant that took over what used to be called “Mandala”. By its former name, it was best known for giant tanks of fish through which you walked en route to your table. Mandala’s food was fine but you went there for its wonderful views of Gustavia Harbor, anchorage to some of the most spectacular yachts in the Caribbean.
|A drink before dinner, perhaps?|
Bonito has gotten rid of the fish tanks and done over the place in beautiful blue and white nautical style. It has not, however, walked away from its predecessor’s seafood bent. Instead it has introduced the island to a menu that in a single appetizer best sums up what St. Barth is all about. The dish is Tiradito Thai au Thon et Crabe, Coco, Mangue et Coriandre fraiche . The translation is roughly this: A Peruvian Tuna sashimi with Thai flavors incorporating Crabmeat, coconut, mango and fresh coriander. It is simply out of this world and the minute I get home I plan to make it. It blows ordinary sashimi out of the water and with its slices of perfect tuna, sweet coconut infused crab, its juicy mango colis, it is absolutely perfect. In one mouthful you have the taste of Peru, Thailand, Asia, with a soupcon of truly French culinary genius. And one other little anecdote which sums up what St. Barth is all about. While paying, Andrew’s credit card did not make it back to the table. The next day we discovered it was missing. A call to Bonito elicited a return call. Of course they had the card, not to worry it was secure and they apologized but since we were walk-ins, they were desolee that they had no telephone number to reach us. This is truly just another reason why we hold this place in such adoration. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Just go straight up the hill to Bonito and enjoy every delicious moment.
Is food expensive here? Darn right it is. And why wouldn’t it be? Aside from the incredibly fresh and locally caught fish and shellfish, everything is brought in here from 1000 miles away—at a minimum. The French cheese and wine and foie gras come a considerably longer distance. But consider this: A couple of years ago, in a misguided belief that there is anywhere in the Caribbean remotely like St. Barth, we headed to Nevis.
Now Nevis is a beautiful little island. Its people are lovely, delightfully welcoming and overwhelmingly polite. The food on Nevis, however, sucks. There is not one decent supermarket on the entire island. There are several passable restaurants. But there is nothing remotely resembling the delicious variety and quality of what is cooked and sold and eaten on St. Barth. And Nevis is every bit as expensive. You can have perfectly fine $80.00 lunch at the Four Seasons with very little on the menu you wouldn’t find at any Four Seasons from Toronto to Buenos Aires.
|Produce at Marche U|
This year the food on St. Barth has gotten even better. The Marche U, the largest supermarket on the island and a replacement for the former Match SuperMarche, is suddenly packed with really good produce. As with virtually everything on this island, it firmly shuts down from 1 to 4. If at those hours you are desperate for lettuce or bottled water or a wedge of Brie, there’s the ‘Non-Stop” practically next door to the U. It doesn’t observe siesta. It too has been completely remodeled since our last visit and now gleams with leafy greens and all manner of fruits and cheeses, sausages and pates.
|View from Jeff and Mark’s Villa|
We come here for the food and also for our friends. Because we come the same time year after year, we’ve become friends with people who are here at the same time year after year. Some we nod to on the beach: the Walkers—not really their names at all,but a couple who walk the beach day after day passing us on their strolls. For years we loved seeing the “Champagne People” whose daily bottle or two of the bubbly stuff was readily shared although we never actually did. And then there are
friends Jeff Walsh and Mark Klingensmith. These two have been here as long as we have. We so look forward to seeing them and catching up with them. The odd thing is, they live in Buck’s County PA which is perhaps two hours for New York. We never see them there. We see them every day here, eat with them at least twice a visit. And we’ll miss them when they leave the day before us.
|View from our pool|
One of our St. Barth’s friends we’ve actually never physically met. It’s our fantastic realtor Bethany Ludwick who works for WIMCO from whom we always rent our villas. Bethany has steered us to every house we’ve ever loved here. She’s also been adamant about steering us away from anything she personally doesn’t like. This year’s villa, our hands down favorite ever, was her discovery and she insisted we book it before the paint dried. I honestly wouldn’t bother talking to anyone else. Bethany can be reached at email@example.com. Whatever size house you need, whenever you need it, email the incomparable Bethany and she will find it for you. Bravo Bethany!
|Our Villa at night|
Our other dear friends here were first our landlords at our very first villa here, “Petits Pois”. Nancy Robbins and her husband, Michel Dumerchat are neighbors of ours in New York. They’re down here most of the winter and Nancy does most of the renting of “Petit Pois” herself. Her house is a marvelous affair with up to 4 bedrooms, a pool, Jacuzzi and at this point a little too big for us. But I wouldn’t hesitate to give Nancy a jingle if you are in the market for a St. Barth’s vacation; firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Our Mini Cooper|
Finally there is our ride. We’ve been using the same rental car company for the past 20 years. Gumb’s Rent A Car is presided over by Odile Gumbs. I swear that in 20 years the woman has not changed one eyelash. She never ages and swears by a local suntan oil. Not lotion, Oil. Gumb’s is local, it’s wonderfully well-priced, and this year’s car, a Mini Cooper is fantastic! It takes to the hills and the 75 degree inclines like a four wheel drive powerhouse. But it gets something like 80 kms. to the gallon. Besides, it’s huge fun to drive. You can email Odile directly at email@example.com.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this postcard from Paradise. I’ll write more later. Right after another couple of wonderful meals… A bientot!