Friday, May 23, 2014

Vacation, St. Martin: New Food, Old Food, Fun Food, Good Food

On this trip we did some things that we have talked about for years but just never got around to doing.  I think it's because the trip was two weeks long so we didn't feel compelled to cram as much beach time as possible into 5 days like we usually would.

One of the things we did was to visit Loterie Farm, located about half-way up Pic Paradis which is the highest point in St. Martin.  Over the years we have been going, this property, which was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Luis, been developed as part nature preserve, part organic farm, part restaurant, part zip-line attraction... and it contains the only public pool on the island.  We have been saying for a few years that we are going to do the zip line attraction, but once again, we didn't do that. We did, however, have a wonderful lunch here with one of our friends! It has a very unique environment - almost like a jungle.  I wish I had taken more photos while we were up there but once again, I got caught up in the fun and didn't do a good job of that.  However, if you click on that link up there, they have a photo gallery where you can see more.

Centerpiece on our table

View from where I was sitting

Mr. Helen's blue cheese and steak salad (ewwww too rare!)

My chicken pita with sweet potato fries - those were some of the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten!

Our friends' Mahi-Mahi salad with Mango Salsa.

Everything was delicious.  Next time we go, we'd like to spend most of a day here as we discovered not only do they have the zip lines, they also have hiking trails.  How fun to hike to earn lunch, then maybe spend the afternoon at the pool.  This was definitely a fun new experience.

Our "old" food experience was had at Le Ti Coin Creole, our very favorite Creole restaurant in Grand Case.  When we first started going there, the Chef, Carl Philips, was a single guy who had taken a house on family property and turned it into a restaurant.  He has done lots of upgrades over the years, including real glass windows that shut when we got there this time.  About 7-8 years ago he got married and has a son, who is his mini-me. Carl trained in some of the finest French restaurants and then took the local foods like you might find at the Lolos and turned them up a notch:  Gourmet Creole! I'm not sure we can visit St. Martin without going to this restaurant.  This is another place that feels like going home (as you'll see by the many following photos). Besides, he makes my favorite thing in the world - and still won't give me the receipe - Chocolate Chip Banana Cake.  It's hit or miss as to whether he has it and this year, I was one lucky lady!

Carl's son CJ, age 7.  He took an immediate liking to Mr. Helen and told me,
"Take a picture of us looking cool."

I have many photos like this of Carl and me.  Mr. Helen says he's my Grand Case boyfriend.

 This is Carl's version of the Johnny Cake.  These are baked style and to me,
even more delicious than the fried.

CJ had to help with everything.  He is a chef in training, I think.

Mr. Helen always orders the same thing:  Conch Salad and Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Garlic Sauce.  For the first time ever, the Conch Salad was served in a Conch shell!

I chose a mixed salad and the Creole Chicken this year.  Both of us had sides of pickled star fruit, curried cabbage, beans, rice, and plantain.

And finally, the FAMOUS Banana Cake, served with the usual complimentary rum digestive.

I know this seems like a lot of food but the pictures don't really show how the portions are.  For example the rice was maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup.  Honestly, even with dessert it's just the right amount of food - everything is delicious but you're not walking away stuffed and miserable.  I want to learn to eat like this all the time.

When we had finished eating CJ came and sat with us. His parents are pretty strict about him sitting with the customers but we told Carl, we're not just customers, we're practically family.  He's such an outgoing friendly guy. This little boy speaks 3 languages:  French, English, and Filippino. And he said he's "working" on Dutch. His English was excellent and he had us in stitches, he was so funny.  I asked him about school and he said, "Oh, madame, shhhhhhhh!  I don't want my mama to hear and make me leave you to go to bed!  Besides tomorrow is a holiday!"  Before we left I asked him if I could take just one more photo and he said, "Oui. But only if I look cool!"

One of the coolest dudes in Grand Case, for sure.

Up Next Week: The fancy French meals.


  1. CJ is such a, I mean, he's SO COOL!!! ;) How fun to see a restaurant evolve like that, and yes, to feel like family when you're there!

    I can't believe you didn't go ziplining. For real, you HAVE to do that next time. Then, hike, and then feast! :)

    1. I kid you not when I say we have been contemplating the zip lines for about 7 years. Then we get there and we're exhausted from vacationing LOL!

  2. What a wonderful vacation and you look MAH-velous (in the words of Billy Crystal, imitating Fernando Lamas)! The food looks delicious too, and pretty healthy, except for course for that yummy looking banana/chocolate chip cake. OMG! Now I have another vacation spot added to my bucket list!

    1. What do you mean that cake isn't healthy? It has BANANAS!!!!

  3. I thought that Stuart the bread man was your boyfriend? :D

    I don't know if I could do zip lining. I have a bit of fear of heights.

    That dinner looks amazing - and I probably would have fallen face first into that cake. Yum.

    1. Stuart is my boyfriend now that Carl went and got married hahahaha! And you've hit on the reason why I hesitate to do the zip lining. The adventurer in me wants to but the height thing has me worried.

  4. Oh Helen, you know this is my dream post: look at all the great food. Good thing I've just eaten lunch otherwise I would have licked my screen :)

    The first place looks lovely, what a great place for lunch.

    And your home restaurant: love it. You were saying that CJ is working on Dutch? Hmmmm think I have to go with you next time and learn him some Dutch while eating that delicious looking cake.

    1. Fran, I think you and R. and Mr. Helen and me should plan a vacation where we are on the island at the same time. That would be fabulous!

  5. You guys know how to VA-CA-TION!! I need to take some lessons from you!

    That cake!!! Can't we kind of figure out how to make it? It looks like it has a cream filling?

    1. Debby, I keep trying and trying to replicate that cake. It's not really cream, but it's a very thin layer of something... maybe banana cream? Mr. Helen is convinced he puts a bit of banana rum in it. I don't know what he does but I swear if he charged $20 a piece, I'd still order it!