I love food and there is nothing anyone can do about it. So, imagine my delight when I received an email from Flavors of St. Maarten Food Tours inviting me to join them on their next trip. As you can imagine it took me exactly 3 seconds to decide and reply with a “Hell Yeah”.
The day of the food tour could not come fast enough. I was so looking forward to this and was sure I was going to have a blast. The day of the tour however, I started feeling a bit apprehensive. I was going on a bus with a bunch of strangers for half a day touring an island I know like the back of my hand. Would I be able to get along with everyone? Would there be vegetarian options for me? Would I be able to enjoy it seeing that I call this island home and know most of the restaurants on the list? Would I look stupid with my selfie stick? I pushed those insecurities aside and decided to just go with the flow. I made sure my camera and GoPro were charged and ready for action.
The group met in Philipsburg at the Amsterdam Cheese Store. Off to a good start. I LOVE cheese. It is the only thing that keeps me from becoming a complete vegan. We started with a cheese and wine tasting that included a range of Gouda cheese from 4 week old “young” cheese to more “matured” cheeses and a goat cheese. I never knew the Netherlands to make any goat cheese and I must say it did not disappoint. The cheese was paired with two different wines. Cheese + wine = heaven. It was amazing. I even found a new addiction: Wasabi Gouda Cheese. It’s to die for. Move aside young gouda, Truffle Gouda and sexy mature Gouda. The king of all cheeses has arrived and it’s green.
It was time to get this food tour on the road. We quickly got into the air-conditioned van that was waiting outside, excited to get to the next tasting.
As I predicted, I was the only local person on the bus aside from three French girls who call French St. Martin home. Our guide, Candice took the microphone and as the van pulled away she started doing her guide thing. Then it hit me. How was I going to survive 3 hours of listening to her explaining things about an island I already know so intimately? But Candice surprised me. She is a natural and not only did she know what she was talking about (seriously there is nothing worse than going on a tour where you know more than the guide) but she also added some personal touches like her own personal experiences and tales from St. Maarten back in the day that she has heard from her grandmother. This made it fun and interesting.
Our second stop was over on the French side of the island at a place I have actually never been to before. Yes, I know. Shocking. I’ve always driven past but never thought to stop. It looked like a tourist trap to me. I was only partially right though. It was definitely all about the tourists up there. The little street up to the restaurant is filled with little stalls selling all the regular tourist crap you find everywhere else on the island but the restaurant itself is a hidden gem.
True to its name, Paradise View really does have one of the best views on the island. It’s perched up on a hill overlooking Orient Bay and Le Gallion Beach as well as St. Barth in the far distance. It is in this setting and with this view that we enjoyed authentic French crepes. One savory, one sweet and I think I will have wet dreams of that salty caramel crepe for years to come. Delicious.
The third stop was at the Lolos in Grand Case. If you follow me on social media you know that Grand Case is where I prefer to spend my Sundays and the lolos are my lunch place of choice. The Lolos, LOcal and LOw cost, are 6 local shacks offering almost identical menus. The trick is to choose the best out of the 6, which is quite difficult since each one is the best in something. I’ve eaten at all 6 but I never knew that our third stop, Sky’s the Limit has the best potato salad. Cheese is life but a good Potato salad is my kryptonite. I go weak in the knees with just the mention of it. Since I gave up meat a little while ago I was served potato salad, cole slaw and johnny cakes, while everyone else got the same plus a piece of barbeque chicken and ribs. No, my dish was not exactly the meal of champions and I must say that I never regretted my choice to become a vegetarian until that very moment. A piece of chicken or fish would have gone down so well with that potato salad.
The next stop was more interesting and would appeal to vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike. L’Esplanade is one of the older restaurants in Grand Case and the spot for our fourth tasting. Flavored RUM!!!! We got to try rums made in house by the chef himself; Tropical fruit, vanilla banana and coconut, and all of that while enjoying a perfect view of the beautiful blue water outside. This is the stuff dreams are made of, and my best dreams always include rum.
It was back on the bus after that for a short ride from Grand Case to Marigot, capital of French St. Martin for some more sweet stuff. Ok so here’s another shocker: I am not a big fan of desserts and pastries. I may indulge in the occasional tiramisu or local cakes but I generally prefer to order an alcoholic beverage or a happy coffee after a meal.
Sarafina is where those with a sweet tooth dwell. The place is always ram packed for lunch and breakfast and this day was no different. It is after all the best bakery on the island according to many. I could not finish my plate and left the macaroon, which got me suspicious looks from my fellow tour passengers. Even the owner’s dog looked at me funny and ran when I tried to pet her. I guess she was trained not to trust a person that doesn’t like macaroons.
The journey back to where we started was fun, mainly because of Candice’s stories or was it the rum? Perhaps a combination of the two.
5 stops, 5 different tastings, one amazing guide and a great driver later we were back where we started.
After everyone disembarked and tipped the guide and driver, I stayed behind to ask some questions. I learned from Candice that the company has about three tours a day, not every tour stops at the same spots, there is also a walking food tour in Philipsburg and that the tour can also be enjoyed in St. Thomas and Puerto Rico. As a travel blogger this is the part that interests me the most. Sign me up for one of those.
In conclusion the tour was a nice pastime. I am a foodie that calls St. Maarten home and I try to eat at a new place every chance I get. St. Maarten truly is the gourmet capital of the Caribbean and there are great restaurants everywhere. While the places we visited during this tour were great, they were not what I would call amazing. The stops could also do with better vegetarian options. The tour itself was nice but not for a local person unless of course it’s a customized tour, which I hear is possible.
Having said that, the tour does serve very well as an introduction to the island’s food scene. So, those who are short on time (yes, cruise ship passengers, I mean you) will truly enjoy this tour. In fact, if St. Maarten is one of the stops on your next cruise, make sure to book this food tour. It’s a must for foodies. I recommend first time stay over visitors to do this tour in the very beginning of their vacation to get an idea about the island, it’s history and most importantly its cuisine. Flavors of St. Martin Food Tours is also a fantastic way for groups to bond and should definitely be included in destination wedding itineraries or corporate trips.
The food tour I went on was complimentary and on invitation by Flavors of St. Martin Food Tours. All opinions and views are my own and based on my personal experience.