Saint Barthelemy (also known as Saint Barths), an Island in the French West Indies, is where the Caribbean Sea and Mountains join in a tropical paradise. At times it feels like the French Riviera (IMO, better!)
The locals are mostly French, the language is French and most of the food is French. It’s not easy to reach St. Barths. You first need to fly into St. Maarten and then take a small plane to St. Barths (it’s a quick flight but be prepared for a nose dive landing over a steep mountain onto the landing strip). The most common daily activity is beach hopping. All the beaches are beautiful, none are miles long, but each has it’s own character and culture. Many of the beaches have small resorts and restaurants that are certainly worth exploring. The harbor is located in Gustavia, the town center, overflowing with shoppers, boaters and aggressive drivers during high season. Don’t miss Shell Beach (in Gustavia) for a magnificent sunset cocktail. Another shopping area is St. Jean, where the famed Nikki Beach attracts the wanna-be jetsetters of the Caribbean.
I have a special love for this island for it is where I fell in love and where I got married years later. Every time I return, nothing seems to change much and that is the real beauty of St. Barths.
My favorite restaurant has always been Maya’s, off the beaten path, just outside of Gustavia. There is also Maya’s To Go, across from the airport. You can bring your Maya’s To Go meal on the plane before heading back to St. Maarten.
Maya (yes, there is actually an owner named Maya), a self-taught chef, born in Martinique, grew up in Guadeloupe and went to school in France. Maya is as authentic as can be. She loves natural foods from local places. Maya enjoys going to the weekly market in the neighborhood of Lorient to choose fresh produce from nearby food-producing Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe.
During last week’s visit, I spent time chatting with Maya. Her eyes lit up when I told her I was a nutritionist/registered dietitian. As you can imagine, that is not a typical response I get from French chefs. She went on to tell me how she feels a sense of responsibility when it comes to the well being of her patrons and she cooks accordingly. The recipe preparations and menus are based on good, fresh ingredients, healthy preparations and complimentary flavors.
It is then that I realized, why I was always attracted to Maya’s restaurant. I had never spoken to Maya before, yet for years I was deeply attracted to her cooking.
The photos I share today are from my most recent visit just a week ago. The Lobster Thermidor was made with milk, not cream, yet rich and more delicious than any other I’ve eaten. The Venezuelan soup was fish based and made with sweet potato and other root vegetables. The Chicken Tandoori with Carrot Puree and Forbidden Rice was simple yet so flavorful. The dessert plate was a sampling of everything decadent, including a coconut tart made with local coconut (I will have to dig up that photo later). Bon Appetit!