Martinique cuisine, a fusion of African and French, is certainly more international and sophisticated than that of its immediate island neighbors. The influx of young chefs, who favor a contemporary and lighter approach, has brought exciting innovations to the table. This haute-nouvelle creole cuisine emphasizes local products, predominantly starchy tubers such as plantains, white yams, yucca, and
island sweet potatoes, as well as vegetables such as breadfruit, christophene (also known as chayote), and taro leaves. Many creole dishes have been Frenchified, transformed into mousselines, terrines, and gratins topped with creamy sauces. And then there's the bountiful harvest of the sea—lambi (conch), langouste (clawless local lobsters), and dozens of species of fish predominate, but you can also find crevisses (freshwater crayfish, which are as luscious as jumbo prawns).
Some local creole specialties are accras (cod or vegetable fritters), which are the signature appetizer of Martinique, crabes farcis (stuffed land crab), and feroce (avocado stuffed with saltfish and farina). You can perk up fish and any other dish with a hit of hot chien (dog) sauce. Not to worry—it's made from onions, shallots, hot peppers, oil, and vinegar. To cool your jets, have a ’ti punch—four parts white rum and one part sugarcane syrup.
Supermarkets often have snack bars that serve sandwiches, as do the bakeries and larger gas stations such as Esso and Total. Supermarkets, such as Carrefour, have good deli sections and sell French wines for significantly less than at home. Another French chain, Le Baguet Shop, has locations in most tourist areas. Travelers on a budget will find creperies and pizzerias, even an African pizza place in Le François. And there may be times when you just want to drive in to Mickey Ds—however, brace yourself for the price hike.
In Fort-de-France's city market, ladies serve up well-priced creole prix-fixe meals that can include accras, fricassee of octopus and conch, chicken in coconut milk, or grilled whole fish.
As for euro sticker shock, the consolation is that although menu prices may seem steep, they include tax and service. Prix-fixe menus, sometimes with wine, can help keep costs in line.
What to Wear. For dinner, casual resort wear is appropriate. Generally, men wear collared shirts. Women typically wear light cotton sundresses, short or long. At dinnertime, beach attire is too casual for most restaurants. Both the French ladies and the Martiniquais often "dress." They have an admirable French style, and almost always wear high heels.
Nice shorts are okay for lunch, depending on the venue, but jeans and shorts aren't acceptable at dinner. Keep in mind that in Martinique lunch is often a wonderful three-course, two-hour affair.
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