Monthly Archives: March 2013

How I spent my Birthday Weekend

photoLast weekend will forever be remembered as “The Weekend”.  We are still talking about it.  We are talking about it with people who don’t really care to hear about it.  Like when you have young kids and talk about them constantly even with childless parents who don’t particularly care to hear that nonsense but you don’t care since you are getting a certain enjoyment out of it.  Yes, it was that kind of weekend…

Friday – 10 courser at Jungsik with the Hummus Whisperer.  One of the best meals I ever had at perhaps the only swanky Korean in the city.  Somewhat romantic which made things a bit interesting and uncomfortable for HW.  The food was truly a work of art.  Foie Gras, salads like I never had before, and about 16 magnificent courses all together if you count all the freebies.  And with all the glitziness and professionalism we couldnt help but imagine them dimming the lights for a minute and crank out a special Gangnam Style bday dance

Saturday – 10 courser with the wife at Aska.  One of the most highly anticipated and talked about places in the city at the moment.  Just us and 18 other diners incluing 2 that looked like Michelin inspectors  at the back of an art studio in Williamsburg.  Whelk (sea snails), Blood pudding crackers, dehydrated scallops, apple sauce with baby formula, heavy accent chefs come out to explain every dish was only part of the experience.  One that we’ll never forget.  Ok, there was no baby formula but thats the one place that can pull it off

Sunday – “Normal” meal with the family at Louro in West Village.  On top of my list to try for so long no more.  Did sort of a tasting menu of our own and besides a few surprising clunkers and a a fancy diner like feeling, another fantastic meal in the city.  Some of the best chicken in recent memory.  Sort of an American, Italian, Portuguese influenced menu that changes almost on a daily basis by a celebrity chef (David Santos) with a menu OCD

Monday – Unplanned lunch at Cafe Kashkar in Brighton Beach.  Delicious Uighur food.  Amazing Lagman noodles specialties including a ramen-like soup.  Another example that you can find any cuisine you want in NYC.  You Googling Uighur arent you?

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Turks and Caicos – Beach House

Tomato SaladThe Beach House at the Beach House near Beaches House right by the Beach is the latest addition to Provo’s ever growing and competitive fine dining scene.  In a weird way the Beach House at Beach House reminds me of a quote from the Godfather;  Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter’s wedding…on the day of your daughter’s wedding.  Don Eric Vernice is not a exactly a stranger to Provo’s haute cuisine.  Classicly trained French Vernice, fromerly with Parallel 23 created an intense and ambitious foie/wagyu/foam filled menu, or as they call it in my village, a “Fufu”.  In a way the menu resembles a fine Italian menu, with some good looking pasta/risotto options mid way.  The manager of the Beach House left a few weeks ago and so we didn’t get all the farm to table talk as others did. Perhaps the former manager finally realized its farm to freezer to plane to mule to table and found it difficult to believe

Beach House BreadYou may find the setting a little odd next to the resort pool but it didnt bother me.  We did however get the largest round table for 8 (plus baby) we’ve ever seen.  Since texting wasnt an option here, in order to talk to my kids I had to ask the always available waiters to deliver them notes.

The dishes at the Beach House ranged from good to very good to exceptional, and overall it was a very enjoyable meal from start to finish.  I was joined again by the Conch snob, Pasta snob, Just snob, Chicken snob (1 year), and an Aruba snob (Father in law).

Beach House - Conch ExtravaganzaThe details here are a little murky. Delicious bread to start things off.  Very rarely delicious bread is followed by mediocre food, since this is an indication of the type of attention to detail.  Super sized table meant super sized dishes like the Tomato Mozzarella plate (biggest I’ve seen), a gorgeous looking and tasting app of heirloom tomatoes and savory buffalo mozzarella.  Conch snob liked his Conch Extravaganza, a true extravaganza of curried conch, conch chowder, and conch rolls of some sort.  My favorite app however was mine, perfectly seared  scallops (below) with this runny french potato-like puree “espuma” of cauliflower.  Thank you dear Jesus for sending me a wife who is not too fond of Scallops.Beach House - Scallops

We tried just about all the risottos and pastas on the menu and there was not a bad seed in the bunch.  Fantastic Cavatelli with seafood (more scallops thank you), a nice seafood risotto, Strozzapreti (Priest stranglers :evil:) with ricotta and braised veal shank was so good that I cant even describe it.  Meaning the Pasta snob ate the entire thing without offering any to the food blogger.  “You were sitting too far”.  Nice try!  Aruba snob enjoyed his rabbit risotto or I thought he did until…  “Is there a place here that sells Schnitzels”. “No”.  “In Aruba there is one. They make great Schnitzels”.Beach House - Cavatelli

Beach House - RisottoMain courses mainly did not disappoint.  Nice Wagyu beef special served rare on top a very interesting short rib Shepard pie.  A very inventive and delicious dish.  So was the Snapper, although perhaps a bit too interesting for mrs Ziggy.  A complex combination of flavors in this one with root veggies, and more, where every bite delivered different tastes.  Some enjoyed their Branzino special.  The dessert sampler was on the mark as well and nicely priced for such a plate.Beach House - Wagyu over pie

One thing I should note is that one can get away with ordering a few apps here including a pasta dish but chances are  once you see the mains temptation wins.  Overall, I think I appreciate the Beach House and the creativity of Eric Vernice a bit more after this post.  Chances are this one will be a culinary force for years to come, and I cant wait to come back for more Priest Stranglers and the rest of them.

Recommended Dishes:  Scallops, Conch Extravaganza, Tomato Mozzarella, Cavatelli, Snapper,  Strozzapreti 😡

Beach House - SnapperBeach House - Branzino

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Turks and Caicos – Hemingway’s

Hemingway's - Conch FrittersA trip to Provo feels incomplete to us without lunch at Hemingway’s at the Sands.  This was our first meal in Provo when we discovered the island back in 2006 while staying at the Sands so the sentimental value is there.  But I dont go back for sentimental values alone, nor for just the view, nor for Jojo’s bell which you have to ring when you see Jojo the dolphin.  I didnt know at first and rang it when I was ready for dessert.

Ordering at Hemingway’s is quite simple for us.  Tacos, Fish and Chips, Conch Fritters please, no menus needed.

Hemingway's - Fish TacosThe tacos are some of the best on the island.  While other popular establishments pack theirs with green peppers, avocado, red peppers, purple peppers and brown avocados, here its pretty simple.  Hefty pieces of grilled fish with a hint of sour cream and savory sweet mango chutney that compliment the fish beautifully.  Hmmm that reminds me, Mrs Ziggy are you reading?  What happened to the fish tacos with spicy mayo you used to make?

Hemingways - Fish and ChipsJust like the tacos, we also tried plenty of the various fish and chips on the island and this one is our favorite.  Lightly fried pretty good size groupers with perfectly seasoned “meaty”, just like I like em fries.  I prefer nicely seasoned over nicely sauced.

And just like with the tacos, and fish and chips (Ok I know I’m beginning to sound like Dr Seuss and need to stop) we tried all sorts of conch fritters on the island and this one is one of our favorites.  It got that perfect crispy exterior and works very well with the accompanied sauce.  And as you can see from the photo above I couldn’t quite help myself and attacked this thing before I had a chance to take a photo

In short, Hemingway’s is good for what it is.  Good cheap food, nice drinks, comfortable setting, nice views, Jojo’s bell, what else do you need.  Pizza, foie gras perhaps, but that’s just about it, I think.

Recommended dishes:  Fish Tacos, Conch Fritters, Fish and chips

Hemingway's

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Turks and Caicos – Seven

Best End of LambFirst I want to start this post by saying that I love my mom.  I love you mom!  With that said… when I was growing up as a kid I really hated fish.  I would beg to be seated away from fish dishes and after the first time I tried Gefilte Fish I was the youngest person in my city to file a restraining order against his parents.  I really hated fish but that was because the only fish I knew was my mom’s fish which she made quite often.  This is possibly the reason for one of my travel rules:  Never eat where I stay, and in general I’m not too keen on resort dining.  I love staying at the Seven Stars and everyone on Trip Advisor knows that but it took me 5 tries to finally make it to Seven, considered by many one of the top dining options on the island.  I am glad I did

Mushroom Ravioli

Terrific meal all around.  Great looking menu that is not over the top expensive for the quality ingredients included and look and feel of the dining place.   I normally dont put too much weight on service on the island but the staff at Seven was so professional and knowledgeable it was refreshing.  From Allan Duffy who is running the show, and the witty Tuscan waiter to the fairly new executive chef that knows his stuff.

Amuse-bouche Slamon

Started with a very nice Amuse-bouche of salmon tartar and a piece of salmon.   Half portion of  a main of Mushroom Ravioli with truffle cream was very pleasant.  Red Beet Gazpacho according to Hummus Whisperer was like the sickest red borscht you will ever eat,  with sherry, Avocado Ice Cream, golden beet, another kind of beet, and 2 ingredients that were told to the waiter once at a bar which I’m not allowed to say.  Sounded like a terrific starter.  Lobster Ravioli was good but could be without the caviar which overwhelmed the rest of the dish slightly.  Seafood bisque was outstanding.  They put a conch fritter, shrimp tartar and scallop and pour the bisque over.  Great flavor although Mrs Ziggy said she’d prefer just the bisque without the accompanied stuff.

Lobster

Vanilla rum butter poached lobster with papaya buttermilk risotto (above) was rich and tasty.  Two people were raving about the duck breast (below).  You see I cant try everything as there’s only so much I can eat while dining with a party of 8.  The star of show was perhaps the Best End of milk fed lamb (top picture), which is a fancy British way of saying back of the Lamb Neck, or in this particular case Lamb Neck fillets – perfectly cooked medium rare, melt in your mouth deliciousness.

DuckA meal like this screams for a nice finish and the Coconut creme brûlée with almond ice cream was just that.  One of the best desserts of the last trip.  Kudos to Josu, executive chef from Basque country.  Anyone born in Basque country in Spain or Emilia Romagna in Italy is an automatic good cook.  My mother was not born in any of those places but is still a great mom.

Recommended Dishes:  Red Beet Gazpacho, Vanilla rum butter poached lobster, Best End of milk fed lamb, Coconut creme brûlée

coconut creme brulee

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Turks and Caicos – Caicos Cafe

There are 3 certainties in life as far as I’m concerned.  Death, Taxes, and that Caicos Café is Provo’s best.  Well at least in my book.  This is by far my favorite restaurant in Provo.  Since it opened in October of 2010 I’ve eaten here 9 times which is more than any place in NYC where I live and enjoy wonderful Italian fair.  Caicos Cafe fits my taste like a glove.Caicos Cafe - Tuna Tartar

Max Olivari, from a village by Lago Di Garda via NYC and Bermuda is the magician behind the scenes, dishing out some wonderful North Italian/Mediterranean/Caribbean influenced goodies. Its best to come here with a group to sample some of this stuff.  To understand the menu you need to understand this.. The guy is a little crazy.  While other establishments sport the same menu since WWII, this menu changes more often then Dennis Rodman changes harstyles (North Korea had to add 5 more to this list since his visit).  Seasonal items vary at CC.  Ate something good there in the 82 degrees summer night?  Dont expect the same thing in the dog days of winter (81 degrees).  With that said he keeps a few popular “classics” on the menu which are more or less stapled.  But thats partly what attracts me to this place.  Never boring!  I always find something new and exciting and I have yet to try a dish that I didnt like.  I’m sure some did, but not Ziggy.

Ok, lets get down to business and take a close look at the 2 amazing meals we had last week.  Keep in mind its the 8 of us.  I don’t want you to think I’m some eating freak.  I am, but I don’t want YOU to think that.

Started the first night with a very pleasant Wahoo Carpaccio special.  If you are not confused enough as far as what to order from the menu, take a look at the specials.  I can come here and eat just the specials and be more than satisfied.  This Carpaccio simply rocked with its simplicity and graceCaicos Cafe - Wahoo Carpaccio

The Tuna Tartar (top) with mango and black beans was a thing of beauty.  Like eating butter.  Beautiful, delicious soft butter.

Grilled Calamari on a skewer is a personal favorite.  A must on every visit along with the Gnocchi.  With such perfect texture hard to believe this was a frozen product minutes ago.  Add some fresh mussels, cannellini beans and a sauce that makes you ask for more bread and you got yourself a glorious starter.Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

The Potato Gnocchi is another must.  We’ve been eating gnocchi here prepared in various ways since day 1.  What I love about this particular version is the Shiitake, Champignon, Porcini mushroom goodness that comes along. Forget the bread, eat this thing with a fork and a spoon (together!) and when no one is looking stick a finger or 2 (close your eyes for maximum affect).  And I’m not even such a huge gnocchi fan.  Rarely order it in NYC.Caicos Cafe - Gnocchi

Cheese Pumpkin Ravioi was another surprise.  Something I would never consider ordering normally but this was delicious.  We ordered this as a starter (2 of them in our case) so a full dish is double thisCaicos Cafe - Cheese Pumpkin RavioliHomemade Tagliolini (spaghetti on crack!) always gives me that Ratatouille moment, taking me back to Verona (where horse meat is actually preferred).  Pernot flambéed with various seafood, spices and a hint of parsley and lemon juice.  Love this dish!

Caicos Cafe - TaglioliniBread crumb and herb encrusted perfectly cooked scallops and shrimp skewers were as another popular island Max puts it, Marvelous!  Sitting on top of this savory grilled polenta.  I love Max’s use of the “I cant believe its not sun dried tomatoes, roasted tomatoes” on some of his dishes.  A welcoming sourness at times.

Caicos Cafe - Scallops and ShrimpCooked 3 way Shrimp special which Mrs Ziggy enjoyed.  Good example of the sort of experimental brilliance I was referring to.

Caicos Cafe - Shrimp speicialOrecchiette (Mike Tyson’s favorite pasta) with sweet and spicy sausage enjoyable as always.  We tried to duplicate it a few times but always miss that one key ingredient… Flavor!

Caicos Cafe - OrecchietteLobster Fra Diavolo is one of the most popular dishes on the island right now.   This one is Brandy flambéed with chili (in the past he used jalapeno skins I believe).  This is why you need to come during lobster season (Oct-March), otherwise you risking… Chicken Season!

Caicos Cafe - Lobster Fra DiavoloPork and Bean Cassoulet is one of those seasonal dog days of winter items.  I didnt try it this time (Hummus Whisperer a guest writer on this blog did) but I’ve had it before and enjoyed it.  The most popular meat dish in Caicos Cafe is the ribs

Caicos Cafe - CassouletYou cant leave the place without dessert.  In fact we even came here just for dessert once after eating somewhere else.  The Affogato (baileys, espresso, ice cream) and the Tiramisu are top notch here, and on this trip I discovered another favorite, Mango Apple Tart with honey.  Crazy good.  Chocolate Hazelnut cake below pretty much gone before I got to it

Caicos Café is the perfect example of why Trip Advisor rankings are such a joke.  This is #16 while an award winner chef at Coyaba is even lower.  Reservations are absolutely essential here.

Recommended dishes: Grilled Calamari, Gnocchi, Tuna Tartar, Tagliolini, Lobster Fra Diavolo, Affogato, Tiramisu, pretty much everything else

Caicos Cafe - Chocolate Hazelnut cakeCaicos Cafe - Apple  Mango TartCaicos Cafe - Affogato

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Turks and Caicos – Lemon (Closed)

Lemon - Chickpea, Date and Sweet Corn Fritter

The Family Guy of fine dining in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  You enjoy watching it when its on but never make an effort to catch it.  This was our first visit back since Lemon’s first year as I figured this was a good fit for the group of 9 I was with (They enjoy Mediterranean food and restaurants whose name starts with “L”), although my father in law is convinced there’s some sort of a conspiracy behind dark restaurants… “In Aruba, you can see the food.  And the weather is much nicer”

Lemon - MezzesStarted this one with a nice mezze assortment of hummus, baba ganoush, yoghurt and something resembling a Turkish salad.  A good starter.  Stuffed Poblano pepper had more flavor than a similar dish we had in a fancier place in Vegas the month before.  Chickpea, Date and Sweet Corn Fritter (pictured on top) = FALAFEL ON CRACK.  Delicious!  Spicy chorizo, sweet octopus and nicely spiced potatoes was excellent and a nice mix of contrasting flavors.  But…  “In Aruba you get a whole octopus, with ‘testicles’ and all”.  “Ahhm, that’s tentacles paps”.  “yes, all of them”.

Lamb shank was tender, falling off the bone (the international cliche for lamb shank, except in Russia where its called falling off the fork), however lacked any sort of interesting flavor and got boring after a while. And the accompanied couscous from the bland variety could not save it.  Lemon - Lamb ShankThere was nothing boring about the Lamb Burger.  Nice looking patty that included mint, egg and other herbs and spices.  Along with the hummus, cucumber mint yoghurt, and Brie this was one heck of a burger.  Came with the same delicious roasted potatoes as the octopus dish.  The wild mushroom Risotto with pork was outstanding as well from the few bites I took.  Skipped dessert this time though the Date Phyllo (baklava?) sounded good.  Another satisfying meal

Lemon - Lamb BurgerLemon is the closest ‘middle of nowhere’ restaurant in the history of middle of nowhere restaurants.  Its very close to the resorts but its not recommended to walk there.  Its dark, full of potholes and the area just looks like a great place for giant man eating mongoose breeding ground.

I was somewhat apprehensive about coming back here especially with Mark no longer around (he’s opening Lupo) and we love and enjoy great middle eastern/med food back at home.  But delicious is delicious, and you can’t discount that.

Recommended Dishes:  Octopus with Chorizo, Chickpea, Date and Sweet Corn Fritter, Lamb Burger, Risotto with Pork

Lemon - Risotto  with PorkLemon  - Octopus

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