Turks and Caicos

Provo – Food for Thought 2018

Conch Shack Snapper

Even when we plan not to go to Provo, we go to Provo.  Even when we plan not to order the steak at Le Bouchon, we order the steak.  These magnetic forces are powerful and magical, even when the weather isnt cooperating.  I lost count, but its around 16 trips now to our second adopted home of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.  Here’s the latest food recap.  Note:  I know there are a lot of followers out there waiting for this, but keep in mind…  This is a vacation first, a job second.  As much as I try to find new places, recent history suggests I should stick to the proven to avoid unnecessary vacation crankiness.  Especially on a short 5 nighter…

Da Conch Shack

Sunday is apparently Funday at the shack.  To me a beach shack like this loses some of the magic when its so packed, people are lining up for a table.  But I cant fault a place for being popular especially now that its next door neighbor closed and relocated (Kalooki’s).  We used to have a love hate relationship with the shack but now its just Love.  Jerk wings came lukewarm this time but still packed with that nice jerky flavor.  That sauce!  Whole Snapper was a mistake (we ordered a grilled Grouper) but we decided to say nothing once we saw it, and enjoyed it.  Red conch chowder still da bomb!

Delicious Dishes Takeout

Delicious Dishes

Possibly my favorite new discovery of this trip.  Just myself, Mrs Z and a goat, Billy, in a Curried form on the balcony of our 5th floor ocean front at the Seven Stars. Oh and there was also a plate of tender Oxtail, but that goat was pure joy.  Delicious Dishes is mostly a takeout place extremely popular with locals.  There are two locations, one of which near the hub.  From Seven Stars when you reach Leeward hwy, turn left, and it’s right there on the right side.  It’s inside a mini market with a couple of tables if you want to stay in.  It’s mostly prepared food that’s not looking very appetizing, but they keep things nice and juicy.

Le Bouchon

One of the usual suspects, and one of two musts for dinner on every trip.  Quite the contrast to the established Provence (See bottom).  Unpretentious French bistro cooking with Caribbean flair.  The most underrated items here I feel are the soups.  Black bean and conch chowder. The chowder packs plenty of heat and they still got the Hutzpah to add this Harissa salsa thingy (foody term) on the side in case you require more heat.  Salmon gravlux was outstanding.  If you enjoy good lux, get this.  Biggest discovery early on however was the “conch ceviche” which is sliced more like Carpaccio style, giving it a nice garlicky bite.

The steak is the same old tender awesomeness.  The “Strawberry Grouper” is firmer than Nassau Grouper, almost lobster like.  They serve it with garlicky butter to loosen it up, and its delicious.  Other places just call it “grouper” on the menu, but here they elect to call it by the full nameLe Bouchon Conch

 

Seven

We are in the extreme minority of Seven Stars guests who almost never eat at the resort other than breakfast (which keeps improving. Buffet is like an egg lover wet dream these days).  With kids I prefer to skip the finer dining and I’m just not the resort dining type. But this time we came without kids and after a little hiatus we returned to Seven.

Edwin the executive chef suggested the tasting menu and that’s what we had.  Some minor hiccups here and there but a very enjoyable meal throughout with plenty of hints of brilliance, some even Michelin worthy.  The scallops and the two-way tuna were the standouts.  I would come back just for these.

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Hemingway’s

Another regular rotation stop for the fish and chips and fish tacos.  This was our first meal ever in Provo over 10 years ago when we stayed at the Sands, so it holds a special place.  Whenever I eat fish and chips in NYC I start to quietly weep.  If anyone asks whats wrong, I say I’m allergic to fish.  And chips.

Flamingo’s

Regular rotation stop for the views, legendary Curried Grouper and the underrated jerk chicken. The place was packed and everyone around us was eating burgers.  Instead of adding more haute and the trending, I would love to see more places like this open on the island

Caicos Cafe

A smashed iPod?  Redundant Lucy?  What’s the expression for “beyond broken record”. I’m tired of recommending this place.  Even on a 5 day trip, we have to dine here twice.  The only dish I didn’t care for so much this time was the mixed seafood ceviche.  Nothing really wrong with it, just missing some of that originality found in other dishes.  Like that Octopus!  You can’t find better texture/flavor combination than this.  It comes with this chickpea mash, a few tahini and lemon drizzles away from becoming a delicious hummus.  Lobster Fra Diavolo was the same old awesomeness.

On both nights they had fresh Grouper and of course we had to order it on both nights.  You cant get this in NYC.  Simply dusted with magic dust and grilled to flaky perfection.  Great crab cake special which we enjoyed in the past.  And yet another new pasta, a green Troccoli, “Chitara” where chef Massimo uses his “guitar” pasta instrument to make Troccoli which is like spaghetti on steroids.  He tops it with this rich ragu of Lamb shank and cheese.  I keep recommending Caicos Cafe to seafood lovers especially, but the meat dishes here never disappoint.  Last time they removed the ribs from the menu there was an airport strike.

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

Chinson’s

Like a dark horse coming out of nowhere in the last round, “No View Chinson” (thats the horse’s name) becoming our favorite overall lunch place in Provo.  While all our faves got their classics that we order each time (see Flamingo’s, Hemmingways) , Chinson’s may be the most well rounded of them all.  In the past we enjoyed the curried goat, oxtail, pulled pork and more. This time solid Jerk chicken as usual but the big discovery this time was the steamed Grouper in parchment paper.  Huge, super tender flaky goodness with just the right gentle spicing.  So big we couldn’t finish it.  Get this!

Provence

If Provo would have a Hot or Buzz list like in NYC and many other cities, it would be an especially sad list of one. Provence is the hottest most talked about restaurant on the island at the moment.  We had a taste of Eric Vernice’s cooking when he was at the Beach House about 6 years ago.  Provence is oddly casual, considering how expensive it is.  Its Coyaba expensive, without the service and any sort of setting to match.  Perhaps unless you are lucky to sit at the counter facing the chef.

We weren’t so lucky.  Even with reservations we sat at the bakery next door facing a shelf of one small truffle cream and the lone toilet.  Zero ambiance turned negative when a group of 4 people sat right next to us and someone forgot to tell them that there are other people in the room, some of which sitting right next to them.  Service is a little confused. “We have lobster”, “we don’t have lobster”, “WE FOUND LOBSTER”, “wait, it’s lamb”, “no, it’s def lobster”.  They gave us every clue to change the order to something else but we didn’t.

Another thing about “French” Provence that made me think of The Emperor’s New Clothes is that it’s kinda sorta Italian(ish).  Fresh pastas section dominate the menu and the wall is covered by various places in Italy.  During our more memorable moments when we were not directing traffic to the bathroom we stared at the wall playing “where have we been”.

But I have a tendency to quickly forgive and forget if the food is good. Gnocchi with lobster had distinct lobster flavor but sort of one-note and under-seasoned. Similar issue plagued the dish labeled “octopus”.  It came with very little octopus, sliced and lukewarm with white beans, chorizo and shrimp.  It kinda reminded me of the salads I make at home with canned beans.  But the dish looked gorgeous!

The lamb and lobster were the saving grace in a way but you would need to put me and my cans of beans in the kitchen to screw these up. The lobster was average for TCI which is not really a bad thing.  It came with a nice artichoke mousse with whole peppercorns which was a nice touch and stole the show.  Lamb was perfectly cooked and came with a piece of lamb shoulder sitting in a cup of bulgar.  These are also fairly sizable dishes for “French cooking”.

Provence Octopus

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TCI – Food Itinerary Update

IMG_7871Missed me?  Me too.  I was on another assignment in the Turks and Caicos trying to gain some well deserved poundage (7 to be exact).  Only registered one bad meal on this one, but that is a doozy of a story.  Will write a full report soon, but meanwhile put your second favorite Ziggy in the background and read the latest on how to eat like a local in Provo…

How to Gain 7 Pounds in 7 Days

 

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Provo Random

Our thoughts are with Provo and the rest of the Turks and Caicos islands today.
I’ve never watched the weather channel before today. I didnt even know what channel it is. Today we are watching it nonstop and I’m just sick to my stomach. Hang in there everyone, and stay safe.

Eating With Ziggy

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Provo – Food for Thought 2017

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Thai Orchid Duck

On my first night in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos a couple of months ago I had a Provo nightmare.  It started fine, with me walking on the beach with people that I didnt come here with.  All sorts of random people, like my high school music teacher.  But things turned at some point, to the point where I was awoken with a little sweat slowly dripping down my forehead.  On our little walk, we lost track of time, and I missed breakfast time!  Which also meant I missed Seven Stars’ new omelette station.  Yes, the Provo nightmare is a little more subdued than regular nightmares we have at home.  During a dream last night, my oldest fell from the roof of Madison Square Garden on a sled.  Long story!

But lets get straight to eating.  The biggest takeaway from the last trip is that we should start limiting trying new places.  As much as I try to find some new spots for you and me, this is just not working.  The old guys just keep chugging along, while new places, and especially resort places keep pretending and delivering odd experiences.  There’s one exception however.

Caicos Cafe – Nothing new here.  Our usual first and last stop.  But I start to get the sense that these guys wont be around here for too long.  Wahoo Carpaccio is the same sea butter awesomeness self.  Got two grilled calamaris this time to avoid World War Z.  The lobster Fra Diavola didn’t do it for me this time around. Just missing some of that old pop.  But the old Oriechiette with pork sausage ragu is back with a vengeance, showing very nice depth.  The Octopus starter here is a slap your sister wowster!  Brilliantly cooked on top of this delicious “I can’t believe this is not hummus” chickpea mousse.  Black Tagliolini continues to be a must, and the steak and ribs are very underrated here.IMG_5066

Solana – In NYC, during my Hell’s Kitchen walks, I show visitors the various Thai restaurants and how to tell between the good and not so good.  A big clue is in the looks department.  The ones that look like dingy dives are far better than those with sexy looking rooms with expensive chandeliers.  Such is the case in some cases with Provo, and especially with Solana taking the place of EWZ fave Seaside.  A marked improvement in the looks dept, with dumbed-down food. The blackened fish sandwich is the same Swai as before but not blackened enough, hence blander.  An “award winning” Conch salad paled in comparison to Seaside’s Peruvian conch salad.  Fried Calamari plate looked gorgeous, but a quality and quantity fail.  This is owned by the Vix group people, and I just dont think they care about ingredients nearly as much as looks.

Flamingo’s – The only news here is that they now accept CC.  In other news, the Curried Grouper is still the same melt in your mouth flaky goodness.  An island classic that requires some research (like reading this blog) to know about it.  This time we also did some dirty dancing with a fine jerk chicken and passable ribs.  But you come here for lunch for the grouper and rum punch.IMG_5086

Le Bouchon – Nothing to see here, move a long.  Another great meal at good ol’ reliable LB.  They keep experimenting (on me sometimes), stretching that menu, and stretching that sidewalk to the point that no one can see the board anymore.  Soups are still great.  Escargot is still perfection.  Octopus Carpaccio is outrageous (but not cheap).  The steps to produce it read like IKEA instructions.  Au poivre still rules the island Games of Steak.  And on this night a nice crispy snapper with buttery Beurre Blanc sauce.

Simone’s – The strong exception as far as new places go.  We tried it for lunch last time and liked it enough to come back for dinner.  Its the resort area Three Queens if you will, but still a small schlep from the hub to La Vista Azul resort.  Simone, formerly with Sharkbites, is a sweetheart, and treats family like customer!  Oh wait, I think I got it backwards.  The “Conch Ceviche”, now that Seaside is gone, perhaps the Conch Salad to beat.  A beefy fresh Wahoo, like a thick and juicy, flavor packed Swordfish.  Local fishermen dine here both times we were here.Simone's Conch Salad

Thai Orchid – If you follow this blog, you know how much I love Thai food.  So it may sound odd that this is my first time trying Thai Orchid in Provo, but really it shouldnt be. Crispy Duck was exactly what I expected. Crispy, understandably dry, but quite good especially once you add some chili sauce. A lot of nice flavorful crackling action. The Snapper Choo Chee was pretty good too. It’s a thicker, dryer red curry.  With a fresher Caicos Snapper it would have been a chooooo chooooo! instead of choo chee.  Ok, I try.

Chinson’s – Goat curry fix, Check.  Spiciest goat curry out there, which is surprising considering how sweet their Chinese fried rice is and other dishes.  Jerk chicken was on point. But the best thing surprisingly was a pulled pork sandwich. Heaps of juicy pork with a sweetish and sour sauce.  Note to self, again… you dont like ginger beer!  Chinson is now on the regular rotation, graduating perhaps into dinner nextIMG_5181

Cocovan – A new addition to the Coco Bistro family, an Airstream parked in the CB parking lot operating only at dinner time. Perhaps a play on words on Coq au vin.  Love CB, but didnt love, nor quite frankly got Cocovan.  The Shrimp tacos were meh.  Didn’t taste much shrimp, nor blackened, nor “coconut hummus”.  Duck tacos were more like it if not a little dry.  Sweet and sour Caicos lobster tasted like fine rock shrimp tempura.  Lamb lollipops tasted like an average, slightly overcooked baby lamb chops you get at your nearest kebab house with an $8 per lollipop price tag.  20 mins, $120 later with some of us still hungry, now what do you do.  It felt like an overpriced resort lunch with familiar flavors to me, but I have no doubt this will be popular.  I would rather go to something local like Caravel.  Or perhaps a niche player, serving fresh fish tacos, or high quality burgers.

Hemingway’s – If there’s one place that feels like home.  Our first meal on the island over 10 years ago, and nothing changed.  That includes the women running the front who see our girls grow and hairline shrink.  We come here for lunch and order just two things, fish tacos and fish and chipsIMG_5208

Pavilion – First visit to the newish (2 years?) fine dining at the Somerset, in the old O’soleil (aka O’SoSmall?) place.  Hits and misses throughout, and essentially a one and done deal for us.  Good conch spring rolls.  Tasty Poke style tuna cubes sitting on top of avocado that was not fresh, with even less fresh banana chips on the side. C’mon, at a place like this you can’t serve this.  Well cooked, supersized lobster was the star of show, beating the snapper.  Grouper, a major fail.  Crispy battered into a mushy, oversized fish and chip gone horribly wrong.  Ambiance of a typical hotel restaurant.

Sweet T’s – Fried chicken stop on the way to the airport.  Best value on the island

Stay hungry my friends!

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Simone’s (Provo) – Dishing Out the ‘True’ Fish and More

Eating With Ziggy

Simone's Conch Salad

February 6th, 2017 Update:

Coming to the island this time without my big boy camera felt weird but liberating.  It was also a way to say, “we are just going to our other home, and dont get overly excited anymore”.  And at that other home, one of the missions is to find the homey places where everyone knows your name and  your kids can run around naked.  As long as the food is a full notch above acceptable of course.  Simone’s is becoming that kind of place.  On our last dinner there we were the only secondary homeys there.  A bunch of locals hugging the terrace, including my favorite kind of locals, fishermen.  Two of them in fact.  Would local fishermen dine at a place serving frozen fish from Miami?  Would Urologists get Vasectomized by B grade Urologists?  That is the question one must ask.  Although on this date, as was…

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TCI – How to Gain 7 Pounds in 7 Days (Revised)

flamingos-curried-grouperThis is not a drill.  A big update to that Provo eating itinerary you’ve been so anxiously waiting for.  We keep trying new places with mixed results.  And while Provo can use a few more cheap options near the resorts, there’s still no shortage.  At least not until they sell Caicos Cafe or Le Bouchon.  Those Islanders can get restless sometimes, and decide to move on on a whim, a la Seaside Cafe which closed last fall.  The talented Francois is dishing them out in Opus these days, which means its to revisit soon.  Until next time.

Click here for the updated eating itinerary

 

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Yet another Seven Stars Update

I’ve got a bunch of suggestions, corrections, hate mail, marriage proposals, etc etc since the last update which was only a few weeks ago.  So I had to update it yet again.  Keep in mind that things are constantly changing on the island, but this is the last update for the time being

https://eatingwithziggy.com/2014/01/01/the-seven-stars-survival-guide/

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The Seven Stars Survival Guide

Update to SS guide. More food, more pictures, more awesomeness…

Eating With Ziggy

Seven Stars view

Updated May 28, 2016 (after visit #12)

So you decided to book the Seven Stars in Turks and Caicos.  Mazal Tov!!  And now what?  Not quite sure what to do?  Got that deer in headlights look after all those All Inclusive trips?  Time to change that to Raccoon in fresh Indian leftover garbage can look.  Or something like that.. you know what I mean.  Here are some tips that should enhance your stay.  Some of these are my own opinions by the way so save the hate mail and voodoo.  I occasionally have friends and family stay here so I’m partially doing this to save time writing stuff for them.

Airport – first things first, get your island reading material.  After customs, go straight to the stand on your left to pick your free copy of the Where When How Magazine and Dining Guide.  Dont be surprised to see my…

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Provo – Food for Thought 2016

Somewhere Fajitas

Somewhere Fish Fajitas

Our latest food adventure on our favorite home away from home.  I didnt take too many pictures, and on some evenings at the regular spots I didnt even take my camera (it felt like its time).  But this was yet another fun trip, with good food for the most part.  To some of the regulars these mentions may become tiresome, but I did have enough new dishes at most that moved me (yes moved)

Sweet T’s – Our new regular first stop driving from the airport.  $6 chicken (12 pieces), $2 fries, $2 drinks, eating the chicken in the car while ducking every time a Grace Bay Rental employee shows up, priceless!

Caicos Cafe – The prerequisite double meal at Caicos Cafe.  A lot of changes on the menu since the last visit not surprisingly (knowing chef “Mad” Max).  Old fave Tagliolini got a tan.  It’s now a sweeter tasting pasta by way of the squid ink.  Grilled Calamari and the Gnocchi are a must get from day one, while the fall off the fork ribs are heading to that direction as well.  On the second visit I “Scarpetta’d” the shi&$t out of the calamari plate with their homemade bread, to the point of an unrecognized spotless clean dish.  Grouper, when on the board, you will not find a better preparation on the island.  Loved the conch and grouper chowder this time.  Goat cheese with butternut salad in a pastry was perhaps the best new app discovery.

Mad Max also does a decent steak.  Peppercorn expectedly not as creamy as Le Bouchon, but more peppery.  Good ol’ Orrechiette (aka Mike Tyson’s fave) has finally been replaced by Pacheri, large rolled tube shape, when unrolled they are like Pappardelle with balls.  But it’s more like a crazy salad than pasta, fully loaded with peppers, sausages, zucchini, a cold small mozzarella ball in the center, and more.  Gorgeous dish.  Had a nice semi dry white from Naples – forgot the name of the grape, not something I heard of before.  That’s one region we haven’t explored yet.  Iced mousse with chocolate and coconut mousse, like the island version of Semifreddo.  The lone miss this time was the grouper ravioli, but I’m not a fan of fish ravioli to begin with

Caravel – This is one of my favorite newish local spots.  We had a nice lunch here two months after they opened, and now back for dinner.  They are no longer open for lunch after they realized they are not on the water!  Very welcoming, and comfortable from the friendly husband, wife, and friends team.  The soups here are very strong, particularly the white chowder.  Good blackened snapper, while jerk pork loin less successful.  But the star here again were those unusual fried fish tacos.  I would love to see more Caribbean specialties on the menu, like goat and oxtail.  Owner cooked at Amanyara, Mr Grouper’s, Fresh Catch and finally now his very own restaurant, but something tells me he has more tricks up his sleeveIMG_8254

Hemingways – We had fish tacos at 4 different places on this trip including the famous Somewhere, and to me the Hemingway’s tacos are still the ones to beat.  Perfectly flaky, nicely seasoned grouper with a nice tang from the mango salsa.  Same goes for the fish & chips, a must for us on every visit.  Hemingway’s was our first meal in TCI 10 years ago, and still going strong.  Hard to beat this setting for lunch

Julien’s Deli – Stop by before the flight (give it some time) got sandwiches and leave it to Julien, your Le Bouchon host, to make your return flight easier.  You will have the best food on the plane

Le Bouchon TunaLe Bouchon – I saw an ad on the bus today for Jimmy Kimmel for Vice President, “A good, solid #2”.  This is essentially Le Bouchon for me, though they can be easily #1 if they feel like it.  This is the only none ‘local’ place on the island where locals and expats outnumber visitors.  Tuna tartar, nothing short of spectacular, as only the French can do.  Escargot, now that the kids are obsessed with escargot (seriously I’m raising freaks) we should start getting two of those.  Lets just say I enjoyed the bread :-(.   The head cheese-like Octopus Carpaccio… angels singing.  Get this.  The now legendary Steak au Poivre is still the steak to beat.  Two perfectly seared scallops on creamy saffron risotto was on point.  A beautifully done yellowfin tuna (left), so light and flavorful (once you add the sauce).  Perhaps the best LB meal to date.

Conch Shack – We forgot how much fun this place can be.  And the food here is good enough to make it a regular again.  Conch rules much of the menu, but make sure to get the jerk wings with the homemade sauce.  The sauce is one of those sauces that make you dip anything and everything in it.  Peas, rice, beans, fingers, car keys, it’s all good.  The blackened fish make-yourself tacos are fine.  Basic conch salad.  And Conch Creole was like the homey tomato based stew your grandma would make if she was into conch (like the coolest grandma ever).  You cant get a better setting, and “welcome to provo” than this

Conch Shack Wings

Vix – New management, new chef, new menu, new mediocrity?  The place and flavors just did not come through for us.  The frozen packaged tasting gnocchi looked better on the menu than on the plate.  The very basic Caesar salad can use some tips from Mark from Lupo nearby.  The spicy Pasta Rusta’s heat was the only thing you taste after a few bites.  Just pure senseless heat.  Lamb Shank was fall off the bone alright but became boring in a hurry.  The snapper, cooked creole style was the saving grace.  One and dont!

Bugaloos – Another regular stop.  Conch salad is noticeably fresher here, though its not so much freshness, but who chops it fresh for each order.  A misunderstanding that we could have corrected but chose not to, left us with a mammoth $85 snapper that we all shared and couldn’t finish.  They got the freshest snappers, and other than the broth a little saltier this time, we enjoyed this again.  Coconut cracked conch is fine, much prefer the raw goodness.  “Service can be slow at time” is becoming the norm, but who cares.IMG_8327

Bella Luna Pizza – Stayed in one night to watch Hockey playoffs (the only thing I like more than food).  Thin, underdone, soggy,  super cheesy, desperate need for seasoning, but other than that, we loved it!

Simone’s – Considering this is the first place I wrote about when we came back, yes we liked this newcomer quite a bit.  It wasnt perfect, but very very promising.

Infiniti Bar – This is becoming a favorite for pre-dinner drinks, and sunset.  The drinks are good, and they give you popcorn!

Somewhere – Infamous fish tacos were much better this time, so I’m finally on board.  But something tells me the best thing on the menu is the the fish fajitas especially when they have fresh snapper.  Our friends ordered it, and it looked and smelled amazing.  Ex-friends I should say, since they didnt offer me any!

Seaside – As long as Francois is at the helm, I’ll continue to come.  But out of my favorites, I have the lowest confidence when recommending Seaside, mainly because it doesnt have much of an atmosphere.  Blackened Mahi was nicely cooked.  Not the biggest mahi fan, but this one worked.  A nice new addition to the menu is the excellent open faced ravioli with bay scallops, conch, shrimp, mahi, some truffle oil and mushrooms.  The elusive “South American” (aka Peruvian) conch salad, still the best conch salad on the island.

Seaside Mahi

 

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Provo Weight Gain Update

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The latest update to How To Gain 7 Pounds in 7 Days and still look fabulous.  Without the looking fabulous part

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