Turks and Caicos

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

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 the theme this week, Wahoo was the catch of the day, but boy was it good.  A beefy consistency as expected, without crossing the dryness line as Wahoo often does.

I would come back just for the Wahoo.  But not without the “Conch Ceviche” first which is essentially fancy for Conch Salad.  With its heaps of fresh veggies and heat, this may be the closest to Seaside’s Peruvian conch salad (RIP) today.  Here you also control your own destiny with an extra spoonful of Scotch Bonnet hidden below the lime.  The Seafood Chowder is another great one to add to the ever growing list of Island chowders.  This is a light, well balanced, full bodied white with delightful fishy notes.  The fine lobster, and curry snapper again, rounded another fine meal at this Three Queens of the resorts area.  Certainly not for those looking for full service, consistent, finer dining. Think of it as an easy going, eating at aunt Betsy type of place.  Except in this case aunt Betsy can flat out bring it.simons-wahoo

May 3rd, 2016 Post:

You can say we waited well over a year for the chef to show up.  Back in 2014, we sat at the foot of mount La Vista Azul waiting for the chef of ‘The Wave’ from the team behind Ricky’s Flamingo’s (only one member so far:  Ricky).  “She is coming, stuck in traffic”.  where is this traffic, Miami?  We waited until the house ran out of Bambarra Coconut, and left to Chinson’s.  Fast forward to December 2015, the place is now called Simone’s, and the head chef, coincidentally called Simone, is actually in the kitchen, not Miami, not Sunrise, not downtown Provo.  Four months later, Simone is cranking out award worthy conch salads, fresh Groupers and Snappers.

As of this writing, Simone is in no man’s land on Trip Advisor.  By the time you reach Simone on TA you either reach behemoths like Asu on the Beach, and Mookie Pookie Pizza Palace, or get finger tendinitis.  After spending some time with her, I dont get the sense that Simone is too worried.  Unlike some of her fellow counterparts, she is not going from table to table asking people to write TA reviews, nor she and her cousins busy injecting fake ones.  She only care about two things:  What people like, and what people dont like right now.

SimoneThis is Simone’s first restaurant.  But with over 15 years of cooking experience, including a long stint at nearby Sharkbite, she’s no stranger to the Provo restaurant world.  Simone has friends with benefits…  Fishermen!  One of them was sitting by the door, just watching the world go by (I apologized when I walked by).  ‘True’ Fish like freshly caught snappers and groupers can be a luxury at places like this.  In the last few years fishing in Provo has been severely erratic due to changing weather patterns and government regulations in favor of sustainability.  Even before all this, getting the correct fish that is listed on the menu has been a crapshoot everywhere.  Ever wonder why that Grouper ‘Special’ you’ve been enjoying at Caicos Cafe and Three Queens is completely different than some of the other places you tried.  That’s because it is.  That’s either Swai or Tilapia you dealing with, with the former resembling the grouper more and an upgrade in taste and texture over the Tilapia.

Simone does not only promise to serve the proper fish, but will also tell you if its frozen.  Location, and the the number of expats/locals frequenting Simone in the early going, suggest there could be some legitimacy to those promises.  Location is significant driving distance from most resorts (significant in provo = more than 5 minutes), off the road, without any views of oceans or sunsets to speak of.  Meaning the goal is for the food to take center stage.  Another good ‘local’ sign is the plethora of rotating daily nightly specials like oxtail stew and Goulash!Simone Fritters

So far so good on the food front.  Other than the uneventful, dry ribs, everything we tried was solid.  The conch fritters (the falafel of the sea) were light, just crunchy enough, and missing some of that greasiness you find elsewhere.  The jerk wings were basic but satisfying.  The curry snapper here can give Flamingo’s ‘Grouper’ a run for its money.  Fresh, perfectly cooked flaky snapper, with thick mild green sauce with onions and peppers.  Flamingo’s got the sauce, Simone got the fish.  Combine them together and you got the cure to summertime sadness.

Mrs Z is not particularly fond of the conch salad/ceviche in general but tries them all (not by force) like a trooper.  So when she declares “the best conch salad on the island”, everybody needs to pay attention. Spicy, tender, without the chewy rough stuff you normally find.  Simone simply removes the not so tender parts.  Some of the conch was as sweet as summer corn.  And she provided some scotch bonnet salsa on the side for the white folks to add more heat as they please.  Go!

Simone Wings Simone Snapper Simone Ribs Simone Drinks Simone out

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Provo Random

IMG_8361 IMG_8267 IMG_8309 IMG_8343 IMG_8338 IMG_8441 IMG_8424 IMG_8365 IMG_8327 IMG_8330 IMG_8336 IMG_8269 IMG_8440 IMG_8449 IMG_8246 IMG_8402 IMG_8345 IMG_8352 IMG_8285 IMG_8254 IMG_8387 IMG_8437 IMG_8237 IMG_8445

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Provo – Food for Thought 2015

Leaving on yet another eating assignment. Here’s a clue…

Eating With Ziggy

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari Caicos Cafe – Grilled Calamari

Another fun eating trip on the island we call Providenciales.  The weather was a mixed bag of sun, clouds, wind and seaweed.  An island version of Guess is in the works, where you try to guess which hotel got the seaweed this morning.  February may not be the best month to experience Grace Bay at her best, but its the best month to escape the Gotham frozen tundra, among many other reasons.  We are back rejuvenated, even if a little bruised.  The seas were angry for much of the week, and the palapas were just standing there.  “Why the scar?  Did you belong to a gang?  Tough childhood? ”  “Nope.  Ran into a  a palapa”.

As I stated in the past I dont write negative reviews for various reasons.  One of which is the increased cost of Krav Maga trained body guards these days (my depandant duo unexpectedly…

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15 Shades of Caicos Café

Going to TCI anytime soon? Here’s all you need to know.
You welcome!

Eating With Ziggy

Caicos Cafe - Tuna TartarLadies and gents, brace yourself.  Its the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Ever since you discovered the Turkey and Cascos Islands as your co-workers call them (“You back… how was Turkey and Cascos”), the question you always wanted to ask but were too afraid for some reason;  What to order at Caicos Café, the top restaurant in Providenciales.  If you agree, great.  If you disagree, even better.  You just need a little help that’s all.

Although I live 1300 miles away, and have a serious eating disorder (NYC did this to me), I’ve written about Caicos Café more than any other restaurant in the world (trying to sound dramatic, but really it doesn’t mean anything.  I could have said NY but I chose not to).  I’ve written stories, reviews, blog posts, mentioned them in every WWH Seven dishes column, and children books (“Goodnight Grouper”).  So instead of writing yet another boring blog post about our recent meals…

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Provo: What Where Why

Turks 2014 240TCI, Provo lovers.  Check out the latest issue of Where When How to read about What to eat, Where to eat it, and Why, by yours truly.  Flip to page 118. or type 118 in the box on top.  Also check out the wonderful story by my friend Mackenzie Tewksbury about the Taste of TCI tour on page 62.  A very cool way of spending three hours on the island.

http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/publication/?l=1&m=11667

Printer friendly direct link to story

http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/display_article.php?id=2400949&id_issue=290949

 

 

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Most Memorable Meals of 2015

Pulker's Heuriger Feast

Pulker’s Heuriger

And just like that, its over Johnny.  2015 was yet another year of great eats, great drinks, and yes great chicken wings.  I’m grateful!  Grateful for living in the greatest food city in the world.  Grateful for living with someone who not only supports this addiction but also willing to sleep with that thing.  Grateful for the kids who will eat anything as long as its not made by mom and dad.  Grateful for the friends and family.  What will 2016 bring?  Sicily!  Other than that who knows.  Most likely more chicken wings.  Here are the most memorable meals of 2016…

Momofuku Ko (NYC) – Quite possibly the best meal we ever had in NYC was at this new Ko 2.0 location.  An 18 courser, counter sitting, feast for all senses extravaganza.  Perhaps the best, most unique dining experience NY has to offer at the moment

Momofuku Ko Venison

Bruno Pizza (NYC) – The best meal with the most unassuming name.  While there wasnt anything earth shattering food wise, the entire meal from start to finish was just brilliant.  And before Danny Meyer made the news with his no tipping policy, there was Bruno implementing its own spin on the controversy.

Bruno Pizza Eggplant

Aquavit (NYC) – Emma Bengtsson’s Chef’s tasting menu is quite possibly the most underrated tasting menu in town.  The kicker here is that not only you are presented with tasty opulence coming out one after another, but you also got the anticipation and the arrival of one of the most Instagrammed desserts on the planet

Aquavit sorbet

Caicos Cafe (Turks and Caicos) – An odd mention considering we’ve been here over a dozen times, but still very much memorable in my mind.  Two meals on every visit is our ritual these days, and both meals this past year featured all our favorites and then some. It just gets better and better.

Caicos Cafe - Tagliolini

La Taqueria (SF) – Strange for me to choose this one over the great meals we had at Cockscomb and NOPA.  But this rather hectic light lunch was the one that gave me food envy like no other.  I’ve been eating tacos and burritos for many years, but the carnitas tacos and Carne Asada Burrito here was like eating this stuff for the very first time.  Cliche, but true.

La Taqueria food

Pulker’s Heuriger (Rührsdorf, Austria) – Our first foray into the Austrian Heuriger scene was memorable to say the least.  A wine grower’s wine tavern that serves menuless, fresh, local homemade food.  This one is right by the Danube, in the picturesque Wachau Valley.  This is why you rent a car

Pulker's Heuriger

Hibernia (Anguilla) – Still fresh in our minds, we are still awestruck by this one.  A 30 minute drive East brings you to this foodie paradise.  Brilliantly executed Asian inspired food with a French flair in an absolute stunner of a setting, surrounded by essentially an art gallery.  A dining experience like no other

Anguilla Hibernia Smoked Trio

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Seven Provo Bites – May 2015

Flamingos Grouper

Grouper at Flamingos

To continue the tradition, I offer you 7 more TCI dishes to chew on (plus a bonus 8th).  Except that you can file this one under the “Lazy Post” column as I’m just gonna throw them out there.  As you saw a few days ago I have a lot on mind and so I dont have the time for a full blown WWH type post this time.  I hope to write more for WWH in the future if I’m still welcomed.  But I’ve adopted a lazier more relaxed approach to picture taking, and they are no longer magazine quality.  Perhaps its time for a change anyway and write about something else?  My family is a little worried, but lately I developed a particular interest in birds.  They are just so colorful and pretty!  If anyone needs a TCI bird correspondent, I’m your man.  No birds were harmed during the making of this post, except for stealing some of their food.

Conch Fritters at Crackpot Kitchen

Conch Fritters at Crackpot Kitchen

Salmon at Seaside Cafe

Salmon at Seaside Cafe

Fish Tacos at Caravel

Fish Tacos at Caravel

Fried Snapper at Coyaba

Fried Snapper at Coyaba

Pumpkin Tortelli at Caicos Cafe

Pumpkin Tortelli at Caicos Cafe

Arancini at Lupo

Arancini at Lupo

Bugaloos - Snapper

Snapper at Bugaloo’s

 

 

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Crackpot Kitchen {TCI}

Crackpot Kitchen LobsterFirst, the confession.  I was not in a rush to get here.  For selfish reasons I enjoy discovering new places on the island, and make an effort to visit them as soon as I can.  Some (Caravel) work better than others (Fresh Catch, Kalooki’s).  When we like a new place, we get this sense of accomplishment that fixes just about everything.. rashes, frontal baldness, etc.  The weather may suck but at least you are eating well, and unless they shutter for not being on the beach, you will eat well next time as well.  Crackpot was the exception, as I tried to avoid it for as long as I could.  “Unassuming” was just not the word one could describe this one after coming out of the gate rather strong.  Reports of Chef Nick indulging elsewhere just weeks after the opening added to the confusion, and intrigue at the same time.

Crackpot KitchenFast forward a year later (commercials included), chef Nik and company, not only weathered the storm, but managed to survive at what I call the closest middle of nowhere location in the world.  Taking over the former Lemon space, Crackpot is in the middle of a large abandoned development one needs to drive into even though its walking distance from some of the resorts.  And to get there, one needs to maneuver between a series of potholes, a can of coke, and three cats carrying a wounded cat on a stretcher.  Not much changed decor wise since the previous tenant left (after a nasty split, but that’s for another blog.  Divorce Courting With Ziggy?).

Servers, efficient, albeit acting as if they just graduated from server academy.  Nick, the famous son of Smoky, and local cooking show personality stopped by apologizing for his attire, although it was way too dark to even see what he was wearing.  I apologized for my attire as well and we moved on.  The place overall felt as if Coco Bistro and Flamingo’s hooked up, got drunk and produced a crack baby.  But food wise, everything worked for the most part

Crackpot Kitchen Conch FrittersThe conch salad was a little different than the norm.  On the zestier, fruitier side of things, with bits of pineapple, and melon finely intermingled among the usual conch salad suspects.  Not bad at all.  The lobster salad was of the cooked variety, essentially a crab salad gone wild.  Conch fritters were more like conch kebabs, skewered, surprisingly delicious even while lacking that outside crisp.  The ribs here were quite wet and with good flavor.  More sauce on side (for the Stern fans) was totally unnecessary.  Not sure where they rank on the island but somewhere behind Chinson’s and Caicos Cafe’s version I suppose.

Got my Goat fix here and I must say this was a good goat curry.  Minimal dryness, and quite addictive, although this blogger is a bit more obsessed with Goat curry than the next guy.  They also have a good looking Oxtail cooked with Guinness.  The one glaring fail of the evening was the Grilled Lobster.  A dry, overcooked mess with stuffing, and other various concoctions on the side that didn’t work.Crackpot Kitchen Lobster salad Crackpot Kitchen Conch Salad Crackpot Kitchen Ribs Crackpot Kitchen Goat

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15 Shades of Caicos Café

Caicos Cafe - Tuna TartarLadies and gents, brace yourself.  Its the moment you’ve been waiting for.  Ever since you discovered the Turkey and Cascos Islands as your co-workers call them (“You back… how was Turkey and Cascos”), the question you always wanted to ask but were too afraid for some reason;  What to order at Caicos Café, the top restaurant in Providenciales.  If you agree, great.  If you disagree, even better.  You just need a little help that’s all.

Although I live 1300 miles away, and have a serious eating disorder (NYC did this to me), I’ve written about Caicos Café more than any other restaurant in the world (trying to sound dramatic, but really it doesn’t mean anything.  I could have said NY but I chose not to).  I’ve written stories, reviews, blog posts, mentioned them in every WWH Seven dishes column, and children books (“Goodnight Grouper”).  So instead of writing yet another boring blog post about our recent meals there, I decided to write about what dishes you should target on your next visit (which is really the same thing, but sounds much more interesting, doesnt it?).

Resume: somewhere between 15-20 meals.  Here are the up to date standings of the most visited restaurants:

1)  Pure Thai Cookhouse (NYC) 60-70 meals

2)  Chicken Over Rice Guy around the corner (NYC)  50

3)  Caicos Café (TCI) 15-20

4)  Mom (Brooklyn) 12

We often joke that we could potentially eat every dinner of a week’s long trip at CC, and have a great and different meal every night.  One day we may finally do it.  And you can bet your sweet tooches that we’ll have some sort of combination of the following

Grilled Calamari Skewer – Starting with the no-brainer.  On the menu since pretty much day one, and something we must have on just about every visit.  Spiced grilled Calamari on a skewer, sitting on top of cannellini beans, mussels, grilled bread with the most perfectly complimentary light sauce.  Great dish

Caicos Cafe - Grilled Calamari

Gnocchi – Another must for us.  A dish that saw many iterations, but the result is always the same.  Fresh homemade potato Gnocchi, whether with tomato sauce, mushroom sauce, bigger Gnocchi, smaller Gnocchi, doesnt matter.  Pillowy, melty goodness without fail each time.

Caicos Cafe - GnocchiLobster Salad (Seasonal) – A delicious recent discovery.  Not sure what took us so long

Escargot – Rivals the former Caicos Cafe, and the current Le Bouchon du Village for best on the island

Wahoo Carpaccio – An occasional special, and another absolute must.  This is the only way I can truly enjoy this firm dude, and now I have to order more because my entire family is into it.  Like eating sea butter

Caicos Cafe - Wahoo CarpaccioLobster Fra Diavolo – Possibly the most popular dish during lobster season.  Flambeed with Brandy, along with chili, parsley, garlic, light tomato sauce, and most importantly plentiful of tasty, tender, never chewy lobster morsels.  Other similar dishes on the island pale in comparison

Caicos Cafe - lobster fra diavoloSeafood Tagliolini – Another one of those menu staples.  Pernot flambéed with various fish and shellfish, spices and a hint of parsley and lemon juice.  Love the flavors in this one

Caicos Cafe - TaglioliniOrecchiette – A seafood break for the meat lovers.  Orecchiette means “small ears”, normally mixed with sausages and Broccoli rabe.  Here Chef Max blends in a sweet and spicy sausage ragu with Broccoli and Parmesan cheese.  Another menu staple

Caicos Cafe - OrecchiettePumpkin Ravioli – A new favorite in the Ziggy familia.  I normally hesitate ordering it (its pumpkin ravioli!), but one bite is like a shock through the system.  Roasted pumpkin, 5 various cheeses, pecans, brown butter, thyme, and more Parma cheese to top it all.  More flavorful than all the Tortelli di Zucca we’ve had in Parma.

Caicos Cafe TortelliSeafood Casserole – This is a very popular dish outside of the Ziggy circuit.  The only time I ordered it I was too sick to eat anything, but I’ve enjoyed similar creations by Chef Max.

Caicos Cafe SeafoodBaby Back Pork Ribs – This is where that crazy versatility is showing.  I imagine a full blown Italian style scheduled transport strike if this is taken out of the menu.  Its that popular.  Marinaded with Jalapeno, honey, paprika and lime juice, wet rubbed with Bourbon BBQ sauce… Winner

Grilled Local Grouper – Only available as a special, which means you are getting a fresh locally caught grouper.  Not Swai, not Tilapia, not Carp!  Simply grilled to perfection with vegetables sauteed in lemon-mint extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomatoes, capers, olives & basil salsa, mashed potatoes.  Hint:  notice the weather is lousy?  Guess what, no grouper today, as the weather is lousy for the local fishermen as well.  What you’ll get on the other menus is the frozen or [Enter your favorite Vietnamese catfish here]

Anything with Octopus – Pay close attention to the specials here.  When he gets those Portuguese Octopuses via Miami, oooooh boy, watch out.  Grilled just by itself, or as part of a pasta like Troccoli alla Chitarra utilizing his guitar (Chitarra).  So so good

Caicos Cafe - TroccoliAffogato with Bailey’s – A traditional must for us, and something we order often in NYC as a result, leaving us almost always disappointed

Pear and Mango Tart –  Honey, Butter sauce, vanilla ice cream.  Sometimes apples, sometimes pear, always delicious.

Buon Appetito!

Caicos Cafe - Apple Mango Tart

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The Caravel {TCI} – New Fish on the Block

Caravel TacosWhen East Met West, sparks and tuna rolls flew, until East abruptly left, leaving  just light fixtures behind.  What took its place?  Ice Cream, from West.  No thank you.  But wait, putting my prescription snorkeling goggles reveals an extra “A”.  So to lure people in while avoiding franchise fees?  No.  The extra “A” is for Authentic, as in local food.  How’s that for banal.  The writing, not the place.  I’m not quitting my job, dont worry.  Mrs Z said no.

Caravel is for the ship, not the ice cream.  A rather new local hotspot on the main road just east of Ocean Club West.  In addition to the former Sora lights, you have a bar with TVs, and big boy camera friendly oversized tables.  The place was packed with chatty happy locals.  So in order to take that new, fresh shot below we had to ask everyone to get up, clear their plates and wait outside for a second.  Because with quality cooking this good, there’s no way the place can be empty, right?  Ok, maybe the word is still spreading.  Lets expedite that spreading shell we.Caravel

There’s a quiet ongoing war on the island for the rights to the island’s top Fish Tacos.  Cabana’s Bar and Grill at Ocean Club East makes a batch so satisfying that they require a password to get in to park.  ‘Somewhere’ certainly has its fans somewhere, though I’m still searching for the fish in those.  Hemingway’s even with the slight sweet tone courtesy of the mango chutney was the front-runner.  The Caravel version is almost like a nice combination of the three.  The former Mr Grouper chef packs fried fish with cheese, and various veggies inside toasty flower shaped tortilla shells and serves it with an Arsenal of sauces.  “Fried” is a turnoff, but its lightly battered, and expertly cooked to flaky perfection.  And none of the other ingredients overwhelm the delicate fish.  Unless you go a little crazy with that sick homemade hot sauce.  Add any of the three you prefer, but the hot one added a nice oomph for my palate

I wasn’t expecting much from the Jerk Chicken plate that disguises as a chicken sandwich on the menu.  We just wanted some jerk as we normally crave on the island.  It didn’t disappoint.  Liberally spiced, juicy, and just tender enough.

Well done Caravel with an “A”.  I hope unlike Sora, you stick around a little longer.  Much longer.  In that location, quality and a specialty dish will be key, and from our vantage point, all the ingredients for success are in place.

To get to Caravel, walk or drive east past Seven Stars, Caicos Plaza, entrance on the left right past Ocean Club West.

Caravel Jerk Caravel Fish Tacos

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