Posts Tagged With: Turks and Caicos

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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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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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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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

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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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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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Provo – Food for Thought 2015

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 quit last month).  However, since this is just a harmless not so Google friendly recap, I offer a rare glimpse of the good and the ungood…

Kalooki’s – The new kid on the Blue Hills block produced mixed results overall.  A mature, promising feel, friendly knowledgeable service in an inviting location by the water.  Lemongrass Seafood Chowda was the New England creamy kind, good but forgettable once compared to other chowders we had later on.  The cod fritters were like thin plain latkes that Jewish moms throw out because they didn’t come out as the other latkes.  Jerk Chicken and Ribs were missing that oomph that Sailing Paradise used to deliver just down the road.  Whole fried Snapper was a little over fried, but manageable with good flavor.  No comparison however to what they do with it in Bugaloos.  Not terrible by any means, but there’s plenty of room for growth.

Kalooki's Fried Fish

Caicos Cafe – More of the same from our old fave after two more meals.  CC continues to hit on all cylinders, and chef Mad Max shows he still got tricks up his sleeve.  A food recap here may result in a dangerously long and tedious paragraph, so instead I will offer you these suggestions.  Pay close attention to the right side of the menu, the left side, and the specials insert page in between.  What I’m trying to say is over the years we pretty much had every single item on the menu, and the hits keep coming.  I will try to write a more detailed post about some of our favorites soon

Caicos Cafe Tortelli

Le Bouchon – Another must for us at this island institution.  They should really name a street after them, or a village at Beaches…  “Le Bouchon du Village” or something.  Julian and papa continue to fill the chalkboard with all sorts of French inspired goodies.  The classics continue to shine, including the always delightful Escargot.  More than worthy of garlic breath Mrs Z.  We love the soups here (conch chowder and black bean soup) especially on those cold winter nights when the temps dip from 82 to 80.  The great Steak au Poivre is still the main draw, while the grouper, and lobster were expertly grilled as expected.

Le Bouchon Escargot

Lupo – This is becoming a regular lunch spot for us.  I don’t see Lupo as an Italian restaurant, but more of a fun sidewalk café with an Italian inspired menu.  The smoky lettuce continues to be a favorite, the refreshing caprese continues to refresh, but the bulky Arancini, oozing with deliciousness, stole the show early.  The basic flatbread pizza filled one void, and the Orecchiette filled another.  Desserts are always good here, especially the top notch Tiramisu

Lupo Arancini

Crackpot Kitchen – Dubbed Crackpot-hole Kitchen by me on the message boards.  On the way to this closest middle of nowhere establishment you essentially need to maneuver between a bunch of potholes, a can of coke, and three kittens.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this place which came out of the gate rather strong.  But we liked it enough to return and recommend.  The conch fritters (more like kebabs) were different and quite good.  The lobster salad was essentially a crab salad gone wild.  The conch salad was fruitier and zestier than the norm.  The ribs were of the wet and flavorful variety, and the goat curry was that island goat curry we know and love.  The glaring big miss was the grilled lobster, a dry overcooked mess.  But we’ll be back for sure for more

Caravel – Brand spanking new, in place of Sora which closed last year.  The funky Japanese lights remain intact which gives the place a rather strange look, and the ice cream-like name doesnt help.  But the few items we tried by the former Mr Grouper’s chef were very promising.  In particular, the fish tacos; lightly fried to flaky perfection, inside toasty flower shaped tortilla shells.  Add the homemade hot sauce and you got perhaps the new fish tacos to beat.  The jerk chicken was another winner.  Its on the menu as a sandwich, but they can plate it.  Go!

Caravel Fish Tacos

Bugaloos – Another regular spot for us after a morning at Taylor Bay.  People enjoy the coconut cracked conch and the conch salad is always a winner, but we come here for the magnificent Sautéed Whole Snapper.   Gorgeously cooked with onions, bell peppers, thyme, garlic, and coconut milk producing this light sauce that compliments the fish well.  For the time being Bugaloos has replaced Las Brisas for us on the south side, but you still need to get to LB at least once to for the views.

Bugaloos - Snapper

Via Veneto – Broke my heart, Fredo style.  Not even Al Fredo could have saved these pastas.  Sadly not much worked on this particular night.  Between the bland Gnocchi with Shrimp, the Carbonara that got boring in a hurry, the stringy, chewy lobster with the linguine, and the pricey Fettuccine whose truffles lost their luster.  I was a fan after the first meal when they first opened, but I dont think we’ll be back.

Coyaba – After a long hiatus we decided it was time to revisit this old friend, and the result was a mixed bag overall.  Wine menu filled with 2010 Barolos all over $100 is the first clue about the price levels.  Lobster Bisque was still satisfying but the creamy Gnocchi got even creamier.  The Thermidor was still good, but felt heavy sooner than expected.  Same kind of heaviness was present in the Ravioli, while the lone shining star was the $60 Snapper for two.

Coyaba Snapper

Flamingo’s – Another regular lunch spot for us.  Rum punches are strong, and the Curries Groupers are even stronger.  Don’t worry if the menu doesn’t mention them… “x Curried Groupers please” one for each person.  And if another item does some magic, like the jerk chicken did on this day, consider its a major bonus.

Flamingos Grouper

Seaside Café – A lunch and a dinner is now firmly part of the rotation.  The Blackened Fish Sandwich and the Peruvian Conch Salad are still the lunch musts, while the Tuna Sashimi and the Lobster Risotto are the staples for dinner.  New discoveries were the excellent Conch Chowder, and a Japanese style Salmon that was the topic of conversation for the next few days (we really need new topics to talk about)

Seaside Salmon

Hemingways – Only half of the family made it here this time, for the great fish and chips and fish tacos fix.  Nothing changed.

Sweet T’s – Still the best deal in town.  On the way from the airport last time, on the way to the airport this time.  As you exit the Airport road, and start smelling that fried chicken, just follow the smell to the round pink building.

Sweet T'sSweet T's Chicken

Coyaba Molten Cake

Coyaba Molten Cake

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TRIVAZ 2014 at Seaside Cafe

Turks 2014 285A few weeks ago, on the island of Providenciales, a group of wacky Trip Advisor folks got together to celebrate vacation.  The event, dubbed TRIVAZ after the 6 main planners including yours truly (I always get the rear) was held at Seaside Cafe.  Drinks were flowing, the bites kept coming, and coming, and a steel drum courtesy of Val from Turks and Caicos Reservations got us groovin’.  The beats and the Bambarra rum went hand in hand that night like Justin Bieber and public humiliation

Normally in events like this, food takes second stage, as you are having fun while nibbling on something here and there.  Not here, no no!  Every bite was a conversation stopper.  From the Salmon, to the legendary Tuna Sashimi to the now world famous Conch Salad.  Not to mention conch fritters, shrimp tempura (which was a big hit) and crafty bruschetta which kept coming and coming and coming until I had to cancel dinner (it takes a lot for me to cancel dinner).  We chose Seaside and young stallion chef Francois for a reason, and we couldnt ask for anything more.

Special thanks to Ttewks1 and the lovely tewksmd for making it happen.  Lets do this again sometimes!

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Turks 2014 275

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Sweet T’s – Sweet Compromise {TCI}

Sweet T's ChickenHave you ever taken a Bulldog to a park that also happens to be his favorite pooping ground?  Its quite a sight.  The anticipation makes him (and you) sprint with delight while farting the entire time.  “Does he always do this”  I asked my friend Val.  “Without fail”.  The same type of anticipation fills us while sitting on the plane that just arrived in Provo, trying to figure out if we are closer to the front or rear of the plane for quicker exit.  The fact that we are the only ones looking back while everyone else looks forward reminds me that everyone is here for the very first time, and some of them are staring at me wondering about my purpose.  “The front of the plane is this way buddy.  Too much to drink?”

Food is on my mind.  But in this case its more of a hurdle to the main treat.. Grace Bay beach.  I gotta have something delicious but quick enough so we could still make a run for booze and have a productive burn-fest (although in this trip it turned into more of a Burning Man festival due to the initial heat and pain).Sweet T's

Enter Sweet T’s.  Right off Airport Road, just pass the first major roundabout, after the pink flamingo sign on your right.  No sign, so look for this building.  There will most likely be a line of locals without a tourist in sight but do not despair.  The chicken is of the delicious kind.  Crispy, moist, juicy, and just enough of a kick.  The drumettes look like fat popsicles.  Oh, and “cheap” is an understatement.  You order by the dollar.  $8 of chicken (more than the 4 of us needed.  see picture above?  two of those containers.  $6 would have been fine), $2 of fries, and $2 cokes meant 2 cans of coke.  Thats a $12 meal for 4, quick bite, and off we go for this.  leave some chicken crumbs in your rental in the middle somewhere.  Chances are you will see at some point the same rentals (model, color) parked near yours, and the crumbs will help determine which is yours.Sweet T's Chicken

 

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