On the afternoon of February 6th, 1978 thousands of people left work early to avoid a heavy snow forecast for the area. Their cars piled onto Rt. 128, along the outer edge of the Boston area. Quickly the cars were overcome with the heavy snowfall and travel became impossible. As snow piled up on the roadways, the trapped commuters began to realize they would not make it home anytime soon. In fact, most of them would not make it home for days. Many of them, my father-in-law included, would spend most of the next week trudging through record snow levels to and from their car every day just to get to basic food and water. Here’s a link to picture of rt. 128 during the Blizzard of ’78.
Eventually the national guard was called in to evacuate the interstate. While all of these people were stuck living out of their cars and trying to survive, their families had to do without them at home. My mother-in-law was trapped at home without power or any means of transportation with three sick children. Neighbors had to bring her in supplies on sleds. If you live anywhere in New England you hear the stories like these of the Blizzard of ’78 on a yearly basis. Every storm is compared to it and everyone has their own where were you story of the blizzard.
Flash forward exactly 35 years to February 6th, 2013. It was day five of our trip to Turks and Caicos and we awoke to a message from our airline that we should consider rescheduling our return trip due to heavy snow forecast for the Boston area the day of our return. We were more than lucky. Not only did we take action early enough to get a flight out two days after the storm, but we were able to find a place to stay that would allow us to continue to enjoy our vacation while our friends and family endured hurricane force winds and over two feet of snow.
The new place was the opulent Ocean Club West. With it’s huge two bedroom unit and screened-in porch just four stepping stones from the vast tropical pool, we lived our last two days on Providenciales in luxurious style.
I like the idea of karmic reward for my in-laws who traded in their blizzard of ’78 horror stories for walks on the beach and sweet coconutty rum drinks. I like the idea riding of their karmic coattails too. I don’t know a lot about karma except that it is important that I show gratitude for my gift, which I do. I am very grateful for the extra two days in paradise while taking shelter from the storm.
To show my gratitude, I share with you two recipes which were particular hits of our trip. The roasted plantains with orange juice and rum is adapted from a recipe in Modern Caribbean Cuisine by Wendy Rahamut and Michael Bonaparte (see link below). The recipe calls for almost ripe plantains, but after making this a few times now, I highly recommend using ripe plantains so you can avoid an gummy/starchy texture. We had these twice in Turks and Caicos. The first time was the magical night with the grilled lobster. The sauce is what makes these delicious. It is really something else with the grilled lobster and even more so when it’s mixed with a little melted butter and lime juice. The second time we had these was our last night at Ocean Club West where we had them with rice, grilled shrimp and a salad of local veggies.
The local veggies were a rarity in Turks and Caicos. Almost all produce is flown in from the mainland and from other islands like Jamaica and Puerto Rico. However, there is a revival of local produce lately. There are farms in Turks and Caicos like the Misick Farm which is discussed in this post from 2 Gringos in the Caribbean. The local produce I had was all hydroponic, but tasted perfectly ripe. The tomatoes tasted like summer fruit which is pretty special in the middle of February.
The second recipe was the one we had more often than any other. The Mango Painkiller is my take on a rum drink we discovered on our previous visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Painkillers are a mix of orange juice, pineapple juice, cream of coconut and aged rum. They are served over ice with a grating of nutmeg on top. The local rum drink on Turks and Caicos is rum punch, which was delicious but we all still craved the sweet and creamy Painkiller. We picked up all the supplies for the Mango Painkillers on our first visit to the grocery store and kept ourselves stocked the entire time we were there. The mango nectar is my addition which makes this decadent drink even more dessert-like, but also even more tropical. One of these is capable of transporting you to your own island paradise. Enjoy!
Roasted Plantains with Orange Juice and Rum
Be sure to use ripe plantains in this recipe so the finished product is soft enough. Adapted from a recipe in Modern Caribbean Cuisine, by Wendy Rahamut and Michael Bonaparte
2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rum
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the plantains, orange juice, sugar, salt and rum in an oven-safe baking dish and cover. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the plantains are very soft and the sauce has thickened. Serve with seafood and rice.
makes 4 drinks
This is one of those curiously strong drinks that can catch you by surprise. The mixture of juices and coconut are surprisingly good at disguising the amount of rum in this drink. So, watch out; more than one of these can really get you. It’s important to note that there is a difference in brands of cream of coconut. Coco Lopez is the creamiest and makes the best finished product. The flavor of the grated nutmeg really stands out in this drink. Try to avoid using pre-ground nutmeg.
1 cup Coco Lopez brand cream of coconut (1/2 of a 15 oz can)
1 cup mango nectar
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 cup aged rum (not spiced rum or light rum)
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch nutmeg, freshly grated
Pineapple spears for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
Combine, cream of coconut, mango nectar, orange juice, pineapple juice and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well and pour over glasses of ice. Top with sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon and garnish with pineapple spears and lime wedges.
Turks and Caicos Recommendations and Links
I thought I would share a list of places we recommend for those of you considering a trip to the island.
- Atlantic Beach Front Villas – This is where we stayed for the majority of our visit. These comfortable villa units of varying size are set in the sleepy area of Turtle Cove. Some of the villas, including the one we stayed in, are as close to the beach as any on the island. The owners and staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
- Ocean Club West – This super luxury resort has very spacious 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units set among manicured tropical gardens, a lovely freshwater pool, prime beach space and several restaurants on site. OCW, as it’s called, is over-the-top comfort and luxury at an over-the-top price. It’s located in the heart of Grace Bay and is walking distance from most of the well-known restaurants as well as a grocery store.
- Sailing Paradise – There is a view here as pretty as anything you will ever see. The food is outstanding and the ambiance is casual, laid-back and everything and island restaurant should be. If you go be sure to try their cracked conch and fried snapper with escabeche sauce. I swooned when I tried the snapper with escabeche sauce.
- Bugaloos Conch Crawl – I found out about this place from a post at a fantastic blog about life in Turks and Caicos called 2 Gringos in the Caribbean. All the hype on the island is about a place called da Conch Shack. This place is better (we tried both). The people here are friendlier than most (and almost everyone in Turks and Caicos is VERY friendly), and food is exceptional. The conch salad was the standout dish, but even Little Guy’s chicken fingers were delicious.
- Le Bouchon – This new french bistro is in the heart of Grace Bay. It is classical french with strong hints of island flavor (such as the conch croissant amuse bouche they served). The food is good for any city, New York included, but this is not a family restaurant. Hubby and I enjoyed a date night out here.
- Caicos Bakery – Caicos Bakery is a wonderful small french bakery that sells freshly made croissants, danish and a variety of breads. The almond croissants here are different than others I’ve had and are filled with an almond pastry cream instead of almond paste. I was lucky enough to score one still warm from the oven, and I am very happy that I did.
- Mother’s Pizza – Pizza is generally sub-par on islands I’ve visited, but this pizza was a significant step above any others I’ve had. It will also be the cheapest meal you eat on the island!
Places to Go, Things to Do
- Caicos Tours and the Undersea Explorer: This is a semi-submersible boat that tours the reef so you can see everything the reef has to offer without getting wet. It is the perfect way for young children, and those not up to snorkeling to see the beauty of a healthy reef system. On our ride we saw turtles, stingrays, lots and lots of fish, beautiful fan coral and even JoJo the dolphin famous for it’s desire to interact with humans. Little Guy was awe struck seeing the coral and all the sea creatures. This did more to increase his understanding of the world that lives under the sea than anything we’ve done.
- Sapodilla Bay: This 1/4 mile long beach has some of the softest sugary sand I’ve ever seen. The water calmer than many lakes I’ve been to, yet as crystal clear as any pool. The real treat here, besides the sunset views, is that it remains about 3′ deep a good 100 feet out from the shore which makes it perfect for children. In fact, the locals have dubbed it children’s beach.
- Grace Bay Beach: This is as famous as a beach can get and for good reason. The beach is seven miles long and is an uninterrupted stretch of soft white sand. Almost all of the islands resorts are along this beach, but the beach is also the entry point to two stellar and HEALTHY reefs (Smith’s Reef and Bight Reef) with fantastic snorkeling. The Turtle Cove end of Grace Bay Beach is much less crowded and has better deals on rentals.
Turks and Caicos Information and Links:
- Where, When, How: A site devoted to information on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
- Turks and Caicos Reservations: A travel booking site by locals from Turks and Caicos. There blog is an unlimited source of information.
- Home Away: A site that lists vacation rentals all over the world. This is where we first found our rentals in both Turks and Caicos and St. Thomas, U.S.V.I.
This is not, of course, a complete list, but rather the things we did and the places we ate that we recommend.