Friday, January 18, 2013

Bits & Morsels

Beach House restaurant's conch salad.
by Erin Frankel

Escaping the winter weather. This Christmas, I was one of the privileged (and first) guests to sample chef Eric Vernice's exquisite, fresh flavors at the recently opened Beach House in Turks and Caicos.

Seafood plays an important role in the cuisine of Turks and Caicos, the most popular and traditional dish being conch. Conch is Turks and Caicos's biggest export as it grows in abundance all over the larger Caicos Islands and smaller Turks Islands.

Island chefs use conch in a variety of ways, whether it be in the form of the prevalent creamy conch soup, crispy conch fritters, a grilled piece of conch marinated with an assortment of Caribbean spices, or in the form of a light conch ceviche.

Predictably, chef Vernice uses conch in much of his food, but has turned it on its proverbial ear offering a beautiful, innovative interpretation of the island's "national dish."
Views of and around the Beach House Hotel situated on a stretch of beach in Providenciales.
No conch for breakfast: A fruit plate and a bagel with smoked salmon more than sufficed.
For lunch Vernice uses conch in his light conch salad, which is rolled in rice paper, with avocado, heirloom tomatoes and dressed with cilantro. For dinner this month, Vernice has two sophisticated adaptations of the dish as appetizers in both his special conch sashimi with the chef's choice of compressed exotic fruits and pickled baby cucumbers beneath an Asian-inspired yuzu vinaigrette; and his conch extravaganza, a multi-faceted dish with four compositions of conch. The first of which is rolled with avocado and Meyer lemon dressed in a cilantro sauce, the second in a creamy conch chowder, the third in a johnny cake, and the fourth in a curried colombo over basmati rice.

However, with such an impressive international culinary background, Vernice does venture outside the T&C comfort conch zone by offering a number of exquisitely prepared dishes that sets his menu apart from the rest.
Clockwise from top left: Conch soup; Conch extravaganza; Conch ceviche; Seafood risotto.
As an appetizer, Vernice presents four varieties of lobster. The first being a light sashimi dish with avocado, conch, scotch bonnet, and fruit drizzled with his signature yuzu vinaigrette. The second being a warm poached lobster salad with sweet, fresh pieces of mango on top of baby organic greens, with a dollop of extra virgin olive oil. The third being the butter-poached lobster with mini Dungeness crab cake amid a root vegetable emulsion with a tomato salsa. And the fourth, my personal favorite, being the sautéed lobster with potato gnocchi and tomato fondue with small bits of Beach House-grown arugula, dressed with a white truffle oil.
Organic beets & fresh goat cheese.
Heirloom tomatoes & mozzarella di buffala.
Oysters on the half shell.
You can always opt for one of his lighter salads, which are impeccably designed on the plate. The organic beets and fresh goat cheese salad flavored with hibiscus and banyuls dressed with a vall llach extra virgin olive oil or the heirloom tomatoes & mozzarella di buffala drizzled with a dollop of aged banyuls vinegar and Spanish extra virgin olive oil are both good choices.

There's also a number of hot and hearty appetizers on the menu all prepared with fresh seafood. Tops were the creamy seafood risotto (a soft aquarello risotto rice with fresh scallops, calamari, lobster, and rouille) and the seafood cavatelli with scallops, octopus, and calamari flavored with the chef's french-inspired ingredients of nicoise olives and fresh basil, dressed in a delicate extra virgin olive oil.
Clockwise from top left: Snapper; Oven-roasted Mahi Mahi; Sauteed Lobster with potato gnocchi; Grilled lobster tail with Indonesian spices.
Conch tacos.
Surf & Turk with dry aged beef, port wine jus and Meyer lemon emulsion
Entrees on the menu run the gamut from traditional seafood dishes to heartier, carnivore-friendly dishes. The chef's grilled fish specials include the grilled slow-roasted snapper with coconut milk in a curried root vegetable broth and the oven-roasted Mahi Mahi with vegetable stir-fry over basmati fried rice in a lobster tempura sauce. Vernice's Bouillabaisse (in what he calls his "caicos style") is a composite of monkfish, snapper, lobster, scallops, fingerling potatoes and rouille in a creamy saffron tomato seafood broth. Vernice's 12 oz. New York Steak, a grilled USDA prime dry aged meat (in house) under a purple mustard sauce, is complemented by a dark cherry condiment along with shallot confit.

Beach House
218 Lower Bight Road, Providenciales
Turks and Caicos Islands