Dock Yourself at Blue Haven Resort and Marina

Tucked away at the northeast side of the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos (TCI) is a boutique resort where you can have your entire family over for a destination wedding or a family getaway. While most tourists stay at one of the large resorts (Sandals, Beaches, etc) in Grace Bay, the solace traveler may prefer the quieter residential neighborhood where Blue Haven Resort and Marina is located. Its easy to rent a car and drive to the property, which is only a few minutes from restaurants and attractions.

First glimpse from the lobby of the white sandy beach and turquoise water is enough to take your breath away. The resort overlooks the mangroves directly in front and to the open Atlantic water on the right. The property, designed in elegant Caribbean fashion, was built as a condominium complex, but after the economic downturn, it was converted into a hotel.

blue haven resort TCI

Every room at Blue Haven is a fully equipped condo with separate bedroom and living areas. A modern looking kitchen and dining area is perfect for those who like to eat in during those extended stay vacations. King size bed and walk in closets, a bathroom large enough to fit a New York City apartment, and a private balcony with cozy lounge chairs – why would you ever leave?

Blue Haven is not an all inclusive resort (although meal packages can be purchased), but there is grocery store and deli where you can pick up breakfast, salads, sandwiches, coffee, juices, as well as fresh ingredients to cook with. For fun, lay by the infinity pool, play bocce ball, or watch a movie under the starry skies. Pamper yourself with a massage or facial at Elevate Spa or burn off those rum punches at the gym.

blue haven resort TCI

There are two additional restaurant on the property. SALT is an open air, casual eastern where you can walk into with sandy feet, and cricket playing on the background television is a subtle reminder of the English influence on the island. Taste the local flavors such as conch fritters, jerk shrimp and tuna tartare with a backdrop of the marina. For a more refined evening atmosphere, have dinner at Fire and Ice, a locally acclaimed restaurant serving Caribbean inspired international cuisine.

blue haven resort

You cannot visit the third largest barrier reef in the world without indulging in water sports. Located at Blue Haven are Big Blue Unlimited, a water sporting facility that offers stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, kiteboarding, snorkeling, diving, private boat charters, biking and cultural eco-tours across the islands, and Caribbean Cruisin that organizes day trips to other islands, North and South Caicos ferries, fishing charters and Jet Skis right off the hotel’s lagoon.

blue haven resort

The marina at Blue Haven is one of the only two on the island that can accommodate yachts, sailing and deep sea fishing boats arriving at the official port of entry into the Caribbean. Blue Haven Marina is an Island Global Yachting (IGY) destination, offering gas, utilizes, customs/ immigration and all hotel amenities to the guests.blue haven resort

Blue Haven Resort is one of the newest properties on Turks and Caicos, and the ideal place to relax in sand, sun and water anytime of the year. Don’t just dream of it – go!

Book your stay at the Blue Haven Resort now with TripAdvisor

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Dinner at the Beach House

The Beach House is a boutique resort located at famous Grace Bay on Providencials in Turks and Caicos islands. The luxurious property offers elegantly designed 21 rooms and suites, overlooking the white sand dunes and turquoise blue waters. The accommodation is ideal for someone looking for an almost-private beach house style living, with top class service and great location. There is also a swimming pool, spa, gym, complimentary watersports equipment and bicycles, and fine dining available at the resort.

beach house turks and caicos

Even if you don’t stay at The Beach House, make sure to book yourself a 7-course tasting dinner at Kitchen 218. Ambient lighting and artful furniture decorated by the pool, create a Mediterranean feel around this elegant restaurant. Chilean born and world traveled, Chef Cristian Rebolledo of Kitchen 218, creates a globally inspired menu that you cannot find anywhere else on the island. He surprises the diners with creative cooking techniques and rare ingredients.

chef Cristian Rebolledo

On September 29, 2014, I start this culinary dinner adventure with Chef Christian with a refreshing Tomato Gazpacho. For my second course, I am presented a too-beautiful-to-eat plate of beets salad. Edible flowers and micro greens create the look of an edible garden, drizzled with raindrops of pesto. (Too bad my nice camera fell in the water while kayaking earlier that day).

salad

Next comes the Corvina Tiradito, thin slices of fish fillet swimming in black milk are a drastic contrast to the colorful salad I just had, but the onion cream and lemon air add a bit of curiosity to the dish. The flavors are nontraditional to the average diner, but they work.

Sea Bass with spicy lentils and liquid gels

My favorite was the Duck Sensation with crumbled blue cheese and truffle honey, served over mushroom ragout and micro greens. The theme of “food art” was well played out throughout the dinner, as I enjoyed looking at the dishes as much as eating them.

One can’t go wrong with a good pumpkin soup, especially when it is made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients. The soup was garnished with pesto and chili sauce. It was not too rich and very flavorful.

A Sous Vide Sea Bass was served as sixth course. Light piece of fish on a bed of spicy curry lentils was a sophisticated dish on its own. With some French velouté sauce and mango gel, the journey got more exciting. I am not a big fan of Beef Tenderloin, but when properly cooked (meat is medium rare), and paired with mushrooms and shaved black truffles, there is no reason to leave a morsel on this plate.

Chef Cristian Rebolledo charmed me with more of his French culinary skills presenting the perfectly created Macaroons in three flavors – lemon, chocolate and vanilla!

french macrons

After a meal this luscious, I just wanted to take a long walk on the white sand beach, under the moonlight, allowing all my senses to soak in the experience.

Click here to see Kitchen 218’s recipes and cooking tips.

Farm to Table Southern Style

Enter the kitchen of Chef Thaddeus Barton to find authentic flavors of the South, blended with his culinary skills from Chicago, San Francisco, Ohio and Portland. At Farmhouse, the main restaurant located at Serenbe Farms (south of Atlanta), the chef and farmer come together each morning to plan a locally inspired menu. Ashley (the farmer) gives an inventory of vegetables and herbs growing on the property, and Chef Barton changes the menu weekly. Ingredients are not only sourced from Serenbe, but also neighboring farms in Georgia and around the south.

serenbe farms

The first thing you have to try on the dinner menu is the Farmhouse Yeast Rolls. These are melt-in-your-mouth buttery-warm biscuit style bread rolls that are comforting at all levels. It is very difficult to stop once you grab one bite! Chef Barton says he played around with the recipe till he got it “just right.”

yeast rolls at serenbe farm

A popular dish in the south is Fried Catfish. Delicate fillets of fish are breaded with rustic corn flour and deep fried till crispy. These are served with a red chili sauce to turn up the heat.

fried catfish at serenbe

No visit to Georgia is complete without Fried Green Tomatoes. This classic southern recipe has slight variations in the batter, sauce, and presentation (I have enjoyed ones with blue cheese). The tomatoes are picked from the gardens at Serenbe located right outside the Farmhouse restaurant. It is highly encouraged that you take a short walk around the campus before sitting down for a gastronomic feast.

fried green tomatoes serenbe

Chef Barton keeps true to his diverse culinary experiences when serving the Jambalaya Risotto. Peppery flavored shrimp, chicken, and sausage in perfectly looked arborio – oh my!

Jambalaya Risotto

If you crave for those weekend dinners at your grandmothers home, come to Serenbe on a Sunday. The Farmhouse serves a mean Fried Chicken, with green beans and mashed potatoes (sides change weekly) from 11:30am-6pm.

The desserts are southern as they can be – satisfying Red Velvet Cheesecake, crunchy and not overwhelmingly sweet Pecan Bourbon Pie, and a cake-like Peach Cobbler.

To wash it all down, try the Farmhouse Martini (Hangar 1 Vodka, Cointreau, Organic Cranberry Juice, Lime Juice, Prosecco), a glass of the Lavender Champagne, or select from a comprehensive bar menu.

Serenbe also features a Southern Chef Series that includes cooking classes and book signings with celebrity chefs from the south. Coming up in 2015: Linton Hopkins from Restaurant Eugene, Kevin Gillespie of Gunshow, Asha Gomez of Spice to Table, Gerry Klaskala of Aria, Ford Fry of The Optimist (plus a few others), Art Smith of Southern Art, Iron Chef Chris Hastings, and TV personality Nathalie Dupree. Reservations need to be made months in advance.

Additionally, the Serenbe Farmers and Artisan Market runs from May – October and is open to the public. Enjoy a meal in the country and take some bounties home to cook with!

Click here to make a reservation at The Farmhouse at Serenebe Farms.

Living With Art in the Yucatan

During my recent visit to the colonial city of Velladolid in the state of Yucatan, Mexico, I had the privilege of visiting John Venator at his home. Venator is a retired American executive who fell in love with Mexico few years ago. He visited the Yucatan area with his wife on vacation, and eventually made it home. In Velladolid, John and his wife, Dorianne purchased a home that was in ruins and renovated it for 10 years. They designed every feature of the house very carefully and then converted it into one of the largest private Mexican art collections in the world.

john venator

Casa de los Venados translating to House of the Deer, is an 18,000 square foot private home/ folk art museum located near the main square of Velladolid. An unassuming sign outside the main door doesn’t give away much to whats inside – over 3000 pieces of museum quality Mexican folk and contemporary art.

John shows me around the hallway, patio, bedrooms, kitchen, backyard and dining room, pointing out to several of his favorite pieces. Everywhere I look, there is a sculpture, painting, pottery or furniture that was either commissioned by the Venators or acquired from art shows, flea markets and competitions. There are no names or descriptions, but John himself remembers each artists, and goes on to tell several stories of how he brought them to his collection. The pieces are from all over Mexico and represent traditional Mexican elements such as wild animals, everyday people, skulls, devils, etc. There is even an entire guest suite dedicated to the famous legend, Frida Kahlo.

Below are some photos from Casa de los Venados… but truly, they don’t do justice to actually seeing the place in person.

casa de los venados casa 2 casa 3 casa 4 casa 5 casa 6

While the Venators continue to live in this house museum, they offer daily tours at 10am in English and Spanish for a $5 suggested donation, through which they support local charities. A visit to Casa de los Venados is not to be missed! Watch video of the home or visit their website for more information.

The Culture of Chai in India

While a lot of you out there are frequent chai tea drinkers, I’ll bet you didn’t know that chai originated in India. In fact, India consumes more tea than any nation in the world! Historically, ancient Indians used teas as medicinal herbal remedies to cure a variety of ailments.

Some of the Masala Chai mixes, or Kahra, were taken from ancient Ayurvedic medical writings. Although chai (translates to tea in Hindi) is not as frequently used for herbal remedies today, some chai makers prefer to add certain herbs or spices that have been scientifically proven to improve certain aspects of one’s health, such as turmeric or cumin, which is said to aid the sickly with rising fevers.

Workers taking a break for tea
Workers taking a break for tea

Typically chai tea consists of a boiled mixture of black tea leaves, milk, sugar, cardamom, peppercorn, cinnamon, cloves and various spices native to India. One of the most popular chais in India is Masala chai, the term ‘Masala’ simply meaning ‘mixture of spices.’ Chai, typically Masala chai, is so popular that is offered as a complimentary beverage to welcome guests, at meetings, shops, home visits, dinners and for breaks throughout the day.

Go Eat Give group that went to northern India got to experience this firsthand upon entering almost every business and home.

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Our Go Eat Give group having chai and cakes for Amanda’s birthday with one of our host families in India.

While in India, Go Eat Give visitors had the pleasant opportunity to learn more about the process of how chai is created. This process begins with harvesting tea leaves, typically grown in higher plateaus of north India, southern slopes of the Himalayas, and Nilgiri hills in the south. Like wine, the flavor, strength, and acidity levels of the tea leaves depends on when they are harvested. Following the plucking of the tea leaves, the chlorophyll begins to break down, releasing tannins. This oxidization causes the tea to darken. This darkening is then stopped at desired stages that will determine certain qualities by heating the leaves.

With black tea, which is the tea used for chai, the leaves are heated as well as dried at the same time in order to lock in flavor. The caffeine in black tea is about one-third that of coffee, making it less acidic and easy to digest.

Shopping for teas at the spice market in New Delhi
Shopping for teas at the spice market in New Delhi

Once the leaves are dried, they are either bagged or sold to tea stores as loose-leaf tea. Most of the time, authentic Indian chai is prepared by using a decoction, or loose-leaf tea. The recipe is as follows – bring 1 cup water to a boil, add 1 teaspoon of tea leaves for every cup prepared. Add 1/2 cup whole milk (skim and 2% are newer options now found in India), as well as a combination of spices or tea masala. Let it come to another boil, then turn off heat. Use a strainer to pour the liquid into a cup. Add sugar as needed.

This generally takes more time than the quick tea bags that are mass-produced in most other places of the world. However, it does add a homemade touch to the preparation of this drink. However, for a short cut way to enjoy Indian chai, get the Tetley Masala Chai tea bags found at most specialty grocery stores around the world. (Go to smile.amazon.com and a portion of your purchases will be donated to Go Eat Give)