LeBeef did not want to be in-country for the inauguration, so we booked a trip to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. This was EF’s second trip abroad. The island was very family friendly, had amazing dining both casual and upscale, and a beautiful golf course and expansive and gorgeous flats to hunt bonefish. The girls’ snorkling trip got canceled due to weather, so we can’t speak to that, but this island really has it all. The surf was calm most days, and never as rough as the Outer Banks. It was also probably the most beautiful beach we’ve visited. If you’re looking to go to the Caribbean, I’d highly recommend TCI. If you’re just here for the fly fishing write up, please scroll down.
I did a lot of research about the bonefishing options before our trip. There are two main outfitters down there, and both have decent reviews. The American-born/non-local guides seem preferred based on tripadvisor reviews, but when you book with a larger company they don’t guarantee you a specific guide. The reviews were pretty hit and miss overall depending on guide. I read about an independent guide/one man operation down in Provo named Darin Bain. A quick googling of his name provided several articles (found here (written by a fellow Virginian), here, and here) from fly fishing publications that spoke to his skills, qualifications, and reliability. He even guided for Jimmy Buffett. I decided to take a chance on a local entrepreneur, and emailed Darin Bain. He quickly responded with his availability, and I put down a deposit. I only recently got into fly fishing (last couple years), and definitely did not have the casting skills to guarantee bonefishing success. Before heading down, I watch hours and hours of casting videos. Read about bonefishing, and practiced. When I still didn’t feel confident, I booked a casting lesson with Rob Snowhite. After the lesson, I’d learned a lot, but still wasn’t quite there. I watched a Lefty Kreh casting video in which he said to haul (double haul) harder, and not try to cast harder to increase distance. Armed with this information, I took my cast (in moderate wind) from 40 feet max out to 60. Now that I could cast plenty far enough, I focused my practice on accuracy and speed. I finally started feeling like I might be good enough to land a fish. I let Darin know about my experience and casting ability when I contacted him, but he said he had yet to be skunked on a full day trip. My dad and I woke up early to meet Darin in our lobby, and were cautiously optimistic…
As you can see, we both caught fish. I was ecstatic. We motored out to a few atolls/small islands and were put on bones pretty quickly. I fished first and managed a scare a bunch away. I also quickly realized that my biggest weakness was speed. Bonefish are predators and constantly on the move. When Darin called out, “11 o’clock, 30 feet”, it would take me too long to get my fly out there. By the time I did, the fish had moved, and Darin would be yelling, “more left!”, but it was often too late. When I did cast in the right direction, my cast would often be too short to be noticed by the fish, or so long that the floating line hit the water above the fish and spooked them. Finally Darin saw some bones near the shore and for once I was able to see them as well. I cast about 3 feet short of them, and started stripping immediately. Darin yelled, “strip faster!”, I picked up the pace and felt a strike. I strip set just by franticly stripping and was on. The bone took a second to figure out he was hooked, and then he was off like a bullet. After a run or two I got him close to the boat, and Darin showed me how to land and safely handle a bonefish. After a quick picture, I put the fish back in the water and watched him swim away. I was euphoric, but I knew FJ still needed to land a fish for the day to be a success. FJ had taken the casting lesson with me, and practiced some, but was still having trouble with the double haul and distance. He fished a few times before lunch to no reward. At lunch I could tell he was feeling a little down and frustrated despite the interesting political discussion with Darin. After lunch, he protested when Darin and I said it was his turn to fish, but quickly capitulated and picked up his Orvis 8wt. At this point in the day we were about 20 miles from Provo in Middle Caicos. It was a beautiful spot, and things looked fishy. Darin called a fish about 30 feet off the port side. FJ casted out, stripped, and was on. This fish made the reel sound like a circular saw. It was immediately clear it was a monster. I was excited, but also apprehensive as I’d lost three hooked fish earlier. One to a mangrove which snapped the line, and another to my inexperience when I reeled while the fish was still making a run and snapped the line. The last lost fish was when I had a tangle in the line at my feet. Darin ran forward to try to clear it as the fish ran, but it was sucked up into the reel and the line popped before the tangled could be fixed. A comedy of errors, but a great lesson in what not to do… FJ let the bonefish take off, reeled it in, and repeated as the fish made run after run. I started videoing halfway through it was so epic (videos below). FJ brought it in close, I grabbed the leader, and he grabbed the fish. WE BOTH LANDED BONEFISH ON OUR FIRST TRIP!!! FJ’s was a monster, probably twice the weight of the 2-3 pounders I caught. FJ doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve, but I could tell he was elated. I think Darin expected us to be more excited to land such a monster for FJ’s first fish ever, but to be honest, neither of us knew how big this thing was until I got home and saw that there were only a couple pictures of bigger fish on Darin’s website. Our success had a lot to do with our preparation, and certainly some luck, but there is no way we could have done it without Darin’s expert guiding. I can’t thank or recommend him enough. If we caught fish with Darin, you can too. As inexperienced as we were, it was definitely a risk to pay so much for a day of fishing. I had tried to prepare myself for a nice sunrise cruise, and a learning experience without fish, before I booked the trip. My dad and I both landing bones our first time out was definitely the highlight of the trip and an experience I’ll never forget. I’m definitely hooked on bonefishing. Next time I’m in TCI, I’m calling Darin Bain for sure.
There was something special about the TCI. I’ve been to a lot of islands, and this one stands out. I really think we’ll be back soon.
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We’ve been busy. I cut a bunch out, but this will still be a long post.
We went to Nostos in Tysons for some upscale Greek. Everything was great. They had some incredible swordfish, and EF tried everything. Definitely check it out.
I saw a recipe for Alabama white sauce on twitter, and though I’d heard of white bbq sauce, I’d never had the opportunity to try it. I wanted to smoke some chicken on my weber smokey mountain, and decided to whip up a batch. I’m a pretty big fan now. I pretty much followed the recipe, but it did up the spice level a bit.
In January we went to St. Martin to escape the cold and get lil girl her first passport stamp. This post is long overdue, but as you can see, there were a ton of pictures to sort.
Here are some videos from the trip:
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When we were in St. Martin (post/write up pending but four months late), we had the most amazing meal of oeufs en cocotte. We were at a restaurant on the French side of the island, and nothing particularly stuck out to me on the menu. I had several great meals of fish that trip, but I was feeling something different that evening. When I saw the egg dish, I thought of Ian Fleming, and his propensity for egg dishes while abroad. I’d not heard of Oeufs en cocotte, but ordered them anyway. Its hard to explain how two runny eggs with some cream, cognac, mushrooms, and seasoning could be so delicious, so I’ll try to let my videos and pictures do the talking. My sister recently got me four cocttes for my birthday and I watched a few videos of Maître d’Oeufs Jacques Pepin making Oeufs Cocotte. Here is the first link, which I mostly closely followed. The second video is provided below.
I made the recipe my own, as one does. I used two eggs per cocotte as I prefer American portions. I also used some herbs de provence and garnished with parley. I may have made a mistake or two… I had my water too high and it boiled over and slightly poached the eggs. I just poured out the excess water at the end. I also took too long getting my kitchen torch to light so my cognac never lit, but that just made the finished product have even more of a rich brandy flavor. Jacques would probably not be impressed, but its hard to mess up this dish.
This video provides further insight:
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This easter the Lil Butt is walking, so we did a lot more than last year. We saw Grandma and Grandpa, did the FCC Easter Egg hunt, ate at Nana’s and Papaw’s, and went to a decadent brunch at Sequoia.
Some videos of LB’s first putt, the egg hunt, and shopping for prezzies:
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We live pretty close to Luzmila’s, so when we heard the owners sold, and then opened up a new place on 29, we decided to stop by for lunch. We started with chicken and beef Salteñas, which were spectacular. Then we shared the mixed fajitas. It came with shrimp, beef, and chicken. I have to say that generally I find chicken pretty bland, but it was the standout here. It was well-seasoned and incredibly juicy. We can’t wait to go back.
And as a bonus, I’ll include a picture of choripán, recently voted best international sandwich by bon appetite. Very easy to make and delicious.by rsiv with
My Mamaw made boiled cabbage with carrots and celery salt every New Year’s Day. Its hard to say how far that tradition goes back, but I’d reckon its pretty far. We also like to make some black eyed peas. Last night, we were at my buddy HW’s house for a New Year’s party. HW is about the most Virginian guy I know. He made a New Year’s punch from a recipe off Garden and Gun. He kept talking about country ham all night and how hard it is to find around here. I’ve had country ham biscuits sold by church ladies in Smithfield VA, so I know a thing or two about country ham. Long story short, I had to have some country ham. I figured it would go perfect with my New Year’s cabbage and black eyed peas.
Thanks again to HW for the inspiration. Mason Dixie, please submit spokesbaby inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now its time for some football.