Turtle House is where my husband’s best and oldest friend, Frankie, once called home. When Frankie wasn’t hanging out with us at The Muddy Kitchen, or at Rose’s down the way, Frankie was at Turtle House looking out onto the crystal clear waters, reading in the hammock and enjoying his piece of magical paradise.
Once you step off your boat and onto the dock at Turtle House, you understand why Frankie never wanted to leave.
It’s impossible to imagine Turtle House as a “house” per se; it’s more like a compound, a collection of rooms to sleep, rooms to shower or bath, spots to eat, to sit, to run the radios, a place to dock the boat, a rock to dive off of.
Turtle House is perched on a hill, which is on Stocking Island, which is a boat ride across from The Chat & Chill, which is a boat ride across from Exuma, which is somewhere in the Bahamas. There’s no real address, just a lot of pointing to a spot beyond some sailboats, a few warnings about shallow water here and there, and requests to bring over some rum if you have it, or a few bottles of beer, a loaf of bread, whatever.
There’s nothing to do at Turtle House and nowhere better to go. You’ll soon lose the need to know what time it is. You’ll quickly forget why clothes are all that important. You’ll start playing cards, reading the books on the shelf and appreciating the company of nice people.
We heard tales of the original owner of this enchanted place: wealthy German scion? A reclusive rockstar? An eccentric hippie? Like most legends, it’s hard to know the absolute truth. Maybe. Any of those things might have been true. The relics of bygone eccentricities were everywhere.
Frank’s friends and relatives gathered together at Turtle House as if Frankie was still there. Food was plentiful and made by lots of hands. The kitchen was always buzzing and full. Even in Exuma and with Frankie long gone, the Viggianos know how to represent.
Rose always has a smile and a plate of something for everyone to share. Even when the cupboards were practically empty, somebody whipped up something delicious. And vaguely Italian.
Soon the celebrations had us loading back onto the boat and ferrying across the way a few at a time to the local (and only) eating and drinking establishment. The ride there didn’t suck.
No need to call ahead about the dress code at the Chat N’ Chill. Bring plenty of cash though; the sign promises the “Chat” for free, but they charge more than you’d think for the “Chill”.
Luckily if I were stuck on this semi-deserted island forever, they make something I could eat all day, every day, for the rest of my life and be happy. When you put these magical two words together – conch + ceviche – you know the key to my heart. They pull the conch fresh from the sea at the Chat N’ Chill and only make it a few batches at a time. The waiting is where the chill comes in, especially when you’re hungry. The chatting comes in handy too.
CRACKED CONCH CEVICHE
This recipe presumes that someone like your personal sous chef can pull your conch fresh from the waters off your desert island, but if you don’t have a sous chef like that or conch as fresh and briny as they have off Exuma, I recommend a trip to the Chat N’ Chill. There is no substitution.
8 ounces fresh conch (preferably Bahamian, preferably pulled from the waters mere minutes earlier)
1 lemon + 1 orange + 2 limes freshly juiced
1/2 red onion, minced
½ sweet pepper, minced
½ jalapeno, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the conch in small chunks. Add the citrus juices. Add all the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Take your flip-flops off before you come in here!