Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar

51 Town Center Drive

Collegeville, Pennsylvania

(484) 854-6365


The Collegeville location of Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar is the eighth – and the most recent – entry in the mini-chain’s stable of farm-to-table Harvest Collegeville - Exteriorrestaurants. Like its elder siblings, it offers a seasonally-changing, locally-sourced menu that utilizes only healthy, sustainable, and organic ingredients. Additionally, characteristic of establishments of similar ilk – Seasons 52 comes immediately to mind – said menu provides the conscientious diner with a host of other useful information; i.e., most items under 500 calories, non-GMO, extensive Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, and Vegan items. But Harvest also goes the competition one better, noting organic cleaning products, recycled glass counter tops, and consumer fiber menus.

All this, of course, is quite commendable – provided the cuisine lives up to the organic hype… And, for the most Harvest Collegeville - Bar Areapart, that appears to be the case. Even when the joint is jumping, the kitchen carries on with an enviable degree of equanimity.

The starters, for instance, present a host of interesting possibilities… The Pork Potstickers, spruced up with shishito pepper, smoked chili-lime aioli, crushed cashews, and cilantro, are quite good… and the Kung Pao Cauliflower “Wings” garnished with ginger soy, crushed sriracha-salted peanuts, toasted sesame, scallion, and lime are even better… ditto the Pan-Fried Zucchini Fritters dressed in a zesty romesco sauce.

All that being said, however, my nod would undoubtedly go to a recently shared appetizer of Pear & Blue Cheese Harvest Collegeville - Pear Blue Cheese FlatbreadFlatbread (pictured). Yes, I know… flatbreads have become all the rage of late, popping up on menus – ad infinitum, ad nauseum – from Madagascar to Mumbai. But, trust me, a pear and blue cheese combo is one of those culinary marriages made in heaven… and an absolutely fabulous prelude to any meal.

Moving on… The sandwiches here are another high point. My only gripe is that the dinner menu offers so few from which to choose (four, to be precise). The Grass-Fed Beef Burger leads off, companioned by mild cheddar, Harvest Collegeville - Grilled Chicken Club 2bibb lettuce, caramelized onion, and tomato on a poppy seed onion roll garnished with a segment of dill pickle. Then we have two Rock Shrimp Tacos (you can add another taco for $7.00) presented with pineapple-cucumber mojito salsa, spicy mayo, pickled red cabbage, tajin (a Mexican chili-lime seasoning blend), guacamole, and baby arugula.  The Salmon BLT is another cosmopolitan menu item of late. Finally, the ubiquitous Grilled Chicken Club (pictured with a side of mac & cheese). This version of the old favorite features smoked bacon, baby arugula, tomato, and herbed mayonnaise on naan flatbread.

There is, of course, a very good reason why so few sandwiches are offered at dinner… Harvest obviously wants you Harvest Collegeville - Scallopsto go for their entrées, which are significantly more expensive. Not outrageously so… but still pretty hefty. The NY Strip Steak, for example, will put a $47.00 dent in your wallet; Pan-Seared Pacific Halibut, $38.00; Seared U-10 Sea Scallops (pictured), $37.00; even the humble Sesame Chicken will set you back $28.00. Oh, by the way, there are a limited number of entrées offered at lunch… and they are exactly the same price as those that are available at dinner, which, to my way of thinking, is a bit over the top.

Harvest, in my opinion, is a great place for a couple to enjoy a casual luncheon sandwich; or, perhaps, a glass of wine & shared flatbread following a flick at the Movie Tavern. On the other hand, full-fledged dinner is quite another matter. By the time you add appetizers, several glasses of wine, tax & tip to the already pricey entrées, you’ll end up spending infinitely more than your original “let’s stop for a quick bite” scenario could possibly have envisioned.

Harvest is an excellent restaurant. However, given its laidback atmosphere and service, if I am going to be parting with a significant amount of long green for a relatively expensive evening at table, I would prefer to do so in a sedate, upscale environment with more professional service, and (and this is no knock) a less casual approach to the cuisine.

Harvest Collegeville - Mini DessertsBut let’s conclude on a positive note… No matter when you may decide to pay a call at Harvest, be sure to try one of their mini desserts. There are times when you just want a touch of sweetness to end a most enjoyable meal, and these diminutive denouements (pictured) – from Key Lime Pie to Carrot Cake to Salted Caramel Chocolate to Peanut Butter Mousse – are simply not to be missed.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Bordeaux Supérieur

by artfuldiner on August 15, 2023

in Artful Diner Mini Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wine

What, you may well ask, is the meaning of Bordeaux Supérieur? This is a designation given to wines produced within the generic Bordeaux AOP – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – Protected Designation of Origin. This is a certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butter, and other agricultural products, based entirely upon terroir.

Bordeaux Superieur - ImageApproximately 30,670 acres of vineyards are designated for Bordeaux Supérieur wines. Around 60 million bottles are produced in this area each year. The red wines are, as their name implies, intended to be “superior” to the standard Bordeaux AOC vintages. Therefore, they rely heavily upon Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with, depending upon the producer, smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carménère… Miniscule amounts of white wine are also produced; but since these wines must be sweet, they do not represent the same level of quality as the red wines.

Under the strict guidelines of French appellation law, in order for a Bordeaux to be classified as Supérieur, it must come from a vineyard that is more densely planted. This higher density makes it more difficult for plants to survive, creating stronger root systems and healthier vines.

Regulations also stipulate a lower yield, which allows each vine to maximize the nutrients received by the grapes that have not been pruned. The grapes must also be picked riper at harvest, which results in 10 percent natural alcohol level, higher than the 9.5 percent for regular Bordeaux. The wines must then be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 12 months before they can be sold to buyers.

Bordeaux Superieur - Image 2The Bordeaux Supérieur I’ve been enjoying on a regular basis recently is the 2019 Château Brun Despagne Querre, an enticing blend of 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Garnering 91 points from James Suckling, this medium-bodied every-day quaffer is lusciously textured, alive with sweet dark fruit, and pure pleasure in the glass… And you don’t have to cellar it for years, waiting for it to mature. No, this hedonistic little beauty is ready to go as is.

But the best part of the 2019 Bordeaux Supérieur wines, as one writer put it, is that “every one of them sells for a song.” The 2019 Château Brun Despagne Querre, for example, is currently on sale at Pennsylvania State Stores for a cool $8.99 per bottle (a dollar or two more at Total Wines). Trust me… bargains like this do not come along every day.




Di Bruno Bros.

385 West Lancaster Avenue

Wayne, Pennsylvania

(484) 581-7888


When Di Bruno Bros. Cheese Shop made its 1939 debut in a humble 600-square-foot space in Philadelphia’s Italian Market, its owners could hardly have foreseen that their descendants would not only be presiding over a fleet of gourmet enterprises in the greater Philadelphia area, but would also become Di Bruno Exteriorleaders in the world of specialty foods via their online sales.

Recently, I paid a call at their newest outpost on Philly’s Main Line. Located in the Strafford Shopping Center just a few steps from the Amish Farmers’ Market, the Wayne store opened its doors in 2021.

As a restaurant reviewer and food & wine writer, my chief focus, of course, was upon the charming little Alimentari Bar/Café. Here, smack dab in the middle of all that foodie hustle and bustle, you can experience a Di Bruno Interior 1moment of respite and order a creative cocktail to accompany your luncheon or as an afternoon pick-me-up. A Negroni or Boulvardier (Bluecoat Gin/Redemption Bourbon, respectively, Campari, Iris Dorado Vermouth) or, perhaps, a Vesper (Bluecoat Gin, Stateside Vodka, Lillet Blanc), also known as the Vesper Martini. Invented by author Ian Fleming for his iconic British secret agent, James Bond, the cocktail first appeared in Fleming’s Casino Royale, which was published in 1953, and named for the fictional double agent and Bond love-interest Vesper Lynd.

The restaurant also offers a nice selection of wines by the glass/bottle, as well as several interesting brews.

The Italian comfort food headlines “Di Bruno Bros. products at every turn,” with categories such as Formaggi & Salumi, Soup & Salads, Sandwiches, Pizza Alla Romana, Plates, Alimentari Focaccia, and Dolci.

Cheese is obviously big here, so the Monger’s Greatest Hits – featuring Fromage d’Affinois, Alex, Pantaleo, black lava cashews, fig & acacia jam, honeycomb, house-made focaccia, seasonal fruit, and crostini – would definitely be a Di Bruno - House of Grilled Cheeseway to go. My dining partner chose a slightly different route with her House of Grilled Cheese sandwich (pictured), which featured Reading Raclette, Taleggio, butter brioche and also a bowl of incredibly delicious San Marzano tomato soup. Another sandwich you might consider – highly recommended by a friend – is the Balsamic Chicken. Sequestered between two slices of toasted ciabatta, the moist marinated breast is aided and abetted by Caciocavallo cheese, roasted red peppers, arugula, basil, slathered with roasted garlic aioli, and accompanied by house-made potato chips.

The Soup & Salad category included the aforementioned tomato soup and items such as Summer Panzanella, Di Bruno Bros. Caesar, and an interesting combo of Burrata & Brussels Sprouts set on a pillow of toasted rustic bread flooded with a Medjool date sauce. Interesting… and the sprouts were done to a turn, but the sauce was very, very (almost offputtingly) sweet.

The Plates definitely hold some solid possibilities: House-Made Meatballs, for instance, or Roasted Branzino. But the two pasta dishes are particularly noteworthy… The Cacio E Pepe is basically spaghetti simply seasoned with cheese & pepper. In this case the cheeses are pecorino Romano and parmigiano Di Bruno - Spicy Sausage RigatoniReggiano. But the pepper is quite special. Tellicherry peppercorns are considered a highly prized variety of black pepper due to their complex flavors, which include woodsy and citrus notes. And for those who prefer their pasta with a tad more zip, the Spicy Sausage Rigatoni (pictured) – fennel sausage swimming in a savory tomato ragù, sprinkled with parmigiano Reggiano, and topped with rich & creamy Stracciarella cheese – is equally satisfying.

Dolci, “sweets,” are somewhat limited, but still worth considering… The Seasonal Gelato & Sorbetto are locally sourced from the Fiore Restaurant. For purists, the Affogato may be just the ticket. Traditionally known as Di Bruno - PastriesAffogato al Caffè, this coffee-based dessert usually takes the form of a scoop of plain milk-flavored or vanilla gelato or ice cream “drowned” with a shot of hot espresso. The third option is the Chocolate Budino, an Italian pudding made from a milk & egg custard thickened with cornstarch. While similar to American puddings and custards, Budino has a richer, eggier texture, somewhat akin to Mexican flan… On the other hand, their pastry department (pictured) is just a few steps away. If nothing quite appeals, you can always make a quick stop and savor your dessert at home.

By the way, Di Bruno Bros. also serves Saturday and Sunday brunch from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Le Bernardin

155 West 51st Street

New York, New York

(212) 554-1515


Nestled into the ground floor of the Equitable Building in the heart of New York’s theater district, Le Bernardin has been wooing the world’s culinary cognoscenti for over half a century. It all began in 1972 when Gilbert & Maguy Le Coze opened a restaurant devoted entirely to seafood on the Quai de la Le Bernardin - Eric RipertTournelle in Paris. Then in 1986, shortly after receiving a third Michelin star, brother & sister transported their culinary endeavors to midtown Manhattan.

In 1994, when Gilbert died unexpectedly of a heart attack, the then 29-year-old Eric Ripert (pictured) succeeded him as chef de cuisine/and later co-owner, bringing his own unique flair to the French-inspired piscatorial fare… And “the well-deserved accolades,” as writer/editor Kate Nelson of Artful Living magazine noted, “have rolled in ever since.”

In addition to receiving three Michelin stars – one of only fourteen U.S. restaurants to be so honored – Le Bernardin also holds several other records as well. It received a four-star review from the New York Times Le Bernardin - Interioronly three months after its debut; and it is the only New York four-star restaurant that has maintained its status for more than three decades (most recently in a review published on February 7, 2023, by Pete Wells). It is a perennial on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and has also garnered more James Beard Awards than any other New York City restaurant. In 2017, Le Bernardin ranked second on La Liste, a privately published list of the top 1,000 restaurants in the world. In 2018, La Liste ranked it number one. Most recently, in 2023, it was ranked third behind Frantzén (Sweden) and Guy Savoy (France).

Le Bernardin - BarAs you have undoubtedly surmised, given the above, dining at Le Bernardin will not be an inexpensive proposition. The four-course dinner menu is priced at $198.00 per person (plus beverages, tax & gratuity)… the eight-course chef’s tasting menu, $298.00 per person; $468.00 with wine pairings. And bear something else in mind: This is the hottest restaurant ticket in New York; so, your chances of procuring a dinner reservation lie somewhere between slim and none.

There is, however, a rather simple solution to this conundrum, and a very pleasant one at that. If you have a bit of leeway in your dining schedule, Le Bernardin serves lunch Monday – Friday, 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Reservations are infinitely easier to come by… and the three-course menu infinitely less expensive ($120.00 per person; plus, beverages, tax & gratuity).

My dining companion and I recently reserved a table for a late Friday lunch – 2:00 p.m. – which proved to be perfect timing and a most enjoyable experience. The restaurant’s dining room was just shy of capacity when we arrived, gradually emptying out during the next several hours. There was a soft conversational buzz in the room, the atmosphere was relaxed and subdued, the service polished and unobtrusive.

And the cuisine…? Absolutely incomparable. The moment the amuse-bouche hits the table – mini toasts accompanied by an addictive chunky salmon spread Le Bernardin - Oysters 2– you know that you’re in good hands… and that the best is yet to come.  

The printed menu is divided into three categories: Almost Raw (cold appetizers); Barely Touched (warm appetizers); and Lightly Cooked (main courses). For the three-course prix fixe lunch, diners may choose one item from either Almost Raw or Barely Touched, one item from Lightly Cooked, and one dessert.

To start things off, my dining companion simply could not resist the Oysters (pictured above) accompanied by Le Bernardin - Tunatwo mignonette sauces (one mild, one spicy), upon which she immediately bestowed her imprimatur. I, on the other hand, went directly for the Tuna (pictured). I know it doesn’t look particularly special; but, trust me, this is the stuff that gastronomic dreams are made of. Yellowfin tuna is pounded into a silky ruby-colored sheet, under which is sequestered a wafer-thin toasted baguette adorned with a generous spreading of foie gras. A marriage of flavors made in heaven. Just one bite was enough to convince me that Pete Wells’ dictum (slightly paraphrased) – “A restaurant like Le Bernardin is run by people who know things that others have yet to learn.” – should be etched in stone.

But on to the entrées… Normally when reviewing, I make it a point to order something different than my dining partner(s). In this case, however, she and I were of one mind… we simply could not resist the Dover Sole (pictured). And although it carried a hefty $38.00 Le Bernardin - Dover Soleper person supplemental charge, I can assure you that it was worth every penny. The sole was pan roasted, adorned with crisp green olive rings & toasted almonds, and finished with a subtly seductive sherry wine emulsion.

Several factors come into play here. At first bite, the sole struck me as slightly underdone. But then… I realized that the delicate flesh seemed just right – firm yet tender – and I began to suspect that I may have become conditioned by numerous lesser establishments where fish are decidedly OVERcooked. Sometimes, less IS more… Ditto with regard to the sauce. As I’ve noted on several previous occasions, matters piscatorial are best served by those accoutrements that intrude the least. And that is certainly true of Le Bernardin, where sauces, while generously apportioned, are also sophisticated in nature and succeed in gently caressing rather than smothering the objects of their affection.

While seafood remains Mr. Ripert’s specialty, the Michelin Guide also bestowed accolades upon his Vegetarian Tasting Menu, which includes such highly-prized meatless ingredients as morel mushrooms and black truffles. In addition, upon request, he will also prepare such items as Filet Mignon, Guinea Hen filled with truffle and foie gras, Morel Tagliatelle, and Whole Red Snapper baked in fresh Herbes de Provence.

… And don’t sell desserts short. Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Orlando Soto, the pastry kitchen turns out such palate-pleasers as Jasmine Rice, Le Bernardin - Peruvian Dark Chocolatecaramelized rice with white peach sorbet; Carrot “Cupcake,” companioned by vanilla crème fraiche; and Citrus “Madeleine,” comprised of vanilla genoise sponge, lemon mousseline, and summer berries. During our recent visit, my dining companion and I savored such delicious dénouements as Pistachio Praline with Grand Marnier bavarois (Bavarian cream) and Warm Peruvian Chocolate Tart garnished with Tahitian vanilla ice cream (pictured).

Curated by wine director Aldo Sohm, in collaboration with Chef Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin’s award-winning wine list is a thing of beauty. I won’t bore you with the exorbitant details… On the other hand, there are several Le Bernardin - Aldo Sohm, Sommeliervery nice fairly reasonably priced wines (for New York, that is) available by the glass. My dining companion, for example, thoroughly enjoyed her 2022 Alzinger Grüner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria. I started with the 2021 Domaine Testut Chablis from Burgundy, France, and then moved on to a rather pricey 2021 Domaine Vincent Latour Meursault. Both were excellent.

I should mention that Mr. Sohm, a native of Austria, is one of the most respected and highly-lauded sommeliers in the wine industry. In 2008, he was dubbed the “Best Sommelier in the World” by Decanter magazine. In 2014, in partnership with Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert, he opened the Aldo Sohm Wine Bar just a few short steps from Le Bernardin at 151 West 51st Street. Sohm and Eric Ripert’s culinary staff collaborated to create a casual menu of cheese & charcuterie, salads, tartines, and other simple, shareable dishes that would pair well with local and international wines.

In 2019, Mr. Sohm published Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier, which I reviewed in April 2021. This book is highly recommended and readily available from Amazon and numerous other sources online.

Le Bernardin - ExteriorThe Bottom Line: If you appreciate the unmitigated joys of fine dining, Le Bernardin should definitely be high on your bucket list. Truly an extraordinary experience that is, indeed, worthy of a journey.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Following an invigorating five days of sightseeing, wine-tasting, and restaurant-hopping in South Africa, we boarded the Azamara Journey, embarking upon Azamara Journey 1a somewhat unusual odyssey, a 21-day cruise that would transport us up the west coast of Africa, making port in several third-world countries, the Canary Islands, and Madeira Island, Portugal, before eventually disembarking in Lisbon.

Lisbon, Portugal:  Following a day at sea, we disembarked in Lisbon at 8:00 a.m., where a bus was waiting to take us on our final excursion. This was the second cruise in which Lisbon had been our last port-of-call. During the previous visit, we toured the city by Tuk Tuk, an open-air three-wheeled electric vehicle similar to a golf cart. A great way to see the city; and we had an excellent guide. Unfortunately, the Tuk Tuk was extremely uncomfortable, especially since we were seated backwards, and leg room was almost nonexistent. This excursion – on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus – was a good deal more civilized, and also included a host of sights not previously visited.

Our first stop was the Church of Santa Maria de Belém, which, together with the adjoining Jerónimos Monastery, are the finest examples of Lisbon - Church of Santa Maria de BelemPortuguese Manueline architecture. Also known as Portuguese late Gothic, it is a sumptuous architectural style originating in the 16th century defined by the use of lavish, themed ornamentation… doorways, columns, and windows encrusted in opulently carved stonework.

Within the church, located in the lower choir, are the stone tombs of Vasco da Gama (1468 – 1523) and the great poet and chronicler of the Age of Discoveries, Luis Vaz de Camöes (1527 – 1580). Both tombs were sculpted by the 19th century sculptor Costa Mota in a neo-Manueline style. The remains of both were transferred to these tombs in 1880. Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira, was a Portuguese explorer and the first European to reach India by sea. Luis Vaz de Camöes is considered Portugal’s and the Portuguese language’s greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Milton, Vondel, Homer, Virgil, and Dante. The date of his death, June 10th, is Portugal’s National Day.  

It was late on Saturday morning when our bus arrived at the church and parked next to a small park across the street. Just one little problem. There were two Lisbon - Pasteis de Belemlines: one to enter the sanctuary; the other to enter the cloister… and both were formidable. The thought of standing in line for a good hour was not a particularly attractive one… Especially since I knew from our previous visit that we were a scant block away from Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon’s iconic café/bakery specializing in Pastéis de Nata, Portugal’s famous custard tarts (that were, by the way, originally created by Catholic monks in the above-mentioned Jerónimos Monastery sometime just prior to the 18th century). And since we’d been up since the crack of dawn and had not had time for breakfast, the Pastéis was looking better and better. And once our guide actually mentioned the bakery by name and then gave our entire party free rein for an hour and a half, it was a done deal.

As you can tell from the photo above, the bakery is exceedingly popular. Fortunately, there is a separate (and less crowded) entrance to their dining room. Lisbon -Pasteis de Belem 2And, as noted above, the Pastéis de Nata, those incredible Portuguese custard tarts, are the specialty of the house. They are crunchy and creamy but, thankfully, not too eggy – and downright addictive. There are a number of menu possibilities… You may, for example, enjoy your Pastel de Nata with a glass of port (or wine or beer), if you so desire. But, for my money, coffee is the ideal companion (espresso is even better). The combo is incomparably tasty. And, trust me, it is difficult (if not impossible) to eat just one.

Following this most enjoyable repast, we were off to the next point of interest… The Torre de Belém (Belém Lisbon - Belem TowerTower), officially the Tower of Saint Vincent, is a 16th century fortification that served as a point of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers and as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It was built during the height of the Portuguese Renaissance and is a prominent example of the Portuguese Manueline style, although it incorporates hints of other architectural features. Constructed of ioz limestone (limestone originating in the Lisbon region of Portugal) it is composed of a bastion and four-story tower.

Since 1983, the tower has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with the aforementioned Jerónimos Monastery). It is often portrayed as a symbol of Europe’s Age of Discovery and as a metonymy (the substitution of the name of an attribute or adjunct for that of the thing meant) for Portugal or Lisbon, given its landmark status.

Padräo dos Descobrimentos, Monument of the Discoveries, is a monument on the northern bank of the Tagus River estuary where ships departed to explore and trade with India and the Orient. It celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The monument was conceived in 1939 by Portuguese architect José Ângelo Cottinelli Telmo and sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida. It was designed as a Lisbon - Monument of the Discoveriestemporary construction during the Portuguese World Exhibition opening in June 1940. It was demolished in June 1943. Between November 1958 and January 1960, the new monument was constructed in cement and rose-tinted stone, and the statues sculpted from limestone excavated from the region of Sintra. Located on the northern bank of the Tagus River, the new project was enlarged from the original 1940 model as part of the commemorations to celebrate the fifth centennial of the death of Henry the Navigator.

The 171-feet high slab stands vertically along the bank of the Tagus, with the design taking the form of the prow of a caravel (ship used in early Portuguese exploration). On either side of the slab are ramps that join at the river’s edge, with the figure of Henry the Navigator on its edge. On each side are 16 figures (33 in total) representing figures – monarchs, explorers, cartographers, artists, scientists, and missionaries – from the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

The top of the monument, reached via an elevator or stairs, offers a view of the Tagus River, the Belém Tower and its neighborhood, and the Jerónimos Monastery.

Gago Coutinho was an early Portuguese aviation pioneer who, along with Sacadura Cabral, were the first pilots to fly Lisbon -Santa Cruz Monumentacross the South Atlantic Ocean. The flight of 5,220 miles departed Lisbon on March 24, 1922, and arrived in Rio de Janeiro 79 days later on June 6, 1922.

In the park near the Belém Tower, is a monument erected in honor of that first air flight across the South Atlantic, an exact replica of Coutinho’s Fairey Seaplane, the Santa Cruz. And the location is quite fitting, as it was from this stretch of parkland that the plane originally took off on March 24, 1922.

Our final stop of the day was the Corinthia Lisbon Hotel, where we were booked in for one night prior to Lisbon- Corinthia Hotelcatching our morning flight back to the U.S. Despite the fact that this luxurious high-rise was praised by reviewers – 4.5 out of 5 ratings by TripAdvisor and Fodor’s, both of whom noted its popularity with the business/leisure traveling crowd – I would have preferred something a bit less modernistically generic. However, since this had been arranged through the cruise line, there was really no choice.

On the positive side, our room was quite spacious and afforded a great view out over the city. The hotel also boasted a host of other amenities – the largest luxury hotel SPA in Portugal, offering 13 treatment rooms and a wide range of spa services; an indoor lap pool and adjoining sun terrace; a water therapy circuit and fully equipped fitness center with trainers and physiotherapists; for those booking suites, the exclusive Sky Lounge with access to more private facilities that feature all-day snacks and beverages, concierge services and, 24th-floor views over the city – all of which, because of our abbreviated stay, we were unable to take advantage of.

We were, however, looking forward to dinner at the hotel’s equally highly-touted – on OpenTable, Yelp, and Erva, Lisbon 2TripAdvisor Erva Restaurante & Bar, where Chef Carlos Goncalves, previously at Lisbon’s Ritz Four Seasons, was now holding forth as the power behind the stove. Tucked away on the hotel’s ground floor, Erva certainly looked the part… walls alive with vertical gardens of leafy plants, rustic wood dining tables, leather vintage-style chairs, a semi-open kitchen and, in the evening, subdued lighting casting a romantic aura over the enticingly informal setting.

But, alas… Erva proved a major disappointment. For starters, our server was a bit off the wall…and loquacious to a fault. The moment he arrived at our table he went into his well-rehearsed spiel about daily specials – then abruptly disappeared before we could order cocktails… He reappeared with a variety of breads, butters & dipping sauces – and promptly vanished once again… We finally caught his eye, called him over, and told him we wished to order cocktails. He seemed surprised… Well, you get the idea. We just never quite connected with this guy; he just seemed to be operating in some strange parallel universe. Downright obsequious at the outset, as the evening progressed, his attention waned to such an extent that we had to send out a search party to secure the check.

The It Came from Outer Space service notwithstanding, we still had high hopes for the cuisine, as our shared appetizer of Mushrooms in Red Wine certainly Erva, Lisbon - Sole, prior to surgerystarted things off on a positive note… From there, however, it was downhill. The Baked Sole for Two, filleted tableside, sounded simply wonderful. Unfortunately, the person called upon to perform this delicate operation was not terribly adept. The sole itself was in desperate need of seasoning; and not even the bland-leading-the-bland butter sauce could snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Anything even approximating flavor was strictly coincidental (pictured: Sole, ready for surgery).

Then there were the side dishes. While the Sweet Potato Purée was quite good, the Grilled Vegetables were strictly pedestrian… Desserts? Eminently forgettable.

The Bottom Line: Erva was an extremely disappointing conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable and enlightening journey.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Following an invigorating five days of sightseeing, wine-tasting, and restaurant-hopping in South Africa, we boarded the Azamara Journey, embarking upon Azamara Journey 1a somewhat unusual odyssey, a 21-day cruise that would transport us up the west coast of Africa, making port in several third-world countries, the Canary Islands, and Madeira Island, Portugal, before eventually disembarking in Lisbon.

Las Palmas, Canary Islands: The Canary Islands – an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean a scant 67 miles from the northwest African mainland – are an autonomous community of Spain established on August 10, 1982.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (pictured), also called Las Palmas, city and port, capital of Las Palmas Las Palmas - Viewprovince, is located on the northeastern coast of Gran Canaria and is the largest city on the island. Founded in 1478 at the mouth of a ravine, the city was named for the abundance of palm trees, and was the headquarters for the Spanish conquest of Tenerife and La Palma islands, and was later a major supply port for ships bound for Spanish America. The port is also a transportation hub for travel to the Iberian Peninsula.

Chief exports include cement, oil, bananas, tomatoes, and other agricultural produce. Tourism, based on the mild winter climate, excellent beaches, and resort facilities, accounts for more than three-fifths of the economy. The airport is located 11 miles south of Las Palmas. Population as of 2018, 378,517.

Our excursion took us to the beautiful fishing village of Puerto de las Nieves, which is located on the northwestern coast of Gran Canaria, where we were to “Soak in the picturesque scenery and explore Paseo de los Poetas and its seafood restaurants, craft shops and galleries.” That, of course, was the way things were supposed to transpire. Unfortunately, our guide was a bit of a flake… So, while my traveling companion & I – and a number of other passengers – were delayed while assisting a gentleman off the bus who had difficulty walking, Ms. Speedy Gonzales simply couldn’t be bothered to wait around and, in the company of several other overly eager beavers, took off like a shot and never looked back.

Las Palmas - PromenadeBy the time we reached the lovely waterfront promenade (pictured), Ms. Speedo and her truncated entourage had already disappeared from sight. So, rather than chasing after them in a frustrating game of hide and seek, we took in the beautiful scene – and a few photographs – and returned to the spot where we knew the bus would eventually return. When the guide and her followers reappeared, the woman had not a clue that she had left a sizeable portion of her group behind. Several people were thoroughly pissed… and told her so in no uncertain terms.

Finca La Laja 1We boarded our bus once again and headed for Valle de Agaete, one of the greenest valleys on the island. Our destination was Finca La Laja – Bodega Los Berrazales, a 200-year-old ranch that is both a coffee & tropical fruit plantation and wine cellar.

The Agaete Valley is the only valley in the whole of Europe that grows coffee. And we were treated to a spirited explanation of the entire process… from growing the coffee plant… to harvesting the fruit… and finally the roasting of the coffee beans. The best part, of course, was the tasting. Their home-grown coffee was not quite as strong as I had expected, but it was still quite flavorful & well-rounded, and was accompanied by a delicious selection of local cheeses, jams, and cake.

Finca La Laja 2But I’m somewhat ahead of myself… Preceding the coffee, the ranch also produces Los Berrazales, their award-winning wines. And, following a tour of the bodega (wine cellar), we were treated to a tasting of their five varietals, all of which were quite excellent.

I should add that their wines and their coffee (and a number of other products) may only be purchased onsite.

All in all – our ditzy guide notwithstanding – a very pleasant and rewarding afternoon.

Tenerife, Canary Islands: Overlooked by Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. With a land area of 785 square miles and a population of 978,100 inhabitants as of January 2022, it is also the most populous island of Spain and of Macaronesia.

The capital of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is also the seat of the island council. This city and the previously Tenerife, Canary Islands - Auditorio de Tenerifementioned Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are the co-capitals of the autonomous community of the Canary Islands. The two cities are both home to governmental institutions, such as the offices of the presidency and the ministries. This has been the governmental arrangement since 1927 (Pictured: Auditorio de Tenerife, Santa Cruz).

Teide National Park, located in the center of the island, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes Tenerife, Canary Islands - Mount TeideMount Teide, which has the highest elevation in Spain, and the highest elevation among all the islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is also the third-largest volcano in the world, when measured from its base.

Tourism is the most prominent industry in the Canaries, which are one of the major tourist destinations in the world. Tenerife is the most visited island in the archipelago and one of the most important tourist destinations in Spain.

Our visit to Tenerife offered three possible excursions. For something a bit different, we opted for a journey through the lush Esperanza Forest to the Tenerife, Canary Islands - Pyramids of Guimarmysterious Pirámides de Güímar… The Pyramids of Güímar are six rectangular pyramid-shaped, terraced structures built from lava stone without the use of mortar. They are located in the district of Chacona, part of the town of Güímar. The structures have been dated to the 19th century AD. Standing as high as 39 feet, they may have originally been a byproduct of contemporary agricultural techniques. Similar pyramids have been found in various sites on Tenerife. There were originally nine pyramids in Güímar, only six of which have survived.

Thor HeyerdahlIn 1990, Thor Heyerdahl became aware of the “Canarian Pyramids” by reading an article written by Francisco Padrón in a Tenerife newspaper. Heyerdahl, a Norwegian adventurer/ethnographer with a background in zoology, botany, and geography, was famous for his 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition in which he sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between societies. Heyerdahl made other voyages to demonstrate the possibility of contact between widely separated ancient peoples, specifically the Ra II expedition of 1970, when he sailed from the west coast of Africa to Barbados in a papyrus reed boat.

Despite archaeological evidence to the contrary, Heyerdahl hypothesized that the Canarian pyramids formed a temporal and geographic stopping point on voyages between ancient Egypt and the Maya civilization. His views initiated a major controversy among historians, esoterics, archaeologists, astronomers, history buffs, and the general public at large. In 1998, he founded the Ethnographic Park & Botanical Garden Pirámides de Güímar.

Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal: In a delightfully informative article published in Forbes, writer Tom Mullen enlightened his readers as to “Why Madeira Island Is A World Apart.”

“Madeira is an oddly unique geographical and cultural blip – a rich little universe of rough mountains and lush slopes slapped by Atlantic breakers… Madeira Island - FunchalTogether with the islands of Porto Santo and Desertas and the Selvagens – Madeira forms an autonomous region of the country of Portugal. It sits 550 miles west of the Moroccan city of Casablanca… Safe, beautiful and with a balmy climate, this mountainous island is a joy to visit.” And, having just returned from an all-too-brief but exceedingly pleasurable visit to this unique land of enchantment, I could not agree more.

The capital of Madeira is Funchal (pictured above), where nearly half of the island’s quarter million people reside. Please note the topography… Despite recent transportation engineering, many steep and twisted routes still pass through the lush landscapes. Within the city of Funchal, for example, one road averages a 25% slope. Some hillside homes still lack driveways due to the steepness of the land on which they are situated. Such rugged terrain, however, also provides a series of incredibly breathtaking views, courtesy of the island’s seven scenic cable cars.

The cruise line offered a number of interesting excursions here and, I freely admit, the choice was exceedingly difficult… However, the Scenic Drive & Tea Madeira Island - Ellen, View from PIco dos Barelosat Reid’s Palace proved to be quite fortuitous for a variety of reasons. First of all, it was but a short hop to Pico dos Barcelos, an observation point at 1,165 feet above sea level with stunning, sweeping views of Funchal, the sea beyond (pictured: taking in the view).

There is also a café, a restaurant, and several stalls where souvenirs and crafts may be purchased – which leads me to the second reason I was pleased with our choice of excursions… After taking several photographs, I wandered into the café/souvenir shop, seeking – honestly – a cup of coffee. There I spotted a fellow passenger savoring complimentary sips of Poncha da Madeira – an enticing combo of honey, rum, lemon & passion fruit – so I decided to join her. And whoa… this definitely will warm the cockles on a cold winter’s night!

I subsequently discovered that this lethal alcoholic concoction was the traditional libation of Madeira Island…Evidently, Poncha da Madeiraaccording to some studies, the drink originated in India, where it is known as Panch, which means, literally translated, “five ingredients.” These include arrack – spirits distilled from rice or coconuts – lemon juice, sugar, spice & tea. The first mention of Poncha outside of India was in Madeira, in Câmara De Lobos, a small coastal fishing town where British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used to visit and paint oil images of village scenes. Originally medicinal, the elixir was used by fishermen to soothe throats irritated by sea spray. Today, the drink is often paired with a snack known as tremoços – lupini beans sprinkled with salt and garlic.

Should you visit Madeira, imbibing in this fruity local firewater is something of a must… Needless to say, I purchased a small bottle and two matching shot glasses as souvenirs.

 From there, it was on to Reid’s Palace for afternoon tea. The historic hotel is located to the west of Funchal Bay in an Madeira Island - Belmond Reid's Palace Hotelimposing position looking out over the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by 10 acres of enchanting tropical gardens (pictured).

William Reid, the son of a Scottish farmer, originally arrived in Madeira in 1836. He hired out quintas (country estates) to wealthy invalids and then moved on to hotels. However, he died before his Reid’s Hotel was completed. The hotel was designed by architects George Somers Clarke and John Thomas Micklethwaite. Reid’s two sons, William and Alfred, fulfilled their father’s dream by opening the doors of Reid’s Palace in November 1891, as the New Hotel. This later became the New Palace Hotel, then Reid’s Palace or simply Reid’s. It was a luxury retreat combining Edwardian elegance with the latest comforts of the day.

Famous guests over the years have included General Fulgencio Batista, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, David Lloyd George, deposed emperor Karl von Habsburg, Józef Pilsudski, Roger Moore, Gregory Peck, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Albert Schweitzer, and George Bernard Shaw.

The hotel was acquired by Orient-Express Hotels Ltd., which changed its name to Belmond Ltd. on March 10, 2014. At that time, the hotel changed its name to Belmond Reid’s Palace. In April 2019, Belmond Ltd. was purchased by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) in a $3.2 billion transaction.

Madeira Island - View of Our Ship from Reid's Palace HotelReid’s is particularly known for its tradition of serving afternoon tea on the terrace. Unfortunately, our group was a bit too large for the terrace; however, the dining room was quite cozy, and the service was certainly up to Reid’s high standards… ditto their justly famous and incredibly delicious handmade scones. As an added attraction, the view of our ship docked in nearby Funchal Harbor was simply spectacular (pictured).

To be continued…

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



On Saturday, March 4, 2023, following an invigorating five days of sightseeing, wine-tasting, and restaurant-hopping in South Africa, we boarded the Azamara Journey 1Azamara Journey, embarking upon a somewhat unusual odyssey, a 21-day cruise that would transport us up the west coast of Africa, making port in several third-world countries, the Canary Islands, and Madeira Island, Portugal, before eventually disembarking in Lisbon.

Walvis Bay, Namibia: The western border of the Republic of Namibia, is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares Namibia 4 - Pelican Point Lighthouseland borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 660 feet of the Botswanan right bank of the Zamezi River separates the two countries. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on March 21, 1990. It is a member state of the United Nations, the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations. (Pictured: Pelican Point Lighthouse, Walvis Bay)

It has a population of 2.55 million people and is a stable multi-party parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, tourism, and the mining industry – diamonds, uranium, gold, silver, and base metals – form the basis of its economy. Manufacturing is comparatively small.

The name of the country is derived from the Namib Desert – the oldest desert in the world – a broad expanse Namibia -Desert meets the Seaof plains & dunes that stretches along the country’s entire coastline… And its sand dunes, created by the strong onshore winds, are the highest in the world. It was here that our excursion – Living Desert by 4 x 4 – took us. We had been warned numerous times that many of our sojourns to third world African countries would not be up to first-class tourist standards. This excursion, however, was very pleasant. Our driver/guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. Not only did he take us for a thrilling ride up & over the sand dunes, but he was constantly stopping to search the sand for some of the desert’s most fascinating indigenous creatures.

Luanda, Angola:  Once known as the “Paris of Africa,” Luanda fell on hard times in the mid-1970s with the outbreak Luanda, Angola - View from Fortof the Angolan Civil War between communist and anti-communist factions in which 500,00 people lost their lives. After decades of conflict, which only ended in 2002, the government began a massive rebuilding program financed with oil revenues. Projects include large social housing high-rise blocks of flats to replace slums and existing dilapidated tower blocks; extensive repaving; the construction of several six-lane highways leading out of the city; the reconstruction of railway lines; and a large new airport, which is scheduled to open this year.

Our excursion – Luanda at a Glance – took us on a tour of the city’s historic landmarks, which began with a Luanda, Angola - Fortress of San Miguelscenic drive along Marginal Bay and a stop at Our Lady of Nazareth Church, a colonial structure built in 1664. This was followed by a visit to the Fortress of San Miguel (pictured), which was built in 1576 by Paulo Dias de Novais. It became the administrative center of the colony in 1627 and a major outlet for slave traffic to Brazil. Today, it holds the Museum of the Armed Forces.

The final stop was the Agostinho Neto Mausoleum, an obelisk-like concrete structure that towers above the Luanda, Angola - Agostinho Neto Mausoleumcity of Luanda. It occupies the center of the Agostinho Neto Cultural Center, which serves as Agostinho Neto’s final resting place. Neto (1922 – 1979) served as Angola’s first president from 1975 – 1979 after Angola had secured its independence from the Portuguese. He remained the leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the subsequent civil war, dying before its final end in 2002. A Portugal-trained physician, he was also known for his literary skills as a renowned poet. The tower was designed to reference Neto’s poem, The Path of Stars, and is named after his book, A Sacred Hope.

Built in 2012, the project was initially awarded to a Brazilian company; however, it was completed by Mansudae Overseas Project, a North Korean sculptural business that has built monuments in many parts of the continent. Rumor has it that North Korean funded the $40 million dollar structure. Others assert that it was a gift to Luanda from the Russian government.

At over 393 feet, the obelisk is taller than both New York’s Statue of Liberty and London’s Big Ben belltower, dominating central Luanda’s skyline. The grounds surrounding the monument include lawns and gardens, as well as reviewing bleachers and statuary.

Takoradi, Ghana:  Ghana is situated on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Although relatively small in area and population, Ghana is one of the leading Ghana 1countries of Africa, partly because of its considerable natural wealth, and partly because, on March 6, 1957, it was the first black African country south of the Sahara to achieve independence from colonial rule.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing not only provide the bulk of the national income, but they also employ more than half of the population. Cacao – grown commercially for its cocoa beans – is cultivated on more than half of Ghana’s arable land and is a significant source of the country’s export revenue.

Our excursion took us on a bus tour through the twin cities Sekondi & TakoradiTakoradi is famous for being the home of Ghana’s first deepwater seaport, built in 1928. It also boasts an array of attractive beaches, historic sights, and factories. And TripAdvisor offers potential visitors a wide range of modern hotels and restaurants.

Our first stop, however, was the Albert Bosomtwi-Sam Fishing Harbor. An experience our cruise line blithely narrated in a paragraph filled with Ghana 2innocuous euphemisms: “Immerse yourself in Ghana’s culture and traditions… Watch the locals as they go about their daily lives at the Albert Bosmtwi-Sam Fishing Harbour. Here, fishermen and fish mongers preserve the fresh catch of the day. See as the fishermen unload the fresh fish from the boats while the woman go to work to preserve the fish.”

To call the above description misleading would, indeed, be an understatement. Nothing could quite have prepared us for the upcoming culture shock – but Azamara should at least have made the attempt. The moment Ghana 4the bus opened its door, the aroma poured in like a malevolent spirit. An odoriferous combo of gutted fresh & rotting fish mingled with the perspiration of unwashed bodies and the unmistakable hint of human waste; the stench – exacerbated by oppressive heat and humidity – was simply overwhelming. And the signs – “No Defecation” – posted at strategic points throughout the area, seemed to bear witness to the lack of proper restroom facilities. The entire scene was, to say the least, a good deal less than hygienic. (Note the pictures above.) It was an incredibly eye-opening experience to realize that there are people who live and work in such conditions.

From there we moved on to the bustling Takoradi Market Circle where local women were busy selling crafts, art, and fresh produce. However, we didn’t stop here, which was unfortunate, as I – and, I am certain, many of my fellow travelers – would have much preferred the sights & sounds of the market rather than the horrific smells of the harbor.

Our final stop before returning to the ship was a local hotel for cold liquid refreshments (nonalcoholic) and entertainment in the form of traditional African Ghana 6drumming and dancing. And the sharp contrast between our recent sojourn and what we were now experiencing could not have been more apparent. For while the facilities would certainly not be considered luxurious, they were pleasant, neat, clean, and the restrooms, particularly, were absolutely spotless. So much so that it was difficult to remind ourselves that we had not stumbled upon some cozy little inn in Europe or the United States.

The drumming and dancing were fantastic; and the cool, casual, and understated atmosphere of the hotel a welcome respite from the oppressive third world heat & humidity.

Abidjan, Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast, also known as Côte d’Ivoire, officially the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, is Abidjan, Ivory Coast situated on the southern coast of west Africa. Its largest city and economic center is the port city of Abidjan. A cultural crossroads of west Africa, Abidjan is characterized by a high level of industrialization and urbanization. It is also one of the most populus French speaking cities in Africa.

Following the construction of a new wharf in 1931, and its designation as the capital city of the then-French colony in 1933, Abidjan began a pronounced period of expansion. The completion of the Vridi Canal in 1951 enabled the city to become an important seaport; and it remained the capital even after the country’s independence from France in 1960. In 1983 the city of Yamoussoukro was designated as the official political capital of the Ivory Coast.

However, Abidjan remains the officially designated “economic capital” of the country, both because of its size and the fact that it continues to be the center of the country’s economic activities.   

 Since none of the shore excursions being offered were particularly appealing, we had made arrangements through our trusty travel agent for a private tour Grand-Bassam - Former Palace of Governor (2)that would take us to the town of Grand-Bassam, the former French colonial capital of Côte d’Ivoire, the historic center and the adjacent African fishing village of which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 (Pictured: Former Palace of the Governor, now the Museum of Costumes).

However, there were complications… For starters, soldiers packing automatic weapons & guard dogs. And passengers were told that unless they boarded an Azamara tour bus for a specifically designated excursion, they would not be allowed to leave the dock area… nor would any other vehicles be permitted in. Which meant, of course, since our guide & his driver were not allowed to crash the party, our scheduled sojourn to Grand-Bassam would be scratched. Not even our noble ship’s captain, who was doing his best to deal with the situation, appeared to be having much luck negotiating with the recalcitrant local constabulary.

But then… an hour and a half later – as if by magic – everything changed. Suddenly all passengers were free to come and go as they pleased. So, what Grand-Bassam - Colonial Buildingstranspired???? My guess is that some money changed hands… but don’t quote me on that. In any event, enter our guide and his driver determined to fulfill their contract to show us the sights and sounds of Grand-Bassam. Problem was, the morning was getting on… it was a 45-minute drive each way to and from Grand-Bassam… and the ship had made it abundantly clear that all passengers had to be back on board at a certain time in preparation for sailing at the appointed hour. The ship would wait for late passengers if they were part of a Azamara-sponsored excursion… However, if they were out on their own, it would depart without them. Not a pleasant thought.

We did, of course, relay this vital tidbit of information to our guide, who promptly replied that there was absolutely no problem. Needless to say, we were more than a little skeptical; but he continued to chatter on, assuring us that there would be plenty of time to get to and from our appointed destination. Well, you can guess the rest… Our trip was as slow as a herd of turtles, due to excessive traffic on a major highway… and, glancing across the medial strip, there appeared to be even more awaiting us on the return. Basically, we arrived at Grand-Bassam… made a couple of turns around the block… and it was already time to start back. Even then, we practically had to threaten legal action/bodily harm, before our guide got the picture.

We arrived back at the pier just under the wire… We had spent two hours on the road and all of fifteen minutes at Grand-Bassam, which, as I’m sure you Grand-Bassam - Maison Ganametcan surmise from the photographs, was not very grand at all. In fact, it had turned out to be a colossal disappointment. Most of the prominent colonial-era public buildings were constructed between 1894 and 1920, during the town’s short-lived “golden era.” However, after the French built a new wharf at Abidjan in 1931, and the new commercial capital grew in importance, Grand-Bassam became a sleepy backwater, and many of its public buildings were simply neglected and allowed to decay. A handful – namely the Post Office and Town Hall – have been restored, but the others remain in ruins and the streets in the old part of town are virtually deserted.

Banjul, The Gambia: Banjul, formerly Bathurst, located on St. Mary’s Island near the mouth of the Banjul, The Gambia - Arch 22Gambia River, is the capital of The Gambia; it is also the country’s largest city. It was founded in 1816, when the British Colonial Office ordered Captain Alexander Grant to establish a military post on the river to suppress the slave trade and to serve as a trade outlet for merchants ejected from Senegal, which had been restored to France. Grant chose Banjul Island as the site, which he renamed St. Mary’s. He named the new settlement for Henry Bathurst, then colonial secretary. It became the capital of the British colony and protectorate of Gambia and, after 1947, was governed by a town council. With The Gambia’s independence in 1965, the town was granted city status and became the national capital. The name was changed to Banjul in 1973.

Banjul is the country’s commercial and transportation center. It has several peanut decorticating plants and oil mills… Peanuts, peanut oil & meal, and palm kernels are exported. Tourism is also of increasing importance, alleviating some of the urban unemployment problem and encouraging handicraft industries.

Banjul is connected with the interior and neighboring Senegal via a 3-mile ferry northward across the Gambia River and by the Banul-Serekunda Highway.

There were several excursions offered, including a trip through the Fathala Nature Reserve, which entailed crossing over into Senegal, as well as a one-hour bus ride to & from the point of departure. Sounded very interesting… But those who elected this excursion were the unfortunate victims of Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”), as not only did they encounter difficulty getting back & forth across the border, but their bus also broke down, leaving them stranded in the wilderness for several hours. As a result, they were very late returning to the ship.

Mangove Cruise 1Luckily, we had chosen something a bit less traumatic… Our Mangrove Creek Cruise took us in a typical pirogue – a flat-bottomed boat designed to navigate the shallow waters – on an up-close and personal glimpse of the flora and fauna (and oyster beds) along the shoreline. As relaxing as it was instructive.

Mangove Cruise 2We were also told that we could wear swimsuits under our clothing and go for a “refreshing swim” should the tide be right. Actually, no one on the boat decided to take the plunge, which, given the downright unhealthy color of the water, was undoubtedly a smart move. We were, however, able to snap a few photographs of a party enjoying their leisurely lunch on a sandbar (pictured).

All was well… until, on our return trip, the engine started to sputter…. and stopped. Thought we’d be stuck in the middle of the river for the duration… Fortunately, the engine returned to life and we managed to limp back into port.

To be continued…

 Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Schaefer’s Canal House

208 Bank Street

Chesapeake City, Maryland

(410) 885-7200


Schaefer's Canal House - ExteriorTucked away on the north side of the C&D Canal in the historic town of Chesapeake City, Maryland, Schaefer’s Canal House isn’t exactly what you would call a “destination” restaurant. However, should you find yourself traveling along the nightmarish Philly to DC I-95 corridor – especially in warmer weather – its considerable charms will surely beckon. No matter where you happen to be seated, outdoor veranda or dining room, the view of the canal is truly spectacular – especially if a large ship should happen to pass by.

Schaefer's Canal House - Exterior 3Given the restaurant’s strategic waterside location, as well as its informal atmosphere & nautical décor, it is certainly no surprise that matters piscatorial dominate the extensive bill-of-fare. There are, of course, suitable menu accommodations for landlubbers – burgers, cheesesteak, chicken, and sandwiches, for instance – but seafood is definitely the name of the game; specifically chosen, I might add, to complement the bounty of Maryland’s local waterways… And, if you’ll pardon the aqueous metaphor, it is always wise to swim with the current rather than against it. In other words, stick with what a given restaurant proports to do best, and you generally will not be disappointed.

Schaefer's Canal House - CalamariCase in point… our most recent visit. My dining partner and I began our late lunch with a shared appetizer. The choices were legion. But this was definitely not the place for Chips & Salsa or Chicken Wings or Panko-Crusted Mozzarella… We hemmed and hawed between Jumbo Peel & Eat Shrimp and Traditional Calamari before finally settling upon the latter (pictured).

As most diners are aware, ordering calamari is a rather tricky proposition… Think of it as playing Russian roulette with your palate. If improperly prepared, calamari have all the flavor and texture of underdone rubber bands. But – kudos to the kitchen – our calamari rings were among the best that I have tasted anywhere. Ever so ethereally breaded and lightly fried, they were incomparably tender… while the accompanying sweet basil tomato dipping sauce gently caressed rather than smothered the objects of its affection.

Schaefer's Canal House - Crab MeltEntrées – Surf & Turf (8oz. filet mignon with lobster tail or crab cake), Jambalaya, Grilled Salmon, Parmesan-Crusted Mahi Mahi, etc., all served with a baked potato, vegetable of the day, and side salad) – were more suited to heavy dinner rather than light luncheon, so we obviously opted for less filling fare. My dining partner simply loves crab – in any way, shape, or form – so the Crab Melt (pictured) was something of a must. Basically, crab imperial (crabmeat combined with mayonnaise or a sherried white sauce) topped with sliced tomatoes, smoked bacon, and Swiss cheese served open-faced on a pretzel roll… Another major coup for the kitchen.

Tacos seem to be quite popular here… ditto their kissin’ culinary cousins, the quesadillas. Both are served in a tortilla shell… the only difference between a taco and a quesadilla is the melted cheese in the latter.

Schaefer's Canal House - Fish TacosDiners have several options. My choice, for example, was the Fish Tacos (pictured), two flour tortillas filled with moist blackened mahi-mahi, a semi-mild, sweet-tasting white-fleshed fish that is similar to halibut in flakiness and swordfish in density. Accoutrements included an utterly delicious combo of cilantro cabbage slaw, sour cream/lime dressing, and mango salsa. Other possibilities, similarly embellished, are Grilled Shrimp Tacos and the Blackened Chicken for landlubbers… The Shrimp & Crab Quesadilla is set in an Old Bay tortilla and garnished with salsa, sour cream, and cheddar jack cheese.

Schaefer's Canal House - Key Lime PieDesserts, as you would undoubtedly surmise, are on the down-home side. Once again debating the issues, we finally decided to share the Key Lime Pie (pictured). A personal fave, it proved to be the perfect choice for a warm afternoon. Light as a feather and beautifully textured, it simply beguiled the palate with its sweet, citrusy flavor.

One final word… If you have occasion to check out the social media – Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. – you’ll soon discover that reviews of Schaefer’s have been decidedly mixed. No question, there have been various grousings about a variety of issues. Which, given its size and popularity, is not at all surprising. My dining partner and I have visited on several occasions, and the only thing I can say is that we have never had a bad experience with regard to either food or service.

Is the food absolutely the greatest…? Of course not. Ditto the service. Both, like the atmosphere, are informal, easy-going, and laid-back. More than any other eating establishment I have recently encountered, Schaefer’s Canal House is an intriguing gastronomic gestalt… Meaning, it is infinitely more than the mere sum of its individual parts. Go expecting a 3-star Michelin experience, and you surely will be disappointed. On the other hand, pay a call on a warm summer afternoon or evening, slosh down a G&T or glass of wine, savor the sea breezes, a casual cache of fish & chips, watch the boats glide by… and all will be well.

Bon Appétit & Cheers!



Wine - RedThe two red wines mentioned in this article are both produced from grape varieties that are probably not terribly familiar to most wine lovers…

The first is Mencía, known as Jaen in Portugal. This is a grape variety that is native to the western portion of the Iberian Peninsula. In Spain, it is planted on over 22,000 acres, with another 6,200 acres in neighboring Portugal.

Early on, most of the wines produced from Mencía were light, pale, relatively fragrant vintages meant for early consumption. This style of wine was the result of grapes planted on fertile plains, which produced exceptionally high yields… but also diluted wines. Recently, however, this scenario has changed significantly. A new generation of winemakers, relying primarily upon old vines growing on hillsides, in combination with careful vineyard management, has produced a series of deeply concentrated, complex vintages. This, in turn, has led to a renewed interest in Mencía. Indeed, since the 1990s, the grape has continued to increase in popularity, as have the number of noted Spanish winemakers working with it.

Marques de Toro 2016The 2016 Marqués de Toro Finca la Moura Mencía, for example, recently received a whopping 94-point rating and an Editors’ Choice designation from Wine Enthusiast magazine. Opaquely purple in color with pleasant aromas of ripe black fruit and hints of oak, this wine is lush and elegant on the palate, leading to a decidedly smooth and silky finish.

Listed at $38.00 suggested retail, this excellent old-vines wine is currently on sale at Pennsylvania State Stores for a paltry $9.99. An absolutely incredible wine at an equally incredible price point.

The second varietal is Mourvèdre, also known as Monastrell or Mataro. This red wine grape is grown in many countries around the world, including the Rhône and Provence regions of France. In Spain, it is especially popular in Valencia and Jumilla. In addition to making red varietal wines, Mourvèdre is a prominent component in GSM – Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre – blends. Mourvèdre tends to produce tannic wines that can be high in alcohol. And while the style of wine may vary greatly depending upon where it is produced, Mourvèdre wines are often characterized as having wild game and/or earthy notes.

Infinito 2018… And the 2018 Ego Bodegas Infinito Monastrell fits this profile perfectly. In the glass, it is dark cherry-red in color with intense aromas of ripe plum and hints of earth & spice. On the palate, it’s powerful (a heady 15% alcohol) but well-structured with sleek, well-integrated tannins. The taste is rich, so this is a great match for red meats, game, roasted lamb, and blue cheese.

This is another highly-rated (93-points) Editors’ Choice recipient from Wine Enthusiast. But the best part is the price… Listed as $58.00 (and up) retail, this is another major bargain at PA State Stores… $16.99. If you enjoy a hefty red wine that still maintains a touch of class, it’s time to stock up.


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As I mentioned in a previous article (See: “Savoring South Africa II”), prior to embarking on our March, 2023, 21-day cruise along the west coast of Africa to Lisbon, my traveling companion and I spent five full days visiting wineries and restaurants in and around Cape Town. However… we also purposely planned activities of a more exploratory & educational nature…

After being pleasantly ensconced in the One & Only, our delightful Cape Town hotel, we were collected the following morning by Samson, our incredible driver & guide (read more about him in my previous article), for our Cape Peninsula Scenic Tour. The highlights of which are noted below…

Cape Peninsula TourIt began with a journey along Chapman’s Peak Drive, 5½ miles stretching from Noordhoek to Hout Bay. The drive has 114 curves and is regarded as the most rewarding toll road in the country. On one side we had a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean; on the other, the western mountains of the Cape Peninsula (pictured: a brief photo op along the route).

Seal Island 2Once arriving at Hout Bay Harbor, we took a boat from Mariner’s Wharf to Duiker Island, also known as Seal Island. The island is renowned for its marine wildlife, including Cape fur seals and marine bird species. One glance at the photo, and you’ll understand why it is called “Seal” island!

The site is visited regularly by both tourists and photographers. While doing research for this article, I discovered that on October 13, 2012, a small vessel carrying tourists to Seal Island capsized, resulting in the deaths of two men on board. Fortunately, nothing so catastrophic befell our excursion. But I do recall that the sea around the island was particularly rocky, so I understand how such an incident could very easily have taken place.

Cape of Good HopeAnother port-of-call was the Cape of Good Hope, the famous rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula of South Africa. A common misconception is that the cape is the southern tip of Africa, marking the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In actuality, however, the southernmost point of Africa is Cape Aqulhas, approximately 90 miles to the east-southeast. When traveling along the western side of the African coastline from the equator, however, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point at which a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward.

Thus, the first modern rounding of the cape in 1487 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a milestone in the attempts to establish a direct trade route to the Far East.

Boulders Beach Penguins 2Following lunch at the Foodbarn Café & Tapas (see previous article), we paid a call at the Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. Although set in a residential area, this is one of the few sites where these vulnerable birds can be observed wandering freely in a protected natural environment. Bordered by indigenous bush on one side, and the clear water of False Bay on the other, the area is comprised of several small sheltered bays, partially enclosed by granite boulders that are 540 million years old. The penguins are best viewed, as we did, from the adjacent Foxy Beach, where a boardwalk brings visitors up close and personal.

Uthando ExcursionsThe following morning, we were met by a representative of Uthando (Love) South Africa (an award-winning Fair Trade in Tourism certified nonprofit organization that has created a unique link between tourism and community development projects), who would take us – and several other interested individuals – on a philanthropic educational excursion to several of the “Townships” in the Cape Town area…. In South Africa, the term Township refers to underdeveloped racially segregated urban areas reserved for non-whites. During the era of ideological apartheid, black people were evicted from properties that were in areas designated as “white only and forced to move into segregated townships. Separate townships were established for each of the three designated non-white race groups – Black Africans, Colored (those of mixed races), and Indians – as per the Population Registration Act, 1950.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, many of the townships have seen remarkable rapid development with wealthy and middle-income areas sprouting up in various parts of the country. Our excursion presented a meaningful, authentic, and noninvasive glimpse of the broad range of innovative and inspiring community projects taking place in several of the townships in the Cape Town area.

Uthando - Eziko Cooking SchoolOur first stop was the Eziko Cooking and Catering School, a community project located in Langa, one of the oldest townships in Cape Town. Eziko is an entry-level skill center in the catering and hospitality field. It specializes in food preparation and cooking courses, baking, and drinks service, preparing students for a career in cooking and catering.

Students come from previously disadvantaged communities within the greater Cape Town area, but also from other African countries such as Angola, Zimbabwe, and Cameroon. The six-month training program in basic cooking and catering skills facilitates in-service training to familiarize student with first-hand work experience. Eziko assists in placing its students at well-known hospitality businesses such as Cape Town International Convention Center, Cape Milner Hotel, Sky Chef, Bidvest Foodservice Training, Caturra Coffee, and International Wine Education Center. The cooking and catering school has been awarded provisional accreditation and registered with the South African Government Department of Labor.

This was an especially rewarding experience, as we were able to interact with students directly, ask questions, and carry on a very meaningful dialogue. It was particularly interesting for me, as my father was a chef, and I was able to share some of my personal memories.

Uthando - Zizamele Educare CenterThe Zizamele Early Childhood Development Center is located in Site C, Khayelitsha Township. The government does not provide for early childhood development education or the provision of pre-school building. Over a million young children in South Africa receive no pre-school education. In 1995 Mrs. Mama Nosebenzile Madala started Zizamele Educare. In 2001, her daughter, Mama Bukeka Mandlantse, began working at the ECD and took over as principal in 2005. With the assistance of partners and donors, Uthando helped transform the pre-school from 3 informal structures into a world-class educational facility. The pre-school is run by three qualified ECD teachers, and, together with principal Mama Madala, provides quality pre-school education to over fifty young children. Like the other ECD centers, the school provides three classes: 0 – 18 months; 3 – 4 years; and 5 – 6 years.

Isibane se Afrika (“The Light of Africa”) is a choir & dance group for change founded in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha. The group was started by a local force-for-good community leader, Andisiwe Gaqa, when she noticed that many of the youth in her township had no positive activities to take part in after school. With no parental oversight or adult role models, many of the township youth fell in with drugs and gangs. Ms. Gaqa wanted to provide them with an alternative option to be part of something more wholesome, and so the group was born.

Uthando - Isibane se AfrikaIsibane se Afrika is a registered non-governmental organization and all income raised from performances are used to uplift the lives of its members and the local community through soup kitchens and other projects. We were treated to a mesmerizing program of song, dance, drumming and spectator participation (note picture). Some of the groups most memorable highlights were performing at an international conference in Poland and at the official welcome of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, HRH Prince Harry and Megan, during their South Africa state visit.

Following our morning visit to the townships, we returned to Cape Town and once again met up with our trusted guide, Samson. We had lunch at a casual little creperie and then spent several hours in the nearby Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, a museum, specifically the “Truth to Power Exhibition,” dedicated to the life and legacy of the late Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu.

Desmond Tutu (October 7, 1931 – December 26, 2021) was a South African Anglican bishop and theologian known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist. He was Bishop of Johannesburg from 1985 to 1986, and then Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996; in both cases, the first black African to hold the position.

ArchBishop Desmond Tutu 2In 1984, Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his role as a unifying leader figure in the non-violent campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa.” The Peace Prize not only increased his international standing, but also made a significant contribution to the struggle against apartheid.

In 1990, after President F.W. de Klerk released the anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela from prison, and they led negotiations to end apartheid and introduce multiracial democracy, Archbishop Tutu assisted as mediator between rival black factions. After the 1994 general election resulted in a coalition government headed by Mandela, he selected Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses committed by both pro and anti-apartheid groups.

ArchBishop Desmond TutuOn August 12, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

In 2010, Archbishop Tutu retired from public life.

In the early 1980s, it was an honor & privilege for me to hear Archbishop Tutu speak at the Riverside Church in New York City.

Bon Appétit!

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