Santa Cruz II


















FACTS:  Located in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador


Despite my distaste for cruises, the Santa Cruz II was the best option, given our vacation dates, island preferences, and boat availability.  But, in all fairness, it turned out to be the right choice, and my experience ended up being a positive one.

The Santa Cruz II is a ninety-person boat.  Recently refurbished, it was clean, spacious, and tastefully decorated.

We really enjoyed the food, as well.  Breakfast and lunch were served buffet style, and dinner was served as a three-course meal.

Furthermore, the crew did a wonderful job, the naturalist guides were extremely knowledgeable, and the tours were very well organized.  So, for those of you who enjoy cruises, I highly recommend signing up for this one.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their website:

Termas Papallacta





FACTS:  “Termas,” translated into English, means “hot springs”; located in Papallacta, Ecuador.


Palm Hearts Cocktail:  Orange Juice, Ketchup, Lemon, Coriander, Leguminous Broth, Coriander and Sour Onion

Garlic Sauce Trout:  Sliced Garlic, Olive Oil, White Wine, Fresh Parsley, and Extract of Lemon, with Assorted Vegetables and Mandioc Sticks


Termas Papallacta is a resort and spa located in Papallacta, Ecuador.  From Quito, Papallacta is a two-hour drive.  Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, this resort houses five different natural hot springs, in various heat levels.  It’s the ultimate environment for R&R and an absolute must.

Thankfully, we had the luxury of spending the day here, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the entire trip.  However, in between soaking in the different pools, we managed to find time for lunch, as well.  We started out with the vegetarian ceviche.  But, despite my fondness for hearts of palm, the ceviche juice was much too tart for my liking.  As for the trout entrée, which is the local fish here, it completely exceeded my expectations and became one of my most memorable meals of all time.  Topped with loads of fresh garlic, it was cooked and seasoned to perfection, and I savored every bite.

I had a wonderful experience at this place and think that you will too.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their website:





Michelada Ceviche:  Rock Sole, Peppers, Ginger


Stone Crab Ceviche:  Heart of Palm, Tangerine, Passion Fruit 


Suckling Pig Taquitos:  Suckling Pig Confit, Guacamole, Gruyere, Chipotle Aioli


Galapagos Tuna on Lava Rock:  Passion Fruit, Szechuan Pepper, Sweet Potato, Beets


Chocolate Lover:  Chocolate Ganache, Sablee, Babarois, Mousse, Praline


Sabayon and Tropical Fruits:  Sabayon, Guanabana Mousse, Blackberry Sorbet



FACTS:  Located in Quito, Ecuador


Zazu could easily rival any top restaurant in any major city.  So, I’m extremely happy to have dined here during our visit to Quito.

Due to Lloyd’s ceviche craving, we ordered two different selections:  rock sole and stone crab. However, given its superb sauce, I preferred the stone crab dish.  It was creamy and flavorful, and I’ve yet to taste a more unique or delicious ceviche sauce anywhere.  Fabulous!

For an appetizer, we ordered the suckling pig taquitos.  Unfortunately though, they turned out to be somewhat dry and disappointing.

For my main entrée, I ordered the Galapagos tuna on lava rock.  The tuna was extremely fresh, along with being beautifully presented.  In addition, I found the description to be quite fitting, considering our upcoming trip to the Galapagos Islands.

As for our dessert selection, we ordered the chocolate lover plate and were also sent a complementary plate of tropical fruits.  The assortment of chocolate and local fruits provided a wonderful way to end the evening.

In summation, the food was delectable, the ambience was elegant, and the Executive Chef, whom we had the pleasure of meeting, was equally impressive.  I highly, highly recommend this place.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their fabulous menu and website:

Boutique Hotel Mansion del Angel









FACTS:  Located in Quito, Ecuador


Our four-night stay at the Boutique Hotel Mansion del Angel completely exceeded my expectations.  For starters, we were immediately upgraded to a beautiful suite.  In addition, we thoroughly enjoyed the daily breakfast and the afternoon tea service.

Breakfast included fresh fruit, eggs, and ham or bacon, along with a continental spread.  During our stay, we also ordered omelets stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and Ecuadorian cheese.  Delicious! I must also note that the hotel prepares to-go boxes for anyone needing to leave before the kitchen opens in the a.m.  My box contained juice, a banana, a muffin, and a sandwich.

Adding a further touch of class to this already lovely place, tea is served daily at 5:00 p.m., accompanied by tea sandwiches and petit fours.  And, given the grandeur of the room, one could easily mistake being in London rather than Quito.

As an FYI, and interestingly enough, dinner reservations are restricted to hotel guests only.  On this occasion, we chose to dine in our room, but one can choose to eat in the dining area instead. Unfortunately, since I only ordered a pear and goat cheese salad, I cannot give a fair dinner assessment.

We really enjoyed our stay here, and I highly recommend it.

QUICK TIDBIT:  Be sure to check out their other properties as well:






FACTS:  Located in Old City, Philadelphia


Dim Sum Sampler:  Chicken & Ginger, Shrimp, Vegetable, Edamame Dumplings served with a citrus-soy dipping sauce

Black Pepper Beef:  Wok Tossed Ribeye, Crispy Bird’s Nest


Having previously dined at Buddakan in New York, I found their Philly location to be reminiscent of a combination of TAO and Asia De Cuba (the original locations, also located in New York).  But, regardless, I really liked the ambience, along with my meal.

Tonight, we decided to share a dim sum sampler as an appetizer.  And, of the four different options to choose from, I’m actually hard pressed to select a favorite.  However, if I had to choose from top to bottom, the order would go as follows: edamame, chicken and ginger, shrimp, then vegetable.

As for my main course, I ordered the black pepper beef.  Served in a crunchy bird’s nest, this dish was extremely flavorful, generous in size, and very delicious.

In addition to the fact I’ve always enjoyed the food here, I’m particularly fond of the interior design as well.  That being said, and given the lounge-like ambience, I highly recommend checking this place out for either drinks or dinner.

QUICK TIDBIT: Be sure to check out all of Stephen Starr’s restaurants:

The Dandelion




FACTS:  Located in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia


Warm Roast Beef: Watercress Salad, Horseradish Mayonnaise, Beef Gravy, Sourdough Bread


An English-style gastropub located in the middle of Philadelphia?  With a touch of elegance, as well?  The Dandelion, which is yet another one of Stephen Starr’s ventures, serves both English fare and afternoon tea.  So, if you have a hankering for either, I highly recommend checking this place out.

We recently dined here for lunch.  Considering the ninety-degree temperature outside, I opted for a warm roast beef sandwich, served with watercress salad, instead of shepherd’s pie.  However, my go-to is usually the latter.  As expected, this sandwich did not disappoint, along with being a great alternative.  But, in all seriousness, can you ever go wrong with roast beef, gravy, and horseradish?

While one can certainly enjoy this pub any time of the year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d much prefer it during the cooler seasons, given some of the heavier menu options.  That being said, I’ll definitely be back for the shepherd’s pie, once we hit below fifty degrees.

QUICK TIDBIT: Be sure to check out all of Stephen Starr’s restaurants:



The Vedge Bar

Rutabaga Fondue: Today’s soft Pretzel, Yesterdays Pickles


The Dirt List

Fingerling Fries: Creamy Worcestershire


Hot Kitchen

Spicy Grilled Tofu: Gochujang, Edamame, Roasted Miso, Yuba Cracklin



Blueberry Cheesecake: Lemon Gel, Lavender-Poppy Ice Cream


FACTS:  Located in Washington Square West, Philadelphia


Given that this was my first venture into the world of fine vegan dining, the bar has now been set at an all-time high.  In fact, I found Vedge to be superb on every level.  And, in spite of being the carnivore that I am, not once, during any part of my meal, did I even notice the fact that this restaurant is completely animal free.

Wanting to try an entrée from every facet of the menu, I began with rutabaga fondue.  Served with warm and fresh pretzel bread, this dish was clearly a passage way into the gates of vegan heaven.  The fondue was light, yet ideal for dipping, and the bread itself was absolutely divine.

Yearning for something a bit more substantial than just vegetables as a side, I ordered the fingerling fries with creamy Worcestershire. Thankfully, this dish was as hearty as it was tasty.  So, not only were my needs fully met, but the creamy Worcestershire sauce was purely an added bonus.

For my main course, I selected grilled tofu.  And, despite the fact that I dislike tofu in any format other than grilled, I was pleasantly surprised to see it listed on the menu.  Resembling grilled salmon, the tofu was spiced to perfection, and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every bite.

Last, but not least, I ordered the blueberry cheesecake for dessert.  In addition to exceeding my expectations, it turned out to be one of the most delicious cheesecakes that I’ve ever tasted.  Furthermore, considering how rich and fabulous it was, I still can’t believe that no dairy products were used to make it.

In summation, I found the food to be exquisite.  Between the creativity, the beautiful presentations, and the overall taste, it was an experience worth repeating over and over again.  This place is a must!

QUICK TIDBIT: Be sure to check out their incredible menu: