Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.


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A Decade of Fine Dining at Capistrano in Valletta, Malta

On my first night in Valletta as a Maltese culinary abecedarian, I devoured a three-hour, eight-course dinner at Legligin Wine Bar. Instantly hooked on Maltese food, I spent the next week eating my way through this small country that’s big on flavors. And it didn’t get much better than at Capistrano, where, over the course of the past 10 years, the flawless quality and presentation of the food has been expertly paired with the sharp, perfectly paced service and an attractive décor. Read more >

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Leunig’s Bistro & Café: “The Panache of Paris and the Value of Vermont”

Conceived of by an architecture student, Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont, brought a touch of Europe to New England. This brick-paved pedestrian-only strip in the heart of the city draws about three million visitors annually to its shops and restaurants, fairs and festivals. At the center of it stands Leunig’s Bistro & Café, a Parisian-style eatery that opened in 1980 with an espresso machine and strains of Edith Piaf, and that has evolved into one of the city’s finest restaurants. Read more >


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Miami’s Nod to Great Tuscan Food

I had already enjoyed an excellent Cuban meal at Havana 1957 and a wonderful Argentinean dinner at PM Buenos Aires just a few blocks away from my hotel in the Brickell area of Miami, Florida. As I scoured the same neighborhood for another restaurant the next night, I found myself in Mary Brickell Village, a little collection of shops and dining options a couple of blocks south of the Miami River. Every restaurant seemed to be playing music, loudly, but pumping house beats were not exactly conducive to the pleasant meal that I was searching for. So I found the quietest of the group, upscale Toscana Divino, and serendipitously stumbled upon the city’s outstanding contribution to Italian cuisine. Read more >


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San Chez Bistro: Stellar Spanish Tapas in Grand Rapids, Michigan

After the terrifically bizarre blatherskite stumbled out of Divani, the pleasant bar where I was enjoying a glass of Bowen’s Harbor semi-dry Riesling, produced in Michigan, I shared a good laugh over her antics with the bartender and the woman whose ear she had been chewing for a while. During the conversation that ensued, I broached the topic of restaurant recommendations here in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan. They offered several suggestions, but the one that kept popping up was San Chez Bistro, only a couple of blocks away. Heeding their advice, I popped into San Chez the following night for dinner. And I’ve been recalling it fondly ever since. Read more >


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Custer’s First Choice: Sage Creek Grille

The small city of Custer, South Dakota, served as my base for exploring the region’s Black Hills National Forest and the treasures within its boundaries: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, one of the world’s 10 most beautiful drives, and two of the world’s top 10 caves and caverns. Once I returned to the town at night, dinner was never more than a little walk from my hotel, and one of the best I had was at Sage Creek Grille, an unpretentious little place where you can contemplate which pieces of artwork you’d like to take home as you enjoy your evening meal. Read more >


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Sampling a Fantastic Cross-section of Latin American Cuisine

When I was on weeklong vacation in San Diego for the first time and ended up having dinner at the same restaurant a second time because the first time was so spectacular, I knew somebody was doing something right. Case in point: Berta Utreras, chef and owner of her eponymous restaurant who has been achieving unforgettable results for 26 years. Ever since then, I’ve been insisting that anyone visiting San Diego must frequent this pan–Latin American establishment that will leave them hankering for more. Read more >


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Excellent Roman Cuisine Where Julius Caesar Was Murdered

Da Pancrazio, RomeJust a block or two from where I was staying in Rome, the Hotel Teatro di Pompeo, I spent a couple of hours developing a voracious appetite by strolling through the fantastic farmers market in the Campo de’Fiori. Endless forms of pasta, bottles of limoncello, and the freshest eggplant, tomatoes, strawberries, and olives I’ve ever seen provided visual stimulation for my salivary glands, encouraging thoughts of dinner. The aromas from the cheese stand made me want to change careers and become a fromager, and a generous free tasting of all kinds of spreads, from sage to walnuts with mushrooms to sweet red pepper, prompted me to start searching for the nearest place to dine. The restaurants all around the campo looked appealing but a little touristy, so I exited the square directly into the adjacent little Piazza del Biscione, where I stumbled upon Ristorante da Pancrazio—home of fantastic food, on the site of one of the world’s most infamous assassinations. Read more >