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Oh the Kimpton of yore, how we miss it.  After the IGH acquisition, the properties have gone completely corporate.  No brand left at all.  No personality.  No staff that loves their jobs.  So sad.  Our last two Kimpton attempts in NY sucked (see https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/10/17/quick-hit-in-nyc-hotel-indigo-is-very-corporate/ and https://noplasticshowers.com/2022/05/08/back-in-new-york-the-muse-hotel-ihg/).

But the good news is that some of the properties have the old magic.  Like the Zelos in San Francisco that used to be the Palomar.  This was once one of our favorite hotels.  And maybe it will be again.

We remember fondly talking to Mike Defrino about adding good bars to the properties (using Bourbon and Branch as one of the examples of what people will pay for a cocktail).  Jacques Bezuidenhout was hired, and Dirty Habit was born under the direction of Brian Means.

We remember the battle of the Palomars.

At what os now the Zelos, we were assigned 712 (which is a nicely renovated version of a room we’ve stayed in back in the Palomar days).  Great room.

In fact, enough space to conduct a zoom meeting with multiple attendees in the same room. (Don’t ask.)


The bathroom could be bigger.  But it works.  The shower is over a tub, but the nice glass doors make it all OK.

Though we arrived late, there was time for a slightly adjusted Boulevardier before bed.

And then a Cloudbreak (from Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Philly).  This is still a magical cocktail.  Make one!

Though it arrived late, a welcome note did arrive (along with a nice bottle of wine that I gave to madou since I was not checking my bag.  Thanks for that Ben!

This is not your usual hotel art.  Love it.

Breakfast at Cafe de la Presse is always recommended.  At the Chinatown gate.


And for fun?  How about Wildhawk, followed by ABV, followed by the Good Good Culture Club all with a bunch of great friends?  Yes please.

So, a Negroni or a Breakfast Negroni??  Jacques, which should it be?


Maybe Suzu (who has become quite famous, aparently) knows.

While at ABV, tequila (or mezcal).

Thee guys…

Good Good was very good.  What a treat to be in San Francisco for 32 seconds!  Merry Christmas all.

Five showerheads and a big thumbs up for the hotel zelos.  Looking forward to returning.

Way back when, I stayed in the Estancia La Jolla MANY times for MANY years.  I have some very fond memories of my time there.  Since we were on a quick hit to Qualcomm, it was time to revisit and see how things are going.

The Christmas Nisse was present at the front desk.  My dude, you are a long way from Norway!

The thing about room 390 is that it is generic.  But the other thing is that the construction is substantial.  Heavy, wide doors.  Things that keep noise out.  It’s true that the architecture is boring, but it is also built properly to last.

Sadly, the shower tub thing.  But the tub is low and is very wide.  Nonetheless, the hotel needs to put in some glass.

Could be anywhere. Get this, there is a clock!  LOL.

But its not!  It’s La Jolla.  And there is a balcony.

Even in December, everything is green.

A fantastic after lunch coffee post meeting.

And possible one of the worst Negronis ever.  The airport bartender measured mediocre ingredients just so and then added a shot of Angostura!  LOL.  What?!  We had a chat.

Extruded ice.  Shitty gin. A dry peel improperly squeezed.  And an extra shot of bitters.  San Diego airport Negroni.

 

Anyway, four showerheads and warm Christmas thoughts for Estancia La Jolla.

Three tacos in Pheonix

December 18, 2022

When United fucks up ops, they do it spectacularly.  NPS was headed to phoenix for a meeting.  The four hour flight delay (equipment related on a route that has no other backups) caused us to land after the meeting was over.  Just ridiculous.

So we did a post meeting rendez-vous and headed to Scottsdale for a taco.

I almost forgot.  Dulles was all dressed up for the holidays.

And it was a complete zoo.  Security was packed.  This is the TSApre line.

Scottsdale fountain with a Belgian photo bomb.

Tourist tacos for the win.  And a margerita too, of course.

We admired the lights and did some sock shopping in town.

FAST

SLOW

 

Finally we swung by the Westin in Tempe for a fantastic Negroni.  Who knows why, but that hotel bar is one of the best in town?!

Anyway, United still sucks.

 

What was to be a long weekend in the city shrunk down to one night when business did its usual thing of melting away.  NPS stayed on the lower east side on somewhat of a whim.  The verdict?  Meh.

Thing is, Madou had no idea that we weren’t in midtown.  So we shlepped up there for sushi at Sushi by Bou.  Which was hilarious and definitely worth the subway time.

The place is tiny, so make a reservation.  Immediately after coffee, it was back downtown for our meetings, and then back to midtown for dinner at Freemans.  Dinner was great.

But skip the rice pudding fad!  LOL.  Ride pudding is way too filling to catch on.

After dinner, the plan was to wedge into PDF, but the hot dog place was being its persnickety self.  So instead we headed to Amor Y Amargo for some fantastic cocktails.  We made up an experimental cocktail called the McGillicutty.

The Indigo was generic and boring.  All of the Kimpton magic has dispersed.

The shower is not plastic.

The lower east side is close to some stuff, we guess.

NPS doesn’t remember the room number.  Not returning.

Back to EWR you go (in an early Uber).

The United club is all new and fancy, but the flights are still delayed.

All told, three showerheads and no more strikes for Kimpton.  Anybody have a good boutique hotel chain to offer?

 

 

Ah Kimpton, you’ve become so corporate.  Such a great hotel chain ground down by middle management cost cutting and the boredom of crank turning.  Dang.  We remember the old days, yes we do.  They are never coming back.

Anyway, getting to Texas on United was not so bad even in double masks.  The flight was very sparsely populated, though it is a longish one.  Austin is a great city to visit.  Or is it a town?  Kind of hard to tell.  Here’s the story of our brief stay at Hotel Van Zandt.

The only pair of actual cowboy boots at the hotel when we were there happened to be ours.

First of all, IHG has forgotten everything about what NPS likes.  Just for the record, we like high floors, certain kinds of pillows, and rooms with no plastic showers.  We have also become accustomed to welcome notes from the GM, delicious amenities, sparkling water, and sometimes even a craft cocktail greeting us in the room from a barkeep hired by Jacques.  Not this time.  Even though the Kimpton twitter dwarf (they used to be fairies, but corporations) was given the heads up, not one bit of prep was done.  Kind of astonishing, really.

So NPS paid a pretty penny for an excellent king spa room with a view, and was given a plastic bottle of water at checkin by the Assistant Manager who had obviously not read our secret file in preparation for our arrival.  Hell, there probably isn’t a secret file anymore.

Room 701 is a great room style category.  But the floor?  Not a high one.  The amenities and water?  Nope. And the “lake view” is mostly a dusty construction site surrounded by homeless encampments.  Seriously.  Every city we’ve visited lately has a massive housing problem.  What is wrong with this country?

The bathroom was awesome.  Great tub (which we used a bunch) and a nice glass shower.

Not plastic

 

Tub with a view (that cuts both ways)

 

Sink area

The king size bed is surrounded by a bank of windows on two sides.  The view will one day be better.

Given our late arrival sometime just after 8pm, we headed for a drink to Geraldine’s on the fourth floor.  It was a Saturday night and the unmasked Texas crowd was dense.  After ordering an outstandingly made Negroni (what ice!  what ingredients!) we opted for dinner.  Dinner was delicious, service was smart and snappy, and all was well with the world.  There was a band.  They were OK.

Negroni featuring Botanist gin and Antica Formula vermouth…a house favorite

 

Behind the glass

Sadly the restaurant was not open for breakfast during our stay.  Instead there is a starbucks knockoff cafe on the ground floor with a microwave.  Not the sign of a great hotel, guys.  Frankly, the place feels more like a Marriott than a Kimpton.  No human touch and no magic.

Sunday was devoted to fun without a plan.  Brunch at Fixe was absolutely stellar.  Great Bloody Mary’s and cinnamon roll biscuits.  Fantastic food and friendly Texas service.  We took our time.

Bloody Mary of the highest caliber at Fixe

 

Hard to describe how delicious this was

 

The famous deviled eggs

 

Shrimp and grits with some garlic kale and a poached egg

In a great mood and in weather befitting Spring (60 degrees), we headed to South Congress for some idle shopping.  Our only real destination was Heritage Boot Company.  Though we got no pictures, we did manage to pick up a knife for my kilt and three pairs of handmade boots.  We even had a margarita of sorts with “Mr. Avocado.”  Great people, great boots, and a down home Texas vibe.  (Thanks Kimber.) NPS hears tell that once you buy one pair you are on a slippery slope to ten.  We shall see.

View down Congress toward the state house

 

Coffee and people watching at Jo’s Cafe

We did manage to singlehandedly support the American economy with our credit cards.  And then it was time for a margarita and some music at Half Step.  The margaritas are on tap.  We were served by Nick Cage himself.

And that band.  Three blind fellows joined by two sighted musicians and a heap of funk.  These were real Austin professionals.

Have a listen for yourself.

 

 

About the time we extracted we were late for our dinner reservation at Canje.  Dinner was excellent.  The jerk chicken was hotter than hell.  The drinks were fun.  The vibe was casual.

Seated at the bar (our choice)

 

An emergency clothespin

 

Jerk chicken that will blow your mouth off

Really it would be hard to ask for a better Sunday in Austin.

Monday was a work day with a working lunch at Qi.  Get the soup dumplings.

Part of the late afternoon meeting happened at the Proper hotel.  This place is interesting but just a little too artificial after an hour in the lobby.  The music loop may kill you if the extruded ice doesn’t.  Dinner was slated for upstairs at la piscina ceviches and fajitas.  Our hosts are enamored with their fajitas.  They were (as Sammy says) pretty not bad.

The highlight of the evening Monday night was a quick stop by the Roosevelt Room.  What a place.  Cavernous and somehow still intimate.  Superb cocktails served with whimsy and great care.  One of the top bars in the world for sure.  NPS had a paper plane (with a paper plane) and a Liberal.  Yup.  Amer Picon in the house.  We seem to have lost our party all night energy during the pandemic, especially after a full day of working in person.  So we’ll have to go back.  Thanks for the hospitality Justin.

The paper plane with a paper plane

 

Yet another emergency clothespin

 

The list is first class

 

A Liberal in Austin

Well, Austin, we will definitely be back.  We’ll probably buy some more Heritage boots.  We’ll definitely have a few more drinks at the Roosevelt Room.  But we’ll stay at the Driskill.  Three showerheads for the Hotel Van Zandt where you get what you pay for (and nothing more).

Being back on the road again is so good!  And we’re not even stuck in the good old US of A.  Oslo even!  When in Olso, NPS always likes to use the Hotel Christiania Teater as the base of operations.  Heck, we even know our favorite room (620) which not only has an interesting shower but also features non-rectangular architecture.

Be forewarned, however, that the “getting into Norway” thing at this phase of the global pandemic is non-trivial.  The rules are tricky and they don’t have things set up for Americans to visit.  The problem is the EU covid passport requirement.  Since the good old US of A has its own digital records system (times 50, one for each state) there is no way to get the QR code signed by the EU authority.

What we did to prepare was download digital records from the Virginia Department of Health for vaccines (NPS is triple vaxxed) and then store them in the Common Health app on our phone.  We did the same thing with covid test results generated the day that we flew (get them done less than 24 hours before entering Norway).  Make sure you practice pulling up the records and displaying the QR code when the police ask you for it at the gate of your arriving plane!  And practice being super nice and explaining, “well, these are the records my government makes available.”

That’s right, even though we were flying in through the EU and had been admitted into Germany with our records with no issue at all, the police met the EU-origin plane in Oslo and asked all passengers for passports and vaccination/testing documents.  After ten minutes of “sweating it” in the hall, we were admitted.

Getting to the hotel from the airport is a breeze.  Just take the express train in from the airport and go one stop past the central station.  Even though we arrived a bit too early for checkin (which is a 3pm), the wait for room cleaning final check was only 10 minutes.

Waiting in the lobby to check in

 

The lobby is well appointed, comfortable, and quirky fun

Then it was up to 620 to shower off the metal tube and start the attempt to stay up until at least 20:00.

Here is the bathroom from 620, built next to one of the cupola rooms.  The shower is over a huge stone tub inside the shower room area.  Very not plastic, and a very nice shower indeed.

 

Here’s the rest of the room.

A small sitting entry way

 

The main living room (not at all rectangular

 

The very cool cupola window

 

Another cool window

 

The king size bedroom dominated by the bed and a closet.

Covid has put a small damper on the bar at the hotel, which is still good but is not as relaxing and excellent as it used to be.  We’ll hope that gets back to normal when the pandemic is over.

Breakfast is fantastic.  A beautiful room, a machine that makes fresh orange juice, excellent espresso drinks, and, well, just a great spread.  Sneaking in for breakfast would be a good move.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.  First we had to stay up.  So we started at the bar with an arbitrarily constructed not very good Negroni (how can you fuck that one up?!), and moved on to an Indian restaurant in search of spicy food.

Seeing my friend Gøran was a great pleasure.  The food at The Great India was plenty hot, the wine was good, and they made a much better Negroni.  Soon it was time to slink off to bed and crash for 10 hours straight.

The next day, after an excellent breakfast and a visit with the orange smashing machine, it was time for some work in Oslo.

And then it was out into Oslo with friends old and new.  We started at Torggata Botaniske, a very nice cocktail bar where they were shooting a movie scene as we arrived.

A crazy Sazarac variant with absinthe foam (a bit too sweet and not hot enough for NPS)

 

Sami shall on marie

We had an excellent but way too risky dinner at Habibi.  Absolutely outstanding food, but crowded and stuffy.  No venues in Oslo are requiring vaccination proof (though the double dosed vaccination rate is 87.4%).  In Oslo on the street it feels like the pandemic is over.  It is most assuredly not over.

Then it was a visit to the always outstanding Himkok.  We were once again pressed to finagle the door.  Done.

 

Beetroot

Our obligatory bottle of Aquavit was delivered.

All in all Hotel Christiania Teater remains a five showerhead kind of place.  Tops on the Oslo list! Can’t wait to be back when the pandemic is actually over.

 

The thing about Bloomington is that though almost everybody at IU is vaccinated (in theory), none of the places in town ask for proof of vaccination.  Fortunately, masks are required.  But not when you’re eating or drinking.  Things seem a little lax.  NPS bets that one day pandemic processes will be more like NY or Portland.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The old IU stomping grounds

Bloomington is an oasis of intellectual goodness in a sea of rural America.  This has its positive aspects.  The Midwest is a thing.  For example, though NPS has stayed at the Grant Street Inn countless bazillions of times through the years, this trip happened to coincide with an important big ten football game.  That meant that every hotel within 150 miles was filled to the gills with football fans.  Heck, even the Dean’s Advisory Council arranged to send people to the game. No sportsball for us though.  Instead, we focused our energy on intellectual pursuits.

The upshot was that we needed a place to stay Friday and Saturday nights.  Fortunately our friend (and thesis advisor of yore) Rob and his partner Katy put us up in their gorgeous house on Lake Monroe where we kayaked, fossil hunted, and even tried an e-foil.  Honestly, the weekend was the highlight of the trip with excellent conversation, shared art, baking, and fun in the lake. Real life, well lived.

View from the deck

 

Our fearless leader paddles with his feet

 

The best fossil (which also caused the bag to switch guardians)

 

 

Hiking the ridge at scout camp

 

The take: fossils and geodes.

 

The best geode

 

We kayaked on Saturday which was cooler but not raining.  E-foil experimenting was left for Sunday in wet suits.  The weather was shockingly warm for mid-October.

 

We ended up staying at the Grant Street Inn Thursday and then again Sunday and Monday.  NPS chose the usual room (number 30).

Room 30 has a bed

 

Room 30 is quiet with a nice bathroom

You can read more about the Grant Street Inn elsewhere on NPS.

The DAC meeting included a tour of the new Luddy AI Center.  One day it will be filled with students.  For now, it is still being set up.

The VR room of the Luddy School AI Center

 

Tuning the system

Of course, Indiana places a big emphasis on breakfast (at least outside the confines of Rob and Katy’s house).  Here is one example.  This is a light breakfast.

While in town, we made a couple of visits to C3.  One with Kay and one just ourselves.  The cocktails are (still) excellent.

A dughof sighting (at the Spoon of course).  This was a delightful lunch as usual.


 

The icing on the cake of our Bloomington run was a visit to the IU Art Museum which has been completely renovated and updated.  Going to a museum chock full of history certainly puts things in perspective.  9000 years from now, we wonder if some off-planet Earth museum will have one of our everyday items on display.

Read about our visit to the museum here.

IU Art Musem

Fin.

On only the third airplane ride post Covid vaccination, it was across the country to Portland in two hops.

Queen Tibia presided at home in our absence.

Dulles was mostly empty on a Friday late morning.

The purple chair

An uneventful set of flights (through Denver) was marred only by the masks everyone must wear. We can’t wait for a vaccine mandate for air travel. It’s coming! HUGE KUDOS to united airlines for requiring all of their employees to be vaccinated. Smart.

In fact, Portland is a bit of a study in what is to come in the rest of the country. Vaccination proof is required in bars and restaurants. Even seedy little dive bars like the Jack London Review where we had an excellent time seeing mononeon. But I am getting ahead of myself.

First it was a quick run by Hertz to pick up a crappy rental car and head to the Kimpton Riverside. Well, it used to be a Kimpton. Now it is an IHG thing. We knew from last time to book room 325.

325 at the Riverside Portland has a fireplace

 

The living room

 

The bedroom with a view of the river and the park

The riverside has only two rooms with glass showers. We did not secure either. So we got this…

Horror of horrors! A shower curtain. We’ll give them a pass since it was fabric and not plastic.

 

Lauren Groff’s excellent new book The Matrix was apparently designed for this table

We had a negroni. We devoured some oysters. We saw old friends and their spunky ultra-intelligent progeny. We ended up at mononeon where we watched a show that seemed like a Prince show from the early ’90s. Less charisma, but just as much crazy energy and a collection of interesting cats including:

  • A black female goddess drummer with the biggest afro ever (she was the real band leader and a great singer)
  • Two white guys who played OK leads while hiding behind a pole
  • A DJ who started things off
  • Two rappers, one of whom was utterly obsessed with getting everyones’ hands in the air
  • A sporadically present trumpet player
  • A 20 year old lanky stripper who was having trouble fending off the lesbians in the front
  • A token white girl who came on late with a guitar she halfheartedly strummed while she sang (her hair was up in that Prince entourage kind of way and she must have been wearing lingerie)
  • Oh yeah, and mononeon himself who apparently convened this group and then got so high he forgot it was his show

Mononeon in his chair

The music was great, the dancing was contagious, and the most fun thing was watching the young one dance uninhibitedly.

 

That lasted until 3am EST which was way past everyone’s bedtime.  Super fun.

Then it was Saturday morning and time for a great breakfast at Cheryl’s.  The beignet alone was worth the wait.  We bought a Patagonia jacket while waiting because we heard that you can’t really leave Portland unless you buy one.

Then the highlight of the trip!  Three hours in Powells.  We bought 30 books, some bags to carry them on the plane in, and a shirt.  World’s best bookstore hands down.  MUST RETURN.

Every time

We love Powell’s so much.  Everyone in all of the other towns is very jealous of your book thing Portland.

24 (of 30) books

After a brief respite on the courtyard terrace, there was time left for the Saturday market (always worth a visit if your tie dye supply is low or you need a crystal).

Contemplating Portland traffic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was time for dinner.  We chose Normandie, which was a bit green but good.  Hip and relaxed, this place needs to get its A game on.  Before dinner cocktails at Hey Love were better than dinner.  We both enjoyed a Loprinzi’s Mule:

  • .5 cynar
  • .5 amaro cio ciaro
  • 2 oz don q añejo
  • ginger syrup
  • tarmarivel syrup (tanarind paste, cinnamon, grapefruit rind, sugar)
  • soda in a collins on the rocks

    Loprinzi’s Mule at Hey Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of a sudden it was Sunday.  We started out late with a brunch at Olympia Provisions.  My vegetarian companion was not amused, but I was.  So we headed out to get some juice and ended up buying cabinet pulls for The Stick instead.

Portland has a huge homeless population, and it is evident all over the city.  Beater campers, tents with patches and multiple tarps, lots of garbage.  The United States has fallen short of many of its citizens, and you can see that in Portland first hand.  Late stage capitalism on the streets.

Don’t tell Romey, but these were actually really damn good

Next it was off to the Portland Art Museum, which frankly you can skip. Mediocre at best.  Plan to spend less time than you think.

Some shopping at Wildfang got us moving toward Japanese Gardens which were so crowded we bailed and drove straight to the Kennedy School to check in.  Room 113 is great.

Of course as hip and fun as it is, the Kennedy School still feels like 1997 in the rooms.  Time to update!  Especially please replace the beds.

ALERT: THIS SHOWER IS PLASTIC

We had a drink in the courtyard while working on our dinner plans.  Portland decided that two days without rain was anathema.  The rain came.  And it wasn’t kidding.  But we borrowed some umbrellas and headed back to town.

A visit to the Teardrop Lounge was fabulous as always.  (You don’t need a reservation, but you do need a great attitude.). A Raffles Singapore Sling was in the cards.

Then a fantastic dinner at Takibi.  Delicious, modern, and very Japanese.

Takibi

 

A superb drinks menu

It was still raining on Monday morning when we got up early to prep for a business meeting.  It must be the rain that caused us to eat such a huge breakfast at the Kennedy School.  Surely.

After a rainy morning talking about ML and security, we enjoyed lunch at Southpark Seafood with some new friends who turned us on to Betsy and Iya, a fantastic boutique jeweler and clothier.  Hard not to get some stuff there!

Then the Japanese Garden in the pouring rain.  A magical place and far less crowded once the witches all melted down.

Finally it was back to the Kennedy School to catch Pig in one of the coolest places to see a movie anywhere.  We had burgers and watched the show.

Negroni in the hall

 

Our seats for the show

 

One more gigantic breakfast (yes it was still raining) and it was off to the airport for our quick flight to Dulles.

A fantastic visit to Portland.  Almost like the before times.

Four showerheads is the max for both Riverside Portland and the Kennedy School.  Does Portland even have glass showers anywhere?

How exactly do you get back on the horse after a year of not even being in the barn? Or remembering you’re on a farm? Or much of anything? Well, we’re well on our way to finding out. In all honesty the first post pandemic trip (to Mobile, Alabama) was so shocking that we skipped the blogging aspect entirely. Culture shock, people shock, and total documentation whiff. Great trip…but so rusty.

Here we are in California visiting friends we have not seen in just over two years. Dang. Actual humans not in our pod! We really missed them.

The first order of business was getting on an airplane. And of course, United was the default choice. We took a look at the trips put in deep freeze way back in February 2020, pulled one out of the freezer, and thawed it out. Other than the mask mandate, things are pretty much the same on a cross country B787 flight. The waffle thing was terrible. I mean serve Eggos for goodness sake.

The coolest thing about coming to California from Virginia has always been how much time you get back on the way out. By flying at 7:30am, not only is Dulles completely empty and easy to navigate in the morning, arrival at SFO happens around 9:30am.

It was off in an airport taxi (SF cabs STILL suck) for a tag in at Doug and Laura’s new house in the city near Golden Gate park. What a find! The showers are not plastic, the dogs are friendly (if a bit stinky) and the friends are priceless.

Dog of the slightly less stinky than the other one variety. Louis likes to hop up on the bed.

Lunch at Crepevine was a little too huge. The fries are really good.

Then it was over the bridge to Oakland for some BIML business with Open Philanthropy. This bridge thing was to become a recurring theme on the San Francisco part of the trip. Then of all places Ruby Hill for a friendly business visit with Neil and some delicious sushi.

Neil has a new house. It gives a tour of itself. We opened the very first bottle of wine in the new house…an NPS honor. Sushi was ordered and served.

The neighborhood dive nearest to Doug and Laura’s is called the Fireside. The bartenders are friendly, and the drinks are, well, I had fernet every time, so who knows how the drinks are. If you are lucky, you will be privileged enough to buy a beer for a Nigerian prince. Or maybe just someone from Rhode Island.

Our fearless leader in Sonoma

Tuesday was an all day run up to Sonoma with Jacob. We started with some oysters at Tony’s Seafood. Amazingly, it rained on us. But that was OK, because the big tent kept us dry and boy does California need the rain.

Oysters at Tony’s

After lunch (man was that bread good), it was up to Ridge Winery on mostly side roads. The drive was fast and beautiful. The sky began to dapple blue and soon the blue leaked into the clouds and covered the sky as we worked north.

Ridge is a great place to sit on a beautiful day and sip good wine from old vines. Delightful and recommended.

Ridge set a high bar, and one that Mazzocco could not reach. Great decor there, but nope on all other fronts.