There was that pandemic thing that put a kibosh on business travel.  Some hotels and hotel chains (looking at you Kimpton) slumped, starting with their customer experience department.  I mean, no customers so no customer service?  Or something wrong like that.  Others rose to the occasion.  The Umstead Hotel in Cary, NC rose to the occasion.  Well done Umstead!

First off, the hotel remembered that we have stayed on their property before.  They left a note.  They provided an excellent room.  The only problem was not a problem at all…that was that arrival was rushed due to late aircraft arrival and there was no time to appreciate the calm ritual of the umstead.  In the end, it all worked out.

After delivering a 6:30pm lecture, it was back to the Umstead and its world class restaurant, Herons, for dinner.  Just wow.  Excellent food.  Impeccable service.  Great company.  Dinner could not have been better executed.

Herons is still in pandemic mode

The host, software security professor Laurie Williams

The Prix Fixe dinner menu is world class, and fun too.  Elk, caviar, fois gras, and a cheese desert that was a blast.

Then it was up to 512 (a garden view balcony room) for some sleep on birthday eve.

512 bedroom. Very tasteful and comfortable.


The bar in the hall


Looking toward the balcony


An excellent bathroom featuring an NPS approved shower room.


The giant tub (alas, unused on this trip)


NPS was greeted with presents hidden away in our luggage.  Yay!  Birthday.  (NPS is 38 for those of you wondering.)


Foggy morning view


Looking over the “lake”


The Umstead

What else is there to do around Cary on your birthday?  Well there is Krispy Kreme.

Hot donuts NOW

And a visit to the NCSU lab.


A little too secure if you don’t have an ID card.

Evidence of bribery (see the table)

Then a VERY early dinner with Michael Rappa, who once again is always right about restaurant choice.  Stanbury is fantastic.

The perfect Negroni


Three birthdays in the corner


Happy birthday NPS

After dinner it was back to Cary for a nightcap at Mayton Inn‘s bar.  Fernet was available.  The waitress was a newb.

All in all, a great celebratory day with three renditions of the happy birthday song…all terrible.

Much brighter morning


The umstead entrance

A walk in the park was in order before flying back home.  Umstead State Park is built around an old Mill complex.  A nice warm day for a walk.



Hurray for a visit with bright young grad students!

Five showerheads and a fervent wish for an early return (or maybe often…or maybe both).


View from the 35th floor.  Just to the left of the big building in the middle you can see World Trade's new Freedom Tower in the distance.

View from the 35th floor. Just to the left of the big building in the middle you can see World Trade’s new Freedom Tower in the distance.

Ah New York city. It’s always a toss up whether to stay at the apartment or hit a NY Kimpton. This time we opted for the apartment.

Looking down on the city.

Looking down on the city.

The living room with a spectacular view.

The living room with a spectacular view.

We pretend that the showers are not built over a bathtub. Alas.

uh oh

uh oh

Some eating places to check out (mostly down past Washington Square). L’asso Pizza is an undiscovered gem just north of Little Italy. Great Italian style pizza. The Butcher’s Daughter is a quaint little crunchy granola juice bar. The Meatball Shop in the Village is a great place for lunch (good balls with a Buffalo Trace whiskey float to boot). Tamarind in Tribeca is fantastic upscale Indian worth the price.

On the cocktails and wine front, Ayza is a nice place for a glass of wine just around the corner from the apartment. The Brandy Library is an oasis for a drink and some live piano music almost any time.

The Gin Gin Mule (as concocted by Brandy Library)
2 oz gin (they used seagrams)
1.5 oz fresh ginger beer
.5 oz 1:1 simple syrup
.5 oz lime juice
3 mint leaves
splash of soda
Serve on the rocks in a collins glass.

A stop by Weather Up in Tribeca (which in the past has been top notch) after dinner at midnight was disappointing. They were “closed” and refused to make us a simple cocktail even though their hours supposedly go to 2am. Not accommodating in the services business? Done with buttheads like that. (Tuesday night 5.27 in case heads need to roll.)

All in all, the apartment is a great base of operations for a NY run. Take the acela and pick up some Krispy Kreme’s at Penn Station to import to Virginia!

If you are a careful reader of noplasticshowers, you may recall the very first blog entry ever (October 21, 2009). Way back when! What were we whining about then? A Marriott property foist on us by the Kilbourne. You see, some people will do most anything for points. Some people, but not us some people.

Here at the Ritz Carlton you might expect a glass shower, right? Like the ones in Charlotte. Sadly, Atlanta appears to be a hotel desert. And as such, even the Ritz (the Ritz!!) has plastic showers. Alas.

I do not like plastic showers. Really.

A good start in the tiny bathroom, but is that a plastic shower?!

A good start in the tiny bathroom, but is that a plastic shower?!

Queue YES Close to the Edge (yeah I know the title referenced Rush, what can I say?!)

I get up.


I get down.


Ah the high life in a high end hamster cage.


Never fear, there is an amenity that arrived as this diatribe was under construction. Did I say hamster? Eat up little hamster.

All your bar foods are come in BIG BIG bag.  With coke.

All your bar foods are come in BIG BIG bag. With coke.

Of course, Atlanta is a big city and there are plenty of great places to go. Dinner at South City Kitchen was relaxed and very nice with a supremely delicious pork BBQ appetizer. Drinks at 4th and Swift were surprisingly well-crafted by Gabriel. The only fly in the ointment is that Gabriel needs to relax about recipes and understand that every great drink will survive on its own in the light of day. Gabriel was fun at first, and then just plain green.

We concocted a Berryville Passage with Batavia Arrack (which I still need to procure for my bar), some homemade black walnut bitters, and an overly-smokey scotch. The new recipe is called the Peachtree Passage:
1.5 Batavia Arrack
.5 Dolin’s sweet vermouth
.5 Dolin’s dry vermouth
.5 Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash House Black Walnut bitters from 4th and Swift
1 dash Angustora

Wash a cocktail glass with smokey scotch. Shake. Flame a lemon peel over the drink. Drop in peel.

The next day started out right with a quick trip to dancing goats coffee (which would even meet jS criteria) on the way to Krispy Kreme!

The ultimate doughnut.

The ultimate doughnut.

No calories whatsoever.

No calories whatsoever.

The famous hot doughnuts now sign is on and the factory is running.

Proof that the cigital offices actually exist!

Cigital Atlanta

Cigital Atlanta

Night two was even better than the first with a superb dinner at Ecco where they have outstanding charcuterie and a great winelist. After dinner we went to Seven Lamps for the best mixology in Atlanta. Master barman Kevin Bragg created a trio of outstanding drinks, including this experimental beverage which we will call the Georgia Liberal:
2 oz Rittenhouse 100 Rye
.5 Punt et mes
.5 Kronan Swedish Punsch
.5 Amaro Cio Ciaro
1 dash hopped grapefruit bitters
orange peel

We will leave the Ritz in Atlanta with three showerheads, despair that Atlanta just can’t rise to the occasion, and this snippet of YES.

Down at the edge, close by a river.
Close to the edge, round by the corner.
Close to the end, down by the corner.
Down at the edge, round by the river.

Gorgeous ceiling in the Biltmore ballroom.

Gorgeous ceiling in the Biltmore ballroom.