The Zetter Townhouse, situated just behind the Zetter Hotel and home to one of the best cocktail bars in London, was the base of operations for some business and a nice pile of art.  NPS was put into room 6.

Art included, the Tate, some theater, and a concert.

The shower is not plastic, though climbing in and out of the enormous tub is a thing,  Perhaps some short stairs should be installed.

Room 6 could use a better wardrobe, and some updated less shabby furniture.  But all in all it is a nice place to spend a few days.

On our way to the Tate, we stopped by Ibérica Farringdon for a bite.

Our visit to the Tate Modern is documented here.

Of course a cocktail at the Zetter Townhouse rounded out the Thursday plan.  We keep reminding them what a Liberal is.

Then some business which included two very nice meals, one at Bocca di Lupo and an incredible lunch at Inko Nito.

A French dinner at Le Café du Marché was very good for London but would never fly in Paris.

Saturday afternoon was meant to start with ramen, but Mohonon was closed (fortunately that was remedied Sunday evening.  Suffice it to say that Bone Daddy just does not stack up.

Waiting on line might require a beer.

Some shopping at Varvatos cost everyone a pretty penny, but was surprisingly not awful.

We just had time for a brown meal at Hawksmoor before the theater.  Then it was off to see Lyonesse which was enhanced by some sugarless French 75s.

The play was quite good, a medical emergency nothwithstanding.

The next day included a run back to Soho to visit Etro.  And then some incredible classical music at the barbican.

Followed by real Ramen.  Mohonos is just so good…equal to Japan.

A nightcap at Boccas was not terrible.  But no Fernet in an Argentinean bar?!  What?!  A Pisco Sour (Peru?) would have to do.

All in all, four showerheads and a quick furnishings update required for the Zetter Townhouse.



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.

Then it was back to the city for ramen at Iza Ramen. Yes please. Just go there. Wow. Real ramen like the before times.

Iza Ramen, San Francisco

A nightcap at Churchhill, which is a great old school bar. They used to sell the antique collection bourbons for way under retail price…sadly, they have figured out how much to charge now.

The real thing at Churchhill


Finally, a late night with friends at 54 Mint. I really missed the energy of Jacques during the pandemic!

Then somehow it was Wednesday. We started with tacos at Underdog Tres, a romp in the Japanese garden, and a visit to the botanical gardens (the latter two in Golden Gate park).

Underdog Tres

We were joined by Dr.Chess.

Then after a brief respite at home, it was off to ABV for some world class cocktails where we finally met Chris in person.


We tried to magic our way into State Bird Provision. But no dice. So it was back toward home for some peruvian food at Fresca.


Then back to the Fireside. This time there were zero African princes around.

Thursday was reserved for Alameda, the beach, and a sunburn (?!). It was a beautiful day over there once we got over the confounded bridge.

Everyone assembled at Blackbird for pre-dinner drinks at six. Blackbird had just re-opened (like everywhere else), and the permanent staff was as great as always.


A deceivingly pink mescal concoction.

Then, just to put a crown jewel on the day we walked over to Izakaya Rintaro for a world-class dinner that was as good as anything in the before times. Excellent food, fun service and great friends. Yup.

After a last showing at the Fireside bar, the San Francisco visit came to a close.

See you soon!

And it was off to Sonoma bright and early Friday morning.

It’s Spring Break time again, and if Eli is in charge (he is), that means diving. So it’s off to the US Virgin Islands and St Croix for a Caribbean adventure. No wait, life is too slow here for that word. Um, visit? Relaxation racket? Who knows. It’s certainly not the city!

And that’s a good thing, mind you. The island is lush and green. The water is that striking blue that comes in many shades according to depth and coral. The roads are just as bad as they should be (rent a jeep), and driving is on the left.

View of the Cottages from the beach

View of the Cottages from the beach

The Cottages are located outside of Frederiksted, a sleepy little town on the west side. The west side beaches are very nice indeed. If you’re here for the diving, the cottages are an excellent target. Like any ocean front beach rental, things are dated in a charming way. And there is reasonable net, which is always good.

View FROM the cottages (coconut)

View FROM the cottages (coconut)

We chose both coconut and sylvia’s room for our stay. Coconut is a second floor efficiency with a kitchen and a tiny bathroom. Sadly, the shower suffers from low water pressure and that ’80s “your parents” design. But it does offer a spectacular view.

Hmm. Should we just not mention the shower?

Hmm. Should we just not mention the shower?

Then again, there is the view

Then again, there is the view



Sunsets are so nice on the west side of the island that people rate this particular one a 2 out of 10.


Of course, all is not perfect here in paradise. A few years back, the world’s second largest refinery (run by Hess) shut down abruptly, and 10,000 people lost their jobs and left the island. Hess left behind a massive ecological disaster in the way that only a large oil company can do. They shed a subsidiary and had it declare bankruptcy. Pretty awful Hess! Anyway, the island is still reeling from the after effect of that closure. Business now seems to have devolved to tourism only. And that is dragging the whole thing down market.

For example, just down the beach from the delightful cottages is this disaster of a prison for chickenshit tourists. Behind a barbed wire topped chain link fence. Astoundingly reeking of no class.

Prison for idiot tourists

Prison for idiot tourists

And there is this, which seems to invade with regularity. The money is great I’m sure, but the herds? Not so much.

Nooooo!  Not a cruise ship that holds 3000 people.

Nooooo! Not a cruise ship that holds 3000 people.

When the cruise ship is in town, everything opens and the streets are filed with vendors of shlock. Steel drum bands play. Tourists are quickly separated from their cash.

When the ship is out, the sidewalks roll up at 9 (well, at least the restaurants start cleanup mode and no longer serve food). More about that in a minute.

We’re here to dive, of course. And so our boat is a bit smaller.

Captain Kay drives the boat

Captain Kay drives the boat

N2 the Blue Dive Shop

N2 the Blue Dive Shop

NPS highly recommends N2 the Blue Dive Shop for some personal, friendly, and impeccable diving. Of our massive two shop sample, N2 the Blue is superior in all ways. (Our experience with Cane Bay Dive Shop was much looser, chaotic, and more random with a small chance of accidental death.) In particular as a newb myself, I really appreciated Haley Hendrickson’s teaching style. Learn from the best and avoid Darwin awards at all costs.

Haley (N2 the Blue)

Haley (N2 the Blue)

Underwater in St Croix

Underwater in St Croix

The diving is great (and relentless when you are with Eli). Our dives:
The Pier – excellent life and a great dive
Sprat Hole – turtle
Swirling Reef of Death – coral farm working on stag’s horn coral
Shallow Wrecks – three big boats
The Pier
The Jungle (north side) – a nice deep wall with Cane Bay
Pavilions (north side) – wall and coral garden with Cane Bay
The Pier at Night – wild in the dark
Armageddon – nice pile of debris with associated wildlife
Little Mill Point – shallow wall with much coral (turtle)
Eli did the Pier at night again

Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down

We’ve seen all sorts of everything: turtles, sharks (eating lion fish we killed), eels of all kinds, two kinds of lobster, many angel fish, crabs, seahorses, an octopus and more.

Haley also (N2 the Blue)

Haley also (N2 the Blue)


Lunch at Turtles Deli

Lunch at Turtles Deli

Rhythm at Rainbow

Rhythm at Rainbow

So on to food. Well, it’s an island. There is some OK, and there is some spectacularly bad. Lets work our way up from the bottom of the barrel.
Beach Side Cafe (Sand Castle) it is next to the cottages, but bad music and bad food
Paradise they may be the only ones open, but skip it and go hungry instead.
Rum Runners like your mall restaurant, only more Disney. nope.
And finally above the waterline.
Norma’s way local in a touristy way. fun bar. get a Wednesday burger.
Turtle’s Deli great sandwiches and cold beer. grumpy owners…or maybe just Yankee expats.
Pier 69 great burgers and seriously quirky staff.
Lost Dog a local dive with OK pizza and lots of characters
Rhythms lunch and/or way early dinner. bar fare.
Savant upscale-ish with great atmosphere and decent fare (good wine)
Zion Modern Kitchen real food, and an actual world class cocktail program


Frank Robinson at Zion Modern made these.
Mystery Rum Cocktail
2 oz Angostura 1824 rum
.5 oz passion fruit
.5 lime
.5 bay leaf simple syrup
3 dashes angostura orange bitters
stir down. meanwhile sour orange swath and 5 dashes of angostura bitters in glass. ice. strain drink in. float with blackstrap rum.

Mr. Robinson, I presume

Mr. Robinson, I presume

Experimental Gin Cocktail
1.5 oz bombay gin
.5 oz buddha’s hand infused bombay
1 inch think pineapple ring
.5 lime
splash st germaine
.5 simple syrup
tarragon sprig
muddle + pineapple juice in glass. top with ice. strain mix over ice.

On Friday we drove around in our jeep. Up the mountain, through the rain forest. The drive was beautiful. Everything was closed for Good Friday.




Rent a jeep from Centerline

Rent a jeep from Centerline



Last time we did an informal foodie experimental test set, Volt won hands down. This iteration, we find Volt neck and neck with Annisa up to the finish line where the crack staff at Volt pulls of a win by a headlength at the finish line.

Wow. Annisa (in the Village in NYC) is fantastic. Soup dumplings with fois gras? Yep. Delicious duck and stuffed pork. The work of Anita Lo is incredibly great. Love the wine list too with lots of fun stuff from Italy. Also a plus, the atmosphere is warm, welcoming and at the same time very precise. The only thing that needs work at Annisa is the bar program which lags pretty far behind the edge. (I called for a Corpse Reviver #2 and the lemon juice was squeezed sometime way before I had arrived at the restaurant. Might even have been concentrate.)

Volt, Bryan Voltaggio’s phenom restaurant in Frederick, MD is also fantastic food-wise. Of particular note on the tasting menu this outing:
MELON heirloom tomatoes from big white barn, pickled rinds of watermelon, shaved surryano ham from surry county virginia, fennel marinated in fresh whey and dressed with oil of arbequina olives

The melon treatment is particularly incredible. Both cantaloupe and watermelon vacuum sealed and compressed.

CHANTERELLE MUSHROOMS preserved ramps from this year’s crop, steel cut oats with kombu and brown butter, sea lettuces dressed with the pickle from the ramps, mushrooms roasted and glazed with an emulsion of beer and fresh yeast

foam! and buttery deliciousness.

PASTA BOLOGNESE calamari and bacon smoked with hickory, stewed with roasted tomatoes and kimchi of daikon radish, ricotta cheese and miso cavatelli with ink from the squid, grated parmigiano reggiano

This was my personal favorite. I am usually not a fan of squid ink, but Voltaggio can pull it off. The bolognese would make any nanna proud.

NUNAVUT CHAR slowly cooked in extra virgin olive oil, green cabbage shaved thin and slightly wilted, rye bread that has been toasted and smoked, mousse made from horseradish, broth from plum juice and dill

So tender.

The food is just amazing. Don’t let the off the beaten path thing fool you. But the service is what made our outing at Volt so great.

Zack started things out properly at the bar with some nicely crafted cocktails including the Cat’s Pajamas:
.25 Countreau
.5 Yellow chartreuse
.5 Brandy
.75 Suze
1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
Stir down. Serve up with a thick orange twist.

TJ the wine guy was so encyclopedic in his knowledge that we all learned something. What a joy to experience (well everything but the Gewürztraminer). The entire staff is not snobby at all, just knowledgeable and fun. Our waiter was also a blast, especially when after hearing about the latest two pigs we’re raising opined that we should call them “Mountain Dew” and “Spider Monkey” or maybe “brioche” and “biscuit.” Awesome. Real people, great food. You MUST go.

Volt Entrance (3a)

The best part of all was that the Volt thing happened spontaneously based on a gig I had in Frederick. Best excuse to blow all the gig money and then some that I have ever had! (Thanks to Michael for squeezing us in at the last minute.)

Well pickled okra anyway. In a martini. At circa 1922 which is a pretty good restaurant in Wilmington, NC, but nowhere near as good as they think they are. (The Dixie Grill is still the best thing in town.)

Okra martini (pickled) from Circa 1922

Okra martini (pickled) from Circa 1922

Okra beats this.

Rectangular building paying homage to parking lots and puddles.

Rectangular building paying homage to parking lots and puddles.

But you already knew how I felt about the Wilmington Hilton. Somebody build a real hotel down here!!

Preferably one without bathroom consoles like this.



One showerhead for Wilmington Hilton. Only stay here if you have to.