November 23, 2015
We’re back at a Kimpton, and you know how you can tell? Warm greetings by super friendly front desk staff on a cold day, an amenity that includes a cocktail and some charcuterie, and personal notes. All is well in Karma-land. (It does help to have Steph pulling strings and Thomas Fraher on the case.)
We were psyched to try the Carlyle, one of the newest additions to the Kimpton in DC family. DC is a big city and the Kimpton properties reflect that from the upscale George and Palomar, to the more modest Donovan and Carlyle with the quirky Helix somewhere in between. The Carlyle has the added benefit of being close to Dupont Circle.
We’re way spoiled, so you know which end of the food chain we like. But we also like trying new things! We especially like to try new things when we’re one smidgen from our inner circle status. The plan is for this visit to eek us over the finish line.
We’re in room 722 which is one of the King rooms with a hilarious little kitchenette. We won’t be boiling any hot dogs this trip, but you never know. DC has a fine restaurant scene these days.
Anyway, this is a nice little pod for a quick business trip into the city. For a weekend away, I would move up the Kimpton foodchain to something more fancy pants.
Speaking of food, Fiola Mare on the Potomac less than two miles from the Carlyle is very good indeed. Italian seafood with excellent old school cuisine and a great atmosphere. Our table with a view was very nice indeed as was the Napolitano waiter. Salute!
We started and ended the evening at the Riggsby. Devilled eggs and jalapeño tots with a Vieux Carré were a perfect beginning. Returning after dinner we had some hot tea and a Fernet or two.
All around, an excellent evening. Now if only that overzealous housekeeper did not try to clean the room at 9am!
We rate the Carlyle four out of five showerheads. Above average and well worth a visit.
November 19, 2015
For whatever reason, NPS had never set foot in Rhode Island before this trip. Turns out that Providence is a nice little town with plenty to offer. And it’s only two hours drive from the work gig spawning this trip! Woo hoo.
The Dean Hotel is a hipster collective in the under construction middle part of the city. Walkable to lots of good stuff. Design plays first fiddle at the Dean, and the sensibility is Euro-sparse.
My room was 415. Getting up there with gear takes some doing due to the quaint little “LIFT” which is easy to operate only if you are from the 1800s.
The bathroom and the bedroom in 415 share the same sparse sensibility. The bed is comfortable if you actually spend any time in it!
It is always interesting to contrast a Kimpton welcome with other places. Kimpton wins every time.
Dinner on night one was at the exceptionally good Red Fin Crudo. Everything was outstanding though the service can use a bit more training about when to not make stuff up. (It is OK not to know, dude. Just please don’t pretend. Mansplaining sprouts to an organic farmer? LOL.) Best quail NPS has ever eaten. Highly recommended.
Next stop was the Eddy bar. Nice little establishment but noisy and crowded. We found a table in the back. Drinks were well made. Even had a Punsche going. Nothing stood out after our meal.
Back to the Dean for 3 hours of sleep before a drive to Connecticut. Ouch!
When I stopped in to snag my credit card the next day (long story) the barman’s behavior was ridiculous. Sometimes the hipster thing requires a nice punch in the nose.
Lunch at Ken’s Ramen was just what the doctor ordered. Fantastic all around. Cash only for serious noodles.
After an afternoon on the farm, a quick homemade German sausage at Faust was workaday. The Space is trying to be like a beer garden and failing through sheer sparse design that is just way too clean. Reboot!
On the other hand, the Magdalenae Room was great. Super bartender who was fun to chat with.
Cocktail whose name we forget
1.5 Smokey mezcal
.5 carpano bianca
.5 giffard ginger (need some of this! grapefruit too!!)
.5 yellow chartreuse
Stir down. Put ground black pepper into bottom of small cup. Strain.
All told, the swing through Rhode Island was great. Four showerheads, a new elevator, and some more space to the Dean.
November 15, 2015
The Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail ruined by many a bad bar. There are two schools of Old Fashioned making out there. Here at NPS, we’re from the muddling school as you will see. This is a fantastic drink for a Fall day. You’ll need a muddling stick.
The Old Fashioned
2 oz bourbon (we’re using Bowman’s Small Batch here)
orange wheel slice
2 luxardo cherries
4 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned bitters
2 t simple syrup
Slice an orange wheel and put it into your glass. Add two cherries, the bitters and the simple syrup. Muddle. Add 2 oz of bourbon. Stir. Add ice. Top with soda. Put in an extra cherry if you like cherries!
A delicious drink for the Fall in front of a fire.
November 13, 2015
Las Vegas comprises equal parts Disney, Porn, and Walmart Shoppers. Pretty much three things that suck in their own ways. Combine them, and they triple suck. So whenever we are forced to come to Vegas, we do what we can to wiggle out of it.
One tactic is to use pricing to dissuade Vegas trips. You can set the price to HIGH (which I do), but the problem is that HIGH sometimes is “the way it is” and there is no avoiding a trip to Vegas using rational grounds.
Here we are. And this time we’re at the huge, modern Aria complex. Filled with smoke and Walmart shoppers trying to up their fine dining capability. Really. Just. Awful. Cows go moo. Cows eat grass. And they poop in their own food.
NPS finds itself in the Japanese wing. How do we know? Low floor. Sliding doors. Toilets that clean you against your will at the press of a button.
Room 3042 is interesting in terms of angles. But it is cheap in terms of furniture. Like a theater set, it looks good (though a bit beige) from afar. Just don’t sit on the terrible furniture.
The couch is not comfortable. The chair is not comfortable. The veneer is thin.
This is not luxury, this is simulated nonsense.
And there is a TV everywhere. Some don’t turn off.
Some attention has been paid to the bathroom, which is one notch or maybe two over Marriott. But this is not luxury. Heck just compare ingredient quality with the Broadmoor. Or on second thought, don’t even bother.
Just because Vegas, we decided not to leave the compound during our prison sentence. That meant a cocktail at “Alibi” which could be a good bar, but just is not. That said, the people are great. The space has, yes, TVs, and a small assortment of bad booze (heavy on the crayon-level Scotch and Vodka). There is plenty of very loud noise.
All situations can be salvaged:
Kendall, who is 24 and talented, made a drink called either “Kendall’s Fifth Eye” or “The Fifth Eye” as follows:
1 oz Calvados
1 oz unfiltered apple juice (hard cider would improve)
.75 allspice dram (cut to .5)
.25 walnut liqueur
Shake. Strain over big rock. Mint and citrus garnish.
Ultimately, this drink needs more attention. Try some Lairds Applejack or 12 year brandy to up its game.
Kendall was delightful.
Sage (restaurant), which takes some non-trivial finding, is good. Recommended.
All told, we will stick to our plan to get the hell out of here as fast as possible. Take the money and run!
Aria, for at least being modern and cheap, you get two point five showerheads that is posing as if it’s four, and a nervous glance.
November 12, 2015
Those of you who read NPS regularly know that in our studied opinion, Leopold Bros makes the best gin in the world (the small batch gin). We always have some on hand at the home bar. Part of the secret behind the gin is separate distillation of the aromatics which are then combined with the base alcohol. It’s magical stuff which has come to be known as the Leopold process.
So we already loved Leopold’s by default, but then we visited. Now we can’t say enough good things about the distillery, its products, and most importantly its people. Wow, what an operation!
We were given a tour by Alec Ropes, one of the seven Leopold Brothers employees. Yes, they work hard and they work passionately at Leopold’s! Alec was just great, spending three hours with us in intense conversation. We were geeking out on alcohol production, and boy was it fun.
The genius behind Leopold Bros distilling-wise is Todd Leopold, one of the two brothers. Todd is a practicing intellectual with a master craftsman sensibility backed by many years of experience and vast quantities of absorbed knowledge. We were incredibly pleased to get to spend a few minutes chatting with Todd even while a vodka run was heading into the tails.
Todd and his brother Scott have built a distilling factory that is not only ultra-modern, it’s also environmentally sustainable. For example, a closed loop water system keeps water lossage (a huge deal for most alcohol production) way down. Natural light suffuses the floor, and a ceiling fan keeps the yeast aromas circulating with fresh air from the garden outside.
There are three types of still on line at Leopolds now.
Todd explained the new still’s operation to us. The four chambers all have different jobs to do during a twenty minute run, and the mash moves its way down the column between runs. The resulting process suffuces the water with as much flavor as the alcohol. (Looks like the new still goes along with the malting floor, the malt kiln, and the sherry barrels in the rickhouse. Hmm, what could they be up to?)
We paused for some pictures with Todd. What a great guy! Knowledgeable, funny, smart as a whip, and kind. Todd had some hilarious stories about the Denver health department people, physical phase transitions, and alcohol as a decontamination solution.
Of course all distilling starts with beer (which is how Leopolds got its start in Ann Arbor years ago). Several different mashes are in use now at the distillery. I was surprised how viscous the rye mash is. Slippery goopy.
Eventually, alcohol is blended (Leopold Bros makes 22 products currently with some awesome new ones coming on line any month now) and put into barrels. There is lots of “three char” white American oak in the house.
Of course we had to do some sampling. I already own 7 Leopold Bros products in my supply and was happy to add two more: Cherry Liqueur (to sub in for Heering) and a Digestif called something crazy due to American labeling laws. The Digestif is in the Benedictine/Chartruese range.
Anyway, thanks to Todd and Alec taking time out of their busy jobs to show around a couple of newby geeks. We loved it!
When we arrived at the fantastic Colt and Grey for dinner, the first thing we did was call for some Leopold Bros cocktails.
Here’s to passion, science, craftsmanship, and kindness. Leopold Bros you have my loyalty all sown up for this lifetime!
Make yourself a cocktail with Leopold’s Gin today:
Corpse Reviver #2
November 9, 2015
The Broadmoor is a resort tucked away at the foot of the Rockies close to Colorado Springs. Now that the annual conference we run is getting bigger, we’re moving up the food chain in terms of size. We were also looking for somewhere close to Denver to host this time, mostly as a respite from both coasts. The Broadmoor is a great choice.
Checkin was beyond smooth, no doubt helped along by the fact that the advance troops have been here for a couple of days. We are staying in Broadmoor West, which was recently-renovated. The property is, in fact, a very nice blend of old school luxury and modern amenity. Very tasteful.
I am in a huge suite (4500) called the Chayenne Mountain North. It is suitable for entertaining 50-75 late night people—which is what is going to happen again and again this week.
Lets tour the living room first.
About the only fly in the ointment for this room (a spec of a fruit fly) is the parking lot which sullies the view of Cheyenne Mountain. We are, however, in the United States.
And the sleeping room…
The master bathroom is great, including the all important shower. There is a guest bathroom as well for the entertaining part.
While working out last minute minor details (like presentations) this afternoon, an amenity arrived with a personal note. Classy.
One of the drawbacks of entertaining at a resort or hotel is the limited bar capability. There is really nothing to be done about this other than enhance. So we enhanced. But the lack of fresh citrus and a juicer persists. That and no bitters. And no amaro. And no lillet. There’s no place like home.
On Wednesday after the conference, we’ve set up a private tour of Leopold’s, about which more later! Can’t wait for that.
All told, five showerheads and a gold star for the Broadmoor (which incidentally dogs the heck out of Garden of the Gods). Excellence in action. Lets see how their conference facilities are tomorrow.
A side trip to Devner included an unbelievable visit to Leopold Brothers’ distillery (amazing people and fantastic product), Colt and Grey for a very nice dinner (upscale yet relaxed and very very good), and drinks at Williams and Graham (not the best visit).
November 3, 2015
Last time we visited, things were just getting started—but boy were they great. If anything, everything is even better at the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh! Rob Malinger (happy bday, rob) is doing a great job.
818 looks pretty similar to 835. The only major difference is the view (835 has one, 818 does not). The rooms are both beautifully styled in any case.
As always the welcome was Kimpton warm. Great door guys; friendly front desk staff; great amenity delivery people (that would be Marissa).
The bathroom is gigantic and fits the NPS criteria to a T. Any glass shower with a bench in it catches our attention.
The style in the rest of the property is equally impressive. From the living room landing on the first floor…
to the upside down flowers in the lobby.
For good espresso, slip across the street to Simpatico (thanks Rachel).
Just to round out PGH, a dinner trip to Altius was very nice indeed. Plenty of interesting dishes. Need some work on their duck, but duck is really hard to get exactly right. The view at night is not to be beat.
Uber cut both ways this trip, and that’s worth a mention. My colleague ordered an uberX to take us up the hill. Not only did the driver take an extra 12 minutes to “spiral in” and pick us up, she was also clearly a smoker who smoked in her vehicle. She got lost and had no clue how PGH is laid out (or, it seems, how to use google maps). The trip to Altius was non-professional and not really worth paying for. By contrast, on the way back the uber driver (uberXL whatever that is) not only knew the city, he was also playing Robert Glasper Trio covering Radiohead’s Reckoner in his spotless car. Uber needs to get its act together.
Then it was back to the Monaco for some nightcaps. The Commoner is uncommonly great as far as a bar program goes. Started by Kenny (now at Forgery in SF) and finished up by Mike Ryan (of sable fame), they have a great thing going here! We were served by the spunky and delightful Patricia Antram who was psyched to play. She mixed up a classic De La Louisiane as follows:
.75 Rye (cask strength)
.75 sweet vermouth (dolin’s would be best)
stir down. strain into a coup. garnish with spiked cherries.
Patricia also served up one of her own cocktails, Lía Loves Juan (a.k.a., Yellow Swan):
1.75 resposado tequila
.25+ demarara (1:1)
.5 lime juice
3 dashes whiskey barrel aged hot sauce
shake. strain into coup. garnish with lime peel.
A quick trip to Pittsburgh is always made difficult by the lack of flights in and out of town, but it’s offset by the very existence of the Monaco. Five showerheads!