Since I remain locked into a hub, I am pretty much consigned to fly with United on at least some portion of my flights. United has suffered so much operationally since the merger with Continental that this is very painful indeed. I can say without any exaggeration that operations at United is still completely broken.

I spent 75,000 frequent flyer miles to get up to NH this weekend to write some music. What did I get? Two unsatisfactory flights.

Flight one to Boston was delayed 90 minutes (right through the dinner hour). There was no food on the flight—not even peanuts. The “entertainment” system is that ridiuclous DirecTV system that plays mandatory ads to you while you are strapped in your seatbelt. No wifi. No power to power your own iPad or Nexus.

Flight two never happened. A broken airplane rippled through several flights like toppling dominos. The way this unfolded was classic united. First a 40 minute delay. Then 90 minutes. Then 3 hours and 30 minutes. Then never. I was upgraded to first class on a flight that never happened!! awesome!

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The only saving grace was the red carpet club in Boston which is a beautiful space. If you have to be on the drip delay (united can’t run an airline) the red carpet club is the place to be stranded.

The people at the United club were fantastic. They helped everyone get backup flights and even stayed open an extra two hours. But best of all, this happened. When I finally decided to bail and get some dinner, I went down to the Legal Seafood. As I was having a snack, the United rep came down to find me and let me know that she had booked me on a USAir flight to DCA. I had to run to Terminal B, but I got home thanks to the United club people. Too bad those good people can’t fire Jeff Smisek!

This tweet from United pretty much says it all.

Of course the United flight up to Boston was delayed (90 minutes) and of course there was no wifi on the flight. You see, United spent all kinds of money on that stupid DirecTV system as if everyone in the universe does not have their own nexus or ipad. United, you guys are truly behind the technology curve by a decade. Oh, and there was no food on the flight…at all.

So I was hungry when we finally landed 90 minutes late. We hightailed it to the Highball Lounge to visit my friend Shaher Misif. Shaher Misif is a dangerous man.

The Highball Lounge rocks. After an obligatory authentication shot, we had a delightful Barnyard Punch, recently added to the cocktail list and made as follows:
1.5 oz Bourbon
.5 oz Falernum
.5 oz Suze
.5 oz Lemon juice
.5 oz Raw sugar
2-3 dashes celery bitters
shake, strain, serve on rocks. garnish with mint and lemon moon. (I will cut the sugar down myself when I make this one.)

We also had an outstanding bacon cheeseburger and some tater tot nachos. Delicious.

Then we drove to NH with a warm fuzzy feeling.

The leaves are peaking in NH

The leaves are peaking in NH

I must admit that after taking a look at the website and seeing the looming building on the drive from the airport, hotel expectations were pretty low. Hamster cage plastic shower here we come. How wrong I was!

The Delta Quebec has some great things to offer. Mostly, I can’t recommend anyone more highly than Isabelle at the front desk. She was awesome. Helped me get set up on 1110 on the concierge floor with a walk in shower. And guess what, the room is modern and not at all rectangular.

Fall in Quebec

Fall in Quebec

1110 is not a rectangle. it is a complex shape

1110 is not a rectangle. it is a complex shape

desk pod

desk pod

The bathroom has great design. And an all glass shower.

this shower is not plastic

this shower is not plastic

From inside the shower

From inside the shower

It’s peak Fall up here in Canada now. Gorgeous light. Peaking trees. Sadly, I am so wiped out from Helinki and London that I have to go to bed early and get some rest. We’ll leave Quebec exploration for tomorrow.

the dirty window will soon be cleaned

the dirty window will soon be cleaned

A surprising five showerheads for the Delta. Mostly because of Isabelle.

The concierge floor has an interesting staircase to the breakfast room.

Welcome to the club

Welcome to the club

Quebec is gorgeous in the Fall. Just walking around the city is incredible.

Quebec is the only walled city in North America

Quebec is the only walled city in North America

University Laval (architecture school)

University Laval (architecture school)

Fall

Fall

Much French.  Very flag.

Much French. Very flag.

Plus herbs and vegetables

Plus herbs and vegetables

Then again, somebody did build this silly building on purpose.

The '70s called and they want their building back

The ’70s called and they want their building back

After a long walk, the Hobbit Bistro is an excellent place for a glass of wine. Then dinner at Le Moine Echanson is out of this world. Best confit on this side of the pond (made with Goose) plus some of the strangest wine I have ever had:
Canoë Gaillac (La Sorga)
Le Raisin et l’Ange (Fable)
BO2 (Berranco Oscuro)
All three wines are artisan wines with crazy things going on with the yeast. Almost beer like.

It was a night of all Kevins, the first being Kevin Grégoire running the restaurant pretty much by himself on a Monday. Great server.

Then a major disappointment at L’Atelier which is rumored to be the best cocktail bar in town. Though Kevin Gaffrey was willing to play and was very attentive, none of the drinks I tasted was actually worth drinking (four strikes and you’re out). Even the CR2 was made incorrectly and had to be refactored. The main problem seems to be very bad melty ice. Want to ruin a Sazarac? Make it with bourbon and bad ice. Want to make an awful manhattan? Throw in some Campari and get it all confused about whether it is just a very bad Negroni. At least the Fernet Branca was good (since it was a straight shot). I do hope there is a better bar somewhere in Quebec. Too much flash and not enough oomph at L’Atelier. Skip it.

Oh yeah, and United airlines is a very sucky way to get to Quebec! Puddle hoppers in two hops.

Why United is Just Awful

October 5, 2014

Only since the ill-fated merger have I flown economy class to/from Europe because of no upgrade. That is just awful. You would think that after 1,578,471 miles (which I paid for) United would have some loyalty to me. But they don’t.

Ten years of 100K status drops fast. Be forewarned United flyers. Your airline does not care about you at all.

This last trip to London/Helsinki was no exception. Business class on the way there (which we paid to upgrade at purchase) but no upgrade from economy on the way back. 8.5 hours in an awful seat with terrible food.

First world problem, I know. But frankly I expect more from an airline that used to earn my business.

United has gone to the dogs.

The Hotel Fabian has a computer now and they know I have been here before! Yay. On this nth visit I was upgraded to a very sweet suite 412. Thanks Fabian!

Room 412 has a table

Room 412 has a table

And a living area

And a living area

And a big old bed

And a big old bed

The best part of room 412 and Hotel Fabian is the incredibly great shower. I mean great. Best shower in Europe great.

412 bathroom

412 bathroom

This shower is just so good

This shower is just so good

I guess hot showers may just feel better when it is -2C outside in the morning.

The lobby downstairs is an excellent place for a glass of wine after travel (or a long day of BSIMM interviews).

The high art lobby at Hotel Fabian

The high art lobby at Hotel Fabian

Five plus showerheads for the Hotel Fabian.

A fancy pants dinner at Spis was very interesting, but more interesting than good. Subdued flavors that clim to be Nordic. Some surprising combinations. Ultimately I think the are just trying too hard. The dessert stuff was best constructed and world class.

Then it was off to Liberty or Death, a fantastic cocktail bar. (Someone needs to get them the memo that the Partrick Henry quote their name is from was hijacked by the right wing Tea Party morons in the United States…because these people are clearly liberal as all get out.) We were served by two “cocktail bastards” Andreas Cederström and Jaakko Väyrynen. Jaakko was super and in edition to making us a liberal (with red vermouth that was way too good), we tried some house made drinks.

The Red Shoe
40 ml monkey 47 gin (german)
30 ml creme de framboise
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
5 ml Raspberry red wine vinegar (house made)
1 t or less simple syrup
Mix together and then carbonate! quite a gorgeous concoction indeed. looks like we will be adding carbonation capability to the bar.

La Mancha Negra
25 ml Poli Morbida (grappa moscato)
10 ml cynar
10 ml aperol
5 ml Francaise guy (absynthe)
1 t simple syrup
3 dashes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas bitters (a fruity thing)
shake. strain in to cocktail glass. this one is missing something in the middle but a fine start. the grappa is too think. I think working it with a harsher grappa might help. And a deeper bitters.

We had an absolute blast at Liberty or Death which is by far the best bar in Helsinki. The people at Son of a Punch do great work. They are distilling spirits (tried the gin which is very very aromatic), importing great stuff, and staffing excellent bars. Note that we did attain a new target speakeasy not yet marked or marketed (Katariinankatu).

Final thought of the night: “A tattoo without equity is madness.

Then it will drag tomorrow on my 8.5 hour United airlines international flight with no upgrade. United just sucks.

How to charge your phone (kludge) at F-Secure

How to charge your phone (kludge) at F-Secure

The Zetter Townhouse London

September 29, 2014

View from Zetter Townhouse room 11

View from Zetter Townhouse room 11

Yes, its a gray and rainy day in London. Nothing at all surprising about that. But at the Zetter all is sunny and bright (in a virtual way). I’ve been a guest at this hotel multiple times and have quaffed many a cocktail at the Zetter Townhouse next door. This trip I am staying in the Townhouse itself, up on the third floor in room 11.

Rooms in the Townhouse have the same quirky design as the downstairs lounge. Antiques, old art, stuffed cats, fancy columns all thrown together willy nilly to nice effect.

Room 11's quirky collection of flotsam.

Room 11’s quirky collection of flotsam.

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A huge gilded tub prevails

A huge gilded tub prevails

Though the bedroom includes a huge gilded tub, there is a glass shower cube tucked away in the black and white tiled bathroom.

Glass shower cube beats the mother ship

Glass shower cube beats the mother ship

Best of all, upon my very early arrival from the other side of the pond, room 11 was ready to be immediately occupied. Short nap. Hot shower. We’re off to a good start.

Workshop coffee just across the street serves breakfast at all hours. And they make an espresso that even jOHN would approve of.

There’s nothing quite like a visit to the Tate Modern in an arrival fugue state to make life seem any more surreal than normal.

Telephone call for a Mr Dali

Telephone call for a Mr Dali

Kandinski and the very beginning of abstraction

Kandinski and the very beginning of abstraction

20140929_160211

20140929_163226

An early business dinner at Tramshed rounds out the first evening. Cow in formaldehyde with a chicken on its back.

Damian Hirst was here

Damian Hirst was here

And not to outdo the lesbian petting in the gents, there’s this.

Right.

Right.

To recover, a Liberal is in order, perfectly made at the classy Zetter Townhouse bar.

The Liberal

The Liberal

Night two included dinner at the modern pantry (right next door to the Zetter Townhouse). Interesting and very eclectic food that is hit or miss. Make sure not to skip the black sesame for dessert.

A nightcap at the Townhouse was going well until some jackass showed up at the bar and insisted on picking a fight?! Easy enough to walk away, but not the sort of thing you expect at an upscale establishment. I did not wait for the situation to be resolved, but simply headed upstairs. (Note: Management seems to have ignored this situation completely. Nobody said a thing the next morning. Hmm.)

But before that, we experimented with a couple of El Presidente inspired cocktails by Bobbie. Experiment 1:
40 cl myers rum
10 cl byrhh
10 cl fino dry sherry
5 cl grenadine
2.5 cl fernet
stir. serve up in a champagne glass.

Experiment 2:
40 cl myers rum
10 cl byrhh
5 cl fino dry sherry
5 cl grenadine
2.5 cl fernet
stir. serve up in champagne glass.

The only issue with this drink was inferior rum. A cuban anejo barrel proof would be ideal. Or maybe even mount gay eclipse. Will work this one at home.

On a final note, a reservations mix-up made by my (usually incredibly excellent) travel agent when the trip was refactored to add Helsinki resulted in an extra night’s charge from the Zetter. [At first we said: I find it surprising that management did not opt to eat the charge. Bad on you Zetter for policy fascism. We will remember. But then management read the entry and reconsidered their position. Glad they did the right thing in the end. Thanks Zetter. See you again soon.]

Austin, TX. You can’t help but think of live music of course…which can be found in the airport BTW. But there is old school elegance here too from the early days of the “Republic.” Well, elegance if you’re into spittoons.

Checkin is efficient, Texas-friendly, and slides in the upsell without even blinking a lash or ruffling a feather. That’s just what happens when you have a glass shower problem!

The Driskill Lobby screams cattle baron

The Driskill Lobby screams cattle baron

Where I'm Blogging From (apologies to Raymond)

Where I’m Blogging From (apologies to Raymond)

I found myself in a corner suite due to the glass shower issue. Accounting may be mad, but we’ll get it handled. 536 is the “bridal suite.” Must be the hot tub. So Texas cheerleader.

536. Corner balcony.

536. Corner balcony.

Outside looking good.

Outside looking good.

Of course it’s hot out since it’s Texas. But no so very. Only 85 today, which compared to the 105 I know from my High School days is downright cool. Sadly, the view from the balcony has changed somewhat since 1886.

Reality check on the view. About as awesome as downtown Austin gets though. This is not Buenos Aires Toto.

But we’re all about the bathroom on NPS. Marble. 1886. Plus a Texas cheerleader hot tub (cheerleader not included).

This shower no plastic has.

This shower no plastic has.

The powder room has his and her sinks (no hers and hers in TX!)

The powder room has his and her sinks (no hers and hers in TX!)

Three showerheads. Hot damn!

Three showerheads. Hot damn!

And then there is this (literally through glass).

And then there is this (literally through glass).

536 has a ceiling fan.

536 has a ceiling fan.

536 is a nice room, and rumored to be the best one. It could use an ipod player from this decade (nano no worky). But what it really needs is some outlets. Any outlets. The bedside tables have none. The TV dresser has none. There are no outlets. Better hurry up and post this before my mac dies.

When I came back from cocktail hour at the very interesting bar in the Driskill, there was a note, some sparkling water and some fruit waiting for me. Thanks!

Amenity and personal note. Nice touch Driskill.

Amenity and personal note. Nice touch Driskill.

Four very high showerheads for the Driskill (oh so close to five). Just goes to show you how spoiled we are…and addicted to our machines.

A workaday “Italian” dinner can be procured at Carmelos. Skip it. There have to be better places to eat in Austin!

Drinks at the speakeasy Midnight Cowboy were very well made. Old school with a west coast flare. We did get one experimental beverage but neglected to write down the recipe. The interior reminds me of Bourbon and Branch. In a twist, the bartender comes to your table with a trolley to make drinks.

Late night pretzel and some William Larue Weller at Easy Tiger seemed like a good idea at the time. Real bourbon.

Fleming’s Steakhouse is pretty straight down the Bell curve in steakhouse-land. Good meat. Butter heavy sides. But the wine list is pretty lame. It’s as if TX is trapped in the ’80s wine wise.

Half Step is a world class bar with very talented barkeeps. About the only complaint about our visit was that the band was great but WAY too loud. Had to yell to talk. Every old cocktail we ordered was made to perfection (sazarac, corpse reviver #2). Whitney Hobbs materfully triangulated a Paige Ellis as follows:
1.5 bourbon (whiney used dickel 8 yr, I would use something hotter)
.75 suze
.75 barolo chinato
stir down, serve up with a big ice cube (drape drink over cube), express orange peel and slip down the side.

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