August 26, 2014
Last time I was here in San Francisco, the Palomar was being renovated. The renovation is done (in the lobby anyway and in the restaurant/bar) and Dirty Habits has a new patio outside. The new stuff is all shiny.
The week I picked to visit San Francisco is not a good one. The city is filled to the gills with VMWare types who have all of the prices in town through the roof. Even the airport hotels are full and overpriced. I am being seriously overcharged here at the Palomar this time and even the GM Christopher Smith feels guilty about it. [Accounting, if you're reading this, it's not my fault!] Ah, capitalism.
I am in 802 again this time, which is a very nice room, though the shower is beginning to get rickety. Sadly, there is no gigantic flower arrangement to greet me. I guess we’ll have to chalk one up to Chicago?! Walter is here though, wondering in his fishy way where the flowers are.
Without further ado, a few more 802 pictures.
I got here way too early today and snuck into the patio at Dirty Habits to work while my room was readied. A couple of hours after getting into 802, a very nice amenity arrived with a note from Sara (who checked me in, thanks Sara) and JP (the invisible)—replete with my favorite sparkling water. Now I have something to rehydrate myself with after I sample a cocktail from Mr. Means.
Anyway, 4.5 showerheads for the SF Palomar (and more for those with a closer read).
Here’s the problem. NPS is way spoiled. Steph in DC? Personal to the max. Love spending time with you. Joe in Boston? This is how it should be done—with an excellent team! Maximizing mind space (which the marketing people approximate with Kimpton Karma). Donation to boat only found on twitter feed? Astounding. Palomar SF? By comparison, some attention to detail missing. Maybe too close to corporate? Maybe too busy a week? Maybe managing to the numbers? Or maybe senior leadership has moved well beyond one property? But we’re staying here now. Anyway enough of that first world problem.
Positives. Dirty Habits barkeep Sarah rocks. Great fun experimenting.
2 oz pepper rye
1 oz jelinik
.5 oz malort
.5 dry curacao
This one is so close. We were going to try a version with Yellow Chartreuse, but we ran out of jelinik. We also discussed a creme de menthe high note wash.
1.5 oz banks 5 year
1 oz puerto fino sherry (trying to get Means to Spain apparently)
.75 oz china china
And then out to the city. Why not Spruce in SF? Meh. Nice restaurant, but not that great for SF really. Great company. OK food. Cantina is a superb place to host an event, especially if Alexa Weber-Morales is singing. Great sushi in Cupertino at Sushi Kuni (a delightful tiny hole in the wall).
August 22, 2014
Leave it to my friend Stephane Vogel to arrange for the presidential suite! My first stay at Hotel George (a Kimpton hotel) was super fantastic. And the shower is simply not to be beat.
After a warm greeting by Blair at the front desk, I headed up to 801 where I was greeted with: note, wine, cheese, and sparkling water. A superb welcome. Thanks Steph, for the hospitality and the room! This is Kimpton Karma in action.
The bathroom is fantastic.
Five showerheads and a free lunch for the George and its staff!
Dinner at Proof was good. Proof has a reasonable bar program and a great wine list. After dinner we somehow got trapped at the Bistro Bis bar which though not owned by Kimpton is associated with the George by reference of being attached to it. Ouch.
Among other cocktails and before absinthe hour, barman Ed Jenks created an experimental Essay #3
2 oz Laird 7.5 yr apple brandy
.5 oz Leizzaroni Amaretto
.5 oz malmsey madeira
.5 oz sour mix (fresh)
.5 oz chilli honey syrup
Stir. Strain. Serve with lemon twist. (In general, too much going on with this drink. Still needs work.)
Steph and I had a delicious lunch at Bistrot Bis next day after my talk. It’s always fun to catch up and learn more about the hospitality business.
The afternoon yielded some time to a visit to the National Art Gallery with Richard. An afternoon of art and discussion is just what the doctor ordered in late August.
As early evening rain fell, we made another fantastic visit to the incomparable Columbia Room where mel mixed some excellent drinks including the Leap Year Cocktail
2 oz plymouth gin
.5 oz sweet vermouth (cocci)
.5 oz royal combier
.25 oz lemon juice
shake. strain. garnish with lemon peel.
Dinner and bad bluegrass at Argonaut rounded out the visit.
August 14, 2014
It’s true that NPS has been here countless bajillions of times. And it is true that like in all relationships we’ve had our ups and downs. But the Hotel Marlowe staff (ably led by GM Joe Capalbo) outdid themselves this time. Best amenity ever. Wait for it…
The staff made a sizeable donation to my Leukemia Cup sailing team. Holy cow you guys absolutely rock. (You, dear reader can join em here.) We’re trying to raise $22,000 this year, and every penny counts. Just wow.
I am in 621 which seems to be my default room these days (though I do fondly recall the Presidential Suite…yes I do…love that prosthetic blog memory unit!). Things are very nice here with plenty of room to relax and get some work done before the work starts…or something.
I do really like the bathroom part of this room, though I still have never been in that huge tub. One of these years, I swear.
The shower is definitely not plastic. NPS approved.
Though I am missing my rock in the middle of the Shenandoah River now that no fly July has come to an end, Hotel Marlowe and their killer staff are a home away from home. Five showerheads plus two.
The evening started with a delicious cocktail at Brick and Mortar. Great space. Great vibe. Great cocktails. Good place for a business chat. After a Greenpoint, we tried a house invented More Than Classic:
1 oz wild turkey 101
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Braulio
.25 oz demarara syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
A roller coaster of a drink that starts bitter and is a bit too sweet in the end. Not much in the middle. But a decent experiment.
Dinner at Bondir was nice, but they are trying too hard. The first three courses (bread included) were a veritable confusion of great tastes. Too much going on. But some sublime ideas in there. Main course and desert were much better. All in all, Bondir seems overpriced to me. The atmosphere is nice and homey though.
August 14, 2014
Don’t tell anybody, but I have only been on 2 airplanes since June, and one was today! You see, air travel is no longer something I look forward to since it devolved to “bus service in the air” a couple of years ago. It was a long slow death spiral, but consistent and very much depressing.
As long time readers of NPS know, I am no longer a fan of United airlines. After 10 years of being a 100K member and 1,560,787 miles, United finally used up ALL of my remaining loyalty. That’s right. Every drop. I’m stuck with United since I live near a major hub of theirs, but I plan to do what I can to avoid flying with United.
So, for the first trip back from the famed “no fly July” we’re giving Jet Blue a shot. Lets compare and contrast, from the sublime to the stupid.
Why Jet Blue is Better than United (a one trip comparison)
1. flies modern equipment (new embrear regional jet vs United prop (?!) jet)
2. has a better commuter terminal for East coast travel at IAD (Terminal A, the “walmart” terminal sucks)
3. costs less (by $200 to get to Boston and back)
4. people at Jet Blue seem to like their jobs (at United they all know Jeff Smisek sucks and they hate working for him…really)
5. whole cans of soda water by default even in cattle class
6. United loves to talk about what they are “gonna” do, but they never get it done –> WIFI = not that hard
7. Jeff Smisek sucks and he is the CEO of United
Not that Jet Blue is perfect mind you. I don’t like paying $50 for an extra bag as a newb, but I have to have my bag of electronics for this trip. I also don’t like paying $30 more so I can get on first and stow my instruments, but I am sure as heck never checking my precious violin. So that all sucks. This trip will cost me $160 more than planned. Maybe #3 up there is wrong.
In the end it is clear that I need an airplane.
p.s. Here is a comparison between United and Delta FWIW.
July 13, 2014
Even when you fill a hotel with 300 people, things can go sideways in Marriott land. Met at the door by a persnickety doorman, I was refused luggage service when I arrived and asked to drive around to the loading dock. What?! Well, there was a bit of music equipment, but in the past it has all fit on 2 carts. No bending of the rules for mr door weeny.
So, instead of a welcome I got to bake in the heat, sweat through the shirt I was going to wear in a video shoot an hour later, and work with (the very able and excellent) security people. Hey Westfields, your front entrance situation needs a reboot. (FWIW, after a chat with the manager, the checkout situation went much more smoothly.)
But there is some good news. The Internet situation has been fixed. Free, more reasonable net. Which when you are running a conference full of geeks (like last year) is important.
And there is some bad news. The shower still sucks in suite 130. I mean really, get a new shower in here. The rest of the room is far better.
After a long day, including a video panel, a talk, and a music performance, it was nice to retire to some wine and cheese left by the event staff. Thanks for that! It was demolished before I thought to take its picture.
All in all, the Westfields Marriott is an even better place for a meeting than in past years. But the staff needs some training and suite 130 needs a new shower. They can make you an espresso in a pinch though, and they’re actually pretty good at it.
Three showerheads for the Westfields. Run a meeting here, but don’t come here for the sleeping rooms.
June 13, 2014
What happens when you drive down to the Stick? You have to stay at the crappy Hilton in Wilmington, NC. Um, yay? Here we are again. But we must say that this room 829 is better than the junior suite from years past. Only three of us crammed in here this time.
Nice view on the river side. If you like WWII battleships especially.
The hamster cage persists at the Hilton. Nice to finance Paris’ nonsense.
Of course the shower is plastic. And the sink is curvy.
Anyway, screw this Hilton and its awfulness. On to the rest of Wilmington (which is a delightful little town for the most part.
First we stopped by Circa 1922 for some average cocktails. They make a mean French 75, but their ice needs work. We made the most watery Corpse Reviver #2 ever and followed that with a drink w/o ice.
1 oz gin (London dry)
brown sugar cube
.5 oz lemon juice
champagne to top
Mix the first three ingredients and add champagne in a flute. Lemon twist.
Dinner was at the not so cleverly named “The Little Dipper” fondue restaurant. Meh. My parents made way better fondue in the ’70s.
Never fear, though, there is a cover band called the “Breakfast Club.” They played Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Ah. What more does Wilmington need?
No stars whatsoever for the Hilton. They should burn this place down and start over. But tomorrow is the Stick.