This visit to the Monaco in Alexandria (across the river from Washington) was designed to perfection by GM Matt Hurlburt. Everything was all set before arrival. Even traffic in northern Virginia cooperated. Kimpton Karma. Hopefully not the last of it. (Now that IHG has bought the chain we will keep our fingers crossed that inner circle goodness persists. IHG also owns Holiday Inn Express??!!)

Room 403 is a nice suite with a great glass shower. A liquid amenity was just what the doctor ordered. Personal note, fancy cocktail, fruit and cheese (featuring apricots) and a bourbon flight for late night. Excellent.

Welcome to Monaco 403

Welcome to Monaco 403

The Virginia Gentleman made a great evening cocktail before the Leukemia Cup party at Port City Brewery.

IMG_2233

Then it was off to the Leukemia Cup event where we were surprised to learn that Team Tartan was the 3rd biggest fundraiser in the nation in 2014! Thanks to all of our supporters, including the Hotel Marlowe staff.

A quick drive back to the Marlowe got us there just in time to meet Matt for a drink. We decided to go to Society Fair and meet the czarina of the eat good food group twitterz, Vina Sananikone. She turns out to be a video artist as well.

Matt and I had a Wine and Whiskey designed by Todd Thrasher and implemented by Justin Owens. It’s a great beverage, but complicated to make:
Base
Sauternes
Orange Peel
Cardamom Pods
Star Anise
Cloves
All spice
Cinnamon
Honey
Crush and toast spices. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain

2oz base
1 oz bourbon (four roses)
1 oz canadian whiskey
dash orange bitters

This one was a bit too sweet for my palate. Would skip the honey and maybe add some heat to the spices. But a nice cocktail all told.

After a cocktail and some time with Matt (a great guy), we headed over to Restaurant Eve where we opted for the Thai/Philippines inspired tasting menu. Delicious and absolutely packed with flavor. The first course was incredible. A delightful departure from Eve’s solid fare. Go chef go!

Then it was back to the Monaco for a late night bourbon taste.

Bourbon flight

Bourbon flight

And a dip in the tub?! That’s right. First time ever in the big Kimpton bathtub.

Bathtub with actual hot water, bourbon and a book

Bathtub with actual hot water, bourbon and a book

403 bedroom

403 bedroom

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

this shower is not plastic

this shower is not plastic

Anyway, five showerheads and a tub full of steam for the Hotel Monaco. Everything a quick visit could be! No fly noël can still include car based travel, and to great effect.

Travel was thankfully almost reasonable this year, down to thirty trips off last year’s forty-two. (FWIW, we’ll shoot for 25 in 2015.) But we did do an out of character trip in December, delaying the start of no fly noël by a few days. We’ll make up for it somehow.

tripometer for 2014

tripometer for 2014

In 2014 we finally gave up completely on United airlines which topped its awful 2013 behavior with an even worse 2014. Bye bye United. You are too broken to pay money.

So lets sit by the fire and regain our sanity. Maybe with a Liberal or two. Then we’ll do it all again.

We arrived in San Francisco on a rainy day, delayed three hours so that rush hour was in full swing. 101 was a parking lot. Blerg!

Fresh flowers in room 902

Fresh flowers in room 902

But then we arrived at the Palomar. Palpable relief! Ah. The new lobby is done and it is gorgeous. The front staff had been briefed and greeted us by name. It was all like getting home out of the rain. Chris Smith is running a tight ship.

Sadly, it was all so exciting and rainy that my Bose headphone set never made it out of the back of the cab. But never fear, Bryan was all over it and fixed the problem by magic behind the scenes. Fantastic. Thanks Bryan.

Headphones found

Headphones found

Room 902 is great. Nice roomy space with no plastic in sight in the bathroom. We were greeted with a personal note, fresh flowers (!), and some cheese. Thank you Sara.

Welcome to 902

Welcome to 902

902 sitting room

902 sitting room

902 bedroom

902 bedroom

902 bathroom

902 bathroom

This shower is not plastic

This shower is not plastic

Not only were the fresh flowers special. The standard Kimpton special touches were also around.

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

In other SF news, the Crustacean restaurant is OK. Over-rated, but decent. On the other hand, hard water has one of the best “weaponized grain” storage facilities in all of SF. We had flights of Pappy, we had Hirsch 16, we had many antique collection bourbons. Just wow. Our server Erin Rose was knowledgeable and really fun.

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Not to be outdone, master barman Brian Means of Dirty Habit had a custom cocktail created and sent up to the room while we were out doing our job. Awesome way to wind down after a conference day.

Without further ado, the B-String:
1.5 oz Pierre Ferronal Cognac
.75 oz East India Sherry
.5 oz Banana liqueur
2 dashes All Spice Bitters

Properly warmed up by the pre-game show, we headed downstairs for dinner and lots of great cocktails at Dirty Habit. Cool new space. Excellent cocktails as always. Mr. Means is still on the sherry roll. Good thing the room was only upstairs!

We even had some of this.  Whatever it is!

We even had some of this. Whatever it is!

Thursday night fun was spearheaded by Jacques Bezuidenhout and joined by a motley crew of affiliated pranksters. We started with a trip to the Anchor Steam brewery christmas party. The anchor steam people also have a distillery with an upstairs patio bar. Lots of great rums including the Blue Penny brand and No 3 gin. Cocktail people are really fun to party with.

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Jacques stepped into his natural element behind the bar and crafted a gin and tonic after the extensive rum tasting.

Jacques makes a G&T

Jacques makes a G&T

Rosemary

Rosemary

Then it was off to Tommy’s for a late rendez-vous with the dinner crew. Tommy’s is just fantastic. Warm, friendly, tequia, what more do you want? We were briefly joined by AT from Partida.

Dinner a deserted Aziza was very good indeed. We had the place mostly to ourselves. Food was great.

Then a dive bar for Fernet and a bleary-eyed walk across the street to have a last Liberal. Somehow we misplaced an unused Friday completely.

Five showerheads and an alcohol-soaked cleaning rag for this trip to the SF Palomar. Fantastic.

As a 100k flyer for over a decade with 1,589,963 United miles under my belt, I know a bit about United airlines. Since the merger with Continental, things have frankly gone to the dogs. We have documented the downfall of United here. Jeff Smisek may be good at mergers and marketing, but he sucks at operations.

Every time we think things may be getting better, they don’t.

So it has come to this. No more United. I will now show as much loyalty to United as they show to me. Towards that end, we flew Delta earlier this year, we flew American, and we just flew Virgin to SFO.

Just to make this all clear, two weeks ago I did a trip through SFO on United. Yesterday I did the same trip on Virgin. The experience was not the same.

One United flight had a wifi logo on the side, but the wifi did not work. The return flight did not have wifi at all. Having no wifi is like having no oxygen. On a hub to hub trip (IADSFO) there is no excuse any more for no wifi.

The United flight was crammed full and the crew was surly. But there was room to work in Economy Plus. Well, I could have worked if there had been some wifi. Instead I watched a movie on my nexus.

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

United: pringles that cost $, busted seats, and no wifi

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

This is the advanced technology display on an actual United aircraft

Nice upholstery on United

Nice upholstery on United

So the United experience was pretty bad all told, especially for a business flyer.

How about Virgin? It all started out fine, but then:

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Uh oh, there is bad weather in San Francisco.

Everyone was delayed, but United chose the drip delay method as opposed to the doom and despair drop.

Virgin was staffed by very friendly and nice people. And their wifi worked as advertised (much to the chagrin of my staff). But the seats in economy do not allow laptop use in a comfortable fashion. That extra four inches in United economy plus makes all of the difference. I still have a headache from using Virgin wifi for 5 hours.

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Virgin is too crammed for a mac air

Ultimately, this may all boil down to money. Pay more for a better seat? I guess so as long as there is a real productivity impact.

We’ll try that on Virgin in 2015.

Glassaholic: Seelbach

November 30, 2014

The Seelbach is one of our favorite time-warp inducing cocktails. Named after either a Kentucky hotel or an upstate NY hotel depending on who you ask, this drink has been around since 1917.

The delightfully dangerous thing about a Seelbach is that you get an instant champagne buzz when you start drinking it, and when you’re done, you’ve just had a shot of bourbon.

We shot this episode of glassaholic at Nother’s Day.

The Seelbach
1 oz bourbon
.5 oz cointreau
7 dashes Angostura’s
7 dashes Peychaud’s

stir with a sterling silver spoon then top with dry champagne. Add a lemon twist to fancy it up.

Filling a hotel up to the brim with 150 or so high octane people for a small conference is apparently a good thing. And the fine people at Monterey Plaza would like you to know just how good a thing that is. We here at NPS approve.

We’ll be entertaining this week in the Presidential Suite, which is a space worthy of its name. A gorgeous view of Monterey Bay, extensive balconies, windows that open. What’s not to like?

Fruit, cheese, wine, sparking water and two notes from the staff.

Fruit, cheese, wine, sparking water and two notes from the staff.

The Living Room space of the Presidential Suite surrounded by balconies with a view of the Bay

The Living Room space of the Presidential Suite surrounded by balconies with a view of the Bay

The bedroom portion of the Presidential Suite

The bedroom portion of the Presidential Suite

Fireplaces, picture windows and sliding doors.

Fireplaces, picture windows and sliding doors.

Of course all NPS readers know what we’re looking for. How’s this for a first class glass shower?

A nice big glass shower over one of the two hot tubs.

A nice big glass shower over one of the two hot tubs.

Looking in over the outside balcony hot tub.

Looking in over the outside balcony hot tub.

The exquisite Monterey Bay (with voiceover by my friend John).

Five showerheads for the superb space and top notch hospitality. We like.

The Yorktown Hotel was imposing when it was built in 1925

The Yorktown Hotel was imposing when it was built in 1925

Time Warps have their ups and downs. For example, 1925 would have been a hell of a year to visit a real speakeasy in York, PA (assuming they had some). Chances are the Yorketown Hotel was hopping. You can almost hear the din of the jazz and the flappers.

The hotel exists today in pretty much the same state as then. Elaborate. Panelled. Bedecked with chandeliers. But only ghosts of the high life remain.

The lobby

The lobby

There are some modern touches, like free reasonable wifi. But the downside to timewarps also applies. Room 814 is the best room in the house. Sadly, it exists in grandma style with grandma technology and grandma wallpaper. And the shower…it’s not glass. We expected that.

814 sitting room (the king suite)

814 sitting room (the king suite)

Flowery bedspread.

Flowery bedspread.

One of those bathrooms from the '50s.

One of those bathrooms from the ’50s.

A bonus kitchenette with an imposing garbage can.

A bonus kitchenette with an imposing garbage can.

So if you’re looking for high style, this is not the hotel for you. Or more properly, this is not the town for you. But if you wonder how much the world has changed since the cold war ended and what it used to look like before, this place is an interesting historical study.

Three showerheads for the Yorktowne, an aging dame well past its prime. Top notch for the absolute middle of nowhere.

Ding...going up.

Ding…going up.

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