I love it when a good plan comes together. Years ago, each Kimpton property had to be trained (eagerly I might add) one at a time. These days the Kimptons all share data on guests. So before I have ever stayed here in Denver, the Monaco knows about my plastic shower problem and that I dig a great cocktail.

It’s a joy to travel like this. Thanks Hotel Monaco (and Panzano).

The poor goldfish in 532 has no name

The poor goldfish in 532 has no name

I am in room 532 which is spacious and very nice. The shower is not plastic (and, yes, there is a huge tub in here too). Perusing the map on the wall, it looks like the corner rooms might be even cooler, but I can’t complain about this great room on a first stay. They hit all of the parameters!

Well, all except one. It turns out that 532 is right next to the fitness center and at 5am in the morning it sounds like a marching band. Or maybe a herd of elephants. With beeping. Want to sleep in? Forget it. Sure hope I can get a different room!

To make matters worse, a busybody guest from 430 called my room at 6 and asked me to stop exercising?! It’s a serious problem.

Denver bed in 532

Denver bed in 532

Really the only drawback to this room is the very plain design. But you know, that’s just how Denver looks architecturally. Plain and boxy.

Maybe a little too plain.

Maybe a little too plain.

The bathroom is great. And the shower is glass.

The all important non-plastic shower.

The all important non-plastic shower.

Gigantic tub will likely never be used.  So sad.

Gigantic tub will likely never be used. So sad.

I spent some time catching up with work since United had no wifi (again) on my plane. United did manage to stay inside my good graces by upgrading me on both legs of this trip. We like that United. Well done.

When I was almost done working, “walter” showed up with a superb cheese plate and best of all some manhattan cocktails all ready to go. Awesome. Thanks to Panzano for putting everything together.

Are we spoiled?  Heck yes.

Are we spoiled? Heck yes.

Signature cocktail is just what the doctor ordered.

Signature cocktail is just what the doctor ordered.

I went downstairs early in the morning after the exercise fiasco and the front desk staff were all over solving the problem. They agreed to comp the night and switch me as soon as possible to another room. Quick solutions to fire drills is classic Kimpton excellence. Great staff.

The only question I have is this: doesn’t this exercise noise problem happen all the time?! Apparently it does happen occasionally, but not all the time. Personally I think something needs to be done to move the exercise room elsewhere. (I let Mike Defrino know what I thought.)

Just before noon I came back to switch rooms. The delightful K-state Kevin helped me move and we chatted about Kimpton and how well they treat their employees for a while. It is a testament to great management that the concierge/bellman has such good things to say about where he works.

I am now in one of those corner rooms that I was eyeing on the door map yesterday—730. Lots of light and interesting design.

Anteroom in 730 through the door

Anteroom in 730 through the door

730 king bed surrounded by windows.

730 king bed surrounded by windows.

High corner is nice. Interesting corner angle in 730.

High corner is nice. Interesting corner angle in 730.

The only NPS quirk about 730 is that the shower is build over a big hot tub. (This bathroom design reminds of of room 1115 at 70Park in NY.) No glass cube. But need for sleep is greater than need for glass shower, and the rest of the room is awesome.

A shower curtain.  Run away!

A shower curtain. Run away!

One of those weird hot tub tub things with a shower over it.

One of those weird hot tub tub things with a shower over it.

We’ll stick it at a high four showerheads for the Hotel Monaco Denver, somebody needs to move the exercise room or make some usage rules. (Turns out that sleep is more important than a shower.) Instant response saves the day. Thanks for being you Kimpton.

As for the rest of Denver. A dinner at Guard and Grace was very good indeed. Great sommelier, though the wine list needs some propping up in the South American and Italian sectors. The bar made a superb drink whose name sadly did not make it on the recipe card. We’ll just call it A Stitch in Thyme :
.25 oz simple syrup with thyme infusion (1:1 and a 20 minute steep)
.25 oz lemon juice
3 dashes orange bitters
muddle with 1 slice grapefruit
.25 oz Génépydes Alpes
1.5 oz Bulleit rye
shake. double strain over large cube with thyme sprig and lemon wheel

The drink was invented by Katie Shank (and mixed/served expertly by Morgan)

Turns out that Panzano (associated with the Monaco Denver) is absolutely excellent. Best carbonara in north america bar none.

Stranahan’s distillery makes a malted barley whiskey. Here’s how.

Step 1: make wort with malted barley (as if creating a stout)

Step 1: make wort with malted barley (as if creating a stout)

Step 3: pot still

Step 3: pot still

Step 4: white dog second distilling

Step 4: white dog second distilling

Step 5: put in charred white oak for at least 2 years. Water down first. Angel share less that 8%

Step 5: put in charred white oak for at least 2 years. Water down first. Angel share less that 8%

Step 6: Wait around and then marry 2,3,4 in a 16-20 barrel mix plus water

Step 6: Wait around and then marry 2,3,4 in a 16-20 barrel mix plus water

End product is a fairly hot spicy whiskey way more like bourbon than scotch.

Williams and Graham is an excellent cocktail bar. (Thank you Jacques for the heads up and the string pulling.) We were served by Chad Michael George who made us a Sexual Chocolate :
2 oz Rittenhouse Rye
.75 cocchi torino vermouth
.5 cynar
teaspoon leopold’s marischino
7 drops bitterman’s mole bitters
stir. strain. serve over big cube with a luxardo cherry on a skewer

Moo.

Moo.

The Magnolia House Inn is absolutely stunning. Beautiful grounds and an exquisitely immaculate house from the late 1890s in perfect condition. The proprietors are very proper and welcoming.

The Magnolia House Inn

The Magnolia House Inn

Living room

Living room

The Haven room includes a private bathroom.

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But sadly, the shower situation does need some attention. Not enough water pressure only exacerbates the over tub design. Alas.

Wrong kind of shower for this blog.

Wrong kind of shower for this blog.

Uh oh.  Fine? More like "not quite adequate."

Uh oh. Fine? More like “not quite adequate.”

After a show in the nearby American Theater and an excellent tapas feast at Six, we arrived in time for a very late nightcap on the porch at 1:30am. (We brought the doctor’s bag.) The evening was beautiful.

The Bitter Liberals play "Dream of a Good Death"

The Bitter Liberals play “Dream of a Good Death”

Daylight porch

Daylight porch

Breakfast looked great, but we missed it to attend a brunch in Virginia Beach featuring sourdough waffles.

Sunday morning breakfast crowd.

Sunday morning breakfast crowd.

Virginia Beach Waffles

Virginia Beach Waffles

All told the Magnolia House Inn is a great place to stay. Four shower heads for this B&B.

IMG_1993

Trouble in paradise this visit which started out about as chunky as possible—no reservation. I always rely on my travel people to get things squared away (thanks edie!) and they are great. This time I let an outside firm work travel. Yes, I did already know not to do that! When I tried to tack a day on to this trip, everything went south fast.

Having arrived in the nick of time to drop stuff off and head to DC for a business dinner, I was confronted with a problem. No reservation and no available rooms in the hotel. While very courteous, the front desk clerk Damien was ultimately not very helpful at all, and he did not escalate to more senior management. My inner circle Kimpton status did not seem to make much difference either. I was in a bind.

Fortunately, Stephan Vogel (GM at the George) had my back and started an email thread to find me a room on DC including the new GM of the DC Palomar Josh Lustig. (FWIW, Josh just took over from Abe Liao.) While they were solving the problem, I finally got a message back from the people who had messed up the reservation in the first place. They convinced the Monaco to give me a room. So that’s good…

But it was room 315, which if I were you I would avoid. It faces the street and is very noisy in the morning starting around 6:30am. It is also a handicap accessible room with a shower over tub design. Not my style.

Of course, not knowing I was staying the night made it hard for the Monaco to do anything to greet me or personalize my stay. Apparently they don’t monitor the twitter feed very closely. If they did, the problem would have been discovered way before my arrival.

I was told that I can get a different (better) room for the second night. Hopefully that is the case.

Room 315

Room 315

Bathroom in 315

Bathroom in 315

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

I rushed off to a fantastic business dinner at Le Diplomate (highly recommended, especially the world class bread). Larry secured us a VIP table. After dinner it was off on a bourbon search, first to bourbon (booked for a private event) and then to Jack Rose (also booked for a private event, but by friends as it turned out). Jack Rose has a fantastic bourbon selection that included Pappy 23, Pappy 20, and two varieties (US and Japanese) of Hirsch 16.

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

When I returned to 315 at midnight, I was greeted with a belated welcome note and a shot or two of bourbon (!!) from Pete and Jess, who turned out to be people from the organization hosting the meeting. Somebody is paying attention, but are any Kimpton people paying attention?! For the record I did have to go find a paper in the morning.

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

After a long day of meetings and presentations I returned briefly to the Monaco and switched to room 503. 503 is an excellent room and I appreciate the move, but strangely nobody mentioned the mixup, the bind, the switch. It’s as if “these are not the droids you’re looking for” applies.

There's nothing to see here.  All is well.

There’s nothing to see here. All is well.

Cheese plate and San Pellegrino. So they do know I am here! Awesome. But no note, so “they” remain unknown.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

503 suite is sweet

503 suite is sweet

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

The shower in 503 is fantastic. Great water pressure and plenty of glass-defined space. As usual, there is a huge (unused) tub in this room as well.

No plastic shower in 503

No plastic shower in 503

IMG_1954

More data from Alexandria, the Landini Brothers restaurant has workaday Italian with a weird but decent wine list and food served by Spanish-speaking waiters. The PX Lounge is so full of itself that though they might make a decent cocktail, it is ultimately skippable. The greeter/waitress/busybody calls herself a “den mother” which pretty much says it all. If you’re not a cub scout, ignore the reviews by foodies with no cocktail clue (sietsema) and go somewhere else. Yes, PX some of us know more about mixing drinks than you do.

Hotel Monaco is a great place to stay. Some more attention to personal service seems to be warranted. A low four showerheads for this visit. I’m sure I will be back and I will make sure to make my own reservation!

Glassaholic: Mojito

September 3, 2014

The Mojito is a popular drink that you can find all over the place these days, even in bars that otherwise suck.  The key to a good mojito is simplicity: fresh mint, fresh lime, simple syrup and a good muddling stick.

We make mojitos around here in the summertime when the mint is growing like crazy.

The Mojito
3 oz dark rum (my gay eclipse)
8 mint leaves (and the top of a sprig to garnish)
1/2 lime quartered
1 t simple syrup 1:1 (cane sugar)
Muddle the mint, simple syrup, and lime in the bottom of a sturdy glass. Add 3 oz of rum and stir. Fill glass with ice and top with sparkling water. Top with a mint garnish.

Delicious and summery.

You know what’s sad? I just looked on my United app and I have at least 5 trips queued up to go. See, here in NPS-land, we’re stuck at a United hub. That is a total bummer.

Regular readers know that I have flown over 1.5 MILLION miles on United in a very loyal decade. But I am done with that. I decided this year to show United as much loyalty as they show me—none. Zippo. Zilch.

So we’ll fly most anybody as long as the timing works. Sadly, that keeps me on United more than I would like.

Lets dig into the checkin process at SFO as an example of why flying on United is painful. Here are a series of Vine/Tweets from this morning’s chaotic check in. This is the reality of what air travel has become.

At least the United Club was a temporary respite.

But then it was cattle call boarding time. Upgrade for all that loyalty over the years? Are you kidding me??!

Once we were finally on board (after starting 11 minutes late), we were informed that there was a baggage problem.

Ultimately, that delayed up 30 minutes.

But there is some good news. This 737-900 is a nice new plane and it is equipped with wifi. So I can make this posting. And there is an extra 30 minutes to do it in too!

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 4.30.25 PM

My advice to you flyers out there. United is not a good airline, so try another. Any other. (And Jeff Smisek still needs to be fired.)

The Cowper Inn on a late summer day

The Cowper Inn on a late summer day

The Cowper is like an old friend. I’ve been coming here for longer than I care to remember. The best place to stay in Silicon Valley by far.

Though Joji is not around this time to say hello, I did get my new favorite room (31).

Room 31 at the Cowper Inn

Room 31 at the Cowper Inn

The shower is not fancy, but it’s not plastic either.

IMG_1846

And the bathroom is roomy.

IMG_1845

The best part of the Cowper experience involves the common areas. A gorgeous craftsman living room and beautiful well kept grounds.

The Cowper Inn living room (where I am typing this)

The Cowper Inn living room (where I am typing this)

IMG_1849

Four showerheads for the Cowper Inn. Dinner at nearby Resposado involves a great tequila selection.

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.

Hi Walter.

Hi Walter.

Without further ado, a few more 802 pictures.

802 bedland at the Palomar

802 bedland at the Palomar

Bathroomland in 802 at the Palomar

Bathroomland in 802 at the Palomar

Though this shower is not plastic, it is ready to be nuked and replaced with a glass cube.

Though this shower is not plastic, it is ready to be nuked and replaced with a glass cube.

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.

Sparkling water, fruit, cheese and a nice note.

Sparkling water, fruit, cheese and a nice note.

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.

Experiment One:
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.

Experiment Two
1.5 oz banks 5 year
1 oz puerto fino sherry (trying to get Means to Spain apparently)
.75 oz china china

Brian Means, the masterful head barkeep at Dirty Habits is incredibly great. I was lucky enough to get one of his experiments. Wow.

Experiment Three
2 oz Henry McKesson 10yr bourbon
.75 oz byrrh
.75 montenegro
2 dashes reagans orange bitters
This one will go into the book.

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). Excellent Italian at Perbacco though it is still too noisy in there.

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