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

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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.

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.

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.

Anybody who knows this blog knows how I feel these days about the unmitigated disaster that United has become under the operational “leadership” of the out of touch Jeff Smisek. I was pleasantly surprised this trip to be upgraded ahead of times on both hub to hub trips (thank you United).

But (yeah, you saw that coming), on the outbound leg, our 757-200 had power requiring that business class adapter which I no longer carry around with me and no wifi. For me, having no net creates HUGE amounts of work post landing. I like keeping up with the net in real time so that geek things do not pile up. No net for three hours makes a mess. I don’t want to be “entertained,” I want to work.

On the inbound leg, the Continental 757-200 had neither power nor wifi but instead that infernally stupid DirecTV system. I sat next to a United pilot. We had a very interesting conversation about United leadership. Suffice it to say that the theories we spout here at NPS about United and operations are “spot on.”

Oh and we were delayed by equipment problems for 1.5 hours. When we finally boarded, groups 1 through 3 boarded before First Class due to some catering SNAFU. And whatever the caterers did, they did not bring enough meals so that I ended up with my choice. Rubber chicken with tomato gunk for me. Truly just awful.

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United is improving, but there is a LONG way to go before I choose to fly instead of being forced to fly.

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.

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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

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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.

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