An evening that started with a nice dinner at Kirkland Tap and Trotter (not to mention some very nice cocktails) ended with a nightcap at sister restaurant (big sister, that is) Craigie on Main.

Craigie on Main has a fantastic bar program.

Oysters with Caviar at Craigie on Main

Oysters with Caviar at Craigie on Main

One of the many fantastic cocktails on the menu is the Pepper in the Rye:
1.5 oz peppercorn infused overholt rye
.75 oz cardamaro
.5 oz house amer picon
.25 oz aperol
splash lemon
splash lime
dash grapefruit bitters

stir. strain into cocktail glass. flamed lemon (discard)

The House made Amer Picon is fairly close (a bit on the orange side kind of like Torani Amer made with Reagans number 6). Can’t wait to compare iterations of this cocktail with real Amer Picon.

Craigie on Main Amer Picon Knockoff

Craigie on Main Amer Picon Knockoff

Bartenders Rob Ficks and Eric Books were on duty.

Craigie on Main Bar

Craigie on Main Bar

Rob is working on an experimental beverage as yet untitled:
1.5 oz mizu shochu
.75 oz cocchi americano
.75 oz pickled nectarine
.25 oz verjus
1 dash grapefruit bitters

stir. strain up in champagne glass. garnish with a violet.

Last year, the fine folks at Hotel Marlowe served up the best amenity ever by making a collective donation to my Leukemia Cup boat. Talk about Kimpton Karma! Wow.

How could they ever top that? Well pull up a chair…

The first thing they did this year was double their donation! I mean holy cow, that is the coolest thing ever. Supporting a good cause and fighting blood cancer. You guys rock.

Skirmish Leukemia Cup 2013y

(You’re welcome to join the fun by making a donation of your own, dear reader.)

Kimpton Karma Supreme

Kimpton Karma Supreme

The valet Jonathan said hello when I arrived. He knew my name!

Then my friend Joe Capalbo plussed up the room to the gorgeous Presidential Suite (820). Awesome.

820: The Top of the World

820: The Top of the World

But wait, there’s more. The very nice amenity involves bacon(!!!) and a craft cocktail from downstairs. And a personal note from Joe.

Bacon

Bacon

This is definitely the way to ease in after no fly July. Thanks you guys!

Kimpton rocks.

820 Bedroom zoom 1

820 Bedroom zoom 1

820 Bedroom zoom 2

820 Bedroom zoom 2

820 Bedroom zoom 3

820 Bedroom zoom 3

Of course the shower in here is way not plastic.

Glass shower in 820

Glass shower in 820

Dining/meeting

Dining/meeting

Telescope is a Kimpton thing

Telescope is a Kimpton thing

820 Hotel Marlowe

820 Hotel Marlowe

Anyway, ten showerheads (double the max) for Hotel Marlowe and Joe. Home away from home in Boston.

No fly July had to end sometime, and August 6th was it! Back in the air, I was forced to fly United today. Argh.

First some good news. Checkin was smooth, efficient and had no massive line for the first time in memory. Wow! TSApre worked as advertised. And Dulles Terminal C has had a major facelift and looks way better than it used to. The United Red Carpet club people were nice too.

Then it was off to the gate for some bad news. Ridiculous boarding process angst incited by gate agents in a bad mood (boo). And get this, even though the FAA says you can carry on instruments, the awful gate agent woman would not let me. “You must check one,” she demanded. (I have a violin and mandolin with me.) “We could be fined $2000,” said another. Just unhelpful, unfriendly people. Why the hell are they in customer service? I mean really.

Fortunately, the flight attendants told me to just bring my instrument on and ignore the gate agents. They were actually friendly and helped me sneak it on. (I did have visions of the gate agent getting on the plane and making a scene, but fortunately that did not happen. I only relaxed after we pushed back.)

HEY UNITED GATE AGENTS, READ THIS.

The rest of the flight was fine.

So as usual, United can’t win for losing. They need to clean house of the employees who do not belong in customer service.

No Fly July 2015

July 7, 2015

No fly July means no airplanes, no hotels, and a bunch of actual thinking. Maybe a dip or two in the river for good measure.

Inspiration for the Bitter Liberals sticker, at the Stick

Inspiration for the Bitter Liberals sticker, at the Stick

Let the non-travel begin.

Usually NPS has to slum it when we come through Wilmington, NC on the way to the beach. We have had a number of seriously awful experiences at the Hilton. Read for yourself here and here and here (there’s more if you like snark).

So the bar is set exceptionally low, and we’re happy to say the the brand new Courtyard by Marriott is much better even though it is still a hamster cage experience.

A stylish elevator hallway to wait in

A stylish elevator hallway to wait in

We had a SNAFU getting into our room that involved waiting for the front desk and engineering to figure out why a deadbolt was thrown in the room we are supposed to have. Anyway, we ended up in 424.

Instruments on carts

Instruments on carts

Accent wall in the hamster cage

Accent wall in the hamster cage

NIcely appointed bathroom

NIcely appointed bathroom

The shower is a glass pod! Yays.

Glass shower.  We repeat, glass shower!

Glass shower. We repeat, glass shower!

But of course all is not sweetness and light here at NPS. We do have to say that the view sucks.

This is not a view of the river

This is not a view of the river

Blogging chair.  Don't spread out!

Blogging chair. Don’t spread out!

Anyway, good on the Marriott for bringing the town up to a low three showerheads! Way more than zero (the Hilton’s last rating). Looks like we’re going back to circa 1922 for dinner.

The best part about Circa 1922 other than the food is the barman Josh Giles, a reformed architect who has become a master barman. John specializes in growing ingredients in his garden and incorporating them into his drinks. The C4 is a great example:
1 oz cucumber shrub (cucumber, lovage, chervil, salad burnett, white wine vinagar, rice vinagar)
1.25 oz hendricks gin
.5 green chartreuse
splash of st. germaine
.75 oz soda

Both the shrub and the drink are out of this world. Josh rotates the menu regularly and features a cocktail with local produce (like the C4). World class.

And tomorrow, the Stick!!

Sophie at the stick

Sophie at the stick

Here at NPS we have done what we can to avoid flying United airlines since they have such terrible operations. After loyally flying 1.6 million miles and over a decade as a 100K, we’re done.

Today, both flights we were forced to take to get some business done had bugs.

On the flight out, the highly advertised wifi did not work. Ever.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

The venerable, um, I mean nonexistent wifi.

It’s 2015. Wifi works everywhere else.

On the flight back, we started with the classic drip delay, supposedly caused by weather. A drip delay is what happens when United (and only United as far as we can tell) delays the flight by just a few minutes…multiple times. The first three drips were: 14, 11, and 9 minutes each. We would really just rather learn this all at once.

But the best was yet to come. The inbound aircraft landed, so they called us to the gate to line up. But there was no pilot. The last drip was a hefty one hour! (That is, assuming this was actually the last delay…we’re not on the plane yet.)

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks at operations

United airlines sucks. Fly any other airline.

It is unbelievable that Jeff Smisek is still the CEO.

Lansdowne Resort is so close that we’ve only been here once, and that was so long ago we don’t want to admit it. But we’re back and running a show for 300+. Sadly, Lansdowne is not up to the load on all kinds of fronts.

As with many resorts (many of the Sheraton variety), much more attention is paid to the common areas than to the rooms. Even a “deluxe” suite can’t make the cut here for many reasons. Heck, lets just list them shall we?

  • plastic showers
  • hamster cage design
  • views of a roof?!
  • thin walls that carry sound
  • an HVAC system that sounds like a broken jet
  • pluming that screams when you flush
  • seriously uncomfortable bedding
  • style? not really
  • net that is not up to high geek standards
Covered with saran wrap

Covered with saran wrap

No dice on the room. They did try with a personal note and some cheese and wine. (Though based on the bill slid under my door in the morning, the cheese and wine came from Jennifer and cost $42. Nothing like being charged for your own amentity!)

Good thing we had the doctor’s bag along with some makings for Liberals. But frankly the furniture in the suite was mega uncomfortable, leaving good Liberals to be enjoyed on bad seating. Oh well.

Suite looks nice

Suite looks nice

Just don't look out the window

Just don’t look out the window

Uncomfortable bed ensconced in a style featuring scratchy orange carpet

Uncomfortable bed ensconced in a style featuring scratchy orange carpet

Oh, and did we mention the plastic showers?

Yeah, no.

Yeah, no.

The worst kind of plastic shower

The worst kind of plastic shower

The worst kind of plastic shower has an obesity-friendly bent bar, a plastic curtain, and a slippery hollow plastic tub. 100% bad! Yays.

Ultimately, the real problem here at Lansdowne is the disorganization and incompetence of the A/V and conference staff. In fact, the service in the hotel is all pretty awful if you’re a spoiled traveller like we are. Our room looked great and most of the parts required for a good show are available in the conference room, but they are being run by people who are quite simply the worst A/V people we’ve come across professionally in many years. Just not good.

Food too. Just not good.

Bar? hah hah hah. We’re not touching that one.

The location is gorgeous and green. But it is suited for golfer types. Nuff said. Pretty far down the list and nowhere near as good the also local Westfields as for a conference. I guess we need to move the show into DC.

A rare two showerheads and a vague feeling of disappointment for the Lansdowne Resort. Looks like LoCo has a ways to go to attain world class.

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