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Want to be near the Pacific in a terrific city? San Francisco can do that for you.

This visit included a bug free stay at the Buchanan Hotel in Japantown where Emily G and her excellent co-workers made us feel especially welcome. Here’s how.

First, the giant tetris game that is specific hotel room request came out in our favor and we secured 416 (the best room in the property with lots of windows and a great bathroom).

Yellow roses

Yellow roses

Second, yellow roses!

Third, a mystery gift…

What's in the bag?

What’s in the bag?

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Arrival was delightful.

416 and roses

416 and roses

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit.  All good.  Plus tea!

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit. All good. Plus tea!

416 has a spacious bathroom with a glass shower. No plastic showers!!

The glass shower cube

The glass shower cube

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A little rain never hurt anything. Especially in drought stricken California. The fact that the weather was perfect for the weekend was, well, perfect.

Rainy day Japantown

Rainy day Japantown

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With the expert help of Jacob, Saturday’s itenerary was outstanding.

Brunch at Foreign Cinema was first. We used the show up at 10:45 and walk right in at 11 hack.

Foreign Cinema brunch

Foreign Cinema brunch

Followed by a quick last minute stint at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning market

Saturday morning market

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And a trip to Lands End.

Land's End

Land’s End

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Who's that?

Who’s that?

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Cocktail hour was spent at the always fantastic Smuggler’s Cove for tiki, rum, and conversation. A meeting of the secret book club was held.

Smuggler's Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Smuggler’s Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Dinner was at The Progress. Super fantastic, rollicking fun time. And the food was good too!

Sunday should start with a great brunch, say at the Hillside Supper Club.

And then a trip to Napa on a gorgeous day! Domaine Carneros is a great target, especially if you have club privileges.

One of my favorite wines in the world is Old Hill from Ravenswood.

Pizza evening (due to a 2 hour wait at the sushi place we targetted) was followed by a visit to the delightful Churchhill bar. This is a low key almost dive like neighborhood place with an outstanding collection of serious booze.

In other San Francisco fun NPS gladly notes the following establishments:
lunch (every day) at cafe claude
ramen in Japantown at Waraku
fun and games with superb cocktails at Forgery
world class brunch at Plow
jacques incredible cocktails in a relaxed and gorgeous room at Wildhawk
outstanding food at rich table

About which these twitterz:

Thursday madness was particularly fun this iteration.

Five showerheads with a wink and a nod for the Buchanan where everything went as planned.

LACMA

January 24, 2017

When in LA, we do try to go to see our old friends at the LACMA.

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Like this.

Chris Mac's ancestor

Chris Mac’s ancestor

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Blue period Picasso

Blue period Picasso

Frenimy

Frenimy

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No pictures of the shadow

No pictures of the shadow

Ahead of its time

Ahead of its time

Burn brightly while you can

Burn brightly while you can

Rodin

Rodin

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Blue sky (by me)

Blue sky (by me)

Maybe you get a pass on the plastic shower thing if you are an historical property and you have peepholes like this??

Peep hole in 504

Peep hole in 504

Of course, we’ve been here before, so we know which end is up and exactly why this property rocks. This time we made double sure to get the right room with an incredible (yuge?) view of the Pacific—especially after our Kimpton debacle last week). 504 is sweet!

The view on arrival

The view on arrival

And it is on the proper side of the building as well.

504 side windows see this

504 side windows see this

So what to expect? A very spacious suite with reasonable furnishings only slightly dated. Plenty of room to work (and to entertain, as it turns out). A large bathroom with the exact wrong kind of shower. Creaky net. Busted speakers. Buy your own flowers. But the view. And the location. And the view.

Flowers. Buy self.

Flowers. Buy self.

Of course it does actually rain sometimes. All day. For three days!

Of course it does actually rain sometimes. All day. For three days!

Entrance hallway 504

Entrance hallway 504

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

504 sitting room

View into the bedroom

View into the bedroom

504 bedroom

504 bedroom

This is actually from my brother's inlaws house, so ignore it

This is actually from my brother’s inlaws house, so ignore it

Bathroom

Bathroom

Nooooo! A plastic shower. Eat crow and stay here anyway.

Nooooo! A plastic shower. Eat crow and stay here anyway.

Enough room even for certain travelling companions

Enough room even for certain travelling companions

Anyway, did we have fun in Santa Monica? Sure. We started off in LA at the wine thing.

Breakfast crepe was delicious.

Then we visited McCabe’s Guitar Shop (owned by our very own peeps). if you are a music person, just visit, play, hang out, learn. There are ghosts.

McCabe's Guitar Shop

McCabe’s Guitar Shop

Which made us want stuff like this beauty of a guitar. Hurry up and buy it, or I will.

Want

Want

And we had a delicious dinner up the canyon at the very old school and very very good Saddle Peak Lodge. The highlight of the night was talking to Bob while eating elk. Bob is just bob. Maybe one day we’ll tell you. Or maybe not. Talk to Bob you lucky bastard.

Anyway, fütbol in the room on the rainiest Sunday in maybe 8 years in Santa Monica. Mud slides, rocks that closed roads, leaky roofs that (who knew) are supposed to keep water out?! And all of the fütbol teams that we liked were beat. Kind of like the election. At least there was beer and a smidge of bourbon.

Followed by Bourne on OK glass with super bad speakers. Dear hotels, why is it that home cinema situations even among those who mostly don’t give a shit are 10 years ahead of you? No, really. Why? One decade ahead.

Which catches us on up to Monday. Work and LACMA.

LACMA

LACMA

LACMA

LACMA

About which more here.

Then dinner at the very not bad Manchego, where they have yet to discover both Priorat and twitter.

Four showerheads and a wish for glass showers and speakers that are not blown.

Wine

Wine

New friends, great wine, excellent food, great conversation—donnie, you sure know how to do it!

Lets start things off with a Negroni

Lets start things off with a Negroni

We convened slightly off the beaten path on a flooded, rainy day at Officine Brera in LA.

Convocation

Convocation

Tasting two

Tasting two

Everyone brought a bottle to contribute and describe. Probably the most interesting was a 17 year old bottle from China.

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

The food was just as good as the wine.

Cinghiale

Cinghiale

The menu

The menu

Chaos

Chaos

Delightful. Lets do it again.

OK, strap in for some first world problems and whining. We’ll try to get it over with quick.

NPS exists because, well, no plastic showers. Kimpton usually fulfills that mission admirably and is NPS’s hotel group of choice by a country mile. But San Francisco suffered a massive property meltdown during the IHG acquisition, and its impact can be felt all the way to today. Bill Kimpton would not likely be pleased.

After a very long day of flying across the country and working into the evening on a challenging task, a nice dinner at Slanted Door followed by drinks at Hard Water was just what the doctor ordered on a rainy rainy night. Which means we arrived way late at the Buchanan (after midnight). More about that is a sec.

Hard Water was a blast. If you like bourbon and rye, you need to go there.

We concentrated on Rye, doing a Handy Rye comparison experiment with a Sazarac chaser. Awesome.

On arrival at the Buchanan, things started off OK. We were assigned a room, but it was not the one we explicitly requested. So we proceeded on up.

Which meant, a room with a plastic shower. What happened? Did the system fail? Did nobody bother to work this through? Yes.

811

811

After a brief and very disappointing entry into 811 we went down to see what could be done about it. That is when the Demarco demerits set in, about which we’ll write only that the situation later required management intervention. Someone needs some more training.

A crappy plastic shower in 811

A crappy plastic shower in 811

811 is just fine by Marriott standards, but it is not a room to shlep all the way to Japantown for. The shower is the worst kind of plastic shower. Shower curtains are our bane.

There was a nice amenity, sparkling water, an interesting view, and a note from GM Emily Glick. They knew we were coming, kinda. You see, it turns out that nobody put two and two together about NPS and this mystery inner circle member of 14 years. Dang. We appreciate the perqs, kimpton but all we really want is NO PLASTIC SHOWERS.

The shower was plastic.

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And it got worse. Very early in the morning when it came time to use the crappy plastic shower, the shower curtain was filthy. Just gross.

The nuclear option was pursued, and everything was discussed if not resolved. Thanks to the social media team, mike d, and email for making all of that possible. The room we wanted was (miraculously) free the next day, but there was no time to move stuff on this quick hop. And no we were not expecting any kind of upgrade. We’re happy to pay retail when on business. Flowers were involved, which was a very nice touch.

Thanks for the flowers.  Lets get this right next time.

Thanks for the flowers. Lets get this right next time.

Anyway, we can’t exactly cross the Buchanan off the list, because it is the best remaining Kimpton option in San Francisco. We’ll be back soon hoping that things run more smoothly.

Two showerheads, seven demarco demerits, and a trip to detention for the Buchanan. Thanks for working things out Emily, but lets just have nothing to work out next go ’round please.

If the Lorien sounds familiar to you, dear reader, that’s because we stayed here just a few short weeks ago in a last minute mad dash to the Kimpton inner circle finish line. We made it across by the skin of our teeth! But we also got a great meal in old town as a fabulous side effect. Read all about that here.

We’re back, this time in the city on a keynote talk gig. Of course the conference is being held at some awful Hilton or other where NPS would not be caught dead staying. So Kimpton it is!

This time we’re in room(s) 611 and 615. I am here first for an evening and then the rest of the posse comes later. Plenty of room in this set of rooms! And a balcony to boot, which on a 68 degree day in January is awesome.

The balcony would be a great place for breakfast!

The balcony would be a great place for breakfast!

Sadly, the weather promises to turn to snow by Saturday morning. We might even get stuck here in the mosquito!

Looking in, French doors.

Looking in, French doors.

Living room

Living room

Living room

Living room

The bedroom is tucked away in the corner, but is very nice with doors that open to the outside. It is basically the penthouse corner of the 6th floor.

Bedroom 611

Bedroom 611

With all of the adjoining rooms, we need a huge shower to fit everyone. Fortunately, that’s all set.

A glass shower big enough for everyone!

A glass shower big enough for everyone!

The shower barely fits in the mirror.

The shower barely fits in the mirror.

After settling in, it was time for a drink in the great cocktail bar downstairs with Steph Vogel. NPS recommends highly the practice of having a drink with the big boss. Inner circle karma all around as barman Phil Clark and chef Wiedmaier made cocktail hour special.

The Apples to Apples
1.5 oz appleton VX rum
1 oz laird’s apple brandy
.5 oz cynar
.5 oz demerara syrup
4 dashes bittermen’s tiki bitters
Shake. Serve on large rocks in a whiskey glass.

After driving off for dinner with an actual sibling, we returned for a midnight snack. The charcuterie plate was remarkable.

Wine, notes, meat, cheese, dessert, sparking water? What more is there in an amenity. Thanks you guys.

Those black sesame things, just wow.

Those black sesame things, just wow.

Out of this world charcuterie

Out of this world charcuterie

Five showerheads for the Lorien. Can’t wait to see the style evolve at this hotel. We’ll be back as often as we can.

You know that quandry where you’re just below the threshold for Inner Circle status by one night? That. Somehow it happens every year.

Why leave this?

Why leave this?

Fortunately, NPS can always make the best of it by visiting Steph Vogel and finding out what he is up to. A little backstory, Steph has run a number of DC-area Kimpton properties, lifting them every time up into excellence: the Palomar, the George, and the Donovan. Now it’s time for the Lorien.

The Lorien’s main problem is competition from the very fabulous Hotel Monaco just down the street (and much closer to the water). The Monaco seems to have sucked up all of the great design resources, leaving the Lorien marooned in the dreamscape ’90s. That is all starting to change now that Steph is in charge.

For example, the bar and restaurant are already going places. Once a scary exclusively white tablecloth space is now a bar buzzing with life and engaged with the street (not to mention soaked in cocktail excellence). Phil Clark runs a very nice bar.

The Lorien bar program is top notch

The Lorien bar program is top notch

Get those drinks right!  Attention detail, you are now on call.

Get those drinks right! Attention detail, you are now on call.

Just take a look at the glassware. This is top shelf.

Liberty Punch

Liberty Punch

Bourbon Crusta

Bourbon Crusta

The amenity deposited for NPS in 619 highlighted both the bar and the kitchen to great effect. Just gorgeous, very welcoming, and kind.

Fancy a sweet?

Fancy a sweet?

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

Watching the rooms transform from their current stark, almost bland design to something better will be fun. NPS money says that in six months this property will be the hottest ticket in town.

619 Bedroom

619 Bedroom

Stark

Stark

The shower, we are happy to report, is glass shower excellence (and huge). NPS could shoot a movie in there!

Enter the glass door for showering

Enter the glass door for showering

NPS approved shower

NPS approved shower

And off the bedroom and sitting room both, is a balcony overlooking Alexandria. Can’t wait to come back and see what that is like in the summer.

View from balcony of 619

View from balcony of 619

Our visit was punctuated by a drink with Phil and Steph at the bar. And then it was off to the always fabulous Restaurant Eve for dinner. Eve did not disappoint. The five course tasting meal was absolutely delicious and worth every penny (that’s lots of pennies for those counting). Three hours of laughter, great flavors, and fun was just what the doctor ordered after this year.

We returned for a nightcap of Liberty Punch.

Four showerheads and massive velocity towards five for the Lorien. Let the transformation begin.

Great food. Great drinks. Great hospitality. 2016, we bid you adieu.