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Sure is fun to be back at a top notch hotel where they know you: email banter up front, warmly greeted at the front desk (even by the super nice newbie manager guy), allocated a great room, dropped sparkling water and everything. We could get used to this. Oh wait, we are used to this! Kimpton rocks.

It’s Chicago high

727 is not a high room (nor it is the rumored artist’s suite) but it is a great room with an outstanding shower.

Chicago low from 727

727 in

727 out

Amenity with a personal note

Sitting room

Perhaps this showerhead is new. It is nice.

In Chicago there is no time for sitting down or for benches in the shower or anything relaly.

Superior glass cube.

A cocktail at Sable was in order and a Chicago pizza pie.

Special NPS announcement: Chicago deep dish pizza is pizza!

Now for some doughnuts at Glazed and Infused.

Maybe it is time for another battle of the Palomars??

This super quick hit in Chicago involves a rental car we do not need, multiple meetings, and and early evening flight out. Who needs art? Heck, who even needs dinner?? But what we do need for sure is a great morning shower, and we got that at the always five star forever Palomar. Thanks you guys.

Here at NPS we have a long and storied history with the Hotel Palomar. This is our annual base of operations during the RSA show (with thousands and thousands of computer security types). And every time we do a Silicon Valley swing we try to tack on a night in the city. We even fomented the “Battle of the Palomars” between DC, Chicago and San Francisco! Feels like home.

[If there were some fresh flowers, we would put a picture of that here.]

But as GM Christopher Smith points out, “Seems like you have a knack for swinging by mid renovation or mid conference shift :).” Yup! So sadly I am sequestered in 831 instead of in my more favorite room style (which when I walked by was in a state of disarray with furniture being moved around in circles.) In the beginning, I was assigned 904 which sounded about right, but that room had a plastic shower?! Horrors. The situation was quickly rectified by Justin.

The right kind of shower on 831.

The right kind of shower on 831.

Anyway, there will be no getting lost in this room! But the Internet works and my phone call filled day is going well. About the only other fly in the ointment is a sentence to have dinner in Pleasanton (or Dublin) at McNamara’s Steakhouse. Woe is us.

The room in all of its entirety. 831 Hotel Palomar.

The room in all of its entirety. 831 Hotel Palomar.

831 Hotel Palomar. All hail the door!

831 Hotel Palomar. All hail the door!

About the only thing that will salvage tonight is a stop by for some cocktails with Brian Means at Dirty Habits. Looking forward to that!

Five showerheads with less water pressure than they need to properly operate for the Hotel Palomar this time. We’ll be back.

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.

For a month now, the Chicago Palomar has been leading the “battle of the Palomars.” With their artists suite hack, replete with house made jerky and a truly outstanding bar downstairs, they were looking like a lock. (Not to discount what San Francisco has been up to this year, I just need to get back there!) But Steph Vogel, GM at the DC Palomar has joined the game, and the Presidential Suite certainly doesn’t hurt!

Super friendly checkin. The valet guys remembered the mosquito.

Room 924 is not just a suite in name, with tons of room and stylish decor.

The fruit and cheese welcome package came in very handy as dinner was slated for late. And loyal readers already know how we feel about sparkling water here in noplasticshowersland.

Greetings

Greetings

What President would like this?

What President would like this?

It’s refreshing to be in a presidential suite that was designed well after the Reagan administration. Compare this gorgeous space to what the nearby Westfields Marriott has to offer. Kimpton = skinny pants, Marriott = khakis.

Presidential sleep land at the DC Palomar.

Presidential sleep land at the DC Palomar.

This chair is crazier than it looks from this angle.

This chair is crazier than it looks from this angle.

There are two bathrooms in this space, and room for a small gathering.

Powder room.

Powder room.

The master bath has a glass shower and a gigantic whirlpool tub.

Old school glass shower with a marble floor.

Old school glass shower with a marble floor.

The usual sink.

The usual sink.

A visit to obelisk (right next door) for said late dinner was solid, but not outstanding. A couple of the creations were remarkable. However, the day’s entres needed more sparkle. Fourth visit not a charm.

It got better.

Cupcakes and san pellegrino!

Cupcakes and san pellegrino!

Imagine that after a long boring meeting you walk in to drop off your computer and you are greeted with cupcakes and a specially concocted cocktail. Jerry Chou made day2 special. Thank you Jerry. (Hey Jacques, you know that sitting a manhattan around in a barrel after mixing it destroys the vermouth, but the guys at Urbana don’t.)

A nice dinner at Noras followed by a visit to Bourbon just up the street made the day complete. And what does Bourbon have in stock?

William Larue Weller

William Larue Weller

Hirsch 16 Reserve

Hirsch 16 Reserve

Day3 allowed for some time at the Phillips collection after a nice lunch at Bistrot du Coin. The Van Gogh Repetitions show is fantastic even if you have been to Amsterdam (where I will be Monday).

The permanent collection (Bonard)

The permanent collection (Bonard)

This Bonard of the purple person shares a theme with the Postal Worker edition six. Disappearing subject.

Purple person Bonard.

Purple person Bonard.

Dinner at the much anticipated Range (a Voltaggio restaurant) interesting. Won’t be going back. See review here.

Five showerheads and current lead in the battle of the Palomars to the DC Palomar. Better watch out San Francisco and Chicago!

Kandinski at the Phillips.

Kandinski at the Phillips.

I’m back at the Palomar in San Francisco where I spent some time being spoiled in February. Fantastic as always.

It seems as if I am the “victim” of some kind of colosal contest between the Chicago Palomar and the San Francisco Palomar. It’s tit for tat. Chicago started it with this year’s first visit. And Chicago had the previous move just recently as well. I could not be luckier to be stuck in this battle of the titans!

I was greeted with flowers.

Palmoar San Francisco ups the Ante with Flowers

Palmoar San Francisco ups the Ante with Flowers

And a charcuterie plate that is simply outstanding. (Too bad it was sushi night at ozumo last night.)

Welcome package with sparkling water, wine, and a delicious charcuterie selection.

Welcome package with sparkling water, wine, and a delicious charcuterie selection.

Wow.  Fifth floor does its thing.

Wow. Fifth floor does its thing.

The only thing seemingly missing is a cocktail invented just for the occasion. What, is Chicago pulling ahead? Surely not. (They don’t call me maestro for one thing.)

Room 802 is a well appointed suite.

Couch land,

Couch land,

Bed land.

Bed land.

Bathroom land.

Bathroom land.

The shower in 802 is not as cool as some showers at the Palomar in San Francisco, but it passes the noplasticshowers tests with flying colors.

This shower is not plastic.

This shower is not plastic.

Thanks to Kelsey Barthe and the entire staff for making me feel welcome. This is a great base of operations for the next few days. Too bad about the breakfast meeting in Sunnyvale!!


Good news, the Sunnyvale run is cancelled. Better news, the battle has been joined!

Day2 = Greenpoint (just to make jS green with envy)

Day2 = Greenpoint (just to make jS green with envy)

And the associated note.

And the associated note.

Just for the record, the Greenpoint is a delicious and well known concoction. Muchas gracias.

Now off to Perbacco for dinner. Perbacco remains serviceable and a nice place for a business dinner (get a table upstairs to avoid the noise).

Wandered into the Fifth Floor bar for a late nightcap with Matias after just a bit of wine and grappa at Perbacco (Rajiv brought in two bottles from his cellar to complement the Italian-heavy house list). Fifth floor was hopping for a Wednesday, but never really gets overly crowded from what I can tell. The service was attentive and fun (sometimes overly attentive, with some missed handoffs between servers, barkeeps, and filler inners who came to the party late).

Sadly, head barman Brian Means was off. (Everyone deserves a day off now and then.) We were served by his protege Sarah, who has some big shoes to fill when Brian is not in the building. Sarah is very good indeed. We had some very good cocktails, but nothing deserving particular note.

Upon a second visit, we tried out a number of the drinks on the bar menu (along with some “oysters five ways” from the restaurant menu). The list includes some superb and interesting drinks. There was no time to get the recipes as we had to head out to Saha for dinner. Sarah was kind enough to make us a house favorite Boris Karloff:
.75 gin
.75 St Germaine (eiderflower)
1 t confectioners sugar
1 egg white
shake, strain
grated lime zest and black pepper as a garnish on the (now) beaten egg white

I really shouldn’t admit it here, but the bar at Sable in Chicago is better than the bar at the Fifth Floor. Better space and a deeper staff. That may well even the score in the battle of the Palomars. In final analysis, both bars are absolutely top notch for hotel-associated enterprises. It is rare indeed to find any hotel that blows out all the noplasticshowers criteria, and both Palomars in the battle do. Hopefully they will spawn.

Five showerheads for San Francisco Palomar. Love it.

Chicago Palomar Tops Itself

October 10, 2013

There are many reasons this trip is going well. First, United somehow accidentally upgraded me in advance on both legs (time warp to pre-merger), barman John Stanton is on duty at the Sable bar while I am in town, and the fabulous Chicago Palomar is engaged in the battle of the Palomars. Optimal trip! Too bad it’s only one day.

Room 1716 is the best one yet at the Chicago Palomar. Plenty of room, that’s for sure.

Living room.

Living room.

Sleeping room.

Sleeping room.

And the shower is not plastic in the least.

Cleaning room.

Cleaning room.

View from the glass cube.

View from the glass cube.

Sparkling water and a cheese plate that includes honeycomb. Plus a handwritten note. Wow! The bonus plate of homemade jerky is a quirky delicious twist.

Yum!

Yum!

All that aside, my favorite part of the Chicago Palomar is the excellence at the Sable bar. John Stanton is a knowledgeable barman who is happy to chat about his craft. The night’s experimental beverage looks like this. We’ll call it the Chicago Skyline
2 oz Old Granddad 114
.5 Zucca amaro
.5 Dolin blanc
2 dashes Reagans orange bitters
Stir down, express orange peel and discard.

John also shared a recipe somewhat similar to a Boris Karloff that I want to try when I get home:
2 oz Old Heaven Hill
.75 lemon juice
.75 honey pepper syrup (I am going to try green peppercorn)
egg white
cracked pepper garnish

Because it was a gorgeous clear evening, we decided to have dinner at Nomi on the garden terrace. They can’t mix a drink to save their lives, but the food is good and the atmosphere is terrific.

For breakfast, go one block to Glazed and Infused for gourmet doughnuts and espresso. Vanilla bean glazed? Creme brulee? Dangerous.

Five stars for the Chicago Palomar (as always) and a fervent wish to have a longer stay in the future.

After our pathetic week trapped at the Sawgrass Marriott a quick trip to NY was just the antidote we needed. Ah Kimpton. Get this, the staff is well trained and helpful! They seem to like their jobs in hospitality too.

But in its NY way, 70 Park is no Palomar. If it were entered in the battle of the Palomars, it would be soundly defeated in round one. In fact, if it were in a tennis match with either Palomar the score would look something like 6-0 6.2. Down in straight sets with multiple breaks.

I wanted room 1705. In fact, I even asked my travel people to ask for it. But I ended up in 1115. See what happens when you’ve already been in the best room and you have to step it down? I’m not sure the 70 Park people even know that they did that. Alas. Gotta use those computers people!

Tasteful couch art piece.

Tasteful couch art piece.

This bedroom design featured on the website.  With the same art and everything.

This bedroom design featured on the website. With the same art and everything.

There was a welcome package (with sparkling water! yay!), but it came with a computer printed note and the printer was mis-aligned. Did they make me a hand lettered really cool note like the Palomar’s Kelsey Barthe and the gang?! Nope. Oh well, I am glad to be computerized special anyway. So thanks Santos Castillo, whoever you are! If the printer had not been screwed up, I would know what your role is.

Wine, computo-welcome, and best of all sparking water.

Wine, computo-welcome, and best of all sparking water.

The bathroom has one of those really weird tubs. And (horror of horrors) it has a shower curtain!

Bathroom shot.  1115 70 Park, NY.

Bathroom shot. 1115 70 Park, NY.

Really weird tub thing.  I worry about what happens when this is turned on.

Really weird tub thing. I worry about what happens when this is turned on.

Arriving late, I headed down to the bar for a nightcap. Uncharacteristically, it was packed with people and hopping. Sad to say, though John and Pamela are really nice and game to make a crazy fun cocktail, their collection has yet to be touched by the magic wand of Jacques Bezuidenhout. I made a variant of the Berryville Passage:
1.5 Shine (or white dog with a sticker if you insist)
.5 Dolin’s sweet vermouth
.5 Dolin’s dry vermouth
.5 Yellow Chartreuse
1 dash Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters
1 dash Angustora

But we had to use crappy vermouth, sub in Peychauds for Black Walnut, and use Blanton’s instead of white dog. Well, uh, whatever. It was still kinda good.

Hey Jacques, plus ’em up!! Note that there are zero great bars in the night life wasteland where 70 Park is. Only the Blue Bar at the Algonquin and Lantern’s Keep at the Iroquois would provide any competition. If you guys created something only half as good as Fifth Floor or Sables you would scratch an itch that needs scratching. Really! Ten votes from noplasticshowers-land.

We’ll demote 70 Park back to four showerheads for fitting me in on a very full night (thanks and yay) but not putting me in 1705 (boo). Now about that bar.