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R2 Wine Luncheon Number 5

October 12, 2019

As always, the wine luncheon in LA was excellent. Great food, great company, and great wine. Our host Donnie did it again.

We dined at Lucques, and though we did not have a private room, we were well cared for and had plenty of room.

Donnie and I arrived in time for a cocktail before lunch got rolling.

House made Negroni at Lucques

Negroni components

The house made Negroni was, um, interesting. Infused vodka?! Overly sweet home made Campari. Sweet vermouth that was pretty sweet.

R2 menu

The food was excellent. Sadly, no pictures were snapped. The wine was plentiful as always.

The wine supply

Wine

Wine

As it turned out, a number of small French wineries were in the house looking for US distributors. After lunch, we joined them for a taste.

Vive la France

After an excellent Indian dinner, we decamped to Edison for a night cap. Good times.

Greenpoint

Business. What you gonna do. The Pullman is not the kind of hotel we would normally choose, but that’s where they stuck us. After a 15 hour flight, an early arrival is somewhat non-trivial in Sydney. No arrivals lounges at the airport, and no early checkin at this business class hotel. So where do you shower off the metal tube?

The hotel staff did offer up the (not really that private) shower on 23 where the pool and weight room are situated. So yes, we did it. Nothing like shaving in public by the pool! LOL.

The shower on 23 was not plastic at least

Fancy a shave?

At checkin, I asked how many room categories there were and figured out the (small) price difference between our assigned category (two) and category six. Switching to a suite was a no brainer. The suites at the Pullman are all numbered “15,” FWIW.

There was a delay checking in each time of about 20 minutes. The exec lounge on 21 has decent net and some snacks, though once again the furniture needs to be replaced.

Working in the lounge with espresso

Here is an amalgamation of 1215 and 1615, our first night suite and the one we had for the rest of our Pullman time. They were pretty much the same with dated (and very dirty) furnishings that need to be replaced.

Entrance way

Hyde park balcony

Those colors

Same view, different floor

The sitting room (1215)

The shower situation in the Pullman suites is complicated. The showers are all placed in a ’70s era hot tub replete with entry steps. At least the water pressure is good.

The extensive bathroom hot tub shower thing

Hmm

There was plenty of time for exercise due to time zone differential on this trip. Up at 4am? Yeah. I was surprised by the number of people who used the gym.

The weight room on 23

View from the exercise room

A day trip to the Blue Mountains with Brian included two hikes and an overnight stay at the Lilianfels. The hikes:

Hiking wentworth falls

Just around the corner from the Pullman is the Philosophy Cafe where not only do they have an excellent breakfast, they also have remarkably good coffee. For Sydney, that’s a thing. Sydney has great coffee all over. Make sure to take the time to find the best!

Sydney espreso

Philosophy Cafe breakfast

Also just around the corner is a great Italian restaurant called Beppi’s. Old school but very good food.

Vino Italiano at Beppi’s

Sydney is a great place to eat out. This trip included a visit to both Bistecca and Freds. Both were remarkably good. The bar at Fred’s (Charlie Parker’s) is also highly recommended.

Amer Picon at Charlie Parker’s (means a liberal)

Charlie Parker’s bar

Cocoa Banana

The Cocoa Banana from Charlie Parker’s (by Giacomo Franceschi)
house fermented banana wine (local yeast from the air)
bourbon (maker’s mark)
dark rum (havana 7)
montenegro amaro
cocoa butter

Fred’s open kitchen. Absolutely delicious food.

These fish. Just wow.

Recommended by Aaron Bedra

Bistecca grill (where the steaks are hand cut)

Speaking of bars. Make sure to include some time for: Lobo Plantation, a quick visit to the Marble bar (once anyway), the Baxter Inn, and Door Knock.

Zombie lighting at Lobo Plantation

Lobo Plantation tiki bar

The thing about the Marble bar is that it is trapped in a Hilton. The old stuff is beautiful, but whoever decided that plastic cups and formica tables were the way to go needs to be fired. Then again, the clientele was mostly tourists in tee shirts. Ordering fries seemed like the thing to do.

Marble bar

Your fries are ready

Baxter Inn is set up for whiskey drinkers, but the clientele?? Not so much. Go on an off day.

Baxter Inn Willet

The (locked) back room

Door Knock was a blast. Fun bartenders and very good drinks.

Mescal for a Paloma

Sawing the ice at Door Knock

Last Word at Door Knock

Dinner at Spice Temple was very good, though the atmosphere is a bit down market. Go for the food, not the ambiance.

Spice temple western style dumplings

We did some sailing in Sydney harbor.

Sydney transport of the fancy variety

An afternoon visit to the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art is recommended.

All told, a low three showerheads for the Pullman. Great staff, but a property that really needs some investment to stay relevant. No more furniture from the ’70s!

Oslo is a beautiful city, but whatever you do, don’t try to drive in it. Even people who grew up here can’t do it. In particular, trying to get to the Hotel Christiania Teater from Lillehammer is, well, “interesting” in that Chinese curse kind of way.

As a creature of habit who has found a great property in Oslo, NPS is happy to stay at the Hotel Christiania Teater again. The only wrinkle is that someone else has booked 620 for Wednesday night. Scooped!

That meant we were relegated to room 510, which is a nice room with an inner courtyard facing “view.” 510 is very nice, but is not at all a 620!

510 is dominated by this comfortable bed

The suite sitting area is in the same room as the bed (which in our view makes it less of a suite and more of a room)

bathroom alcove

the shower is set apart by a huge heavy door

Sadly the plumbing seems to wake up early and make insane amounts of noise. An alarm clock of sorts.

The glass shower compartment, this shower is OK

One of the best parts of Hotel Christiania Teater is the bar downstairs which is top notch and always nice to visit.

Negroni with Norwegian gin

Excellent Indian food can be found at Jaipur.

Delicious

And of course a visit to Himkok is pretty much mandatory.

Experimental aquavit cocktail

Experimental Aquavit Cocktail
2cl aquavit
2cl tequila
4 cl beech water kefie
10 ml ambrato (bison grass)
10 ml Italicus
stir down. serve up.

After a one day delay, room 620 became available. An excellent, interesting, quirky space with a great shower.

The supermodels show off 630

bedroom is all bed

walk in shower with tub

One of two great alcoves with windows

All in all 620 has tons of room to hang out, exercise (which is important since the hotel has no gym of its own), blog, read, etc, in comfort.

Some time in Oslo, included a visit to Gøran’s cousin’s excellent art gallery PURenkel.

I added a painting to the art collection.

starfish

There was also Indian street food, beer, and espresso.

A talk.

Visiting Miles

Dinner at Hanami was very good. Excellent sushi and great service.

Just skip the bar at the thief. These people have forgotten what hospitality is.

Five showerheads for Hotel Christiania Teater, one of NPS’ favorite hotels on the planet.

What a difference a year makes. Last year the Grande Colonial seemed a bit tired and long in the tooth. It has had a facelift.

View from 102

Though the architecture of the building has not changed, the room layout is much cleaner and more spacious. Even the long skinny bathroom (which remains long and skinny) is better.

Looking in the long skinny bathroom. Hey, the shower is not plastic!

This trend to delete bath tubs and replace them with modern shower spaces is a great trend. Much better use of space, and much more reasonable approach to morning cleanliness.

The best part of this design is that the controls are situated logically. No reason to get wet while you turn on the shower.

The rest of the room has been opened up, repainted, and re-imagined. Nice work.

102 bed

Seating area 102

Look how comfortable

Sadly, the parking lot has not been deleted. The ocean is over there somewhere.

Dinner at Catania was very good for a restaurant group property. Modern italian with a negroni to boot. Recommended.

Sadly, the bar at Nine Ten (which is a very good restaurant in the hotel) is still sub-par. Gotta hire some hipsters who know what they are doing. The current bar suits the old, monied, and boring demographic of the hotel. Nuff said.

George’s at the Cove, a La Jolla establishment of many years still deserving its reputation, still has the best cocktail program in town.

Joree Weatherly was a top notch barman who served us this cocktail. It has a name, but Joree did not write it down on the recipe I asked for. Lets just call it Trentino Tincture. Actually, it turns out to be named Shiso Piney
1.5 Amaro Junipero gin
.5 Pasubio amaro (from Trentino where I spent a year in 1993)
1 lemon
.75 shiso syrup
2 dashes of pine tincture
top with soda. serve on rocks in a collins glass.

When we returned the next night with a cast of hundreds, Joree made use these great cocktails:
Mezcal Manhattan
1.5 Mezcal
.75 montenegro
.75 Averna
2 dashes mexican spiced bitters
Stir down, serve on a large cube

Negroni Amarillo
1.5 Mezcal
1 pamplemousse
1 suze
2 dashes sage tincture
Stir down, serve up with sage leaf

United upgraded us on the way out. Lets hope that works for the way back too. Global services rock on! Um, nope. No upgrade, and we’re here to tell you, economy sucks!

NPS is impressed. Nice work updating the property! Four showerheads for the Grande Colonial.

After a weekend of staying with friends (paul, jim and chloe), we spent one night at the Kabuki before heading out of town early in the morning.

1602 is as nice a room as ever. We have been here before.

1602 bedroom in the upper corner

There was just enough time to dash down a craft cocktail before dinner.

The Daffodil-Narcissus
1 oz Sipsmith gin
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz honey/water 1:1
.5 oz lillet blanc
.5 oz lime juice
spoon of greek yogurt
egg white
dry shake. shake on ice. serve in a collins with a big cube and dill garnish.

Dinner at Mourad was very good indeed. Expensive as all get out, but great food and an excellent quirky wine list.

And we now have a new driver in SF.

Four showerheads for the Kabuki and thanks for putting us up in our favorite room.

OK, well, the first one of 2019, but the second one ever.

The Great Belgian Rum Tasting of 2016 was a smashing success. So we decided to do it again some three-ish years later.

What that requires is a flight to Brussels, and a drive out to Lichtervelde.

You may recall that Lichtervelde is home to the world famous Eenie Meenie the goat. Eenie Meenie is getting on in years, and we were glad to see her again while she is still alive.

Eenie Meenie in the house

Things are much swankier than ever at chez Madou, where the bar is well stocked, Liberals are available at all times, and the kids are on track to shake up a mean cocktail.

Makings of a Liberal, including superior bourbon from Virginia

Start em early. Just don’t shake a martini.

Here’s how things proceeded on the rum front.

The lineup of seven rums

Cubay Ronera Central

Cubay Ronera Central: CUBA

Oak. Bitter. Alcohol nose. Under signed. 5 year. Proof 86. SCORE: 6

Havana Club Barrel Proof

Havana Club Barrel Proof: CUBA

Nice nose (no esters). Butter with a twist. Hot. Post sugar not too much. Proof 90. SCORE: 7

Pampero Aniversario

Pampero Aniversario: Venezuela

Venezuela. Post sugar. Balanced. Island style. Proof 80. SCORE: 6

Ron Millonario

Ron Millonario: Peru

Peru. Ester on the nose. Central America style. Brown sugar with ester twist. (Madou like it.) . Proof 80. SCORE: 5

Ron Barceló Imperial Blend

Ron Barceló Imperial Blend: Dominican Republic

Wins for ridiculous bottle. . Over sugared. Over oaked. Proof 86. SCORE: 5

Clément Single Cask

Clément Single Cask: Martinique

Rhum agricole. Great nose. Bitter. Mature Oak. Proof 93.6. SCORE 8

Clément Cuveée Spéciale XO

Clément Cuveée Spéciale XO: Martinique

Too hot. Under oaked. GAH. Proof ?. SCORE 4

Notes were kept.

Verdict is in.

The final order.

The final order:
1. Clément Single Cask
2. Havana Club Barrel Proof
3. Cubay Ronera Central
4. Pampero Aniversario
5. Ron Barceló Imperial Blend
6. Ron Millonario
7. Clément Cuvée Spéciale XO
8. Dettol

Special guest rum

As has become a tradition, a special guest rum was added to the mix just for fun. This year, dreft was replaced with the lemony goodness of Dettol

Special guest rum (slot 8)

Your host and the final order (plus or minus one)

Of course no visit to the new bar Madou would be complete without some tiki.

Yes, that is what you think it is (in Belgium)

Zombie for the tiki win

And no evening would be complete without a Liberal.

WRT showers and places to stay, above the bar is a complete guest suite featuring wood beams, skylights, a sitting area and glass showers. Sorry, no pictures.

Fix showerheads (plus one) for Madou’s new digs. Can’t wait to be back.

Thanks Madou.

Our first taste of Rydges South Bank Brisbane left a bad taste in the mouth. But a meeting with the GM in the morning cleared things up.

While we were off having breakfast, our room was switched to a very nice suite (room 1028).

There is plenty of room in 1028. And two balconies to boot.

Wrap around balconies

Room to exist

Working desk

A separate bedroom

The bathroom is big enough for two, and has a big tub.

Much better shower. Ahhh!

The shower is very nice

Breakfast at the Gunshop Cafe is delicious. Great espresso and juice.

Gunshop cafe Sunday brunch

After which, an excursion to Stradbroke Island (called “straddie”). Ferry ride on a bus, picnic lunch, beer, hiking, gelato, swimming in the ocean. A great day.

Point Lookout

The seas were high, and we got wet, which was a blast!

See more pictures from the Stradbroke trip.

Dinner at Julius Pizzeria was authentically Italian. Great pizza and great people.

Julius Pizzeria

There is a budding cocktail scene in Brisbane. Thanks to Rachel at Wickham we were looped in. We can confirm that Saville Row is top notch. (Look for the orange door.)

Likewise Electric Avenue is a great place for a cocktail. Jess created a drink for us.

Jess at Electric Avenue

Rye Surprise
45ml Bulliet Rye
20ml dry vermouth
15ml lemon
20ml kiwi puree
40ml pineapple
8 dashes peychauds
shake. double strain. serve up in a coupette. garnish with dehydrated pineapple.

Rye Surprise

Apparently a Brisbane cocktail called the clockwork orange was a contest winner…which contest we don’t recall. It falls squarely in the tiki category.

Clockwork Orange
20ml aperol
20ml cherry heering
20ml passionfruit syrup
30ml gin (monkey 47)
25ml lemon
2 dashes orange bitters
shake. strain. serve over crushed ice in a tall collins glass.

Bars we were unable to visit but heard tell are good include: Legends Speakeasy (find the passcode on the net) and Tomcat (behind Bill Murray).

Skip the Pancake Manor. Though it is built in an old church the food is awful and the espresso is worse. Greasy spoons should be greasy but not just bad.

QAGOMA is an excellent museum. The modern art collection is far superior to the science museum’s stuff. Just stick with the art. Have a beer in the courtyard.

The botanical gardens are also worth a visit.

Four showerheads and a tip of the hat to Rydges. Thanks for fixing things. Now for some sleep!

Hidden Lodge is the bomb. Make sure to stay here if you stay in Queenstown, New Zealand. The property is just as gorgeous as the surrounding countryside.

Hidden Lodge living room overlooks lake Wakatipu

The Wha room is downstairs and overlooks a verdant lawn.

All showers are glass

The Toru is upstairs with windows on both sides.

The shower is NPS approved

The wood fired hot tub is an excellent place for a soak. Just make sure it gets properly stoked!

Wood fired hot tub

The food and cocktail scene in Queenstown is pretty touristy, but that can be a good thing. Food at Blue Kanu is creative and delicious.

Budda at Blue Kanu

Get the KFC at Blue Kanu

Cloudy Bay bubbly

On the other hand, though the scene is fun at VKnow, the food does not live up to its hype. Danny is a hoot.

Joe’s Garage serves a nice lunch.

For cocktails, the Bunker can’t be beat.

Experimental Cocktail

Barman Dermot Hynes made us an Experimental Cocktail
10 ml Laphroaig
45 ml woodford reserve
20 ml lemon
10 ml sweet vermouth
10 ml simple syrup
dash angustora
stir down. serve up. twist.

Take a walk up Queenstown Hill.

Five showerheads and a hope to return for the Hidden Lodge. Just top notch.

Though NPS has lost track of just how many times we’ve stayed at the Grant Street Inn, our previous visit seems to have been in October 2015! Whoa. Well, it’s nice to be back.

The good news is that room 30 was available (or rather, became available) for this visit. Thanks to the staff for freeing it up!

The fireplace in 30 no longer seems to function

The bed, on the other hand, functions just fine.

Still no opportunity to try out this hot tub thing

The plastic shower can be forgiven due to the hot tub thing. We guess.

It was a nostalgic visit this time, back to the town where NPS went to grad school. The weather was awful, rainy and chilly, so, as a result, much time was spent inside.

A new cocktail club in town called C3 Bar is worth a visit. Had to teach them how to make a Lion’s Tail, but they did a fine job. The food is good and beats the kind of weird suburban location hands down.

A visit to the Irish Lion was an absolute blast as always. So much laughter! And great Sazaracs made with Whistlepig 10 rye.

Back up to four showerheads for the Grant Street Inn. One of these years, maybe the hot tub will come into play.

After a seriously turbulent night flight across the pond, a bus ride over the Frankfurt tarmac, a multiply-delayed ICE train and a missed local connection, it was nice to arrive at the Nestor Hotel and have a room ready to go. Walking over from the train station is very easy indeed, and helps you stay awake. Check in was easy even in zombie mode.

Sadly, the Nestor chain appears to be set up to accommodate conferences and large groups more than anything else. This is a four star in Germany, which puts it right smack in JW Marriott territory. Everything looks pretty good on the surface, but it is really cheap veneer with thin carpet allowing lots of noise between rooms. A business class hotel. Not NPS’s cup of tea.

The little NPS cubicle (replete with tiny bed) is 308.

Lil teeny bed in 308

The sitting area and desk are all within 15 feet of the bed

Fortunately, Ludwigsburg is resplendent today.

View from 308

The bathroom is likewise “cozy” and very Euro.

Not plastic unless you count the tub, which is plastic

Sink stand

There is a big pipe in the bathroom. That is just weird.

After a much-needed invigorating shower, it was off into town for lunch. Greek food at Die Griechin is very homey. Great people. Authentic, if not uninspired fare.

Breakfast at the hotel is very nice, and the restaurant serves a decent lunch as well. Service is friendly even if the kitchen is slow.

On a more upbeat note, the Black and White Cocktail Bar just a few short blocks away is cozy and excellent. We were among the only patrons on a Tuesday night.

Amer Picon in the house means a Liberal or two.

La Barrosa Cocktail (by Mario Wirth)
50 ml carlos I brandy
10 ml Strega
.5 ml Balsamico creme (can sub px Sherry)
Amaretto spray on top
Stir. Serve on one big rock.

Make sure to visit the Black and White Bar if you are in Ludwigsburg.

Dinner at the very friendly Zum Urigen was authentic and about as German as you can get. The owners are from Vietnam, but have lived in Germany for 30 years. This place has a very local feel with lots of patrons who know each other.

A very low three showerheads for the Nestor, where function overrides style, and things feel fairly fake.