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Paul’s house is situated on a dead end in the city that abuts a park. Pretty much picture perfect. Also, Paul’s house has a beautiful little apartment in it. Yes please.

Why are we in SF? Maybe for something to do with hair.

Or maybe we’re trying to cross the Global Services finish line as quickly as possible.

Probably both.

A visit to Kippu in Japantown seems to be the way we do it now on landing

This aesop thing is Jacob’s fault regardless of continent

Kitchen opens on to the back garden

Glass cube. NPS approved.

For some reason, the chairs have socks

We went to see a Cal concert featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Bartok was particularly good.

Cal concert at 11:30pm EST (yawn)

Cafe du Soleil is a delicious place for a quick breakfast.

Last time we stayed at “chez fu” in Ann Arbor it was May. And it was 2016. This time it is 16 degrees and 2019 in March. Brrr.

This trip is a quick hit to catch up, give a talk, and experience some winter. Nevertheless, we did fit in a few cocktails (and some fernet) at Nightcap. This visit, all of the drinks were too sweet. We’ll blame the nephew for that.

And yes, that is a piece of carbonized (charcoal’ed?) marshmallow on that cocoa-like thing we failed to finish. At least the fernet was good (??) and there was real Williamn Larue Weller 2016 in the house.

Dinner at Tomkun BBQ was delicious and chock full of meat.

Zingerman’s deli</a for lunch is an Ann Arbor must.

No hard labor on the outdoor bread oven was required of this visit, probably because our brick was confiscated by TSA.

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 4

February 16, 2019

The fourth LA wine luncheon run was excellent and fun as always. This time the highlight of the day was an absolutely top notch menu put together by Bistro 45. (FWIW, Bistrot 45 already held the top dining position for these wine lunch things and knocked themselves right out of first place into first and second place.)

Your gracious host donnie sporting a svelte new look

All hands on deck

The fun end of the table

The menu features all organic ingredients

Carpaccio

Ravioli

Duck and polenta

Did we mention the polenta?

Of course, there was lots of wine, good conversation, and laughter.

The whites

The reds

Note to self that wine tasting is much better without the last vestiges of a chest cold.

After lunch we headed into greater downtown Pasadena for a cocktail or two. The bar at Smitty’s Grill is remarkably good. Excellent standard cocktails and a bartender who is even experimenting with milk punch.

smitty’s grill bar

milk punch

Plaza la Reina is a new property originally developed as long term housing for people with family in the nearby UCLA medical center. That plan did not materialize, and the property was transformed into a luxury hotel.

The quaint little courtyard

Room 205 is off the courtyard next to a side entrance to the property featuring some interesting tiled stairs. The room has a quirky layout and in put together well. The furniture is elegant and old school and about as anti-hipster as you can get. Heavy solid chairs, oriental rugs, solid wood cabinets. Very nice indeed.

205

The bed is back in its own nook next to the gorgeous bathroom.

Comfortable sitting area

The bathroom is beautiful, and the shower is excellent.

NPS approves of this shower

A personal note and a very warm welcome on check in was icing on the cake.

Five showerheads for Plaza la Reina. Refined elegance.

NPS has been coming to the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica for many years (starting before there was even an NPS identity). Over the years, many parts of the hotel have undergone updating and renovation, with special attention paid to the common areas. The rooms have all been spruced up as well, but unfortunately the bathrooms were not included in the renovation plan.

Santa Monica is pretty not bad

This trip out allowed for only one night in Santa Monica, so NPS decided to check out a room category one notch down from the ocean view suites. Turns out, it’s a big notch. The king suite room 709 has a spacious design with some very strange quirks. It also has a tiny little bathroom.

Room layout is very similar to the ocean view suites, with a view of the back alley instead on the ocean.

709 sitting area

What stands in as a desk

French doors to the bedroom

But what in the heck is this here for??

709 forlorn chair

That space where the poor lonely chair sits would be better off as part of an expanded bathroom. Here, you’ll see what we mean.

Tiny little bathroom

Though the stuff in the bathroom is spotless and new, the shower over the tub thing has got to go (not to mention the obesity bar). Zero points for the shower.

Dare you to use whatever liquid is in these containers

During our brief stay in Santa Monica, we had lunch at Lazy Daisy, dinner at Lares, and breakfast at Cora’s. All three places are top notch.

We’re demoting the Georgian to three showerheads. Hopefully they will see to some bathroom redesign to go along with all of the other great stuff that they have done.

Located in the heart of Brussels, very close indeed to the Grand Place, the Amigo Hotel is nicely tucked into an old school building. This is a formidable hotel where the demographic is not the hip and young but rather the old and moneyed.

The staff at the front desk is old school too, a bit stuffy and with varying levels of obsequiousness that don’t quite ring true. This is not your California front desk staff of happy kids. OK then.

Overnight, the staff swap led to some people who knew how to relax a notch, and that was nice.

The lobby is beige and marble. Come to think of it, there is lots of beige here in this room as well. I think the olds like beige.

We were upgraded from an expensive junior suite to an even more expensive classic suite. They did email and attempt to upsell the bigger suite, and we just responded that a complementary upgrade would be great. That seems to have worked. So thanks for the free upgrade!

We were assigned suite 237. This looks like the example room from this suite category. Plenty of room to hang out, a great bathroom, etc. “Pretty not bad” as my friend Sammy would say.

237 couch and desk room

The desk has a bluetooth speaker (bonus points)

The extra touches make all of the difference. Like a bluetooth speaker that you can pair a streaming phone with, and water by the bedside that is free (as it should be), and hangers that are real and solid.

Bedroom (mostly bed)

Through the French doors

Of course you should always get water (sparkling)

The room overlooks a classic Brussels street and into a set of offices.

Example view

The hall has lots of closet space, but it is not very well designed.

Closets could use some modernization

The bathroom is palatial. And there is a separate glass shower. “One of the better showers ever,” says ms NPS. Lots of marble.

Bathtub, toilet and bidet

Chair in the bathroom

Sink

Glass shower cube

The art is very nice and Tin Tin oriented.

An amenity with a personal note arrived while we were orienting. Belgian chocolates. Of course.

Amenity.

The bar downstairs is very good, with professional and knowledgeable bartenders who make a mean Negroni with Napue gin (from Helsinki).

A proper Negroni (up)

Napue gin from Helsinki

Local Belgian gins

Look who else has been here

Dinner at Comme Chez Soi was, like the hotel, on the old school side. Excellent food, especially if you like cream, butter, butter, and some caviar. Very heavy but outstanding. Plan to be full for two days.

Some Pomerol

Sauce! There is a cod under there somewhere.

Incredible tartine

Chocolates, because Belgium

With extra dipping sauce (lol)

The walk home helped to make up for the butter and the butter and the sauce and the cream. Kinda.

When in Brussels

Breakfast included a Belgian waffle (this was a mandatory item before we would be allowed to leave the country).

Bottom line: the Amigo is a five showerhead location, but is a bit old school for NPS. So four showerheads and an appointment to update the decor a notch for the Amigo. I imagine we will be back.

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.