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Though NPS does not fly in July or December, there is still stuff to be done. The solution? A working meeting at the Lorien in Old Town Alexandria. We’ve been to the Lorien a couple of times since Steph Vogel took over as GM. Sadly, Steph is in Switzerland this week. We’ll pretend that the ship runs just as well without Steph at the helm (though it’s really not true).

The Spartan balcony off 619

This visit finds us in 619, which is similar to 615 only slightly smaller and on the other side of the building. There is a very large balcony on this side too. Because it’s 100 degrees this week (with an overnight low in the upper ’70s), the balcony will be ignored due to weather. Strikes us that a remake of these balconies as a garden would make them both more inviting.

Look to the left

Look to the right

Our meeting room was cavernous and highly functional. We spent all day working.

A cocktail was in order after all that work. The bar is still very good, though barman and detail freak Phil Clark is no longer around. Phil has moved to Phoenix. You can tell. Damien is doing his damndest to keep things up.

Whey Sour
.75 cachaça (novo fogo)
.75 rye (copper fox)
1.5 whey
.75 honey
1 lemon
pinch of salt
Shake. Serve up.

Snacks at the bar took forever to arrive. That ended up making them free. Timely is better than free.

Dinner at The Warehouse was a massive disappointment. The crayfish were good. Or was that the crawdads? The wine list?
Unusable. Skip it. In other news from the evening, the bar at Restaurant Eve still holds its own, but Jackson 20 has slipped to skip it level as well. So sad that the old Alexandria Monaco is now a Marriott property.

On return from dinner around 11, we were greeted with a nice amenity. Thanks Stephani. The ice cold San Pelegrino is particularly welcome.

Sitting room 619

Sleeping room 619

The huge glass shower will do just fine.

Shower? Perfect.

Once the work was done, there were museums to see. First stop was the National Building Museum to see Hive. Well worth the visit.

Home of hive. At least for a while.

That was followed by another great lunch at Bistrot du Coin.

And a visit to the Phillips Collection. The old building is under renovation, so only half of the paintings as usual were out. But still fantastic. An NPS introduction to the stunning art of German artist Markus Lüpertz.

German artist Markus Lüpertz

The suit

Detail from Spoon

German artist Markus Lüpertz

A fantastic day. Followed almost immediately on its heels by a fantastic evening.

Roses Luxury is just as stellar as its incredible reputation. Just go. We showed up at 5:10pm and walked right in for a 180 minute dinner extravaganza.

Those poor “other people” had to wait in line

Caviar service

Yes, we took pictures of our food. We also had extensive conversations about it.

The best dish of the evening was a soft shelled crab served with Singapore-style chilli sauce (on the sweet side) over steamed buns with pickles. Delicious.

So really. Go to Roses Luxury as soon as you can.

Then there was the Columbia Room in the back booth (our usual NPS haunt), this time with the geek patrol. Excellent as usual, this time less for the drinks presentation than the company.

Columbia Room

Ice

Seaweed?!

Rum from 1857 always seems like a good idea after the tasting menu is complete.

The moral of the story is: get your work done quickly so you can spend some time being spoiled in DC!

Five showerheads and a real wish that Steph were around. We miss you Steph.

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.

It was a quick turnaround from no travel back to travel, but Kimpton helps make it all bearable. Back at the Hotel Monaco just like December, but this time up one floor in 503 (thanks Matt).

We should probably resist comparing the welcome package, but it’s NPS, so we just can’t resist. After all, that is what this prosthetic memory of a blog is all about!

Here is 2015.

2015

2015

Lets compare to 2014.

2014

2014

Hmm. No booze?! But we promise we have not gone dry as a misguided New Year’s resolution! In fact we had quite the adventure getting an after dinner cocktail, about which stay tuned.

Meanwhile 503 looks similar to 403 but it has been updated and is slightly more stylish with a nice scent of carpet glue in the air.

Alexandria Monaco 503

Alexandria Monaco 503

Alexandria Monaco 503

Alexandria Monaco 503

The shower is not plastic, and its pressure may just scour all of the old year’s dirt right off.

Not a plastic shower.  Great way to start 2015 at NPS.

Not a plastic shower. Great way to start 2015 at NPS.

Dinner (corporate style) at the Columbia Firehouse was very good. Great oysters and a nice rendition of shrimp and grits. Sadly, they make a pretty bad Negroni (which calls into question their cocktail capability).

After dinner, we headed over around 10:30 to Restaurant Eve for a cocktail as their bar is rumored to be good. But who would ever know if the bar closes well before its advertised closing time?! Lame. We walked in and the bartender who was wiping down was not at all accommodating about making a drink. In fact, he refused to do so. Guess what Restaurant Eve, that kind of crappy behavior eradicated ALL of the goodwill built up during the last (spectacular) visit. Chef, I believe you need a new bartender post haste!

imgres-1So chaimgresstened to deal with lameness in Alexandria, we returned to the Monaco in low spirits (or with no spirits as the case may be). A pleasant surprise awaited at Jackson 20. Though I am not at all a fan of the architecture or the way the bar is situated, Jackson20 has some good bourbon and rye on tap.  And a very good barman in Alvaro Colato.

Sazarac with Sazarac 18? Yes please. And a chaser of Eagle Rare 17? Sure, why not! Fabulous.

How to make a Sazarac (video from #glassaholic).

So there you have it. 2015, here we come. Five showerheads and a bourbon-based amenity for the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria.

This visit to the Monaco in Alexandria (across the river from Washington) was designed to perfection by GM Matt Hurlburt. Everything was all set before arrival. Even traffic in northern Virginia cooperated. Kimpton Karma. Hopefully not the last of it. (Now that IHG has bought the chain we will keep our fingers crossed that inner circle goodness persists. IHG also owns Holiday Inn Express??!!)

Room 403 is a nice suite with a great glass shower. A liquid amenity was just what the doctor ordered. Personal note, fancy cocktail, fruit and cheese (featuring apricots) and a bourbon flight for late night. Excellent.

Welcome to Monaco 403

Welcome to Monaco 403

The Virginia Gentleman made a great evening cocktail before the Leukemia Cup party at Port City Brewery.

IMG_2233

Then it was off to the Leukemia Cup event where we were surprised to learn that Team Tartan was the 3rd biggest fundraiser in the nation in 2014! Thanks to all of our supporters, including the Hotel Marlowe staff.

A quick drive back to the Marlowe got us there just in time to meet Matt for a drink. We decided to go to Society Fair and meet the czarina of the eat good food group twitterz, Vina Sananikone. She turns out to be a video artist as well.

Matt and I had a Wine and Whiskey designed by Todd Thrasher and implemented by Justin Owens. It’s a great beverage, but complicated to make:
Base
Sauternes
Orange Peel
Cardamom Pods
Star Anise
Cloves
All spice
Cinnamon
Honey
Crush and toast spices. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain

2oz base
1 oz bourbon (four roses)
1 oz canadian whiskey
dash orange bitters

This one was a bit too sweet for my palate. Would skip the honey and maybe add some heat to the spices. But a nice cocktail all told.

After a cocktail and some time with Matt (a great guy), we headed over to Restaurant Eve where we opted for the Thai/Philippines inspired tasting menu. Delicious and absolutely packed with flavor. The first course was incredible. A delightful departure from Eve’s solid fare. Go chef go!

Then it was back to the Monaco for a late night bourbon taste.

Bourbon flight

Bourbon flight

And a dip in the tub?! That’s right. First time ever in the big Kimpton bathtub.

Bathtub with actual hot water, bourbon and a book

Bathtub with actual hot water, bourbon and a book

403 bedroom

403 bedroom

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

403 sitting room

this shower is not plastic

this shower is not plastic

Anyway, five showerheads and a tub full of steam for the Hotel Monaco. Everything a quick visit could be! No fly noël can still include car based travel, and to great effect.

Trouble in paradise this visit which started out about as chunky as possible—no reservation. I always rely on my travel people to get things squared away (thanks edie!) and they are great. This time I let an outside firm work travel. Yes, I did already know not to do that! When I tried to tack a day on to this trip, everything went south fast.

Having arrived in the nick of time to drop stuff off and head to DC for a business dinner, I was confronted with a problem. No reservation and no available rooms in the hotel. While very courteous, the front desk clerk Damien was ultimately not very helpful at all, and he did not escalate to more senior management. My inner circle Kimpton status did not seem to make much difference either. I was in a bind.

Fortunately, Stephan Vogel (GM at the George) had my back and started an email thread to find me a room on DC including the new GM of the DC Palomar Josh Lustig. (FWIW, Josh just took over from Abe Liao.) While they were solving the problem, I finally got a message back from the people who had messed up the reservation in the first place. They convinced the Monaco to give me a room. So that’s good…

But it was room 315, which if I were you I would avoid. It faces the street and is very noisy in the morning starting around 6:30am. It is also a handicap accessible room with a shower over tub design. Not my style.

Of course, not knowing I was staying the night made it hard for the Monaco to do anything to greet me or personalize my stay. Apparently they don’t monitor the twitter feed very closely. If they did, the problem would have been discovered way before my arrival.

I was told that I can get a different (better) room for the second night. Hopefully that is the case.

Room 315

Room 315

Bathroom in 315

Bathroom in 315

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

Shower over tub full of handrails. The curtain blows in the wind.

I rushed off to a fantastic business dinner at Le Diplomate (highly recommended, especially the world class bread). Larry secured us a VIP table. After dinner it was off on a bourbon search, first to bourbon (booked for a private event) and then to Jack Rose (also booked for a private event, but by friends as it turned out). Jack Rose has a fantastic bourbon selection that included Pappy 23, Pappy 20, and two varieties (US and Japanese) of Hirsch 16.

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

Two kinds of Hirsch 16

When I returned to 315 at midnight, I was greeted with a belated welcome note and a shot or two of bourbon (!!) from Pete and Jess, who turned out to be people from the organization hosting the meeting. Somebody is paying attention, but are any Kimpton people paying attention?! For the record I did have to go find a paper in the morning.

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

Welcome back to 315 after midnight

After a long day of meetings and presentations I returned briefly to the Monaco and switched to room 503. 503 is an excellent room and I appreciate the move, but strangely nobody mentioned the mixup, the bind, the switch. It’s as if “these are not the droids you’re looking for” applies.

There's nothing to see here.  All is well.

There’s nothing to see here. All is well.

Cheese plate and San Pellegrino. So they do know I am here! Awesome. But no note, so “they” remain unknown.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

Welcome to 503. Kimpton Karma.

503 suite is sweet

503 suite is sweet

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

Lots of light and no noise in the living room

The shower in 503 is fantastic. Great water pressure and plenty of glass-defined space. As usual, there is a huge (unused) tub in this room as well.

No plastic shower in 503

No plastic shower in 503

IMG_1954

More data from Alexandria, the Landini Brothers restaurant has workaday Italian with a weird but decent wine list and food served by Spanish-speaking waiters. The PX Lounge is so full of itself that though they might make a decent cocktail, it is ultimately skippable. The greeter/waitress/busybody calls herself a “den mother” which pretty much says it all. If you’re not a cub scout, ignore the reviews by foodies with no cocktail clue (sietsema) and go somewhere else. Yes, PX some of us know more about mixing drinks than you do.

Hotel Monaco is a great place to stay. Some more attention to personal service seems to be warranted. A low four showerheads for this visit. I’m sure I will be back and I will make sure to make my own reservation!