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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.

NPS was in a bad mood because United improperly rejiggered seating into economy from economy plus (how do people stand that kind of travel?) and then an Uber driver pulled a super flaky move doing a multi-client pickup dropoff scam. So a taxi it was into Chicago in heavy stop and go traffic.

Fortunately the Gray fixed everything instantly. Alexsis and Happy greeted us at the front desk so cheerfully we knew we were in the midwest. The Gray, being a Kimpton, was alerted to NPS arrival and had already plussed us up into a fantastic suite. (Thanks Nabil Moubayed! You rock.)

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1113 is new, modern, spacious, and excellent.

Amenity including a "Come Sail Away" from Volume 39

Amenity including a “Come Sail Away” from Volume 39

Living area

Living area

1113 bedroom

1113 bedroom

The shower is not plastic in the least. World class.

Awesome shower (with tub inside and bench)

Awesome shower (with tub inside and bench)

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After dropping off stuff it was down to Volume 39 where Barman Bob (no, not that one) created a bastardized (but very delicious Liberal before we headed out for some pie.

Volume 39

Volume 39

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Volume 39 is a welcome addition to Kimpton’s excellent bar program. Mr Ryan, well done!

Then it was off to some pie. Call ahead and see whether it matters!

Best burned cheese deep dish in town

Best burned cheese deep dish in town

By 9pm it was cocktail time. We headed over to Barrelhouse Flat for some excellent drinks. Fernet backbar shots, amaro tastings, general merriment. The George T Stagg was definitely a bad idea though

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Barelhouse Flat

Barelhouse Flat

We did finally have some of the hyped up Plantation Overproof Rum. It is a good product, but frankly the over the top hype built it up too much. Solid. Drinkable. But not the gods’ gift to rum salvation.

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And then it was back to the Gray past last call. The Come Sail Away came in very handy.

Five showerheads and best of wishes to the brand new and utterly fabulous Gray.

Oh and guess what, United upgraded us on the flight home. Woo hoo!

Is Chicago Is not Chicago

January 25, 2016

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A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building

Saskatoon is in the room
Poulsbo is in the room
Bennetsville is in the room
Palmyra is in the room

Is Chicago
Is not Chicago
Is Chicago
Is not Chicago

A man cuts in half
Just like he snaps a pencil
A man cuts in half
Just like he snaps a pencil

Khartoum is in the room
Phnom Penh is in the room
Pyongyang is in the room
Cairo is in the room

Is Chicago
Is not Chicago
Is Chicago
Is not Chicago

A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
Into the, into the, into the, into the

Mailbox in Virginia

Mailbox in Virginia

Art at the MCA

Art at the MCA

MCA afternoon

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Architecture for a game

up

up

down

down

Mostly we were here for the astounding Eighth Blackbird. Sometimes when I perform my body has the same emotional response. But never when I watch. This is the future.

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This is the future.

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Excellent birds.

Oh, and the Palomar moved us down ten floors. Still a sweet suite.

no plastic showers

no plastic showers

sit

sit

stay

stay

Also of note, Bottlefork is a great place for brunch and Three Dots and a Dash is a nice place for a banana daiquiri. Yeah, I know.

Hello Chicago

Hello Chicago

Bye bye Westin, hello Chicago. The great East coast blizzard of 2016 has us stuck in the middle of the country until Sunday no make that Monday (at the earliest). But we don’t mind. We’ll make an adventure of the whole thing.

Job #1? Secure some rooms at the Palomar for the C-level posse. An email to the fantastic staff at the Palomar made that happen. Thanks Brandon Massey, Nabeel Toubayly, and Benjamin Gress. Sadly, the artist suite is occupied. Happily that doesn’t matter. Rooms 1725 and 1726 are a great combo package and situate you right in the middle of the city with excellent views all around. And get this, rooms at the Palomar can be had at less than half the price of the suburban Westin. Just wow. The world is seriously confused.

1725 entryway

1725 entryway

Man is it nice to be back where style rules the roost and the staff is top notch. Kimpton takes the cake.

View from one side of the corner, 1725

View from one side of the corner, 1725

1725 bedroom

1725 bedroom

1726 sitting room

1726 sitting room

Of course, here at NPS we are obligated to talk about the showers. In 1725 you will find a glass cube design and a huge tub. Very Kimpton.

Wait for it

Wait for it

The long glass cube

The long glass cube

Bathroom area

Bathroom area

Other aspects of the Chicago Palomar fit right in with excellence in showers. Like John Stanton and the Sable bar. The bar at Sable (not to mention the restaurant itself) is great enough to be a destination of its own. If you’re in Chicago, pay a visit. Not staying at the Palomar? Who cares, come to Sable anyway.

The best part of Sable is seriously great craft cocktail capability. Every time NPS visits, we learn something. This time, we were wowed by the Scot Toddy (warm, mint, lemon, wow) and an experimental beverage that John created on the spot which we’ll call the
Shaped Charge:
1.5 Rye Whiskey (Wild Turkey 100)
.75 Suze
.25 Carpano antica
.25 Caffe moka
2 generous droppers of Bitterman’s Hellfire shrub
Stir down. Serve on a big cube. Express lemon peel.

Seriously though, Sable is great and it is always a delight to see John in action. Plus you can end the night with a taste of George T. Stagg (2015) just like at home.

Back to the situation at hand. If you’re going to be stuck in a city, pick Chicago. Want some deep dish Chicago-style pizza? Try Lou Malnati’s pies. Doughnut for breakfast? Glazed and Infused is the way to go.

Our posse’s Saturday plans included a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, some jazz at Green Mill and taking in an obscure Tenessee Williams play (The Mutilated) at the Red Orchid.

Doughnuts at Glazed and Infused

Doughnuts at Glazed and Infused

Dali details

Dali details

More art from the Art Institute of Chicago on apothecaryshed.

Green Mill for Paper Machete

Green Mill for Paper Machete

Irish coffee chaser for Malort shots

Irish coffee chaser for Malort shots

Red Orchid Theater: Set for Mutilations

Red Orchid Theater: Set for Mutilations

For providing a safe haven from 24 inches of snow at home, we award the Chicago Palomar the massive snowplow award and five showerheads forever. Thanks for being home in Chicago.

Yeah. No.

Ever wonder how the other half lives? We find ourselves up in Chicago just in front of a major blizzard doing some business. We’re traveling with all of the C-people: CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, LMNOP. Frankly, these guys just don’t travel much. So it has been an interesting trip.

First off, the United experience (first of 2016) was outstanding. Upgrade? Check (first time in two years). Wifi? Check. Actual ceramic cup of tea? Check. Friendly crew? Check. Personal thank you with a look in the eye? Check. On time? Early even!

OK fine, it's business class, but this cup is REAL

OK fine, it’s business class, but this cup is REAL

United, you did well. Keep it up. That blue mood lighting in the 737-900 is outstanding!

Is it the C-level posse that caused that? LOL. More likely, it was the upcoming blizzard. Nobody with an “out” is traveling away from home today. But business calls, so here we are! Thanks mr. blizzard.

Back to our story. So just how does the other half live? Poorly, it turns out.

You see, there is the generic hotel situation. Westin North Shore? Not so much. This hotel has a nice lobby and a set of just awful hamster cage style rooms. You could spit and hit the interstate from here. We are in concierge level service. Well, at least I am (due to a bunch of starwood points?! go figure that). But no no no. This is not it.

Lets explore through pictures, shall we?

Welcome to hamster cage 1411 at the Westin

Welcome to hamster cage 1411 at the Westin

The bed pays homage to the TV

The bed pays homage to the TV

Enter the tiny bathroom

Enter the tiny bathroom

OH NO!  A plastic shower

OH NO! A plastic shower

Obesity bar. Shower curtain over tub.  Welcome to heck.

Obesity bar. Shower curtain over tub. Welcome to heck.

We pretty much do all we can to avoid this kind of experience on the road. But when in Rome, um, wear a toga? The other half puts up with this is what it is. Reality check.

The best part? The Westin (who BTW charges actual money for internet) defends their shower situation on social media. Fiesty!

We walked across the parking lot to dinner at Coopers Hawk Winery/Restaurant. They had cabernet! LOL. It was from “America” and we ordered the “lux” bottle. We believe it cost $29.95. The associated hardware for decanting was outstanding. Is it a winery really?? Skip it.

We pretended it was the CFO’s birthday.

On the positive side of this Westin, the restaurant Saranellos is very good. Delicious upscale Italian with a reasonable wine selection. Recommended.

Anyway, because of the hamster cage design, two tiny showerheads for the Westin. You guys have merged so much you are approaching the color of the universe—beige. We’re pretty sure the homeowners association would approve.

In the end, it turns out that the other half is more interested in getting some business done than in where they sleep.

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.

Some of us travel way too much. When our friends ask us where they should stay in a particular city on planet Earth we actually have an answer. This blog exists for my friends (though since the early days it has taken on a life of its own and now lots of people I don’t even know read it). So other than reading this blog, how do you judge whether a hotel is worthy?

I developed two heuristics for determining in advance whether a hotel is likely to be a good place to stay. Number one, and the reason behind the name of this blog, is a glass shower. Simply put, if the shower in your room is glass, you’re good. And if the shower in your room is built on top of a bathtub with a plastic shower curtain—you should run away.

Heuristic one: Glass shower

Plastic shower at the Marriott (well, what did you expect?!).

Plastic shower at the Marriott (well, what did you expect?!).

Kimpton shower cube equals good.

Kimpton shower cube equals good.

Heuristic two is much more difficult to find out there in the world than glass showers. It’s a bar that does not suck. Oh, every hotel has a bar. And they all think they have a “full bar” whatever that means. Most of them are trapped in the “we have eight different vodkas” days which are long since gone. (For the record, vodka is boring.) And most of them couldn’t make an interesting drink to save their lives. (A mojito is not interesting, and neither is a cosmopolitan.) What discriminating travelers want is some serious mixology. Why? Because we care as much about a beautifully constructed beverage as we do about a gorgeous meal.

When you find a hotel that meets both of these heuristics, you’re in luck. Know why? Because hotels with a great bar program and glass showers also have superior management, great staff, and a clue about what you like.

Want an example or two? Well, you’re in luck. I am a big fan of the Kimpton chain and have been for years. I prefer them to every other chain I have ever come across. And what sets some Kimptons apart from others is a great bar. Chicago Palomar? Superb bar. World class. Phenomenal property. San Francisco Palomar? Great bar. And the best staff in the business to boot. But what about New York? I like 70 Park, but 70 Park needs a great bar.

Forward thinking General Managers will immediately grasp what a great bar can do for a property. It will transform it from a great place to stay into a great destination even for locals. Build buzz. Create a community. And at the same time advance the art of the bar.

What constitutes a great bar in my book? Well it needs to be at least as well stocked as my own bar ar home. And I would really like to learn something from the professionals working behind it!

So happy travels. And may the bar be with you.

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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.

My first trip in 2013 involved the Chicago Palomar. They were a superb way to start the year, setting the bar very high indeed. And they are still superb today. I look forward to many visits in the future as our Chicago office evolves! (Hopefully longer than half a day and one night!)

What’s good?

John Stanton’s outstanding barmanship. (He’s super delightful and happy to chat about mixing drinks.)

What's left of John Stanton's welcome drink.

What’s left of John Stanton’s welcome drink.

Sparkling water.

S. Pelligrino.  For free.  With bubbles and everything.

S. Pelligrino. For free. With bubbles and everything.

Delicious cheese at 1am left with a note from Adam Gurgiolo (asst GM).

One of these cheese was incredibly great.

One of these cheese was incredibly great.

Rooms that have interesting design.

Bed in 1517.

Bed in 1517.

The best shower in all Kimpton history. (Glass cube + great water pressure = perfection.)

Shower cube.

Shower cube.

Art.

Ferris wheel art.

Ferris wheel art.

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Chicago.

Chicago at night.

Chicago at night.

Favors from front desk guy Jake Forbes who rescued my forgotten cell phone from my parked car and brought it to me at the bar. Thanks Jake.

And there’s more. The bar at Sable gets better and better. A new menu with 17 house-designed drinks, including:

Fence’s End
1.5 Bulleit rye
.5 Amaro Zucca
.5 Raspberry syrup
.75 Lime
2 slices of cucumber
Shake, tir, strain, float cucumber wheel.

The Sovreign
2 oz High West Rendezvous rye
.5 Ramazotti
.5 Green chartreuse
.5 Kalani
Stir, up, slight lemon peel express (discard)

And experimental beverages such as the one left in my room as a greeting with a note from John. (Love it!)
1.75 Weller’s Antique bourbon
.75 Dolin’s blanc
.5 Zucca amaro
.25 vanilla syrup
2 dashes orange bitters

Or this Liberal-esque thing that Mike sampled
1.75 Wild Turkey Rare Breed
.5 Dolin’s dry
.5 Amaro montenegro
.25 Amaro Ciocinro
1/16 vanilla bean syrup
2 dashes Reagan’s #6 orange bitters

How can you top this hotel? I’m not really sure. Five enthusiastic shower heads for the Chicago Palomar.

All good things come to an end, including No Fly Noel and music mode. United is (miraculously) batting 100% on upgrades so far this year with one entire leg under my belt. We’ll keep an upgrade-ometer so you get some data about how it goes for 1.5M mile flyers. Sadly, the TSA-Pre thing failed this trip, so I had to remove my newly-polished shoes and my non-ferrous belt. (I am pretty sure that is United’s fault, but you never know who to blame for failure when a system is completely opaque).

So here I am in Chicago at the Palomar where I was greeted by name at the door and checked in to an upgraded room way earlier than should be possible. This time I am up two floors in 1627. And it’s a good thing I have this room, because I spent most of the afternoon working here at the desk on the net.

My welcome package arrived well after I did (not surprising given my timing this morning). Sadly, John Stanton the barkeep was not involved in the selection this time. So there is a bottle of Merlot and a nicely arranged plate of snacks. (Last trip out, the staff put together the best welcome package in Kimpton history.) Anyway, the personal note from Adam G-something whose signature is mostly unreadable was genuine and nice. (Adam, dude, if you want net props you have to leave a card or write legibly.)

Kimpton welcome package.

Kimpton welcome package.

Since the room is pretty much identical to 1427 and 1574 in layout, I’ll focus on one of the differences. This one has ferris wheels above the couch.

Ferris wheels in 1627.

Ferris wheels in 1627.

The bedroom is roomy and it has a bed.

My camera is too small to capture the gist of this room.

My camera is too small to capture the gist of this room.

As always, five showerheads and a huge glass cube to use them in for the Chicago Palomar. Dang am I spoiled.

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We’ll start this evening downstairs at Sable saying hello to John Stanton at the bar. It’s always a pleasure to chat with an expert. Then dinner. I know there is a trip to the office in the makings tonight after dinner. Chicago is a mixology haven.

A brooklyn variation by John that we’ll call Brooklyn in Chicago
2 oz High West Rye
.5 oz Cocchi Americano
.5 Cynar
.25 (or less) Luxardo
dash of Reagan’s Orange bitters #6
Stir down. Express orange peel (discard).

The oysters at the office and the decor remain the best part in my opinion. The drinks tend to be on the sweet side and not that interesting. Also the bar people stay back in their corner and have an elitist vibe. Our server Ethan was very nice, but utterly clueless about cocktails. That is a disappointment. They do have a fantastic bourbon and rye card however.

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Upgrade-ometer 50% [1/2] (no upgrade on the trip home). TSA-pre failed again as well.