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If anything is true, this is: NPS votes with its money. Sure, we pile on the praise (and the snark) as necessary. We even take on hotel chains that think they have us irreversibly trapped in their loyalty program. (See, for example, this fun entry out of Los Angeles.) Well, the time has come to do some fund re-allocation.

You see, the Buchanan Hotel in San Francisco (a Kimpton) has been our San Francisco home for a couple of years. Sadly, due to too much demand, we are unable to get the room we want when we stay there. So how do we solve that problem? We remove demand. Last time we were in San Francisco we walked across the street to the Hotel Kabuki to check it out. As a result, we’re staying at Kabuki this time.

The lobby, common areas, and bar are all very upscale, nicely designed, and worth a visit. On our arrival, we dropped off the bag upstairs and headed straight to the bar. Sazarac? Yes please (with a little help from our friends).

We requested and were happy to occupy a corner room up high. Room 1402 is most likely indicative of the best room category on the property.

design sensibility 1402

The bedroom sector is the most up to date, with interesting design.

bedroom sector 1402

1402 offers a very good view of Japantown and even the Golden Gate in the distance. Two banks of windows provide a very wide view. Mornings were beautiful this week.

Luggage pod is exposed in the hallway to the door.

Luggage and refrigerator

An amenity (!!) on our first stay was very much welcome. Thanks Kabuki!! Champagne and fruit is very nice indeed.

wow, a welcome amenity and they barely know us

the window bank

Then there is the bathroom. Number one, the open design is a bit chilly. A door instead of a doorway would help. That bank of windows in 1402 (including two sliding doors installed in the ’70s) can keep things pretty chilly in February, even with two sets of curtains. Updating the glass would probably help too.

bathroom sector 1402

The shower area is huge. Too huge, as it turns out, mostly because the glass door (approved) does not shut tight and chilly air comes in to make a great shower less than great. Looks like nobody actually took a shower to test this design before implementing it.

glass shower…huge

The shower has both a drench head and a handheld shower head. But that cold air.

shower head 2

So, all is not yet well at the Hotel Kabuki, where some attention to detail is in order.

Did housekeeping remove your not quite empty bottle of sparkling water? Try calling down to get some more. No dice. And no creativity from the front desk. High end hotels solve problems.

Want espresso for breakfast in the morning? Nope.

Want to adjust the temperature? Good luck figuring out how the thermostat works (it appears not to do anything at all).

Did you open the sliding glass door to access the balcony? Getting it closed again may be an issue.

On the positive side again, Japantown is a great base of operations in San Francisco. There are exceptional restaurants and cocktail locations within striking distance, and the Filmore corridor up the hill is hopping.

We schlepped out to Haight-Ashbury for dinner at Black Sand. This local bistrot has great food and good cocktails.

We taught the bartenders how to make Bill’s Big Birthday Beverage:
1 oz Ancho Reyes
1 oz cardamaro
1 oz fresh orange juice
.25 oz hot pepper infusion (in this case, house made)
Shake. Strain. Serve up.

Anyway, with more attention to the details above, Hotel Kabuki will displace the Buchanan as San Francisco’s default location for NPS. Four showerheads for the Hotel Kabuki. Rise to the occasion please!

Is NPS spoiled? Yes. Does that make life harder for hotels and airlines when it comes to expectations? Yes. Welcome to the world of high end travel.

2018 started with a trip across the country on the NPS “trip across the country” airline—Virgin America. Or what’s left of it anyway. Virgin America is becoming more and more like Alaska. And frankly, that sucks. Sure, we’re MVP Gold on Alaska by default. But who cares? Going from the Nordstrom’s world to JC Penny is not gonna cut it.

Here’s an example of what is happening to Virgin America. The checkin process at Dulles was always super friendly, efficient, and FAST. Now there is a line and it is a line of Alaska flyers.

The flight across the country was just fine after using cash money to upgrade to First. So there’s that.

Next came the wrong room problem at the Buchanan in San Francisco (216 versus 316 or 416). Sadly this happens almost every time we stay here. Sure, NPS helped to establish the Kimpton InTouch program years ago (now known as Karma and soon to be known as IHG Rewards Club (blech)), but super elite Kimpton/IHG status does nothing to add to the number of available Kimpton rooms we like in San Francisco. The staff at the Buchanan does all they can to accommodate demand. But demand is just outstripping supply. And as a demander, well the market is about to speak.

Time’s up you guys, only two OK quality San Francisco Kimpton properties still?? IHG needs to step it up in this city. Really.

View from the Buchanan San Francisco (Japantown)

Of course, Emily Glick and her people get all the blowback in public, but really it is corporate that is at fault by this stage. Hopefully Emily will forgive us for making clear what we expect!

Amenity. Thanks to the Buchanan team

216 has a few of problems from the NPS perspective. Number one is that the shower needs a better shower head. Water pressure is not sufficient. At least it’s a glass cube! Number two, the room is ADA sanctioned and we are not special needs campers. That means the closet is not usable, and the tub is a mess of machines. Number three, the second floor is too close to the street and it is noisy.

So no more 216 for us. We’ll just have to stay elsewhere next visit.

Shower? Glass is good.

The tub has served as a closet for hanging clothes this trip

Or maybe you can hang your coats on this thing in the hall

Of course, Japantown is great and the Buchanan is hip and well located. Staying here is always a good thing.

Green tree view

216 does not suck. But pretty not bad is not good enough.

Yeah, we brought the violin and even managed to play some music with our friends in Oakland.

Some data from San Francisco. Sweet Maple is a great place for breakfast and so is The Grove. For a real Japantown meal, try to find Kui Shin Bo.

Dinner at Flour+Water is just as fantastic as ever. The Progress is, likewise, a very good place to eat (and unlike its sister next door, you can walk in).

The Dando from The Progress
1 oz rye
.75 oz amaro angelino
.5 aperol
1 oz meyer lemon juice
.5 oz pear shrub
shake. up. large cube.

Cocktails at Wildhawk are highly recommended.

This time three showerheads for the Buchanan’s failed Tetris game. No more games of chance for NPS. 2018 is gonna be interesting.

There’s nothing like experiencing a new Kimpton property for the first time. In all of our countless trips up to NY, NPS has never visited Ink 48 (though we have heard tell of it). Hell’s Kitchen is pretty far up there, but sometimes business uptown happens!

Our greeting at the front was warm and welcoming even though it was supposed to be scary. We were assigned the fantastic river-view suite 1416 (for which we thank Steph and Barry). What a great room.

Room 1416 on a gorgeous day overlooking the Hudson

The sitting room section.

The bedroom section.

And the all important huge bathroom with a distinct shower cube in the corner. Plenty of room in here, and no sign of plastic.

Glowing shower cube of 1416.

The “hot and cold” amenity was impressive and delicious.

Dinner at Taboon is not to be missed. Outstanding bread, delicious food, a real cocktail program, a nice wine list. Seek it out. We enjoyed ourselves so much before the play that we returned after the crash.

Spirits Bisbas
1.5 oz hendricks gin
1 oz rhubarb puree
1 oz lemon
.5 oz dry vermouth
shake. serve up in a coup. smoked paprika on top

We tried to see a play at Lincoln Center, but it was not to be. About an hour in to “Junk,” technical things went south and never recovered. Frankly, we expect more out of NY Theater.

The “hot” part of the amenity came in handy late night when we got back from our cocktail run at Taboon.

Five showerheads and a warm glow for ink 48 in NY.

Hotel Christiania Teater

We’ve been here before at the Hotel Christiania Teater, even in this very room (number 620), so we knew what to expect. And it was good.

Room 620 is a large suite with an interesting layout that takes up the cupola of the building. The shower does not suck.

620 sitting room

The cupola

Oslo in the distance

Large comfortable bed

A view out the back cupola (yes, there are two sets of windows)

The extensive bathroom with multiple sinks and heated floors.

One of the best parts of the hotel is the breakfast. A generous spread with fresh squeezed orange juice. Sadly the espresso grinder broke down on day 2.

Breakfast buffet

The orange juice machine

The bad downstairs from reception is very capable. Many good cocktails thanks to Barbara and Martin, including this variation on a Hanky Panky.

A Norwegian Hanky Panky
3 cl gin bareksten
1 cl sweet vermouth mancin
1 barspoon bitters Gotlands “fernet”
2 dashes angostura
stir down. serve on a large cube.

And of course Oslo is a great city to visit. The Vigeland Sculpture Park is striking at night.

Two dinners out could not have provided more contrast. The first was a family run fish place with home style recipes and local beer. The second, Om Restaurant Klosteret, was world class food and wine. Both were delicious.

Om Restaurant Klosteret

Cocktails at Himkok were great, even if we did have to leverage ourselves in the door and into a proper booth.

Mezcal or aquavit? Why not both

Himkok back bar

The still at himkok

Five showerheads (and a new espresso grinder) to Hotel Christiania Teater.

Of course, the best was yet to come:

 

A view from the trail

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.

#rockthecasBAR

May 11, 2017

When iteration one’s hashtag is #londonculling where do you go from there? Obviously #rockthecasBAR!

This time we fueled up before our London cocktail adventure. And we even paid.

Then it was off through the crowded streets of London to Dukes Hotel. If you are in the mood for a Bond-inspired super high octane cocktail on the martini spectrum, Dukes is the place. We were explicitly warned to have ONE (in all caps even) by a professional! Thanks for the warning Jacques, you were right.

We walked the few blocks up to the Ritz for round two. We were almost let into the casino to do some gambling (which was not the plan). A corrected trajectory put us through the front door to Rivoli. It was Negroni time.

The beautiful clear ice was branded in the Savoy style. Everyone is copying everyone else in London.

Time for a cab to Clerkenwell, hailed by a snarky doorman. Back to…wait for it…the Zetter Townhouse to see the dead cat. This is our regular London haunt and we were immediately recognized at the door.

Here kitty kitty

Sticking with the gin, we decided on a Zetter Gimlet made with some infusion or other (I believe a kind of tea). It was delicious. The cat joined in.

While waiting for companion three to arrive from across London at rush hour we started feeling parched, so we ordered a round of 20th Century, some pistachios, and some jerky sausage.

Twentieth Century
10 ml lemon juice
10 ml creme de cacao
20 ml cocci americano
40 ml dry gin (jensens)
stir. strain. express lemon peel. small lemon garnish.

The kitty will have another

Ramen is always helpful the day after too many cocktails, but we were just getting started. Prophylactic ramen is now a thing. Monohon ramen is just as great as we thought it would be. Super authentic and delicious.

As NPS is writing this and feeling rather surprisingly good in the morning, I suppose that the prophylactic ramen did its job. Unfiltered sake was not really what the doctor ordered, but we had it anyway.

Warning: This is not a cocktail

A short walk to Callooh-Callay was when our kung fu set in. We walked right past the waiting people, made a joke with the doorman about being tweeners, and immediately sat down at the crowded bar. We were served by either Carrie or Mary. Callooh-Callay is a raucous place where quiet conversation is not in the cards.

Either Carrie of Mary suggested a Hanky Panky. We’re always up for that.

Feeling like talking to each other again, we cabbed it over to the Savoy to visit the Beaufort. We are sad that the Beaufort has changed its menu. They now feature some kind of cartoon menu that seems very Disney. NPS does not approve.

We ordered a Silver Bullet and a Never Ending Story (or two) even though the waiter tried not to let us.

By this time our phone use capabilities were waning and hashtags were slipping into gobbleddygook. We cabbed back to home base at Mondrian Sea Containers, missing a train in the meantime.

Dandelyon was packed of course, so we used our magic to waltz right in and rearrange the furniture. Alex was behind the bar and one year older. Complimentary bubbly arrived which put us in the mood for a French 75.

This somehow made Fernet happen and then it was off to bed. Meanwhile, the guest experience fairies delivered a bottle of champagne while were were out and left it with a personal note. Nice touch!

#londonculling, #rockthecasBAR, what’s next??

The plan was a bit intense and involved a taxi, a train, a plane, a car, and just over 25 hours. We did this to see the New Pornographers.

According to twitter, the day went something like this:

So all in all a long but great day ending at the Philadelphia Monaco in room 616. A room that we like so much we’ll severely overpay just to stay in it!

616 looks different by night and day.

616 by day

616 by night

A bed felt great after 5,000 miles

High style in the bathroom

But we’re here for the shower!

One of the top NPS approved showers on the entire planet

Plus look at this outstanding welcome. Personal note from Abby and a tiki-style beverage.

616 view by night

616 view by day

Anyway, the Monaco room 616 is fantastic. Great style, the best shower within hundreds of miles, a comfortable bed, and management that runs a pretty tight ship. Just avoid the NFL draft weekend crowds if you can! LOL.

Dinner before the show at Sazon was interesting and delicious. Make sure to BYOB or cider or case of cider (as the case may be).

Of course, NPS can’t go to Philly anymore without visiting Paul MacDonald and company at Friday Saturday Sunday. We enjoyed a Cloudbreak or two and a newly minted by as yet unnamed cocktail that we’re calling the Ombre Snowcap for the time being. Back bar Fernet was had by some and ignored by the uninitiated.

Friday Saturday Sunday may be the best bar in Philadelphia

The Cloudbreak

The Cloudbreak is such a good cocktail that it was instantly copied in Virginia at the NPS home bar. Paul makes the best version of course. We’re mere dabblers at NPS.

Paul intends to switch out the Cloudbreak for a summer drink that we call the Ombre Snowcap.

Ombre Snowcap (well we call it that for now anyway)

Ombre Snowcap
1.5 oz Fines Herbs infused Vodka (parsely, chive, tarragon 24-hours)
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.5 oz meletti amaro
1/16 oz olive oil
.75 egg white
Dry shake, shake, strain into rocks glass (no ice). Season foam with pechauds and soda and drop on top

This cocktail does a magical separation thing that is hard to describe. Paul’s work is truly amazing. Try this at home if you dare!

Home to the Monaco 25 hours in! Honestly the Friday Saturday Sunday visit was more fun that the masterly but non-charismatic show put on by the New Pornographers. Get some charisma you guys!

Back to our story. If you’re out until 2am after 25 hours, you sleep through breakfast. Which is why they make room service to bring you espressoand a muffin for $45. LOL.

Around noon it is off to Nom Nom Ramen for a leisurely lunch.

Nom Nom

Followed by a coffee at Elixer, and a cocktail at Milkboy.

A steamy day on the sunny side of the sidewalk in Philadelphia

It was a quick hit to Philly, but a great time. Five showerheads for the Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia.