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Last Licks in Tokyo

November 30, 2019

One more day in Tokyo before flying home. NPS is back in the very same room at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo with the progeny for another night. After taking the Shinkansen back from Kyoto it was time for sushi with Rio.

Lots of sushi pictures and videos on apothecaryshed.

Then it was off to “the local” for a pre-game negroni (that is, the Tippler’s Arms).

The Tippler’s Arms will make you a cocktail

Then a local train to Kitazaswa to see the Dead Bambis. First a fuel stop before the show.

The Dead Bambis are very loud and very good. (Earplugs are a necessity at these shows!). See more pictures and videos of the show on apothecaryshed.

Then a visit to a new bar in Shinjuku bound to become a classic—Jeremiah. We met the owner K in Kyoto at Bees Knees and he told us about his new project in Tokyo. K then met us in Tokyo. Awesome.

Blue blazers, corpse revivers, extra fun shots. Just go!

Finally it was across the street to the LGBTQ neighborhood Hanazono Nishi for some people watching and dog patting.

Short, but fun last day in Tokyo!

After a 19 hour trip from Washington, the Tokyo Station was a welcome sight. A quick taxi ride to Rappongi and we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. NPS is traveling with the progeny. We’ve been here before, and it is great to be back.

Taxi stand Tokyo Station

Tokyo on arrival

Checkin was smooth. We requested a Twin Club Deluxe room with an extra bed to suite three adults. Our room 1013 is on the concierge level where the club is. Super convenient for breakfast and cocktails.

1013 twin club

The bathroom is spacious and well appointed with an NPS approved shower

Omnipresent screen

1013 is a very nice room, just fine for three adults.

The elevator hallway

A late dinner at The Oak Door steakhouse was impressive indeed. One of the best steaks NPS has ever eaten. Just wow.

Porterhouse (off menu)

The sides were just as fantastic as the steak.

And then it was time for much needed sleep. Sleeping on planes in pods is a fitful and pretty much unfulfilling experience. (United Polaris remains among the best in the business for international travel).

Some tips for Japan travelers. Make sure to reserve a wifi device for your wanderings so you can connect your phone(s) through that. You can pick up your device on landing at Narita at the fourth floor post office. Then get some cash if you can. Japan is all about cash. Finally, try to get a Japan Rail Green pass before you arrive. This trip, the US Post office screwed up delivery of our passes by imposing a six week delay. That meant we had to purchase passes on arrival (still recommended, but more expensive). The US Post Office sucks.

Shibuya mural

Day one in Tokyo started kind of late due to the inevitable jet lag suffered by the progeny. We started at Shibuya station to see the famous mural, the dog statue, and the world’s busiest pedestrian intersection. We also had some soup.

Tokyo Sunglasses

Next was a walk up towards Meiji Jingu that took us by an excellent sunglasses retailer, and the pedestrian shopping streets (very different) Ometesando and Takeshita. Trifles were acquired.

Espresso on the Street

Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu is a magical place. Any source of peace is much needed for NPS at this juncture. Shinto.

Meiji Jingu

We exited the north end of the shrine by some yellow ginkos and walked up to a small mall to share a bottle of french wine.

Samurai Museum

There was just enough time to stop in at the Samurai museum (well worth a peek) before dinner.

Sushi at Makoto Sushi was outstanding.

Then it was off on a cocktail bar crawl of sorts. Sadly Ben Fiddich was full (a reservation is a must, but the only slot we could get by phone was for 6pm, too early for us). So we found a nearby dive bar. Three bar was very professional. Nice ice. Great Negroni measured with care.

We walked from Three Bar through piss alley. Golden Gai was our final destination for the day. We visited Baobab (the first vinyl bar in Tokyo) to listen to some old funk and drink some rum. Then it was off to our final destination Le Parrain (a godfather themed, old school, very smokey bar). Great cocktails included a Jack Rose, and over sweet Old Fashioned, and a Corpse Reviver #2 or two. (Special thanks to Jacques Bezuidenhout for excellent cocktail and food data.)

Le Parrain cocktail round

Day two in Tokyo also got off to a late start, this time because two of three of us on this trip work working (hint: not NPS who is “retired“). The day was devised with some help from Patrick who has lived in Tokyo for 10 years or so. The trip began at Hinade pier where we caught a city ferry up to Asakusa pier. The trip was about 40 minutes and a fun way to get around Tokyo.

Fuji Ramen (Tokyo)

Fuji Ramen shop

Our first stop of the day was at Fuji Ramen near Senso-ji temple. Absolutely delicious ramen!

The weather was drizzly at Senso-ji, which somehow seems to fit the mood of the temple. (See more about this visit on apothecaryshed.)

Walking Tokyo

From there, we walked to Kappabashi street to see the kitchenware and plastic food.

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum

A taxi delivered us to the Ueno park area where we spent an hour looking at impressionist paintings from France (because what else are you supposed to look at while in Japan?) at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. The people at the art museum, though teeming, were absolutely silent as they looked at the famous paintings. (See up and down art on apothecaryshed.)

Vending

A short walk through the park and a quick cab ride deposited us at our last stop, Akihabara. The progeny was familiar with all of the Anime stuff. NPS simply watched in awe of the breadth of Anime culture.

We cabbed back to the hotel for a brief pit stop before an incredibly great dibber at PST Pizza Studio Tamaka (in Roppongi close to the hotel). Recommended by friends of Jacques, the pizza at PST is Italian style and absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

Our final stop before crashing and burning in the jetlag haze of day two was the Mori tower. The view of Tokyo and surrounds from 50 floors is not to be missed.

Day three started way early for a trip on the Shinkansen to Kyoto, about which see this NPS blog entry.

Five showerheads for the Grand Hyatt Tokyo. Great to be back. This place is an NPS recommended home base in Tokyo.

After a false start in the Sydney Hilton hamster cage category, we upgraded ourselves to a Relaxation Suite. This was a GOOD MOVE! Thanks to Callan at the front desk for making the whole thing go smoothly and for cutting us a sweet deal.

Apparently there are 16 of these rooms on the property. If NPS is stuck in a big corporate hotel, this is the kind of room we want. 2925 is big enough to stretch out in. Comes with exec level perqs (free breakfast, cocktail hour, concierge service, etc). A completely different universe from “free conference room” category. Yes please.

2925 suite

Hey look, room to breathe!

The furnishings are sturdy and nice, and the shades are all automated. Lots of room to work and play.

The sitting room with a nice desk

Powder room

The bathroom is huge with a gigantic tub (probably never to be used) and a very nice shower that has so many control options we’ve only figured out half of them over the last two days.

Four of the five shower nozzles. The drench head (not shown) is superb.

This huge tub comes with a city view

Visit the botanical gardens!

Spanish helmets

After a nice long walk through the city on our first day, we had a quick pizza at Macchiato. The pizza is better than the service (friendly though inept), and we won’t even mention the bartending. There has to be better pizza in Sydney.

Watson Bay ferry dock

Day two was spent ferrying over to Watson Bay, walking the bridge, wandering the Rocks, and buying way too much product at Aesop.

You can’t leave Watson Bay without consuming mandatory fish and chips

The gap

The Aesops store is in here somewhere

Dinner at Tetsuyas was world class. Very expensive but very very good indeed. Bite the bullet and overpay for dinner.

A negroni with homemade sweet vermouth (cherry). Delicious.

Day three is a rainy disaster, good for getting up late, processing some bits, a nice Thai lunch in the very weird Holy Basil, and some coffee at Doppio.

Before dinner, we stopped in at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. A very powerful video piece on the Palm Island uprising was the highlight for sure.

MCAA

MCAA

MCAA

MCAA

Dinner at Aria was solid. Excellent views at a great table, delicious food, and very good service.

Aria Sydney view

We also went to see a (bad) play at the Sydney opera house. Yeah, probably not the best theater location in the city, but it was the only thing on. The actors were great, the set was creative and high tech, and the writing may once have been good too, but it has aged poorly. What is billed as an “iconic masterpiece by Nobel Laureate Patrick White,” A Cheery Soul is more like a cartoon from long ago. It was fun to do, though.

The next day we did a say trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Highly recommended even though the train ride is long. (See a blog entry here.)

Then it was a mad dash through the city in order to shower before dinner in the best restaurant in Australia. That would be quay. Though we were grateful to sneak in with a last minute reservation, we were not satisfied with a table in the “annex” (which seems to be a thing in Sydney). Dinner was remarkably great, but childre’s table treatment is just wrong when you are paying so much money.

View from the children’s table at Quay

We opted for the “drinks” pairing which was really excellent. Not just wine, but beer, sake, fortified spirits, cocktails. A great idea done in an outstanding fashion.

Negroni with QQQQ Pillars gin (a hack from four pillars for Quay)

Here are some pictures from the dinner. World class. Outstanding and well worth a visit.

Quay

There was not much time to explore the cocktail scene in Sydney what with all of the fancy Negronis we had in some of the best restaurants on earth. We did at least pop over to the Lobo Plantation for some nice tiki-style cocktailing after a group dinner. Lobo Plantation was hopping and much fun.

Lobo Plantation is a great bar

Fernet and coconut cream based cocktail (with a side of fernet of course)

CR#2

Did these stairs get curvier?

We’ll have to leave these other bars unexplored for now (including the (gasp!) marble bar at the Hilton which we never made it downstairs for): Bulletin Place, Old Mates Place, Shady Pines, and Hubert.

Here is a view of the sunset from the really cool “window in the mirror” from the suite.

Sunset at the Sydney Hilton

Five showerheads for the Sydney Hilton Relaxation Suite product. Recommended.

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 3

March 12, 2018

There are rumored to be more wine luncheons than those that we can attend, but rumor is just rumor unless there is photographic evidence. The latest incarnation that can be shown to exist happened in LA on March 9th. The target was Little Sister.

As you can see, nobody enjoyed themselves, least of all Donnie.

Also there was not enough wine.

The weather was terrible. Cold and snowy.

Obviously, we drove the waitress completely insane.

The food was delicious, a fusion of Asian and American (kind of like that helicopter sound that immediately brings to mind Vietnam).

Many courses, only one of which included shakey beef.

There was little wine.

Pinot noir from the wine club.

There was big wine.

Pinot noir from the cellar.

There was plenty of wine.

The selection

Then all of a sudden we were on a quest. First to the Athletic Club of LA. Very old school, but willing to learn how to make a Corpse Reviver #2.

Then to Miro (under an Italian eatery), which was very suave but still willing to make a great Sazarac with Willet Family Reserve 12 year old rye. Perfection.

Sazarac (with only ywo dashes of Peychauds)

Then to dinner, where the political state of Virginia became a problem for some of us with an overly sized buzz. No GOP weenie has been elected to state wide office since 2009 in Virginia DAMN IT! And that was before the sheer idiocy of fake president Twump.

Dinner was somewhere near these very tall buildings

Then to Cafe D’oro in Santa Monica to hang with Vincenzo and drink whatever the dealer dealt.

Dealer’s choice (mezcal)

By 1am we were back at the Georgian Hotel, a good thing since our departure was slated at 5am sharp.

Would we do it again? Of course.

The group we host on an annual basis is getting big (well over 200 now) and that means finding an appropriate venue is getting harder. Fortunately the Omni Montelucia was a great choice for this year’s conference. Gorgeous setting. Updated property. Top notch food and drinks. Well trained and attentive staff. Awesome!

About the only wrinkle with the Omni Montelucia is getting there from the east coast. Flying to/from Pheonix is not the best or the most efficient, but that can be a plus too if you want to get a bunch of very busy people “off the grid” for a couple of days of concentrated work. (BTW, American Air just sucks. My favorite thing was a twitter suggestion from American customer service to remove stuff from the seat ahead for more room. Fuck right on off!)

The conference organizers lined up suite 129 for NPS. It was “pretty not bad” as our friend Sammy says. In fact, it was just as nice as any suite we’ve ever had.

Suite 129

Greeted with a cocktail and a personal note. Very nice. Thanks! (Oh and sparkly water too.)

The bathroom was spectacular with a NPS approved glass shower also incorporating stone and multiple showerheads.

Wait for it

This shower is perfect

Are we spoiled? Should we not be spoiled?

All showers like this always come with an unused side of bathtub

But by far the best part of 129 was the large porch. Each night we entertained on the porch with candles and Liberals (Amer Picon brought from home).

129 porch

View of the porch

View from the porch

View from the porch

One minor quibble about the porch. The weather was so perfect that NPS wanted to keep the huge sliding glass triple door open all night. Sadly the resort musak also played all night in the courtyard of the restaurant. So the doors had to close at 3am.

The bar was also prepped by advance troops (in the form of Noelie) who informed them that they would need more absinthe STAT for CR#2s. That was a very good call. The barkeeps were all greatly accommodating and eager to learn.

And the resort food for 200? Very very well done. Could not really ask for improvement there.

After the conference, we left in an afternoon for play. A hike in the desert. A dip in the pool. And one of the best meals of my life at Sel in Scottsdale.

Camelback Mountain

Five showerheads and nothing to add. Heck six showerheads for the Omni Monelucia. Wishing for a quick return on any other airline than American.

Leopold Bros Distillery

November 12, 2015

Those of you who read NPS regularly know that in our studied opinion, Leopold Bros makes the best gin in the world (the small batch gin). We always have some on hand at the home bar. Part of the secret behind the gin is separate distillation of the aromatics which are then combined with the base alcohol. It’s magical stuff which has come to be known as the Leopold process.

So we already loved Leopold’s by default, but then we visited. Now we can’t say enough good things about the distillery, its products, and most importantly its people. Wow, what an operation!

Leopold Bros Distillery

Leopold Bros Distillery

We were given a tour by Alec Ropes, one of the seven Leopold Brothers employees. Yes, they work hard and they work passionately at Leopold’s! Alec was just great, spending three hours with us in intense conversation. We were geeking out on alcohol production, and boy was it fun.

The genius behind Leopold Bros distilling-wise is Todd Leopold, one of the two brothers. Todd is a practicing intellectual with a master craftsman sensibility backed by many years of experience and vast quantities of absorbed knowledge. We were incredibly pleased to get to spend a few minutes chatting with Todd even while a vodka run was heading into the tails.

Todd Leopold and his new old still

Todd Leopold and his new old still

Todd and his brother Scott have built a distilling factory that is not only ultra-modern, it’s also environmentally sustainable. For example, a closed loop water system keeps water lossage (a huge deal for most alcohol production) way down. Natural light suffuses the floor, and a ceiling fan keeps the yeast aromas circulating with fresh air from the garden outside.

There are three types of still on line at Leopolds now.

German stills

German stills

Alembic stills

Alembic stills

The new three layer still

The new three layer still

Todd explained the new still’s operation to us. The four chambers all have different jobs to do during a twenty minute run, and the mash moves its way down the column between runs. The resulting process suffuces the water with as much flavor as the alcohol. (Looks like the new still goes along with the malting floor, the malt kiln, and the sherry barrels in the rickhouse. Hmm, what could they be up to?)

Tower still for vodka production

Tower still for vodka production

Special steam punk magic thingy

Special steam punk magic thingy

We paused for some pictures with Todd. What a great guy! Knowledgeable, funny, smart as a whip, and kind. Todd had some hilarious stories about the Denver health department people, physical phase transitions, and alcohol as a decontamination solution.

Antti flew in from Helsinki

Antti flew in from Helsinki

Of course all distilling starts with beer (which is how Leopolds got its start in Ann Arbor years ago). Several different mashes are in use now at the distillery. I was surprised how viscous the rye mash is. Slippery goopy.

Open mash tanks made of cypress and pine

Open mash tanks made of cypress and pine

Eventually, alcohol is blended (Leopold Bros makes 22 products currently with some awesome new ones coming on line any month now) and put into barrels. There is lots of “three char” white American oak in the house.

Floor rick

Floor rick

Rickhouse with 2 or 3 barrel ricks

Rickhouse with 2 or 3 barrel ricks

Alec with the product line

Alec with the product line

Of course we had to do some sampling. I already own 7 Leopold Bros products in my supply and was happy to add two more: Cherry Liqueur (to sub in for Heering) and a Digestif called something crazy due to American labeling laws. The Digestif is in the Benedictine/Chartruese range.

A mysterious new building at Leopold Bros

A mysterious new building at Leopold Bros

Anyway, thanks to Todd and Alec taking time out of their busy jobs to show around a couple of newby geeks. We loved it!

By the time we took off for dinner, the sun had set

By the time we took off for dinner, the sun had set

When we arrived at the fantastic Colt and Grey for dinner, the first thing we did was call for some Leopold Bros cocktails.

Here’s to passion, science, craftsmanship, and kindness. Leopold Bros you have my loyalty all sown up for this lifetime!

Make yourself a cocktail with Leopold’s Gin today:
Blue Moon
Corpse Reviver #2

The Corpse Reviver #2 is one of my all time favorite drinks. Like the Liberal, this drink is simple, but the ingredients combine in a way that is hard to describe.

Make sure you call for a Corpse Reviver #2 when you ask for this drink. Corpse Reviver #1 sucks by comparison. Clueless bars will serve you one of those if you’re not careful.

Most any gin will work for this drink, and will have an impact on the final product. I like a gin at the “aromatics forward” side of the gin range. That is, anything from Hendricks on over to Leopolds. A strong gin like Plymouth can overpower the other ingredients.

Though the ingredients come in equal parts, it is important to measure for this drink carefully, especially the absinthe. Too much absinthe or lemon juice can ruin everything. 3 drops will do it.

Corpse Reviver #2
1 oz gin (in this case Bluecoat)
1 oz cointreau
1 oz lillet blanc
1 oz lemon juice (measure)
3 drops absinthe
shake. strain. serve up with a real Marasca cherry (Luxardo) in a classic cocktail glass.