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Sometimes the Fates smile on NPS. Well actually, the Fates are awesome and we mostly love them. This is one of those times. Coming to silicon valley and want to see some great friends? Well it turns out that Yo Yo Ma is in town playing his cello. Sure, the concert has been sold out for months, but you know that thing about the Fates we were talking about.

So we saw the astounding show (which featured a Shosaakovich piece that was out of this world in addition to the usual candy). And then we had a delicious “after the three encores” dinner at Monsieur Benjamin just down the street from the Davies. Our millenial waiter was amusing.

After that it was too late to try out the new Wildhawk (which we are bummed about…sorry Kenny).

Evidence of hippies abounded in SF at an undisclosed location. For example, consider this fridge which seems to have a Bitter Liberals sticker on it.

Or this collection of original Haight-Ashbury posters from the ’60s.

Must be San Francisco.

Even the trip back is looking up since this go ’round we have the seat we always try to get on Virgin America. If only the gogo network were not so sporadic.

Almost forgot a quick visit to one of my very favorite bars, Dirty Habit where Raul Ayala made me a Desert in the Tropics
1.5 Citadelle gin
.5 lemon juice
.5 pineapple gum syrup
.5 cactus puree
.5 leonor 12 palo cortado sherry

rim with smoked paprika and salt

Just fantastic

NPS loves San Francisco, and so did Bill Kimpton.

Morning view from 2007

Morning view from 2007

One super tragic side effect of the IHG buyout of Kimpton was a major defection of San Francisco properties from the chain. There are now two (count ’em two) Kimpton properties in town. There used to be twelve. And the whole thing fell apart over worker’s rights, which given the superior way Kimpton manages its people is terrible and ironic.

You know how we feel about Kimpton on this blog. We’re cheerleaders for the most part. (Oh sure, we get snarky when we have to, but that is how hotels improve.) Sadly, our loyalty is being tested in San Francisco. In fact, it was overtested all week.

The fact that we do have a Kimpton room at all during this week is nice (thanks to Mike Defrino’s major string pulling which we hugely appreciate), but what would be nicer is an upscale property and some adult supervision. There are elements of Kimpton design here at the Sir. D, but more needs doing (especially bathroom-wise). And real management/staff issues are clear after a few days on the property. I miss the SF Palomar. (A couple of visits to Mr Means at Dirty Habit made the pining worse.)

A last minute change in reservations due to rampant bday shenanigans was necessary, and it was not easy. But it got done. I flew into town late.

Check out this beautiful amenity

Check out this beautiful amenity

Having a mystery cocktail (??!) with some fancy fruit and cheese is a nice welcome.

IMG_1218

When you drink this mysterious elixer you may forget about the shower situation

When you drink this mysterious elixer you may forget about the shower situation

And the view at night is very much city in all directions from the 20th on a hill

And the view at night is very much city in all directions from the 20th on a hill

Kimpton style

Kimpton style

Sitting room 2007 suite

Sitting room 2007 suite

2007 has plenty of light and is nicely if not slightly shabbily appointed. All of the tables need to be replaced.

Table for work

Table for work

desk nook

desk nook

The sleeping part of the suite is a standard-issue room with a tiny bathroom that needs some more updating. The old tub is nice. What about a solid glass door on top of that? Nothing gets us quite as riled up here at NPS as a shower curtain! Down with shower curtains!!

This shower. No no no.

This shower. No no no.

Bedroom style

Bedroom style

2007 bed

2007 bed

NPS was already surly from the not-quite-up-to-par ride on Virgin America. We were dehydrated and there was no sparking water—anywhere—in the entire hotel.

For the record, we’re still dehydrated this morning. So we’re talking a very low three shower head situation for Sir D. Which, while average, is a low mark indeed for a Kimpton property. If anything the rating went down instead of up as the week progressed. The difference in management between the Sir D approach and many other properties is like night and day. There is much learning to do here by the staff.

Eventually (thanks to Lauren) the water memo arrived and a case of water appeared. Which was nice. But typical for this property there was no note or joke or apology or anything human from management in the room, just a plastic shrink-wrapped case of water plonked unceremoniously on the beaten up table.

To pile on the management misery, attempts to raise anyone downstairs in the lobby Thursday afternoon were unsuccessful for over an hour. I must have called 5 times with well over 100 collective rings. After corporate/social media read the deriding tweets, a surly front desker called up too late to get the things done that needed doing before it was out for the evening. Excuses won’t do it you guys. Inner circle guest expect better service. And for the record, it is YOUR damn fault you did not answer the phone, not mine.

While we’re complaining, we should also note for the record that the starlight lounge plays bass heavy music late into the evening. If the young ‘un thump bothers you, do not stay on the 20th floor.

So lets review.

Did a guest reserve a car to the airport? Let us know that actually happened.

Did someone call down to the desk from an expensive suite? Answer the damn phone.

There was no sparking water in the hotel one evening? Send someone out to get some NOW. Deliver it.

Did a guest turn 50? Apparently not at this property. Hell, even the restaurants figured this one out.

The final straw for the Sir D in my book is location, which in terms of my standard SF week is too far off the beaten path. I sure hope Kimpton finds an upscale property in SF soon. This one is off the list.

On a lighter and more fun note, here is other useful data about the SF trip, and its many delightful times:

  • Breakfast at Mels’ Diner is always great. Long line today during RSA week.
  • Lunch near the Moscone must always be Fang
  • Need to host an event? NPS recommends Forgery
  • Late night dinner at Bouche
  • Lunch at Cafe Claude is always fantastic (but guard your food)
  • Coffee and conversation go together at Cafe de la presse
  • Annabell’s is no longer, but Keystone is nice
  • Perbacco remains a superior location for getting some business done over lunch
  • Dirty Habit rules and Brian Means is at the top of his cocktail game.
  • Might as well skip the Sip Bar if the Hancock room in the back is occupied.
  • State Bird Provisions is super fantastic.

This just in. The cocktail mystery solved. The drink is La Perla designed by Jacques Bezuidenhout himself
1.5 oz Partida resposado tequila
.75 oz manzanilla Sherry
.75 oz pear liqueur
Stir/ coupe/ lemon peel

The Ten Year Itch by Brian Means
2 oz bourbon (henry mckenna 10 yr – 100 proof)
.5 oz kalani coconut
.5 oz orgeat
.75 lemon
1/2 egg white
dry shake ingredients, then wet shake, strain into coupe, garnish with peychaud’s

And now we close by looking down on the Westin…

Beautiful San Francisco

Beautiful San Francisco

A rose

A rose

The Palomar in San Fran is home away from home. Been staying here for years. One of my favorite Kimpton properties in a city I have grown to know well. It is great to be greeted by the door staff and front desk staff who know you by sight.

A fish

A fish

902 is quite literally one step (or story) up from 802. Looks familiar and Palomar-y. Thanks to Christopher Smith for getting everything arranged during a very busy week indeed. This town is packed with geeks.

Welcome to RSA week, with a note, massive hunks of cheese, and fresh flowers

Welcome to RSA week, with a note, massive hunks of cheese, and fresh flowers

We really appreciate the flowers, but we’re gonna have to explain why FTD arrangements don’t work in modern design. Simple lines are always better.

We will be hosting a number of meetings during the RSA week, so it is great to have room to do that.

902 sitting room

902 sitting room

902 sitting

902 sitting

902 bedroom

902 bedroom

And of course there is the usual big giant bathtub and the ’80s parent’s shower. No plastic!

Big ole tub in 902

Big ole tub in 902

The 902 shower is in better shape than 802, but could be upgraded to a glass cube.

The 902 shower is in better shape than 802, but could be upgraded to a glass cube.

RSA week is always intense and long, and having a home away from home to return to (though the respites may be brief) is great. Five showerheads for the Palomar.

Guarded by gorgons

Guarded by gorgons

In other San Fran news, annabell’s is great as usual but is slated to close for renovation soon. This is one of my prime meeting places.

And as always, Cafe Claude is the best place for lunch (French style) in all of San Francisco.

I was lucky enough to visit Dirty Habit three times this week. The first drive by was with some of my friends in the tech press who, lets just say, had a big head start on cocktail hour. Raul Ayala served up an invention of his called the Date in India:
1.5 Herradora Blanco
.5 lime
.5 luxardo
.75 spicy tamarind puree (hmmm)
.25 all spice dram
This is shaken and then strained over the rocks. The coup de grace is a dehydrated orange slice liberally spiced with paprika, cayenne, and sugar floated on top.

Congrats to Raul for placing a nicely designed beverage on the list at one of the best bars on earth! We returned late night with a group of 40 or so after a dinner at Perbacco. The bar kindly accommodated our group. Excellent bourbon and some more Dates in India.

Also spent a bit of time at BDK, a new Kimpton bar and restaurant on Geary. The bar is good but a bit noisy and open for my taste. It feels just a bit too much like a meat market. Had some nice cocktails that could have used a bit more attention to measurement detail.

I returned late night one night by myself to see Mr. Brian Means himself. It’s always a pleasure to sample his delicious masterful cocktails. The bar was busy at crunch time, but everyone backbar (raul, crystal, and brian) took time out to chat and hang out. Such a pleasure.

Thursday madness approaches. Fasten your seatbelts.

Stop three in the college and the arts tour was UC Santa Cruz, followed by a drive up 17, through silicon valley on 101, to San Francisco. The arts was an especially magical set of Beethoven Quartets played by the Elias String Quartet.

Which means we went from coastal nature to the city and all of its culture.

Live oak: UC Santa Cruz

Live oak: UC Santa Cruz

The Pacific: UC Santa Cruz

The Pacific: UC Santa Cruz

We arrived at the Palomar in a flurry around 4ish. They were more than ready with a classic welcome. So nice to return to such a great Kimpton property where we know them and they know us. We were assigned 802, a beautiful suite with substantial room to hang out and no plastic shower.

Fresh flowers in 802

Fresh flowers in 802

Walter the fish was present (hey Hilton, look, the fishy is real).

Hi Walter...blooop...blp...

Hi Walter…blooop…blp…

802 SF Palomar

802 SF Palomar

802 SF Palomr: this folds out to a bed

802 SF Palomr: this folds out to a bed

The unused big giant bathtub

The unused big giant bathtub

A reasonable shower

A reasonable shower

There was not much time to decompress before we were due for a pre-concert dinner at SPQR. Dinner was interesting, quirky, and delicious. Of particular note, the dessert was fantastic all around.

Then Beethoven.

A nightcap at dirty habit sealed the evening (though we really missed having Mr Means around). Brian, there is substitute for the real you!

The lesson in the “Palomar delta” between LA and SF is personal connection. People make all of the difference in the hospitality business. Thanks Christopher Smith for making it happen properly on this quick hit. See you in 20 days for a longer stay!

More than five showerheads for the Palomar in San Francisco, one of my few homes away from home.

UC Berkeley Massive Group Tour

UC Berkeley Massive Group Tour

It's college and the arts! Get ready for this.

It’s college and the arts! Get ready for this.

UC Berkeley Fossil Collection on High

UC Berkeley Fossil Collection on High

Bear in the Sky: UC Berkeley

Bear in the Sky: UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley: Massive Group Tour ][+

UC Berkeley: Massive Group Tour ][+

Next up, Colorado.

The best part of the Palomar Hotel in San Francisco is the masterful bartending of Brian Means at Dirty Habit. Always learn something every time. Thanks Brian. (For you twitter people, see @myamericandram.)

Tonight it was a curry bourbon cocktail on the savory side that was just fantastic. Then a punch. We’ll call it On the Fly:
6 oz pierre ferrand 1840 cognac
6 oz citadelle gin
4 oz pierre ferrand dry curaçao
4 oz lemon juice
4 oz pomelo cordial (pomelo, sugar, jasmine tea)
12 oz prosecco
create. top with shaved cinnamon and black cardamon plus orange slices.

And there was Hirsch 20. Holy cow.

1019561

Special thanks to Christopher Smith for finagling a table during a busy time.

We arrived in San Francisco on a rainy day, delayed three hours so that rush hour was in full swing. 101 was a parking lot. Blerg!

Fresh flowers in room 902

Fresh flowers in room 902

But then we arrived at the Palomar. Palpable relief! Ah. The new lobby is done and it is gorgeous. The front staff had been briefed and greeted us by name. It was all like getting home out of the rain. Chris Smith is running a tight ship.

Sadly, it was all so exciting and rainy that my Bose headphone set never made it out of the back of the cab. But never fear, Bryan was all over it and fixed the problem by magic behind the scenes. Fantastic. Thanks Bryan.

Headphones found

Headphones found

Room 902 is great. Nice roomy space with no plastic in sight in the bathroom. We were greeted with a personal note, fresh flowers (!), and some cheese. Thank you Sara.

Welcome to 902

Welcome to 902

902 sitting room

902 sitting room

902 bedroom

902 bedroom

902 bathroom

902 bathroom

This shower is not plastic

This shower is not plastic

Not only were the fresh flowers special. The standard Kimpton special touches were also around.

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

In other SF news, the Crustacean restaurant is OK. Over-rated, but decent. On the other hand, hard water has one of the best “weaponized grain” storage facilities in all of SF. We had flights of Pappy, we had Hirsch 16, we had many antique collection bourbons. Just wow. Our server Erin Rose was knowledgeable and really fun.

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Not to be outdone, master barman Brian Means of Dirty Habit had a custom cocktail created and sent up to the room while we were out doing our job. Awesome way to wind down after a conference day.

Without further ado, the B-String:
1.5 oz Pierre Ferronal Cognac
.75 oz East India Sherry
.5 oz Banana liqueur
2 dashes All Spice Bitters

Properly warmed up by the pre-game show, we headed downstairs for dinner and lots of great cocktails at Dirty Habit. Cool new space. Excellent cocktails as always. Mr. Means is still on the sherry roll. Good thing the room was only upstairs!

We even had some of this.  Whatever it is!

We even had some of this. Whatever it is!

Thursday night fun was spearheaded by Jacques Bezuidenhout and joined by a motley crew of affiliated pranksters. We started with a trip to the Anchor Steam brewery christmas party. The anchor steam people also have a distillery with an upstairs patio bar. Lots of great rums including the Blue Penny brand and No 3 gin. Cocktail people are really fun to party with.

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Jacques stepped into his natural element behind the bar and crafted a gin and tonic after the extensive rum tasting.

Jacques makes a G&T

Jacques makes a G&T

Rosemary

Rosemary

Then it was off to Tommy’s for a late rendez-vous with the dinner crew. Tommy’s is just fantastic. Warm, friendly, tequia, what more do you want? We were briefly joined by AT from Partida.

Dinner a deserted Aziza was very good indeed. We had the place mostly to ourselves. Food was great.

Then a dive bar for Fernet and a bleary-eyed walk across the street to have a last Liberal. Somehow we misplaced an unused Friday completely.

Five showerheads and an alcohol-soaked cleaning rag for this trip to the SF Palomar. Fantastic.