Home

NPS is on a 25 day adventure that includes San Francisco as a first stop. Loyal readers know that means Japantown, and Japantown these days means the Kabuki.

The lobby is a great place to hang out and get some work done. And the bar is pretty good to boot.

And there is now espresso on the property.

It was hazy in San Francisco every day due to the fires in California. In fact, the air quality was the worst on the planet on Thursday.

This trip we’re on the top floor (16) in 1602. The rooms are well appointed.

1602

1602 has two large windows overlooking the city

The bathroom is sizable, but the room is cold. The poor heater can’t keep up with nights that drop into the upper ’40s. That means the bathroom is chilly in the morning. Fortunately, the shower door in 1602 seals pretty well and does not let tons of cold air in. But the old sliding doors (still) need to be replaced with more modern glass that insulates better.

The shower is a room of its own with two shower heads and a large bench.

Bathroom accoutrements

Of course, San Francisco is a great place to visit when it comes to food and beverages. A cocktail or two at PCH is highly recommended, especially if your friend Jacques Bezuidenhout shows up with time to spare on his visa and a bottle of Amer Picon. Much fun was had.

Dinner at State Bird Provisions is outstanding as always. Incredible flavors put together in remarkable ways. NPS just walked right in on a Tuesday night with no reservation.

For an interesting diner-like breakfast, try out Sweet Maple.

Ramen at Iza Ramen is very good indeed.

Hard water has a top notch bourbon and rye collection (though Jack Rose in DC has it beat). Hirsch 74. Sazarac 18. Stagg 11.

The Mymy cafe is a great place for breakfast. Creative delicious options and espresso that does not suck. Recommended.

Dinner at Prarie is very good, though noisy and crowded.

Skip ABV and go straight to Churchill for a nightcap. Fewer hipsters and no bullshit at the door.

Have a wine tasting at Domaine Carneros.
It helps if you know someone who is in their club. https://twitter.com/noplasticshower/status/1063957983468474369

Four showerheads, clean air, and some warmer nights for the Hotel Kabuki. We’ll be back. Next up, New Zealand!

Third time’s a charm. This year’s cocktail extravaganza was hashtagged (as always) with a tip of the hat to the Clash. (See #londonculling and #rockthecasbar entries.)

From our base at the Mondrian London, we headed out to the shard for lunch.

The food at Aquashard is remarkably good. Fuel up!

After lunch, it was off to the Alchemist. Espresso was in the cards since it was early yet.

Next we paid a visit to our friend Alessandro (and delivered greetings personally from Jacques Bezuidenhout) at Duke’s hotel bar. Simply put, Duke’s somehow makes the best martinis in the world. Better to only have one.

Plans called for a visit to the Ritz bar, but we ran into a shoe-ware issue (someone had on trainers that cost as much as a car). So fuck the Ritz. We will be back never.

No worries, the Connaught Bar manned by Micheal was incredibly great. We sat at the bar. Somehow the Connaught became our home away from home with two visits the next day during much fun was had.

We paid a visit to Gerry’s Wines and Spirits to amass a treasure trove of Amer Picon and some very old Cuban rum. Graham and insta-graham were a blast. Gin tasting occurred.

Then it was time for prophylactic ramen at Bone Daddies. Great ramen with a rock and roll vibe. Beer seemed like a good idea.

Bar Swift was our next target. Without a reservation we shlepped downstairs. After a round, our waitress took pity on us and gave us a great round booth. Then we got into the George T Stagg 2016. Wise?? Of course it was wise.

Next up was a visit to one of our all around favorites, the American Bar at the Savoy. Our barman on point at the establishment did what he could to find us some Catoctin Creek rye to use in the Red Lips Rye. He had 24 hours. Sadly, his attempt was unsuccessful, but he did put in a real effort.

We always seem to get stuck at the American Bar for 2 or 3 rounds, after which we head downstairs and transfer our tab to the Beaufort. Two of our party bowed out after the American Bar visit around 10:30.

It was left for the remaining cocktail enthusiasts to pull all of the weight. Down to the Beaufort we went. Frankly we were not impressed with this visit. Though we love the bar and past visits have been fun (if not expensive as hell), there seem to be too many Russians around for comfort these days.

Back home to the Dandelyan it was. We made it in time for fernet and a last call that seems to have involved two CR#2’s and six Liberals. These things happen!

So, after all this we somehow ended up opening a bottle of champagne at 2am on the balcony. That was a bad idea.

You would figure that we had learned our lesson, but we had not. The next afternoon after some ramen (medicinal this time) at Monohon ramen we walked over to the Zetter Townhouse for some hair of the dog.

Which naturally led us back to the Connaught Bar to see Michael again before our fancy night out.

We leave you with a recipe for a Coburg Collins
50 ml London dry gin (no 3)
20 ml lemon
15 ml simple syrup
10 ml fino sherry
2 dashes celery bitters
top up with soda water over big ice.

Back at the Buchanan, this time for “mandatory corporate fun,” and all is well.

Sadly, when we booked, our favorite room was already slated for some other obviously undeserving guest and the Tetris game of chance did not work out in our favor. So what ya gonna do?

Start out in 216 and move up as soon as possible! 216 is a ADA room, which is not that big a problem, but its shower is wimpy and sucky, and it is too close to the street and thus a bit noisy. Oh well, one night won’t kill us.

We were greeted with a much-needed amenity which we scarfed down like the hungry dogs we are.

And then, since it was pretty late, it was straight to bed.

This shower is not plastic, but it needs a better shower head and better water pressure.

Fortunately, the room switcheroobie was smooth. So one night late, we moved up to 416. That’s better. Maybe next time the dice will roll in our favor!

View from 416

Hmm, that design looks familiar.

The MUCH better shower. All praise the shower goddess.

Bathroom with stuff: still life

The Buchanan lobby is interesting too, but not as interesting as GM E mily Gick who we finally connected with this visit. Thanks for the hospitality Emily.

Buchanan lobby

Art out of focus

Either four or five showerheads for the Buchanan. See you again soon!

In other San Francisco news, Zasie is a very trendy and great place for brunch. Cocktails at Blackbird do not suck.

Hinodeya ramen just across the street from the Buchanan is very good indeed and entirely authentic.

Cocktails at P.C.H in popup xmas mode is highly recommended. After that you must close down The Irish Bank. Spent some quality time with Jacques Bezuidenhout. What a blast!

c4c1a15vcaewzmf

Want to be near the Pacific in a terrific city? San Francisco can do that for you.

This visit included a bug free stay at the Buchanan Hotel in Japantown where Emily G and her excellent co-workers made us feel especially welcome. Here’s how.

First, the giant tetris game that is specific hotel room request came out in our favor and we secured 416 (the best room in the property with lots of windows and a great bathroom).

Yellow roses

Yellow roses

Second, yellow roses!

Third, a mystery gift…

What's in the bag?

What’s in the bag?

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Sleepytime tea, honey, and some pottery mugs. Just like home.

Arrival was delightful.

416 and roses

416 and roses

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit.  All good.  Plus tea!

Notes, sparking water, cheese and fruit. All good. Plus tea!

416 has a spacious bathroom with a glass shower. No plastic showers!!

The glass shower cube

The glass shower cube

img_2976

A little rain never hurt anything. Especially in drought stricken California. The fact that the weather was perfect for the weekend was, well, perfect.

Rainy day Japantown

Rainy day Japantown

img_2984

With the expert help of Jacob, Saturday’s itenerary was outstanding.

Brunch at Foreign Cinema was first. We used the show up at 10:45 and walk right in at 11 hack.

Foreign Cinema brunch

Foreign Cinema brunch

Followed by a quick last minute stint at the Farmer’s Market

Saturday morning market

Saturday morning market

20170211_140708

20170211_133604

And a trip to Lands End.

Land's End

Land’s End

20170211_162313

20170211_155111

Who's that?

Who’s that?

20170211_153647

20170211_153100_hdr

Cocktail hour was spent at the always fantastic Smuggler’s Cove for tiki, rum, and conversation. A meeting of the secret book club was held.

Smuggler's Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Smuggler’s Cove is one of the best bars in the world

Dinner was at The Progress. Super fantastic, rollicking fun time. And the food was good too!

Sunday should start with a great brunch, say at the Hillside Supper Club.

And then a trip to Napa on a gorgeous day! Domaine Carneros is a great target, especially if you have club privileges.

One of my favorite wines in the world is Old Hill from Ravenswood.

Pizza evening (due to a 2 hour wait at the sushi place we targetted) was followed by a visit to the delightful Churchhill bar. This is a low key almost dive like neighborhood place with an outstanding collection of serious booze.

In other San Francisco fun NPS gladly notes the following establishments:
lunch (every day) at cafe claude
ramen in Japantown at Waraku
fun and games with superb cocktails at Forgery
world class brunch at Plow
jacques incredible cocktails in a relaxed and gorgeous room at Wildhawk
outstanding food at rich table

About which these twitterz:

Thursday madness was particularly fun this iteration.

Five showerheads with a wink and a nod for the Buchanan where everything went as planned.

Lafayette, CA is tucked away in the hills behind Berkeley, CA, through the tunnel and into an HO Railroad time warp. This cute little town is a classic Bay area amalgam of chic and blue collar in only the way that California can be. Lafayette Park fancies itself an upscale destination resort designed like a French Châteaux. In reality it is more like a local wedding location just off the highway next to a row of car detailing places.

All decked out for Santa

All decked out for Santa

Lafayette Park is part of the family-owned Woodside hotel group that includes the Plaza Hotel in Monterey. Frankly, the Plaza Hotel is a notch or three farther up the food chain (and we’re not just saying this because we were in the Presidential Suite last time we were there). That said, Lafayette has a few things going for it and a few things to fix.

For example, the food is remarkably good for hotel food. But the meeting rooms are dated and stuffy. The staff is gracious and well trained. But the same staff has a hard time going off script (as an example, try having the front desk deal with your car valet because the valet line is four deep and there is no time. No really, I am going to want you to do that.) The common rooms have interesting design. But the bathrooms (even in the superior class rooms) need serious redesign.

So it’s hit and miss.

NPS was assigned 354 (not the Presidential Suite sadly). The room has a fantastic ceiling and a real wood burning fireplace (sans wood of course since this is California but rather stocked with a walmart grade fire log?!). But (there it is again that proverbial “but”) who decided to keep the circa 1974 mirrored closet. At least the hangers are real hangers (but you can see on the pole back to the time when they were not).

Excellent ceiling

Excellent ceiling

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

A solid wooden writing table

A solid wooden writing table

But really, WTF?!

But really, WTF?!

The real drawback as far as this blog and its particular hangups goes is the bathroom design. Just start over.

Nope

Nope

So much tile ruined by obesity bar

So much tile ruined by obesity bar

Why all hotel bathrooms in properties grasping to be upscale still have shower curtains over bathtubs is beyond us here at NPS. We travel for glass showers.

Apparently somebody got some kind of memo WRT NPS arrival, because there was fruit and san pellegrino. Whoever brought this stuff up forgot to remove the default “upsell water” (an NPS pet peeve) and management seems to have overlooked the idea of writing a note. Oh well. So close and so “but.”

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch

no

no

One last quibble or two and we’ll shut up. Outlets by the bed. Get some. Delete the clock radio from a previous decade. And conjur up some espresso to avoid the 5am walk to Starbucks just down the street (past all those car detailing places and Ace hardware).

All in all Lafayette Park earns four showerheads and best wishes for “but”-eradication. I guess we get surly when we travel during no fly noël. Can’t be helped.

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

The cocktail scene in Lafayette was surprisingly decent. After dinner at Postino one evening, we went around the corner to The Cooperage for a cocktail or two.

We were ably served by Ryan Wehrenberg who played along nicely with our gin range shenanigans.

Ryan also happens to be a local distillery rep for Bay Area Distilling company.

He mixed us up a cocktail called the chimneysweep which was interesting but not quite ready for prime time.

1.5 oz vodka
.5 oz orgeat
.5 oz lo-fi gentian amer
.5 oz fernet
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter girl orange bitters
dash activated charcoal
shake. double strain into glass atomized with laphroig

The drink looked better than it tasted.

Back at the Lafayette Park hotel bar, we proceeded to get into the William Larue Weller (2016 edition)

The next evening we shlepped into San Fran for a business meeting at Forgery. They still have the bottle of Amer Picon that NPS dropped there before opening night.

We were served by a delightful server who dutifully made us a Liberal and then moved on to this “so darn close” cocktail Experiment Fifty-seven

.75 oz tio pepe palomino fino sherry
.5 oz amer picon
.25 oz agave syrup
1 oz partida añejo
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter truth grapefruit
shake. serve up with lemon peel.

The concensus at our table was that the grapefruit bitters were overkill. Anyway, we’ll play with that one back at Coal Stove Sink Bar.

And guess who showed up? Our great friend Jacques Bezuidenhout himself. What a delight. And CONGRATULATIONS!

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

Jacques Bezuidenhout’s fantastic new project is not yet open to the public, but when it is, it is going to be excellent. As a first stop on Thursday madness, a visit to the newly renovated space fit the bill perfectly. Such a Forgery!

What? No ice machines or bar sink plumbing yet? That’s OK. Tequila cheekies may be better than a fancy cocktail as starter fuel anyway.

A highly documented moment.

Not a selfie

Not a selfie

Forgery is beautiful inside. Here is a little eye appetizer.

Stocking underway

Stocking underway

One day this will be packed with excellent spirits

One day this will be packed with excellent spirits

Of course the real beauty of Forgery will be cocktail excellence. Another great reason to visit San Francisco more often.

Thursday madness moved on to excellent sazaracs at the Boxing Room with some oysters, fried chicken, and gumbo. Wash it all down with some very good bottles of wine and then liftoff. Rolling blackouts may have occurred (we’ll never tell), a phenomenon enhanced by a visit to Smugglers Cove.