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.

Wine luncheon one was so much fun that even in a month of intense travel (three countries and 7 cities so far this May), NPS just had to attend edition two.

A great time was had by all. Our gracious and knowledgeable host was the owner of Bistro 45. The food was as outstanding as the wine and included Mexican shrimp, dry scallops, organic beets, and waygu beef.


The supply grows and pairing planning begins

Wine range

Bistro 45 is highly recommended

The crew

The kitchen crew minus chef

Cigars and cognac spontaneously appeared after lunch.

Someone is having fun!

I know, lets do it again!

The quick answer is: there is no stay short enough to justify a plastic shower.

NPS set out to prove this aphorism at the truly style-free Renaissance hotel at LAX.

Renaissance is a Marriott property, so we of course made great use of our friend Mr. X who is a Lifetime Platinum Elite member. Mr. X books for us and NPS shoves all the points in his direction. This gets us superior rooms and concierge level hoo hah and whatnot at Marriotts. Sadly they are all still Marriotts.

The front lobby is in the middle of a massive renovation at the Renaissance at LAX. So that may be a good thing (but likely it just won’t matter). NPS was assigned a newly renovated suite (number 425) after much furious typing by the front desk staff on our very late arrival around midnight. If 425 is evidence of the style that is driving this renovation then NPS is worried.

You see, 425 looks like this. But looks (even marginal looks like this) can be deceiving. Super cheap, thin, veneer style is what we have on evidence here.

Like this crooked too big TV. WTF?

No. Not how to hang a TV. Why is there even one here?

The bed is comfortable, but the lights are so cheap a light wind would blow them over. Fortunately the windows do not open.

Comfy bed.

But what is this?

The windows overlook a glowing Burger King sign That pretty much says it all.

Yeah, no. This is not really a cool city view.

More sad, thin style evident in the sitting room.

Your mother in law called and she has some design ideas

There was a sad little plant on the desk wishing for some light. Flourescent bulbs should make it happier than they make the humans trapped in here.

And then there is the plastic shower bête noire—an actual plastic shower with an obesity bar.



no no no

Everything in the bathroom is very new, very clean and completely devoid of any taste.

no sense of style

Well anyway, the trip to LA was fantastic and the time in this hamster cage was short.

There was this wine thing with new friends.

Wine? Wine!

There was an old school whiskey bar.

And there was some sportsing with the boys.

So all told we would do it again in a second but we would get a real hotel without a shuttle bus and shlep to the airport from Santa Monica.

Speaking of the airport, this Virgin America meets Alaska thing is getting chunky. Remote gates? Wolfgang Puck bullshit? Overfull lounges gussied up in the ’70s? Uh oh. Where is my high style airline?

Let the record show that the Renaissance LAX barely rates two showerheads. Not going back ever. Nice people in a beige land devoid of style.



New friends, great wine, excellent food, great conversation—donnie, you sure know how to do it!

Lets start things off with a Negroni

Lets start things off with a Negroni

We convened slightly off the beaten path on a flooded, rainy day at Officine Brera in LA.



Tasting two

Tasting two

Everyone brought a bottle to contribute and describe. Probably the most interesting was a 17 year old bottle from China.

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

A flyer from Trentino-Alto Altige (Grenache, Syrah, Teroldego)

The food was just as good as the wine.



The menu

The menu



Delightful. Lets do it again.

I’m home.

But my entourage has decided to fly to LA and stay at the Palomar in LA. (One of the super cool perqs the Kimpton has is a “stay 7 nights, get one night for free” deal. It is coming in handy this weekend.)

Intouch greetings for the entourage? You bet. And en extra-extended wine hour too we hear. Well done Palomar LA!

Fruit and a note even in our absence.

Fruit and a note even in our absence.

The room (1520) is compact.


And has a view.


But if the Palomar LA wants to play with the big boys in San Francisco and Chicago, it’s gonna need a shower way better than this!

Uh oh, wrong kind of shower.

Uh oh, wrong kind of shower.


I won’t emit a rating, because I’m not there. But it’s great that the Kimpton people are spoiling my people! Gracias LA.

Ah nostalgia. I stayed here at the Hotel California for my brother’s wedding about fifty trillion years ago. We had a great time. Apparently that had nothing to do with this hotel.

This week we’re doing the obligatory college tour extravaganza, visiting 9 colleges and 5 cities in 8 days. LA:Palo Alto:Chicago:Minneapolis:Boston.

“Relax,” said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!”

Lemme outta here! No longer a fan.

Plastic shower? Yep.

This is a plastic shower. It is plasticy.

Shower on a tub. Nice tiles though.

Looking up, there is a skylight.

Heaven is escaping from the plastic shower.

Is that the ocean I hear or is that Ocean Avenue? Given the room assignments we got to pick from, probably the latter.

The bedroom is small, the TV is big, the color is yellow, the closets fit a “half dead guy” (either parsing with a preference toward the half body), the sheets are not clean enough, the son gets a cot. Blech. One lowly shower head for the Hotel California. What was I thinking?

Plus their wireless internet really sucks (as bad as Patagonia at the tip of South America). And on day two they forgot to clean the room.

The bed room is situated very close to Ocean Avenue.

Cot equals suck. Jack says the couch is better.

But there is the Pacific ocean. And Chez Jay across the street is a great place for dinner. All in all, day one of the extravaganza was ok if you don’t count the hotel.

If you are coming to Santa Monica, stay at the Georgian!

On the mixology front, things are looking a bit dated in Santa Monica. I had an interesting concoction at the LACMA (which has a real bar hidden away between contemporary and modern. But even at Jiraffe, where Rafael Lunetta prepared a world class meal, the fallback (a Negroni) was all I could scrape up. There must me good mixology in LA, I just haven’t found it yet. I think the people are spending all of their lucre on cars instead of liquor.

Here is the recipe for Halfway to Havana from the LACMA:
Dark rum classico (10 years) [I would use eclipse] 1.5 oz
Amaro Montenegro 0.5oz
Sweet Vermouth 0.5oz
Orange bitters (Fee brothers west indian orange)

I’ve been to the Georgian plenty of times. In fact, it seems to be the backup plan of choice when things go awry in LA. They definitely went off the rails today.

My room (502) is a tiny.

Room 502 is surrounded by other rooms I have stayed in. See the dot.

But it has a comfortable bed with great pillows. And an ocean view (which also means a highway noise room when you’re only on the 5th floor. It is LA after all.

The bed. Comfortable and taking up most of the space.

Maybe I will get to see the ocean at 5am when I get up to take a shower? Nah. Not even with daylight savings in effect.

Bathroom cubicle made bigger with mirrors.

Shower. Not enough glass.

I really do like the Georgian, and so even this speck of a room will get allow a retention of the five showerheads rating. Next time we’ll ask not to be in 502.

The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica is a classic place. Touches like the ancient elevator gear and the HUGE 1933 peepholes make me happy. Plus the space is meticulously cared for with a sense of style straight from the ’30s. I remember listening to my Italian friend singing along with the music on the porch (in Italian) to a love song from his first marriage. Very touching and romantic.

Ancient elevator controls make me happy.

This '30s peephole is 3 inches in diameter. Both sides get to see.

Room 503 is a very nice ocean front suite. Plenty of windows but just a bit too close to the Santa Monica traffic.

The bed room is connected to the sitting room through double French doors.

Sitting room with a view.

The bathroom is all black and white tile and mirrors with plenty of space and a nice design. No glass cubicles in the ’30s though.

Five showerheads for the Groegian. Excellence.

My favorite part of today was dinner with some good friends just north of Topanga Canyon. Babies and puppies, who could ask for more? My second favorite part was ditching the conference lunch for a quick run to the Getty for a bacon cheeseburger and look at the Irises.

I’ve been here before, but this time I plussed it up and spent way too much to see how well the Inn at Laguna can perform. Admirably well, but well enough? Hmm. The Inn at Laguna wants to be all shishi and upscale but somehow falls spectacularly short. The makings are all here—the pacific ocean, palm trees, sun, sand, babes in bikinis, and yet the property (though not shabby) lacks a certain something. Maybe it’s the plastic showers?!

My meetings are really not this far south from LAX, but who’s asking? Laguna is a quirky, quasi-artsy town with just a few too many wannabe hippies and skate rats hanging out with the tourists. If you twiddled the California dial between the LA and San Diego settings, you would likely dial in Laguna. Plenty of touristy shopping and a very good local bookstore that is sadly closing in August 2011. I think Laguna is heading in the wrong direction…like Britney Spears or politics in the United States.

Room 514 is a special room, probably the best one on the property. However, it is severely overpriced and slightly under decorated. Plus the fees (resort, popcorn, parking). Just give the the price straight please…do not nickel and dime me to smithereens.

The Inn at Laguna remains pegged at four shower heads, not because of their showers, but rather due to their environs. I’m hoping to find somewhere even cooler to stay down here. Here is why to stay in Laguna in the first place. Introducing…drumroll…the Pacific Ocean.

For dinner, I went a mile south to French 75 which is not awful but is basically overpriced and avoidable. Upon arrival, I ordered a French 75 (the drink from 1915) and had to let the bartender and wait staff know how it is made. It is never a good sign when the namesake drink is unknown. There were a couple of guitarists playing hits from the early ’90s. Youch. Food? Acceptable. Not going back.

For you budding mixologists, the French 75 Cocktail has many different variations. This is not at all surprising considering that the drink has been around in one form or another since 1915. Here’s the one I like.

French 75
1 oz. gin (Hendricks is what I call for)
.5 oz lemon juice
teaspoon of simple syrup
mix in the bottom of a champagne flute, add champagne to fill and garnish with a twist of lemon and a cherry.

Fortunately I was able to escape the Rancho in San Diego for a meeting up north in LA.  I stopped halfway to spend the night in the Inn at Laguna Beach.  As I type this entry I can hear (and see when I look up) the Pacific waves roll in.

I can tell I am getting way closer to LA than San Diego because the front staff girls (nichole and nikki) were just as awful as the surfer boy (pat) parking attendent was great.   I was supposed to have a suite to get some work done in…but wires were crossed and no suite for me (and a low floor to boot).  But I am almost over that now.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

My room, though small, overlooks the ocean.  But first, the bathroom.  Nothing fancy here.  Lots of mirrors and nondescript ugly tiles.

The all important mirror effect makes the anteroom/bathroom seem bigger than tiny.

But…wait for it…the coup de grace is when you look up.

For all its too low non-suiteness, room 203 simply does not suck. I wonder how good this hotel could be if my travel people did the right thing?

If the front desk staff were less LA and the room I requested were what I got (that’s two counterfactuals in one for those of you counting!), the Inn at Laguna may get better than four showerheads. An upgrade will have to wait for next time.