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We’ve made quite the habit out of holding an annual data crunching summit at the Lorien. Third year in a row. And third time’s a charm.

Helped out by Kimpton/IHG big shot Steph Vogel, we secured a great working space and a bunch of rooms. My room was 611, the presidential suite. Thanks Steph!

Sparse but interesting porch 611

611 is nicely appointed, with almost too much room to spread out. The decor has been updated and is very nice.

611

An amenity was very nice (needed some crackers and silverware tho). The personal note was a great touch too. Nice to be back.

yup. thanks Lorien peeps.

611 includes a separate bedroom with a closet and many windows.

The bathroom is pretty far away from the bedroom, but it has a two-headed shower that is huge with a bench at the end and room for ten.

Looking in

Looking out

One of the highlights of our trip was a meal specially made for us by chef Sebastien Rondier. Chef Sabastien is from southern France, and his cooking reflects that. Absolutely delicious. Best duck a l’orange I have ever eaten. Thanks chef, for the fantastic meal. And thanks Steph for the great idea.

Chef Sebastien presents his fantastic duck

The menu, designed exclusively for us

Fois gras

Delicious Vichyssoise, very thick and served Dutch style over caviar

Peaches, goat cheese, and pine nuts

Here’s that duck again

The servings were generous, to say the least

Though we were full and very happy, dessert was incredible. The cherry tart was out of this world. But so many other delicious things.

That tart back there looks simple and is just fantastic

caffeine cake, LOL

If you get a chance to have Chef Sebastien create a meal for you, take it. A great evening.

Then there was work.

Everyone loves work

On our second evening we headed into the city, mostly targeting the Columbia Room for another visit. Somewhat by accident, we ended up dining and Kinship, which was world class and excellent. Impeccable design. Great service. Tasty food. Great Wine. Boy was that a good find!

Roast chicken (give it 70 minutes…worth every second)

Pork and beans

Caviar and potato chips

The two block walk to Columbia Room was easy. Shaw is so hopping. Though we had a great time at Columbia Room in the usual booth, we were not blown away by the summer cocktail menu. Much fun was had.

Summer menu.

pretend funnel cakes

Though served in a plastic cup (a keepsake), this cocktail is delicious

the pearl

Maybe we were so blown away by Kinship that we were not properly prepared for the Columbia Room. Love that place, but this visit was not as stellar as usual.

In any case, for a week in “no fly July” this visit to DC/Alexanria was pretty not bad. Five showerheads and 10,000 compliments to chef Sebastien at the Lorien.

It all came together just about perfectly. A morning talk at Georgetown, a nice dinner out (sadly not at Rose’s Luxury), cocktails at the Columbia Room, and then the highlight of the weekend, attending the inspiring March for our Lives. Our base of operations was the commendable Palomar DC (a Kimpton).

Turns out that our friend Matt Hurlburt (once of the Alexnadria Monaco) is now Director of a bunch of DC properties, including the Palomar. And Harald Han, as assistant GM, is running the ship day to day. The front desk staff is as professional, courteous, and great as always, remembering us from our time at the Lorien and from previous visits in the mosquito. This is a great thing!

We finagled our way into 1024 (again), a gorgeous room at the very top of the hotel. Nothing makes us wag our tails like the Presidential Suite (though, we agree with Jacques that maybe they should change the name of it for now until the #assholeinone is impeached and out of office).

palomar 1024: yes please

The shower is NPS approved.

bed room 1024

extra bathroom

the usual mess

An amenity of cheese, fruit, and a cocktail arrived with a note from Matt just before we headed out. Very nice. Thanks you guys!

We spent the mid-afternoon wandering around Dupont and getting a coffee. Then it was off to try our chances at Roses Luxury. When we arrived at 5, the line was already way too long. We could have been seated at 9, but instead went to plan B, a dinner at Convivial (in Shaw). The food and cocktails were great (as was the company), but the service was terrible. Super nice, and caring, and about as unprofessional and useless as possible. Can’t win them all.

Then came the booth at the Columbia Room, always just an incredible experience. If you have not yet made it to the Columbia Room, do it. Make sure to do the tasting room and go for the entire experience.

A late night drink at the Urbana bar was just what was needed for a good night’s sleep.

The next day we headed in to DC for the March for our Lives rally. Incredible. So proud of what the Parkland kids have done. Keep it up and we will change this country for the better!

After some great ramen at Jinya and a chance encounter with our neighbor Harry, we headed back to the Palomar to retrieve our car and our bags.

It was chaos. And the reason why turned out to be that the kids from Parkland had been staying at the Palomar as well. They boarded their bus to fly back to Florida as we hopped in our car. Amy got a hat from Emma’s mom.

Five showerheads and a hope that our next visit is just as incredible.

“It’s at a Kimpton,” Scott said. And he had our attention. You know how we feel about Kimpton here at NPS. Not only that, the Kimpton was actually the Lorien in Alexandria, a property on the upswing run by our favorite Steph Vogel! Double bonus.

We’re there!

The drive in around the beltway at rush hour was awful as usual, leaving us only three minutes to valet, drop our bags, and head down to the Catoctin Creek event. Rye, Brandy and tasty treats from chef Sebastian Rondier? Yes please.

Becky and Scott make a great product that is almost as much fun to talk about as it is to drink. Cheers Catoctin Creek!

The fois gras bites with popcorn?! Genius.

The highlight of the evening was hanging out with Steph and catching up. It is always fun to introduce good people to each other!

Needless to say, we had a nice buzz and a warm glow after the event, so we headed over to the bar for a bigger snack. And then it was up to 301 (a new room at the Lorien for NPS).

301 is blue. That will (thankfully) change soon. Can’t wait to see what the designers do to this space.

Sitting room with a balcony

Amenity and note are always nice. Of course chef filled us up.

The all important shower is HUGE which also makes it a bit chilly

Bathtub in the shower

Really the only major bug in this room is the way the toilet is situated relative to the bed. That needs some more thought.

Not really

The sparkling water came in more than handy. It was a necessity after all of that rye!

Breakfast with Steph in the morning bright and early capped off a great Kimpton visit. Five showerheads and a rush order on the designer’s work at the Lorien. We’ll be back for sure.

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.

If the Lorien sounds familiar to you, dear reader, that’s because we stayed here just a few short weeks ago in a last minute mad dash to the Kimpton inner circle finish line. We made it across by the skin of our teeth! But we also got a great meal in old town as a fabulous side effect. Read all about that here.

We’re back, this time in the city on a keynote talk gig. Of course the conference is being held at some awful Hilton or other where NPS would not be caught dead staying. So Kimpton it is!

This time we’re in room(s) 611 and 615. I am here first for an evening and then the rest of the posse comes later. Plenty of room in this set of rooms! And a balcony to boot, which on a 68 degree day in January is awesome.

The balcony would be a great place for breakfast!

The balcony would be a great place for breakfast!

Sadly, the weather promises to turn to snow by Saturday morning. We might even get stuck here in the mosquito!

Looking in, French doors.

Looking in, French doors.

Living room

Living room

Living room

Living room

The bedroom is tucked away in the corner, but is very nice with doors that open to the outside. It is basically the penthouse corner of the 6th floor.

Bedroom 611

Bedroom 611

With all of the adjoining rooms, we need a huge shower to fit everyone. Fortunately, that’s all set.

A glass shower big enough for everyone!

A glass shower big enough for everyone!

The shower barely fits in the mirror.

The shower barely fits in the mirror.

After settling in, it was time for a drink in the great cocktail bar downstairs with Steph Vogel. NPS recommends highly the practice of having a drink with the big boss. Inner circle karma all around as barman Phil Clark and chef Wiedmaier made cocktail hour special.

The Apples to Apples
1.5 oz appleton VX rum
1 oz laird’s apple brandy
.5 oz cynar
.5 oz demerara syrup
4 dashes bittermen’s tiki bitters
Shake. Serve on large rocks in a whiskey glass.

After driving off for dinner with an actual sibling, we returned for a midnight snack. The charcuterie plate was remarkable.

Wine, notes, meat, cheese, dessert, sparking water? What more is there in an amenity. Thanks you guys.

Those black sesame things, just wow.

Those black sesame things, just wow.

Out of this world charcuterie

Out of this world charcuterie

Five showerheads for the Lorien. Can’t wait to see the style evolve at this hotel. We’ll be back as often as we can.

You know that quandry where you’re just below the threshold for Inner Circle status by one night? That. Somehow it happens every year.

Why leave this?

Why leave this?

Fortunately, NPS can always make the best of it by visiting Steph Vogel and finding out what he is up to. A little backstory, Steph has run a number of DC-area Kimpton properties, lifting them every time up into excellence: the Palomar, the George, and the Donovan. Now it’s time for the Lorien.

The Lorien’s main problem is competition from the very fabulous Hotel Monaco just down the street (and much closer to the water). The Monaco seems to have sucked up all of the great design resources, leaving the Lorien marooned in the dreamscape ’90s. That is all starting to change now that Steph is in charge.

For example, the bar and restaurant are already going places. Once a scary exclusively white tablecloth space is now a bar buzzing with life and engaged with the street (not to mention soaked in cocktail excellence). Phil Clark runs a very nice bar.

The Lorien bar program is top notch

The Lorien bar program is top notch

Get those drinks right!  Attention detail, you are now on call.

Get those drinks right! Attention detail, you are now on call.

Just take a look at the glassware. This is top shelf.

Liberty Punch

Liberty Punch

Bourbon Crusta

Bourbon Crusta

The amenity deposited for NPS in 619 highlighted both the bar and the kitchen to great effect. Just gorgeous, very welcoming, and kind.

Fancy a sweet?

Fancy a sweet?

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

How to make a Liberty Punch: Some Assembly Required

Watching the rooms transform from their current stark, almost bland design to something better will be fun. NPS money says that in six months this property will be the hottest ticket in town.

619 Bedroom

619 Bedroom

Stark

Stark

The shower, we are happy to report, is glass shower excellence (and huge). NPS could shoot a movie in there!

Enter the glass door for showering

Enter the glass door for showering

NPS approved shower

NPS approved shower

And off the bedroom and sitting room both, is a balcony overlooking Alexandria. Can’t wait to come back and see what that is like in the summer.

View from balcony of 619

View from balcony of 619

Our visit was punctuated by a drink with Phil and Steph at the bar. And then it was off to the always fabulous Restaurant Eve for dinner. Eve did not disappoint. The five course tasting meal was absolutely delicious and worth every penny (that’s lots of pennies for those counting). Three hours of laughter, great flavors, and fun was just what the doctor ordered after this year.

We returned for a nightcap of Liberty Punch.

Four showerheads and massive velocity towards five for the Lorien. Let the transformation begin.

Great food. Great drinks. Great hospitality. 2016, we bid you adieu.