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After a weekend of staying with friends (paul, jim and chloe), we spent one night at the Kabuki before heading out of town early in the morning.

1602 is as nice a room as ever. We have been here before.

1602 bedroom in the upper corner

There was just enough time to dash down a craft cocktail before dinner.

The Daffodil-Narcissus
1 oz Sipsmith gin
1 oz Bols Genever
1 oz honey/water 1:1
.5 oz lillet blanc
.5 oz lime juice
spoon of greek yogurt
egg white
dry shake. shake on ice. serve in a collins with a big cube and dill garnish.

Dinner at Mourad was very good indeed. Expensive as all get out, but great food and an excellent quirky wine list.

And we now have a new driver in SF.

Four showerheads for the Kabuki and thanks for putting us up in our favorite room.

First of all you have to go north, over the Golden Gate Bridge and up the coast. Guerneville is situated on the Russian River.

Up the 101 in a convertible

But before you go to the cabin, a picnic at Preston winery is in order. There is some stocking up to do in the alcohol department.

Picnic on a perfect Spring day (preston winery)

After bread, cheese, some more cheese, salami, and different salami, olives, and hummus, and a couple of bottles of wine, and those wee little pills, it is off to see some big trees at the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Preserve. Make sure to see the amphitheater, but do not dilly dally.

Amy dwarfed by a giant redwood

The band at the crest

We did make it to the cabin after an espresso in town at Big Bottom. No really, that’s what they called it.

The cabin has modern sensibilities

Drama and moss is a thing

The a pit stop by the cabin to change clothes and it is off for dinner in Healdsburg. Chalkboard is worth driving way up to the sticks for. Excellent food. Fun, friendly service. Very good indeed. (We were slightly late the whole time, mostly due to amphitheater…LOL.)

One of the many superb dishes at Chalkboard

These doughnut things were out of this world

Sadly, we ended up being on time to see the show at the Raven. Eileen Ivers played a pre-compiled show of world music (many mixed genres). The show was solid, but also phoned in and somehow cloyingly fake. Still, it was fun singing along, and the support band was filled with excellent session musicians.

Everyone joins Eileen

The show was opened by JigJam who, other than desperately needing a new name, played an opener that topped the main event. The young fiddle player was far better than Eileen will ever be.

Then it was back home in the volkswagon and to bed by 1am.

A stint in the hot tub in the morning happened first thing, followed by some delicious eggy concoction with expert-level toast. Next, we attempted to cram 20 square feet of stuff into a 10 square foot space in the car. The stuff was consolidated, and the trunk was very slowly shut over the lil tiny bass through the use of random quantum properties, black magic, and the power of wishful thinking.

A call by the Pacific was next. The Russian River pours its brown self into the ocean at Jenner.

Then a short hike (maybe 3.5 or 4 miles) through the vernal wonderland (read “muddy”) of the California coastal hills. Sonoma is gorgeous and green for at least a week in the Spring, and we got to witness it.

Uncle Jim leads the way

Also Pacific ocean.

The Pacific at shell beach

By this time we were late again, but who cares? A drive down 1 took us directly to Rocker Oysterfeller’s where we partook of Negronis and oysters. Jim found out that oysters can be cooked and smothered in various things and still be delicious.

What an adventure! We’ll do it again as soon as we make up for lost time.

Last time we stayed at “chez fu” in Ann Arbor it was May. And it was 2016. This time it is 16 degrees and 2019 in March. Brrr.

This trip is a quick hit to catch up, give a talk, and experience some winter. Nevertheless, we did fit in a few cocktails (and some fernet) at Nightcap. This visit, all of the drinks were too sweet. We’ll blame the nephew for that.

And yes, that is a piece of carbonized (charcoal’ed?) marshmallow on that cocoa-like thing we failed to finish. At least the fernet was good (??) and there was real Williamn Larue Weller 2016 in the house.

Dinner at Tomkun BBQ was delicious and chock full of meat.

Zingerman’s deli</a for lunch is an Ann Arbor must.

No hard labor on the outdoor bread oven was required of this visit, probably because our brick was confiscated by TSA.

R2 Wine Luncheon Take 4

February 16, 2019

The fourth LA wine luncheon run was excellent and fun as always. This time the highlight of the day was an absolutely top notch menu put together by Bistro 45. (FWIW, Bistrot 45 already held the top dining position for these wine lunch things and knocked themselves right out of first place into first and second place.)

Your gracious host donnie sporting a svelte new look

All hands on deck

The fun end of the table

The menu features all organic ingredients

Carpaccio

Ravioli

Duck and polenta

Did we mention the polenta?

Of course, there was lots of wine, good conversation, and laughter.

The whites

The reds

Note to self that wine tasting is much better without the last vestiges of a chest cold.

After lunch we headed into greater downtown Pasadena for a cocktail or two. The bar at Smitty’s Grill is remarkably good. Excellent standard cocktails and a bartender who is even experimenting with milk punch.

smitty’s grill bar

milk punch

NPS has been coming to the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica for many years (starting before there was even an NPS identity). Over the years, many parts of the hotel have undergone updating and renovation, with special attention paid to the common areas. The rooms have all been spruced up as well, but unfortunately the bathrooms were not included in the renovation plan.

Santa Monica is pretty not bad

This trip out allowed for only one night in Santa Monica, so NPS decided to check out a room category one notch down from the ocean view suites. Turns out, it’s a big notch. The king suite room 709 has a spacious design with some very strange quirks. It also has a tiny little bathroom.

Room layout is very similar to the ocean view suites, with a view of the back alley instead on the ocean.

709 sitting area

What stands in as a desk

French doors to the bedroom

But what in the heck is this here for??

709 forlorn chair

That space where the poor lonely chair sits would be better off as part of an expanded bathroom. Here, you’ll see what we mean.

Tiny little bathroom

Though the stuff in the bathroom is spotless and new, the shower over the tub thing has got to go (not to mention the obesity bar). Zero points for the shower.

Dare you to use whatever liquid is in these containers

During our brief stay in Santa Monica, we had lunch at Lazy Daisy, dinner at Lares, and breakfast at Cora’s. All three places are top notch.

We’re demoting the Georgian to three showerheads. Hopefully they will see to some bathroom redesign to go along with all of the other great stuff that they have done.

Located in the heart of Brussels, very close indeed to the Grand Place, the Amigo Hotel is nicely tucked into an old school building. This is a formidable hotel where the demographic is not the hip and young but rather the old and moneyed.

The staff at the front desk is old school too, a bit stuffy and with varying levels of obsequiousness that don’t quite ring true. This is not your California front desk staff of happy kids. OK then.

Overnight, the staff swap led to some people who knew how to relax a notch, and that was nice.

The lobby is beige and marble. Come to think of it, there is lots of beige here in this room as well. I think the olds like beige.

We were upgraded from an expensive junior suite to an even more expensive classic suite. They did email and attempt to upsell the bigger suite, and we just responded that a complementary upgrade would be great. That seems to have worked. So thanks for the free upgrade!

We were assigned suite 237. This looks like the example room from this suite category. Plenty of room to hang out, a great bathroom, etc. “Pretty not bad” as my friend Sammy would say.

237 couch and desk room

The desk has a bluetooth speaker (bonus points)

The extra touches make all of the difference. Like a bluetooth speaker that you can pair a streaming phone with, and water by the bedside that is free (as it should be), and hangers that are real and solid.

Bedroom (mostly bed)

Through the French doors

Of course you should always get water (sparkling)

The room overlooks a classic Brussels street and into a set of offices.

Example view

The hall has lots of closet space, but it is not very well designed.

Closets could use some modernization

The bathroom is palatial. And there is a separate glass shower. “One of the better showers ever,” says ms NPS. Lots of marble.

Bathtub, toilet and bidet

Chair in the bathroom

Sink

Glass shower cube

The art is very nice and Tin Tin oriented.

An amenity with a personal note arrived while we were orienting. Belgian chocolates. Of course.

Amenity.

The bar downstairs is very good, with professional and knowledgeable bartenders who make a mean Negroni with Napue gin (from Helsinki).

A proper Negroni (up)

Napue gin from Helsinki

Local Belgian gins

Look who else has been here

Dinner at Comme Chez Soi was, like the hotel, on the old school side. Excellent food, especially if you like cream, butter, butter, and some caviar. Very heavy but outstanding. Plan to be full for two days.

Some Pomerol

Sauce! There is a cod under there somewhere.

Incredible tartine

Chocolates, because Belgium

With extra dipping sauce (lol)

The walk home helped to make up for the butter and the butter and the sauce and the cream. Kinda.

When in Brussels

Breakfast included a Belgian waffle (this was a mandatory item before we would be allowed to leave the country).

Bottom line: the Amigo is a five showerhead location, but is a bit old school for NPS. So four showerheads and an appointment to update the decor a notch for the Amigo. I imagine we will be back.

Apparently, someone from the three city tour we’re part of has been reading our supposedly secret blog entries (LOL), because when we checked in at the Pullman Melbourne Albert Park this afternoon, we were assigned a very nice room indeed. So thanks, secret blog reading lurkers! We know you’re out there.

Once again for the record, the Pullman Melbourne Albert Park is not the kind of place NPS usually frequents. This is a high level business hotel. You can always spot this category of hotel by the international air crews frequenting the lobby and the packs of Chinese tourists that wash through in waves.

View from the executive floor

At checkin, we were assigned room 9604. There is only one suite at this hotel (next door, it turns out), but there are a number of executive class rooms with a sitting area on the executive level of the hotel. Some of those rooms overlook the Albert Park lake (across the parking area and a highway). 9604 is one of those with a view.

The room itself is well appointed and spacious with room to exist.

Since it is December, it is summer here and the xmas stuff scattered to and fro all over the place is disconcerting if not outright alarming. When you wander around town in the summer heat there are many people in short xmas skirts and bad xmas t-shirts (no sweaters to be seen).

Speaking of which, when it is 99 degrees outside, the HVAC system here just can’t keep up. My in room AC ran continuously and never hit the target temperature. Time to upgrade the HVAC on this property to prepare for global warming.

The Pullman Melbourne lobby play along with xmas

Juxtaposition

Our bathroom is spacious but a bit spartan. Some of that space could have been put to use to house a better shower.

Spartan

But the shower is not plastic.

We were recognized by name on checkin (tipping us off that the fairies had become involved). There was even a welcome amenity set up for someone else in the room.

Amenity for mr dunbar

We’ll happily spoof mr dunbar as long as we get to stay in this room for the next few nights.

NPS is gratified to learn that not only do all systems break, some of them even learn!

After a quick turnaround mostly for charging devices, we headed into town. St Kilda is south of the city proper and is a suburban beach town. Like many beach towns, it’s a bit scrappy. People say “fuck” a lot in normal conversation (even in fancy restaurants), and there are more crazy ass bums here than you find in the city. It reminds NPS of the seedier parts of San Diego.

A late lunch of sushi at Ichi Ni was very good indeed.

Sushi for lunch

A walk along the beach was in order, and then an amble through town for some espresso.

Espresso at Leroy is worth seeking out. The walk from the Pullman into town is just over a mile. An easy walk, but not one you want to do multiple times per day. That’s why they make uber.

Leroy for breakfast and the best coffee in town

Albert Park with Melbourne in the background

A very good but overpriced dinner at Cafe di Stasio included an incredibly delicious Omelette D’aragosta. This dish is so good it warrants mention in guidebooks and they are right on all counts. Get it. The wine list is also very good. It’s the clientele that needs some finishing school.

After a half day in St Kilda, we’re ready to give our last talk and get into Melbourne. More soon.

Cocktails at Black Pearl are highly recommended. Make a reservation for the Attic space. Our bartenders were exceptionally knowledgeable and the drinks were great. Much fun was had. And, they made us a liberal.

Drinks at 1806 are a completely different scene on a Friday. Loud music and lots of energy. Not very civilized, but very good cocktails.

Skip the circular tram nonsense. It is overhyped and a waste of time. Just do some walking in the center of town instead. But make sure to leave time for the incredible National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). It is worth the visit.

The special Escher exhibit was worth fighting the crowds to see, especially with Sam. See lots of Escher on apothecaryshed.

Finagle your way into the dumpling place, hutong, if you can. Really worth calling and conning your way in.

The Gin Palace is an exceptional bar, so good in fact that we visited twice—briefly before seeing a play and more properly afterwards.

Adelaide Negroni (all products from Australia)

Such ice. Wow.

Astroman is an uplifting play with some great laughs and some real feels

Four showerheads for the Pullman Albert Park and a wish for a sultry hot xmas.