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What a difference a year makes. Last year the Grande Colonial seemed a bit tired and long in the tooth. It has had a facelift.

View from 102

Though the architecture of the building has not changed, the room layout is much cleaner and more spacious. Even the long skinny bathroom (which remains long and skinny) is better.

Looking in the long skinny bathroom. Hey, the shower is not plastic!

This trend to delete bath tubs and replace them with modern shower spaces is a great trend. Much better use of space, and much more reasonable approach to morning cleanliness.

The best part of this design is that the controls are situated logically. No reason to get wet while you turn on the shower.

The rest of the room has been opened up, repainted, and re-imagined. Nice work.

102 bed

Seating area 102

Look how comfortable

Sadly, the parking lot has not been deleted. The ocean is over there somewhere.

Dinner at Catania was very good for a restaurant group property. Modern italian with a negroni to boot. Recommended.

Sadly, the bar at Nine Ten (which is a very good restaurant in the hotel) is still sub-par. Gotta hire some hipsters who know what they are doing. The current bar suits the old, monied, and boring demographic of the hotel. Nuff said.

George’s at the Cove, a La Jolla establishment of many years still deserving its reputation, still has the best cocktail program in town.

Joree Weatherly was a top notch barman who served us this cocktail. It has a name, but Joree did not write it down on the recipe I asked for. Lets just call it Trentino Tincture. Actually, it turns out to be named Shiso Piney
1.5 Amaro Junipero gin
.5 Pasubio amaro (from Trentino where I spent a year in 1993)
1 lemon
.75 shiso syrup
2 dashes of pine tincture
top with soda. serve on rocks in a collins glass.

When we returned the next night with a cast of hundreds, Joree made use these great cocktails:
Mezcal Manhattan
1.5 Mezcal
.75 montenegro
.75 Averna
2 dashes mexican spiced bitters
Stir down, serve on a large cube

Negroni Amarillo
1.5 Mezcal
1 pamplemousse
1 suze
2 dashes sage tincture
Stir down, serve up with sage leaf

United upgraded us on the way out. Lets hope that works for the way back too. Global services rock on! Um, nope. No upgrade, and we’re here to tell you, economy sucks!

NPS is impressed. Nice work updating the property! Four showerheads for the Grande Colonial.

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.