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Hard to believe it has been five years since the last NPS visit to Pittsburgh!  Dang.  The great news is that the Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh is like stepping into a Kimpton time warp—in all the good ways.

The first good thing was discovering that our ancient Kimpton points of yore (which were transformed into some kind of mystery pointy prickly spire IHG points) were still valid and useful!  Who knew?!  So a quick cycle with GM Rob Mallinger hooked us up with our very favorite room at the favorable price of zero.

You may recall that 835 is the bomb.  And the staff at this hotel is just awesome.  In particular we want to give shouts out to Matt for an outstandingly personal welcome and to Annalisa for going above and beyond the call of duty to retrieve some data for us while we were out and about.  Outstanding.

Welome to 835. Wine, cheese, a personal note. Yes, welcome indeed.

 

835 Living room

 

 

 

835 bed room

 

 

This shower is not at all plastic. Yays.

 

 

 

 

It snowed. Classic Pennsylvania. Arriving after 7, we found a sea of fundraising private school hipsters dressed to the nines. It was well nigh dinner time.  Fortunately, Rob set us up at Union Standard where there were oysters, Negroni’s and other good eats. Sadly, by the time a leisurely dinner was consumed, the plan to hit up Butcher and the Rye had the kibosh put right on it. Who closes a good bourbon bar at 11 on a Saturday night? Well, apparently the James Beard winners do.  Alas.

Union Standard

 

A dirty martini? On this blog?! WTF?!

So it was back to the commoner (found in the basement of the Monaco) for a nightcap.  Though the clientele leaves a little something to be desired (Trump country assholes abound in the PA private school world), there was good Rye.  Not to mention Gina, a delightful barkeep.  (The bar itself was established by Kenny many years ago and then properly curated by Mike Ryan before he headed to Sable to build another gem.)  The commoner bar is still world class.

At the commoner, Gina and some rye

So how do you recover from all that Rye?  With some “Pittsburgh hash” at Pamela’s (a great greasy spoon diner for breakfast).  Right next door, you’ll find some very interesting tiny ass doughnuts at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (sic).

Pamela’s, a Pittsburgh tradition

 

Just like it says

The Warhol museum is a great place to visit in Pittsburgh.  Excellent art properly curated.  See pictures here.

Excellent Taiwanese comfort food can be found at Cafe 33.

And there is live music in Pittsburgh.  Saw an intimate show of aging punks featuring John Doe. See lots of pictures and videos here.

john doe krisin hersh grant-lee phillips pittsburgh

Day two breakfast was just super good. Great espresso, tasty crepes and art.  Make sure to go to Geppetto Cafe in Pittsburgh for breakfast.

Geppetto Cafe Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is hoppin.

This old school Kimpton thing going on at the Hotel Monaco is well worth five showerheads with a couple of plus signs tacked on for good measure.  Wish there were more like this in the rest of the country!

Is Chicago Is not Chicago

January 25, 2016

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A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building

Saskatoon is in the room
Poulsbo is in the room
Bennetsville is in the room
Palmyra is in the room

Is Chicago
Is not Chicago
Is Chicago
Is not Chicago

A man cuts in half
Just like he snaps a pencil
A man cuts in half
Just like he snaps a pencil

Khartoum is in the room
Phnom Penh is in the room
Pyongyang is in the room
Cairo is in the room

Is Chicago
Is not Chicago
Is Chicago
Is not Chicago

A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
A man drives a plane
Into the Chrysler building
Into the, into the, into the, into the

Mailbox in Virginia

Mailbox in Virginia

Art at the MCA

Art at the MCA

MCA afternoon

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Architecture for a game

up

up

down

down

Mostly we were here for the astounding Eighth Blackbird. Sometimes when I perform my body has the same emotional response. But never when I watch. This is the future.

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This is the future.

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Excellent birds.

Oh, and the Palomar moved us down ten floors. Still a sweet suite.

no plastic showers

no plastic showers

sit

sit

stay

stay

Also of note, Bottlefork is a great place for brunch and Three Dots and a Dash is a nice place for a banana daiquiri. Yeah, I know.

Hello Chicago

Hello Chicago

Bye bye Westin, hello Chicago. The great East coast blizzard of 2016 has us stuck in the middle of the country until Sunday no make that Monday (at the earliest). But we don’t mind. We’ll make an adventure of the whole thing.

Job #1? Secure some rooms at the Palomar for the C-level posse. An email to the fantastic staff at the Palomar made that happen. Thanks Brandon Massey, Nabeel Toubayly, and Benjamin Gress. Sadly, the artist suite is occupied. Happily that doesn’t matter. Rooms 1725 and 1726 are a great combo package and situate you right in the middle of the city with excellent views all around. And get this, rooms at the Palomar can be had at less than half the price of the suburban Westin. Just wow. The world is seriously confused.

1725 entryway

1725 entryway

Man is it nice to be back where style rules the roost and the staff is top notch. Kimpton takes the cake.

View from one side of the corner, 1725

View from one side of the corner, 1725

1725 bedroom

1725 bedroom

1726 sitting room

1726 sitting room

Of course, here at NPS we are obligated to talk about the showers. In 1725 you will find a glass cube design and a huge tub. Very Kimpton.

Wait for it

Wait for it

The long glass cube

The long glass cube

Bathroom area

Bathroom area

Other aspects of the Chicago Palomar fit right in with excellence in showers. Like John Stanton and the Sable bar. The bar at Sable (not to mention the restaurant itself) is great enough to be a destination of its own. If you’re in Chicago, pay a visit. Not staying at the Palomar? Who cares, come to Sable anyway.

The best part of Sable is seriously great craft cocktail capability. Every time NPS visits, we learn something. This time, we were wowed by the Scot Toddy (warm, mint, lemon, wow) and an experimental beverage that John created on the spot which we’ll call the
Shaped Charge:
1.5 Rye Whiskey (Wild Turkey 100)
.75 Suze
.25 Carpano antica
.25 Caffe moka
2 generous droppers of Bitterman’s Hellfire shrub
Stir down. Serve on a big cube. Express lemon peel.

Seriously though, Sable is great and it is always a delight to see John in action. Plus you can end the night with a taste of George T. Stagg (2015) just like at home.

Back to the situation at hand. If you’re going to be stuck in a city, pick Chicago. Want some deep dish Chicago-style pizza? Try Lou Malnati’s pies. Doughnut for breakfast? Glazed and Infused is the way to go.

Our posse’s Saturday plans included a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago, some jazz at Green Mill and taking in an obscure Tenessee Williams play (The Mutilated) at the Red Orchid.

Doughnuts at Glazed and Infused

Doughnuts at Glazed and Infused

Dali details

Dali details

More art from the Art Institute of Chicago on apothecaryshed.

Green Mill for Paper Machete

Green Mill for Paper Machete

Irish coffee chaser for Malort shots

Irish coffee chaser for Malort shots

Red Orchid Theater: Set for Mutilations

Red Orchid Theater: Set for Mutilations

For providing a safe haven from 24 inches of snow at home, we award the Chicago Palomar the massive snowplow award and five showerheads forever. Thanks for being home in Chicago.

First things first. We left this:

Snow, dogs, cats, and the chicken palace

Snow, dogs, cats, and the chicken palace

For this:

No snow, no dogs, no cats, and no chicken palace

No snow, no dogs, no cats, and no chicken palace

So that was good.

Getting in to DC was going swimmingly until Pennsylvania Avenue was blocked by police just at the wrong time (Whitehurst Freeway doom). Must be a White House thing going on. That debacle cost us 30 minutes and an excruciating crawl through Georgetown. Traffic thereby ate most of the allocated Phillips time.

A quick dash through the Phillips. Bees and Picasso.

Picasso

Picasso

Beekeeper in the bee room

Beekeeper in the bee room

Then time for a tea at Soho Cafe just across the street from the DC Palomar. (The Soho is a great find, way better than the Starbucks next door.) There was even time for the tail end of a particularly crowded Kimpton wine hour. 30-year-olds everywhere.

Checkin was chaotic. I do believe the Palomar is full to the gills for the dregs of Valentines Day. At checkin, the computer had a hell of a time time finding us, mostly since newly minted GM Abe Liao had plussed us up to avoid plastic shower despair. Thanks Abe! You rock. (Steph Vogel has moved on to become GM of George. Time for a visit to the George it seems!)

Because of Abe, we’re back in the Presidential Suite at the DC Palomar. Sweet.

But due to a massive shortage of cheese, the amenity we were told about at checkin (as Kristen spoofed Abe to deliver a “personal” message) was not in the room when we walked in. Eventually it arrived, cheese included, and all was well with the universe. Great hotel on valentines weekend? Chaos! Chaos I say!

Chaos tilted our way. Cheese, sparkling water, and cupcakes. Awesome.

The cheese did it

The cheese did it

Plus the Presidential Suite?! Yay. You should know that we’re here reaping the benefit of staying many nights at various Kimptons all over creation. The Kimpton InTouch program free night thing? Superb. No other hotel chain does it like this. And an quadruple upgrade to boot. As predicted, Kimpton is rocking our little world.

The no-amenity-yet table in 1024.  (Yes, 1024.)

The no-amenity-yet table in 1024. (Yes, 1024.)

NY bag by the bed.

NY bag by the bed.

This shower is NOT plastic. Glass cube goodness.

This shower is NOT plastic. Glass cube goodness.

Dinner tonight was arranged by Larry Kilbourne aka “baker Bob,” executive baker at Le Diplomate. So fun to have friends who include the best baker in North America.

Bread and oysters: le diplomate.

Bread and oysters: le diplomate.

Le Diplomate is excellent. And Baker Bob’s bread is truly out of this world. The only thing we took home in a “doggy bag” was some slices of the gorgeous walnut/cranberry bread.

BTW, their bar is top notch too, though way overcrowded.

A negroni and a tete a tete: le diplomate

A negroni and a tete a tete: le diplomate

Let there be cupcakes!

Cupcakes from Jerry Chou

Cupcakes from Jerry Chou

I was just here! And now I’m back. WTF?!

At least there is snow this time.

Grimey window view of Des Moines dusting.

Grimey window view of Des Moines dusting.

Where there is snow, there should be fire.

I am back in room 402 here at 800 Locust. Nothing has changed but the weather.

Silly couch.

Silly couch.

Big old bed.

Big old bed.

Glass shower with room for an entire family.

Glass shower with room for an entire family.

Compared to ultra luxury in NC we’re thinking high three showerheads. We’re also thinking TOO MUCH TRAVEL.

United, thanks for the wifi and the upgrade on the 40 minute hop. I so hate United airlines. Jeff Smisek sucks.

Time to go home.

But before you head out, make sure to visit Mr Filet for breakfast (a superb greasy spoon parked under a garage) and Palmer’s Deli for lunch (in the habitrail). Classic Des Moines and great places.