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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.

View from the Donovan

View from the Donovan

The Donovan has become our home away from home in DC mostly due to the fact that Steph Vogel (the GM) rocks. Room 1110 which we discovered on our previous outing here is well configured for a two day offsite.

We put ourselves to work. We got done.

Working in 1110

Working in 1110

The multiple amenities and constant supply of sparkling water helped.

NPS has covered the room in previous entries, so here is a video tour instead.

Sadly everything was not perfect night one, but life rarely is. A trip to the top floor bar led us to the not-cut-out-for-bartending Joel. Some people just don’t know when to leave well enough alone! Suffice it to say:

By contrast, our visit to the Columbia Room was just out of this world. A fantastic evening indeed. Alex Levy was holding down the fort while JP and Derek jet set in Charleston.

Five Course summer menu at the Columbia Room

Five Course summer menu at the Columbia Room

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Perhaps the Fernet shots and the 1938 Old Overholt pours were bad idea? LOL

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Thanks Alex!

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Can’t wait to return to both the Donovan and the Columbia Room in the near future. Five showerheads and a well made Negroni to you both!

Maybe it was the late night Negroni that was the bad idea?

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It was a perfect weekend in Virginia (if not hot). Lots of time in the river. An evening playing live music for friends. So how do ease back into work mode? Why with the help of the Donovan hotel of course. My home away from home in DC is particularly welcoming this visit!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the shower pod

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is the shower pod

You see, my friend Steph Vogel has been holding out on me. But no more! Now we’ve been in 1110. YES!

Welcome

Welcome

We will pretend that this is a flight of Pappy van Winkle bourbon.

Living room overlooking the circle

Living room overlooking the circle

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This suite is huge.

Bedroom

Bedroom

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But the shower is what stands out. A nautilus design with a spiral. Very cool.

The nautilus shower is NPS approved

The nautilus shower is NPS approved

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Without setting foot in an airplane, we’re somehow still pampered beyond belief. Five showerheads for the Donovan. Thanks for ending the weekend on a high note!

When Kimpton does it right, it knocks it out of the park. A quick visit to DC to see the astoundingly great Eighth Blackbird at the Kennedy Center was a perfect time to cash in a free reward night at the Palomar in DC. What a treat. More about the performance on apothecaryshed.

Not only were we greeted by the front desk staff and the valet guys who recognized us, we were upgraded to a killer room: 1024.

The new look in 1024 is bright and spacious. Excellent design.

1024 sitting room

1024 sitting room

And yes, there was sparkling water.

We had a cocktail and some oysters with our friend Steph Vogel who ran this hotel for a few years. Steph specializes in lifting a property to its potential, and his touch can still be seen here at the Palomar.

1024 lounge

1024 lounge

The window treatments are SO much better!

Natural light on a bright spring-like day

Natural light on a bright spring-like day

1024 bedroom

1024 bedroom

What geometry

What geometry

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And yes, the bathroom is huge, with a great glass cube.

The NPS fantasy shower

The NPS fantasy shower

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A private reception at A Bar + Kitchen after the performance was very nice. Meeting the members of Eighth Blackbird was the highlight of course! The mac and cheese was also delish.

Bartender Alexandria Bianco mixed a mean cocktail or two, including the Potomac Bourbon
1.5 Bourbon
.75 St Germaine
.5 Lemon
.5 Honey/sage simple syrup
Blend in champagne flute. Top with prosecco.

When it comes to hotels, management makes all the difference. Five plus mega showerheads for the Kimpton DC.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Wow. Our first visit to the Monaco was so fantastic that it even eclipsed it’s big sister the Palomar. Well done Monaco! Thanks to GM James Adamson for queueing things up perfectly (and Steph Vogel for the intro).

We were in town to see our old friend (and famous philosopher) Dave Chalmers chat on stage with our very favorite playwright of all time Tom Stoppard. The chat was fantastic. Tom wrote a play based on Dave’s catchy “Hard Problem” phrase. Two astounding minds interacting live.

Tom Stoppard and Dave Chalmers Talk Consciousness

Tom Stoppard and Dave Chalmers Talk Consciousness

But it got better. After the chat, a bunch of us in Dave’s cadre retired to Charlie Was a Sinner for some delicious cocktails, vegan (?!) eats, and some conversation. About which more in a minute.

Charlie Was a Sinner is a great bar.  NO TV!  Real cocktails. Great eats.

Charlie Was a Sinner is a great bar. NO TV! Real cocktails. Great eats.

Philly was dressed for the holidays.

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Perhaps our Republican politicians should read this.  Can they read?

Perhaps our Republican politicians should read this. Can they read?

When we arrived in the convertible (with the top down in December) we were greeted in classic Kimpton way with great style and extra brushes (?!).

Monaco Philly has a Flying Glowing Boat

Monaco Philly has a Flying Glowing Boat

Would You Like a Brush with That?

Would You Like a Brush with That?

We checked into gorgeous suite 316 after passing a flying pig.

When Pigs Fly (you go Pink)

When Pigs Fly (you go Pink)

316 Sitting Room looks out over Independence Hall

316 Sitting Room looks out over Independence Hall

316 Couch

316 Couch

The Bedroom in 316

The Bedroom in 316

Of course regular NPS readers know we immediately went to see the shower storage area, er bathroom, which we are happy to report has a shower so big that it has a soaking tub IN it.

Great Shower.  NPS Approved.

Great Shower. NPS Approved.

Now back to Charlie Was a Sinner. Boy were they accommodating to the group of philosophers, psychologists, computer scientists, cognitive scientists and theater people we gathered. The highlight of the evening? Tom Stoppard stopped in too.

Talking about why Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment is wrong with Tom Stoppard

Talking about why Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment is wrong with Tom Stoppard

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My companion’s favorite drink was an invention by master barman (and baseball legend) Mathias Bable. The Say What:
5-6 basil leaves (spanked then muddled)
2 oz gin (beefeaters)
.75 simple syrup
.75 cranberry shrub (equal parts demerara, apple cider vinegar, fresh cranberry)
.25 lime
Stir down. Serve in a collins over rocks.

Say What? by Mathias Bable

Say What? by Mathias Bable

Sparkling water, a midnight snack and some notes.

Sparkling water, a midnight snack and some personal notes.

Breakfast came a bit early, we must admit. But it was off to Green Eggs Cafe for a massive breakfast. Lunch was elided for obvious reasons.

Still wagging our tails over this incredible visit to Philadelphia. Five showerheads and some absolution for Charlie for the Philly Monaco. How will we ever top this visit??

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”
― Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead