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We arrived in San Francisco on a rainy day, delayed three hours so that rush hour was in full swing. 101 was a parking lot. Blerg!

Fresh flowers in room 902

Fresh flowers in room 902

But then we arrived at the Palomar. Palpable relief! Ah. The new lobby is done and it is gorgeous. The front staff had been briefed and greeted us by name. It was all like getting home out of the rain. Chris Smith is running a tight ship.

Sadly, it was all so exciting and rainy that my Bose headphone set never made it out of the back of the cab. But never fear, Bryan was all over it and fixed the problem by magic behind the scenes. Fantastic. Thanks Bryan.

Headphones found

Headphones found

Room 902 is great. Nice roomy space with no plastic in sight in the bathroom. We were greeted with a personal note, fresh flowers (!), and some cheese. Thank you Sara.

Welcome to 902

Welcome to 902

902 sitting room

902 sitting room

902 bedroom

902 bedroom

902 bathroom

902 bathroom

This shower is not plastic

This shower is not plastic

Not only were the fresh flowers special. The standard Kimpton special touches were also around.

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Kimpton special touch (Walter and Not Walter)

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

Special touch 2: power stations on bedside table

In other SF news, the Crustacean restaurant is OK. Over-rated, but decent. On the other hand, hard water has one of the best “weaponized grain” storage facilities in all of SF. We had flights of Pappy, we had Hirsch 16, we had many antique collection bourbons. Just wow. Our server Erin Rose was knowledgeable and really fun.

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Erin from hard water with a bottle of Hirsch 16 (1974)

Not to be outdone, master barman Brian Means of Dirty Habit had a custom cocktail created and sent up to the room while we were out doing our job. Awesome way to wind down after a conference day.

Without further ado, the B-String:
1.5 oz Pierre Ferronal Cognac
.75 oz East India Sherry
.5 oz Banana liqueur
2 dashes All Spice Bitters

Properly warmed up by the pre-game show, we headed downstairs for dinner and lots of great cocktails at Dirty Habit. Cool new space. Excellent cocktails as always. Mr. Means is still on the sherry roll. Good thing the room was only upstairs!

We even had some of this.  Whatever it is!

We even had some of this. Whatever it is!

Thursday night fun was spearheaded by Jacques Bezuidenhout and joined by a motley crew of affiliated pranksters. We started with a trip to the Anchor Steam brewery christmas party. The anchor steam people also have a distillery with an upstairs patio bar. Lots of great rums including the Blue Penny brand and No 3 gin. Cocktail people are really fun to party with.

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Blue Penny rum (batch 1 and batch 2)

Jacques stepped into his natural element behind the bar and crafted a gin and tonic after the extensive rum tasting.

Jacques makes a G&T

Jacques makes a G&T

Rosemary

Rosemary

Then it was off to Tommy’s for a late rendez-vous with the dinner crew. Tommy’s is just fantastic. Warm, friendly, tequia, what more do you want? We were briefly joined by AT from Partida.

Dinner a deserted Aziza was very good indeed. We had the place mostly to ourselves. Food was great.

Then a dive bar for Fernet and a bleary-eyed walk across the street to have a last Liberal. Somehow we misplaced an unused Friday completely.

Five showerheads and an alcohol-soaked cleaning rag for this trip to the SF Palomar. Fantastic.

The Cowper Inn on a late summer day

The Cowper Inn on a late summer day

The Cowper is like an old friend. I’ve been coming here for longer than I care to remember. The best place to stay in Silicon Valley by far.

Though Joji is not around this time to say hello, I did get my new favorite room (31).

Room 31 at the Cowper Inn

Room 31 at the Cowper Inn

The shower is not fancy, but it’s not plastic either.

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And the bathroom is roomy.

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The best part of the Cowper experience involves the common areas. A gorgeous craftsman living room and beautiful well kept grounds.

The Cowper Inn living room (where I am typing this)

The Cowper Inn living room (where I am typing this)

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Four showerheads for the Cowper Inn. Dinner at nearby Resposado involves a great tequila selection.

Still on a natural high after a weekend national TV gig on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, United airlines did all they could to screw up my birthday, but the crack Palomar staff did not allow that for long. What an absolutely awesome welcome back to my favorite hotel on the planet!

I was personally greeted by everybody when I drove up in my little old lady rental car (some kind of huge Chrysler thing). Check in was efficient and fun. I saw some old friends. And then it was up to 830 where I was greeted with this:

Birthday setup on arrival at the Palmar SF.  Super cool.

Birthday setup on arrival at the Palmar SF. Super cool.

Welcome note from Kelsey and Lauren.

Welcome note from Kelsey and Lauren.

Best welcome package ever from Fifth Floor barman Brian Means.

Best welcome package ever from Fifth Floor barman Brian Means.

Brian Means had concocted (and bottled in a gorgeous way suited for the Apothecary Shed itself) The Pooka, which is concocted as follows:
2.5 oz Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey
.5 oz Poli Miele Honey Grappa (with a nicely redundant name)
.25 oz simple syrup
4 dashes house made lemon-vanilla bitters

Boy did the Pooka hit the spot after the terrible travel SNAFU that is United!

The handmade note that Kelsey Barthe and Lauren Gruber made was adorable and very nice. Thanks you two.

830 Bedroom.

830 Bedroom.

Great bathroom layout with another one of those tub things!

This shower is not plastic.

This shower is not plastic.

After a brief respite it was off to Flour+Water for a late but very delicious meal with the “secret book club girlfriend.” Flour+Water deserves the buzz it has going for it. Our servers were delightful and quirky and just plain fun. We topped of the meal with a nightcap at 15 Romolo, a nice little find tucked away in an alley just outside of tourist land. Absinthe hour was upon me. Ultimately, at [undisclosed but venerable age] I stayed up 23.5 hours on my birthday and lived to type about it!

RSA is still in full swing and packed to the gills with meetings, meals, and old friends.

Got to spend some quality time with Brian Means at the incredibly plussed up bar on the Fifth Floor. The bourbon list is some indication of quality elixers available.

Palomar Fifth Floor Bourbon List

Palomar Fifth Floor Bourbon List

Brian is quite the barman and made many delicious beverages for me, including the following un-named beverage which we’ll call Drinking Above his Means
1.5 oz London Dry Gin
.75 oz Sutton vermouth
.25 Suze
3 Dashes orange bitters
Stir down and garnish with orange peel.

I also had a Shift Ender next door at Annabelle’s one evening.
.5 oz Frenet Branca
1.5 oz Jameson (irish whiskey)
.5 Canton
3 dashes orange bitters
1.5 oz Ginger Beer
Brandied Cherries.

However, the most delightful cocktail experience was another supremely interesting and fantastic Tequila lesson from Jacques Bezuidenhout who joined an eclectic group of us afterwards for a delicious and engaging dinner at Saha.

Supremely rare and outstanding tequila from Jacques Bezuidenhout.

Supremely rare and outstanding tequila from Jacques Bezuidenhout.

Jacques says, “Not many people in the country have tried these yet. Very limited and small amount produced.”

We nosed, tasted, and conversed about:
1) Wild Tepeztate – 45% abv – Had some innertube medical mezcal funk going
2) San Jose Rio Minas – 48% abv – Cherry Vinegar fruit note. Great nose with condensing flavors.
3) Wild Papalome – 45% abv – Spice, Herbaceous, pepper notes, and the dirt of Mexico. Hot.

The San Francisco Palomar deserves 47 showerheads for their excellent service and for making me feel really special on my birthday. A home away from home.

View from Sausolito business lunch.

View from Sausolito business lunch.