Sunday, August 31, 2008

Fe's Bed and Breakfast - Tule Lake, CA

On a road trip from Central Oregon to Carson City, NV we decided to spend the night midway which landed us in the border town of Tule Lake, CA. We decided to stay at Fe's B&B and couldn't have chosen a more hospitable place.
We arrived late, at 10 pm, and noticed how small Tulelake was. Most the bars on Main Street had signs welcoming bikers, which seemed strange, but I guess welcoming if you were a biker. Fe's is a very short drive off the highway, which made it convenient when traveling to parts unknown at night. As soon as we pulled up Fe came out to meet us. She showed us inside her 2 story, 4 bedroom bed and breakfast and it was amazingly full for the night!
We had the only room on the first floor, perfect for families traveling with a child, since it had a twin bed in addition to the queen bed. The only downside of this room is that the two bathrooms are upstairs. None of the rooms have private baths, but that wasn't a problem even though Fe's was full. The room was spacious in B&B terms, and had DISH Satellite TV. So our night was spent watching the Olympics in bed. The other guests were all watching Olympics in the common room. Something about Fe's feels like you are staying at your aunt's house. It might be the decor, it's very comforting, and unlike staying in a chain hotel it's not bland predictable.
In the morning, breakfast was served at two tables, one for 6 and one for 4. We met Bob briefly, and then he was off to give a lava bed tour. That and hunting seem to be the big draw in Tulelake, almost everyone was there to see the lava beds. Breakfast was generous. An omlette with mushrooms, peppers and cheese, english muffins, canadian bacon (or ham?), home fries, coffee, orange juice, and fresh fruit bowls.
We had a lovely talk with Fe about the area, and how they started thier b&b. It's been there for 8 years, since Fe came over from the Philippenes. She is a very energetic and lovely hostess. I'm used to staying in places where the hosts generally shy away from the guests and this was a refreshing change. After breakfast we started on the rest of our drive to NV.
Contact info: 877-478-0184
660 Main Street
Tule Lake, CA 96134

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hilton Portland - My default hotel

When I need to stay in downtown Portland on the cheap I go to Priceline and bid on a 3 star hotel. I have yet to get anywhere but the Hilton. Usually hovering somewhere around $110 a night, this weekend I hit the jackpot and got it for $64 (going rate was $149 at the hotel).

In the five times I've stayed here, this was the first time they accomodated my request for a room with a king bed. So those are the pics you see.

Room sizes completely vary, this king room was the smallest room I've been in, I've also had corner doubles that were enormous and a couple other doubles that were average size and a very small double. So if you get a room that is small and you are staying with someone, you might want to try asking if they have another room available.

The beds aren't super comfy like some of the other Hiltons I've stayed at, but also not uncomfortable by any means. I chalk it up to the older status of the hotel.

It is an older hotel, decor wise, but very centrally located and I can walk anywhere downtown or in the Pearl relatively quickly. There is a Max station located a couple blocks down in Pioneer Square and the Streetcar runs a few blocks over on 10th. Shopping galore is also a couple blocks away, Nordstrom, a huge Banana Republic and also the mall.

It is also generally a very busy hotel! This is the one time I've checked in and not come across large groups of people and parties in the lobby.

There is a fitness center, which they charge $10 a day to use, and internet is also at a charge, like all other Hiltons. Parking is $25 a day, but there is a lot across 6th Street that charges $15 for overnight parking if you just need a place to stash the car while you sleep.

Another odd thing I came across charge-wise, I left my rings in the bathroom and realized it when it was too late to turn around and go back. I called and security confirmed they were in the bathroom. They offered to mail it back to me, but would need a credit card to charge it to. Otherwise they will hold on to them for 60 days. I didn't understand why they wouldn't just mail them to me in an envelope and not charge me, but it just seemed part of the small fees for everything nature of the chain.

I've eaten at the 921 Bistro a few times, and it is reasonably priced and the food is fairly good. Great if you get in late at night and just want a quick bite to eat before bed. But if you have time and want really good food you are just a walk from tons of restaurants. For breakfast it's good if you want a quick bite before a meeting, but if you have time you need to go to Mother's instead.

Overall, it's a good bargain if you are in town and need a centrally located place to stay.

Cocoon Urban Day Spa - Manis and Pedis

So when my best girlfriend suggested we go after work one day to treat our little toes, I tried to find somewhere that was a midway point for both of us. Enter Cocoon Urban Day Spa in the SoMa part of town. Location is a few uphill blocks away from most of the financial district, but if you are lazy like me you take a cab.

It's a bit hard to find from the street, as the building didn't have an easily noticable sign, and shares a space with a restaurant. The space is on the second floor, and is also part yoga studio.

The manicure/pedicure room is huge! and has windows on two sides, so full of light. While you can occassionally hear the traffic from the street below, for the most part you forget that you are right downtown.
They had brownies and strawberries for us to snack on, and for the ladies that came in after 5 pm they offered champagne. It might have been because we were using a coupon? Coupons on thier website are pretty good, they are limited by time of day but that just gives you an excuse to cut out of work early!

Service was great, they were running late, but the ladies that worked on us were all very nice and sociable and did a great job. Even when I smashed my nails upon paying. We got the ultimate mani/pedi combo, which for some reason I thought included paraffin, but instead just had warm booties and mittens. Still very relaxing and a good way to spend an afternoon.

They have one person doing your nails while the other does your toes, so it's efficient and you don't have to sit around and wait too much. And so you know it's sanitary they also use metal bowls for the pedicure water and not the sometimes unclean plastic tubs most places do. However, they do still have massage chairs. It would be a great place to go with a group of girlfriends for an afternoon of treatments.

I haven't gone back to try any of thier other treatments, but it seemed they only had a couple treatment rooms. And the space that seemed to be the yoga studio seemed a bit small. Maybe they have small classes.

I will definitely return for another treatment soon! Oh and you cannot tip on your credit card, so make sure to take cash for tips (otherwise you have to pay the atm fee downstairs).

Location: 330 first street, second floor
san francisco, ca 94105

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Burgers and Shakes Oh My! - Taylors Automatic Refresher

So I had reservations at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc one night, we were headed up to Napa to shop for the day and it seemed like a delightful idea to stop and get some fancy food time in. But, as I pulled up the menu for that evening, nothing appealed to me. And so reservation cancelled and a new mission is upon us. We had passed a new outpost of Taylor's Automatic Refresher along the way, and since I love me some tasty burgers and thick shakes that was where dinner would be!
The line here was considerably shorter than I've ever seen at the Ferry Building outpost, I suspect it is because this is a very new location in what seems to be a new part of downtown Napa.
But let's get on to the food shall we? I got a cheeseburger and fries. Classic. I think the key to thier burgers, is really the bun. Look at that thing, it's just perfect.

The tasty continues with thier yummy good quality meat, cheese, and of course special sauce thing.

My companion got a patty melt, and the sweet potato fries. But she mixed it up a bit and asked them to leave off the chili powder and instead give it the garlic coating. She is BRILLIANT! They were possibly the best sweet potato fries I've ever had.

She did love her patty melt as well, and it even caused a man to pause at our table and ask what she was eating. He apparently had never seen one before.

I do love that thier condiments come in little pastic containers with lids. They were sturdy containers and for some reason just struck me as really adorable. Thier plastic drink cups are made from recyclable materials and they have recycling bins next to the trash as well. Yeay for being green!

A little bit of Rock n Roll - Jupiter Hotel - Portland

The Jupiter is what I'm going to refer to as Rock n' Roll hotel. It is home to the Doug Fir Lounge, a small venue with live indie bands, food, and obviously a bar. Located nearby is also Union Jack's a strip bar. So, on a Saturday night, you can only imagine that it is crowded, loud, and full of partiers. We arrived late (1 am) and the hotel parking was full, so park on a residential side street and pray for no ticket in the morning. I didn't really see any signs clearly marking the hotel, so it's a good thing my companion had stayed there before!

There's lots of outdoor seating, and I swear I saw a firepit, but I may have been a bit tipsy. I suspect this used to be a Travelodge or a Howard Johnson's type hotel, that was just updated to be kinda cool kinda funky. We ended up in one of the Lobu rooms.

This means a queen platform bed with a light comforter and blanket, no artwork, a small table with two chairs and a tv. The bed however, is comfortable and the towels soft.

Very minimalistic, and very small. There is chalk in the room, and until the morning I didn't realize it was for the room door that is painted with chalkboard paint. Cool!

The bathroom also follows the minimalist approach, fun vinyl shower curtain, small sink. Very basic.

The only, and biggest complaint I have about the Jupiter is the super thin walls. We had been placed between two rooms that were for one group of friends. So there was lots of going back and forth between the two rooms, standing in front of our room and having conversations about who was drunker than who, and who could kick a cops ass. Other conversations revolved around which strip club was better (Mary's is apparently more "accomodating"). I couldn't decide if it was a bunch of frat boys, or a bachelor party.

So if you want a romantic night away, I wouldn't recommend staying here for a relaxing quiet night. I would however recommend it for a girls or boys night out partying late. Or if you want to have really loud sex and want people to hear.

The lobby has apples and coffee in the morning, and the Doug Fir apparently serves a decent breakfast starting early in the morning for those of you who don't plan on going to bed.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Salt House - San Francisco

The Salt House opened a while back, but I finally had a chance to grab lunch there this week. I am a huge fan of Town Hall, the partner's other restaurant a couple blocks away and have eaten many a satisfied meal there.
I arrived very late for lunch, so my friends had already eaten bunches of oysters, and 3 dishes of thier pickled vegetables. Apparently those were quite good! We did get another dish for the table, but the two of them inhaled it before I got a chance.
Since I was late I had my friends order for me. They ordered the chicken. Which as the waitress informed them is a salad, even though it is on the entree portion of the menu, and doesn't use the word salad in the name or description.
When the waitress brought it to the table I could see why. It was possibly half a roast chicken and not greasy at all, with perfectly crisp skin. It laid across a mixture of baby spinach, radishes, and the thickest, meatiest, chunks of bacon I've ever seen. Sprinkled with finely chopped egg and tossed with a dressing that I couldn't identify but wasn't heavy or oily. There were some crimini mushrooms in there as well, that didn't distract me enough to realize I was eating them.
I rarely order salads, but this is one I would certainly get again.
One of my friends is a vegan, and there was nothing on the menu for her. However, the kitchen threw a dish together for her with vegetables and some salsa verde. It was colorful and smelled amazing! She said it tasted as good as it smelled.
Our other friend got a rueben turkey sandwich on rye, with some red relish and a side of very yummy chips. He didn't share the sandwich with me, so that speaks as to how tasty it must have been.
Despite being full, we had to have dessert. I got a molten chocolate cake with chip whip and mint-chip ice cream. I was slightly disappointed with the amount of ice-cream on the plate. Literally a teaspoon size. Which Mr. Turkey Sandwich picked up with one spoon and swallowed in one bite! I guess it was good......
There was a drizzle of mint oil on the plate and while the melty, yet not warm chocolate cake didn't have any mint flavoring, swiping it along the mint oil gave it a very very minty flavor. The chip whip was a clever mix of homemade cream with teeny tiny chocolate chips thrown in.
The other dessert at the table was mango pudding with forbidden rice and cream. I had a couple bites of this, and it was so rich and mangoey! I love when I can taste the freshness of the fruit in dishes. It reminded me of mango sticky rice but ten times better.

My favorite little thing to love about the restaurant are the glass milk bottles they leave at the table with water. They have a very cute pirate type of design on the bottle that made me want to put it in my purse and take it home. However, if you want ice water here you must ask for it, the water they bring to the table is room temperature.

I have to admit I like the ambience of Salt House better than Town Hall. My one complaint about Town Hall is the acoustics. No matter where you sit, it reverberates with all the conversations going on in the restaurant. Salt House has the same high ceiling space, but it wasn't loud. Decorated to fit with the loft style of the SOMA location and with an open kitchen, it was very airy and yet welcoming at the same time.

Location: 545 Mission Street, between 1st and 2nd across from Golden Gate Law School.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Tutweiler Hotel - A Hilton in Birmingham

When I was told I was heading to Birmingham, I was none to excited. I'd never really had a desire to go to the South in the summer months, I remembered lots of humidity from my childhood in Georgia.
It was suggested I stay at the Tutweiler, and so I booked my room with the hesitation that it was a Hampton Inn.
Oh was I ever wrong.

I got in late after some major airline snafus at about 1 am. The lobby of the hotel is absolutely gorgeous. It was not your run of the mill Hampton Inn.
The front desk greeted me without seeming tired or annoyed that they were at work so late. They suggested a few places that would still deliver dinner at that late hour.

This was the cornerstone of my stay here. Just how friendly and accomodating every staff member I came across was. This is southern hospitality at it's finest.

The room was a bit on the small side, but extremely clean, renovated, and comfortable. Incidentaly a suite was only $20 more and as I found out the following day would have been well worth it. Everyone else in my party had chosen to upgrade and they raved about the suites.

One thing that was odd about my room was the height of everything. It was as if my room was designed for a tall person. Now, I'm 5'2, so I am a bit on the shorter side, but I felt like I needed a step stool for the bed.

A bed wich was very comfortable I might add.

There was also a plasma tv in the room, quite sleek and a dvd player and cable.

So I crawled into the high bed, turned on the tv and went to sleep.

My shower also was created for the tall people. The showerhead was so high I couldn't reach it by standing on my tiptoes. And as there was no bathtub I couldn't stand on the edges to adjust the showerhead either.

Otherwise, there was nice marble flooring, a granite vanity and good towels.

In the morning there is a free breakfast upstairs. Along with the typical croissants, muffins, cereals and fruit there were also hot dishes everyday. The sausage, biscuits and gravy stick solidly in my mind.

Oh and there's always warm cookies to be had atop the piano in the lounge.

Lunch was at the hotel restaurant Icon. This is not southern dining. It's very California sleek and healthy. The salad portions were good and quite yummy.

All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again. A fabulous hotel, with a wonderful staff.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hilton Pearl River - NY

The Pearl River Hilton seems to be in a part of NY/NJ that really has no other hotels around. So thier rates can be as high as they want them to be.

We stayed here for 2 nights for a family wedding, and had a block of about 20 rooms. The regular rate for the Thurs/Friday we were staying was $189/night. Our wedding rate was a bit lower.

When you enter the hotel, you are immediately impressed by the lobby. I suspect in any season other than the winter the grounds would be green and lush and impressive as well. The website makes it seem like an extremely fancy and nice hotel.

Now, when a room costs close to $200/night, outside of Manhattan and in an area that doesn't seem to really have much of a draw I expect it to be a fairly nice room.

This was at best a 3* room. The bathroom was small, and the tiles on the floor cracked, the shower was designed in a way that the entire bathroom floor was soaked by the time you got done with your shower. The rooms on the 2nd floor smelled musty, our rooms on the 4th floor fared better in that aspect.

The rooms were large, but the furniture and bedding nothing special. However, the beds were VERY comfy. I do like that about Hiltons.
Internet was $5/day, which is cheap as other Hiltons I've stayed at charged $9.95 or more.
We had breakfast at La Maisonette, the one restaurant the hotel has, other meals we drove into Nyack to eat. Breakfast has 2 buffet options. The cold buffet, which seems to be a glorified continental breakfast for $9, the hot buffet which included eggs and bacon goodness that was $13.

Overall, if in the area again I would have to see if there is another hotel, because for the room rate it wasn't worth it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Myers & Chang - Fancy Asian in the South End

For my birthday this year a few friends and I hit up the buzz of the South End, Myers & Chang. The pedigree of the chefs promises great things, although I am not entirely certain of the decision to not offer a dessert menu when Ms. Chang is known for her pastry skills.

The night started off very poorly with us being quoted a 45 min wait, which turned into an hour and half. There's really no excuse for this, as numerous people who arrived after us without reservations were seated before us. We were a party of 4, it's not incredibly hard to wait for 2 tables of 2 to be empty to seat 4. Plus a party of 4 that arrived after us was seated before us (because one member of the party was pregnant?). They lost many points for the poor handling of this, and for the lame excuses of it will be just a few more minutes.
I wanted to leave, as there are plenty of great restaurants in the area, but my companion K was determined to eat the food there since we had waited already.

Once we turned that corner and were seated the rest of the experience was all positive. Our server was funny and friendly and full of suggestions of what is good "my fault is that I am honest and will tell you what not to get".

The food arrived super fast (as in under 10 minutes), which again, confused me as to why we had such a long wait.

We started with crispy spring rolls ($5) which were filled with chives, bamboo and shitake mushrooms. I didn't taste the mushrooms at all, it was much heavier on the chives and bamboo. Good, standard fare.

We also had the scallion pancakes ($7), K liked them so much we ordered them again later in the meal. These aren't your typical scallion pancakes, they are doughy, an almost foccaccia type of dough lightly sprinkled with scallions. Very yummy, and very filling.
Tiger's Tears ($10). Oh my the yum! If you like beef, and spicy THIS is the dish for you! It's a salad, so it's cold, but the beef is so tender and flavorful and citrusy and just mouth on fire good! The basil and tri-color bell peppers were fresh and crunchy and delicious, and the khao koor (some sort of rice like thing) added a bit more crunch. Although I wasn't a huge fan of the lack of flavor of that ingredient.
Our waiter recommended we have a couple of the dumplings. So we opted for the lemony shrimp ($13), which were interesting yet not particularly memorable or flavorful. Next time, I'll skip this.
The girls also tried mama chang's pork and chive dumplings ($11), I think they all liked them. I had a tiny bite, but not being a huge fan of pork, didn't like these much either.

We had to try something from the middle page of the menu as well and so C asked for the Nirvana Chicken ($9) served over white rice. I loved this dish! It had to be the incredibly strong star anise smell and flavor that did it. One tender thigh and a good smokey flavor.

Onto the noodle portion of the menu, first up we have the Dan Dan Noodle Salad ($7). The waiter commented that this was a heavy dish, but I didn't think so. The peanut sauce was tasty, and the cucumbers added a clean fresh flavor to the dish. K apparently got a bite that had all the sambal in it, because she suffered the mouth on fire phenomenon and yet the dish was completely not spicy to me or anyone else at the table. Perhaps I didn't mix things up well enough. N also loved this dish and threatened to finish it off.

Thai ginger chicken salad was one of the dishes recommended by the waiter. The dish was very pale looking, white rice noodles, very white grilled chicken, pale cabbage. The girls dug in and ate it, I was a bit hesitant it would be too bland. However, I was wrong. The ginger and lemongrass flavor came through in the chicken and at the bottom of the bowl there were even some red pepper flakes.

Although the restaurant doesn't have a dessert menu, before the check everyone is served a dessert. This evening it was a lemon mousse with small pieces of crystallized ginger on top. I am not a fan of the ginger and was able to pick it off, while totally enjoying the lemon mousse. K didn't like it at all and had thought we were being served a bowl of parmesean, which she would have been very happy with. N didn't like the mousse of the ginger on this.

And a special dessert for the birthday girl, a brownie with chunks of ginger. I'll give the brownie yummy points, but the ginger was way too much for me to be able to enjoy it. N loved it and ate half of it.

Ambiance: The restaurant is cool and casual, very reminiscent of a diner. Complete with the counter seating overlooking the kitchen. The soundtrack is provided by an iPod, but the noise level in the restaurant makes it hard to hear what songs are playing unless you are in the bathroom.

Their website is a myspace page, which is a bit odd. Just pay for a real website and design it so that the menu is easy to read. Speaking of menus they do have a vegetarian menu and a nut free menu. You need to ask for them separately, but the items are all also on the main menu (which for some reason smells like crayons).

Our total bill pre-tip was $153, including 2 bottles of wine. A bit steep for the quality of the food and the fact that it's basically chinese food in a very casual setting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Swanky Modern in Motown - MGM Grand Detroit

I spent a couple days at the MGM Grand in Detroit recently. The hotel is only a couple months old and apparently the only luxury hotel in town. I took pics and then mistakenly deleted them, so you'll have to take my word on it.
Holy cow is this place NICE!
The lobby lounge is called the living room, it has some suede armless sofas, and the coolest fireplace that runs through the middle of the length of the stainless steel wall.

The rooms are super cool, and technologically a bit too advanced for me and my friends. 42" plasma tvs, a phone that shows your name on the screen, it also has some sort of touch screen functionality we couldn't figure out. The hotel info book in the room also claimed there was a butler button on the phone for room service, but none of us could find the button. The phone had too many buttons. But no room service button.

The walls against the bed are some sort of bamboo textured wallpaper that I couldn't stop touching for 5 min. The curtains were also a touchable silk crinkly material. A velvet couch which was comfy to lay on, silk throw pillows, and a velvety bench at the foot of the bed rounded out the textural furniture.

The bed, oh the lovely bed I didn't want to get out of. Featherbeds, down comforters, soft soft cotton sheets. It got mighty hot in there at night, and my only complaint was that we couldn't get the thermostat to go under 67 degrees. Yes, it was winter and there was a snowstorm outside, but that bed was just too hot.
The thick espresso stained headboard had a light in it that wasn't controlled by any of the switches in the room. This was weird. And annoying while trying to sleep. It took 2 days to figure out the switch was on the side of the headboard.

More about the lighting, there is one lightswitch that controls all the lights in the room. Not your traditional sliding dimmer switch, this one gives you 5 options for controlling just how much light there is. I liked it. There is also a very cool orange light panel in the wall that separates the bedroom from the bathroom.

The bathroom was huge and marble. With two undermounted sinks, which was very cool. The shower and toilet were both behind frosted doors. This was so sleek that neither of us initially noticed the toilet wasn't out in the open. The shower had two rainhead showerheads. Which makes for fun 2 person showers. Bathroom amenities were all h20+ brand, smelled soooo good! I forgot to take them home with me though. Lots of fluffy towels, and two very thick and comfy robes. There was a weird mirror within the mirror of the bathroom, which I found out after the fact was apparently a tv. See? Too much fancy technology!

Room service was from Wolfgang Puck's restaurant. We ordered a italian sausage, eggplant, carmelized onion and mushroom pizza and a couple beers. The pizza wasn't all that great, the Italian sausage tasted a bit weird and there was cilantro on the pizza, which didn't blend well with the other flavors. Service was very prompt, although they didn't bring us any ice water with the dinner, which I've never had happen before.

The hotel also has two of Michael Mina's restaurants, Bourbon Steak and Saltwater. I meant to try at least one of these as he is one of my favorite chefs, but both of us were under the weather most the weekend and room service was just easier.
There is also a Starbucks, which strangely enough closes at 7 pm.

The hotel staff and concierge were all very nice and as helpful as could be.

If you have to go to Detroit and want a truly luxurious stay, I highly recommend the MGM Grand.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cutest Hotel Ever -Pod Hotel - NYC

I've never been compelled to review a hotel the minute I walked in the door, but the Pod Hotel did it for me.
Now, I tend to like the luxury hotels, and this certainly is not one. But it's cute, boutiquey, has a great staff, and a total find!
I was looking for a cheap one night stay in NY, and stumbled across this place. It has bunkbeds (also, the cheapest room option) and I thought it would make for a fun stay with L. The room is tiny, as in I think my walk-in closet may be larger than this but, it is incredibly charming!The concept of a shared bath (they do have rooms with private baths, but not the bunk rooms) seemed a bit sketchy and weird, but as I was coming up the hall two bathrooms were being meticulously cleaned by the housekeeping crew. They bathroom may actually be larger than our room, but it's clean, has one of those rain showerheads, music piped in and is not at all run down. The room has all the towels and toiletries and a sink. Picture an airplane bathroom sink.
They offer free wireless (yeay!), an ipod docking station/stereo, the rooms temperature control works well, and as I am using the air conditioning in January it really is individually controlled.
The lobby is large and very modern trendy, I shall go hang out there shortly.
So far the bed I am sitting on is comfy, with it's own small tv screen.
This place gets an A+ rating from me.