November 3rd, 2013

I wasn’t allowed to eat very many TV dinners when I was growing up. As an adult it makes pretty good sense, but at the time it felt like cruel deprivation. I loved the packages, the compartmentalized trays. I loved the easy, rich flavors. I loved TV dinners, and Swanson was always the best. Swanson’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes was my specific favorite, though, to be honest, it didn’t matter very much.

Now, I’m not sure the Swanson people will like the line I’m about to draw because there is no place on the Swanson Winery’s website that acknowledges that it is, in fact, the same Swanson of TV dinner fame. It’s more like something you’ve got to just learn. But now that I’ve learned it, I have to say that the Swanson wines give me a similar rich and easy pleasure. I know it seems like I must either be insulting the wine, or that I’m a horribly uncultured idiot to compare wine to TV dinners, but I’m going to stick to this and say that the Swanson family knows how to prioritize comfort, as has now been demonstrated in two very different fields. And, lest you think that I’m speaking of this wine as if it were not of a high quality, let me just remind you, because I think we all know, that there is nothing comforting, rich or easy about cheap wine.

September 30th, 2013

It’s still pretty hot around here, still the season of flip-flops, tank tops and sundresses. If you’re here on the weekend, it’s still a great idea to head over the hills to the beach and get a little tan. Things are shifting, though. It’s darker earlier. The cool night air has begun to bite a little. Walgreen’s has its costume aisle set up. Of course nowadays that might only mean that the 4th of July has just passed and they figured they might as well bust out the costumes. But, actually, the year is passing.

Around here, all this change means it’s time for our annual Monday Night Football tradition. Every Monday night through football season, down in our lounge, you’ll find the game on the TV and a bountiful stadium spread on the table. We’ve got hamburgers, hotdogs, peanuts and beer for the traditionalists. But you can also enjoy the game with a plate of cruditÈs and a martini, if that’s what you prefer. The best part of Monday Night Football at our hotel is that you get all the excitement of the game without the sports bar scene. Not that there’s anything wrong with sports bars. Also, I guess that, though the non-sports bar atmosphere might provide a welcome haven for some of you, it’s possible that you might think that the best thing about Monday Night Football at our hotel is actually that everything I’ve just mentioned is free for our guests. Also, we extend out happy hour, so that it’s all even more free than normal, which, too, could be way more pleasing than any experience of anti-sports bar snobbery. In any case, all statements of value and hierarchy aside, Monday Night Football is on and it’s great! Come join us!

September 29th, 2013

In line with the exceptionally popular and fun Nerd Night series, I’ve recently discovered a whole other realm of organized adventures to have with a cocktail in one hand and a teacher in front of you. This one is called Paint Nite and it’s a series of painting lessons held in bars and restaurants. Like Nerd Night, these events are being duplicated in cities all around the country and, also like Nerd Night, the Bay Area being as rich as it is, has two cities running Paint Nites within an hour of one another, whereas, for example, there’s only one in the whole state of Arizona.

What’s fun about Paint Nite is that, rather than making you start at the very beginning and go through the rigors of learning technique, not to mention the trials and confusion of personal creativity, they just pick a painting someone’s already done and teach the assembled crowd how to replicate the exact same thing. It’s genius. And so gratifying.

The other cool thing about Paint Nite that’s way more gratifying than Nerd Night, is it that it happens really often. With Nerd Night, the monthly thing can be kind of a bummer. It’s easy to get really excited about going the night after it just happened, be determined to go to the next one, and then not remember it until it’s just passed yet again. It’s even worse for you, the travelers, who either will or will not be in town when it’s on, end of story. Paint Nite, in contrast, happens at different venues around both San Jose and San Francisco three or four nights a week. The particular night you want might sell out, it’s true, but chances are you can just go the next night instead. So, the next time you run out of things to talk about with the coworkers you’re somehow stuck living with too, keep Paint Nite in mind!

September 28th, 2013

Lily leaving meant a big hole not only in our hearts, but also in the smooth function of our day-to-day operations. She wasn’t promoted, after all, just because we all thought she was so nice. Lily kept the ever fluctuating, necessarily unstable front desk madness going at a steady, friendly, reliable clip. Who would fill those small, but so firmly grounded shoes?

Well, when we looked around at our staff, it turned out there were lots of strong candidates. It was, actually, a nice moment to appreciate how well resourced we are. After a more-difficult-than-anticipated decision making process, Joe Carmona became our new front desk manager. He’ll be an unfamiliar face to a lot of you, when you run into him, though he’s been with us for years. Those of you who do recognize him will maybe only have him in blurred memories of late arrivals, early departures or nights of insomnia. Joe’s been working the graveyard shift ever since he got here, a slot he stayed with because his girlfriend, a nurse, works nights too and they were living their inverted life together. For the chance of promotion, though, Joe decided to reenter a life of circadian rhythms.

To work nights for years on end takes discipline and an independent spirit, so we have every faith that Joe is going to excel in his new role. We also know, though, from having just looked more closely than usual, that our staff is full of outstanding individuals who will not falter in a time of transition.

September 27th, 2013

If you’re hungry, you’ve got some time to spare and you don’t mind a little drive, there’s a place you really might want to check out. It’s called the Tribune Tavern, in reference to the Oakland Tribune, whose real estate it shares. A bit of a drive, you were warned, but oh-so-worth it if you can be bothered.

Walking in, it becomes obvious pretty fast that this place is in deep with all the foodie trends. Try, for example, ordering a Belvedere martini, which you may be used to thinking is more or less a classy kind of a drink, and you’ll quickly earn the waitress’ pitiful contempt. They do not carry any commercial brands. Sad as she is about your ignorance, though, she’s perfectly willing to give you the paragraph she’s memorized on each of the organic, local labels they do serve. And that’s just cocktails. The food goes the same way. The staff has all spent quality time with every one of the animals you might choose to eat and so can vouch for both their humane treatment and the fortitude of each animal’s individual character. You’re free, in fact, to ask about each and every step of the process of the making of your meal, from seedling to plating, if you can stand the tedium of listening to the answers.

When this much care and attention to detail goes well, though, it sure is a pleasure. The food we ate there, the night I went, was some of the best I’ve had in recent memory. And, almost in spite of their best efforts, it’s a really comfortable, easy place to be. The crowd isn’t too hipster-ish, there’s no wait. In the end, you can’t even blame them for all the soliloquies on the merits of their ingredients when, really, the result is kind of spectacular. Find a night and give it a try, you won’t be sorry.