Saturday, December 25, 2010

Restaurant: K Town Bistro

Restaurant: K Town Bistro
Web Site:
Address: 3784 Howard Ave., Kensington, MD 20895
Phone: (301) 933-1211

Side issue; really dislike the "K Town" nickname that some locals seem to be trying to establish. For one thing, most people refer to "Kensington" and not "Town of Kensington" which seem to be what some are trying to shorthand. For another thing, its a little too hip-hop for such a WASP-y old school suburb. The owners of this restaurant inherited this from the previous owners of the space I believe ("K Town Grille" maybe?). The previous space was way too short lived to be trying to maintain some of this history, in my opinion.

We've dined here two or three times now. The owner takes a lot of personal attention in the service and activity. The menu is not extensive, but this is good; care on a few selected items is much better than a lot of choices done inconsistently. The salads have always been very good and they usually have some nice approaches to the soups. The entrees we've tried have been very good, including an interesting South American fish.

Wine choices are limited, but this is Kensington after all where the idea of a restaurant serving wine is a new and scary.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Restaurant: China Gourmet, Kensington

Restaurant: China Gourmet
Web Site:
Address: 3739 University Boulevard West, Kensington, MD 20895-2123
Phone: (301) 946-9400

Many Montgomery County restaurants come and go pretty quickly. As soon as you get used to one and it becomes a favorite, it goes away. In some ways, this is a story of two restaurants, one that's still around and one that is not any more.

China Gourmet is still around, in the shopping center at the pie slice of land created where Connecticut Avenue splits off University Blvd. in Kensington. It has a lot of windows facing the road, and a bar area in the back where the Kensington locals hang out (Kensington was a "dry" town historically - not anymore - and China Gourmet was technically out of town right across the street). It's fairly large and can hold a lot of diners, and also does a pretty brisk take out business.

Like most Chinese restaurants the menu is huge and varied. And, if you can't figure out what you want from the menu they are extremely accommodating about changes. Or, making up entrees on your own without a fuss. They are very consistent, and when I try new Chinese places I usually order something well known and use China Gourmet as the benchmark. I've actually been dining here since it opened, probably more than 12 years. I don't even remember when it opened anymore, it seems like I've been going there my whole life.

The owner of the restaurant owned at least three places I was familiar with. There is a restaurant "Moon Gate" in downtown Bethesda, and there used to be another one on Rockville Pike up near Woodmont Country Club called "Moonlight Gourmet". Moonlight was another one of our go-to's, and we liked how we had two great places for Chinese food depending on the part of the county we were in. Moonlight also had very consistent cooking, really great service, and were very flexible on menu changes. But, Moonlight didn't last. Don't know why, problem with the lease or something, but we were heartbroken when Moonlight closed because we were going there often as its closer to our regular dinner time travels. Fortunately, China Gourmet keeps going strong and is always there like an old friend, even when its been a while since we see them.

So, same ownership, same general area, same food. But, one restaurant lasts forever and one is gone in a few years. In Montgomery County, the second scenario is much more common than the first.

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China Gourmet

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport South-Burlingame

City: San Francisco, CA (Airport)
Chain: Hampton Inn (Hilton)
Property: Hampton Inn & Suites San Francisco Airport South-Burlingame
Address: 1755 Bayshore Highway, Burlingame, California, USA 94010
Phone Number: 650-697-5736

Check Out: November 2010

Just south of the airport; you can even enjoy the planes coming and going right out your window if you're lucky!

This is your basic Hampton Inn experience (which is not a bad thing), one exit away from SFO. It is near the water, across the street from a large Marriott which is right on the water. The Marriott actually makes this Hampton Inn a much more attractive place to stay than normal. While the free breakfast is nice, after breakfast there is no food at Hampton Inn. However, with a big full service Marriott right across the street you can go there for a drink or dinner.

This is not close to downtown, however, but it is convenient to the airport.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Hotel: Residence Inn by Marriott Pittsburgh University/Medical Center

City: Pittsburgh, PA
Chain: Marriott
Property: Residence Inn by Marriott Pittsburgh University/Medical Center
Address: 3896 Bigelow Boulevard, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone Number: 412 621 2299

Check Out: August 2010

High on a hill (like everything else in Pittsburgh). Large rooms, free breakfast deal. Typical Marriott experience.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Restaurant: Cafe Deluxe - Tysons

Restaurant: Cafe Deluxe, Tyson's Corner
Web Site:
Address: 1800 International Drive, McLean, VA 22102
Phone: (703) 761-0600

This is a very regular place for us to go. We've been to the Bethesda location also, we like this one much better. The decor is retro jazz, and the music choices being played are often super choices for me. Bar is good, divided from the dining area and usually adds a nice vibe to the place (although can be a little loud at times). There is outdoor seating when the weather is nice, or inside but with all the doors open is close to being outside also. The outdoor seating isn't the greatest, with a commanding view of the Tyson's Corner shopping traffic, but well done for the space they have.

The service is usually very good, the cooking is very consistent. We eat here so often that its usually a quick check of the specials, then an order of a favorite. The seared tuna is my first choice usually, and their mac and cheese is a fun order and very well done. The menu isn't huge and doesn't change much - lots of creative twists on well known dishes - but all executed well and reasonably prices.

Monday's is half price on wine, another nice bonus if you're doing something over in Virginia on a weekday.

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Cafe Deluxe

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Restaurant: Chef Geoff's Tysons

Restaurant: Chef Geoff's Tysons
Web Site:
Address: 8045 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182
Phone: 571.282.6003

Mid-level local chain.

We had been to the downtown location, and liked it a lot, and were looking for another Wolf Trap convenient place so we gave this a try.

The location is good, the decor is good. It's a very noisy place, the bar area is smack in the middle so the happy hour crowd can overwhelm the dining experience. We made some really bad choices on food selection also, particularly a vegetable dish that was incredibly salty and oily.

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Chef Geoff's Tysons

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hotel: Hampton Inn Phoenixville, PA

City: Phoenixville, PA
Chain: Hilton
Property: Hampton Inn Phoenixville
Address: 100 Cresson Blvd, Phoenixville, PA
Phone Number: 610 676 0900

Check Out: July 2010

Right off the highway (422) in the Valley Forge area.

Basic Hampton Inn experience.

Stayed in a "suite" room which had a small kitchenette. Separate doors for the sleeping area and corner building location made it quieter for sleeping.

The AC units almost wake the dead when they kick in. Didn't disturb, but creates problems setting the TV volume as it cycles on and off.

Somewhat sparsely decorated for the amount of space. Shower head was wonderfully up at the 7 ft level.


  • Safety: 1
  • Dining: .25 (breakfast only)
  • Bar: 0
  • Internet: 1
  • Wireless in Common Areas: 1
  • Work Space, Power: 1
  • Shower: 1
  • Air Conditioning, Bed: .5 (bed OK, AC loud)
  • Common Areas: 1
Total: 6.75

Last Visit: June 2010 ($130)

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Restaurant: Shinbashi, New York City

Restaurant: Shinbashi Japanese Cuisine
Web Site:
Address: 7 East 48th St., New York, NY 10017
Phone: 212.813.1009

A high end Japanese restaurant in mid-town Manhattan.

We were directed here from the concierge at the hotel we were staying - it was only a two or three block walk from the hotel and we're both sushi fans. The interior was very stylish; street front space set back a little from the sidewalk with a high ceiling and large windows facing the street. A large sushi bar runs along the side, and the interior was all cool green - a very natural, clean, and modern look. Service was top notch and they helped us navigate the menu which was not very "americanized".

We had an assortment of sushi and it was all very good. Dessert was unusual - green tea ice cream. Not very sweet but an intense flavor of green tea. Not what I expected but I enjoyed it immensely and it complemented the meal perfectly.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Airports: Minneapolis/St. Paul International

Airport Name: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Location: Bloomington, MN USA
Airport Web Site:

I used to spend a lot of time going through MSP. I worked a lot in the twin-cities area and other parts of Minnesota, and this is the main airport for the state. While it is brutally cold there in the winter (in my relative opinion), the area is filled with interesting places to go and populated with people that are very nice and fun to interact with.

So, my opinion of MSP has a lot of history to it. I remember the airport as a somewhat small "H" that was nice and easy to get around in, through the current state as an extremely large "H" with islands connected through underground passages and automated little trains and a gigantic parking garage that dominates the architecture. The central area behind security is a little shopping and eating area, but you may go through the airport without ever touching the central area, particularly if you are connecting flights.

There are extremely long corridors with motorized sidewalks to make things go faster, and certain points where you can step into a little train. I recently went through here and went through sections that I had never been through before. Very pleased with the signs, passages, and places to grab some food. Lots of people, but didn't really feel crowded. The only complaint was the blockages from people standing on the belts as you try to walk by (which is hardly unique to this airport - all are complicated with the friction between those in a hurry and those that are not).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Restaurant: Iron Horse Inn, Strasburg PA

Restaurant: Iron Horse Inn
Web Site:
Address: 135 East Main Street, Strasburg, PA 17579
Phone: (717) 687-6362

A little inn on the main street in a historic little town near Lancaster.

We enjoyed the cooking, the owner was personally involved in the serving going on in the dining room, and the service was very good and attentive. They had a variety of food, a lot of beef dishes, we had mostly fish including some specials on the menu.

The building is old and charming, decorated with local art work. The only complain was that it was unusually noisy - it was difficult to have a conversation at times.

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Saturday, June 05, 2010

Hotel: Rochester Marriott Mayo Clinic Area

City: Rochester, Minnesota
Chain: Marriott
Property: Rochester Marriott Mayo Clinic Area
Address: 101 First Avenue SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55902
Phone Number:507-280-6000

Check Out: June 2010

Right in the middle of town, a block from the main Mayo Clinic building.

Full service restaurant, full bar, although not a lot of space for this. There are a number of places to shop and eat right across the street at a variety of price points. A large Barnes & Nobel across the street in an old movie theater as well.

The staff was super nice all the way around, which you expect because the people from Minnesota are super nice because that's the way they are up there. Rooms were pretty large and in good shape, no hassles getting there or getting in and out.

The building is connected to many other buildings through both overhead pedestrian bridges (enclosed) and underground hallways with shopping, coffee shops, etc.

Exercise space, including an enclosed pool and patio area (small), and typical hotel equipment (lots of treadmills and bikes, full set of dumbbells, Life Cycle weight/pulley system (a nice one), and a few leg machines. A little better than average.


  • Safety: 1
  • Dining: 1
  • Bar: 1
  • Internet: 1 (free, with Gold Status)
  • Wireless in Common Areas: 1
  • Work Space, Power: 1
  • Shower: 0 (low shower head)
  • Air Conditioning, Bed: 1 (Ditto)
  • Common Areas: 1 (Ditto)
Total: 8

Last Visit: June 2010 ($130)

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Hotel: Sheraton Cerritos, CA

City: Cerritos, California
Chain: Sheraton
Property: Sheraton Cerritos Hotel
Address: 12725 Center Court Drive Cerritos, California 90703
Phone Number: (562) 809-1500

Check Out: June 2010

A fairly nice hotel for me to stay in on business. Full service, bar, restaurant, some kind of fancy internet hangout just off the lobby that was so full of fountains that you could hardly hear anything.

Located in Orange County, so it had the standard issue fountain out front with nicely planted palm trees and other tropical plants. The weather was off-the-hook great (by Washington DC standards) so it was nice to walk around, although like a lot of other southern CA office parks there really wasn’t any place to walk to and it was pretty deserted outside the people in the hotel.

There was an outside pool (not used, larger than many hotel pools), the exercise room had several nice treadmills, a full set of dumbbells up to 50 lb., and a lame Life-Fitness brand dual cable thing that seemed to be built for someone 4 ft, 10 inches in height.

Food was OK, not great. Breakfast buffet in the morning, free for someone with gold status.


  • Safety: 1
  • Dining: 1
  • Bar: 1
  • Internet: 1 (free, with Gold Status)
  • Wireless in Common Areas: 1
  • Work Space, Power: 1
  • Shower: 0 (low shower head)
  • Air Conditioning, Bed: 1 (Ditto)
  • Common Areas: 1 (Ditto)
Total: 8

Last Visit: June 2010 ($150)

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Hotel: Montage Spa, Laguna Beach, CA

City: Laguna Beach, California
Chain: Not a Chain
Address: 30801 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA‎
Phone Number: (949) 715-6000

Check Out: April 2010

A crazy over-the-top nice resort sitting on top of a cliff on the specific ocean in southern California.

I was there for business reasons, and we got there very late at night, so really couldn't tell what it looked like on check-in. But, the next morning my room was sitting on top of a cliff looking out over the ocean. Perfectly manicured lawns, tropical plantings, a million people to help out with service, luxurious well appointed rooms, etc. etc. Of course, also accompanied with 25 dollar breakfasts and other :you get what you pay for" types of things. Not a criticism - in my experience it was worth it - but these types of surroundings don't come cheap.

And, I was there on business so not a lot of time to enjoy it. When not in a meeting, most likely using the laptop to try and stay on top of things. Fortunately, I was there on east coast time so I had a few hours in the morning to be outside with few people around.

There was an exercise room that was very nice, with a lot of treadmills and machines, Precor resistance machines, a full set of dumbbells. Didn't open until 6 AM, but there is a nice path along the cliff and down to the beach, so no need for the treadmills.

Very tropical plans, and types of birds I'm not familiar with that made very interesting noises. The birds were aggressive (not overly) on outside dining. Kind of funny, actually.


  • Safety: 1
  • Dining: 1 (but pricey)
  • Bar: 1 (ditto)
  • Internet: 0 (wi-fi available, but $15 a day.)
  • Wireless in Common Areas: .5 (you have to pay)
  • Work Space, Power: 1
  • Shower: 1 (unbelievably nice, actually)
  • Air Conditioning, Bed: 1 (Ditto)
  • Common Areas: 2 (Ditto)
Total: 8.5

(note, my scoring system gives a severe penalty for paid for Internet. If you don't care about this, the place is a 10).

Last Visit: April 2010 ($350?)

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Restaurant: Bella Bacino's, Chicago

Restaurant: Bella Bacino's
Web Site:
Address: 75 East Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: 312.263.2350

An Italian restaurant on Wacker Drive across the street from the river in downtown Chicago.

We ate there twice. One night with a colleague, the next night with a larger group. It seemed weird to eat in the same place twice in downtown Chicago where there are so many great places to eat. But, the larger group was looking for a suggestion, and we knew there were other things on the menu we wanted to try, so why not? It was a nice 6 block or so walk from our hotel, on a nice November evening.

They make little pizzas that were great, had a number of nice wines, and everyone liked all the dishes that filled the tables over two nights. Really nice service, also.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Just a little test of posting from my phone...

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Restaurant: Charlie Palmers Costa Mesa

Restaurant: Charlie Palmers at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza
Web Site:
Address: 3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa CA 92626
Phone: 714.352.2525

Neo-American Steak House attacked to a shopping mall in Orange County. Very high ceilings, very stylish staff and service. This is not a Ruth's Chris Steak House, this is a steak house in southern California that paid a lot of money for decorating.

Food was very good, and there was a real wine steward to navigate the list (with a very positive outcome). I like the giant wall of wine bottles arranged in a way that is more like a decoration than a convenient way to house a lot of wine.

Excellent joint!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hotel: Marriott Norwalk (CA)

City: Norwalk, California
Chain: Marriott
Property: Marriott Norwalk
Address: 13111 Sycamore Drive, Norwalk, California 90650
Phone Number: 562-863-5555

Check Out: Febrary 2010

A full service Marriott conveniently off I-605 south of LA in the town of Norwalk. Full bar and restaurant, outdoor pool, business center, etc. Mostly a business travelers' hotel, not really near any of the attractions you might associate with the LA area. But, the hotel was clean, seemed recently remodeled so not beat up, and the staff was uniformly courteous and attentive in all my interaction.

Had an exercise room, although pretty small with two treadmills and two universal type weight machines. You can run outside, the parking lot has a "road" around it where you can stay on the property. Outside pool in a little courtyard. Food and bar were good, though. Would stay again, but not on vacation.


  • Safety: 1 (not the best neighborhood, but an isolated property)
  • Dining: 1
  • Bar: 1
  • Internet: 1
  • Wireless in Common Areas: .5 (you have to pay)
  • Work Space, Power: 1
  • Shower: 1
  • Air Conditioning, Bed: .5 (good bed, weak AC)
  • Common Areas: 1
Total: 8

Last Visit: February 2010 ($149)

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Restaurant: Sonoma Grill, Norwalk, CA

Restaurant: Sonoma Grill
Web Site:
Address: 13111 Sycamore Drive, Norwalk, CA
Phone: (562) 863-5555

Had three meals or so while I stayed in the Norwalk Marriott for a few days.

A typical restaurant for a Marriott, in a vaguely corporate branded way. Kind of like a wine bar place, but not a lot of display of wine except for a few cases near the outside door.

The food was a mix; some burgers, some pizza, some salads, some fish and pasta dishes. Between some colleagues and multiple meals there was a small pizza, salads, tortilla soup, grilled vegtables with bow tie pasta and pesto sauce, filet mignon, seared tuna steak, grilled salmon with asparagus. All were good.

Breakfast was typical hotel buffet. Staff was very good, although cooking was a little slow for how few people were there.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

IND Round 2

Back out to Indianapolis, meeting different people in the same city. I’ve been there enough that its all familiar except for the new football stadium that sits downtown like an aircraft carrier. The town is filled with excitement about the upcoming NFC championship game, evident in both the signs displayed as well as conversation with the locals.

The flight out had the same cloud cover as last Friday which struck me as odd. Did that weather last all week or is this new weather exactly like the old weather?

The flight home was on another little EMB 135. Maybe the same one, it was the same 4:10 flight on a different day. I had an exit row seat with no one next to me, which is a good as first class, frankly. The only down side is the seats on those little planes don’t have much padding, which gets a little hard after 60 minutes.

I don’t mind the small planes, their seats are usually as spacious as larger planes, which is not exactly an endorsement I realize. They fly smooth enough as well. The only part I hate is getting on and off them because of how far I have to stoop over to walk down the isle.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

IND in One Day

A quick little trip to Indianapolis yesterday. I've been there a number of times, last time commenting on the new airport (which I like a lot). I used to do more one-day trips, but with how much of a hassle air travel has become and the cost of missing a meeting its more overnights now. So, yesterday's one day trip was more unusual than in the past. It makes for a long day, catching am 8:30 flight now means getting to the airport by 7 which means leaving the house by 6.

The January weather yesterday was quite nice, it was in the 40s when I was walking into the airport and the sun was hitting the Washington buildings from the low morning angle which brings out all the texture. I had a window seat on the small Embraer 175 on takeoff on the side of the plane looking over the river, and we stayed straight off the runway long enough to watch the sliding show from low over the water and monuments to high above Wisconsin avenue over Bethesda. Just as Rockville was coming into view the plane banked to the west and we were up through the clouds and the ground then becomes that far away picture with no detail.

Indianapolis was cloudy and rainy the whole day, but it was a nice day and we discovered a new place to eat. A good meeting, then back to the airport.

The flight back was on the tiny Embraer 135, and there was solid cloud cover the whole time. The closing sunlight of the day created fantastic light against the cloud layer, and the whole flight back was a very sureal view of another planet. As we landed my seat was now on the wrong side of the plane facing Virginia, but we headed south of the airport to turn around a head up the river. The fading sunlight and the time of day when all the artificial lighting is turning on below created another beautiful visual experience as all the cars clogged the roads for rush hour and the cities were lighting up with their own nightlife. As the plane backed to the left to head up the river I could see where the Potomac dumps into the Cheasapeake Bay and could see much of the bay off in the horizon stretching up to the north.

As we came up to the runway the pilot had to make a last minute dip to the left to stay aligned which created that unnerving experience of watching the wing lean down to touch the water. This is more typical of the smaller planes, the larger ones have too much inertia for a manuvure like that. We touched down and the airport terminal whizzed by as it only can at DCA where the airport is so small.

The small plane stopped and we had to climb down the stairs to the little bus to take us into the terminal. The little plane was too small to be given a jetway, so there's a parking lot for them away from the terminal. I like getting off the planes like this as you get to stretch your legs on the tarmac and enjoy the smells and sounds of the airport in operation.

Not a bad day, with a good meeting with nice people and two nice little plane rides.


Airports by FAA Sign

  • AEY - Akureyri Airport (Akureyri, Iceland)
  • BWI - Baltimore Washington International (Baltimore, MD)
  • CLT - Charlotte/Douglas International Airport (Charlotte, NC)
  • DAY - Dayton International Airport (Dayton, OH)
  • DCA - Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport (Washington, DC)
  • DFW - Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport (Grapevine, TX)
  • IAD - Washington Dulles International Airport (Herndon, VA)
  • IND - Indianapolis International Airport (Indianapolis, Indiana)
  • KEF - Keflavik Airport (Iceland, International Travel outside Reykjavik)
  • LAX - Los Angeles International (Los Angeles, CA)
  • LGB - Long Beach Airport (Long Beach, CA)
  • MSP - Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (Bloomington, MN)
  • PDX - Portland International Airport (Portland, Oregon)
  • PWM - Portland International Jetport (Portland, Maine)
  • RKV - Reykjavik Airport (Reykjavik, Iceland)
  • SNA - Orange County/John Wayne Airport (Santa Ana, CA)
  • TPA - Tampa International Airport (Tampa, Florida)

Restaurant: Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant

Restaurant: Tersiguel's French Country Restaurant
Web Site:
Address: 8293 Main Street, Ellicott City, MD 21043
Phone: 410-465-4004

Very French, very nice restaurant in the historic Ellicott City downtown in an old building. Part of their charm is their use of produce grown on their own farm, and maintaining high quality traditional French service and cooking.

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