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 Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch

martin ‘DEAR DOUBTING THOMAS…’

BY MARTIN B. DEUTSCH

February 1, 1988 -- Our society is seriously into verification these days. We’re on a kick: nothing is what it seems, no one is who they say they are. I may be exaggerating—somewhat. But from Watergate to the Iran-Contra scandal, from insider trading and other business swindles to pervasive political corruption at ever conceivable level, we’ve been turned into a nation of skeptics, if not cynics. Doubt is it, trust is out.

This obsession with credibility, with confirmation, doesn’t even stop with the things that really count. It extends into every nook and cranny. Even my credentials as a frequent flyer are subject to challenge, as are my qualifications to comment on travel and aviation. I recently received a letter in which the write took issue with my bone fides vis-à-vis service levels in coach or economy flights.

The sad truth is that while I prefer to fly in first or business class, I frequently frequent the main cabin, as it is euphemistically called, and I’m often wedged in back there on sold-out flights. This coach-class habit occurs most often on domestic routes, where you can’t buy a first-class seat on high-density routes at the last minute, even if you want to. The bonus mileage upgrades have propelled many first-class sections into the ranks of a scarce commodity, if not an endangered species. Like on nonstop flight coast to coast.

Anyway, to silence any further criticism of my frequent flyer credentials, here is a summary of the flight I took between mid-September and mid-December last year. On about two-thirds of those flights I was seated in the main cabin.

September 21, New York-Atlanta, return September 24: Delta. September 26, New York-Chicago-Los Angeles: United. September 28, Los Angeles-San Francisco: United. September 30, San Francisco-Seattle: United. October 1, Seattle-Minneapolis: Northwest. October 2, Minneapolis-Las Vegas: Northwest. October 5, Las Vegas-New York: American. (We just missed the big earthquake in L.A.)

October 9, New York-Houston, return October 15: American. October 18, New York-Atlanta: Delta. October 19, Atlanta-Miami: Delta. October 22, Miami-Dallas: American. October 23, Dallas-New York: American.

New York-Washington, roundtrip on November 2: Pan Am Shuttle. New York-Tucson, November 3, return November 6: both TWA. New York-Los Angeles, November 11, return November 16: both American. New York-Los Angeles, December 9; Palm Springs-New York, December 13: both American. I believe I survived that schedule intact, although I’m not sure about my upper respiratory system or my sanity.

From my memory bank, here are some quick takes on hotels and restaurants that caught my fancy as I flew by.

The Atlanta Hilton (downtown), while not deluxe, is an excellent property for the business executives, well-run and pleasant. So is the Wyndham in that city. A good solid Atlanta restaurant, especially for beef, is Trotter’s. L’Hermitage in Beverly Hills retains is appeal, despite some slight slippage. You can’t go wrong dining and entertaining at Jimmy’s, a perennial Los Angeles favorite for continental cuisine. The Huntington Hotel in San Francisco has a wonderful dining room (food, décor, and service); so does the Majestic Hotel. The Union Square Hyatt retains its quality and excellence; the Executive Floors are particularly worthwhile. If you’re motoring south of the Bay Area toward Monterey and Carmel, spend a night at the new Inn at Saratoga; it’s classy and intimate.

The Four Seasons in Seattle is outstanding in every respect; I’m turned on by around-the-clock laundry and dry-cleaning services. A delightful place. The Las Vegas Hilton must be the best-run hotel of its size in the world, with 3,174 rooms. It’s a city within a city and it operates more smoothly than most municipalities. The Intercontinental in Houston is a fine hotel; there’s a low-key quality here that impresses. The Remington and the Inn-on-the-Park (also a Four-Seasons property) are pretty fine, too. I did think Houston’s vaunted Ruth Chris Steak House doesn’t quite make it, especially if you’re used to Brooklyn’s Peter Luger, my personal choice.

The Grand Bay Hotel in Miami is certainly a superior product by any measure, and it stands out particularly in that market. (The new Grand Bay on New York’s Seventh Avenue at 51st Street, like its Miami counterpart, has a distinctly European feel and look. Harry Ciprinani’s new Bellini Restaurant at the New York Grand Bay has the jet set/café society flair, but the food is a far cry from Harry’s Bar in Venice. To be fair, so are most Italian eateries. The New York Grand Bay was once the Taft Hotel, believe it or not.) Back in Florida, the Alexander in Miami Beach has a wonderful gourmet dining room; and the hotel is attractive too.

Dallas has a broad spectrum of fine hotels; this time around I took a real shine to the Crescent Court, although I only had lunch there. This hotel is one of Ms. Carolyne Rose Hunt’s luxurious toys, and it’s for real. Tucson’s Ventana Golf and Racquet Club, on the same site as the very fine Loews Ventana Hotel is a delightful watering hole for small business groups and sports activities. Good for a family vacation, as well. The new Omni in downtown San Diego is lovely, although the lobby leaves much to be desired, and the rough edges on service still have to be ironed out. That may well have happened by the time your read this.

The new Wyndham Hotel in Palm Springs is pleasant and comfortable, with a splendid swimming pool area. And it’s only four minutes from the airport. Finally, try the Lafayette Restaurant at the Drake Hotel on New York’s Park Avenue at 56th Street. A nice addition to Manhattan dining.

This column originally appeared in Frequent Flyer magazine.

Copyright © 1991-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.