New Year’s Eve. Time to live it up and make a few resolutions. We decided the resolution would be enjoy our wine responsibly and the live it up would be dinner at Mr. Stox and a one-night stay at Hilton Suites Anaheim/Orange. The restaurant’s website said to make a reservation at both and they would shuttle you to and from the restaurant and hotel until 1 a.m. Perfect. We were going to the Ducks game that night, too.
We made reservations and figured we were all set. Just to make sure we confirmed everything but when we called the hotel they told us to confirm with the restaurant that there would be a shuttle, which we did.
That afternoon we checked into the hotel at 3:30. We asked about the shuttle and were again told we had to check with the restaurant. Fine. We were going to be there soon. We met our friends in the lobby and they drove us to the game. Our Ducks beat the Flyers 5-2 and we were ready to party!
We arrived at Mr. Stox an hour early. Miraculously they had a table for us; I wasn’t surprised. I like this restaurant because it has a great wine list, good food and good hospitality. We had a wonderful dinner and had brought a Paso Robles wine, a GSM blend that’s a Parker 90-pointer from Alta Colina Winery—we’d been saving it for a special occasion.
After dinner we said goodbye to our friends who headed off to another celebration. We stayed behind, found a spot in the bar and ordered a Merry Edwards sauvignon blanc, above, from Mr. Stox’s legendary wine list. If you’ve never tried it, treat yourself sometime. It’s not grassy or minerally. It’s creamy, with honey and citrus flavors. It comes in a bottle with a gorgeous label so it would make an ideal gift.
By this time it was 10:30 or so and the party was in full swing with deejay dancing. Even chef Raczek had ditched his white coat and was cuttin’ a rug. What was he drinking? My husband and I took turns spying on his table each time he got up to dance. Yeah, this is what two seasoned reporters—he writes the Register’s Booze on a Budget blog—do on their night off, how sad is that? First bottle: DuMol Chardonnay, Russian River. Second bottle: a magnum of Robert Craig Cabernet, Mount Veeder. Way to go chef, good taste!
We danced, chatted with some folks, had a sparkling wine toast with a split of Chandon and shortly after midnight (12:15 a.m.) we were ready to leave. We walk outside and the valet points to a sleek black Porsche Carrera and tells my husband, ‘Sir I have your car right here, do you have your ticket?” Mistaken identity. “No,” we said. “We’re getting the shuttle.” But we don’t see it. We ask the valet. He points to a limo at the end of the row. We ask the limo driver. Nope, he’s not going to the hotel.
We go back inside and ask the hostess. She says go back outside and if it doesn’t arrive come back to her. We wait 15 minutes. No shuttle. We go back to her. She calls the hotel. No answer. She says a cab will take us. We ask the cab driver about the shuttle deal. He says,”What deal?” and wants cash. Wait. Whut??
At this point my husband wants to forget it all. It is one of the coldest nights of 2010, about 40 degrees, and the cab is only $4 he tells me. That’s not the point, I say. He also reminds me that we could walk from there. I say that is not the point either.
I go back to the hostess stand. She calls the hotel again. But again there is no answer. I decide to hover. She seems nervous, annoyed, and powerless. I’m ready to lose it but I don’t raise my voice and I’m not demanding to see a manager, she’s not calling one either.
Why doesn’t anyone know anything? I am spending $129 plus for a hotel room. I have spent $93 on dinner, plus a $50 deposit, plus $75 in the bar. Still, here I am, stranded on New Year’s Eve, supposedly one of the most special nights of the year. At one point I tell her, “Give me four loaves of bread and I will disappear.” Yeah, that was wrong. But have you ever tasted their bread? Wild rice and thyme, beet, honey wheat with sunflower seeds, it would have been a perfect bribe/consolation prize. I’m upset and I really want them to help.
Finally one of the valets takes pity on us and another couple in the same situation. He drives us to the hotel in his car. The other couple says that the hotel shuttle stopped at 11 p.m. and some guests were given taxi vouchers. So perhaps that was our glitch. We might have gotten vouchers if we had taken a ride to the restaurant.
Whatever. The next morning at hotel checkout time we get the runaround. They tell us it’s our fault because we didn’t reserve online properly. Lame response. Even if my reservation wasn’t tagged as a guest who needed to catch the shuttle, someone should have flagged it and called the restaurant or asked a manager at the hotel when I inquired about it on check-in rather than telling me to talk to the restaurant which was tantamount to blowing me off.
Actually we did get the royal blowoff from the hotel. They still charged us $25 for parking—they billed us for self-parking ($11) and valet parking ($14) for a single night’s stay—made a single half-hearted apology after 15 minutes of conversation, took $30 off our bill for the breakfast included that we told them we were not going to eat. So really, they didn’t take care of anything and showed us very little hospitality. OK so there was a fatal stabbing outside another Hilton in Costa Mesa the night of our stay. Maybe it wasn’t their best morning after. Still. If people are getting stabbed in your hotel chain in south county dontcha think you should keep guests as happy as possible in north county?
We rolled over to Tortilla Jo’s in Downtown Disney for brunch. We were supposed to be at ESPN Zone watching the Winter Classic but it was delayed because of rain so we decided on tacos and tequila instead. As we sipped our margaritas we wondered what we did wrong. “Maybe we should have stolen that Porsche,” I said. “Maybe it’s just too hard to do the right thing,” my husband said, adding that after our hour and a half wait in the freezing Mr. Stox parking lot he was sober as a judge. So why did we blow all that extra dough?
Peace of mind. Which we didn’t get. In short that is the last time I will be so trusting of a package deal. Especially on a holiday night. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I’m kinda jinxed when it comes to limos. It’s like the time I ordered one in wine country and the guy did not know his way around and I ended up firing him. He was relieved rather than mad because he really wasn’t trained for the job.
Next time I’m going to go with a designated driver. A friend. I’ll give that person a wonderful bottle to drink later or an offer of dinner at a great restaurant or maybe even the best of all, an offer to be his or her designated driver on another special occasion.
I’m still sticking with my pledge to enjoy my wine responsibly this year and everyone should. I’m just going to be a lot more cynical and a lot more careful about it next time.—Anne Valdespino