Putting on the Ritz

I won a voucher for a night at any Ritz-Carlton resort/hotel in the world at a work function. So as I type we're at Half Moon Bay Resort in a Club Level room. We spent the afternoon at the The Wine Room tasting their Pinot Noir "Wine Flight", four Pinot Noirs from different regions/countries. After that we ordered a Pinot Noir each from the tasting menu and a cheese platter (Tanya had the 1999 Bourgogne and I had the 2004 Martinet).

After we finished we decided to go for a walk along the coast line foot path (past the wedding party releasing butterflies) but the brisk off shore wind encouraged us to head inside. Part of the Club Level room schtick includes access to the 'Club Lounge' so we decided to explore that.

The Club Lounge has five food 'presenations' each day and we could have easily skipped lunch by taking advantage of this. Tanya, being responsible (and with a view to our dinner reservation) had a bottle of water, while I made myself a nice, dry vodka martini. The bar was well stocked and self serve, even including stuffed kalamata olives and pickled onions for the martini crowd.

Tanya served our first course from the lounge; marinated, grilled zuchinni, cornichons, a watermelon, red onion and chive salad, albacore tuna served with black sesame seeds on bean sprouts with a (I think) vinagrette dressing.

After we demolished that I decided to explore the culinary landscape and found, to my delight, that cheese was well represented. I stacked our plate with Camembert (with dried cranberries), another soft, runny cheese (served with currants), a firm blue (served with whole pecans), some almost crystaline, aged cheddar and a firm Swiss style cheese (served with roasted almonds). Add some spiced Lavosh, a bit of pita and some toasted ciabatta to munch and more cornichons and marinated zuchini to compliment the cheese and your good as gold.

The lounge also made available a Malbec and a Sonoma Methode Champenoise, which we didn't avail ourselves of. There was also a tea and coffee area (with the stereotypical American-style coffee swill served from an urn) which featured several desert themed attractions. I wasn't able to resist the chocolate pistachio biscotti as we were leaving.

We have a dinner reservation at Navio for dinner, which I'm looking forward to with almost childish zeal. We chatted at length with the staff at the Wine bar and they've assured us they'll be open after dinner to indulge us in a tasting of the 'Port Flight'.

I could get used to this.

Our stay started off with a stressful interaction with the bellhop. He was effusively helpful, repeatedly asking if there was anything more he could do. I knew this was our cue to tip him, as I'd seen it in movies (so it must be true). However we simply didn't know what the expected tip would be. After a bit of sleight of hand (I didn't have any cash, but luckily Tanya did) I managed to tip him $5 and he left.

Stress ensued. I got my laptop hooked upto the 'High speed Internet' and we searched for tips on tipping bellhops. If our thorough (one page) research is anything to go by we tipped him 'adequately' for the amount of bags he had to move. Unfortunately we did neglect to tip the guy who got them out of the car.
The whole gratuity scene is still a complex, foreign custom fraught with ambiguity and danger for us. I feel like an impostor at a Free Mason's meeting when I try and tip someone. At any moment someone is going to scream "He's not one of us" and I'm going to be escorted by big, burly men, with no sense of humour, to a dark alley where the "secret handshake" takes on a whole new meaning.