Autumn road trips. The colors turning. The air crisp. The roadside scenery. The struggling mom and pop diners in the middle of nowhere dotting the highway serving roadhouse food that so many have copied, financed and turned into chains. The abundance of trans fat drenched junk food along the way.
I decided a few weeks ago to cancel my yearly trip to New England and head north to Seattle and the great northwest once Homeland Security made the decision a bottle of water was a travel hazard. A car was a comfortable means of transport.
The Sonoma Diet, that great book authored by Connie Gutterson which is my new culinary bible and the reason I got better gas mileage being 40 pounds lighter does not fair well on the highway. It was tough to find any sautéed zucchini or brown rice in any local drive through. (However, if New Yorker Heather Ahn has her way, this could change soon as she is working on a fresh, healthy food drive-through concept.).
But there was an oasis on the side of the highway just outside of Portland that tugged on my heartstrings. It happened at Stanford´s, that Portland mini-chain that has about ten restaurants in its group, according to the manager, Mark Garcia. The eatery proved to be a traveler´s dream.
Many items on the Stanford´s menu are "made from scratch." And, the chain does a decent job with presentation and ingredient. The service is exceptional. But, on this particular late night Saturday evening, after a long day on the road, nothing was more inviting than the accessory tray that graced the counter in the men´s room. Personal hygiene condiments in a tray, inviting fragrant experimentation.
There they were; Lilac Vegetal, a large bottle of mouthwash, a few mini skyscrapers of paper drinking cups, hair tonic, and a few other bottles of male necessity if you care to attract an occasional, "Ahhh, I feel better" from a customer.
Now Stanford´s certainly didn´t invent the men´s room welcome tray. It is a mainstay at "21" in New York as the valet would assist with towels, lint, and aroma. The Plaza Hotel had the washroom attendant on duty before its condominium demise. And, many clubs still boast the fragrant selection on the men´s room counter.
Phil Robert´s designed Buca di Beppo´s men´s room around the barbershop counter. Complete with a jar of disinfectant filled with combs, Buca has a tray that rivals any.
I´ve used them in the past in various properties. They attract comments, customers, and men who show their wives the selection of after shave and other toiletries.
The trick here is to use the most reasonably priced after shave and cologne. Lilac Vegetal is an old standard that is difficult to find. According to Garcia, the owner of Stanford´s orders it by the case. I used the local drug store as my men´s room cologne stop. Old Spice, Jade East, and let´s not forget English Leather were all staples on my bathroom countertop. If nothing else they brought back the memory of high school gym class when every stud has a bottle of the green, amber or ship laden liquid in their lockers.
And, while you are at it don´t forget the women´s room. According to Kranston, Stanford´s had hand cream, a lint brush, and a bottle of two of fragrance to freshen up the night.
Take a look at your bathroom facilities. That extra touch goes a long way. Think of it as a garnish"?¦for those who spent the day on the road.