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Best of 2004 

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The Best of the North Bay 2004

Writer's Choice

Best Rejected Bachelor
Until a few months ago, Todd Hedrick of San Francisco was mainly known in the North Bay as the affable owner of Santa Rosa's Third Street Aleworks. Not a bad role to play. Then Hedrick was cast as one of 25 bachelor studs, all vying for the heart and ceremonial roses of Meredith, the sweet but deadly man-hunting star of the recent season of The Bachelorette. Now Hedrick's got an additional role: the guy who should have won but didn't. According to his tongue-in-cheek website (, he signed on to the show for the fun of it, and he did seem to be having fun, proving to be funny, sensitive and classy, right up till the moment he was rudely deselected from the running in the season's third episode. Even then he took the defeat with grace and good humor. Still, what was Meredith thinking? She picked Lanny the childish cowboy over Todd? This after Todd had whipped Lanny's grimacing butt in a rowdy cow-roping challenge and did so while wearing a really ugly shirt. Meredith--the kind of person who says, "Oh, it's not about you, it's about me"--evidently didn't realize how popular Hedrick had become to the viewing public, who suddenly saw, upon his departure, that Meredith was little more than a shallow, waffling basket case with good teeth. She rejected substance for height and stupidity. Her loss. So don't feel bad, Todd. You're better off without the big M. The right lady is still out there somewhere. But don't take any chances--lose the shirt.--D.T.

Best Place to Stare Madly Into Each Other's Eyes
Looking for a place where your date can appreciate the mouthwash you took pains to use? Sooze, a diminutive little wine bar and restaurant provides the atmosphere, the vino and the tight quarters just right for putting on the moves, be they of a permanent nature or more, shall we say, ephemeral. Like its quarters, Sooze's menu is petite, but not on the palate, with pizzas and salads you won't find at Dominoes, for starters. And for once, the art on the walls is the kind you would ponder actually buying. And even though you can hear your neighbors whispering suggestively nearby, consider it . . . well . . . foreplay, for whatever event is next on your plate. 6 Petaluma Blvd. N., Ste. A5 (in the Great Petaluma Mill building), Petaluma. 707.762.3743.--J.R.

Best of 2004 Categories
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]
Food & Drink
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]
[ Writer's Choice | Readers' Choice ]

Best High-Visibility Place in Which to Disappear
Healdsburg isn't exactly an anonymous place. People come to the square to see and be seen, ducking in and out of boutiques and specialty stores with debt-inducing abandon. But on a dismal weekend, when the rain won't let up and the dishes are piling in the sink, Healdsburg--specifically the Duchamp Hotel--is a secret getaway. In winter the rates don't exactly plummet, but a little mini villa in an otherwise deserted hotel where you and a loved one can sink into a decadently fluffy bed could just be worth a little credit-card abuse. Starkly modern (the more expensive mini villas are named after such artists as Man Ray and Andy Warhol, and decorated in their style), the hotel manages to be warm and welcoming--they'll even warm up the hot tub for you and only you. And, if it suits you, the shops of Healdsburg need not tempt you, if the hot tub stays warm and the bed stays fluffed. 421 Foss St., Healdsburg. Winter rates from $275 per night. 707.431.1300.--D.B.

Best Place to Go Shopping for Wedding Rings
Let's say you're getting married, and let's say you've decided your wedding rings should be one-of-a-kind, custom-made to suit the peculiar tendencies of you and your intended. On top of that, you're determined to avoid those giant chain jewelry stores and would prefer to take a long, cow-dotted drive, preferably in the vicinity of wineries, on your way to chatting with the jeweler. If so, Eternal Rings in Napa, should do the trick on all counts. Dedicated solely to the design and creation of wedding and engagement rings, the Eternal Rings studio is located out in the pastoral middle of wine country, and has become popular for its ability to take a couple's ideas and desires, and forge them into reality. The Eternal Rings studio is a bit of a drive, but a long trip through gorgeous country is not an unsuitable metaphor for the start of a marriage, is it? 1393 Green Valley Drive, Napa. 707.257.8374.--D.T.

Best Place for Pure Mouth-Feel
Love is in the air at Auberge du Soleil--or perhaps that's just rice being thrown at the latest couple to wed at this posh luxury resort and restaurant nestled in the hills above Rutherford. Translating roughly to "Inn of the Sun," the restaurant at Auberge du Soleil provides a sweeping, panoramic view of the Napa Valley and counts only the French Laundry as a rival when it comes to upscale French-accented cuisine. This is food that makes a difference. Consider the foie gras, for instance. It's doubtful that those opposed to this aphrodisiac delicacy have ever sampled the dish as it's prepared at Auberge du Soleil. Rich and buttery, it literally melts in your mouth, with no discernable texture other than smooth. If this doesn't rejuvenate your relationship, then perhaps it's time to call an attorney--the price is about the same. 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford. 707.963.1211.--R.V.S.

Best Victorian Mansion in Which to Experience Luxurious Sex
The Blue Violet Mansion is a big, comfy, multistoried Queen Anne Victorian surrounded by an exuberant acre of garden. Featured in Bill Gleeson's book More Weekends for Two in Northern California: 50 Romantic Getaways, the Blue Violet is all about romance. The rooms are large, some with two-person showers, and stocked with fluffy designer bathrobes. While the inn is walking distance from shops and restaurants, the place seems to have been designed for those couples who are planning to "stay in for the night," if you know what we mean. By advance arrangement, private candlelit dinners can be served right in your room, and outside, for those who like that sort of thing, there is a pool, a hot tub and a gazebo with a swing. 433 Brown St., Old Town Napa. 800.959.2583.--D.T.

Best Inexpensive (Yet Unforgettable) Spot for a Wedding
The Cushing Memorial Amphitheater in Mill Valley, high atop beautiful, mystical Mt. Tamalpais, is best known as ground zero for the annual Mountain Play, delighting theater-loving heatstroke victims every summer since 1913, give or take a few. Since the plays only run a couple of months, though, it's a shame to waste the spot, since it features eye-bugging views, and the enormous ring of carved-stone theater seats is pretty spectacular, almost mythic to behold. In other words, it's a great place to hold a wedding, and the entire spot can be rented for a very reasonable all-day price (around $100). Of course, it's a bit of a trek from the parking lot, there are no fancy dressing rooms and your caterer, if you choose to hold the reception there, has got to be willing to tackle a logistical challenge. (The Kitchen Magician in San Anselmo has done so before, and in virtuoso style. Call 415.459.3033.) To inquire about renting the amphitheater, call the Pan Toll Ranger Station at 415.388.2070.--D.T.

Best Other Inexpensive (If Unorthodox) Spot for a Wedding
The Marin Headlands Hostel near Rodeo Beach is located in a pair of historic 1907 buildings cuddling up against the pleasant coastal hills and woods near Sausalito. You and your guests can stay there in group-share, bunk-bedded rooms for a mere $18 per person, and if you plan ahead, it is possible to rent the main hall (about 80 people could fit there) for meetings or wedding receptions. The surrounding area, with beaches and rolling scenery everywhere you look, has no shortage of picture-perfect spots to hold the actual ceremony, and if you're looking for the poetry of holding a wedding at a hostel, consider this piece of philosophy, as set down by Hostelling International: "The hostel environment encourages social awareness and the importance of living in a community, plus it develops the kind of self-discipline skills that result from experiencing different situations, having to make individual decisions and learning from them." That might not be sexy, but its application to marriages--and extended families--is pretty much undeniable and kind of inspiring. Building 941, Fort Barry, Sausalito. 415.331.2777.--D.T.

Best Boring Day-Date
While familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt, it does breed having to hear the same delightful joke told by your loved one to friends again. And when different friends arrive, lo!--yet again. It also very nicely breeds a sort of silent aimless pleasure in being together that sometimes manifests itself in lazy unwashed Sundays spent poking around in other people's castoffs. Garage sales have the thrill of the hunt but often require maps and sometimes make even the creamiest lovers a bit tight-lipped. Mrs. Midgely's Country Flea Market, however, is a veritable one-stop cavalcade of other people's castoffs. After the best parts of the paper have been uncreased and more coffee has become unwise, strolling in the Sunday morning ether, holding hands or not, exclaiming over salt shakers divorced from pepper and grown children's toys and rusty old farm equipment suddenly become part of your lover's language. Who wouldn't want those glass jars stamped "Hydrochloric Acid"? And why don't we have a saddle for the living room? And wouldn't this doll's head be kind of nicely creepy in the garden and I think this shirt might fit and who would buy that? You might. 2200 Gravenstein Hwy. S., Sebastopol. Weekends only.--G.G.

Best Place to Kiss Under a Full Moon
The night sky is a romantic thing, and few things are more romantic than kissing beneath it, especially when the moon is full and bright and glowing like a . . . full, bright glowing thing. At the Ferguson Observatory, stargazing is always an adventure and is relatively easy to appreciate, what with the observatory's high-powered telescope bringing the entire galaxy within reach. Knowledgeable docents--members of the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association-- will gladly answer your questions about the stars and the moon, and will demurely look away whenever the urge to kiss your lover, spouse or really good friend comes suddenly upon you. Located on Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, east of Santa Rosa on Adobe Canyon Road, off Highway 12. 707.833.6979.

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From the March 17-24, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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