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The Bohemian's Best of the North Bay 2005
Photo of Meredith Jager and Annika Arreguin by Pablo C. Leites
Best Place to Leave Your Bra
There's something so beautiful about love. That first kiss. The first time you profess your feelings to one another. The first time you let him staple your bra to the ceiling of a bar. You can't help but love the big lug as he pretends the cups are a hat, then poses for pictures with your now-hanging brassiere. What a gentleman. Just about the only place in Penngrove open past 5pm, the Black Cat is a veritable feast for the eyes of breast-worshiping boys and girls with a buffet of foundation garments in every imaginable shape, color and size hanging from the rafters. But single boys looking for a little action take note: the ladies here don't generally take kindly to assholes or looky-loos. There's a definite girl-power vibe here, with lots of alterna-chicks who've found a safe haven at the Cat. So be on your good behavior while you gawk. Black Cat Bar, 10056 Main St., Penngrove. 707.793.9480.--H.I.
Photograph by Pablo C. Leites
Least Likely Romantic Lunch Spot
The warm rustling of the creek sets a soothing mood as long-necked birds leap fluttering from tree to tree. Hanging vines dangle over the water and lush ivy surrounds you. Your lover is beautiful, and she will be even more so as the sun dances across her face on the quiet patio. Love, truly, is in the air, but you won't find this elegant locale listed in any Zagat survey--it's the cafeteria at Memorial Hospital. No snooty waiters, no discernable dress code (aside from optional blue scrubs), and at $3.25, it's got the cheapest gardenburger in town. Tip: to avoid that pesky "hospital smell," strolling arm in arm over the grass around the north side of the building to the al fresco tables is recommended. Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, 1165 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa. 707.546.3210.--G.M.
Photograph by Pablo C. Leites
Best place for Outdoor Mating
Clear skies overhead. Check. Comfortable seating. Check. Lattes in hand. Check. OK, knight to king's bishop six. Check. Yes, the newly installed outdoor 3-D chess set at Cafe des Croissants is the ideal venue for a friendly game. Just be prepared to heft the cast chessmen--pawns stand about a foot tall, and they go up from there. And while waiting for your opponent's next move, you can contemplate the ways in which chess is like romance. Here are five for starters: (1) a good opening is critical to later success; (2) it's always a good idea to think ahead; (3) some moves are more successful than others; (4) a sacrifice works when you know what it will bring in return; and (5) a quick mating is only good for one of you. Cafe des Croissants, 2444 Lomitas Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.544.6710.--B.R.
Best Place to Be Large and Lovely
Lingerie is such a fickle friend. Part of us loves the lace and corsetry that flatters the figure and makes lovers foam at the mouth. Part of us wants to rip the damn butt floss off our tender rears and strangle the idiot who invented thigh-highs--especially the curvier ladies among us. Big girls rejoice! Voluptuous is a tiny closet of a store specializing in lingerie and undies for women sized 14 and up. Run by a mom who sometimes has her infant son in tow, the store is relaxed and funky with a comfy chair for your admirer(s). If you can't find the latex skirt or peekaboo panties you like, there are plenty of catalogues for special orders. (Plus they keep your honey entertained while you're changing). Look inside the dresser for adult toys and other sexy pleasures. Voluptuous, 401 E St., Santa Rosa. 707.542.2564.--H.I.
Best Fringe Benefit to Vineyard Weddings
The open bar, the quiet surroundings, the people walking around with trays of free crab cakes . . . There are a number of reasons why getting invited to a vineyard wedding is pretty alluring. But an overlooked asset to the fancy vineyard wedding is the vineyard itself. While everyone else is in the reception hall dancing to the Village People, grab your sweetheart and walk under a full moon to the seclusion of the grapevines. Vineyards also provide ample cover for the time-honored tradition of taking naked pictures of all of your friends with the plastic disposable cameras provided at every table. Plus, when you keep making quick trips to the vineyards with a different girl each time, the caterers will think you're the man. Tip: Make sure the disposable cameras don't get developed during the honeymoon by the bride's mom.--G.M.
Best Place to Get a Buzz
You haven't seen this many blushes since your last Mary Kay party. Armed with a suitcase of vibrating, tickling and tantalizing treasures, a host of ladies from around the North Bay want to make your sex life their business. Pleasure parties are the new Tupperware parties. Forget pressing, squeezing and burping your plastic; this party is all about, well, other sorts of pressing and squeezing (no burping, please). Whether you're in the market to improve your marriage or just improve your relationship with yourself, these parties take the stigma out of adult toys and make the whole thing fun. Or at least funny. Just be ready to pull out the plastic and stock up on the AA batteries. Word on the street is that after three or four Cosmos, things get wild and you'll likely wake up in the morning next to something soft, battery-operated and wiggly (that isn't your partner). Tiger Lily's Pleasure Parties, 866.444.LILY. www.tlpleasures.com.--H.I.
Best Ticket Out of the Doghouse
I have a confession to make: Flowers have never really worked for me. During the course of several tumultuous relationships, I've attempted to assuage a loved one with a fresh bouquet, only to find any positive effects to be short-lived. Then last year, during yet another prolonged stay in the doghouse, I called upon Cloverdale Florist and Gifts, owned and operated by Bob and Liz Padilla, who promptly sent a selection of tightly bundled flowers in a chic designer vase to my offended paramour. Eureka! For some reason, it worked--and kept right on working for the next two weeks and beyond. In fact, the effects were so astounding, I was forced to inquire as to the Padilla's secret. "It's because they last," Liz informs, adding that proper handling, cutting and refrigeration are necessary to ensure any stem's longevity. Then she nailed my previous negative experiences with flowers right on the head. "People don't realize when you buy flowers at a grocery store, they're going to die in two days." How could I have been so stupid? Oh, right--I'm a dude. Anyway, what makes the Padilla's floral creations all the more remarkable is the fact that they've barely been in business a year, both having recently escaped professional gigs in the Bay Area tech sector. So far, their business appears to be as hearty as their floral arrangements, and that's saying something in a town where several previous florists have wilted on the vine. Cloverdale Florist and Gifts, 227 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale. 707.894.9885.--R.V.S.
Best 10pm Dash for a Last-Minute Gift
There is a special place in hell for anyone who's forgotten an anniversary. Or a birthday. Or failed to notice a fantastic new hairdo. You know who you are, you insensitive turds. Yet we love you anyway, thoughtlessness and all. Let me just ask, though: Would it really kill you to bring a girl some flowers once in a while? Nothing elaborate, nothing too expensive. Just a sweet little bouquet, and maybe some chocolates. And that magazine I like. And a nice bottle of wine. Oh, and maybe a teddy bear. Do I care that it's after 9pm? Nope. If you have any hope of getting laid tonight, you'll figure it out. Safeway, 2300 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.569.3100.--H.I.
Best Leg Action, baby
Stop wandering around grocery stores and bars looking for Mr. Right. He's at an indoor soccer field near you. Better yet, the man is in shorts! The best place to find hot men (and athletic women) are the adult leagues at Sports City. Mostly toned and athletic, there are all-women's, all-men's, over-30 and even co-ed leagues for those looking to mingle in the fake grass. Action on the field is hot and heavy, with a good possibility of grabbing a beer afterwards. Keep an eye out for rings, though, as you'll also find a few married folks out there. But, hey, they've got single friends, right? Sports City, 921 Piner Road, Santa Rosa. 707.526.1320.--H.I.
Best neurotic salve in Most Neurotic Town
It still boggles my mind that, in the Henry Rollins era, punkers Black Flag once began their national tour in Guerneville. But the town lends itself to that sort of thing, and it also contains the stately and ultra-relaxing Santa Nella House Bed and Breakfast. Built by a winemaking physician in the 1870s, the Santa Nella has been beautifully maintained. A wraparound porch patrolled by three fluffy, friendly cats makes for a lovely place to read, sip some Australian port from the parlor or scan the neighboring woods for Bigfoot. Free-range chickens cluck in the back and provide for scrumptious egg breakfasts (a house specialty). Innkeepers Christina and Frances Raney are kind, intelligent souls who will make you feel at home and show you how to operate Santa Nella's finest feature: a hot tub that, with a little wine and a night sky full of stars, will melt away all the stress and neurosis of postmodern life. The Russian River's nearby, as are the dark wonders of Guerneville. Santa Nella House Bed and Breakfast, 12130 Hwy. 116, Guerneville. Overnight stays range from $149Ð$179 and include a wine greeting, breakfast, homemade desserts and other pleasures. 707.869.9488.--M.P.
Best Romantic Inn (If You Don't Mind Sharing the Room with a Ghost)
Her name was Emily Etta Stevens Pullen, the fourth daughter of a farmer named Isaiah Stevens, who built a farmhouse in 1867 on a piece of land overlooking the rocky coast of Mendocino. Etta, as the smart young girl was known to friends and family, was a dedicated diarist, making entries in an expanding series of notebooks nearly every day of her life, beginning as a teen. Married in the living room of her father's farmhouse in 1873, she and her husband moved away for 40 years. But after her father's death, Etta returned home in 1913 and lived there until she died of natural causes in 1937. Her sprawling old farmhouse is now a popular bed and breakfast called the Glendeven Inn, and if you believe what numerous guests have reported, Emily Etta Stevens Pullen still lives there, some 68 years later. Yes, the Glendeven Inn is a haunted hotel, though during a two-night stay last spring in Etta's Suite--that's right, it was Etta's own bedroom!--no apparitions of any kind appeared. Oh well, maybe next time. The only appearances Etta made that weekend were those in her diaries, dating from 1864 to 1935, all of which have been transcribed and clipped into notebooks, neatly lined up on the bookshelf for guests to peruse at leisure. The Glendeven Inn, whose proprietors ask to be called simply Sharon and Higgins, serves one of the best breakfasts in Northern California (delivered to your door at the hour you request), and features gorgeous grounds, an on-site art gallery, a nightly winetasting in the downstairs parlor and--from Etta's Suite, anyway--stunning views of the surrounding hills and coastline. It's easy to see why Etta loved the place. For those nervous Nellies who feel that a ghost in the room would dampen the heat of romance, the inn has several other rooms and suites, each of which comes with its own list of amenities, but no cheerful spirits, aside form those you bring with you. Glendeven Inn, 8205 North Hwy. 1, Little River. 707.937.0083.--D.T.
Best Produce Department for Smooching
Nothing brings out the romantic in me like abundant harvests of bright, organic produce. I thrive on whole beans, sautéed kale and concoctions involving carrots, ginger and spirulina. When I found a man who not only eats the same way, wasn't a total freak and was actually thrilled that I shared his counterculture diet, I knew I'd landed a winner. He lives near Good Earth Natural Foods, the best health-food store ever. The first thing to be seen when walking through Good Earth's front door are piles of bright grapefruits and squash, and it moves us to such heights of emotion that we really do spend a substantial amount of time smooching in healthy glory, right there between the corn and the coconuts. Good Earth, 1966 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Fairfax. 415.454.0123.--E.L.
Best Place to Kiss in the Rain
Even the name is romantic. Heart's Desire Beach at Tomales Bay State Park near Inverness is a picture-perfect wedge of Marin County. Trails extend along the cozy beach cove, as well as up among the gorgeous woods, where, when it rains, the pattering of all those little drops on all those big, bouncy leaves creates a kind of chaotic percussive theater. Once the trail ends and deposits you either back on Hearts Desire Beach or the very nearby and equally pretty Indian Beach, the gently lapping water of the bay is breathtaking. Hearts Desire in the rain is a great place to allow sea lions to have some sloppy fun with kissing couples, since the slippery critters seem to enjoy making faces and shouting rude seal-tongue comments from the rain-pelted surf. And they think we look funny. Pierce Point Road, Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Open dawn to dusk. $5 fee per vehicle. 415.669.1140.--D.T.
Best Place Where Everything Is New Again
Sienna Antiques Collective in downtown Petaluma has more on display than just old furniture and peculiar artifacts from the fading mists of distant history. The sprawling, multifaceted antique emporium in downtown Petaluma also carries beautiful old jewelry--and lots of it. This is good, because, as Elizabeth Taylor herself (or was it Madonna?) once said, jewelry is just another word for love. To that end, an ever growing number of daring newlyweds are discovering that, when looking for something new and different in a wedding-ring set, it's a good idea to consider something old. While we will always support the notion of having your rings custom-made by one of our many fine North Bay jewelry artists, we suggest that if you are not sure what you want, there are surprises and treasures and really cool, weird things waiting to be discovered at an antique jewelry dealer. Most of the store's constantly revolving stock comes from estate sales, and much of the finger-wear received is strange and unusual. Speaking of strange and unusual, while visiting Sienna, climb to the third floor, where the Gothic Rose features a mansion's worth of oddities, from Victorian candelabras to coffins to, um, medical curiosities--the kind of stuff that makes Anne Rice fans swoon. And yes, they have jewelry, too. The Sienna Antiques Collective, 119 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. 707.763.6088. The Gothic Rose, third floor. 707.778.7888.--D.T.
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From the March 23-29, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.