We left Kachina and started off to the last vineyard--we had only been on the bus for a minute or so when we approached a busy stretch of road that we had seen earlier. Both sides of the street were lined with cars parked out front of a really bustling bar. If you only glanced, you would think it was just a house with a giant porch and tons of people hanging off of it. Fred goes, "Oh, here's that bar again. Man, I wanna go in there," and before we knew what was happening our tour guide was pulling off to the curb and going, "Well then, I guess we should go in!" Fred roars, "YES!!!!" and off we went to the bar.
|The Bar at the Dry Creek General Store--it's pretty hard to miss if you're out looking for it.|
|Ok, I just noticed the "peein off the porch sign." See? You can't take it all in. (Also, I hear Kevin from You've Got Mail saying, " ... peein off the roof!" in my head.)|
|See the cherry blossoms? We're supposed to get more ice in Philly tomorrow, followed by more snow ... [insert anguished emoji]|
We stayed here for about a half hour. The place was crowded, and that doesn't count all the people next door at the General Store. You can get all kinds of food at the General Store or buy a bunch of picnic stuff to take with you to a vineyard--it reminded me of the Oakville Grocery in St. Helena. (Apparently, Oakville has a location in Healdsburg too--didn't know that.)
On our way back to the bus, some creepy old guy on the porch sees my camera on my shoulder and starts with the whole, "Hey, honey, take my picture" routine. I replied with the whole "laugh politely and say 'Oh yeah, sure!' while thinking to myself, 'Jesus Christ, I teach Women's Studies for a living and routinely teach units on sexual harassment--file this one away for the books.'" This guy was seriously annoying and I just kept walking. I noticed Fred had hung back and was staring at the guy. We were barely out of ear shot and he goes, "Is it gross when that happens?"
"Yup. Yes it is."
"Huh. Looks gross."
He was still staring over my shoulder at the guy, clearly having a moment. He was thinking about something that had nothing to do with me, and then he said something like, "I wonder why they don't get they should just shut up?" And then he turned around toward the bus.
|That's our guide, Markus. MoniClaire was our last stop. I could NOT believe that nearly the whole day was over--it was literally a blink of an eye,|
|That's Spike--he adored us all. The feeling was mutual.|
|Speaking of gorgeous, look at this FlufflePuff. I didn't learn his name. Of course Ron was like, "Omigod: Pearl."|
|This is the view of the property from owner's back deck. Can't make this stuff up, people.|
|Those are chickens down there.|
|Three potted plants on the deck: kumquats (which are amazing! Finally tried them for the first time last month--they're out of season by now I think), Meyer lemons, and ...|
|... I forget the third plant. Limes? These are the lemons. Which are everywhere, btw.|
|Back in the tasting room|
|Let's admire the FlufflePuff again, shall we? I didn't feel like we were here very long, but look how much the light has changed. Also, Pearl makes this face too.|
|Another Fluff! So Penny and Pearl-like.|
|[more anguished emoji]|
|It was time to go--Spike saw us off.|
So the photos stop here, but the day was young. (Yes, you can X-out now. I won't judge you.) Before we made it to MoniClaire, Fred looks over at me and Ron and goes, "We're eating at Stark's in Santa Rosa--you wanna come?" Ron turned at looked at me with his "You can decide but you are NOT holding me accountable for whatever you choose" face, and I heard my voice saying, "Yup." If there was one thing I learned in Portland in 2013, it was that eating dinner with total strangers is a good idea.
After MoniClaire, we split up and planned to meet up at Stark's later. Back at the hotel, I debated whether I should bring my camera or not ... I wasn't sure. While I had been completely amazed at the low-light photos I had taken that weekend, it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth.
I didn't bring it.
Hence no more pictures at this point. An hour before we were supposed to meet up, Ron and I headed out--Stark's was two blocks from our hotel, but I could tell if we sat in our room another minute, any leftover energy we had would dissipate and we'd (Ron) would be in serious trouble. So I corralled him out the door (he was annoyed) and down the block to Fourth Street.
Ok, let me just be real with you: Santa Rosa at 730pm in the dark is sorta creepy. NOT "scary creepy," more like, "Huh? creepy." Listen, I spent five years at Temple and took my share of night classes: Santa Rosa wasn't SCARY (neither was Temple ... not until after 10pm anyway), but it definitely was like, "Where are all the well dressed people and inviting store fronts and stuff?" The truth is that all of that stuff is still THERE, but all the people are inside and off the street, and all the stores are closed and dark. It took us about three minutes to figure this out, and then Ron was like, "I want an espresso--hey! look! a cafe!" and we ducked into A'Roma Roasters for a little bit. That felt sorta like home: We were basically the ONLY people in there who weren't students. It was bizarre--is there a college in Santa Rosa? (If so, are they hiring?) Everyone in there was, like, twenty years old with a stack of books in front of them. At 8pm on a Saturday night. Either we crashed a movie set or students in Santa Rosa are completely freakin diligent in ways that my students couldn't comprehend to save their lives. (I saw an undergrad nurse with a five inch thick anatomy text book. There also must be a law school nearby because one student had a stack of law books--Contracts, Civil Procedure (right?), and something else. 12 inches of text book on that guy's table. On a Saturday night.)
(See? You really do need a passport for this place.)
We still had more time to kill, but we headed out and walked by this warehousey looking building that appeared to have an art show going on. I looked at Ron, he shrugged, so we went in.
Remember your high school art show? (I still have pictures of mine.) Imagine all those people, like, 35 years older and having the appearance of being unemployed. That was this art show. It took me approximately 85 seconds to see all the art; a band was setting up in another room; I looked at Ron, he shrugged, we left, and we headed over to the restaurant figuring we could kill time at the bar. Lucky for us, everyone else showed up five minutes after us.
Thus ensued a dinner just as fun as the Portland dinner. I had no clue how this was going to go: It was a complete crapshoot. Would everyone be just as cool as they were two hours earlier? Or would the spell be broken and the dinner regrettable?
I wasn't starving and just ordered the scallops (lovely), but I gastronomically lived vicariously through Farrest and Fred who ordered (combined between the two of them): Oysters; the roasted bone marrow with truffle honey and sea salt (do NOT order this in front of vegetarian ... actually if you're a vegetarian, just do not come here: it's a steak house. You've been warned); one steak with (am I remembering this correctly?) the truffle aioli and the truffle fried egg on top (Farrest wondered out loud, "HOW is this egg cooked so perfectly???" and Ron explained, "Well ... they bathe it in butter: The griddle cooks it from underneath and the warm butter cooks it on top ..." Don't ask questions if you don't want to know the answers); another steak with the red wine sauce; creamed spinach; cauliflower gratin; and (I've totally lost track) but I think I remember at least one type of French fry and maybe brussel sprouts? They could've belonged to someone else though. Or it's possible I'm confusing this meal with Sunday's the girl and the fig outing? But everything up until the gratin is true. And I recall a chocolate chunk banana bread pudding (which was not highly acclaimed but consumed just the same).
It was a thrilling ride to see all of this served and have zero pressure to eat any of it--I simply couldn't do it. Maybe ONE bite of each one but, literally, beyond that? Couldn't do it.
The coolest part was, however, the fact that six total strangers sat at a table and laughed all night (all of the muscles in my core were sore two days later--took me five minutes of thinking to figure out how that happened; the only other person who's ever done that to me is my childhood friend, Lauren) and we never ran out of stuff to talk about. Let's face it: all of us have sat with a group of strangers and not only NOT laughed but have had nothing to say either ...
There was only one other table still seated when we left (the dining room there is gorgeous--I could've stayed there all night), and somebody (probably Fred) goes, "Oh come on, there has to be a bar still open somewhere!"
Remember that art gallery? Right, well there was sorta a bar in there ...
Actually, hold up. Wait a second: You know the movie Blast from the Past? You know how the entrance to the fall out shelter is in that bombed out bar that used to be a cute 50s ice cream parlor? THAT'S what the art gallery/bar looked like ... the bombed out part, not the cute 50s ice cream parlor. And the guy pouring $5 wine into plastic cups looked just like the guy in the movie ("THE SON??!!"). Remember the band I mentioned that was setting up hours earlier? Well, they were in the middle of their set (90s stuff that Y100 played twenty years ago) in the back of the building, and ten people were in there listening (including one guy--who may or may not have been conscious ... or dead) on a couch. The guys in the band were easily in their forties and were clearly pretending they were nineteen for the night. We all looked at each other, shrugged, and took our places leaning against the wall in the back of the room. The stranger next to me had ear plugs. I was jealous--mine (for the airplane) were in my room. So close, yet so far away ...
Just as I looked at Ron to be like, "Ten minutes and we're OUT," everyone else looked at us and gestured, "Let's go." The six of us headed out leaving maybe five people in the audience for the band which made us all feel a little bad, but not really. In the parking lot, somebody (probably Fred) goes, "One more bar! There has to be something!" and we wandered around the corner to Jack and Tony's (much classier--not creepy). On our way there, somebody (guess who) wondered out loud (really loud), "Why is this place so quiet and creepy??" It was actually a relief that it wasn't just me. Really, it's so adorable during the day ... it's completely different at night.
(Actually, you know what is really pretty at night there? The lobby windows for Hotel La Rose--very pretty. Even though it was weird that not a single window was otherwise lit at any other point during the night. I'm going to chalk that up to it being the off-season.)
We arrived at Jack and Tony's in time for last call ... It had to be midnight at this point. (Check out J&T's dessert menu--holy crap! Can't believe I missed out on that.) The girls sat at one end of the bar and the boys went down to the other end to analyze the whiskey offerings. I had stopped drinking long before dinner and was very pleased with myself over this. I was only suffering from basic sleep deprivation at this point rather than sleep deprivation, food coma, plus wine tour/dinner wine/$5 wine in a plastic cup/whiskey bar exhaustion. Before I knew it, Fred hollered "Cab's here!" The four of them were gone, Ron and I were walking the two blocks back to our hotel and that was it. The spell was broken and I could feel everything turning back into pumpkins. And that's it. We'll never see each other again. And I don't have pictures of half of it.
What a day (and a night). The whole point of ALL of this? Always say yes to dinner with strangers. Especially if you are on the west coast.