Best Of—in July?

Bohemian staff and contributors know that their lives are nothing but fodder for our annual Best of the North Bay issue, published each March. In addition to the annual Readers Poll, we always include a rabid section of Best Of material from our writers, who are instructed, reminded, cajoled and admonished each January to gather every small personal remembrance of the last year lived in the North Bay as cheaply-paid copy. As the chief instructor, reminder, cajoler and admonisher, it occasionally falls to me to have some fun, too. To wit: My Summer Weekend By Gretchen Giles—Best Of Material in the Making.

Photos by William O’Keeffe

Best Free MojitosArann Harris and the Greenstring Farm Band play “pesticide-free” farm funk about such homely subjects as milk (audience members are encouraged to use their thumbs as udders), doctors (“My doctor is Dr. Bronner! My doctor is Dr. Scholls!”), pigeons (“I’m your pigeon! A dirty old nasty bird!”) and the mournful demise of marijuana gardening (“My baby don’t want me growing that weed”) with a low rumble and plenty of fun. At the recent Far West Festival put on by West Marin radio station KWMR 90.5-FM, the band had another strike in their favor: free mojitos. Pointing to the kind of large blue canteen normally seen strapped to the flatbed of working trucks for those laboring  in the sun, Harris said, “Now, I don’t want to undercut the profits of the fine folks of the Far West Fest, but if you all are feeling a bit thirsty, I invite you to sample some of our homemade mojitos.” Dude. The line to the blue canteen was instantaneous and the mojitos—cool and minty from the organic Green String Farm’s own herbs—delicious. While Toast Machine’s Gio Benedetti held up the upright bass and Hot Buttered Rum mandolinist Zac Matthews smiled away, Harris stomped and growled and introduced a fully below-the-waist tingle to a bright sunny Sunday in a country field that more usually plays host to children’s baseball games. The newstyle hippies and their small children danced, milked each other’s “udders,” hailed Dr. Seuss, yearned for pigeons, passed garden marijuana over the toddler’s heads, and howled in the sun. And for a little while, the mojitos flowed.

Best Reason For Sweaty Thighs

The C. Donatiello Winery does this thing on Sundays throughout the summer that I’m loathe to write about again because the first time I did it resulted in a terrifying radio ad in which my name is used as an imprimatur of cool, which is staggeringly awful to hear when one knows the truth about me, as I so assuredly do. That said, the Live from the Middle Reach music series at Donatiello has its own imprimatur of cool. Held Sundays through October from 1pm to 4pm, there is no charge for this afternoon of live music; patrons are nicely asked to purchase at least a glass of wine, but there’s no fuss made if not; and singer/songwriters of all stripes just casually play on a slightly elevated stage next to the winery’s guest cottage. On July 26, progressive folk artist Summer Mencher sweetly held down the boards accompanied just by her keyboard and a bassist, while writers gathered  for the recent Wine Bloggers Conference traded notes, heated up their smart phones and complained about the lack of pay for free work at tables nearby. Mark Aug. 30 down as a special afternoon at C. Doniatello as guests not yet ready to have their very names shouted into the air will converge and be warned: This is Healdsburg in the summer. It is hot even outside of the sun, but the single-block Chardonnay grown just down from the stage works its magic in cooling down hot heads, if not hot thighs.

Best Place to Eat Carrots Dredged in Honey

The biodynamic Quivira Vineyards has launched a new Farm to Table dinner series that matches serious diners with serious growers, serious wines with seriously good local food. The evening begins with a brief farm tour of Quivira’s market gardens, many of which are marked with the Healdsburg restaurants that buy their bounty (Dry Creek Kitchen, Bovolo, et al) and stories of the wild pigs that are currently terrorizing the garden, the 25 chickens that are better housed than many children and the life cycles of the bees and salmon that frequent the property. After the education, the eating begins, the July 25 dinner taking place outside in a back field near a nicely gnarled fig tree. Diners were seated family-style at a long table and served chef-farmer Doug Nicosia‘s take on fresh pickled green beans, garlic sautéed New Zealand spinach, smashed potatoes, cucumber and feta salad and long gorgeous slices of steak carved from a steer that the winery raised and slaughtered itself. Strangers have to meet when competing nicely for that last scoop of potato and the Farm to Table concept is a wonderfully old-fashioned way to eat and socialize. The next one is slated for Oct. 10 and will feature fresh meat from a lovely round pig currently snuffling around its orchard pen reveling in fallen pears and fermenting apples whom the staff have fondly named “Entree.”

Sonoma County Library