Herb Benham

Monday, Dec 09 2013 06:09 PM

HERB BENHAM: No mushroom clouds expected at wedding

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Herb Benham

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By Herb Benham

Fork. That's a good name for a catering company. Especially if a short rib is on the other end of that fork. Last weekend, we traveled north. Sam and Lauren are getting married in June in Sonoma, and the plan was to talk to caterers, wedding coordinators and hotel managers.

Sam is the second of our four children to marry, Katie having done so a year and a half ago. Life has momentum. Best to step aside and enjoy the show.

Lauren's mom lives in Seattle, making it easier for us (Sue -- I'm a tag-a-long in case a short rib drops from the sky) to do wedding prep. Last weekend the list included:

(1) Identify hotels in the Sebastopol area (shoot for wedding discount).

(2) See Martin Ray Winery at which the wedding will take place.

(3) Meet with wedding coordinator (I know: When you got married, this job, like the Internet, had not been invented).

(4) Meet with Fork (talk about short ribs).

Several signs around the Sebastopol area indicated we were in a "Nuclear Free Zone." Thank goodness, because I wasn't sleeping, thinking about the mushroom cloud that might waft over the wedding. Nuclear free, hormone free -- much is free in Sonoma except putting on a wedding in its pristine environs.

Sebastopol and the surrounding areas look good even when they look bad. The leaves are off the trees, the vineyards are shorn and tired, and the rains have not come yet and begun the percolation and renewal process.

Still, this is Sonoma, and you think: I could live here. Probably in a tree house in one of the many apple orchards spread across the rolling countryside, but what's wrong with waking up to apple blossoms?

We stopped at the Sebastopol Inn. A sign on the office door read, "Gone. Back in 10 minutes," so we walked next door to the converted train station and the Coffee Catz Coffeehouse. I ordered a cafe latte that was served in a huge, green mug. Is it possible to get a bad cup of coffee in the Bay Area? It's akin to eating a bad meal in Italy.

After coffee, we walked to the office, which was now open and staffed by a tall, friendly young man.

"Let me show you a room," he said.

As we walked through the courtyard toward the room, there was a guest who had his shirt off, displaying his large, not hair-free, belly. He was talking to a friend about the 30-pack he had drunk the night before.

I believe somewhere in the etiquette book it says, "No shirts off before 9 a.m." Our sensibilities are delicate before breakfast. We require time to steel ourselves before encountering the wondrous varieties of the human figure.

The room was neat and clean, the walking path and lagoon behind the hotel attractive and we had been reassured that Sebastopol was not a beer-free zone.

Next was the Fairfield Inn, a Marriott property, where the hard-charging manager said:

"Let me make this real simple for you. You'll get at least a 14 percent discount if you reserve a block of rooms here."

I like it when somebody says he'll make it simple and then he does. Five minutes later, we headed to the Martin Ray Winery.

"I'm not much for the traditional steak and chicken wedding menu," said Sarah Piccolo, owner of Fork.

"How do you feel about short ribs?" Sue asked.

Just when I think I know this woman, she surprises me. I thought she was going to suggest a rare Northern California fish. Short ribs? The only thing better than a short rib is a long rib.

Short ribs? Let's renew our vows alongside Lauren and Sam. If it were up to me, we would double up on the short ribs and eliminate the plated salad and garden vegetables.

Hormone-free, grass-fed, organic, farm-to-table -- that was Fork. The food you look forward to when you're having a wedding in a nuclear-free zone.

These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at hbenham@bakersfield.com.

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