Pop culture stereotypes dictate certain prerequisites for being girly, and by all accounts, I’ve failed most of them. I’ve only ever watched two episodes of Sex and the City. I don’t go gaga over Jimmy Choos or Manilo Blahniks. I’ve polished my fingernails perhaps once in the last three years, and I don’t sit around in spa robes eating Yoplait with my girlfriends and complaining about my thighs.
But Sonoma Valley’s definition of girly is something entirely refreshing. Do you like sunshine and budding vineyards? Do you like cocktails and yummy things to eat? Do you like to lounge in the lap of luxury? Or when you’re not lounging, do you like go on hikes, ride bikes, or shop, or eat more yummy things? And do lots of wine tasting?
Basically, Sonoma Valley asks you a lot of things that are impossible to say no to.
So you say yes. And you bring a friend or two. And it’s called a Girlfriends Getaway . . .
I was fortunate enough to take part in the recent March kickoff weekend, and it was a luxurious two-day affair involving daffodils and massages, great conversation, a French man crooning throaty tunes whilst grinding a romantic barrel organ, celestial wines, fragrant meanderings through terraced gardens, heavy consumption of raspberry cosmos and French fries with truffle oil, polka-dot peanut butter and banana chocolate truffles named after Elvis and preserved lemon mashed potatoes whipped up by a Cordon Bleu trained chef.
I came to the conclusion that angels in heaven subsist on a diet of preserved lemon mashed potatoes. And that Girlfriends Getaways rock.
Friday’s kick-off cocktail party was a breezy, relaxed evening at El Dorado Kitchen with an effusive crowd of both local and visitors. My friend Lauren and I disposed ourselves quickly to wild mushroom pizza, great wine—and of course, EDK’s venerable truffle fries—and hobnobbed with some of the best girls Sonoma has to offer.
Saturday heralded even more hedonism, first with a vineyard luncheon at lovely Landmark Vineyards hosted by proprietor Mary Calhoun, and a divine meal by Calhoun’s talented friend Chef Carol Mason. The whole experience was springtime personified. Landmark’s manicured gardens frothed with cherry blossoms and wisteria. There were flowers bright and sweet as assorted jellybeans and flickering fountains and people sauntering about with glasses of wine, clearly in a Saturday frame of mind.
Mary Calhoun was an enchanting host and the meal was intimate and spirited, our group including KGO radio anchor Chris Brecher and beloved culinary columnist Kathleen Hill. Carol’s fresh, unfussy courses struck a perfect balance between elegance and simplicity: broccoli and basil soup with smoked cheddar garnish, then wild salmon fillet framed by sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes and the aforementioned preserved lemon mashed potatoes—billowy, gorgeous, fragrant.
All of these paired with two equally remarkable wines: the exquisite 2006 Damaris Reserve Chardonnay followed by Landmark’s stunning 2008 Grand Detour Pinot.
After devouring Carol’s strawberry crumb cake with almond scented creme chantilly for dessert, I skirted dangerously close to falling into postprandial food coma, which actually prepped me for my next appointment: a therapeutic mini-massage at the new Camille Skin Care & Day Spa.
In honor of the Girlfriends Getaway, Camille Lucia and staff were offering promotional mini-facials and mini-massages at their chic and airy locale on East Napa Street. Masseuse Lana Porteous had me in seventh heaven as she worked out all the knots in my neck and back. I felt lighter than air as I thanked them profusely before gliding out into the Plaza bustle.
Of course I had to stop in at Wine Country Chocolates for the free truffle they were offering girlfriends that weekend. Mother and daughter team Betty and Caroline Kelly are constantly concocting new and sundry ways to blow your taste buds away with their artisan chocolates and avant-garde flavors, including cinnamon and clover honey, French mocha and pomegranate with orange blossom. But the real kicker for me was the decadent Elvis—peanut butter topped with banana ganache, surrounded by, of course, chocolate.
By Sunday, I really should have been ready to repent for my thousand-calorie sybaritic sins, but not when you’ve got a “Bubbles & Brunch” menu awaiting you at Sondra Bernstein’s dreamy restaurant Estate. My friend Kendra, Chris Brecher and I indulged in an outstanding brunch on Estate’s sunlit terrace that morning.
The menu included prosecco cocktails, starters such as mouthwatering melon and prosciutto, Greek yogurt with fig compote and entrees including crab benedict and artichoke and garden vegetable frittatas.
There was no turning back. This weekend, I was a bona fide queen of the epicures. If this is what it means to be girly, I’m ready to rent a whole season of Sex & the City.
video music by Michel Saga