Though Andrea Ballus' wedding frustrations propelled her into reality-television fame, the camera never focused on personal drama?instead, it zoomed in on the cupcakes. As she planned her marriage, Andrea couldn't find a bakery innovative enough to cater her reception. Rather than settle for tired designs, she decided to create her own cupcakes, mixing confections in signature flavors and garnishing them with edible art. These concepts led to the first incarnation of Sift?a dessert venue whose ingenious edibles have since won first place on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars and returned to compete on Cupcake Champions.
Sift Dessert Bar's current cupcake menu pays homage to classic tastes as well as cunning combinations, from the Snickerdoodle and Samoa to the Berry Good Cheesecake?a vanilla cake atop a graham cracker crust, filled with raspberry jam and topped with cream cheese frosting. Visitors can pluck their favorites from the onsite displays or order custom servings that suit a wedding or party theme. In the past, Andrea and her staff have festooned cakes with images of cheerful dragonflies, company logos, and Pink Floyd album art as well as holiday graphics for New Year's and Christmas.
Alongside their signature item, Sift prepares a separate catalog of nostalgic desserts, including whoopie cookies, french macarons, and ice-cream sandwiches.
Michael Thomas, Dan McGarry, and Johnny and Pablo Scurto, all native Californians, draw recipes from throughout Latin America to evoke the coastal cuisine of Baja California and the Yucatán. At Tres Hombres, nestled in downtown Petaluma and Chico, chefs translate these orchestras of flavor into dishes such as Michoacán-style roasted pork carnitas, ancho-crusted Atlantic salmon, and tacos stuffed with more than 10 fillings such as mahi mahi, sirloin steak, and shrimp. Chefs interact with customers and answer questions about preparation at the taco bar, which looks into the open kitchen. Bartenders shake margaritas blended from more than 160 agave tequilas and pour Mexican beers and Spanish and Chilean wines behind a full bar backed by an expansive collection of bottles only rivaled by the collection of a deserted-island post office. In keeping with Latin American communal spirit, the restaurant hosts nights of live music and salsa dancing, as well as a weekly farmers' market with local vendors.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas?its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries?Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam in order to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
The gardening gurus at Cottage Gardens of Petaluma grow all of the plants that they sell onsite, including the year-round vegetable garden and annuals. That means they can not only vouch for each plant’s health and acclimation to the area’s climate, but they are happy to advise budding gardeners on how to properly care for each plant. They can point shoppers toward bee-friendly perennials, for instance, or help them choose brassica veggies for an autumn harvest. Cottage Gardens of Petaluma also carries dozens of succulents, from the leafy crassula variety to a sturdy aloe plant.
In addition to plants, the nursery stocks a variety of soil fortifiers, such as nutrients and hardhats for earthworms. It also empowers green thumbs to beautify gardens with accessories including sculptures, terra-cotta planters, and baskets. Guests are also welcome to peruse the grounds to simply enjoy the beauty.
Royal Tan And Spa's staff bronzes bodies with modern tanning beds and services and offer a variety of spa services such as body wraps, massages, and facials. A series of Royal Gold sessions gently browns customers with 40 souped-up, full-body lamps. The futuristic bed of lights keeps clients cool with adjustable fans while evenly bronzing faces with four high-pressure facial-tanning lanterns and offering up to five gradients of an overall golden glow. Patrons may also choose Mystic Tan sessions held in a private room with the automated Mist Applicator, which evenly and gently gilds skin without exposing it to harmful UV rays. Mystic Tanning is available in three levels, so customers have the choice of looking as though they just returned from the beaches of the Bahamas or the sand dunes of Mars. The technicians can even apply custom airbrush tans at the spa or at clients' homes for a sunless solution that lasts up to 10 days.
For The Sunflower Center founder Lydia Kindheart, healthy food is a simple, powerful way to strengthen and nurture communities. This nurturing instinct led Ms. Kindheart to found Lydia’s Organics, which supplies grocery stores across the country with organic and vegan goods. Now, at The Sunflower Center, she continues her mission by positing her restaurant as a community hub; the restaurant boasts a kids' playspace with wooden toys as well as 8,000 square feet of space for community events, as noted by Examiner.com.
The cuisine matches the wholesome vibe. Serving Lydia's Organic Cuisine, chefs craft veggie patties from quinoa and beets, and they stuff buckwheat crepes with fresh kale and vegan pesto.
For added entertainment, The Sunflower Cafe also provides live musical events and classes.