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May 3-9, 2006

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Cyrus Watch

By Gretchen Giles

How many times can a newspaper write about just one restaurant? Merely one kitchen in a field of kitchens that includes some of the best kitchens in the United States? One wine list in perhaps the premier wine-growing and -drinking valleys the very earth over? In the case of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Cyrus restaurant in the Les Mars Hotel, the instances are apparently endless. With last month's renewed interest by the PD in this storied resto, we can stay silent no longer. Google must be called in.

Sept. 1, 2004. A newsy roundup of area food events includes small notice that Cyrus will open at the Les Mars Hotel in November. Prix fixe prices are mentioned. Gush factor: Like tap water hitting newsprint.

Feb. 16, 2005. With construction delays hampering the hotel's debut, the restaurant remains unopened, and the daily is able to write for long months at a time about other things, such as other restaurants. Co-owners Douglas Keane and Nick Peyton are added to the speed dial. Gush factor: A small spritz.

Feb. 23, 2005. The restaurant is still not open, but two "dry run" dinners have been served and an "Old World" feeling has been observed. Diners and area chefs agree, it's a fabulous hit. Gush factor: A chilled bottle of Moët shaken repeatedly by an insane two-year-old chimpanzee and violently opened without the benefit of linen towel.

March 9, 2005. The restaurant is open and the verdict is in: This place is damned good. Gush factor: Restrained and professional, but sweet, like a ripe cherry being smartly bit.

March 10, 2005. Service blurb announcing the opening of the Les Mars Hotel naturally enough mentions Cyrus. Gush factor: The ordinary bubble of sparkling water.

April 24, 2005. Restaurant reviewer Jeff Cox finally makes his way over to Cyrus, evidently not having been invited to the luxurious press dos that the other food writers (including this one) enjoyed. While commenting that a caramel dessert soup was "just plain weird" and conceding that some dishes "needed some work," Cox grants it his highest four-star rating. Press Democrat readers exhale collectively, glad that Cyrus has been given its final due. Gush factor: Parisian fountains when they've received regular maintenance.

June 5, 2005. A month elapses, enough time for the PD's staff to write and photograph a lengthy feature story beginning with the warning, "Stand back, French Laundry." Some 13 photographs are taken and displayed. Gush factor: A fire hydrant released to spray down upon tenement children in a hot Philadelphia neighborhood in August.

Oct. 12, 2005. Summer comes and goes and the PD remembers that other restaurants exist, occasionally using the English language in printed form to mention them. But wait! A shadow appears and Cyrus' wine list is exhaustively parsed. (The sommelier leaves Cyrus within months.) Gush factor: A bottle of 1990 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti mixed with 7-Up.

Nov. 27, 2005. Cyrus is merely mentioned as a "snug harbor" in which to sit out some of that early winter rain that will surely go away soon. In plus points, the list is alphabetized, so Cyrus is listed second. Gush factor: The modest amount of rainwater that had fallen by Nov. 27.

Nov. 30, 2005. Rectifying an uncanny oversight, the newspaper realizes that it hasn't yet exclusively profiled the desserts at Cyrus. A feature is duly produced. (Chef Annie Clemmons does not quit, thus avoiding a possible curse.) Gush factor: Whipped cream being gently coaxed from a fabric bag.

April 5, 2005. The earth revolves and the rain continues. Cyrus gradually becomes just an excellent restaurant of outstanding quality, not an editorial mainstay worthy of near weekly comment. And then, a new sommelier is announced, prompting the entire history of the restaurant to be rehashed like a bedtime tale that just gets better with the retelling. The French Laundry is again referenced and equated. A full feature story is birthed. Gush factor: Readers spitting out their morning coffee.

Cyrus, at the Les Mars Hotel, 29 North St., Healdsburg. 707.433.3311.

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