Thank you all for your opinions, insight, and comic relief. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard while reading BPL.
This is my setup now.
Interloc Crossfire CX steel frame, Winwood Carbon fork, Avid Shorty6 canti brakes, Ultegra kit, Ritchey WCS and Thompson parts, and hand-made Mavic Open Pro wheel set. I could only afford this rig because I was working at a bike shop at the time, and built the wheels myself. It weighs in at about 19lbs.
I am looking for something similar for my wife, but probably less expensive components. She has a fast alum/carbon racing bike already.
Like I said, I used to work in a bike shop. I can still get discounts there and put together her bike. But I don't mountain bike anymore and don't have any personal experience with disc brakes. So that's why I'm asking the UL bike touring experts (you!).
It seems like the majority of you think I should go with the canti brakes. That's what I was leaning towards as well. I am satisfied with my Avid brakes, and I've done some major touring in France, Italy, and the Pacific Coast. Kristin's bike will be strictly used for commuting and touring. It'll have drop bars, road shift/brake levers, and probably CX brakes levers as well. If I did go with disk brakes, I think I'd stick to mechanical and not fuss with hydrolic.
If I get a SOMA frame with canti brakes, it would have to be the Double Cross or Double Cross DC, the latter of which has both canti and disc brake mounts. If I settled for caliper brakes, then I'd get the Smoothie ES. I'm not sure of the cost. I'll be getting it through my shop at about 35% discount, so I'm not too worried.
Another steel frame w/ canti is the Pake C'mute (any experience with those?)
I'd love to get her (and me!) a titanium frame bike, but no way we can afford it. My dream frame would be a Steve Potts titanium softail.
Haven't considered aluminum. Should I? Cinelli makes the Zydeco CX frame.