I went for the Surly Cross Check. $1000 for the whole shebang, maybe $1200 - $1300 for gearing upgrades, a nice saddle, robust & slick tires, a stem with lots o' rise, Nitto Noodle bars and fenders.
It's every bit as solid as any other bike out there (touring or otherwise), and very versatile. Pavement, rough roads, gravel, dirt, you name it. It doesn't quite excel at one specific task, but does just about everything very well. It's also very comfortable.
That said, I think there's a bunch of complete bikes & frames that will do the job: Surly CC, Surly LHT, Salsa Casseroll, Mercian "King of Mercia" or their Audax frame, Jamis Aurora or Aurora Elite, Cannondale Touring, Specialized Sequoia. It'd be hard to miss with any of those bikes.