Colorful (autumn?) forests (Not dye trees). I like the reds and oranges and yellows, very pretty place to live!
/edit -- oh, and I -love- the Canyon biome! You can dig into the side of a canyon and have windows looking out over the rugged landscape.
Why wouldn't you get started on MFR? Lots to do there, and it's not that expensive. I didn't see anything "hard" about the recipes on Monster.
(/edit -- ok, getting pink slimes is hard, and some of the emerald requirements are hard, but otherwise, no)
To save on energy and the work that my AE system has to do, I favor pre-processing the ores directly from the quarry (tesseract). You can use BC pipes or Itemducts for this, either works fine.
T -- Tesseract
= -- pipes or...
I've noticed certain areas are almost devoid of redstone as well. I haven't seen a pattern to it really, I sometimes just hit large pattern-mined areas where I found zero redstone.
/edit -- one o those area was a highland transitional area between two BoP biomes; not sure if that means anything.