New and improved Stem salon does great work!

Stem salon – which used to be on Locust up until about a month ago – has moved to the new Lyric building across from MoMo’s. They’re newly located, renovated, and decorated and it really gives the business an upscale, modern vibe. Elizabeth Vawter (not present the day I took pictures) has done a fantastic job of building this business. I go here for my hair often and I think they do a great job!

They used to be in an old location by Peet’s. They weren’t happy with some of the tenant improvements or lack thereof, so they signed a lease with Lyric and are better than ever! I love the modern look with an amazing flowery wallpaper you can look at on the ceiling while getting your hair washed. I primarily go to Jessie for my hair color because I am there every three weeks or so. Her mother, Olivia, usually cuts my hair, but Mary Alice and Lauren are also fantastic. There is a large crew and varying price points depending on experience.

They will also offer you a glass of rosé, or a cup of coffee or tea while you get pampered. I think Elizabeth has hit her stride with a new home and continues to do it right. Stem Salon is my go-to hair salon!

More good sushi in Walnut Creek!

Downtown Walnut Creek has no shortage of great sushi restaurants. Even when one goes out of business or moves, it seems like another one is popping up to replace it within weeks. As the sushi craze is no longer a craze, and simply a way of life, I found another great new sushi spot in our town. Check out Oyama Sushi between Modern China and 1515 on North Main St.

The decor in Oyama Sushi is a little more upscale than others in Walnut Creek, but still has the feel of a nice, cozy, sit-down restaurant. They take great care to make it a beautiful, comfortable experience with their lighting, decorations and plating (which you can see in pictures below).

I went to Oyama with for a friend’s birthday where we ordered the shrimp tempura, edamame and the ever-flowing sake to start, and then moved to sushi. I had the Cherry Blossom Roll (my favorite, love the way it looks like a flower) and a special order with tempura crunch on top.  Veronica loves Ikura – the salmon roe – and she had that all to herself.  It was all very fresh and delicious, and who can complain about sake? Not me!

If you haven’t been to Oyama Sushi yet, I’d recommend giving them a shot. It is right downtown on Main St. Walnut Creek and the bill won’t break your bank, but also isn’t the cheapest (though cheap sushi doesn’t interest me!). The sushi is fresh and tasty, and they have a nice selection of sake and other drinks to wash it down. Let me know if you visit, and if so, how you like it.

Event Round-Up: July 14

Welcome back to our Event Round-Up for the next few weeks! Events do not necessarily have to take place in Walnut Creek to qualify, though I’ll try to keep it to the nearby Bay Area cities so you don’t have to travel too far. With the exception of one must-see event tomorrow in San Francisco, these should all be fun, cheap events to do over the next month or so. Hope I found you some good, off-the-beaten-path activities!

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1. 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals – Outdoor Screening (San Francisco): Sun., July 15th @ 8 a.m.

Hosted by the SF Recreation and Park Department, there will be a free public viewing of the FIFA World Cup Final on Sunday, July 15th. It will take place in front of the Civic Center Plaza, and folks can arrive at 8 a.m., though the game will start a little bit later. You’d be surprised at how big – and how soccer-lovin’ – this crowd will be!

2. Taste of the World Market (Orinda): Thurs., July 19th @ 5 p.m.

Every Thursday from 5-9 p.m., you can get “a taste of the world” at a weekly food truck event in front of the Orinda Community Center. Each week features different trucks and entertainment. We have a lot of events like this around the Bay Area, but it’s always fun to explore one in a new town to see how it stacks up!

3. Outdoor Waterfront Flicks – Star Wars (Oakland): Thurs., July 19th @ 8 p.m.

If food trucks aren’t your deal, but you want to treat the kids to a fun-filled, outdoor movie night, look no further than Jack London Square in Oakland, where they’ll be showing Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 8 p.m. It’s completely free, and all you need is a blanket to sit on, a blanket to cuddle with, and a cup of joe to keep you warm by the water!

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4. Blues & Brews Festival (Pleasanton): Fri., July 20th – Sat., July 21st @ 6 p.m.

You will need tickets to this, but how cool is a FREE blues music and beer festival just down the highway from Walnut Creek? If you show up to Pleasant Hill Park at 6 p.m. on Fri., July 20th, you can take part in the pre-party. But the real fun begins the next day at 3 p.m., where you can wander in to catch free live music, and buy tasting tickets for the beer. More ticket info can be found here.

5. Benicia Waterfront Festival (Benicia): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 11 a.m.

Waterfront. Live music. Craft beer and wine. Tasty food. Unique vendors. Kids zone. Cheap tickets. What more can you ask for? Take a trek out to Benicia for this cool music festival that only costs $10 for adults ($15 for a weekend pass), and is free for kids under 12! What a great way to spend a summer weekend!

6. Berkeley Kite Festival (Berkeley): Sat., July 28th – Sun., July 29th @ 10 a.m.

Not feeling Benicia? Head on over to Berkeley for the 30th Annual Berkeley Kite Festival! It’s a free, family-friendly event for two days with competitions, kite-making, kite battles (seriously!), dining options, and more. Everyone loves watching a good kite – here, you can watch hundreds!

7. Circus Bella (San Francisco, etc.): Sun., July 29th @ 2 p.m.

Though this cool event takes place in multiple locations on each Sunday in July, I’m choosing this one specifically for our timeframe. Get on over to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco to check out this free, dazzling, 60-minute outdoor circus performance!

Make sure to let us know how these events go if you decide to visit! Looking forward to hearing the reviews!

Tender Greens does away with cash

Technology is advancing everyday things in our daily lives. As you’ve probably experienced plenty of times by now, you can simply swipe your card straight on a register’s iPad and have the receipt emailed to you. Tender Greens in Walnut Creek is taking things even further.

They have a sign when you walk in declaring that they are “cashless” now. They accept all major credit and debit cards, and have an app that makes everything super easy and streamlined. To me, that is a dangerous move since they are eliminating an entire form of payment. I don’t always use cash (rarely, in fact), but it’s nice to have that choice. And this move has totally backfired for other restaurants recently.

As the link above mentions, the wait can be even longer, and it becomes very inconvenient for anyone with cash on them and being surprised by the new policy. Additionally, there’s the aspect of losing the human element. Also, doesn’t that kind of ruin tipping for their staff? Sure, you can tip on a receipt, but just having a tip jar out at the counter probably invites people to throw a couple extra bucks in there after ordering. Besides the move to cashless, Tender Greens also updated their logo and menu.

I went there recently and tried the salmon with a side salad and roasted cauliflower. Like usual, the food was great! I enjoy the freshness of the food they provide and the menu is right up my alley. However, I’d still like to be able to pay with any petty cash I may have on me at the time. Hopefully this strategy works out for them, and they don’t have to issue a mea culpa like Shake Shack.

I love my mechanic!

Recently I have had some car problems. I have been wanting another SUV that I can take up to the mountains, put my skis and dog in, and also looks nice for clients. So, last year I decided it was time to sell my Mini Cooper. But, I kept getting the “check engine” light on and occasionally it would overheat. I needed to get it fixed before I sold it and that became a drawn-out process.  Luckily, I have a great mechanic who has bent over backward to help me stay on the road.

CK Auto Repair in Martinez has taken great care of me and my cars over past few years after a friend recommended them after the BMW dealership cost me $800 for an oil change, check-up and air in my tires. Highway robbery! That coincided with a poker tournament I was playing in and a couple of the guys were raving about their mechanic and how he is the only one they want fixing their classic cars. Lo and behold, it was Danny at CK Auto.

After much soul-searching and replacing of parts when the engine light came on, we discovered that my Mini needed a walnut flush. That is where it gets rid of the carbon build-up. I bought it pre-owned and had always put in premium gas, but I’m not sure what the previous owner did.

I feel Danny was always fair; I was in there a lot and got to know Danny and his son Jessie, along with the rest of the crew as they were searching for a solution. He even would occasionally lend me a car so I could still work without having to rent one every couple of weeks. If you need any kind of help with one of your cars in the East Bay, I can’t recommend CK Auto Repair highly enough. Say my name and they’ll take good care of you!  And, if you are in the market for a Mini Cooper (2009), give me a call. It has a lot of new parts and is running sweet again!

Good pizza hidden next to a high school?

There are a lot of great pizza joints in and around Walnut Creek. I’ve written about many of them in this blog, but most are also located right downtown in an easy-to-find spot. However, one of the best pizza in Walnut Creek is hidden in a tiny building right next to the main Las Lomas entrance!

If you want affordable combos and really great pizza, try Pan Coast Pizza! It’s a popular spot for high school kids after school lets out, and I can see why. They have a pizza, salad and drink combo for $9 and their large slices go for about $3 each. This place is well worth it.

I’m a huge fan of the cheese they use on their pizzas – it really just brings everything together. You can taste the quality in every bite. And it’s evident that the husband and wife duo who own and run the place have taken time to perfect their pizza.  They told me they get their cheese from Wisconsin and their tomatoes from Italy. I like the thin-crust style and my favorite is the cheese pizza.  They also serve strombolis, hoagies, salads, and more. Their motto is “a taste of the East Coast,” and they really mean it!

Julie and Robert have both worked in pretty much every cooking position there is, in states all over the country. They started in Pennsylvania, which may be where they get a lot of their inspiration from. They also both have experience working in acclaimed San Francisco restaurants.

Whatever they’ve done here, it is working out fabulously. Luckily for me, Pan Coast Pizza is just a short walk from my neighborhood, so whenever I am hankering for a slice, I know where to go. I give Pan Coast Pizza 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Amazon goes brick-and-mortar in Walnut Creek

Everyone knows Amazon for being the world’s foremost e-retail giant. In fact, you probably ordered – or at least looked through – Amazon items for gifts this holiday season!  As I mentioned in an earlier blog, they started building some brick-and-mortar bookstores, including one in downtown Walnut Creek.

I recently bought a gift at the store located in Broadway Plaza between Kate Spade New York and Aritzia. It was like any other bookstore, except for a few Amazon-specific twists. For example, you can pay with the Amazon app at the register as long as you are a prime member and you get the Prime discount. As a Prime user myself, I really liked that perk!

The books all have Amazon user ratings and reviews posted underneath them, which nicely combines the convenience of shopping on Amazon.com with the classic, enjoyable feeling of being at a real bookstore. I have to say, since Barnes & Noble was replaced, it’s felt like there weren’t any good places to browse or buy physical books downtown.

Now, you can go to the future of books – Amazon’s bookstore – right in the heart of the shopping district. You can buy a cup of Peet’s coffee right in the store and peruse books like the good old days or just take a break from the hecticness of shopping.  Wait, isn’t that what you are doing at the Amazon bookstore? Maybe not? The concept is to have top sellers, a kids area, and, of course, a place to sell Amazon technology like Alexa.

Nordstrom Cafe is a nice spot to snag a quick meal

Getting hungry while doing your holiday shopping? Not to worry! Nordstrom is right in the middle of Broadway Plaza, and has a great cafe that always hits the spot.

Nordstrom Cafe has quality food. I usually get their salads, but they have great entrees and always plenty of good choices for food to take on the run.

And it’s not your standard, run-of-the-mill, in-store cafe, either. They have items like tomato basil soup, shrimp and arugula salad, freshly-prepared pizzas, and delectable sandwich options. Don’t miss Chef Todd Nelson’s daily picks, either.

You really can find fine dining anywhere in Walnut Creek these days! Nordstrom Cafe will give you an easy, quick option for your holiday shopping, especially during rush hour.

I’d highly recommend the  Mixed Berry Chicken Salad or the Chicken Apple & Goat Cheese Salad, but I’ve also tried their soups and salmon entree. It is reasonably priced for the food they serve, too. Can’t beat that!

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Newest must-see boutique: Filthy Gorgeous

Can one city have too many boutique stores? Not when it’s the holiday season, and definitely not when the newest redo boutique store in town is one of the coolest ones I’ve seen!

Filthy Gorgeous took over the space on S. California Blvd. and Botelho Dr. next to the Site for Sore Eyes and Jinny’s. It is a small corner that was previously vacant. It is just a few steps away from Broadway Plaza, where it had a store prior to the Broadway Plaza remodel.

Besides the ideal location, Filthy Gorgeous has some truly stunning home decor in their store. You can get anything from furniture, to art, to lighting to the basic home decor. They also run an interior design business, and you can see pictures of ongoing local projects on the website.

The brother-sister team of Jonathan and Tirzah created Filthy Gorgeous together and have grown it into a massive business that has been featured in multiple national outlets and on TV. And now they are back in Walnut Creek!

When I visited, I was really impressed by the style and choices in the store (my favorite items was a Buddha Goddess Head). Someday, I’d like to redecorate certain parts of my house with items from Filthy Gorgeous. Once you visit, you’ll probably want to do the same!

Filthy Gorgeous gets a perfect 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me!

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Have you been to the Capital One cafe?

Have you noticed the new little cafe next to the Apple Store in downtown Walnut Creek? It’s a Capital One banking cafe – a new concept they’ve imagined in cities around the country.  It took me some time to stop by as it was such an odd concept; banking in a cafe? Here is the company’s blurb about who they are:

Ready for a reimagined banking experience? You’ve come to the right place. Capital One® is a new kind of bank, one that’s built on digital tools and human connections. People are at the heart of everything we do, so we keep the banking experience simple and straightforward

This location gives customers access to financial planning and banking options while grabbing a cup of coffee or tea. The cafe also hosts community events (This Friday, Dec. 15, is Ugly Sweater Day!) and does some philanthropy in the area. Nonprofits, alumni associations and student organizations can book their Private Community Room for meeting space during regular business hours.

They’ve teamed up with Peet’s Coffee and Tea to provide Walnut Creek residents with a great little place to relax while they’re banking or working on their laptops. Now that I have stepped into it, I find it is really a brilliant idea and marketing strategy by Capital One. There is also a cool lounge area with interesting artwork.

They also have a more private nook and conference room should you need it. Jason (pictured below) was very helpful about their concept and even gave me a ticket for a free drink. If you are a Capital One card holder, you get half off your purchases at Peet’s, and everyone can wander in and use the ATM with no fees and get free Wifi.

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It is also serving a niche for those self-employed folks who need to get out of the home to have a meeting or a quiet  place to work. It is a cool space where you can snag a great cup of coffee, tap free wireless, and work, which might make it worth getting a Capital One card.

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