A Taste of Spain in Walnut Creek

IMG_8455The downtown Walnut Creek landscape is ever-changing. If you’ve strolled through the construction zones of Broadway Plaza lately, you’re well aware. What was once a beautiful, high-end shopping center is now an even more beautiful, more high-end shopping center.

While many of the Walnut Creek favorites have survived the remodeling boom, there is also an exciting array of new restaurants being squeezed into every available lot in town. Sunol Ridge and the Library on Main are just a few new options popping up downtown.

One of the new restaurants is also the most recognizable: Teleferic, taking over what used to be a drab parking lot kitty corner from Neiman Marcus, is a very cool, unique building. It dominates the skyline at the North Main/Mt. Diablo light, where a rebirth of the Four Corners is taking place in downtown Walnut Creek.

IMG_8456The Barcelona and Basque-inspired tapas and wine bar has a beautiful outdoor terrace that looks West at the setting sun over the hills.

It hovers over Vineyard Vines, a new clothing store that rules the ground floor. And despite being situated in the middle of a busy downtown, in a California suburb, you still get that old world charm when you enter.

Speaking of the Basque country, that is what influenced the owners of Teleferic to create a restaurant in Barcelona. They grew from their humble beginnings in Sant Cugat in the early 90’s into a dual-location behemoth that spans two countries.

For anyone who loves good tapas, this is the place to be. Named after the word “cable car” in Catalan, Teleferic will also sit below a new Asian fusion restaurant called Rooftop, run by Iron Chef alum and former Chef de Cuisine at Slanted Door, Justine Kelly, which will add an extra level of spice to this awesome new downtown IMG_8457spot.

Give them a try and let us know what you think while you enjoy the great dishes they serve tapas style, in addition to their paella and sangria.

Though more pricey than your standard tapas in Spain, and slightly different than the homemade bar tapas you’ll find abroad, the food at Teleferic and the atmosphere of the location is one of the most interesting combinations in Walnut Creek.

We’d expect nothing less with Spaniards at the helm! Speaking as a Basque descendant from Reno!

Check out Teleferic when you get a chance – it’s food and charm is well worth it.

Best of Walnut Creek: Coffeeshops

Image: http://va388.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Pacific-Bay-Coffee-outside-710x363.jpgLike most things in town, there is no shortage of coffee to drink in Walnut Creek. There’s Starbucks for the on-the-go coffee drinker. Peet’s Coffee has been opening its doors to loyal customers for decades. The Coffee Shop is new and attracting a young, hip crowd. And La Scala has a European feel, but is also popular as a corner spot perfect for a laptop and latte.

Then, there’s a local favorite right across from Kaiser: Pacific Bay Coffee Co. They opened up around the corner from Las Lomas and across the street from the hospital in 2004. It was founded as an independent coffee shop, offering on-site roasting. In 2010, they upgraded their brewing methods to siphon coffee, 24-hour cold-brew, aeropress and Japanese drip style pour-over. Additionally, they’ve expanded into loose-leaf tea from all over the world.

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In January, when we saw the windows papered and the shop closed, many assumed the worst. Via NextDoor.com comment boards, the potential closure led to concerns about, and a spirited discussion of, the support of small businesses in Walnut Creek. Since I live only three blocks away and needed some tea, this prompted me to stop by and ask a few questions.

I spoke with the owner Richard Fong, checked out the remodel (it feels brighter, more upbeat, and has more seating) and asked about the reason for the remodel. He told me that it was time for an update. Originally, the remodel was set to start in March, but the contractor was available in January and moved it up. As a side note, competition is moving closer with Starbucks opening below the not yet completed Agora Apartments just across the way.

IMG_4225What sets Pacific Bay apart is the on-site roasting of beans. They have perfected the medium-to-light roasting technique of single-origin beans. They work in small batches, in order to maintain the highest quality and freshness. Pac Bay recently won a Bronze Medal at the Roasting Awards in Oregon, and have purchased the Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine – one of only two of its kind in the area (the other is at Sextant Coffee in San Francisco). IMG_4220

They also have a new slow bar, which takes anywhere from two to seven minutes to fill, and is a process deemed “the third wave of coffee.” Lastly, they added custom drip teapots to strengthen their already delicious tea selection! If you want fresh coffee, this is the place to go, as they roast a couple times a week. You can find them up at 4 in the morning on Saturday’s brewing and roasting fresh batches.

Pacific Bay is keeping up with the trends and continues to set the standard for coffee and tea in Walnut Creek. The freshness and quality of their drinks, on top of a great location and updated decor, makes it well worth a visit, along with supporting a local small business that helps keep Walnut Creek unique.

We would love to hear your favorite coffee place along with any comments you would like to share!

Living Near Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Improves Your Home Value

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Really? According to the Huffington Post, homes located within a mile of Trader Joe’s stores are seeing a significant increase in value, compared to homes that are not within that range. Same thing goes for Whole Foods!

Luckily for us living in the immediate East Bay, where healthy eating and living is quite common, there are at least 12 Trader Joe’s and no less than six Whole Foods (including one each in Walnut Creek!). Chances are, as HuffPo says, if you’re close enough to one of these stores, your home value will see an uptick. I am not so sure this shows the entire picture; maybe Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods just tend to pick more affluent neighborhoods. I have never heard a buyer say they would like to be in close proximity to either of those stores when thinking about purchasing a home.  On the other hand, I personally live within walking distance to both stores in Walnut Creek.  Do I like it, absolutely!  I just finished eating a salad from Whole Foods and often stop off at TJ’s on my way home.

On the other hand, I personally live within walking distance to both stores in Walnut Creek. Do I like it? Absolutely!  I just finished eating a salad from Whole Foods and often stop off at TJ’s on my way home.

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For me, the real estate market is never boring and always provides interesting insights – location and surrounding amenities play such a huge role in pricing. Walnut Creek and the Bay Area overall are much different than the rest of the country: great for those who already own, but not so much for those trying to find a home or move in from another state. I feel very blessed to own my own and live in such a beautiful place, whether I am located within a mile of Trader Joe’ or not.

Livermore Valley Wineries

vineyardIn a follow-up to my post “East Bay Booze Boom,” I thought I’d write about the amazing wine scene that’s also blossoming in the Livermore Valley.

I have toured there several times and always find the wines to be delicious, the sites beautiful, and the people friendly. And it’s so close to home!

Although wine has been cultivated in Livermore since the 19th century, it has only recently started to gain popularity. Wente Vineyards has long been the largest producer in the Livermore Valley, making around 700,000 cases of wine annually.

The region has a predominately gravel-based soil and lies on a unique east-west orientation, unlike many other wine-growing valleys. Due to a reliable onshore afternoon/evening breeze off of the Bay, there is a wide fluctuation in temperature between sites, making the growing conditions similar to St. unnamedHelena or Calistoga.

The Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association has a great website that allows you to research different wineries, and plan a self-guided tour through the wine county. To the right is a list of some of the top wineries in the region.

Another great way to explore the area is on the Livermore Wine Trolley! This trolley is the newest way to explore wineries throughout the Livermore Valley.

They offer an all-inclusive wine tour, where you will be transported through lush rolling hills, beautiful canyons, and award-winning wineries. You can also book the trolley for your group’s own private charter.

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One other perk of staying local for your wine tasting tour is that the prices are much more affordable than those in Napa. For example, the top-rated wine tasting in Livermore on Yelp is at Bent Creek Winery.

There, you can pay a $10 tasting fee to try 11 of their wines, and then even apply that $10 towards the purchase of a bottle!

You don’t have to go all the way up to Sonoma, Napa or Healdsburg to get quality California wine anymore.

If you’re living in the East Bay, you can make an easy day trip out to Livermore with your friends to sip on some unique, local wine.

If you have been to any of these Livermore wineries, let us know how your experience was!

 

Best Sandwich in the Bay Area: Morucci’s

One of my favorite lunch time eateries in Walnut Creek is Morucci’s. They have great sandwiches, soups and salads. My personal favorite is the #1: Roasted Turkey.

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One of the best aspects of this deli is their creative menu, which lists their sandwiches from 1-17 (with some items being fractions, too!). It is always fresh and tasty and has my vote as the best deli in the area.

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Some of the most popular sandwiches are the 6 3/4, which is a delicious combination of caprese salad-style tomato and mozzarella, turkey, lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and balsamic dressing, all on a perfectly-toasted ciabatta; and the #5 (California club – fully loaded with turkey, swiss, bacon and veggies).

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For the vegetarians the Caprese is also tasty. I can truly say that every concoction they make at Morucci’s is awesome, and apparently everyone agrees – just check out the line at lunch time! Try to get there in off-hours, though. The secret got out a few years back and now East Bay residents from high schoolers to retirees form lines around the block on any given day at lunch to nab one of these famous sandwiches.


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Consistently voted one of Walnut Creek’s best, Morucci’s is a must-try if you are living in or visiting the area. From their sandwiches, to fresh Italian salads, Morucci’s definitely earns their rave Yelp reviews.

Which sandwich at Morucci’s is your favorite?  Please let me know.

East Bay Booze Boom!

The Bay area is leading the nation in innovation, and not just in the tech sector. A new industry on the rise in the East Bay is the alcoholic beverage market!

75e4cb_70530afefa2c4ac597c7198da59bd280With the craft brewing industry on the rise, many local entrepreneurs have hopped (get it?) on the bandwagon, starting many new breweries in Oakland, San Francisco, and even Concord! Many of these East Bay brewers are really pushing the envelope by making unusual beers, like sours, rare varietals, and other creative concoctions.

One such brewery in the sour beer market is Rare Barrel in Berkeley. They go the extra mile by aging their beer in oak barrels for about a year to develop the lovely tart flavors in their brews. Some other notable East Bay breweries are Linden Street Brewery and Pacific Coast Brewery in Oakland, Jupiter and Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, and EJ Phair in Concord. Don’t sleep on 21st Amendment Brewery, famous for their Hell or High Watermelon beer, which just opened a huge new brewery in San Leandro. Or the popular Calicraft Brewing Co. based right here in Walnut Creek which is my favorite; I love their Buzzerkeley champagne beer.

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Beer is not the only game in town, however. The wine and liquor industries in the area have also been growing in popularity. St. George Sprits in Alameda has become well-known for their brand, and Hangar One vodka is named after the old World War II-era hangar where the distillery is based. Although they recently sold the brand to be produced next door, the distillery is excited to have more space to focus on new experiments in distillation. Some of their more creative liquors include Green Chili Vodka, Absinthe Verde (I know this one from personal experience and it was not a good one), Agricole Rum, and several Fruit Brandies. They have a great guided tour for $15, which includes a tasting of six spirits! They even have a small outdoor seating area where you can hang out with a drink after your tour and check out the San Francisco skyline from the other side of the Bay.

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Many wineries have also begun to spring up throughout the East Bay. Although this may seem like a new development, the East Bay, especially the Walnut Creek area, was actually one of the main wine-grape growing regions until prohibition in 1920. One such winery making a revival in the area is Urban Legend Cellars in Oakland. They source grapes from other local regions, and use various blending and oaking techniques to produce unique and delicious wines.

Walnut Creek has also been put back on the map with Shadowbrook Winery. This vineyard grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, right on the foothills of Mount Diablo. Mark Lavezzoli, the Winemaker there, combines traditional and innovative techniques to create some very tasty vino. The entire team there is very excited about Walnut Creek’s potential to produce a first-class wine.

With so many great beverages to try right here in the East Bay, it’s hard to find a reason to leave and another great reason to own a home in this amazing area.

Have you been to any of these places? Please share your thoughts – we would love to hear from you!

Main Street Kitchen

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I recently tried the new restaurant on Main Street, creatively named Main Street Kitchen.  Luckily the menu was much more interesting than the name.  The restaurant features farm to table, local ingredients, and seasonal menus.

 

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To start, I had  the Grilled peach salad with Point Reyes bleu cheese, bacon, and mixed greens.  It was very tasty and refreshing on this warm evening. For my main course, I chose the fish of the day, which happened to be swordfish.  The dish came with a seasonal vegetable salad, consisting of kale, corn, roasted squash, blue lake beans, cranberry beans, and saffron pistachio pesto.  It was delicious and filling, without being overly heavy.  For desert, I nudged in a peach crisp with almond streusel topping, and house made ice cream.  This was my favorite part of the meal, especially the home made ice cream.  Yum!

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I went there again for breakfast recently, and was able to enjoy the peaceful patio.  I had 3 duck eggs, with toast and fresh tomatoes.  I have never had duck eggs before, but
they sure were yummy

With its eclectic variety of California cuisine, made with fresh and local ingredients, Main Street Kitchen definitely earned my repeat business.  I definitely recommend you check out this great new eatery in town.

CaliCraft Brewing in Walnut Creek

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When we say “taste local” we mean it! Calicraft a micro brewer is opening a taproom in the Shadelands area of Walnut Creek by 2016. Perfect timing as the entire corder of Ygnacio & Oak Grove is under construction for the new Safeway Development.   To get a head start on the tastings visit your local Whole Foods (Nugget, Andronicos, Berkeley Bowl or favorite independent market) and pick up their newly announced consumer packaged items. Best known for their Cali Coast, it’s now available in 12oz 6pack cans! Thus making it safe and easy for the beach and summer outings.

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Also now available in a 4 pack 12 oz bottles is Buzzerkeley – my favorite, a unique combination of sparkling ale fermented with champagne yeast and star thistle honey – can you say hmmmm.  This beer is unique and tasty, when champagne is not available (shout out to Dawn Stom), it is one of my absolute favorites, a definite stable in my fridge, except my son tends to drink all my beer!

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Look forward to seeing you there!  If you have any other microbrew recommendations, post them here.  I know Alameda, Oakland  & Emeryville have many tasting rooms popping up.

2014 Gold Award Winner

insignia_GOLD_2014_Outline-012014 was a successful and fun year. I was honored at our annual Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate awards ceremony. Receiving a Gold Award distinguishes my efforts as a top performing agent in our organization. I have been fortunate to receive a top producer award since 2007. I love what I do and how rewarding it can be to help someone sell or buy possibly the biggest investment in their life.

A snapshot from the awards luncheon in San Francisco, followed by a Giants game with my son.

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Here at my office in Walnut Creek,  I find myself surrounded by an excellent and experienced manager along with other great agents and friends whom also are recognized for their performance in our organization.

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Coffee Shop Hangout

My new found hang out! unnamed-3A few weeks ago with my friend Veronica after an early morning spin class we were meandering around Walnut Creek and she wanted to get a coffee. We stopped by Starbucks, when I remembered I had two letters to drop in the mailbox, which is still in front of the old post office. That’s when I spotted, Coffee Shop across the street on Locust. I wanted to go in check it out and decided to get a coffee, Veronica hesitantly came in with her Starbucks in hand and mentioned to Eric, our order taker, she was uncomfortable. He said he would happily buy her a new coffee and thus the evil empire corporate coffee moniker was tossed in the waste basket. unnamedI ordered the slow bar coffee, Cafe Grumpy, the coffee took a while to make and similarly to drink, transporting me back to a street side European Cafe when life was less rushed. Truly a coffee lovers paradise.

I came back on Mother’s Day to hang out on a much cherished day off, hoping to make it in time for a breakfast sandwich that smelled delicious on my first visit. I was a little late, so opted for the Pepper Jack cheese, spinach tomato grilled sandwich and added bacon. unnamed-4To complement the sandwich I ordered the orange, coconut iced latte (not always noted on the menu), delicious and sweet. Their bread is from Mint 54, just down the street, another Walnut Creek gem.

The Coffee Shop offers free wifi, password named after their coffee machine, the bright yellow one, Slayer, it’s the Porsche Carrera of coffee makers!

Give it a try! Another great place to enjoy in Walnut Creek, what do you love about the area?

Coffee Shop – 1325 Locust Street Walnut Creek