Event Round-Up: May 19

Welcome back to the next installment of Event Round-Up! Below, you’ll find five of the best events around the Bay Area for the next few weeks. If you attend any, please let us know how they were – you may even be mentioned in a future blog!

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Bay to Breakers (May 20, 2018 – San Francisco)

Look, if you’ve still never experienced Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, you’re truly missing out on a one-of-a-kind spectacle you can’t get anywhere else in the world. Take advantage of this “race” of usually around 100,000 people dressing up in ridiculous outfits, drinking mimosas, and enjoying the sunshine in the city. It’s an early start, but you can take part in the festivities without actually registering for the race. Be there tomorrow – you won’t regret it!

Civic Park Public Art Installation (May 26, 2018 – Walnut Creek)

This will be a super cool, unique event. The Bedford Gallery and City of Walnut Creek Public Art Department have a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a public art installation in Civic Park. It brings world-famous sculptor Patrick Dougherty to town and should continue to put Walnut Creek’s art on the map. He plans to install a huge project made of woven willow saplings, and he’s calling for the public’s help volunteering to assist. The project has already begun and ends on May 26th, when there will be a free celebration in the park for your viewing pleasure!

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Mission Mural Tour (June 2, 2018 – San Francisco)

If you’ve ever wandered through The Mission District in San Francisco, you’ve probably eaten amazing Mexican food, stumbled upon a few mind-boggling murals, and then eaten even more amazing Mexican food. But it’s the middle thing we’re focusing on here, as you now have the chance to join a public, professional walking tour of the murals in The Mission. It will give you information, history and context around some of your favorite murals in The Mission. The tours are free, but the guides accept donations and tips!

First Wednesday (June 6, 2018 – Walnut Creek)

Cypress Street in downtown Walnut Creek will have a lot going for it on Wednesday, June 6th. That will be the next installation of the First Wednesday event that shuts down a whole city block and invites live music, dancing, food trucks, adult drinks, a Kids Fun Zone and games. There will also be a Chef’s Demo (in partnership with the Contra Costa Certified Farmers Market) and chances to win free prizes. You can park for free after 5 p.m. in all downtown garages that day, and the festivities last from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s always a great time!

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Haight Ashbury Street Fair (June 10, 2018 – San Francisco)

Similar to First Wednesday (only bigger, better and more famous – sorry Walnut Creek!), the Haight Ashbury Street Fair will take place a few days later in San Francisco. This fair has been around for decades and seems to get better every time I go. There is a ton of live music, the best food, drink and craft vendors around, and – as is typical with any event in San Francisco – a TON of people. As if you need an excuse to enjoy one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods on a beautiful day, go check out the Haight Ashbury Street Fair!

Art Town: Figure (Get Set)

This utility box is on the corner of N. Main St. and Lincoln Ave. in downtown, and has been on display for a couple years now. It’s situated in front of Modern China, across from Opa, in a very heavily-trafficked part of downtown Walnut Creek. It first drew my eyes from its startlingly large human figure.

It depicts a woman in a red dress who seems to be admiring herself in the mirror. It kind of gives me “50’s movie starlet” vibes for some reason. The artist, Carla Gelbaum says she paints from her imagination using universal and whimsical themes. She says she likes to use the “infinite possibilities of life and the universe” to paint her pieces, and that she often uses vibrant, bold color themes.

 Those styles are readily apparent on this utility box, which also lists “Get Set” in tile at the bottom. This differentiates it from other “Get Set” pieces Gelbaum has done. All her work in that series is acrylic painting of females in red bathing suits who “look upon their world in a calm and reflective manner.” You can see more “Get Set” pieces here at Gelbaum’s website.

Gelbaum was raised in the Bay Area and has other pieces around the East Bay, including at John Muir in Walnut Creek. I really enjoy this utility box painting, as it gives me a calming, optimistic feeling for some reason. Have you seen it when you’re walking around downtown? If not, keep your eyes peeled!

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.

Silicon Valley: Moving East?

I came across a very interesting article in The New York Times recently about Silicon Valley attempting to find fertile ground in the Midwest. It’s a fascinating look at how the real estate market in the United States is rapidly changing.

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For example, Amazon is looking for a city to place its second headquarters. That is going to lead to a massive shift in where large tech companies start looking at places to re-locate. It’s well known that California is in a real estate a bubble. Silicon Valley, especially, is one of the richest areas in the entire country – if not the world – and one move could shake up a local economy in a huge way.

I think trying to replicate another Silicon Valley would be difficult; it is like the perfect storm – top-notch universities, a port, three international airports, the gateway to the far west and great weather. However, companies will look for more affordable areas to do business and states that provide tax incentives (think Tesla in Nevada). It doesn’t mean they will ditch the Bay Area completely.

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You know things are crazy here when even the tech elites in San Francisco are tired of San Francisco. They say it’s “congested” and “expensive” in the Bay Area, and are apparently mesmerized by the affordable homes and real estate in the Midwest. If you live in the Midwest I wonder how many hip spots would there be, not to mention the possibility of snow…what are your thoughts?

New rooftop bars – behold!

According to this story, there are two new rooftop bars in the Bay Area! You can add this to the list of cool Walnut Creek spots, like Rooftop and Teleferic. We’ve touched on Teleferic before, but Rooftop is just one floor higher and also an awesome spot to eat and get a drink!

Credit: Diablo Mag

First, the bars in the story I linked above. Rooftop25 at Twenty Five Lusk in San Francisco is sure to be the latest addition to the San Francisco rooftop bar scene to make some noise. It’s from acclaimed chef Matthew Dolan. In Napa, Sky & Vine at the Archer Hotel, which is apparently the only rooftop bar in downtown. There are supposed to be amazing views and plenty of seating to complement amazing food and cocktails.

Now, back to your regularly-scheduled Walnut Creek bar scene. If you’ve been to Teleferic, you may have also seen Rooftop. As the name implies, Rooftop is on the top of the three-story building and it takes full advantage of that location.

With a snazzy retractable roof over the dining room, a large bar and a deck that wraps nearly all the way around the building, you can’t find a better atmosphere in Walnut Creek from which to take in a sunset on Mt. Diablo while enjoying cocktails.

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Credit: RooftopWC.com

Rooftop has the best view and patio, stealing customers from other classy, late-night spots in Walnut Creek who want to enjoy the views. So far, I have been there a few time.  Once for dinner and a couple of times to enjoy a drink and appetizers in the bar.  I sampled many of the “bar bites” which were all fantastic along with the designer cocktails.

The Buster Brown cocktail (bourbon-infused) was my favorite and Tuna Tartar with puffy rice crackers is divine. If the food tastes familiar, that might be due to Justine Kelly, former Chef de Cuisine at The Slanted Door, leading the way. According to the Rooftop website, Chef Kelly has competed on Iron Chef and cooked for President Bill Clinton.

Rooftop is a great, albeit slightly pricey, night out with friends and one of the must-be spots in downtown Walnut Creek. And if you’d like to go slightly outside your hometown, give these new spots in San Francisco and Napa a shot!

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Event Round-Up: April 21

We’re adding a new blog to the Saturday cycle, along with Art Town, Road Trips and Inspiration Saturday. Behold, our first version of Event Round-Up! Here, we’ll give you five of the best events around the Bay Area each month for the upcoming few weeks. If you go to any of them, let us know how you like the experience!

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Credit: https://sfcherryblossom.org/grand-parade/

Cherry Blossom Festival (San Francisco)

The annual San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown in San Francisco is already in full swing, but the biggest event – the Grand Parade on April 22 – is still to come tomorrow. It starts at Civic Center at 1 p.m. and ends in Japantown. It’s truly a can’t-miss event. And Kristi Yamaguchi is the Grand Marshal!

Memories That Make Us (Redwood City)

Through May 6, The Main Gallery in Redwood City is hosting “Memories That Make Us.” This art show is based on memories, which shape who we are in so many ways. The featured artists will touch on both the transient, fleeting moments of their lives and on the archetypes that permeate our culture. Check it out!

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Lyrid Meteor Shower (Everywhere)

The peak of the Lyrid Meteor Shower is supposed to occur with clear skies tonight, but will also be fully visible on April 22 from anywhere you can get a good vantage point. This shower dates back to 687 B.C., more than 2,700 years ago! This is a spectacle you simply can’t miss.
The Bubble Lady (Walnut Creek)
Next Saturday, April 28 from 3-4 p.m., The Bubble Lady will come to Walnut Creek and give you a perfect event to bring the kids to. Her interactive, bubble-filled adventure will be accompanied by music, laughter and artistry. For more information, you can check this link.
Guided Walking Tour (Walnut Creek)

Did you know that the Walnut Creek Historical Society leads a 90-minute guided walking tour downtown every 2nd Saturday from March through October? Now you know! It reveals early life in Walnut Creek and hidden parts of our town’s history. Tours are free and depart at 9:30 a.m. from the fountain at Liberty Bell Plaza (Broadway & Mt. Diablo). The next one is scheduled for May 12.

Art Town: New-look California Plaza

If you’ve ever hopped on BART in downtown Walnut Creek, you’ve probably seen the towering, 10-story office buildings just across the street from the North parking lot (if the train was headed towards the Pleasant Hill station). It has recently gotten a makeover, including state-of-the-art conference facilities, residential units and an outdoor area with bocce ball courts.

Also part of the makeover is a brilliant art installation, which paints a beautiful picture of Mt. Diablo across multiple fans against a wall. I call them “fans,” though I’m not sure exactly what the structure is, what kinds of materials were used, or who created it! Information is sparse.

What I do know, though, is this is an amazing upgrade to a space that was very 1970s outdated. I’m excited to see what other changes they will add to the building to spruce up the Walnut Creek BART area. It seems like good timing, with all the changes going on around and in the Bart area that destined to become a little village.  Just on Riviera the back road to WC Bart and where my office is located, are 3 new condo complexes being built (a future blog), not to mention the large apartment complex across from Bart on Ygnacio.

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Twice the slice, twice as nice at Extreme Pizza

We’ve talked about Pinky’s, we’ve talked about Pizza My Heart, and most recently, we talked about Pan Coast Pizza. But I wouldn’t want to leave out one of the best (if not THE best) pizza places in Walnut Creek when discussing great local food: Extreme Pizza might top them all!

The first thing you’ll notice about Extreme is it does all the little things right. They are open until the bars nearby close (smart move!), make good use of the physical restaurant (and decorate it in an interesting, attractive way), and seem to always have good customer service.

Then, there’s the pizza itself. Not only is the pizza top quality, but they have some really great styles on the menu, as well as sandwiches, salads and drinks. They serve beer on tap, make calzones and wings, and will make you a gluten-free or vegan pizza as well. On nice days, check out the patio outside!

Lastly, an ode to the title of this blog: the “slices” you can order there? Yeah, it’s two slices. Every time. Last time I ordered two slices to go, it was essentially four because the slice is so big, but they only charge you for the original two!  They also deliver into the wee hours and can do large parties.  We recently got 12 pizza’s for the Parkmead Pathway Meeting, the pies were hot, it included all the paper products and I also was able to get the sodas in one stop.   They also gave my son a job for a few summers and the owner lives up the street from me, so I am a big fan!  Give them a try if you have not already, they are located on Cypress next to Philly Cheese Steak, around the corner from where Crogan’s used to be.

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Pokeatery is a new hotspot

Downtown Walnut Creek is always getting new restaurants. Every genre and culture of food seems to be represented. However, one that I hadn’t seem much of was poke. That is no longer the case – enter, Pokeatery on Newell Ave., in the set of shops by Whole Foods.

Pokeatery has locations throughout California, as well as one in foodie-haven Austin, TX. For those who are unfamiliar, poke is pronounced “poh-kay” and is typically a raw, Hawaiian salad. Usually, it’s made with ahi tuna, but Pokeatery offers different fish options, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free styles.

I went in to try out their menu- it is a bit different than poke I have had in the past and it is a LOT of food. You start with the base and then add the fish, the salad, the spices and the veggies. You make it your own!

The origin of Pokeatery is pretty cool, too. The owners and their family love Hawaiian food, especially poke. They wanted to bring those flavors back to the mainland, where it is less plentiful. In their family, they have more than 20 years of experience in sushi restaurants. Those skills go into crafting every meal at Pokeatery.

You can see from these pictures that the ingredients are fresh, the dishes are colorful (and plentiful!), and they really take great care to provide you with a good meal. The owner is pictured here at the bottom. There are a couple of other poke restaurant that have opened up downtown called Oke Poke (which just opened) and  T4 and Poke that also has bubble tea. I have to try both eventually. Overall, I give Pokeatery Mt. Diablo’s!  I keep comparing all the poke I eat to the Da Poke Shack  on the big island of Hawaii – hang out at the beach all day, walk over to Da Poke Shack and have a cold beer – magic!

Art Town: Car Mural

Just outside of Anthropologie in downtown Walnut Creek, there’s this really cool mural of a couple and their car. There’s a huge American flag waving in the background. I don’t know exactly where it came from, what it signifies, or why it’s placed there. But for some reason I really like it!

Maybe it’s just because it’s “classic” American. It reminds me of a scene from The Great Gatsby, where the lavish, wealthy crowd would gather for parties with fine cocktails. I don’t know if that’s what Anthropologie is going for here, but the sheer size of the mural itself makes it interesting to me!