Walnut Creek on ice is officially back!

It’s that magical time of the year when the temperature in California dips down into the frigid 50’s, an occasional rainstorm passes through, and…an ice rink forms in Civic Park? That’s right, downtown Walnut Creek hosts an ultra-cool ice rink through Walnut Creek On Ice.

The rink, which opened on Nov. 9, and will remain in place until late January, has become a local favorite during the winter, to give us Californians a little taste of a white winter, but saving us the 3-hour trip to Tahoe! You can take a date to the rink for a couple skate, or maybe teach the kids how to skate at the open rink.

There are even an ice skating academy and private lessons for those who are getting serious about being a future San Jose Shark or the next great Winter Olympian. This is a wonderful way to spend some quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones this winter. How nice does a short stroll to La Scala after a couple hours on the ice sound?

If you’d rather skate in a colder locale, foggy San Francisco and icy Lake Tahoe both offer some awesome rinks, too! At the Embarcadero, you can skate with beautiful Bay and Bay Bridge views and then saunter over to the Ferry Building for hot chocolate. In Union Square, you can circle the rink between the buildings and even take in a “Drag Queens on Ice” show. And in Tahoe, of course, Northstar’s village ice skating rink is not to be missed. It’s 9,000 square feet of joy, surrounded by bars, cabanas, and fire pits – and if you’re up at Northstar anyway…it’s free!

Walnut Creek is the hub of the East Bay for a reason, and hosting cool events like an ice skating rink is one of them. The rink itself is in its 14th year of operation downtown, meaning Walnut Creek On Ice has brought snowy joy to our citizens since 2004 – this is bound to be the best year yet. Let me know if you check it out, and how you liked it!

IKOI is a great new sushi spot in Walnut Creek

There’s a new sushi place in town, and I tried it recently – it did not disappoint! It is hard to break into the sushi game in the Bay Area these days, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my meal along with the sake at IKOI, which is located across from La Scala.

The sushi itself was very fresh, though it took a while to get the second roll I ordered. It’s so new, there’s still a coffee logo on the floor of the restaurant from the previous tenants!

We ordered the small plate sampler with ceviche and “Hamachi Love,” all unique and deliciously fresh. Though they don’t have a large selection of rolls, the select few are quality and tasteful. I found the information about their chef and co-owner on the website really interesting, too: Chef Koji has been cooking for 40 years and trained under famed sushi master Chef Hiroshi Hiyama. He has worked in acclaimed restaurants in Japan before opening the first of three restaurants he now has in the Bay Area.

Apparently, “Ikoi,” means “rest and relaxation” in Japanese, which is perfect. I felt very satisfied and happy after eating there. I’d definitely recommend Ikoi to any sushi fans out there in Walnut Creek! It gets 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me only due to the delay in getting the second roll.  If it was on quality of sushi alone, it would be a 5+!

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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!