You pa-gotta try Parada

Nestled in a quaint corner of the new-ish Pleasant Hill BART area – but technically still in Walnut Creek – lies a hidden gem of foreign cuisine. Parada, the latest brainchild of the Michelin rated Chef Carlos Altamirano, is a delicious, colorful display of Peruvian food that will definitely bring you back for seconds.

Chef Altamirano’s name may ring a bell; he has Mochica and Piqueos in San Francisco, Barranco in Lafayette, a fleet of Sanguchon food trucks, as well as La Costanera in Half Moon Bay, where he earned Michelin stars in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He trained under some of the Bay Area’s most renowned chefs, combined that background with an upbringing infused with Latin American culture and cuisine in Southern Peru, and created a food empire.

Now I know from personal experience that Peruvian cuisine, especially when cultivated by Chef Altamirano, is a can’t-miss eating opportunity.

The restaurant itself is quite small, but you wouldn’t know it when you’re in there enjoying your meal. Parada is open for lunch and dinner every day of the week, though hours vary. It’s a little bit pricey, but that’s what quality fine dining in Walnut Creek will get you these days!

If you haven’t been to Parada yet, I insist you do so. When you go, let me know how you liked it!

American Kitchen in Lafayette is cute, cozy and comforting

A friend recently treated me to dinner at American Kitchen in Lafayette for my birthday. This was my first visit and I enjoyed the atmosphere, service and food. What I am most excited about is a having a new place for breakfast! Tucked in between Chow and some non-descript office buildings in downtown Lafayette, American Kitchen is a hidden gem among the other well-known restaurants and bars.

It is actually an 80-year-old converted farmhouse that is run by locals Victor Ivry and Sariah May. They emphasize American comfort food and use the freshest, healthiest, most local ingredients. The coolest part about the space itself isn’t necessarily the adorable indoor dining area. It’s their “front yard,” which has a fire pit, a patio and multiple seating areas. It gives off the vibe that you’re enjoying your meal at a homey picnic more than a restaurant, which I loved.

I had the Gingered Squash & Pear Soup and a small Autumn Chopped salad with chicken, along with a glass of champagne. I was so enjoying my dinner and conversation that I forgot to take pictures of the food, but there are enough of the venue to entice you to try American Kitchen. They also have “themed nights,” like burgers on Monday, “Breakfast for Dinner” on Tuesday, and grilled cheese on Sunday.

It is truly a family spot, with drawings from the kids posted at the front door and only beer and wine being served. Stop by American Kitchen and give it a try for breakfast, lunch or dinner – I would love to hear your review.

Overall, I give American Kitchen 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Road Trips: Bay Area Hikes with a bar at the end

John Solaegui, a realtor in San Francisco (ironically, I went to high school with his sister!), shared a blog about five Bay Area hikes that end with a reward – in this case, a drink! I know we typically talk about actual road trips here, but hiking is just as much a way of life in the Bay Area as driving, so we can make an exception this time around, plus you most likely will have to drive to the destination!

See below for a summary of the 5 in the initial blog, as well as two I’ve added myself!

Hike #1: Grape Stomp Trail (2.4 miles) in Sonoma

The best part of this hike is that you start AND end at Bartholomew Park Winery. So, if you lose motivation at the beginning, you can just sit down with a bottle and enjoy the sunshine anyway. But, for the purpose of respecting the hike, let’s talk about Grape Stomp Trail – it is a 2.4-mile loop that starts and finishes at the winery, just to the left of the tasting room. You can see views of San Pablo Bay and cross Arroyo Seco Creek twice. If you stay left on the You-Walk Miwok Trail, you can “summit” the trail at 640 ft.

Hike #2: Zinfandel Trail (2.9 miles) in Cupertino

A beautiful hike that starts from the southern end of Picchetti Winery’s parking lot and loops back a few miles later. The winery itself is a sight to behold – more than 100 years old, shaded by oak trees, and home to a brood of peacocks! On the hike, you’ll walk past wild roses, small ponds, and a creek. At the end, you’ll end your day with a nice glass of Picchetti’s famous red wine.

Hike #3: Dipsea Trail or Sun Trail (1.5-4 miles) in Mill Valley

You may have heard of this one. A hike through part of the Dipsea Trail in Mill Valley will take you to the Nature Friends Tourist Club. The German lodge, buried within the trees of Mt. Tam and erected in 1917, is a local favorite. But you either have to be a member, or plan your hike on a day that they open to non-members. You can hike straight from Panoramic Highway down the Sun Trail, or start in Mill Valley and climb all the steps for the first part of the Dipsea Trail to get there and enjoy some German lagers, food and music!

Hike #4: Muir Beach to Tennessee Valley Trail to Green Gulch Trail (9.7 miles) in Mill Valley

Wow, that’s a mouthful. But so is the meal and drink at the Pelican Inn when you arrive. If you’ve hiked the entirety of the Dipsea Trail, you’ve probably seen the Pelican Inn at some point. This is a little bit longer, more difficult route that will start you at Muir Beach, take you through the Tennessee Valley Trail (can’t-miss views of the ocean!) in Mill Valley, and eventually out onto the Green Gulch Trail. That will bring you back close to the Muir Beach parking lot, where you’ll be ready to gorge and splurge at the Inn.

Hike #5: Coastal Trail/Lands End Trail (3.3-6.6 miles) in San Francisco

Ah, a Bay Area classic! For being a big city, San Francisco has an enormous amount of beautiful, natural hiking spots within it. One of the best, and most popular, is the Lands End trail that gives you unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you take this trail down the coast, past the Sutro Baths, you’ll end up at one of the most iconic restaurants (with a surprisingly affordable bar), Cliff House. You can’t beat this one!

Now, for a few of my more local favorites…

Hike #6: Danville Fire Trail in Las Trampas 

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness towers over Danville on the West side of 680, and most people don’t seem to bother with it. There are so many hiking spots in the Bay Area (and the East Bay specifically), that it might not seem worth the trouble. But the Danville Fire Trail loops back onto itself, and spits you out just a few blocks from the cute downtown area of Danville, where you can do anything from grab a beer at any restaurant or taste wine at Auburn James.

Hike #7: Lafayette Reservoir Loop

No list like this would be complete without a local favorite like the Lafayette Reservoir. You can take your fur baby up for a short loop around the reservoir, or take a friend on the long loop for spectacular views of the East Bay. Once you’ve looped back to the start, tack on another half hour walk, or jump back in your car, to get to downtown Lafayette. Once there, you have no shortage of drink options, but I’d highly recommend Rustic Tavern, Chow, and The Cooperage.

Looking for your dream home?

1154 Glen Rd. in Lafayette has it all. As realtors, we occasionally get preview invites to see a home before it goes on the market. Last Thursday, there was a private viewing of this spectacular home with wine, cheese and homemade chocolate chip cookies baking that created a cozy feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This coveted Happy Valley street is one of my favorites. The home was originally built by Nobel Prize winner Glenn Seaborg in 1951. The current owner completely remodeled it in 2009, adding on this high-beamed family room to the original L-shaped layout.

I love how this stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the living room. The current owner is a real estate agent and has a knack for remodeling homes, living there for a while, and then moving on to the next project. In this case, the same street just a few doors down will get the next updates to this mid-century neighborhood.

Two of my favorite features were the Jack-n-Jill bathroom where there is a laundry shoot cabinet to the laundry room on the other side, and the mud room next to the garage, as well as another outdoor entrance to store the backpacks and shoes upon returning home.

 

 

 

 

 

The master bedroom was added on with high, vaulted ceilings, doors to the pool area and an amazing bathroom. All this can be yours for $3,650,000. For more information and better photos, check out this home here.

My new favorite breakfast place: Sideboard

img_9371If you haven’t been to Sideboard for breakfast or lunch yet, drop everything you’re doing and go now! I recently visited the new Danville location (it was moved down the street to a cool old B&B-style building) and absolutely love the vibe there!

To go along with a rustic, hip feel, the new location has a huge back patio for diners and all their same amenities still apply: dog treats for our furry friends, awesome holiday decorations and clever order markers for the tables.

As an added bonus for those who love their weekend bike rides on the Iron Horse Trail, Sideboard is only about a block from one of the trail exits!

I have now been a couple of times and have had  their chilaquiles, which is a Mexican dish with fried tortillas, sauce, salsa and fried eggs, topped with feta cheese.

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A lady who I was sitting by on the big farm style tables says she comes all the way from Oakland to eat breakfast there often. I have ordered their delicious, fluffy beignets twice, once as a take out and once served – they are best fresh and warm, but delicious no matter what.

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A new addition is Sideboard is in Lafayette. I have yet to visit, but have been told they have a picnic service, where they’ll bring your meal out to you on a blanket on the grass in a picnic basket. What a nice touch! If you haven’t checked out Sideboard yet, make sure to do as soon as possible. It’s well worth it!

6864 Waverly Rd. Open House

6864 blogDon’t miss this gem! Storybook charm in the desirable Virginia Hills neighborhood with all the bells and whistles! This property is move-in ready with a recently updated kitchen and added deck off the living room. On a corner lot, near Pleasant Hill Schools, with separate family and living rooms.

Plus, there’s a large yard – perfect for entertaining! Conveniently located within walking distance to local parks and shops.

Stop by this beautiful home at its great location on the border of Pleasant Hill and Lafayette, and see for yourself! We’ll have an Open House both Saturday and Sunday this weekend (2/20 & 2/21) from 1-4 p.m.

You can see a virtual tour of 6864 Waverly Rd. right here.