Event Round-Up: June 15th

It’s officially summer, in case you missed that massive heat wave at the beginning of the week! Time to plan around pool parties, trips to the beach, and picnics at the park! Here are some fun, local events for the next month or so happening in the Bay Area:

Image result for exploratorium

Exploratorium: Self, Made (thru Sept. 2)

A really cool-looking exhibit about self-discovery that is on display for all ages at the Exploratorium all summer. Find out what makes you, you at this interactive-heavy exhibit. Information here.

Walnut Creek: Uncorked (June 20th)

The best restaurants in Walnut Creek offer delicious food, you’ll get to sip wine and walk through downtown, and mingle with the rest of the local community at this annual event. Get tickets here!

Walnut Creek: Music and Movies at the Park (June 21st)

This summer movie and music series will start at Tice Valley Park on 6/21, showing Bumblebee and playing the Rossmorr Band. Music starts at 7 p.m., and the movie starts around 8:30 (at sundown). Bring your family! Information here.

Pleasant Hill: Summer Concerts by the Lake (June 23)

Every other Sunday in Pleasant Hill, you can enjoy free music by the lake from 6-8 pm. On this date in particular, you can take in the sounds of Midnight Flyer. For more info and a full schedule, visit:
https://www.ci.pleasant-hill.ca.us/888/Festivals-Events.

Image result for cal shakes
The Mercury News

Orinda: CalShakes (July 3rd)

Can’t beat a great outdoor venue for some small-time theater. Though the run on A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be over at CalShakes, you could take up The Good Person of Szechwan or plan ahead for House of Joy or MacBeth later in the season. Get more info here.

Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill: authenic Chinese food!

One evening I was working late and another agent had asked me some questions. Then she asked if I was hungry as she was going to get some dinner and wanted to treat me for my help. She is Chinese and recommended going to a Chinese restaurant. I said only if she orders the more authentic dishes so I can try them, as I always get kung pao chicken.

It was delicious and I would have never ordered the items we did. Sichuan can be spicy, so Kathy, my co-worker, was concerned I might not like it. Below is fish soup in a spicy sauce that we got only half-spicy. That is where the bowl of rice really comes in handy: you grab some fish, douse it against the rice, and then eat both. The rice helps absorb some of the heat.


We also ordered their signature tofu dish. Again, it would not be something I would normally consider and it was my favorite! I would order this again. These pictures don’t show anybody there, but there were two groups and I left them out of the picture. By the time we left, there were another give groups eating!

For an authentic Sichuan meal, I’d definitely recommend checking this place out! Just don’t go for the standard Chinese fare and ask your server for what they would recommend as the house special.

Bounty Hunter Open as of 4/8!

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of how many new restaurants open and how many old ones close in Walnut Creek. It’s an endless merry-go-round of openings and closings, which can be exciting but hard to track! Recently, my team member Denise tried Bounty Hunter, plus her daughter Erica is a hostess there, so they tried it three times during the past weekend soft opening for friends and family! Here are her insights:

Bounty Hunter Walnut Creek is the second location for this wine and spirits merchant. The rustic decor and only 25 tables create a comfy atmosphere. While the combination of a wine merchant serving BBQ sounds a bit odd, Bounty Hunter pulls it off amazingly well. The food is fabulous! The pimento cheese dip appetizer is a new twist on the southern version with a bit of a kick to it. The BBQ platter is a good way to try the pulled pork, brisket and ribs with the three house made sauces, a great dish to share. Not a huge fan of BBQ? The salmon on shaved brussels sprouts and tri-color quinoa was cooked perfectly (and looked beautiful too). The beer can chicken is one of their specialties and quite a site when the whole chicken (including the beer can) arrives at the table; and you can’t beat mac and cheese as the ultimate comfort food to go along with it all. Ah, the desserts . . . s’mores pie, cobbler, and panna cotta with kumquats are just a few of the tempting options. Even with the soft opening, service was very good with the entire staff creating a welcoming vibe.

The restaurant officially opened on April 8. Reservations are recommended and can be made up to two weeks out but only by phone or in person. The 15 bar stools and lounge area are open seating. The full menu is available at the bar. Beverages and appetizers are available in the lounge area. There are 24 wines by the glass available and 8 wine flights that have been put together for those who want to taste some great wines. Bounty Hunter is one of the few restaurants in Walnut Creek with a sommelier. Brandon has hand picked the 500+ wines that are available for purchase in the retail wine and spirits shop. There is a full bar and Bounty Hunter has 4 specialty cocktails on the menu. There is no happy hour nor door dash at this time 🙁

p.s. I can’t wait to try it and note, there are some vegetarian options!

Have you been to Fat Maddie’s?

There’s a burger restaurant taking the East Bay by storm. The closest location to Walnut Creek is in Pleasant Hill, so you can wander over to our neighboring town anytime to catch a bite of Fat Maddie’s!

According to their website, Fat Maddie’s is a family business with locations in Pleasant Hill, Blackhawk, and San Ramon. They create Southern food with ingredients from a family farm at the base of Mt. Diablo. They use herbs, eggs, and more from the farm to create the delicious meals at the restaurants.

I went with some friends to grab a bite before a movie. I had the Cali Chicken sandwich, but switched out broiled chicken for fried chicken and it was very good. My team member Denise went with her daughter and a friend – those are the pictures you see in this blog. It is a cute, but small, restaurant with sandwiches, salads, soups, a few entrees, and a bar. Perfect for dinner before the movies or lunch with some friends.


Cinemark Movie Club prices are now the same as Costco’s, but better!

As with anything in Walnut Creek, prices to see a movie have skyrocketed in recent years. Going to Cinemark to catch a flick used to be a relaxing treat. Now, after tickets, popcorn, a drink, and parking downtown (if the lot is full), you’re looking at a solid $50 outing. Unless you went to Costco and got the movie passes which used to be about $7.50 a ticket, and has steadily increased in price over the years. The new price is $17.99 for two which gets me to point of this blog.

With the remodel of the new Lux seating in the theaters, you now have to plan way ahead and reserve your seat if you want to sit next to the person you are going to the movies with. The Costco tickets do not allow you to reserve online; you either have to go ahead of time to buy the tickets or be hopeful there are a couple of seats together. With the Movie Pass on the verge of non-existence (they are trying to rebound with unlimited movies every month), the best deal going is the Cinemark Movie Pass.

It automatically bills you every month for one ticket at $8.99, but you can buy more tickets for the same price and then you get 20 percent off your concessions and can earn points for more discounts. Plus, you can then reserve your seat online, which waives any fees. This is now a slightly better offer than what you can get at Costco. Oscars are just around the corner and it always my favorite time of year to catch up on the movies nominated. Just don’t make the mistake I made when booking the Favourite. I accidentally got the movies for Thursday night when I was going on Friday. Note my surprise when I no longer had tickets. I still had the email receipt and the manager was kind enough to print 2 ticket for Friday!

If you don’t mind going on a Tuesday, it is $6 all day in Walnut Creek and $5.75 in Pleasant Hill. What a great deal, but for those of us who work and have families, fitting that day and time in can be a challenge.

Remember back in the day, how Festival Cinema 5 was the downtown theater to go to? Those of us who have lived in Walnut Creek for a while will remember! It was opened in 1969 and expanded to five screens (wow! LOL) in 1971. It was closed and demolished in 2001, and now Momo’s stands on its corner. Check out this old picture:

Movie-going in Walnut Creek (and in general) sure has changed over the years, but it’s hard to complain about the quality of theater and film we get nowadays! Just curious to know, how many of my readers enjoy going to the movies by themselves? I have done this a few times and actually don’t mind it!

New housing going up in Walnut Creek

As anyone who has lived in Walnut Creek for more than 30 seconds knows apartments are popping up all over town to keep up with the demand of our popular little town. The newest ones being finished right now are primarily on Riviera, walking distance to the Walnut Creek Bart station. The main picture is a very large complex on Ygnacio and Trinity called Vaya. These are all meant to be walking distance to Walnut Creek BART (and they definitely are!), they feel a little more spread out and each their unique style than their counterparts in Pleasant Hill.  Below is low-income apartments that back up to the freeway.

The Pleasant Hill station jammed a lot of units on their parking lot without much regard to design and aesthetics.  I think Walnut Creek is trying to do it differently, there is still a lot of construction, so we will have to wait and see on the final product. Live Riv, pictured below, is on Riviera, which are condos for sale ranging from $495k for a junior 1 bedroom to $695k for a 2 bedroom. Riv’s refined, contemporary exterior welcomes you into design-savvy living spaces that feature keyless entry, nine-foot ceilings, hardwood floors and oversized windows. European-style open kitchens showcase sleek cabinetry, under-cabinet lighting, quartz counters, tiled backsplashes, and stainless steel appliances.

Below is another on Riviera that is also affordable housing with a 4,000 person waitlist that requires you to meet a certain income threshold and then the tenants will be picked lottery style.  That is what happens when you have a studio apartment for $900 rent in Walnut Creek!

The overall idea is to provide living opportunities close to Bart so people don’t have to drive to commute to the city.  Walnut Creeks is also building another multi-level garage, but more people are moving to our once quaint town and trying to find solutions to traffic will be an ongoing challenge over the next 20 years.

Get your groove on this summer!

There’s nothing better than a summer night in the Bay Area. We’re spoiled with perfect weather here, and it means we can spend every evening outside, enjoying the twilight with drink in our hand and a happy hour entree on our plates. It also means it’s time for Summer Concert Series season!

You don’t have to stray too far from home to get to the closest concerts. There will be four free performances outside The Lesher Center, starting with a show this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. All shows go from 5:30-7 p.m. and will sell beer, wine and snacks:

Picture
Courtesy: http://www.lesherartscenter.org/summer-sounds-2018.html

  • June 21: Mariachi Mestizo
  • June 28: The Sons of the Soul Revivers
  • July 12: Tumbledown House
  • July 26: The T Sisters (highly recommend this one – love their sound!)

If you like what you hear in July at The Lesher Center, carry on that momentum into August with Broadway Plaza’s Summer Concert Series. These will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Event Plaza, and they are also free to the public:

Courtesy: http://www.broadwayplaza.com/Events/Details/475005

  • Aug. 16: Kalimba (The Spirit of Earth, Wind & Fire)
  • Aug. 23: Caravanserai (The Santana Tribute)
  • Aug. 30: Bee Gee’s Gold (The Tribute)

Lastly, if you want to venture a bit outside of Walnut Creek, check out our neighbors’ Summer Concert Series in Pleasant Hill’s Plaza in front of Jack’s Restaurant & Bar. The shows take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and are, of course, free!

  • July 5: Fleetwood Mask
  • Aug. 2: Top Shelf Classics
  • Sept. 6: Illeagles

No matter which series you choose – or if you try out all three – you’re sure to have a good time jamming to some fun music! Let me know if you visit any of these shows, and how they are!

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!

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.

SaveSave

Open House at 10 Stugun Ct. (Pleasant Hill) today and tomorrow!

Are you a family with kids looking for a new Bay Area home? Check out this spacious Valhalla North property, located walking distance from Valhalla Elementary!

It’s situated on a cozy court and has a massive, naturally-shaded hillside deck with a perfect view of Mt. Diablo. This home will adapt to changing needs – whether you have a small, growing family or one that spans multiple generations. The five bedrooms and three bathrooms will do the trick.

Downstairs, you have one large bedroom with a full bath that can serve as a master suite. Add to that newer stamped concrete, recessed lighting, plantation shutters, updated baths and ample storage, and you’ve got a winner here in Pleasant Hill.

You can check out a virtual tour of the home here.

Come swing by our Open House at 10 Stugun Court in Pleasant Hill from 1-4 p.m. both today (Saturday, 8/26) and tomorrow!