Vanessa’s Bistro has great drink specials and staying power

Restaurants in Walnut Creek don’t tend to stick around for a long time these days. It seems like every month we’re writing a blog about an old favorite closing down and a new, trendy spot taking its place.

Vanessa’s Bistro is an exception to that rule. They’ve been serving patrons in downtown Walnut Creek since 2009, which feels like an eternity at this point! I’ve stopped in there a few times. My favorite is their crispy garlic salt & pepper tofu with sautéed scallions and bell peppers. I also love their special cocktails.

Vanessa’s also has Happy Hour all day on Sunday, $6 margaritas on Monday (and $30 margarita pitchers, yikes!), 50% off tapas on Tuesdays and 50% off all wine and champagne on Wednesday. A big plus (especially in trendy Walnut Creek) is that they hold happy hour Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9 PM until 11:30 PM, which consists of $5 specialty cocktails, $6 tapas and $3 and $6 select beer and wines. That is my kind of place!

They have pretty good food, too – Vietnamese tapas with a French fusion twist! They have a huge list of tapas, banh mi, seafood and vegetarian options. I think there’s a reason Vanessa’s has stuck around so long.

I give it 5 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

Following Up: Honeybees!

A few weeks back, we did the Parkmead Garden Tour. I spoke to one resident who is a honeybee keeper. In addition to the Beekeeper who was there to speak, I learned a lot about honeybees.

For example, did you know that a honeybee has to travel more than 55,000 miles and has to visit about 2 million flowers just to produce one pound of honey? Or that they can fly 15 miles per hour? 

Beekeeping is a hobby that seems to be picking up popularity, especially around the Bay Area. Much like composting, its attraction is that it’s a sustainable, healthy way to provide for oneself and the community around us. It’s been common knowledge for years that the bee population is quickly dying off, and their extinction would have a horrific effect on the planet’s ecosystem.

So, I also snagged some basic information on beekeeping resources around the Bay Area! If you want to learn more about the Mt. Diablo Beekeepers Association (MDBA), visit this link! If you’re interested in starting beekeeping, you can find supplies at MarElla Honey B’s in Concord, Biofuel Oasis/Urban Farm Store in Berkeley, and many others around the Bay Area.

If you’d simply like to attract more bees to your garden to help increase the population and improve your pollination, plant flowers that they like! For example, blackberries and raspberries, fireweed, lavender, oregano, rosemary and sunflower are a few that really attract heavy pollination.  

Here are a few more fun facts for you to finish out our blog on honeybees:

  • A typical beehive makes more than 400 lbs of honey per year
  • A honeybee will flap its wings about 11,400 times per minute, creating the familiar “buzz” sound
  • Honeybees are responsible for approximately 80 percent of all fruit, vegetable and seed crops in the U.S.

So when you see a bee nearby, don’t run or swat at it, but think of the good they do and then briskly walk away!

Art Town: Sculpture by BART

Have you ever noticed the big wooden sculpture across the street from the Walnut Creek BART back parking lot? It’s right between the big office buildings that engulf Caffe California. Funny enough, it’s just down the block from our Better Homes and Gardens offices!

I’ve walked past this a few times and never gave it a second glance, but I actually noticed it recently and I love the composition of the structure. It kind of looks like a bunch of different parts of a piano was disassembled and dropped in a heap on the concrete.

Make sure to take a look next time you’re on your way to or from BART. It’s pretty cool!

Old Borges Ranch Day this Saturday

This Saturday, you can join Walnut Creek City staff for Old Borges Ranch Day. How cool is that? There will be arts, crafts, activities, games, livestock demonstrations, ponies and fiddlers.

Image result for borges ranch

Borges Ranch is the little farm nestled into the foothills of Mt. Diablo, on the southeast side of Shell Ridge. It was established in 1899 by Francisco Borges and is a living example of what an early-20th century California cattle ranch looked like.

Many of the original buildings still exist, including the Borges family home which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981 and is part of the Mt. Diablo State Park with an on-site ranger. Sheep, goats, and other livestock roam the farm and welcome hikers who wander past during their Open Space treks.

The almost 400-acre ranch would be a great place for the family to spend a lazy Saturday, and a great learning experience for young kids. I went on a field trip with my now-21-year-old son when he was in the 4th grade; we went back there to get polliwogs, which lived in his bedroom until they turned to frogs. Then we let them go into the creek by Las Lomas – some great memories.

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Image from walnut-creek.org

The event this Saturday will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and you can park at Northgate High School and shuttle in and out. It costs just $5 per family to take part!

MoMo’s happy hour has potential

As you know, I like to try all the new restaurants in Walnut Creek. Most recently, I went to MoMo’s in the old McCovey’s location.

The original MoMo’s is across from AT&T Park in San Francisco and is a hugely popular place to go, especially for Giants fans before and after ball games. This is the first time they’ve expanded since opening in 1998.

The happy hour is nice, and the food itself is reasonably priced (I haven’t done a full meal yet – just happy hour), but I’ve heard from two separate parties that they thought the food was bland. Others have raved, so I’ll have to go back and try a full meal.

They have a really cool entrance and an awesome fan under a blue ceiling. They offer homemade fries, pizzas, and oysters during happy hour. The pizzas are tasty and are a great size for the price, so I’d definitely recommend that. One thing that annoyed me was that there was no sound on during the games on TV because of the loud music!

Margaritas, mules and other cocktails are $7 during happy hour, and you can get local beer and wine at the bar as well. The oysters are $1, pizza and wings are $5, and you can get calamari, lamb sliders, and a half-pound burger all for less than $10. In the grand scheme of things in Walnut Creek, that’s a pretty good deal.

According to Diablo Magazine, the lettuce leaves appetizer and lamb burger are both really good. They also loved the smoked salmon flatbread with pesto and the more upscale petrale sole dish.

Either way, this is a cool new attraction in Walnut Creek that definitely deserves another trip back for a full meal. It’s an improvement over McCovey’s and adds to the list of trendy hangout spots in downtown.

Have you checked it out yet? What did you think?

George’s Giant Hamburgers – new and improved!

The Burger Blogs Continue…George’s Giant Hamburgers is under new ownership, and I, for one, am happy with the change! 

I used to love going to George’s to get a burger, but the old owners didn’t take credit cards and gave me a hard time on my to-go order when I asked for my toppings to go in a separate bag so my food wouldn’t be soggy when I got home. It felt like they were being cheap, so I stopped being their customer.

Now, the new friendly owners not only takes cards, but had no problem giving me an extra bag. I know those are small things to worry about at a restaurant, but the experience and how you feel makes a difference.

When I was in the other day checking it out, I noticed a little bit of re-decorating, but it’s pretty much the same old George’s that has been a Walnut Creek staple for years. One thing I did notice was a Marine Corps. flag on the wall, which hits close to home with my family’s military background.

There was a group of young Marines in the restaurant, and the owner’s son was in the Marine Corp (who also works at George’s) and is mentoring them. It sounds like the owners work the night shift and their son works during the day. A perfect little family business!

As for the food itself, George’s still grinds their meat fresh every day and has a tasty burger – I am not sure if the patty is slightly smaller. They added a couple new things to the menu and are applying for a beer and wine liquor license. I love the new ownership and the food is still good.

They earned four Mt. Diablo’s from me, and I’ll definitely be back, especially since I live only a few blocks away. I would love to hear what you think of George’s Giant Burgers under the new ownership.

Don’t miss the Parkmead Garden Tour this Sunday!

My Parkmead neighborhood, in Walnut Creek, is hosting a Garden Tour this Sunday. Come by and check it out if you have a chance!

Get to know the Parkmead neighborhood and learn about the local flora and fauna that thrive in our Mediterranean climate. We have 8 gardens participating this year!

Here are the details:

  • Sun, Apr 30
  • 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
  • Maps available at 1701 Lilac Drive
    As listed above, you can pick up your Garden Tour map at 1701 Lilac Dr., anytime between 1 pm and 4 pm on Sunday, April 30th. 
We will feature a garden designed by our very own resident landscape designer, Janet Cohen and one with Admirals Choice discussing irrigation, drought resistant plants and sprinklers that can be controlled by your phone.  Plus the non-profit Sustainable Contra Costa, will have information on raising chickens at home and sustainable gardening tips. They will also have a “sheet mulching” demonstration and composting discussion! Additionally, we will be sharing some info on beekeeping at home and composting.
For more information please visit our website: http://www.parkmead.org/Home_Page.html or contact events@parkmead.org. Can’t wait to see you there!

P.S. We will also be accepting donations to finish the walking path that takes you to Parkmead Elementary School. It has many potholes and when it rains, many puddles. Thus students, dog walkers and neighbors divert them by walking into the street!

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Burger Lounge, Hella Good!

Burger Lounge, the new burger joint on Oak Grove Rd., is making its first foray into Northern California with its Walnut Creek location.

Rooted in San Diego, they are well-known for their grass-fed beef, craft sodas, huge salads, half-and-half fries and onion rings and delicious shakes. The decor is fresh and stylish; I saw lots of people comfortable and conversing.

(Note: if you get there after 11:30 on weekdays, there will be a line out the door)

Burger Lounge also serves wine and local craft beer (Calicraft at the Walnut Creek location). Maybe the coolest aspect of the Burger Lounge mission is that they try so hard to make food that tastes good but is also as sustainable as possible. As mentioned, their burgers are grass-fed and they avoid a lot of the processed ingredients other places use.

I really liked my burger. I got mine to go and it was gone before I hit 680. Overall, I give Burger Lounge FIVE Mt. Diablo’s! Give it a try and let me know if you agree.

Art Town: Ducks at Arroyo

I love these cool ducks at the new Arroyo apartments at 1250 Arroyo Way in Walnut Creek. It’s one of the most unique pieces I’ve seen around town at any of the new complexes.

Did you know: The Walnut Creek Public Art Program was adopted in 2000 when ordinances requiring funding and the inclusion of public art in new development and renovation projects was passed by the City Council? I think that’s a wonderful idea!

Are Walnut Creek’s In-N-Out dreams dead?

According to ABC7, the new In-N-Out location Walnut Creekians have been salivating over might be in trouble.

Just TRY to say no to this picture…

Apparently, a community near the proposed site (N. Main St. at Second Ave.) of the new location is trying to stop the construction because of the expected long drive-thru line that will cause traffic and late night noise.

The city has not taken a stance yet, and the owner of the property already has it zoned for a restaurant, so it may very well still happen. Would In-N-Out have a restaurant without the drive-thru window? If so, how will In-N-Out feed all the folks who don’t want to leave their cars to eat their fast food?

Anyway, the local community rightly likes its quiet, peaceful street and think there is already a plethora of fast food restaurants nearby, making In-N-Out unnecessary.  My son will be bummed, I for one am indifferent.  They are not my favorite, the patty is too small…stay tuned for future blogs on our areas burger locals.

This would look great on N. Main St. Just saying.In all seriousness, it looks like the city will plan a few public hearings after they review the proposal again. It remains to be seen if the local community will have their way, or if residents of Walnut Creek will be able to save themselves 10 minutes of driving on 680 (in either direction…) for those juicy burgers.

For what it’s worth, the anti-In-N-Out petition on Change.org has about 10 times as many signatures as the pro-In-N-Out petition. At least our town gets involved.