Road Trips: BottleRock

We touched on this event in my recent music festivals blog, but I had to expand it into its own feature. Because BottleRock is constantly the best day of the festival season each Spring! This was my third year going and what I like about it the best is that for the most part, it is a laid back concert scene. People either hang out on their blankets in the back, sit it the wine lounges or jostle to get up front. Even if you are up front it is still fairly chill

This year’s lineup included Bruno Mars, The Killers, Muse, Incubus, Snoop Dogg, Halsey, Earth, Wind & Fire, Billy Idol, and dozens more. I did one day at BottleRock (Friday) and took in Incubus (the lead singer Brandon Boyd has charm and sex appeal; I couldn’t stop looking at him! Did you know Incubus means “a male demon believed to have sexual intercourse with sleeping women?” I also saw The Struts (a band I hadn’t heard of, but the singer reminded me of Freddy Mercury), FLOR (the long-haired redhead pictured below was a great new band), and The Chainsmokers. In hindsight, we maybe should not have gone with The Chainsmokers instead of headliner Muse – I didn’t realize The Chainsmokers were a DJ duo, but they rocked it and that was the one place where the people were very pushy. It was a younger crowd and lots of lights and smoke as shown above. We got a little bored with Earth Wind & Fire, but really liked the jam of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

One of the best things about BottleRock is that it’s a combination of music and culinary excellence for an entire weekend. Being in Napa makes it a requirement to have awesome food and wine to go with the music (but they really do come up with an awesome music lineup every year). So in addition to seeing some great shows, we saw Shaun White, a 3-time gold medalist in snowboarding on the Culinary Stage. It was awesome – they had a winter-themed cooking show that included cotton candy made into huge snowballs and they were tossed into the audience where the promptly broke apart spreading blue cotton candy around. At the end, they were tossing Hostess snowball packages out to the audience.

Words can barely do this experience justice. Check out the art and experiences created by various vendors in the following photos. You can’t beat sitting in the grass under the sun with a glass of red, watching a famous band play live music to thousands of people. If you haven’t been yet, plan ahead for next Memorial Day weekend  – it is always Friday/Saturday/Sunday and tickets sell out quickly. So, prepare to make that short drive up to Napa to experience BottleRock!

Event Round-Up: June 16

Welcome back to the newest installment of Event Round-Up! As always, this is where we gather five of the best Bay Area events taking place over the next month or so. Let us know if you go to any of these, and if so, how you liked them!

1. Walnut Creek Uncorked (Weds., June 20)

Walnut Creek Downtown presents a brand new event, designed for the wine-lovers in our town. Tickets are $40 in advance, and get you access to wine tastings, restaurants, artisan fashion and jewelry stands, and live entertainment. You must be 21 to buy a ticket!

2. Danville Summerfest 2018 (Sat., June 23 & Sun., June 24) 

Danville has a little festival of its own that you may want to check out! Our neighbor has a cute downtown that will be filled with local music, art, and food vendors. There is a classic car show on Sunday, and the event is family and dog-friendly. Danville Summerfest will take place from 10-5 each day.

3. Alameda County Fair (Fri., June 15 – Sun., July 8)

It’s that time of year again! The Alameda County Fair at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton kicked into full gear yesterday, and will carry on through the weekend after 4th of July. If you don’t have larger travel plans, you can trek over to Pleasanton for this awesome annual event – LeeAnn Rimes, Blue Oyster Cult, and Sean Kingston are some of the many musical acts expected to perform this year.

4. 4th of July Fireworks (Weds., July 4)

I don’t have any particular event or link for you here. There are generally tons of good spots to choose from to watch East Bay fireworks on the 4th of July. Take the kiddos, your leftover BBQ, and a blanket to enjoy the show. My favorite place to catch them is up at Tahoe.

5. Walnut Creek First Wednesdays (Weds., July 11)

Another stellar outdoors event to celebrate all that Walnut Creek summers have to offer! There is free parking after 5 p.m. in many major downtown garages to help you get around. If you’ve never experienced a First Wednesdays celebration, it is chock-full of live music, food trucks, drinks, games and even a Kids Fun Zone. Check it out from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Cypress St. in downtown.

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.

You’ve Gott’s to try the new burger joint in Walnut Creek

See what I did there? Gott’s Roadside officially opened in the old Fresh Choice space on S. Main St., across the street from The Container Store. I tried dinner there recently, and enjoyed it!

Their picture of Mt. Diablo on the wall kind of looks like my logo!

I went to Gott’s around 4:30 and there was a line out the door – the first sign that a place is new, and/or worth eating at in Walnut Creek! When we left after our meal, around 6:30, the line was just as long. The location is excellent – very easy and convenient, especially if you want a quick bite while you’re out shopping or before you go to a movie.

Some highlights of the Gott’s menu includes their milkshakes, salads and, of course, the burgers. I had a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato and regular fries. Everything was really delicious, including the Mahi Mahi tacos my friends ordered. I also liked that they have roll-up garage doors for the summer, so you can order a wine or beer with your food and hang out in the warm months, too.

With its proximity to downtown and Broadway Plaza, as well as being walking distance to the movie theater, I think Gott’s will have staying power in Walnut Creek. Not to mention they have good food. I did find it to be a bit pricey for a self-serve restaurant, but they have to pay Walnut Creek rents.  All in all, it’s a massive improvement over what used to be there, and should be a go-to spot for hungry locals and visitors alike!

Gott’s Roadside gets 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s from me.

Road Trips: Carmel

For all the beautiful, picturesque landscapes in California, it seems like the Central coast can often be overlooked. Everyone knows about the National Parks, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, the SoCal beaches, etc. But one of the best gems of the entire state is just a couple hours South of the East Bay!

If you’ve never taken a trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to reach the 17-mile drive through Carmel and Monterey, you don’t know what you’re missing! You’ll hit miles of stunning coastline, as well as some of the cutest inland towns you can imagine.

One of my favorite day trips is a jaunt down to Carmel. I love all the little shops, restaurants and the beautiful beach to enjoy the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Carmel is also very dog-friendly – it seems that everybody has a dog and they are free to run on the beach (where most gravitate to the right side). I have even gone to a Weimaraner gathering here. Anybody who has rescued a Weim from NorCal Weim Rescue gets an invite. It is a fun sight to see: a bunch of Weimaraners playing and frolicking in the waves.

Monterey and Carmel also have a great wine scene and amazing golf. It’s such an easy trip, and so close to home. I recently did the 17-mile drive; that was a first for me after all these years and definitely worth the money and scenic stops. Now might be the perfect time to go, too. It is Fall, so the leaves will be brilliant and the weather will be perfectly crisp…a perfect day for a stroll on the beach, as long as you are bundled up and there is no fog!

 

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Lokanta is the new Mediterranean spot downtown

Mediterranean food is a favorite of mine – from hummus to kebabs to fish, they always make their dishes with savory flavors that keep me happy. Here in Walnut Creek, we just got a new place for all you foodies to try and will probably give Opa a run for their money: Lokanta!

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Lokanta has menus for all types of occasions: brunch, lunch, dinner, happy hour, dessert, kids’ menu and more. I tried the Lokanta Classic Martini – it was perfect! The St. George Botanivore Gin made a big difference. Of course, the flaming cheese is an attraction (and delicious) along with the mixed platter.

Their daily happy hour is from 3-6 p.m., and their delicious appetizers (hummus, pita, meatballs, dolmas, soup, salad, calamari, lamb burger, shish kebab…to name a few) are all $10 or less at that time. Beers and wine are $5 or less and they have bottomless mimosa brunches both Saturday and Sunday.

Lokanta has another popular location in Pleasanton, but only recently opened its doors on Locust St. in Walnut Creek where you will see the owner making his rounds to ensure that everything is running smoothly and the customers are happy.

For you wine-lovers, there is a half-off wine deal on Mondays and no corkage fee on Tuesdays if you want to bring your own bottle to the restaurant.  The atmosphere is cozy, a great bar area and a community table to eat at as seats become available.

All in all, I highly recommend giving Lokanta a shot next time you’re downtown or craving some Mediterranean/Greek food in Walnut Creek. I give it 4 out of 5 Mt. Diablo’s!

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!

Fill your weekend with garage sales, art and wine

Have any plans this weekend? If not, we’re hosting our annual Parkmead Garage Sale this Saturday at 8:00 a.m.!

Neighbors all over Parkmead have cleaned out their closets, garages and attics to put items together for this awesome event. Grab a map and look for the mailbox balloons to identify which homes are participating. Lilac and Newell (west of Trader Joe’s) are entry streets to the neighborhood.

If past years are any indication, there will be plenty of outdoors equipment, kids toys and clothes, furniture, jewelry and kitchen utensils. If you’re looking to stock up or upgrade for cheap, this is the place to be in Walnut Creek on Saturday!

And as a bonus, the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival takes place all weekend, starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday! You can swing by the Parkmead Garage Sale, fill your arms with thrifty finds, and then wander to Heather Farms for a glass of wine in the sun.

Can’t beat that!

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.

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.