Curious Epicurean

Archive for April 2011

Not sure how I’m just learning about this, but The Dirty Heads are amazing. I realize I’m probably the last person on the planet to figure this out. This music just feels like a lazy summer afternoon.


Forget the macaron trend. I'm not quite over the cupcake trend. (Photo courtesy of Kara's Cupcakes Facebook)

Food experts hailed 2011 as the “Year of the Macaron.” While I’m always excited for one more option for a sweet treat, I’m still solidly obsessed with last year’s cupcake trend. I joke that when I quit working in San Francisco, I knew I’d miss four things: food trucks, Blue Bottle Coffee, easy access to SF Giants games and an abundance of cupcake shops.

I love our cute little candy shops and neighborhood bakeries in Tri-Valley, but nothing quite eases my sweet tooth like a cupcake. I was thrilled when my number-one guilty pleasure, Kara’s Cupcakes, opened a location in nearby Walnut Creek.

This weekend after watching the San Francisco Giants’ first win of the 2011 season, I came across my latest Kara’s Cupcakes obsession, the java chocolate cupcake. It’s a chocolate cake with coffee-flavored icing and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. It’s to die for!

In just one afternoon in Walnut Creek I was able to enjoy 3 of my 4 San Francisco guilty pleasures. Now we just have to get working on the gourmet food truck situation.

Downtown Pleasanton certainly doesn’t have a lack of quality outdoor dining options. Perfect for people watching during a busy weekday lunch or lounging on a warm summer evening, sidewalk cafes are much of the charm of the historic downtown. One of the newest additions, Nonni’s Bistro, opened in late-summer 2010 and happens to be one of my favorites.  

Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Nonni's Bistro)

The latest venture of Chef  Jon Magnusson, who also launched Carmel’s Bistro 211, offers an inventive menu with distinctive European flair. Much of the charm of Nonni’s Bistro is in the details. The lunch menu and daily specials are delicately assembled with seasonal produce. Dainty vases of fresh flower cheerily greet diners. Water carafes are accented with slices of citrus and mint, and the fresh warm rolls are too tempting to pass up.

Onion Soup at Nonni's Bistro in Pleasanton, CA. (Photo credit: Yelp)

The decor inside Nonni’s is inviting, yet unassuming. Remarkably refreshing, and honestly lacking in many area restaurants, is that Chef Jon always greets diners and checks on tables throughout the meal. He is friendly and always quick to strike up conversation. Nonni’s Bistro is a perfect example of how an involved and visible chef can enhance the dining experience.

I’ve been to Nonni’s Bistro three times so far. I recommend the french onion soup ($5.95),  flat bread topped with red bell peppers, olive tapenade and fontina cheese, which comes with a house salad ($10) and the petit grilled chicken sandwich, served with white bean and chicken soup ($12).

The wine list at Nonni’s Bistro includes many labels from the neighboring Livermore Valley Wine Country, including Wente Vineyards and Darcie Kent. Nonni’s Bistro is also open for brunch and dinner. I’m looking forward to coming back during the Saturday morning Pleasanton Farmers Market or after enjoying Pleasanton Downtown’s seasonal 1st Wednesday Street Parties.