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Diablo Dish — September '07


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The King dined at Bing’s. No, not that King. In July, highway patrol officers parted the waves of Walnut Creek traffic so the cavalcade of King Abdullah II of Jordan could follow a clear path to Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Bar.

Local police patrolled the parking lot during the dinner party while ear-pieced secret service agents attempted to blend into the booths as the King and his 14 guests dined on seared scallops, filet mignon, and strawberry shortcake. “When he sat down in front of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa [on display in a wine case], we joked that he might order it,” says general manager Rosanne Cefalu. “But he knew what he wanted. He ordered the Silver Oak Cab.”

The legendary ghost at Clayton’s La Veranda—believed to sit in a rocking chair in the back of the Italian restaurant and spook employees with strange voices—survived a valiant exorcism attempt in July. Ghost hunters from internet TV show “In Search of the Paranormal” contacted La Veranda’s owner, Nicolas Maamari, and offered to haul infrared cameras, electromagnetic field scanners, and digital thermometers into the Victorian building. They searched until 1 a.m., but the mystery specter was not found. “It was just a kick,” Maamari says. “It was fun.”

Whole Foods
and Safeway are battling it out in Diabloland. After Safeway gave the natural grocer a run for its money with its O-organics line, Whole Foods upped the ante with plans to open three new East Bay locations. Whole Foods will replace the former Albertson’s in Lafayette and open sites in Oakland and Dublin. Safeway will see the Whole Foods challenge and raise the stakes, with new features at its “Lifestyle” stores. The Pleasanton-based corporation has chosen the Livermore Safeway as the test site for refined offerings such as a wine-tasting bar, chocolate-dipping bar, nut bar, and gelato bar, as well as convenience touches like a cookbook section, a seating area, and free Internet service. Safeway plans to roll out the gourmet features nationwide soon.

Danville is becoming a wine taster’s paradise. Corks Wine Store replaced the Wine Sellars on Hartz Avenue over the summer. Corks has remodeled the space into a silk-curtained lounge that offers wine along with cheese plates and chocolates. Just across the street, Randy Negi, owner of Bridges Restaurant, announced plans to build a wine shop and tasting room adjacent to Bridges.

Another wine-focused venture has opened in Walnut Creek. The Artisan Wine Lounge & Café features 32 little-known California wines, along with Spanish tapas and desserts. Owners Lena Chu and Kevin Ng also include a few wines from a different country every few months for comparison with California flavors.

Family-owned Le Cheval, a long-standing Vietnamese restaurant with locations in Oakland and Berkeley, is scheduled to open another restaurant this month on South Broadway in Walnut Creek. Brothers Dan and Son Tran say they also have their sights set on Fremont, Danville, and Dublin.

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