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What a Week: Taste Tri-Valley is here

EDITORIAL: Jeremy Walsh reflects on dining during the pandemic as Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week kicks off this weekend.

"The Tri-Valley is a food-lovers paradise, and we want the world to know!"

That's how Robin Fahr, vice president of marketing for Visit Tri-Valley, framed the conversation about this year's Taste Tri-Valley Restaurant Week, which begins today and actually runs for 10 days through next Sunday (Feb. 27).

The program sees more than 30 registered restaurants and wineries offering exclusive deals, unique menus and special foodie events to spotlight the best of the best, culinary-wise, in Pleasanton, Livermore, Dublin and Danville.

For Visit Tri-Valley, the local tourism and marketing district funded primarily by a special assessment applied to hotel stays in the region, among other sources, the 2022 Restaurant Week aims to take the next step in building upon the success of the inaugural event in February 2021 -- thriving, as opposed to just surviving, is how I'd put it.

"Last year the objective of Taste Tri-Valley was to engage locals to help keep our restaurants going while we were in the throes of the pandemic," Fahr told me.

"This year we're focused on both locals and diners from around the greater Bay Area, as the Tri-Valley is being recognized as a culinary destination, thanks to our diverse ethnic cuisines, sustainability programs, new Michelin-designated restaurants, and menus receiving national acclaim."

Plus, this year's event comes at a time when the COVID-19 regulations are again easing and the weather seems anything but typical for February in the Bay Area.

Fahr noted that this year's Taste Tri-Valley will offer both outdoor and indoor dining with no advanced check-in required -- a natural evolution, especially for those aching for a fuller return to pre-pandemic social conditions.

I don't know how unique my experience has been. I have not dined inside a restaurant, and only a handful of times outdoors, since March 2020, but I have ordered take-out food more often during the past two years than any other stretch in my life.

That's how I've chosen to balance my desire to support the restaurants I like, and their workers, with my desire to keep myself, my family and others safe from preventable spread of the virus.

I try to do my part with the to-go orders: grab an appetizer and/or dessert, tack on that extra entree for leftovers tomorrow, pick up a drink if in the mood, and always (always) tip over 20% and with cash when possible.

I hope it's helped, though admittedly I don't know their books. But I also have to admit that date night at home just seems so much more appealing to me now than ever before -- and I think it might just stick for us by and large when the pandemic ends.

If that's the case, I'll work to make sure the "dinner" part of "dinner and a movie at the house" is take-out from a restaurant every time I can.

Choosing where to eat has become all that more important these days. Of course we all want our favorite locally owned eateries to survive and their workers to thrive, and I've focused on them. I try to be aware too, though, that that chain restaurant down the street employs local residents facing some of the most demanding lower-wage jobs in the Bay Area. Oh, and that corporate-branded spot could well be a locally operated franchise.

Then again, maybe its profits aren't kept so local...

I respect patrons using their buying power to make statements about what businesses and causes they support -- and which they don't. To each their own, as long as it's done in a respectful manner. (Or, I'll put it this way: with at least as much respect as the company demonstrates publicly.)

It's tough to watch what has been going on around us in certain industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, and local restaurants are among those to have been particularly hard hit.

Pleasanton is no different. As just one example, Oak Hills Shopping Center, across the street from the Weekly office, alone has seen three eateries close within the past two years.

On the positive side, at least one of those vacancies in the past several months has already been occupied by a new restaurant concept. The culinary industry is nothing if not resilient.

There are so many good things happening when it comes to food and drink in our region, and that's what Taste Tri-Valley is all about: shining a spotlight while encouraging much-needed support.

I suggest you visit the Visit Tri-Valley website yourself (visittrivalley.com) to see the full list of participating restaurants and special events on the docket among Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore.

But aren't there five communities in the Tri-Valley? As a reminder, San Ramon continues to miss out on regional collaborative events like this Restaurant Week after pulling out of Visit Tri-Valley in 2015 in favor of going it alone with its own tourism district.

Like many of you, it has stood out to us at the Weekly how little (if anything) we've actually heard or seen from that organization, Discover San Ramon.

In fact, we were so curious to investigate that we had just begun receiving a trove of documents from our public records request when headlines started spreading about this new and dangerous virus making its way around the world and within the U.S.

Our Discover San Ramon probe fell by the wayside as we had to shift news priorities. Not an excuse; just acknowledgement of an obvious overriding factor.

I'm starting to think now could be the time to get out a fresh records request, and dig back into those pages and pages and pages of documents we previously obtained.

Maybe I'll do it over a coffee or lunch. Where should I order from?...

Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His "What a Week" column runs on the first and third Fridays of the month.