By Diane Claytor

August nights in the East Bay are typically balmy and made for enjoying the outdoors. We all know there’s nothing on TV and so many of the movies are geared to the kids. So what’s an adult to do? Well, for at least one night in August, Diablo Ballet has the answer. And it doesn’t involve dancing.

The Ballet’s annual culinary journey — the Gourmet Gallop — begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 7. And for the following three hours you’ll enjoy excellent company and delicious food and drink, all the while knowing that you’re supporting Diablo Ballet’s outstanding PEEK Youth Outreach Program. It’s a one-night gourmet adventure walking tour and you won’t want to miss it.

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Diablo Ballet dancers Rosselyn Ramirez and Derek Sakakura enjoying ice cream at Lottie’s

Fourteen outstanding dining establishments will be satisfying your foodie side.

The Walnut Creek Yacht Club was called a “neighborhood gem” by a Yelp reviewer while another said they serve “awesome seafood.” A reviewer on OpenTable said the food at Lark Creek Walnut Creek “is always amazing” and someone else said it was his “favorite dining spot in Walnut Creek.”

These two wonderful restaurants, along with another 12, are all part of Diablo Ballet’s very popular Gourmet Gallop. And you’re invited to sip, sample and stroll your way through downtown Walnut Creek during this one of a kind gourmet activity.

Justin Levitt and Rosselyn on piano

Concert Pianist Justin Levitt serenading dancer Rosselyn Ramirez. Photo by Bilha Sperling

Other eateries participating this year include Massimo, Opa!, Hamachi, 54 Mint Forno, The Counter, Silk Road, SF Creamery, Lottie’s Creamery, Peet’s Coffee, and We Olive. Additionally, you’ll enjoy gourmet cheeses and decadent desserts, including a special appearance by Chef Alexandre Trouan presenting L’Artisan Gourmet Parisian Macarons, at SkinSpirit Skincare Clinic & Spa, which is also the official cocktail stop, featuring Laughing Glass Cocktails. And you certainly won’t want to miss wine and song at Steinway Piano Gallery, where concert pianist Justin Levitt will provide the entertainment as you sip your libation.

When asked about her participation in the Gourmet Gallop every year, Ellen O’Connell McCarty, co-owner of the Walnut Creek Yacht Club and a long time supporter of Diablo Ballet, said “We opened WCYC in May of 1997 with a clear donation philosophy. Our priorities were and are: local schools and other educational organizations; charitable organizations; and local arts programs. When Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director, first approached us…., we saw that Diablo Ballet fit all three of those top priorities, given their goals of furthering world class dance in Contra Costa County, arts education in local schools, and free dance education to the community. We are happy to participate in the Gourmet Gallop as it allows us to showcase what we do here to friends of Diablo Ballet, who are therefore also friends of ours.”

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Owners Ellen McCarty and Chef Kevin at Walnut Creek Yacht Club

Kerry Silverstone, another long time supporter of Diablo Ballet and an annual participant in the Gourmet Gallop, noted that “It’s one of my favorite non-performance events of the year! We look forward to it…so much food it’s difficult to leave enough room for the amazing dessert restaurants! AND the food is plentiful…that really surprised us! Each restaurant has a designated area for Diablo Ballet strollers only…very well organized!!!”

Last year’s gallopers enjoyed such delicacies as ravioli with waldorf salad; heirloom tomato gazpacho; bay shrimp cocktail; organic salads; Mediterranean appetizers; French-style hors d’oeuvres; pasta and fresh panzanella; pomegranate chicken with hummus and tabouli; olive oil samples; scoops of ice cream; root beer and orange crush floats and icy rasperry matcha fredo, green tea fredo and mocha fredo. And that doesn’t even mention the wonderful wines that were served!

Silverstone added, “I have loved every year Diablo Ballet has sponsored this event…what could be more enjoyable than strolling the streets of Walnut Creek on a warm summer night with friends to sample delectable delights from many of our favorite restaurants and perhaps those we don’t know…win/win for proprietors and for the strollers!”

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Artistic Director Lauren Jonas and dancer Edward Stegge with their adopt-a-class in Oakland.

And she’s so right. Not only is this event a win-win for the restaurants and the participants, but it’s a win for the 5,000 under-served elementary school kids who receive arts education through the Ballet’s PEEK (Performing Arts Education and Enrichment for Kids) program.

What better way is there to spend a lovely summer evening? For only $35 per person (before July 24; $45 after July 24), you, too, can stroll through beautiful downtown Walnut Creek, enjoy fine food and drink, and know that you’re helping kids who may never be exposed to the arts if it weren’t for Diablo Ballet.

Last year’s event almost sold out. To make sure you’re one of the many gallopers this year, go to diabloballet.org or call 925-943-1775.

Diane Claytor, a Chicago native, has spent most of her adult life living in the East Bay and working for several different non-profit organizations. Although admittedly not a dance aficionado, she enjoys all types of music and is probably happiest when she’s plugged into her mp3 player listening to whatever the mood dictates.

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