Food & Drink: We dare you to…

Osaka Ya is Sacramento’s shaved-ice headquarters throughout the summer months. Above, the Kunibe clan takes a trip to snow-cone heaven.

Osaka Ya is Sacramento’s shaved-ice headquarters throughout the summer months. Above, the Kunibe clan takes a trip to snow-cone heaven.

Photo By jerome love

Throw a tailgate beach party

Island Tacos

There are many amazing islands in the world: “Islands in the Stream,” Fantasy Island, Treasure Island. But tropical island getaways with white beaches, palm trees and clear water? So cliché. And so costly, to boot! Dare to be original this summer. Throw on your most flattering swim gear and head to Island Tacos in a pickup truck, with the bed filled with (responsibly procured) sand. Order some inexpensive yet delicious tacos or burritos inside the tiny building on the corner of Folsom Boulevard and 51st Street, and enjoy atop beach towels in the parking lot. 5096 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 451-2210. (S.S.)

Feed your face

Fat Face popsicles

Whether consumed in ice cream, in a smoothie or raw, cold fruit is a timeless summer treat. Fat Face popsicles are another great way to get a serving of fresh fruit. Founder Jaymes Luu creates unique popsicles with weird but tasty ingredients, like kaffir lime leaves, sweet potato and beets. The challenge is trying them all. Find them at the Davis Farmers Market and at its brand-new Sacramento location. 1815 19th Street, (J.M.)

Make it a five-beer night

Slow Beer Movement dinners

Nothing tops off a nice summer day quite like a tall, cold glass of beer. Or five. Next, add five gourmet plates of food and a dessert. Do I have your attention yet? Each third Monday of the month, Red Lotus and Formoli’s Bistro are teaming up on Slow Beer Movement dinners. It’s an opportunity to slow down and enjoy a carefully crafted meal, each course paired with its own brew. Come for food and drink, stay for the good company and leave with a special Slow Beer Movement glass. Dinners cost between $50 and $60, and are worth the splurge. Red Lotus, 2718 J Street, (916) 231-0961; Formoli’s Bistro, 3260 J Street, (916) 448-5699; (K.H.)

Wine about the weather

Slushies at the California State Fair

The California State Fair means many things to many people: the aroma of livestock, dizzying rides, cover bands, giant stuffed animals. It’s also home to one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the country, though it’s hard to be enthused about even an award-winning red in 100-plus-degree heat. Before heading to the beer garden for a cold one, give the wine slushie a try. Flavored simple syrups are added to merlot and chardonnay, frozen and blended to go down smooth. Bartles & Jaymes have nothing on these babies. The California State Fair runs July 14-31. Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Boulevard; (K.B.)

Wet your whistle in Drytown

Drytown Club

The Drytown Club might be the only bar in this tiny Amador town, but it’s not because the region has a drinking problem. Drytown takes its name from Dry Creek, which evaporates into a parched river of dirt during the summer. Once the heart of the gold rush, Drytown used to boast more than two dozen saloons. After the gold disappeared and a fired destroyed much of the town, the Drytown Club was all that remained. These days the small, friendly bar is a great place to check out live music and throw back a frosty beer after a day spent driving the back roads of Amador County. 15950 Highway 49 in Drytown, (209) 245-6722, (R.L.)

Stalk the deadliest catch

Mushroom hunting

When the ground recovers from moist winter conditions, fungus reveals itself. With the proper knowledge, you can hunt for gourmet mushrooms. A poet friend took me to the hills of the Sonoma coast, where we trespassed ankle-cracking terrain and sustained the unsettling feeling that we’d better be certain of what we were picking. We left with at least 10 pounds of black chanterelle mushrooms that usually cost $12-$15 per pound at the Co-op. If you embark on a mushroom voyage, take a professional and a copy of The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms. (A.C.)

Try every flavor

Shaved ice at Osaka Ya

You crave something cold and sweet, but which route to take: the corn syrup or the creamy? What if you didn’t have to choose? In addition to multiple flavors of mochi, Osaka Ya offers shaved ice throughout the summer, ordered at its window, with a scoop of ice cream added for a buck. (Trust us, a small is plenty.) With about half a dozen ice-cream flavors and a dozen or so syrups, you can mix and match all season long. Try traditional kintoki style, with plain sugar syrup, red bean paste and green tea powder, plus a dollop of green tea ice cream. Or perhaps a creamsicle, with citrus syrup and vanilla ice cream? Or root beer and banana? Or cherry syrup and blue—oh, man, I guess I didn’t help the indecision, did I? 2215 10th Street, (916) 446-6857, (K.B.)

Add swank to your cookout

Two Rivers Blood Orange Cider

Sacramento-based Two Rivers Cider Company has made a name for itself with its seasonal array of crisp, refreshing ciders that run the gamut from the usual apple blends to more exotic raspberry, huckleberry and pomegranate brews. The company’s Blood Orange Cider, however, easily trumps them all. This sparkling, slightly fizzy concoction boasts a deep orange hue and a taste that’s perfectly summer. Slightly sweet, slightly tart and completely crave-worthy, it’s an excellent way to liven up a summer barbecue. Ditch the Bud Light and splurge on a six-pack—it’ll class up even the simplest burger-and-potato salad affair. (R.L.)

Breakfast like the O.C.

Sunday brunch at Sienna Restaurant

If you find yourself in the foothills on a summer Sunday morning, don’t miss brunch at Sienna—an upscale eatery, bar and restaurant in El Dorado Hills. Ensconced in the La Borgata shopping center, the vibe is Orange County (four beautiful fireplaces, a stone-top bar and outdoor dining), but the cuisine is modern American with an Asian flare. The brunch is a splendid buffet (omelet station, eggs benedict, wood-fired pizzas, soy-glazed salmon) with bottomless mimosas. You’ll pay $21.95 per adult, but if you seek a class-act brunch, this one’s a find. 3909 Park Drive in El Dorado Hills, (916) 941-9694, (M.W.)

Do a shot of summer

DIY blackberry infused vodka

The summer hosts a bounty of natural sweet treats, but none capture the season as well as blackberries. To preserve this homegrown flavor and give yourself ammunition to make custom cocktails, use local blackberries to infuse a bottle of vodka. Any moderately priced bottle of vodka will do ($20-$25). Just place about two cups of blackberries into a lidded glass vessel with 750 milileters of vodka, cover and place in a moderately cool, dark place for at least a week. Filter and pour back into the vodka bottle, and you can have shots of summer all year round. (J.C.)

Ignore that snarky Bee review

Breakfast at Tower Cafe

With ferns jungle-thick, flowers abundant and exotic sculptures staring over your shoulder, your waitperson—Midtown cool, California friendly—delivers some of the best huevos rancheros you’ve ever tasted. You sit back, the vibes surround. They are good vibes, that of a restaurant that takes care of what’s important and lets the rest take care of itself. Never mind that snarky Sacramento Bee review. Tower Cafe on a Saturday morning, with the afternoon heat still off in the distance and the eggs and latte steaming hot, is about as good as it gets in Sactown. 1518 Broadway, (916) 441-0222, (M.W.)

Sample the finest of the fried

Deep-fried M&Ms

Deep-fried goods are common at the California State Fair, but sometimes a gem can be found. Hidden among the fried cheesecakes, candy bars and brownies are deep-fried M&Ms. The candy-coated chocolates are covered in batter and placed in scalding oil to produce what can best be described as an inside-out cookie. It boasts hot, sweet dough on the outside and colorful confections inside. Be warned: Too many of these greasy morsels will have you sitting on the sidelines for a good chunk of the day. Enjoy at your own risk. The California State Fair runs July 14-31. Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Boulevard; (J.C.)

Take the challenge to shop at local farmers markets for all (or most) of your produce needs this summer! Martin Dates (left) of Capay Organic bags some radishes for another customer at the farmers market at Cesar Chavez Plaza.

Photo By jerome love

Bite a gator

Flaming Grill Cafe

There’s no better way to wrap up a summer day than sitting outside in the evening sun with a cold beer and a hot burger. If you’re looking to spice up the formula a bit, visit the Flaming Grill Cafe. This grill offers burgers made of alternative meats such as alligator, bison, elk, wild boar and lion. The beer selection expands beyond banal Pilsners to hoppy and malty brews from across the country. Exotic eats might not be for everybody, but the chance to wolf down an alligator is bound to attract most thrill seekers. 2319 El Camino Avenue, (916) 359-0840, (J.C.)

Commit to local produce

Area farmers markets

Sacramento is surrounded by farms, so it’s a no-brainer to challenge yourself to shop at local farmers markets for all your produce needs. Not only are most of the fruits and veggies organic, they’re also cheaper, fresher and more local than your average supermarket produce. Each summer, the central city is home to a different farmers market every day of the week. There are also markets in neighboring cities like Davis, Elk Grove, Folsom and Roseville, so no excuses! Find a list of the California Certified Farmers Markets in your area at (J.M.)

Savor tomato perfection

Gazpacho from Tapa the World

Gazpacho is a straight-up summer infusion: tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs, pulled from the garden and blended into an addictive elixir. You eat it cold and raw, the way nature intended. Make your own with (Sacra)tomatoes from the farmers market, or stop by Tapa the World for a refreshing bowl of the Spanish restaurant’s classic recipe. Customers start badgering Tapa’s chefs in early May, leaning over the open kitchen counter to ask when gazpacho will return to the menu. “Not now! No tomatoes!” they grumble, waving off soup fiends and turning back to the crowded stovetop. The professionals at Tapa will puree no tomato before its peak ripeness, which should be right about now. 2115 J Street, (916) 442-4353, (B.C.)