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Summer cocktails, lime-soda mocktails, mobile food trucks, jazzy Fridays, a sweet suite on the riverfront, a cupcakery that really delivers, a King-sized rally, and a whole lot of purple. Here are a few (dozen) of our favorite things about this place we call home.
By Chloe Daley, Barbara Hennelly,
Elyssa Lee, Tim Swanson, Rob Turner, Kate Washington and Marc Weidenbaum
At downtown’s new Sugar and Spice Specialty Desserts, owner Carissa Jones makes us feel like kids again with some of our favorite pops in town. That’s pop tarts, with buttery crust and thick sprinkle-coated icing (below), in flavors like strawberry-rhubarb and brown sugar-cinnamon. And then there are her pretty little cake pops, which are sweetly coated on the outside and moist within (they are only on sale occasionally, so keep an eye out). If you have more frequent cravings, or are looking for a more grown-up take on the cake pop trend, drop by anytime for one of Jones’ rum balls, which look like tiny truffles on a stick but are made with a mixture of cake trimmings, pecans, lots of chocolate, and a pleasantly buzzy hit of rum. These treats are the sweetest way we know to make a dull day, well, pop. 1201 F St. 952-5253. sugarandspice.me
There’s a lot of new pizza in town these days, and a whole lot of talk about which is best, but Zelda’s Gourmet Pizza—the famed midtown deep-dish joint—must reign as the longest-standing subject of debate. Are the servers too brusque? Is the place too janky? Are the waits too long? Our answer to all these is, “Well, kind of, but we love it anyway.” For us—and for others with a deep-dish craving—it’s just right. But what happens when you want to eat it in your PJs? That’s where Zelda’s take-and-bake pizza comes in. You get it hot but not quite done, and you refrigerate or freeze it until ready to cook. (Zelda’s offers frozen pizzas, but the selection is limited.) When you’re ready to nosh, just pop it in the oven for 20 minutes and you’re golden. If even that sounds too long, remember: The wait at Zelda’s is 30 minutes, minimum. 1415 21st St. 447-1400. zeldasgourmetpizza.com
The name FreeStyle Clothing Exchange pretty much sums up this treasure trove of used fashions with brands ranging from Express to Prada to True Religion, and something for everyone from preps to Goths. Launched five years ago in Citrus Heights by fashion devotee Elizabeth Kelley who grew up working at midtown’s Cheap Thrills (and even lived above it for a while), it’s a mash-up of all your favorite stores with some killer vintage finds, too. Unlike some boutiques where items sit for a while, inventory flies fast here since shoppers are constantly selling their unwanted styles (they offer 35 percent cash or 50 percent trade value of the exact ticket price they put on the clothes you’re selling). The original location is a warehouse-size room with style-obsessed employees, but its second, more cozy location at 21st and L in midtown opened last year and hosts semi-regular $1 sidewalk sales. Now there’s really no excuse for being a fashion victim. Citrus Heights: 6412 Tupelo Dr. 725-3733.
Sacramento: 2101 L St. 441-3733. freestyleclothing.com
First built by the Works Progress Administration in 1940, Land Park’s WPA Rock Garden was an ivy-covered mess (and a casualty of Proposition 13 budget cuts) when Daisy Mah, a longtime Sacramento Parks and Recreation employee, took it over in 1988. These days, with budget cuts again imperiling the garden, Mah relies on community volunteers to help with planting and maintenance. And it’s a cause worth taking up. The peaceful one-acre oasis—with granite-edged paths and benches ideal for sitting and contemplating the hummingbirds and butterflies attracted by Mah’s plantings—is in gorgeous bloom, with surprises around every corner, from a fenced succulent bed with dramatic, bulbous plant forms reminiscent of Dr. Seuss illustrations to a nascent California native garden at a lower entrance and trees that remain from the original plantings, such as a graceful crape myrtle. One sweet-smelling tree to seek out is a banana shrub, at an entrance opposite Fairytale Town: The pretty tree, with small, aromatic red flowers that look like tiny magnolia blossoms, is a tribute to Mah’s mother, who used to perfume Mah’s childhood home with the blooms. 15th Ave. off of East Land Park Dr. To volunteer: cityofsacramento.org/volunteers
Place to Grab a Joint (No, Not That Kind
For sheer truth in advertising, not to mention porky deliciousness, you can’t beat the crispy pig knuckle at Macau Cafe, an off-the-beaten-track spot just below the zoo, in South Land Park. The cafe specializes in the Portuguese-influenced Chinese fare of the city of Macau, with oddities like cheese-topped baked pork chops and adventuresome fare like goose intestines with black bean sauce (which, we’ll admit, we haven’t worked up the nerve to try). The crispy pig knuckle might be the reigning queen, however, of this simple restaurant whose only hint of decor is a large amethyst geode by the cash register. The pig knuckle, redolent of five spices and with reddish skin fried to crunchy perfection, is just as much of a gem. Sliced into rounds, the brick-red flesh and creamy fat is as salty-sweet as ham but with a richer, more yielding texture, and with the majestic bone alongside. It’s atavistic cooking, the kind of thing you pick up and gnaw, and worth a special trip. 4406 Del Rio Rd. 457-8818
If you, like us, swoon for mid-century modern design, there are a few key things you need to know about Sacramento. One, we have serious bragging rights in MidMo circles since one half of the legendary design team, Charles and Ray Eames, was born and raised right here in River City. That’s right—Ray, or Alexandra Kaiser, as she was known in her formative Land Park days, was one of us. Second, you need to know about three very cool sites that celebrate ’50s-era design in our fair city. The first, Eichlerific, is a must-read blog launched with a focus on modern homes in Sacramento by the late celebrated architect Joseph Eichler, but has grown to encompass all things mid-century here, from local landmarks to artists and the modern architects who helped shape this city. Next up is Mimomito, an addictive site run by a few dedicated style huntresses who search high and low to find mid-century modern furnishings in this region and beyond, and post their treasure-hunting results almost daily. And finally, there’s Scout Living, an online shopping destination for MidMo designs that’s about to go retro in another way—by opening its own brick-and-mortar version on June 11 next to 58 Degrees in midtown (1215 18th Street). So kick back on your lounge chair and ottoman and start surfing these three nifty fifties sites. Ray would be proud. eichlerific.com; mimomito.wordpress.com; scoutliving.com
Reason to Take the Stairs
The Crocker Art Museum’s new wing, which debuted in October and more than tripled the size of the oldest museum in the West, is the best thing to happen to the city’s art scene in ages. We love many things about the expansion, from the Wayne Thiebauds on the third floor, to the new Baby Loves Art classes, and the Crocker Louie, with its local greens, salty fried capers and chunks of sweet snow crab and shrimp, at the museum’s cafe (run by Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney). But one of our favorite discoveries is among the most hidden: the projection Rapunzel #10, by Los Angeles artist Jennifer Steinkamp. Tucked away in the front stairwell, it’s a mesmerizing video installation of waving fronds in soothing colors that look like something from under the sea—or outer space. We could stare at it all day. Happily there are plenty of places to sit. 216 O St. 808-7000. crockerartmuseum.org