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Photo by Jeremy Sykes

Place With Banana Appeal

Baagan is out to give Ben and Jerry a run for their money. This tiny vegan cafe in Roseville boasts a transcendent frozen treat made out of nothing more than bananas, a food processor and pure ingenuity. The fruit is left to ripen until it is speckled, then peeled and tossed into the freezer. When customers order “soft serve ice cream,” the bananas are puréed in a blender. Seems too simple to be tasty, but the artful concoction is rich, flavorful and satisfying even to the pickiest of sweet tooths. Throw on toppings such as shredded coconut and goji berries, and you’ll have your chunky-monkey fix without having to look like one. 910 Pleasant Grove Blvd., Roseville. 771-2117. baagan.com

 

Joy Yuck Club


Everyone knows kids like to get grossed out, right? We like to outsource that interest—and get a little time to ourselves, too—by sending them to day camp at the Sacramento Zoo. The wildlife park offers a variety of themed summer sessions; at the Yuckology camp, kids learn why hedgehogs throw up slimy toads (ew) and how tamanduas smell (don’t ask)—facts that make the camp’s more parent-pleasing lessons in conservation, zoology and biology go down easy. If your kids have outgrown the gross-out phase, they can choose other themes, like tagging along with a veterinarian or learning training techniques and even putting on a live show with animals. Just be sure to register early (the zoo recommends at least a week before the classes start; some of the more popular ones are already full). Our tip? If you’re mired on the wait list, sign up for a zoo membership now, for priority registration next March. Land Park Dr. and 16th Ave. 808-5888. saczoo.org

Neighborhood of Make Believe
Don’t judge the Sacramento Children’s Museum—a community project thought up by local mom Kathleen Palley that opened last August after years in development—by its cover. On the outside it looks like a nondescript Rancho Cordova office, but inside it’s a bright and cheery space full of fun and surprises for kids ages 8 and under. Our fave is the Airways exhibit, a wall of clear tubes full of rushing air: poke a scarf or a soft ball into one of the tunnels, and it will fly through the maze and pop out over your head. The entertaining Raceways exhibit features golf balls on curved tracks. And in the art room, little ones can paint the walls or make simple crafts. But the most popular spot? The dress-up room, where kids can don costumes and instantly become anything from police officers to philharmonic conductors.2701 Prospect Park, Rancho Cordova. 638-7225. sacramentochildrensmuseum.org

Ice Cold Hot Spot
Sacramento has its share of terrific old-school ice cream parlors (Vic’s, Gunther’s, Leatherby’s) serving up scoops to the toddler-toting masses. But in the heavy heat of summer, sometimes a grown-up craves a pleasure more refined than a hot dog sandwich with a rocky road chaser. Luckily, Devine Gelateria & Cafe opened its chic little doors in midtown last year. Crowds queue up in front of the red freezer case to sample the rich, luscious gelatos and sorbettos handcrafted each morning by owner Elizabeth McCleary, a graduate of Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University. Flavors such as ricotta fig, pistachio, Ferrero Rocher and—our fave—chocolate chocolate chip, served slightly warmer than traditional ice cream, all offer an intense touch on the tongue with their deep flavors and creamy texture, made mostly from locally sourced ingredients. But for a true taste of Italy, order an affogato, a single scoop of gelato doused in a shot of Temple espresso, then wander out back to the small patio to enjoy your treat as it melts into a heavenly mix of hot and cold, savory and sweet. So sofisticato, not to mention satisfying. 1221 19th St. 446-0600. devinegelateria.com

PB & YayPhoto by Ryan Donahue
Nothing fans the flames of excellence like a little competition, and downtown Sacramento’s Hyatt Regency recently engaged in a bit of hand-to-hamburger combat when executive chef Ian Libberton created four unique burgers as part of a contest with 19 other Hyatts from San Diego to Vancouver. And the burger that caused the most local buzz: The Peanut Butter Pretzel Burger, inspired by Libberton’s youth (he first tried one as a teen in San Diego) and the fact that he had recently made one for his own 12-year-old son, who loved it. He starts with a juicy 7-ounce burger and sets it on a soft pretzel bun and tops it with a generous dose of Skippy creamy peanut butter (he uses crunchy when he makes it at home), cheddar cheese and some sweet and spicy mustard, with a side of fried pickles. The staff was skeptical of the odd-sounding mixture, but became instant fans as soon as they tried it. Alas, the top prize went to a Hyatt in Orange County, which conjured up a bunless burger for the contest. But the good news for locals is that our Hyatt has decided to keep the peanut butter burger on the menu through the summer. It’s definitely a winner in our book. 1209 L St. 443-1234. sacramento.hyatt.com

A Place to Sing "200 Bottles of Beer on the Wall"
When it comes to bars, Curtis Park’s Pangaea Two Brews Cafe has the relaxed vibe of a comfy neighborhood coffeehouse, but it boasts an impressively large, rotating cast of 25 beers on tap (the lineup almost always includes coveted cult fave Pliny the Elder and Delirium Tremens), plus some 200 more in its next-door bottle shop. There’s a range of Belgian and American styles, from hoppy IPAs to earthy brown ales, but at this time of year the list emphasizes Belgian sours, farmhouse ales and refreshng saisons (which, thanks to their light tang, are perfect for hot weather). Peckish? Pangaea has beer-friendly appetizers like a cheese plate from local company Wedge and heartier fare like sandwiches made from smoked-in-house chicken or brisket. Choose a patio seat or one next to the corner fountain, a reproduction of the iconic Brussels statue Manneken Pis (if your Flemish is rusty, yes, it’s what it sounds like). 2743 Franklin Blvd. 454-4942. pangaeatwobrews.com

Marine Cuisine
Don’t be fooled by Rudy’s Hideaway’s landlocked locale on Folsom Boulevard, with a gas station and a travelers’ motel for neighbors. After 40 years in business, this Rancho Cordova standby has proven it’s no fish out of water. It remains a seafood joint through and through, featuring tanks filled with live Maine lobsters, portraits of sea captains adorning the walls of the “Captain’s Room” (including a painting of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean), and a 50-foot-long mural of the San Francisco Bay completing the Fisherman’s Wharf atmosphere. With staggeringly affordable specials (like Dungeness crab on Wednesdays or a one-pound live Maine lobster on Thursdays, each for $16.95) and a die-hard multigenerational clientele, this spot, like its Fisherman’s Wharf antecedents, rarely has a slow night. (But thankfully, unlike many other seafood restaurants, Rudy’s takes reservations.) And come this fall, keep your eyes peeled for its food truck, Rudy’s Chowder Wagon, which will bring the eatery’s signature clam chowder, fish and chips, and fish tacos to a curb near you. 12303 Folsom Blvd., Rancho Cordova. 351-0606. rudyshideaway.com

Triple Play Special
Raley Field has hit a home run with its Carved Roasted Tri-Tip Sandwich—a hefty plate of smoky, thin-sliced beef piled onto a chewy French roll that’s spread with creamy horseradish aioli. In fact, the fan favorite even scored a spot on the Men’s Health list of thePhoto by Tori Masucci top 11 ballpark foods in the country last May—right along major league winners like the pulled pork sandwich at Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) and the fish tacos at Dodger Stadium. The Sacramento River Cats’ executive chef Ryan Curry ensures that the meat is soaked on-site to juicy perfection in a brown sugar-and-garlic marinade for up to three days before it’s slow-cooked and hand-carved right behind the Solon Club’s concession counter. Alas, this culinary hit is only available on the second deck above right field where you’ll need to be in the costlier sections like the Governors Club (prices start at $34 per ticket) to gain access. But it’s still a minor league price to pay for a major league sandwich, no matter how you slice it. 400 Ballpark Dr., West Sacramento. 371-4487. rivercats.com

 

Spot for Horsing Around
Leave the concrete jungle for the greener pastures of the Old West at Shadow Glen Family Stables, nestled on 4.5 acres by Lake Natoma. As you arrive, the clamor of busy thoroughfares like Madison and Hazel avenues is quickly replaced by the sounds of gentle whinnies and swishing horse tails (punctuated by the occasional gleeful squeal of a young horse lover), as you saddle up for one of the stable’s popular guided Western trail rides ($38 per hour), which have been running since 1985. Sitting astride one of the stable’s 16 horses (many of which were rescued from abuse or neglect), you’ll explore the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area’s lagoons, thickets, oak groves and meadows on meandering paths that once echoed with the pounding hooves of Pony Express riders racing from Missouri to Sacramento. But don’t worry if you never quite earned your spurs: Shadow Glen offers private lessons and a special “introduction to horses” class where you can learn basics like grooming and beginning horsemanship. Happy trails. 4854 Main Ave., Fair Oaks. 989-1826.shadowglenstables.com

Place to Pig Out
There are other dishes at June’s Cafe, a no-frills, 20-seater restaurant in Southside Park, that have more inventive names and better backstories. The Wienie Royal, for example, an unlikely combination of hot dog, eggs and onions served over steamed rice, sources its origins back to WWII internment camps, where cooking staples came directly from Army surplus. But in the niche of niches known as Japanese soul food, no one does it better than June’s and nothing on the menu tops the Tonkatsu, or breaded pork cutlets served with sizzling, translucent onions. Owner Junko “June” O’Sullivan scratch-makes each hearty order, hand-butchering the medallions before coating them in flour, egg and panko and then pan-frying them on her humble two-burner setup. The result is an aria for the hungry man, the crisp yet tender pork working in concert with the plummy sauce, plus the creamy, pepper-sparked macaroni salad and miso soup that accompany every order. 921 V St. 447-2264

Hike Through HistoryPhoto by Jeremy Sykes

History buffs and hard-core hikers alike are trekking to downtown Nevada City for the Deer Creek Tribute Trail. Opened just last summer, this path into the past begins across the street from the tennis courts in Pioneer Park and moves along scenic back roads and ponderosa pine-covered trails, winding steadily down to the rushing water, where 49ers once panned for gold. Stand amid the remains of Mountaineer Mine and brush up on your Gold Rush facts as interpretive signs guide you to a shady picnic area, where you can rest from the four-mile jaunt down to the cool creek runoff. After dipping your toes in, cross Deer Creek on a steel bridge at the arched entryway dedicated to the area’s former Chinese pioneers and challenge yourself to an extra 20-minute loop along a secluded woodsy hill. The whole family—from little Tommy to Grammy—can handle this hike’s moderate inclines and well-groomed route, with chances to spot deer rustling in the brush or an occasional river otter splashing along the creek. 530-272-5994. bylt.org