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Place to Explore the Universe
Just finding Geographica, tucked down a quaint red-brick alley off J Street in East Sacramento, can put any visitor in the right mood to browse its enthralling inventory of framed maps, astronomy charts, classic furniture, reference books and other ephemera. Store owner Mark Anderson, who opened his shop in December 2012, attributes his curatorial taste to “whatever catches my eye”—which is how a refurbished wood-and-iron rowing machine (similar to one that sank on the Titanic, according to Anderson) came to share retail space with a whimsically illustrated map of California’s old settlements and missions, a giant reproduction of a 19th-century German star map, and a vintage ’60s-era globe charting John Glenn’s paths during his historic space flight orbiting the Earth. With discoveries for adventurous gift givers and design hounds alike, Geographica is just the place to get lost. 3811 J St. 834-8743. geographica.co

Place to Spot a Crouching Tiger
Tourists love to line up in front of the cat cages at the Sacramento Zoo, calling out to the lions, snow leopards and jaguars and taking photos as fast as their shutters can snap. For a closer, more breathtaking look, mosey away from the madness to the right side of the Sumatran tiger enclosure, where you’ll find a secret viewing window tucked into the faux-stone wall. Here, you can calmly watch baby CJ (who turned 1 in March) and his mom Baha, who’s been known to lay herself out on the window ledge—just on the other side of a half-inch of Plexiglas. Be advised, though, to visit the tigers as the day starts to fade: The mother-son pair heads outside at 3 p.m., after dad Castro has gotten his time in the sun. 3930 West Land Park Dr. 808-5888. saczoo.org

Sweet Rush
When it’s late in the afternoon and you need a precious boost to push you through the rest of a never-ending work day, skip the coffee concoctions and reach instead for a Blabbermouth Chocolates bar, handcrafted in Lincoln by husband-wife team Darlene and Gary Kramer. Each brightly wrapped block mixes bits of mostly single-origin coffee beans from area roasters (including Chocolate Fish and Insight, the latter of which sells the bars at its cafes as well) mixed into rich Belgian chocolate, giving the bars a soft, satisfying bite, like a Nestlé Crunch bar for tired adults that will snap, crackle and pop your brain back into action. blabbermouthchocolates.com

Drink That Packs a Punch
The Porch embraces many a fine Southern tradition, but the finest might be the way Southerners know how to class up an easy-sipping drink. That’s just what the midtown eatery has done with its whiskey sour punch, served for two or more in a cut-glass punch bowl with tiny crystal cups. The drink itself? It’s pink, boozy and sweet-tart with the addition of pineapple juice and bourbon—a bit of an iron fist in a smooth velvet glove, and a refreshing treat on a warm, breezy Sacramento summer night. 1815 K St. 444-2423. theporchrestaurantandbar.com

Wedding Cake for OnePhoto by Ryan Donahue

All of the desserts at downtown bakery Estelle’s Patisserie have a decidedly chic air about them, but perhaps the prettiest (and, not surprisingly, one of the most popular) in the glass case is the light-as-air strawberry chiffon cake. We’re partial to the three-inch-wide mini version, with layers of ultra-simple, ultra-light vanilla hot milk cake layered with Chantilly cream (a fancy name for sweetened whipped cream) and a surprise filling of crushed strawberries. Available year-round, the cake’s flavors—reminiscent of a refined spin on strawberry shortcake—shine all the more in warmer weather. It would be just right for a lovely summer wedding, but a simple pairing with a tall glass of iced tea would take the cake as well. 901 K St. 551-1500. estellespatisserie.com

Mother of All Cookies
K Street’s new vegetarian restaurant Mother has been drawing crowds from the moment it opened in January, with diners snaking out the door to order lunch at the counter or be seated for dinner. And while chef and co-owner Mike Thiemann has earned praise for inventive items like his po’boy sandwich with oyster mushrooms, and deservedly so, it wasn’t long before we discovered Mother’s best-kept secret: co-executive chef Matt Masera’s brown butter sea salt cookies. A former pastry chef for Food Network star Tyler Florence, Masera has created a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth dessert with the perfect sweet-salty combo: rich buttery notes and brown sugar topped with a slight sprinkle of Jacobsen sea salt. Even better, Masera makes over 200 cookies a day in multiple batches, so they’re usually out-of-the-oven warm when you order. And heads up, fellow cookie monsters: When Mother’s owners open sister restaurant Empress Tavern inside the Crest Theatre later this fall, Masera says he hopes to start an ice cream program and create brown butter cookie ice cream sandwiches. Where do we line up? 1023 K St. 594-9812. mothersacramento.com

Jar Geniuses
The Preserve Public House invites guests to have a go at its pantry—or at least at the one tucked behind its front register, where the Winters restaurant offers up shelves of tempting jams, jellies and pickled items using ingredients sourced from the region’s abundance of farms. You can’t go wrong, whether you pick up some tangy green olives stuffed with vermouth-brined onions from M&CP Farms in Orland, candied kumquats from local Knabke Farms, or ruby red blood orange and Meyer lemon jelly that uses fruit grown by Winters farmer Jeremy Murdock. But our favorite is the jalapeño jelly crafted from a recipe by Preserve co-owner Cole Ogando’s grandmother. With its taste buds-tickling blend of spicy and sweet, it gives new meaning to canned good. 200 Railroad Ave. Winters. 530-795-9963. preservepublichouse.com

Far-Out Far East Marshmallowy Treat
Call them the Asian Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Downtown’s Osaka-Ya, the beloved Japanese bakery and grocery, has been making mochi—the round, marshmallow-like rice-based confection that’s traditionally filled with sweet red bean paste—for a half-century. But it was only about eight years ago that owner Linda Nakatani, whose parents acquired the shop in 1963, heard that someone in Hawaii had created mochi stuffed with peanut butter and chocolate chips. Intrigued, she tracked some down, and was hooked. Today, she boasts a cellophane-wrapped four-pack featuring one piece with smooth Skippy peanut butter inside; one with chunky; one with nothing but Ghirardelli chocolate ganache; and, our favorite, one with smooth peanut butter and Nestlé chocolate chips. Osaka-Ya’s mochi business is so strong now that she and her team make 600 to 2,000 pieces from scratch six days per week. When it comes to peanut butter and chocolate, for us, East means best. 2215 10th St. 446-6857

Uptown Tacos
The fish tacos at The Firehouse Restaurant may look like, well, fish out of water on the vaunted Old Sacramento eatery’s refined lunch menu, but this humble dish boasts a whole different kind of Baja fresh. Executive chef Deneb Williams’ version, inspired by his childhood in coastal locales like Washington’s Friday Harbor and Hawaii, centers on a generous, chargrilled portion of fresh catches like halibut, California sea bass or Pacific swordfish from the celebrated local seafood distributor Sunh Fish Co., which is offset by a delicate honey cumin glaze and—along with sweet slaw made with fresh mangos, avocados and cucumbers—folded inside a luxuriously thick flour tortilla. With such a symphony of flavors and textures, this is one taco worth dressing up for. 1112 2nd St. 442-4772. firehouseoldsac.com

Extreme Mac and Cheese
It’s no secret that a good, creamy plate of restaurant-made macaroni and cheese is rich. But just how rich can it get? That question seems to be answered at Broderick Roadhouse, whose menu boasts perhaps the most over-the-top version of mac and cheese you’ll ever try. Not only are there four varieties of cheese involved (blue, Gruyère, and aged white and regular cheddars); not only is there applewood-smoked bacon mixed in; not only is the mac and cheese formed into patties that are griddled to a tasty, crispy edge; but, in addition to all that, there’s a rosette of bacon on top. The healthy arugula rimming the plate never stood a chance. 319 6th St. West Sacramento. 372-2436. broderick1893.com