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An Island VaCAY ... in Alameda

It's not really summer unless you're on an island and getting blitzed on some type of blended drink. Maybe a little brain freeze, too. The bad news in the East Bay, however, is that there's no tropical island with fine-sand beaches. Sorry. But there's Alameda — actual island! — and the tiki and blended drinks at Forbidden Island not only fit the bill, but they're also very much respected in the local bartending scene. Forbidden is a dimly lit, shotgun-style bar with a ridiculous selection of classic island dranks and tiki sippers. If you want a big-ass cauldron of straight-to-the-dome, blended fruity goodness, try the Chamborlada (a piña colada variant with raspberry Chambord floater ($13). Or, stay true to the 510 with a Classic Mai Tai, which the owners of Forbidden note was created right here in Oakland at the original Trader Vic's. 1304 Lincoln Avenue, Alameda, 510-749-0332, (NM)

Beat the Heat With Spicy Chili Oil

It may seem like a paradox, but eating a fiery meal on a hot day can actually help you cool down. It's all in the sweat. Find the spiciest of spicy Chinese food at Chengdu Style Restaurant, which specializes in Sichuan cuisine. Try the Sichuan jelly noodle with chili sauce ($5.95), which isn't really a noodle dish at all. The slippery, chunky strands of translucent jelly are made from mung beans and served cold, swimming in bright-red, Sichuan peppercorn-packed chili oil. Prepare for a mouth-numbing effect so distracting that you probably won't even notice your internal temperature shift. 2600 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 510-845-5807, (JB)

Cool Down with Taro-Flavored Snow

I like ice cream as much as the next person. But for the handful of days each summer when East Bay temperatures crack the mid-80s, it might be instructive to look at the frozen-dessert innovations of countries that are, you know, legitimately hot. Take the island nation of Taiwan, where the summers are as brutal as the food is delicious, and where something called "snow ice" has long been a fixture on the dessert scene. The idea is to take giant blocks of what is essentially rock-hard ice cream and shave it into paper-thin ribbons. You wind up with a dessert that's creamy, delicate, and incredibly refreshing — it melts on your tongue like real snow. Here in the East Bay, try Vampire Penguin, the downtown Berkeley outpost of a Sacramento-based chain, for interesting toppings and Sanrio-like cutesy Asian kitsch. The globally inspired snow ice menu includes a reinterpretation of a chili-spiked Mexican fruit cup and a delightful take on Filipino halo-halo — taro-flavored "snow" topped with condensed milk, taro paste, jackfruit, and caramel-y leche flan. 2575 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, (LT)

Sip a Summer Tea That Refreshes

With lightly sweetened, creamy tea, and pleasingly chewy tapioca pearls, boba tea — otherwise known as bubble tea — makes for an ideal summertime snack. But with so many boba shops in the East Bay — and so many mediocre ones to weed through — choosing a destination can feel overwhelming. And once you've done that, you have to choose from a menu vaguely detailing as many as 50 options. For something beyond the standard milk-tea-with-boba-please order, try the mango sago pomelo ($4.95) from Taiwanese chain iTea. Modeled off the popular Hong Kong dessert, this simultaneously rich and refreshing drink features mango, pomelo, and coconut milk blended up, plus fresh mango chunks and sago pearls, which look and feel like teeny-tiny tapioca balls. The only downside? The line that perpetually wraps outside iTea's door. Don't be too discouraged, though: There's hardly any space inside the actual storefront, so what you see is what you're dealing with. 388 Ninth Street, Suite 125A, in Oakland; 510-882-2228. (JB)

Let it Ride at a Food Truck Party

For the more jaded food adventurers among us, the novelty of the food-truck rally may have worn off a while back. But that doesn't mean Off the Grid and other events of its ilk — wherein four or five mobile food vendors get together to sling tacos and chill — haven't become a beloved part of the East Bay's social fabric. That's especially true during the summer, when an impromptu food-truck picnic makes for an appealing dining option. In the East Bay, Off the Grid's Friday night event at the Oakland Museum of California is the blockbuster of these street-food events, with as many as twenty participating trucks, plus family-friendly dance lessons and half-price museum admission. But don't sleep on Bites Off Broadway, the other major Friday night event, which takes the crown for the kid-friendliest and most low-key food truck gathering. Off the Grid is every Friday, 5–10 p.m., at 1000 Oak Street in Oakland; Bites Off Broadway is Friday nights, 5:30–8:30 p.m., at 365 45th Street in Oakland. (LT)


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