Best of 2010 1-20

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01 Soda Selection
The ruffled crown cap. The frosty glass bottle. The pop and hiss as you snap one open. A sundry selection of 100-plus vintage sodas—including diet and pure cane sugar varieties—awaits at Zlaket’s, each promising a carbonated dose of nostalgia and a sweet remedy for that summertime thirst. Mix and match your own $8 six-pack. 12921 Main St., Garden Grove, 714-534-2188, zlakets.com.

02 Place to Say ‘Cheese’
Make goofy memories in a new kind of photo booth. At Sticki Picki, kids can pose in oversized sunglasses, crazy headbands, hats, and capes, and digitally decorate their pictures with glitter and funky background designs. Photo shoots range from $9 to $12. 2700 Alton Parkway #221, Irvine, 949-756-8567.
03 Hot Date for Vegans
Light-years ahead of the hippie-dippy trip you might expect from a raw-foods restaurant, 118 Degrees, with its contempo décor and sophisto cuisine, is the Charlie Palmer of vegan dens. Chef Jenny Ross turns out sensual pesto mushroom ravioli, and coconut water served in the shell. Vegans are free to sip organic chardonnay and gaze into each other’s eyes without having to worry that there’s chicken broth or cheese in the dishes. 118 Degrees Raw Food Cuisine, 2981 Bristol St. #B5, Costa Mesa, 714-754-0718, shop118degrees.com.
04 Massage for Cheapskate Prudes
If you crave the full-on naked, trickling-aromatic-water, Zen massage experience, Pure Sole probably isn’t the place for you. But if you’re modest and looking to spend only $25 cash (plus tip) for 60 minutes of rough-as-you-wish, over-the-clothes massage in a clean, relaxing space, this is an easy and affordable choice. 19142 Beach Blvd. #Z, Huntington Beach, 714-968-9680, mypuresole.com.
05 Drink-It-Here Brewery
The regulars all seem to know one another, and the tasty beer flows freely. Brewbakers owner Dennis Midden creates an atmosphere that rivals a Super Bowl party at his brew-your-own-beer store. Got the munchies? He serves soft pretzels and freshly baked artisan breads. Sure it’s a brewery, but at heart, it’s also a neighborhood hang. Brewbakers, 7242 Heil Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-596-5506,
brewbakers1.com.
Easygoing First Dates
06 Small plates and wine by the glass at Main Street Wine Cellar in Seal Beach
07 A ride on the Balboa Ferry in Newport Bay
08 Martinis and munchies at Sorrento Grille in Laguna Beach
09 Whale-watching off Dana Point Harbor
10 Horseback riding at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center
 
11 Gift-Wrapping Service  
The ruse: We have a teddy bear for our young niece and need a box, wrapped soap opera-style with a lift-off lid. The stationery boutique and gift shop we tested both turned in crooked seams and exposed tape, but Georgina Vega created a charmer we’d be happy to pass off as our own handiwork. 714-797-8572, dsgnpro.com.
12 PCH Psychic
A Step-by-Step Guide
Someone is trying to sabotage me. My destiny lies in New York. It’s important to surround myself with pink. I learned all this during my tour of the psychics of Pacific Coast Highway. Here’s how I found the best.—Rachel Powers
Step 1  I tried about half a dozen disconnected numbers first. And yes, make an appointment: Psychics don’t keep regular hours. I found four contenders.
Step 2  Bargain hunting was a bad strategy: $10 readings were perfunctory, and too generic. Two psychics crossed off the list.
step 3  I eliminated hard-sell Psychic No. 3 with the same guilty relief one feels when closing the door on a kid selling magazine subscriptions.
And the winner is … Psychic Tarot Readings by Ann. Tarot guarantees a more in-depth reading, plus the cards are nifty: You’ll feel you’ve had a brush with the occult. $20 for a basic reading, 17055 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 562-592-1236.
13 Hollywood Stand-In
When NBC’s “Chuck” foiled an assassination attempt during a recent episode, he did so at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The center isn’t just a temple of culture; this past year, it also has been the location of seven ad shoots for companies such as BMW, Acura, and Intel. 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-556-2787, ocpac.org.

14 Date Shake
The rich, honeyed flavor of Gyro Kabob’s 16-ounce date shake will bring back memories of summer days at the beach no matter the season. The $3.59 treat is made with Thrifty ice cream, whole milk, and dates from Hadley Fruit Orchards. Buy two or fight to the death over the last sip. 16973 Pacific Coast Highway, Sunset Beach, 562-592-7771, gyrokabob.com.
15 Hot Dog Stand
They call it a gastropub, but don’t go into Valhalla Table expecting fern-bar atmosphere and precious cuisine. It’s simply the best place to chomp on a dog outside a stadium. We love the gamey duck, bacon, and jalapeño sausage, and the flavorful spicy mango tofu  dog. Both $7. Valhalla Table, 2981 Bristol St. #B2, Costa Mesa, 714-549-2960, valhallatable.com.
16 Pastry Class
The night we attended, students drove through blinding rain to arrive on time because pastry chef Rachel Klemek of Blackmarket Bakery has a following. Her free-and-easy style is the draw—you get turned loose in her bakery like kids in Grandma’s kitchen during the holidays. And you get to take home the treats. $68. 17941 Sky Park Circle #E, Irvine, 949-852-4609, blackmarketbakery.com.
17 Tamale in a Doughnut Shop
As long as you’re busting the diet, get a double dose of vitamin grease. At Sak Donuts, the tamales threaten to eclipse the sweet stuff. Order our $2 favorite, the chicken, with moist masa loaded with green chili sauce and chunks of meat all bound up in a slick banana leaf. For dessert? A glazed doughnut. Sak Donuts, 13016 Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove, 714-539-6995.
18 Last-Minute Gift Boutique
No matter the occasion, your gift-buying woes will cease the moment you enter the recently expanded Fleur de Lys. Hot items include Terramundi money pots, Zents bath salts, and Jonathan Adler salt and pepper shakers. Don’t leave without browsing the amusing card collection. 369 E. 17th St. #14, Costa Mesa, 949-548-0810, fleurdelysus.com.
19 Zumba Instructor
You’re stomping, you’re sweating, and you’re loving it. Getting fit with Janel Gauger, a hot-as-blazes Zumba dancer, is a workout for the body and soul. She’ll lead you through Latin rhythms, explaining historical origins of the movements. Disciples learn style along with the steps—she’ll have you shaking your hips like a Brazilian showgirl. 949-231-8662, janelgauger.com/zumba.htm.
20 Bark Park
A hundred or more dogs frolic daily at Seal Beach’s Arbor Park, a fenced, wedge-shaped playground for pups. The grassy 2½-acre park is full of shade trees and offers amenities such as poop bags and dog-sized water fountains. It also provides benches for tired masters. Behind the WestEd building at 4665 Lampson Ave., Los Alamitos, arbordogpark.com.

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