Head to the South for perfect peaches. (PLUS) Quintessential summer food at fairgrounds and boardwalks

20 The peach—summer's essence, blushing red and orange—is so sublime that being choosy about the type seems absurd. And yet, to us, July's Sunhighs, Red Havens, and Georgia Belles are the most flavorful, with a flowery, roselike peachiness that we prefer to June's understated cling varieties (better for canning and cobblers) and August's treacly Blakes, Monroes, and Elbertas.

We found nirvana at the Sanders Peach Stand (U.S. Hwy. 321, between Clover and York; no phone), a spartan shed in tiny Filbert, South Carolina, just south of the North Carolina border; it grows all of those varieties plus 10 others. The seventysomething Dori Sanders, who works the farm's 50 acres with her sister, Virginia, and their brothers, Orestus and Jarvis, may be the only peach farmer in America whose novel, Clover (set on a peach farm, of course), has been translated into eight languages and appeared on best-seller lists in Japan. While there are always a starstruck few making the pilgrimage to buy signed copies of her books, locals visit the open-air woodshed for the quality of her ripe peaches.

Though the Sanderses are always trying out new varieties and rotating tree crops every 10 to 12 years, they maintain an old orchard, too, for longtime customers who prefer classics like Elbertas and Starlights. And since the stand has no refrigeration (it's the only one in York County without electricity), the peaches are picked twice a day. If you arrive in the late afternoon and they've sold out of your beloved Sunhighs, Dori might ask you to sit a spell beneath a shade tree while she fires up the Massey-Ferguson tractor, drives out to the orchard, and picks you some to order.
—Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Fair Game: Eating Across America

Hog-calling contests and Ferris wheels are just an excuse: we go to state fairs and boardwalks for the food. Sticky, gooey, salty, or fatty; speared on a stick or scooped into a cone, fair food is one of the season's irresistible pleasures.
—Leslie Brenner

State Fairs
21 Cotton Candy: Vermont
Pink and blue candy floss may have their charms, but maple cotton candy, made by local farmers, has its spun-sugar cousins beat. Rutland County Maple Producers also tempts fairgoers with maple doughnuts, soft ice cream, and shakes. AUGUST 29-SEPTEMBER 7
175 S. MAIN ST., RUTLAND; 802/775-5200; www.vermontstatefair.net

22 Ham Sandwich: Kentucky
Country ham is an obsession in Kentucky, and the tastiest hams—aged, smoky, and honey-cured—are at the state fair, where prizewinning specimens fetch up to $80,000. Broadbent's thick-sliced Kentucky country ham sandwich shouldn't be missed. AUGUST 14-24
937 PHILLIPS LANE, LOUISVILLE; 502/367-5002; www.kystatefair.org

23 Food on a Stick: Minnesota
Skewered treats can be found at every state fair, but Minnesota trumps 'em all with more than 25 kinds, including grilled alligator, ostrich teriyaki, dill pickles, chocolate-dipped toasted marshmallows—even fried macaroni and cheese. AUGUST 21-SEPTEMBER 1
1265 SNELLING AVE. N., ST. PAUL; 651/642-2200; www.mnstatefair.org

24 Roasted Corn: Iowa
Iowa's a corn state, so it comes as no surprise that cobs slathered with butter or sprinkled with salt and pepper are the main attraction here; the husks make a terrific handle. Got a sweet tooth?Make a beeline for Bauder Pharmacy's stand and the fresh strawberry ice cream. AUGUST 7-17
E. 30TH ST. AND E. UNIVERSITY AVE., DES MOINES; 515/262-3111; www.iowastatefair.com

25 Corny Dog: Texas
Carl and Neil Fletcher claim to have invented this iconic treat, known elsewhere as the corn dog, in Dallas in 1942. Follow up their perfect combination of crisp corn coating and a juicy frank with a plate of fork-tender Texas-style barbecued brisket from nearby Smokey John's Bar-B-Q. SEPTEMBER 26-OCTOBER 19
FAIR PARK, I-30, JUST EAST OF THE JUNCTION OF I-45, DALLAS; 214/565-9931; www.bigtex.com

26 Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
Though Nathan's Famous still rules the boards, there's plenty more to make your mouth water after a ride on the Cyclone: shish kebab, clams on the half shell, Jamaican meat patties, and knishes (from the Brighton Beach end).

27 Ocean City, Maryland
Feast on fried or broiled crab cakes; hand-cut fries from Thrashers, served with vinegar (no ketchup here); and pit-smoked beef, piled on kaiser rolls with tangy horseradish, from Boog's Barbeque.

28 Venice, California
Even the junk food at the beach is good for you. Jody Maroni's Italian sausages have no preservatives or MSG; lemonade and carrot juice are freshly squeezed; smoothies abound; and Mexican-style seafood cocktails—octopus, calamari, mussels, shrimp—are low-fat, high-protein, and delicious.

29 Santa Cruz, California
Kids come for the rides—Surf City is home to one of the few remaining seaside amusement parks on the West Coast—but the rest of us come for Hodgie's deep-fried artichoke hearts, from nearby Castroville, and the fries tossed in olive oil and chopped garlic from Fish-n-Fry.
400 BEACH ST.; www.beachboardwalk.com