Okay, so you slept on the Castroville Artichoke Festival. Don't worry, there are still some fantastic food festivals left to tackle this summer in the greater Bay Area. Every road trip should be planned around good food, but why not plan a day trip where eating the best produce from the region that specializes in it is pretty much the point of the journey? Start with these suggestions:
• This year's Gilroy Garlic Festival runs July 27-29, and if you haven't ever taken part in this consummate Bay Area food festival tradition, stock up on BreathAssure and sunscreen and hop in the car for an hour and a half. It's really the one weekend a year where garlic in desserts are acceptable.
• The Watsonville Strawberry Festival on Aug. 4-5 could be the convenient excuse for a full day of binge eating in Monterey or a worthy enough focal point on its own. Strawberries can be pretty expensive by the time they get to San Francisco and rarely do we get to see so many strawberry experiments up here. (Think marinades for meat, poultry, and seafood; pickled strawberries; strawberry pizza.)
• The Gravenstein Apple Fair on Aug. 11-12 in Sebastopol offers a big taste of a relatively endangered species. Gravenstein apples have a deep, sweet/tart flavor that will sour you on those old Granny Smiths. And since it's in Sonoma, there are also attractions like a wine tent, microbrew tent, and beer wagon alongside a particularly eclectic entertainment lineup that incorporates a '70s cover band, Japanese taiko drumming, and the more expected country and folk-tinged types.
• The 21st Annual Tomato Festival on Aug. 18-19 in Fairfield is an heirloom tomato-lover's paradise. There are more than 100 varieties grown in Solano County, so you can come back home with a veritable rainbow of fruit for cheap. The fest attracts about 30,000 people over two days.
• Hayward's Zucchini Fest also takes place on Aug. 18-19, so you could conceivably do both in one weekend. Bonus (or not): Saturday's musical lineup is in tribute to Bobby Escovedo, while Sunday's is dedicated to Elvis and Johnny Cash. A longstanding tradition in Hayward, Zucchini Fest turns 30 this year.