Come for the Coffee, Stay for the Cuisine

Craving pig brain? How about lamb tongues? A popular Seattle pop-up called Fowl & Offal is set to transition its head-to-tail offerings into a new restaurant this spring. This anticipated organ-ic spot (to be named Off Alley) isn’t open yet, so it had no chance of being included in Michael Bauer’s sumptuous Emerald City food feature in our Winter 2020 issue. Spots that did make the cut include JuneBaby, which offers elegant Southern food; Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, serving margarita oysters; and Sushi Kashiba, a raw fish mecca helmed by a veteran sushi chef. Dig in right here

Bauer compares Seattle’s culinary prowess to that of San Francisco—high praise from the James Beard Award–winning former San Francisco Chronicle food critic. While I admit to knowing little about Pacific Northwest dining trends, I was delighted to see Bauer’s mention of Seattle’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Starbucks: that’s one name, for better or worse, we’re all familiar with.

Inspired by Bauer’s write-up of the roastery (“Be prepared to witness and enjoy coffee as never before”), we polled Alta’s Twitter followers and asked which West Coast coffee chain makes the best cup of coffee. The totally unscientific results (Twitter polls only allow four options) might surprise you:

Starbucks: 52 percent
Peet’s: 22 percent
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: 19 percent
Blue Bottle: 7 percent

Alta’s caffeinated staff couldn’t help but chime in with their favorite West Coast coffee drinks: 

  • Gustavo Arellano, contributing writer: Cafe de olla (Mexican-style, cinnamon-laced coffee) from Alta Baja Market in Santa Ana, California (owned by Arellano’s wife), which uses beans from Wilson Coffee in Costa Mesa, California. 
  • Michael Bauer, contributing writer: A cup of Peet’s brew (preferably Guatemala San Sebastián, Colombian, or Holiday Blend).
  • Amy Bonetti, marketing director: Iced caffe mocha from Peet’s.
  • Will Hearst, editor and publisher: Deconstructed latte at Slate Coffee Roasters in Seattle’s Ballard District and a cortado at Farley’s on San Francisco’s Potrero Hill. 
  • Lindsey J. Smith, editorial and operations director: Dark roast served black from A’Roma Roasters in Santa Rosa, California. 
  • Blaise Zerega, managing editor: Espresso at Vega Coffee in San Francisco’s SoMa. It’s everything an espresso should be, and best of all, they won’t make it to go. Either slam it come gli Italiani or sit down and savor.

As for me, I’m a Peet’s person. And if you’ve ever seen me at an Alta event, you may have noticed the ever-present cold brew in my hand. What about you? Who makes your favorite cup of West Coast coffee? Let us know and we’ll include some top picks in next week’s newsletter.

Beth Spotswood

A Safe Space
Monterey County’s Tia Fechter launched One Starfish to provide overnight parking and social services to people living in their cars. Five years later, more cities across California are offering similar programs. Bonnie Tsui reports from a coastal California parking lot. READ MORE
Eurydice Rising
The preternaturally gifted 29-year-old composer Matthew Aucoin travels to the underworld for LA Opera. His Eurydice, reimagining of the Greek myth that shifts the narrative away from the musician Orpheus and onto his beloved wife, opens next week. READ MORE
The Tomb of the Unknown “Wetback”
How does the death of an immigrant killed in the 1950s by Anaheim police and a 2019 family funeral converge into one incredible moment for Gustavo Arellano? He joins the Alta podcast to explain: 
Do you have something to tell us after reading an Alta article? We welcome letters to the editor at Drop us a line and let us know what you liked, what you disagreed with, or what blew your mind.
Top Picks from the California Sun Newsletter   
“Mayberry by the Sea”
The Southern California coast was once lined with quaint beach cottages. In time, an influx of money and architectural advances swept away many of the old homes. Yet some pockets of the coast have managed to retain that old character. Life there, said the owner of a gingerbread-style home in Hermosa Beach, is like “Mayberry by the sea.” Curbed L.A.
Rather than rot, the fiercely durable wood of Bristlecones erodes like stone against the elements.
The Power of Trees
In the latest New Yorker is a lovingly written essay on the world’s oldest trees, the wraithlike bristlecones of California’s White Mountains. “The possibility that climate change will cause their extinction has inspired a spate of alarmed news stories, although tree scientists tend to discount the idea that the bristlecones are in immediate danger. They have survived any number of catastrophes in the past; they may survive humanity.” New Yorker
For more California Sun, visit
Altatude: This Week’s Cartoon
“So, these voices inside…do they tell you to do things?”

Like to laugh? Visit the Alta site for more Altatude cartoons. SEE MORE
Our recommendations for this week’s best writing about California and the West.
Why the University of California Is Fighting for DACA — High Country News

• President Bernie Sanders: Here’s What It Would Mean for California — San Francisco Chronicle

“This Is Not How Sequoias Die. It’s Supposed to Stand for Another 500 Years.” — Guardian

Alex Honnold Takes Us into the Great Indoors — GQ

Inside the Race for Herb Wesson’s Open City Council Seat — Los Angeles
Support Alta and our event partners at these upcoming events:
Tonight: Drawing on more than 20 years of interviews, anecdotes, and personal experiences, Uninvited: Confessions of a Hollywood Party Crasher recounts the unique journey of a former Los Angeles Times reporter who, struggling with the collapse of his industry and personal tragedies, falls in with a group of intrepid gate-crashers who routinely pierce Tinseltown’s celebrity party circuit. Author Adrian Maher is the first to chronicle this unique subterranean culture in La La Land—a group of social strivers, ambitious outliers, compulsive risk-takers, and dysfunctional characters seeking access to a famous and exclusive society from which they’ve been banned. Uninvited uses all the author’s skills as a veteran reporter, television producer, private investigator, archivist, and humorous storyteller to reveal the unseen capers, snafus, and mishaps behind Hollywood’s palace gates against a backdrop of America’s fascination with celebrity culture. Details: Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday, January 28: Jeanine Cummins is the author of the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven and the novels The Outside Boy and The Crooked Branch. In her latest, American Dirt, Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. Then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, they ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. Details: Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday, January 28: Alta and Books Inc. Palo Alto present business journalist Diana Kapp for a discussion of her joyful and empowering book, Girls Who Run the World: 31 CEOs Who Mean Business. Kapp will be in conversation with Emily Núñez Cavness, a second-year graduate student at Stanford School of Business and CEO of Sword & Plough, a company that repurposes military gear and hires veterans. Details: Books Inc., 74 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 7 p.m., free.
Tuesday, January 28: David Talbot, the acclaimed writer, bestselling author, and founder of Salon magazine, has brought us masterful and explosive stories for over 25 years with books like BrothersThe Devil’s Chessboard, and Season of the Witch. Now for the first time, he turns inward in Between Heaven and Hell, an intimate journey through the life-changing year following his stroke—a year that turned his life upside down and, ultimately, saved him. Talbot examines the physical, emotional, and psychological impact his stroke has had on his identity. Along the way, Talbot offers readers insider stories on the wild early days of internet journalism, insights into the new tech culture and the down and dirty of Hollywood, and much more. He’ll be in conversation with Blaise Zerega, managing editor of AltaDetails: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, 7 p.m., free.
Wednesday, February 5: Join Vroman’s Bookstore and Alta as we welcome Edgar Award–winning writer Attica Locke for a discussion and signing of her latest, Heaven, My Home. In the book, nine-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; now he’s alone in the darkness of vast Caddo Lake, in a boat whose motor just died. A sudden noise distracts him—and all goes dark. Darren Mathews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; after the events of his previous investigation, his marriage is in a precarious state of rebuilding, and his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little maternal blackmail to press her advantage. An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town where the local economy thrives on nostalgia for antebellum Texas—and some of the era’s racial attitudes still thrive as well. Locke will be in conversation with Alta editor-at-large Mary Melton. Details: Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 7 p.m., free.
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