Alta strudel

The banana chocolate strudel at Alta.

After whetting the appetites of local foodies with appearances at local food festivals, hotly anticipated Alta Bakery + Cafe made its formal debut last week in downtown Monterey.

The project was announced in the spring of 2018 as part of a unique mixed-used partnership in the historic Cooper Molera Adobe. But construction in a historic building proved more challenging than expected and Alta’s opening was delayed. Fervor for sweet treats from Culinary Director Ben Spungin and team means the bakery has seen sizable crowds since its opening last Thursday.

And the buzz is Alta has been worth the wait.

A large glass pastry case greets diners upon entering the historic adobe. Queue up here and pick items for dine-in or take-out before ordering coffee and/or items from the cafe menu. The case gets replenished throughout the day, with some items available in the morning and others in the afternoon. Popular picks in the morning have included doughnuts—including lemon verbena doughnuts ($4.25) and cinnamon sugar-rolled doughnut holes ($3.75/bag)—flaky croissants ($3.50) and savory sausage rolls ($5.50, available heated). Also, look for cookies including chocolate chip and chocolate buckwheat ($3), rotating quiche and pie by the slice, and banana chocolate or apple strudels ($4.50).

A second case shows off refined desserts reminiscent of Spungin’s tenure at local fine dining restaurants. These elegant eats are edible art. Early favorites are “The Mendoza” with a pate a choux pastry stuffed with blueberry compote and almond mousse ($8) and a vibrant petite cake with passion fruit mousse and green tea cake ($8).

Alta also highlights bread, and Matt Somerville—formerly of the famous Big Sur Bakery—serves as head baker. Somerville and Spungin have kicked off a bread program featuring sourdough and seeded loaves baked in a Wood Stone brand oven. Loaves are available for sale and release around 11am. And don’t miss the vegetable focaccia ($4.50), an afternoon addition to the pastry case. Bread options will naturally expand as the bakery settles into operations.

The bakery’s bread naturally features prominently in the breakfast menu where there’s a dedicated Toasts section. Recognizing the ubiquity of the avocado toast, Alta has an “Obligatory Avocado Toast” with smashed avocados, citrus, radishes and herbs on seeded loaf ($9.50).

The lunch menu rolls out at 11am. The debut menu includes a pair of salads—little gem lettuce with bacon, goat’s milk Gouda and blue cheese vinaigrette ($12) and mixed greens with radishes, cucumbers, sprouts and pepitas ($10)—a rotating “soup of the Diaz” ($4.50) and a vegetable panini sandwich with salad or fries ($12). Pizzas from the Wood Stone oven are available starting at 11:30am. Selections include margherita, wild mushroom and sausage and veggie (all $15).

For now, beverages are limited to coffee, tea, kombucha (on tap from Almighty Kombucha) and bottled sodas. (Beer and wine will be coming soon.)

Retail offerings include housemade jams and preserves—many featuring fruits from the Cooper Molera Adobe orchards—olive oils and chocolates, which have become a signature for Spungin.

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The finishing touches are almost done on Alta’s outdoor seating, where diners will be able to enjoy sweet and savory snacks in a garden setting.

Alta is part of a pair of projects come from hospitality heavyweights Culinary Director/Partner Spungin, Operations Director/Partner P.J. Clark and Partner Kirk Probasco. All bring years of hospitality experience. Spungin was previously pastry chef for Bernardus Lodge, the shuttered Restaurant 1833 and, most recently, Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn. Clark came from Sonoma, where she worked operations for several restaurant groups including Real Restaurants Group, Piatti Group and HopMonk Tavern. And Probasco owned Stokes Restaurant, which was a staple of downtown dining from 1996-2009.

Next, the trio will turn their attention to opening the neighboring Cella Restaurant + Bar, which will feature globally inspired California cuisine.

Alta Bakery + Cafe 502 Munras Avenue, Monterey. 920-1018, altamonterey.com. 7am-5:30pm daily.

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