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When tossed around in terms of food and drink, “seasonality” generally refers to ingredients that come available at a given time of year. But there is also an association of substance and flavor with each solstice, perhaps more often. At least that’s the consensus of Ben Spungin and his crew.

Each month the folks at Alta Bakery and Cafe select a featured latte. Heading into October it is generally the “obligatory” – their word – pumpkin spice latte. Moving deeper into fall, this year they brought out the maple bourbon latte, an almost somber, haunting bittersweet farewell to the season as winter draws near.

December may be the most problematic month. On one hand, the warm hearth and cordial air of wood smoke yearn for ample drinks. Yet it is also a festive time, an occasion for spirited peppermint and the delicate ting of crystal toasts. So Spungin and Alta manager Mary Kohl plan to add eggnog to the menu as a nod to the latter. They are also preparing a sipping hot chocolate, more decadent and substantial than a typical mug of cocoa, a downy blanket at once calm and brooding.

Monthly offerings are not unique to Alta, of course. But the popular bakery and cafe is adept at the nuances of pairing flavors and time. November’s maple bourbon latte, for instance, carried a slumbering, rustic sweetness reminiscent of a cabin in the woods on the edge of evening. As for December, with a week to go before a new latte was scheduled to appear on the board, Spungin was hesitant to commit. There were a few directions they could go – still.

ALTA BAKERY AND CAFE, 501 Munras Ave., Monterey. 920-1018, altamonterey.com
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