Ten Best Local Coffee Drinks: Somewhere between artisanal coffee pour-overs with a side of smirk (no cream, no sugar, you cretin) and a cotton candy Frappuccino are espresso-based coffee drinks. Punched up with milk, a few spices, cocoa powder or (mostly) natural syrups, they’re cool weather sippers to warm your heart and hands.
After a highly-unscientific poll of friends, family and social media, here’s a list of favorites that pass the BiteClub taste test (in no particular order).
The Bangkok: Sweetened-condensed milk meets lushly-roasted coffee for a taste that’s both exotic and familiar. Flying Goat, 324 Center St., Healdsburg; 10 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, flyinggoatcoffee.com.
The Valentino: Gelato, espresso and coconut syrup blended with whipped cream. A’roma Roasters, 95 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, aromaroasters.com.
Pumpkin Latte: Fall in a cup with organic, house made pumpkin syrup. Taylor Maid Farms, 6790 McKinley St., #170, Sebastopol, taylormaidfarms.com.
The Kicker: Espresso and Irish cream served up with a side of youthful enthusiasm and short shorts. Dutch Bros. Coffee, 1300 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, dutchbros.com.
White Lavender Mocha: A white chocolate mocha with just a hint of floral lavender, inside the recently-opened cafe and roastery. Bella Rosa Coffee Company, 5491 Skylane Blvd. #116, Santa Rosa, bellarosacoffeecompany.
Aztec Mocha: Dark chocolate, three types of chiles and rosewater make this mocha a standout. Plus, the lovable agro-chic interior. Plank Coffee, 227 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale, facebook.com/plank-coffee.
Mint to Be: Vietnamese Iced Coffee (aka rocket fuel) meets muddled mint and homemade organic condensed milk. You’ll want two, but drink with caution if you plan to sleep in the next two days. PhinBar, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays at West End Farmer’s Market, 817 Donahue St., Santa Rosa, phinbar.com.
Just a Latte: Two faves for this simple drink of espresso and milk with no frills. Rosso Rosticerria makes it proper, and if you get there early enough, you can sip it with the world’s greatest bacon scone. 129 N. Dutton Ave., Santa Rosa, rossopizzeria. Brew Coffee and Beer carefully curates seasonal espresso that makes the whole thing extra special. 555 Healdsburg Ave., Santa Rosa, brewcoffeeandbeer.com.
Cortado: Served in a 4-ounce tumbler (a little bigger than a shot glass), this little caffeine shooter is an espresso with a bit of steamed milk and foam. ACRE Coffee, 21 Fourth St., Petaluma; 2365 Midway Drive, Santa Rosa, acrecoffee.com.
BBQ You’ll Queue For: Look for more about the exploding barbecue scene in Sonoma County, but there’s one spot that’s already got lines out the door for its St. Louis style ribs, brisket, smoked chicken, cornbread and pulled pork.
Kin Smoke opened on the Healdsburg Square less than a month ago inside the former Center Street Cafe, magically transformed into a Texas roadhouse, complete with a roll of paper towels on the table and a secret sauce that’s so secret even co-owner Brad Barmore had to beg for it. From his father-in-law.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s the second Sonoma Country restaurant for business partners Barmore and JC Adams, who opened Windsor’s Kin restaurant in 2011.
Here’s why you need to go try it, at 304 Center St., Healdsburg, kinsmoke.com:
Top 5 Surprises
Daryl Groom, chief wine judge of the North Coast Wine Challenge, shared a few insider tips on what goes on during the two-day judging.
1. Palate Endurance: Judges evaluate about 120 wines a day. That can spiral to 150, if they’re involved in the Best of Class rounds.
2. Pragmatic Uniform: All the judges wear white lab coats to keep red wine spills at bay.
3. Wine Smarts: We have 27 judges who collectively have more than 500 years of industry experience.
4. Brew Breaks: At lunchtime or after the contest is over for the day, many judges enjoy a beer.
5. Colorful Comments: All gold-medal-winning wines get a comment from the judges, and the comments get funnier toward the end of the day. While the judges spit, it appears they still retain some alcohol in their system.
Taste the North Coast Wine Challenge's winning wines at the North Coast Food & Wine Festival on June 9 at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park. More information at northcoastwineandfood.com.