Is that rain? Quick, run into Café Mokka (495 J St., Arcata), slide into a window seat and watch the back garden get all misty. We can't afford to waste wet days anymore, so make your mocha a double ($3.10). There is no pit crew of headset-wearing baristas, and you are not going to slug this down one-handed while you drive. This one comes in a two-hands cup, brimming with homemade whipped cream and dusted with cocoa and sugar. Do you think freshly whipped cream doesn't matter? Well, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and taste is subjective, but you are wrong. So very wrong. Taste the real thing and think on your sins. There are also no mysterious containers of whatever-the-hell-accino mix and no cloying syrups. Just two shots of espresso, steamed milk and a generous scoop of Guittard chocolate (note the little melted lump at the bottom of the cup) that make for an old-fashioned, bittersweet mocha to sip while you watch the trees drip on the path outside.
The pair of tipsters who sent me to Taco Loco (955 Main St., Fortuna) rattled off a list of dishes, but they had me at soft tacos and chile relleno ($9.99). The homemade corn tortillas are thick and soft enough to use as a bedroll. Not to take anything away from the carnitas inside — meaty and fall-apart tender, sprinkled with chopped onion and cilantro — but the warm tortilla would be good if it was wrapped around pencil shavings. The chile relleno is fairly doused in melted Jack cheese, but you can still taste the bright, bitter flavor of the fresh pepper, dipped in egg batter and fried. Not overly salty, it comes with a green tomatillo salsa and, if you spring for the extra $1.99, a side of encremado, which is probably Spanish for this should fatten you up and is made of chiles, tomatoes, onions and sour cream. Go for it.
Real cream of mushroom soup has been so thoroughly overshadowed by the Warhol-esque army of cans at the market that we no longer remember the original. Instead, we recall the sound of the congealed stuff, its vacuum suck and plop into the pot. Not that we don't love Aunt Martha's green bean casserole when it comes around, or the legion of other back-of-the-can recipes that call for it, but enough. Retrain yourself to expect more.
Frankly, I scooted down to Because Coffee (corner of F and Third streets, Eureka) to get the evangelical fans of the cream of mushroom soup off my back. For $3.75 you get a cup that is really a bowl — earthy and herby with shallots and heavy on the thyme. There's a white wine or sherry flavor and enough minced cremini mushrooms to make a little heap in every spoonful. Best of all, there is cream. Real cream that's not in the least bit goopy.
Sit on the rust velvet sofa with your winkingly mismatched china and pretend you are reading one of the brainy books left on the coffee table. Nobody has to know about the trashy novel on your nightstand or those cans of soup in your cupboard.