Try as she might, Lisa Hemenway just can’t escape from food. Or maybe Sonoma County won’t let her.
“People just expect food from me,” said the long-time restaurateur from inside the shell of her country market and bistro, Fresh.
The space: Affordable, family-friendly “fast” food a la Lisa. The idea is a one-stop-shop for customers to buy pre-cut organic veggies, chicken and pork (with conveniently placed recipes for inspiration) for time-crunched home cooking; a quick dinner of mix-n-match prepared entrees and sides; or grab pre-made salads, breads, pastas or a wood-fired pizza for on-the-spot dining or picnics. Plus a wine bar. “Whether they eat in, buy prepared meals or shop for ingredients and ideas, this venture recognizes the reality of our lives and solves the what-are-we-going-to-eat problem,” said Hemenway.
The Food: Breakfast, lunch, dinner (plus wine). Prepared onsite daily are fresh breads, pastas, wood-fired pizzas, two 30-foot cases with prepared foods (salads to entrees and sides), fresh pastry shells, boxed lunches, soups. Plus: Local dairy, “pantry items” (olive oil, jams, vinegars, teas, coffee), local wines, sushi and oysters, local fruits and veggies, cheese, Flying Goat coffee, organic meats.
The space: The former grocery store is subdivided into several distinct personalities — an espresso and pastry station for morning folks (with access to the outdoor patio); a large pizza oven; massive deli cases to showcase her signature prepared foods (“I hate those ones where the meatloaf is packaged with the carrots and mashed potatoes.”); a wine bar; seafood bars (sushi, oysters); bistro-style seating for 75 and fresh produce cases. Hemenway plans to take advantage of the market’s ample outdoor seating as well. Don’t expect toilet paper or light bulbs, however, in this food-centric market.
The backstory: Now in her late 50’s, Hemenway has been an integral part of the Santa Rosa food scene since her early 20’s, first as the original sous and pastry chef for John Ash & Co, at Polka Dots in Railroad Square, and most memorably at her namesake restaurant, Lisa Hemenway’s, and gourmet takeaway, Tote Cuisine, in Montgomery Village.
Time marches on, however, and it’s been nearly a decade since Hemenway got out of the kitchen and into real estate and restaurant consulting. Rumors of her return surfaced every few years (she actually was working on a concept in Railroad Square than never quite panned out). But with the support of several local investors and backers, she’s back in the game.
This go-round, however, she’s focused on healthy family-focused eating. “It’s easy to make people love something wrapped in bacon,” she said. And of course, the market includes plenty of guilty pleasures, but Hemenway plans to highlight fresh, wholesome fruits and veggies. “If you come in here, I’m already thinking about how I can get more veggies into your kids,” she said. That is, if you can pull them away from the homemade croissants and pastries that have made Hemenway a household name around Sonoma County. Maybe teaching them moderation is a fair compromise.
At least they’re be doing it at Lisa’s place.
Fresh by Lisa Hemenway, 5755 Mountain Hawk Way, Santa Rosa