.Best Oasis of Fine Food in a Culinary Urban Desert

Call it a pantry, a community kitchen and an oasis of fine food nestled, all together, in a culinary urban desert. Three Leaves attracts hungry folks eager for soups, salads, entrees and sweets made with fresh, local ingredients.

Owned and operated by Georgia-born and Alabama-bred chef Rob Hogencamp, Three Leaves was already set up for take-out when the pandemic hit. Because of this, it thrived during the pandemic, at a time when many cafes and restaurants folded.

If there’s a secret ingredient in the mix at Three Leaves, it’s Hogencamp himself, who began his cooking career by barbecuing in the Deep South at the age of 15. He isn’t sorry he left home and came to California.

“There is no place I’d rather be than in Sonoma,” Hogencamp tells me inside his spotless kitchen. For years he worked with the “Healing Meals Program” at the nonprofit, Ceres, where he learned that eating can be a way to maintain health. Near the start of the pandemic, he reached out to Liberty Duck, Petaluma’s world-renowned poultry farm. Ever since then, he’s made duck meat balls, duck curry and duck pot pie—which comes with vegetables that aren’t over-cooked—plus a gluten-free biscuit topping that Alabamians would die for. All the dishes at Three Leaves are gluten-free and dairy-free.

Recently, Hogencamp ran out of his highly coveted meatloaf. He returned to the kitchen and made a dozen or so more loaves with a mouthwatering chipotle glaze. Every week there’s a different culinary theme. It might be Mexican or Vietnamese. At lunchtime, Thursdays and Fridays, workers from nearby Kaiser and from county offices arrive in droves for food that tastes good, looks good and is nutritious.

The “Three Leaves” in the name of the company don’t refer to the leaves of any plant, but rather to the “leaves” or “blades” in Hogencamp’s culinary equation that includes farmers, chefs and foodies, who can go online and order complete ready-to-heat-and-eat meals, or shop à la carte at the pantry itself. Three Leaves proves that “to-go” food can be nourishing as well as fast and convenient. On a recent visit, I purchased a Mexican wedding cake cookie which I scarfed and a container of salsa made with pumpkin seeds (rich in zinc and good for the immune system). I took the salsa home and added a dollop to my own split-pea soup for a delicious supper.—JR

Three Leaves, 925 Corporate Center Parkway, Ste D, Santa Rosa. 707.595.0316. www.threeleavesfoods.com

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