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Meet the Chef: Liza Hinman of Spinster Sisters

Lamb Shank from Spinster Sisters

At Spinster Sisters in Santa Rosa, chef Liza Hinman impresses with a global menu that puts a Sonoma County spin on everything from a biscuits and gravy breakfast, to a dinner of grilled Korean short ribs.

It might seem like a bit of a stretch for her, since she previously was head chef at the former Santi in Santa Rosa, a decidedly rustic Italian restaurant. But in 2012, when she debuted her Spinster Sisters in the SOFA arts district, she decided it was time to spread her wings.

The result: those marvelous biscuits and gravy, the gravy gussied with Panizzera Meat Co. sausage from Occidental alongside two poached Wise Acre Farms eggs from Windsor. And those delicious grilled Korean short ribs, dressed with Asian pear, kimchee made with local fennel, and gochujang hot pepper sauce.

Hinman has her hands full these days. She and her husband, Joe Stewart of Healdsburg’s The Downtown Bakery, welcomed twins in late 2014, joining their first son, Oscar. And now, the couple is hard at work on Spinster’s new projects, The Spinster Inn and Pantry, which along with being a boutique hotel, will showcase the restaurant’s Sonoma County cuisine as to-go and private dining options.

The business has always been in her blood, however, so call it a labor of love. Hinman worked in restaurants since college, starting as a server, and immediately became addicted to the fast pace and high energy, creative environment.

An East Coast native, she gained insider knowledge as an editorial assistant at Gourmet Magazine in New York after graduating Middlebury college. Then, she moved to California to attend the California Culinary Academy, subsequently working at Delfina and Bizou in San Francisco.

Last year, Hinman competed in the “Hometown Breakfast Battle,” a national online competition featuring Thomas’ iconic English Muffins or Bagels. Her entrée rocked the judges, in a marvel of kale, local eggs, Humboldt Fog goat cheese, bacon from the Sonoma County Meat Company, and Cabernet ketchup on a sourdough English muffin.

Hinman’s bagels and muffins at the restaurant are homemade, by the way.

It’s hard to pigeonhole this talent’s cooking, yet she can often be counted on to do the unexpected. Breakfast might bring a granola waffle drizzled in butter and maple-agave syrup, while lunch could be a Tunisian Style Burger of grass-fed beef and lamb topped in roasted red bell pepper, pickles red onion and cumin yogurt.

At dinner, pan roasted steelhead gets a twist with forbidden rice, satsumas (tangerine), ginger butter braised bok choy and watermelon radish, while grilled local calamari sing with zucchini, cabbage, mint, peanuts, nuoc cham and chilies.

Be sure, too, to order Hinman’s signature deviled eggs. They’re topped with housemade kimchee and bacon, and are positively addictive.

Details: 401 S A Street, Santa Rosa, (707) 528-7100

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