15 Years of Staying Fresh, Q&A with Chef Gretchen Mesner
Unlike most of the one-off, pop-up restaurants that briefly flourish in the Hamptons, Fresno has remained a go-to spot for 15 years–and Chef Gretchen Menser has been with the eatery for almost the entire time. She tells HM how she keeps things fresh without forgetting the favorites.
Congratulations on Fresno reaching 15 years; being open for several years and the Hamptons are not often things that go hand- in-hand! Did you think when you came aboard this would be a long- term gig?
I was hoping when I came to Fresno that it would be a long-term gig but you never know until you are fully immersed in a restaurant how the fit will be. Luckily, it worked out just fine.
You walk into Fresno and it’s immediately cozy; there’s really never a time it feels unwelcoming or overly trendy. Is this just a case of ownership personality or a business model?
I think it is a combination of both ownership personality, business model, and the way we treat all of our customers and all of our staff. One team with one goal!
You’ve been there for so much of the ride. Do you think this gives you an intrinsic understanding of what needs to be served at Fresno?
I believe that I have an intrinsic understanding of what needs to be served at Fresno as well as knowledge of what our customers expect. I have close relationships with many of our regulars, which allows me to listen to their feedback.
Are there any dishes on the menu that are untouchable classics, and basically must be there every summer?
There are definitely untouchable classics. The chicken can’t go anywhere! In the summer season, there must be the watermelon salad, Burrata with local heirloom tomatoes, and local corn!
On the other hand, great chefs always innovate! Anything brand new you’ve whipped up for the season that long-time regulars will not expect, but must try?
For the spring a pea green and snap pea salad with grilled black plums, toasted pistachios, parmesan, and a lemon mint vinaigrette.
How about cocktails? Grabbing a drink at the Fresno bar is a great way to get centered amidst the high energy of the Hamptons summer. What’s new to sip?
Smoking Mule: Mezcal, Passion Fruit, Fever Tree Ginger beer with a Ancho Chili Rim
Barrel Aged White Negroni: Aviation Gin, Suze Liquer and Lillet, and a Grapefruit Twist
It’s time to do some perfect plate pairing! We like to present scenarios to see what dishes and drinks work best together during certain moments of the season, and let’s start with June. The summer’s underway, but people are still making their first appearances on the scene. What dish would you say is the one someone needs to eat at Fresno to know “the summer is here!” and which drink goes best with it?
Food – Watermelon salad with Greek feta cheese, toasted almonds, cucumber, peppercress, and oregano vinaigrette
Drink – Rosé all day!
Now it’s late July—even the nights can be sweltering, and people are walking in with that kind of sweat on their brows that only comes from a humid summer night. Anything food-wise on the menu that will help bring down the heat a touch? And what cocktail is the right match?
Food – Balsam Farms heirloom tomatoes, imported burrata cheese, Balsam’s basil oil, and toasted baguette
Drink – The good friend: Hendricks Gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, Campari, and St. Germaine
Fast-forward to late August, and a group of regulars is back again— let’s face it, you’ve seen their faces like three days a week, every week since Memorial Day weekend. Is there a dish on the menu that they might have missed, but shouldn’t have? And is there a bevvie to go with that?
Food – Local pan-seared striped bass with Balsam Farm corn and lobster salad. Perfect paring of all things local and summer.
Drink – Wölffer Estate Sauvignon Blanc
One more: Tumbleweed Tuesday has come and gone, it’s late September, and a couple arrives on one of the first chilly nights you’ve seen in months. What entrée would you pitch to make sure their woo is pitched properly, and what drink can help with that inspiration?
Food – Cazuela roasted local tilefish with maitake, enoki, and shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, and rice noodles in a lemongrass dashi and Thai basil-bean sprout salad
Drink – Pierre Riffault, Sancerre
A final question: is David Loewenberg still bussing tables, or has he finally decided to cut himself a break?
David Loewenberg has and always will be a restaurant guy….. He is in constant motion. He is like a dining room hawk!