Little Pleasures brews a casual atmosphere

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
With the dawn of Little Pleasures coffeehouse and bakery, people searching for a unique culinary experience with a casual up-scale atmosphere need look no further than North Main Street in Hillsboro.

Establishing her restaurant one year ago, owner Marisa Root has offered generous helpings of satisfaction to customers near and far.

“I’ve got such really great customers who come in here and love the place,” Root said. “I really, really love doing this. I like being here, and I like serving people.”

In addition to featuring specialty coffee, teas, sodas and fruit drinks, Root compliments the drinks with a variety of baked goods, such as coffeecake, biscotti, scones, cookies and brownies.

Shortly after opening, she developed a light-lunch menu with weekly specials. And to top it all off, like the whipped cream on her cappuccinos, Root brought in musical entertainment two to three nights a month on selected Friday evenings.

“I always wanted to add entertainment early on because I saw that this would be a good place for it, and no one else in town was having any type of entertainment,” Root said.

Root learned to cook from her mother while growing up on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.

“My father is Filipino, and my mother is Portuguese,” Root said. “My mother is a very good cook. She influenced me and had me cooking at the age of 10 for the whole family of eight.”

Prior to moving to Lehigh two years ago with husband Monty, Root gained invaluable experience working in a fine-dining restaurant for one year in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

“That’s when I thought this was something I really would like to do,” Root said about opening her own establishment.

“I had experience in all aspects of the restaurant. I was the hostess, in charge of the wait staff, and I ran the country club there. So I did everything from cooking, to serving, to ordering, to you name it. It was fun.”

After moving to the area, Root looked for the right job for nine months, but her search was over when she stepped into 119 N. Main.

“The first time I walked into this building, I saw that this area was not being utilized,” Root said.

“It just had a coffeehouse feel, and I thought, ‘This would be perfect.’ And, I was already doing special-order baking from home. I was doing cookies on sticks.”

Little Pleasures shares space with a complimentary business-Thee Bookstore-that relocated in January. The door for both stores opens first into the bookstore, and two large entrances share traffic back and forth between the businesses.

“It’s wonderful, very complimentary, like Borders bookstore,” Root said about her neighbors on the south side of their shared retail space.

It took a bit of time to finally find just the right name for her restaurant.

“I had a difficult time finding one,” Root said. “I was looking through a recipe book, and it was about a really, really nice cookie that you eat with coffee. It said, ‘And enjoy this little pleasure.’ I thought, ‘There it is, right there.'”

It was perhaps a leap of faith that Root thought she could make a success of a unique coffeehouse in a town of about 3,000. But she was confident from the beginning.

“I didn’t think, ‘It will never work,'” Root said. “Maybe it was just optimism. But, I think I’m fulfilling a need here. I get a lot of business people coming in here for lunch. And, I do know the coffee I offer is very, very good.”

Flown in from Hawaii, Root’s coffee has names such as vanilla macadamia nut, chocolate macadamia nut, honey-nut java, Hawaiian hazelnut and sumatra. Every day, she offers at least two brewed coffees and one decaf.

“I was brought up on Hawaiian coffee,” Root said. “The climate, the trade winds, the ground in which the beans are grown because of the lava soil in Hawaii-the flavor is very distinctive.”

Starting with her special Hawaiian coffee ground on the premises and served hot or cold, Root can make authentic cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, breves and Americanos using Ghiradelli sauces, such as sweet ground chocolate, caramel and white mocha.

“I would like to emphasize that I offer authentic espresso-based drinks,” Root said. “Some people think cappuccino is the quick-stop type made with water and powder. I don’t have that. It’s authentic from an espresso machine.”

The Snickers cappuccino is high on the customer-satisfaction list.

“The most popular I have is the Snickers cappuccino,” Root said. “Someone said it tastes like a liquid candy bar. It has Ghiradelli chocolate and Ghiradelli caramel in it.”

Hawaiian herbal teas and flavored teas served hot or cold are available in distinctive flavors, such as hibiscus honey lemon, guava, and mango Maui. For a refreshing summer drink, the menu includes Fruit Tea Blasts, such as passion-orange guava, strawberry sensation and peach pizzazz.

A new item added recently to her refreshment menu was a low-carbohydrate drink-blended-ice mocha. “It’s only two carbs, and it’s very, very good,” Root said. “It’s 16 ounces for $3.50 with optional whipped cream on top.”

A professed coffee lover, Root said she also loves food and loves to eat. That enthusiasm is evident in the baked goods and light lunches she offers.

“When I try to decide what I’m going to have for the menu next week I ask myself, ‘What would I want?'” Root said. “So, I make everything I like.”

A display case is filled daily with freshly baked delights, such as cheesecake, pecan bars, chocolate-chip cookies, mango scones, seven-layer bars and triple-chocolate brownies.

“I really want to put in quality ingredients in everything I bake, because you’re going to taste it in there,” Root said. “I always use the best chocolate, butter-not margarine-and real vanilla.”

Other restaurants in the area offer heartier noon-day meals so Root compliments the diners’ choices in the area by offering a light lunch.

“It’s a light lunch, not lite lunch,” Root said.

“Meaning, you’re not going to have a big plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. I’ll always have three types of croissant sandwiches-roast beef, turkey or ham-with your choice of lettuce, cheese and tomato that’s all included in the price and a dill pickle.” Bags of chips can be purchased on the side.

A tossed salad is available daily as is a weekly special. The soup specials are prepared on the premises, are not made from a packaged mix and contain no preservatives.

The most popular special since opening was an authentic Mexican taco called Carne Asada, drawing customers back again and again during the week it was featured.

After marinating and grilling thinly-sliced steak, Root filled a soft corn tortilla with the chopped steak and fresh cilantro, topped it with diced onions and included homemade salsa on the side.

“It’s wonderful,” Root said.

Local musician Rod Jost is credited with mentioning to Root that he was a member of a number of bands and would be willing to play on selected Friday evenings. A variety of other bands followed and brought their fans with them.

Root does not require a cover charge and extends her hours on entertainment Fridays.

“I don’t close until the last person leaves,” she said. “Usually, the band stops at 11 p.m. and sometimes midnight. As long as people are enjoying themselves, I’ll stay open.”

The ambiance of the Little Pleasures’ decor is accented by a two-story ceiling and a row of large plate-glass windows along the front wall facing the street. Toward the back of the shop, Root has created a cozy area for children to play games or adults to spend leisure time enjoying old books.

Supplied by Wathen Booksellers of Hillsboro, the books are for browsing or for sale.

Root puts together a newsletter mailed out weekly, and customers can sign up to receive it free of charge.

“It will give you anything that’s happening in the future; a full menu for the week, including price; and when we’re going to have musical groups,” Root said.

Area groups can plan meetings, and friends can gather for birthday parties or other special occasions in the restaurant that seats 30 but has spill-over space to accommodate more.

Putting in a minimum of 12-hour days at Little Pleasures, Root said the long hours are worth the time and energy invested.

“When I’m back here cooking, and there’s a group of women chatting and enjoying themselves or families come in, the feeling is one of great satisfaction,” she said. “I’m helping make their life a little nicer and adding a little pleasure to their day.”

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