SingleThread. The most anticipated restaurant to open in the nation in 2016 has opened. In Healdsbur
A local's Perspective...
I scored a reservation for opening weekend at SingleThread.
The anticipation was killing me (and apparently the rest of the nation), as I waited impatiently for news of its official arrival.
2016 is the year I turn 40, so I completely expected I'd be celebrating my new decade and accomplishments from decades past over an 11-course meal at this insanely special spot in my backyard.
August turned to September...to October......to November............to December. :|
Skipping past my November 3rd birthday but within the appropriate celebratory birth-season, nonetheless. (Milestone birthdays get a season in my home.)
For any foodie living completely off the grid, SingleThread is the 52-seat culinary innovation of husband and wife team, Kyle and Katina Connaughton. His resumé boasts Michel Bras Toya Japon in Japan and The Fat Duck in England. (Translation: He's a *big* deal.) Wife, Katina, California native, is co-owner and Head Farmer. They are high school sweethearts.
Booking the Reservation
This is a story, in and of itself: You pay for your entire experience up front. And there's a timer that counts down as you confirm your seats. And there are no cancellations or refunds.
There was something destabilizing about that experience that Spinal Tapped my expectations up to 11. Something arrogant about forcing my commitment, even though I had zero intention to cancel.
It's kinda like a wedding or party invitation. They're intended to set the bar for what to expect for the occasion. There was something in my head that said, "This better be amazing.". It put me off a little bit. Although, I get it.
Once you experience SingleThread and appreciate every thoughtful detail they've invested, first hand, it's easier to understand how they depend on these reservations...Still...
I've had people ask me, almost in horror, why I would ever spend so much on dinner.
And I suppose if you think of it just as "dinner", then, yes...that's bougey.
But what our reservation entailed was so much more than just a meal.
It was an experience.
What I look for in any restaurant is the quality of three things: ambience, service and food. Seldom does one establishment nail all three, so one or two usually make up for the lack of the others.
What SingleThread was able to accomplish that night was a restaurant hat-trick: completely slaying in all three categories.
And I've never experienced that level of synergy before. Anywhere.
Let me walk you through our night:
We entered the lux foyer of the restaurant and were warmly greeted by host, Haley Callahan. A local girl like us, Haley grew up with my husband in Geyserville. We exchanged our "hellos" and then began taking it all in...
A giant window opens to the kitchen in the center of the foyer. Our friend, Danny, is prepping the foie-course and gives us a quick smile. Chef Kyle is intensely studying his notes. The kitchen is a well-oiled machine, hard at work.
We're then escorted up to the second floor for a tour of one of their five guest rooms, the suite.
It is lovely. Tastefully appointed with a very open floor plan and calming decor. Fireplace, Juliette balcony, fully-stocked beverage fridge: local wines, beers (Hello, Pliny the Elder) and juices (freshly pressed Sonoma County Juice Company). A (super fancy) coffee maker and a tea maker, because...why not? A set of Zalto stemware sits on the shelf above the bar area.
[SideNote: Have you heard of Zalto? Their stemware CRUSHES Riedel. By, like, a lot. Just a teaser from their site and then you can read more about them online here..."The curve of the bowls are tilted at the angles of 24°, 48° and 72°, which are in accordance to the tilt angles of the Earth." (Whaaaaaaaaat?!)]
The floors are heated and the bathroom is pure luxury.
The Toto toilet lid opens when we enter the lav and glows a soft blue. We found this both ridiculous and impressive. (And immediately added it to the list of necessities for our remodel...) Read more about it here. Then you'll want one too!
The linens and lighting are made especially for SingleThread and every smart and green technology possible is integrated into the room.
So we're already dying with excitement and we haven't even put anything in our mouths yet.
Next we walk upstairs to the third floor and rooftop deck.
It's level-10 gorge.
Beautiful planter boxes, a water feature, fire pit and an expansive bar/service counter. I can imagine myself, enjoying myself, up there on a warm, summer night as the sun sets and the moon rises.
We're each handed a glass of 2009 Caraccioli Cellars Brut Cuvee, Santa Lucia Highlands ($52/bottle, retail). It's the perfect ignition for the evening.
The tour continues as we are directed to the north east view to understand where the farm sits and we learned more about their story.
It doesn't get more farm-to-table than this. They literally grow everything on their five acre farm where the Russian River and Alexander Valleys intersect, on the San Lorenzo Vineyard. (For a map of where that is, click here. The Seghesios own this Land.)
[Fun fact: I used to pour Seghesio wine on the weekends for fun so I could get a discount on their wine. One of my favorite daily drinkers is the Seghesio Sonoma Zin.]
There are two breeds making up the flock of 90 Heritage chickens. They even have their own bees. They forage their own mushrooms, farm their own livestock and grow their own flowers.
Standing around the fire pit, we're handed our first course: caramelized onion with smoked turbo fin and potato. Here we go....!
When you make your reservation, your table is yours for the night. No waiting for the reservation before you to leave. No being rushed through the end of your experience for the table after you to be seated. The experience is entirely yours. We learned that if you want to take more time to enjoy the roof deck, so be it!
But we were cold and I'd saved my calories all day for this so was anxious to begin the tasting...so we were escorted down to the dining room.
The walk to our table passed by the bustling kitchen. It's beautiful.
We learned more about the dining room and space.
Every piece of this creation has been so thoughtfully curated and designed.
Even the wall tiles. They were crafted from clay from the farm by Pope Valley Pottery artist in residence, Kelly Farley. (I mean...!)
My only disappointment was that our table didn't face the kitchen. It was in the back corner of the restaurant. Still a beautiful space that felt like someone's home dining room...but we unanimously felt Baby-in-the-corner left out that we didn't have eyes on the action of the kitchen. [NOTE: Request a table in the main dining room next time.]
Our table was stunning.
...And was plated with our first courses.
We were about to enjoy the "Late Autumn in Sonoma County" menu. (You can choose from one of three menus: vegetarian, Pacific seafood or meat. $293.63/ea, includes tax & tip.)
The menu concept is ridic. They're intended to evolve every five days, created by the 72 micro seasons (SEVENTY-TWO) (!!!!!!) that Katina follows on the farm. (Her legit farming resumé includes coursework in Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture, the greenhouse manager for the Ag Program and Santa Rosa Junior College and has farmed at Davis Family Winery and The Barlow.)
We decided to add the wine-pairing (@ 202.28/ea. A non-alcoholic pairing is available @ $71.78/ea or turn it up to the Reserve Tasting @ $384.98/ea. All include tax & tip.). (The bottles poured ranged in retail price @ ~$30-$50/ea.)
What followed was an orchestration of a celebration of Sonoma County and Healdsburg.
...A pristine balance between luxury-service and quality, without feeling stuffy. A genuinely comfortable elegance. It truly felt like we were guests in their home.
A strong Japanese influence plays into every aspect of the experience.
Though on my bucket-list, I've never been to Japan. But what stands out to me of the Japanese culture is a current of intention, sincerity, honor and tradition. And a sense of ceremony.
These traits were an integral part of what SingleThread (literally) brought to the table.
Each course was ceremoniously accompanied by the appropriate flatware, presented in spectacular trays we sometimes got to select from ourselves.
From mother-of-pearl spoons, hand carved from interiors of large shells to cedar-wood utensils, plates, bowls and trays that take an entire year to process, turn, dry and lacquer, designed and hand-turned by Kihachi Kobo of Ishikawa Prefecture.
The water tumblers were hand-hammered by the artisans of the SUS Gallery of Niigata and made from titanium, which keeps their contents cool.
The knives presented were from Bloodroot Blades in Athens, Ga. The wooden handles are from various woods collected and foraged on the Sonoma Coast by Kyle and Katina as well as Candice Koseba (the foraging and gleaning pro). Some of the wood also came from cherry trees on the Bloodroot property in Georgia. The artisans behind the knife-making pride themselves in using reclaimed materials to craft their products, thus, the steel from the knives came from the chassis of a 1968 VW Beetle. The waitlist is currently 43 (!!) months for their custom cutlery.
Intentionally mismatched sake cups, presented at the single sake pairing, are offered for you to choose for yourself, explaining that "the sake cup actually chooses YOU".
The entire experience was five-and-a-half hours long. Yet it flew by and I didn't want it to stop. Except it was after midnight. And I was about to fall asleep.
Did I leave hungry? Absolutely not.
Was it worth it? Hell yes.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.
Would I do anything differently? I'd request a seat in front of the kitchen and I would book a *much* earlier reservation, knowing I'll be there for so long. (I'm a bit of a pumpkin to begin with, so I was fighting to stay awake towards the end.)
Kyle and Katina came over at the end of our experience to say hello and thank us for coming in. What beautiful people! And so hard-working. They've literally given all of themselves to bring this project to life. They, and their two daughters (one who works on the farm alongside Katina), have immersed themselves into the Healdsburg and Sonoma County community. I glimpsed a sense of sadness from the cold welcome many of the local Healdsburg social media threads have unleashed on them for bringing a high-priced experience to a town that some locals resent or are offended by the idea of spending that kind of money on "dinner".
I choose to see the positive side of what they bring to this wonderful town: the celebration of all it has to offer, the beauty of its bounty, the influx of people that will journey here to experience and appreciate something that can only exist here. And I am so proud, like, chest-swelling-proud, that we get this. Here. In our backyard.
Cheers to everyone that brought this beautiful and thoughtful idea to life and best wishes to a very successful endeavor. So pleased to have a special-occasion restaurant in town again, just a stone's throw away.
I can't wait for the next reason to celebrate!
SingleThread Farms Restaurant & Inn is located @ 131 North Street in Healdsburg, California.
For more information, visit their website here.
For more interesting things to do in the Healdsburg area, visit sheetstothewind.co.