BiteClub, Healdsburg, Opening, Where to Eat Now

First Look: Single Thread Farms Restaurant

We get a first peek at one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year: Single Thread Farms Restaurant

Photo: Jason Jaacks

Though Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s highly-anticipated Healdsburg restaurant officially opens this week, the kitchen and dining room have been in full swing doing “friends and family” meals to iron out any wrinkles in the luxe, multi-course restaurant experience. But here, friends and family testing out the menu included esteemed toques John Ash and Top Chef Master’s winner Douglas Keane making their way through nine courses at nearby tables, as we got a first glimpse.

For more than a year, Connaughton and several key members of the staff have been preparing for the opening — which included preparing the Connaughton’s Healdsburg farm, along with a complete build-out of the North Street building with custom kitchen areas and carefully curated dining experience. It’s something to behold.

Photo: Jason Jaacks
Photo: Jason Jaacks

Let’s talk about the price, first. With a $295 price tag per person (not including wine or non-alcoholic pairings), the restaurant has had its share of critics even before opening, questioning the steep price tag for a restaurant that has yet to get a Michelin star or even a review. To put it in context, similarly haute dining experiences have similar costs. Chef Christopher Kostow’s 10-course tasting menu at the three-Michelin starred Meadowood is $330 per person (excluding wine) or $500 for a “counter menu” inside the kitchen. The also three-starred French Laundry is $310 per person without tax, tip or drinks. San Francisco’s Saison, which has the distinction of being the most expensive restaurant in the region, also three-stars, is $398-$498 (for special holidays) per person without tax, tip or drinks.  Douglas Keane’s Cyrus, which closed in 2012, was over $800 for two people when we visited.

Photo: Eric Wolfinger
Photo: Eric Wolfinger

So, why in the world would someone pay that much for a single meal? Again, context. Meals like those at Meadowood, French Laundry, and what Connaughton hopes his restaurant will become, are bespoke experiences using precious ingredients (abalone, Mangalitsa pig, foie gras) as well as highly labor-intensive sauces and preparations. Food is served as art, with two or three chefs using tweezers to place each garnish, each tiny flower or microgreen. For a food connoisseur, it’s a one in a lifetime experience with as much beauty and joy as, say, driving a beautiful car or buying a well-crafted suit or dress. Though ephemeral, how is it different, exactly, from a stay in a luxurious hotel or even a penny-pinching weekend trip to Gualala (my own luxury indulgence)?

And memorable the experience was, from the moment we opened the door to the restaurant, to our final bite of chocolate. Walking into the silent, enclosed reception area sets the tone, where guests can peek through a window into the silent kitchen. Silent.

A massive door opens into the dining room, with just a handful of tables, the most fascinating of which is a theater table where guests can sit side by side, with an unobstructed view of the kitchen, where Connaughton and his staff work at two massive islands, hunched over a collection of pottery plates, bowls, donabe and hand-crafted flatware created in Japan. Truly the service ware is one of the most artful parts of the meal.

singlethread_dishes_y2c5026
Connaughton’s influences are micro-seasonal (whatever is perfectly ripe at the moment) and Japanese “kaiseki”, a traditional multi-course meal that is as artful as delicious.

At Single Thread, the first course is served on a perfectly-arranged display of wood, moss and flowers, creating a sort of adventure in finding each tiny bite — from whelk inside it shell, to pheasant wrapped in a fig leaf, Miyagi oysters and a nibble of Dungeness crab with ponzu. It’s followed by a single blue egg nestled in a nest of moss, with smoke sabayon, then a dish of umeboshi plums and beets, red jewels on gently scalloped plate.

The courses continue for hours, one with a donut-shaped wooden plate with Mangalitsa jowl and watercress puree; abalone in onion sauce with foam, foie gras on a bed of persimmon leaves, fermented local farro in a matsutake mushroom broth, or guinea hen roulade in pumpkin puree. Each course is a simple bite or two, carefully thought out from plate and utensil to the carefully-placed microgreens.

That leaves plenty of room for a multi-course dessert menu that included frozen fromage blanc with quince reduction and puffed amarynth, or an “apple” made of chocolate, filled with cream and Gravenstein apple sorbet.

Photo: Jason Jaacks
Photo: Jason Jaacks

On-trend, Single Thread offers both wine pairings and a non-alcoholic pairing. Though the pairing still needs work to jive with the dishes, it was far more fun to try white tea, cucumber soda with lemon and mint, a turmeric shrub with smoked salt and grenadine, or a mocktail with spicy mustard greens, non-alcoholic “gin” and lime, or a matsutake mushroom and lemon verbena tea.

There are still details being worked out, and like any preview dinner, staff were still figuring out how to provide the kind of luxury service and attention that diners of this caliber will demand. We’re confident, however, that Single Thread will be a culinary jewel in the crown of the Sonoma County dining scene, showcasing the unique bounty of our county — from our farms to Connaughton’s beautiful tables.

A note: I was unable to get access to take photos of the food before posting this article, so what you see in the above photos is not necessarily representative of the meal we experienced. Hopefully we’ll be able to show you more pix soon.

Single Thread Farms Restaurant: 131 North St, Healdsburg, singlethreadfarms.com, reservations at singlethreadfarms.tocktix.com

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20 thoughts on “First Look: Single Thread Farms Restaurant

  1. According to The Press Democrat, contractors who worked on the project filed papers earlier this week at the Sonoma County recorder’s office to put liens on the property, which is located in Healdsburg.

    In the paperwork, general contractor Mike Behler, of Santa Rosa-based Behler Construction Co., claims that New York real estate developer, Tony Greenberg, who handled the development for the property, along with Healdsburg winemaker Pete Seghesio, who runs the company that owns the building, failed to pay Behler and 13 subcontractors a total of nearly $400,000 in back payment for final construction costs.

    The restaurant’s owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton are not involved in the dispute.

    Just thot u might all wanna know… in this era of TRUMPism, real estate mogols feel they are above the law — no need to pay the peons!!

    1. Kyle and Katina are partners with Tony Greenberg and thus are included in the dispute. Pete Seghesio on the other hand is not. He owns the building but is leasing the restaurant and hotel space to Single Thread.

  2. As funny as I may sound people who make a lot of money have a need to spend some of it and high priced events and shops offer them that place. Don’t knock those who experience financial success. And at the other end of the spectrum there are those whose bad fortune require them to eat whatever is put into their outstretched hands
    Or more so why does it take a 2nd kick in the pants to learn what should have been learned with the 1st kick in the pants!

  3. Good luck to them, they’re trying to build their business. For me, I’m a great cook and I’ve found that no matter how great a restaurant is, I still cook better. At home.

    1. So are a dozen others whose comments concerning this place have been deleted on this specific article. Just remember the truth is often deleted here.

  4. Actually, after visiting last week with my grandmother (Not to eat but just to see what all the buzz is about) We learned that over half the staff is local including my friends sister. All of the ingredients are local, and are all sourced from local farms and purveyors other than their own farm which only handles about 25% of the produce. The artists and craftsmen are all local and the construction team and all tradesmen were local. And they were very welcoming and super nice. You cant believe how beautiful the place was. We just stopped by unannounced and they gave us a tour of the whole building right before they were about to start service . You can see right into the kitchen from the lobby and there must have bee 30 people working in their on different food preparation. It was like you see on tv…amazing.

  5. Comparing their prices to other high end restaurants doesn’t make sense. The fact is that Single Thread’s cost is a quantum leap above anything else in our area. And as for Cyrus–their multicourse dinner was $130 per person, well below Single Thread’s $294. If two spent $800 for dinner at Cyrus, they must have splurged on caviar and pricey wines.

    1. I have little interest in Saison OR Single Thread – celebrity chefs are no better than Roland Passot or Chris Jones – but comparing Cyrus’ prices to Single Thread is ridiculous. In 2010 our pair of eight-course meals at Cyrus with tip came to $342. That was WITHOUT ALCOHOL; we drank water the entire meal. With rising food costs and labor, Single Thread is (regrettably) priced evenly with its competitors, if not its geographic area. Cyrus has been closed for years; I have no doubt Keane would be pricing Cyrus right up there with Saison if it were still open.

  6. The median income people who live in Healdsburg are the minority, look at who the town, businesses, real estate and hotels cater to and then tell me where the median income are. Everybody complains about how Healdsburg lost its wholesome small town feeling yet most of you who’ve been there forever have obviously done financially well to make it. I’m pretty sure your rentals are being rented and your properties values have gone up or you’ve made a pretty penny selling it to some family looking to settle into a small town. There are rich and poor in Healdsburg and nobody does anything about it except complain, either grow a pair and start a revolution or enjoy the sale of your 2 bedroom house on Matheson selling for 1.2 million. These people opened a business which i’m sure if your bad mouthing there decision to you haven’t or maybe you have and didn’t change with the times and town allowing your business to be swallowed up by a cupcake shop. I’m sure if it was a clothing store or art gallery you people wouldn’t complain about high priced art and clothes. The same tax dollars also go towards the schools which by most standards can be way better, so god forbid those tax dollars make a better future for kids. As far as the Healdsburg locals? They are disappearing and being replaced by 30 year olds and their families who want a small town feeling, its all happening in front of you people yet nobody ever complains or fights it. Hypocrites

    1. Thank you for saying that.

      Hard-working, customer-loyal people that start a new business that produces a product good enough to make a decent living for the staff should be commended.

      Making a middle-income salary/wage as a hospitality worker in Healdsburg is almost impossible, and if they found a way to make rich people from somewhere else drop $600 instead of $400 more power to them!

  7. I am thrilled to welcome Single Thread to Healdsburg. Sonoma County offers a wide range of options when it comes to prices and I appreciate the opportunity we have to eat great food with prices ranging from low to high. I look forward to going to Single Thread and then deciding whether it is a place I will frequent often, rarely or if it is a place that is not for me.

  8. The tasting menu is always impressive. All the thought and effort that goes in to sourcing and preparing each ingredient must be perfectly coordinated and timed. It just seems a little too pretentious. It has its devotees certainly. But if you want a meal that will keep you from getting hungry in the next short period of time, eat elsewhere.

  9. I think the problem many Healdsburg locals have with Singlethread is the overriding feeling of exclusivity exuded by the operation.

    They did a poor job reaching out to locals, hiring locals and supporting local. I get that this type of restaurant is for the well-heeled who will fly in (on private jets) from out of town, drop a lot of coin, then fly home to Aspen. That’s fine I guess; we still live in a hyper-capitalist system. It’s just that on the heels of the passionate debates regarding expensive housing and affordability in general, Singlethread comes across as extremely tone deaf. Sure, Healdsburg will get additional tourist tax dollars, but little else, in my humble opinion.

    I’ll never eat there. I will, however, continue to support our local restaurant heroes who really are committed to the local community.

    1. It’s understandable that some people may feel excluded on price, and some may feel excluded because a former public building is no longer a public building. But it’s also important to understand how Single Thread’s concept fits in with local, or doesn’t fit in with local:

      1) Price: I get it. I live in Santa Rosa, middle income family, two working adults, two college-age children; usually one car still under warranty, and the other three are better for local trips. But I still saved up enough to have eaten at Cyrus; Dry Creek Kitchen; Barn Diva; Bravas; the other Stark’s restaurant; Madrona Manor, etc. But I also can make my own tortillas and still be fine financially.

      2) Locally employed people. Single Thread runs their own farm, right there in the Dry Creek Valley, the most expensive farmland you can find. They grow there; drive less; get equipment, plant starts, coffee, etc., locally! I’ve seen their farmer, Katina, buying starts from a local organic, community minded organization; and it was a truck full. The carpenters, gardeners, and most everybody else were local.

      3) Attitude? Really. People need to relax and give other folks a chance; not just blast a concept or new business because it doesn’t fit in with what you are used to. Dry Creek Kitchen is your weekly place? If yes, lucky you but don’t be posting in a general forum about who is and isn’t too precious. If you worked hard, really hard, and it was obvious that you were “all in” on producing the very best, you would make sure you had the very best to pull it off with. Tell me what other restaurant in Healdsburg pays attention to EVERY detail.

      4) What’s not new, what was missing in Healdsburg:

      Healdsburg was always better than Santa Rosa for food, with just a little more snotty than Santa Rosa, and about $5 more per plate; for food that was noticeably better with some exceptions. Barn Diva, Ca Bianca, Bravas may be a “pick one” as maybe John Ash and Dry Creek Kitched; but I’d go Dry Creek and Bravas.

      What was missing: A restaurant where the chef was out there with ‘this is the best I can possibly make food,’ or, as we used to say Cyrus or French Laundry. Healdsburg was missing a great restaurant, and Madrona and Dry Creek are really good; but not “how the **** did they do this?” good.

      Plus, The chef actually does the cooking and the farmer actually does the farming, and they use local ingredients like never before.

      The chef has a research team and runs a research business, soley to make food taste better, look better and be better, and consults with good and the best restaurants all over the states. They do this work in Healdsburg.

      So, relax; save up; iron that shirt (you pesky drunk cowboys and girls); and go eat your asses off!

      1. For everyone else that is sick of being exploited by these One percenter Yuppies this is what a pathetic Neo-liberal, Marie Antoinette, let them eat cake grouping of word salad sounds like.

  10. I hate to say it, but this restaurant will not make when the next recession hits town. Even the rich get nervous when their millions start to dwindle… Gold plated problems.

    1. People forget that we live in a free country. Don’t go there if you don’t approve. Those that do are patronizing an art form. Remember that art is subjective. Who decides what is an appropriate amount for a painting or sculpture? Many appreciate art from afar, at a museum, for example. We are glad art exists. I may not own a Picasso, but, I understand that some do, and pay dearly for it. More power to them.

      Yes, locals are benefitting from the tax base, who could complain about that? In a day and age of such grave tragedies in the world, who has the energy to spew negativity about this? What a waste of time that is.

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