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Single Thread Farms Restaurant Comes Into Focus in Healdsburg

One of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of 2016 is Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg

Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan
Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan

(featured photo of Katina Connaughton courtesy of Sally Egan)

Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg at their farm. Photo: Jason Jaacks
Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg Photo: Jason Jaacks

Months before serving a single dish, Chef Kyle Connaughton’s forthcoming Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg has been touted as one of the nation’s most important restaurant openings of 2016. While he and his wife, Katina, have been testing recipes in their home kitchen and sidestepping insulation in the construction zone that will become their restaurant, The Wall Street Journal and national food blog Eater have called them culinary visionaries.

Suffice it to say, the spotlight is rather hot for this Healdsburg couple, even though construction issues delayed their stage debut by more than six months and right now they’re still in the dressing rooms. But an early fall opening now looks promising as the farm, the menu and the building on a site that once held Healdsburg’s post office begin to take shape.

Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg at their farm. Photo: Jason Jaacks
Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg at their farm. Photo: Jason Jaacks

On a warm spring afternoon, the 40-year-old chef waves out the open window of his soon-to-be restaurant at his daughter as she walks past on her way to music class. She waves back like any mortified teenager. Stepping over wires and construction debris, he continues a tour of the two-story structure that will house both the restaurant and a five-room boutique hotel while sawdust floats through the air.

He points out the still-bare places where the finishing kitchen will be, shows off a yet-to-be-planted rooftop garden where guests will watch the sunset with seasonal cocktails and where, on the first floor, guests will be seated in a zen-like space without visible technology or the clatter of dishes to interrupt their dining experience.

Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg at their farm. Photo: Jason Jaacks
Kyle and Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg at their farm. Photo: Jason Jaacks

It still takes a bit of imagination, but there’s no doubt the couple has envisioned every detail, every finish, every tile, every aspect of the intimate Wine Country dining experience he and Katina have been nurturing for years, leaving nothing to chance.

Within a month or so, it’s clear that the space will come together with the precision of an atomic clock.

Though in public he’s quietly reflective and not prone to chest-beating, Connaughton is no rookie in the high-pressure, review-driven world of haute dining. His resume includes some of the most important restaurants in the world — Spago, three-Michelin starred restaurant Michel Bras in Hokkaido, Japan, and in the U.K., Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant, which was named “Best Restaurant in the World” during his tenure there.
He’s also co-founder of the culinary research group Pilot R&D, a pioneering company focused on food science, and he has recently finished a book on cooking with donabe, ancient Japanese clay cooking pots. He is, in a nutshell, a Very Big Deal.

Chickens at Single Thread Farms in healdsburg. Heather Irwin
Chickens at Single Thread Farms in healdsburg. Heather Irwin

And that’s why the national food media are chomping at the bit to talk about Single Thread Farms, a restaurant right in our own backyard. We visited the couple to see how things were shaping up for the fall opening, with the clock ticking. Here’s what you need to know and what’s on the way.

The Food

The 52-seat restaurant defies simple labels like “farm-to-table” or “Japanese” or “Wine Country” or “modernist”, though it will encompass all of those things. Instead, the menu will be a reflection of Kyle and Katina’s life experiences, ranging from his time at restaurants like Spago, three-Michelin starred restaurant, Michel Bras in Hokkaido, Japan and Hesten Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant, and her experiences as a farmer in Japan and Sonoma County. Connaughton describes it simply as “omentashi”, or the Japanese art of heightened hospitality and anticipation of a guest’s every need.

The multi-course dinners will include options for omnivores, vegetarians and pescetarians. To further personalize the experience, diners will be able to include allergies and intolerances when tickets for the meals are purchased via tickets in advance. That means each person may have a slightly different menu customized for their tastes, and will be presented with a perfectly wrapped copy of their menu as a keepsake at the end of the meal.

Special knives for Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD
Special knives for Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin/PD

Staging Site
Just a few blocks from the restaurant, the couple’s Healdsburg home has been a staging site for months. Chef de cuisine Aaron Koseba and pastry chef Matthew Siciliano nosh away at the long dining table, testing recipes with Connaughton in the small but well-appointed kitchen.

A built-in cabinet holds more than a dozen donabe made specifically for Connaughton. In the basement, hundreds of boxes hold lacquered wooden serving dishes, clay platters and specially-made Japanese knives he has ordered.

A mockup of the menu has just arrived. After many iterations, it’s finally perfect, with lavish paper, the restaurant’s onion flower logo, an envelope of seeds from Katina’s farm, and a personal thank you from the couple. It’s wrapped in tissue and presented in a box at the end of the meal for a keepsake.

Katina Connaughton at Single Threads Farm in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin
Katina Connaughton at Single Threads Farm in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin

The Farm
Katina’s 5-acre Single Thread Farm is tucked away in Alexander Valley, carved out of fallow land on winemaker Pete Seghesio’s San Lorenzo vineyard property that took months just to prepare for planting. Visitors travel past a flock of laying hens and green grapevines before they spot her blazing hot greenhouse and carefully plowed rows.

Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan
Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan

This is Katina’s domain, where early tomatoes hang heavy on the vine and later summer crops are just being planted. There’s a brand new beehive and green-housed rows of herbs, but in late May, things are just starting to take root.

This is the heart of the restaurant, where the seasons, the microclimates and the terroir will drive everything that is served in the restaurant. It’s all hands on deck, with family members, chefs and anyone else who can handle a shovel, a set of clippers or a bale of hay pressed into service.

Carrying hay at Single Thread Farms in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin.
Carrying hay at Single Thread Farms in Healdsburg. Heather Irwin.

Taking cues from time spent farming in Japan, Katina espouses a micro-seasonal philosophy that breaks the calendar into 72 five-day farming cycles, with each crop having a tiny window of “perfection.” That means the peach, or asparagus, or pea you eat at Single Thread won’t just be seasonal, it will be at its very apex of perfection. Think of that juicy red tomato bursting on your tongue, still warm from the garden in late August, and you’ll get the kind of moment-in-time flavors the Connaughtons are after.

Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan
Katina Connaughton of Single Thread Farms Restaurant in Healdsburg. Photo: Sally Egan

A tangled orchard borders the farm, with fruit and olive trees Katina hopes to rehabilitate. This isn’t gentleman farming, but hard, sweaty, dirt-in-your-fingernails work that has helped Katina get an intimate feel for what will grow there, and how to best utilize the space.

On the rooftop deck of the restaurant, planters also will have fruit trees and herbs to further expand Kyle’s culinary repertoire.

Cooking salmon on a donabe .Heather Irwin
Cooking salmon on a donabe .Heather Irwin

The Look
Culinary firm AvroKO is behind the restaurant’s design. The New York-based firm also designed what is now Ninebark in Napa and has been responsible for a number of high-profile restaurant designs in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Hong Kong. Expect lots of fine details, including signature brass accents and tiles, and a minimalist look that echoes Connaughton’s culinary style.

Specialty dishes made for Single Thread Farms Restaurant. Heather irwin/PD
Specialty dishes made for Single Thread Farms Restaurant. Heather irwin/PD

Why Sonoma County
The Connaughtons were high school sweethearts and have spent more than 20 years traveling the world, planning for a restaurant like Single Thread someday. They moved to Sonoma County from the U.K. in 2011, and say they felt at home almost instantly. The location seemed like a good fit for the restaurant they envisioned as a guest experience that’s an extension of their family rather than a rigid, uptight encounter.
“Sonoma just felt really right for us,” Connaughton said.

Expect the cost of this meal to be about $295 per person (including tax and service charge), with an additional $155 or $295 for wine pairings, depending on which level you choose. The restaurant is not yet taking reservations, but more information will be available at singlethreadfarms.com as the opening approaches.

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Comments

15 thoughts on “Single Thread Farms Restaurant Comes Into Focus in Healdsburg

  1. One thing that is great about freedom is that you are free to move to a better place if you so wish. If you don’t like it here, how about moving to a socialist country that suits your needs: Venezuela maybe? How about France? Italy? The last time I checked, people in this country have the right to work hard, earn capital and spend it any way their heart desires. Honestly I never thought we would become a country of whiners, but here we are.

  2. This is disgusting. These people have no balance or shame. Did you notice the article next to this one about the areas increasing homelessness? Do your homework one percenters, homelessness and $300.00 dinners ARE related.

    1. This is a blog about food, restaurants and chefs who are putting Sonoma County, its farmers and producers on the map. The restaurant industry is one of the biggest employers (if not the biggest) in the county, often employing folks who might not have other opportunities, including immigrants, under-employed, former homeless and people without college educations, which are some of the most at-risk of homelessness. Restaurants are one of the top drivers of the multimillion dollar tourism industry that keeps our county afloat, and again, employs people. Blaming people who want to spend that money (often from outside the county), and bring their dollars here is really shortsighted. Stop wagging your fingers, and think a little about the reality of why we need high dollar spots like this in Sonoma County. Restaurants are huge donators to homeless shelters, with extra food. Finally, this is a restaurant blog. Not a homelessness blog. We all get that there is a crisis of homelessness, but Single Thread, and restaurants like it are not the problem. Maybe salary inequity, shutting down shelters and the lack of any real mental health services is really the issue. Greedy one-percenters make me frustrated, too, but this is a capitalist economy, last time I checked. Don’t blame small businesses that bring in money and visitor prestige for Sonoma County.

      1. “Restaurants are huge donators to homeless shelters”. Citation needed please. Clearly Miss Biteclub here is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Stating that the “Industry” supports the lower classes with its handouts, poverty wages and cluelessness does not further your argument it reinforces mine. If sticking your head in the $50.00 creme brule sand helps you sleep at night (or is it the $100.00 bottle of fermented mono-culture grape juice?). so be it. Sad to tell you sweetie, trickle down economics didn’t work, never has, never will.

        1. So guess you won’t be dining here, safe to say? I won’t be either, but not because I don’t think a restaurant like this has a place in a democratic society and in a free market. Why not go down to the local Mercedes and BMW dealerships and protest their selling exhorbitantly priced cars? And all this has what to do with the homeless problem? Please don’t think you are addressing it by not dining here.

          1. “Please don’t think you are addressing it by not dining here”. I don’t. I address the issue directly by volunteering at different local food banks. I also “address it” when clueless Marie Antoinette wannabees in Sonoma County spew their drivel about food and “omentashi” for One Percenters next to an article addressing Homelessness.

          2. I think the prices depicted here prove that in fact there’s no such thing as a “free market”.

            That being said – if they can convince enough people that the value they offer is worth the price, and theyre doing so ethically its not encumbant on them to save the world.

        2. Apples and oranges, Scout. The root of trickle down economics is taxes & the financial habits of the 1%, including reinvesting rather than spending that would help the economy. This is a new restaurant, and it takes money, time & hard work to get established. I agree with biteclub. Although a meal at Single Thread will be 10x more than I can afford (and I love good food), I wish them well. Their passion is noted. Tourism is big in SoCo. No citation is necessary re “restaurants are huge donators to homeless shelters” because I know there are many “givers” here. Grocers also donate a LOT of food on a regular schedule. I’ve seen it & that’s all the citation you’re going to get.
          Thank you for your service with the food bank.

      2. I accept that this blog is little more than a marketing tool for Sonoma County restaurants and wineries, but I cannot accept your response to Scout’s comment. From the community’s perspective, why should we celebrate the opening of a restaurant that few of us will ever enter? Are we supposed to take pride in the fact that people who don’t live here can enjoy our town, even if we cannot? What of the fact that many long-time locals are of the opinion that we have more than enough tourists already and have no interest in attracting more? When is the tipping point, where the tourists and weekend homeowners push everyone else out? And from a broader perspective, what do we gain from this fetishizing of food? All of this tiptoeing and whispering about fresh fruits and vegetables “picked at the height of perfection” is absurd. In an increasingly unequal society where the rich have access to so much, the bounty of the garden is for everyone. This restaurant turns what should be a celebration into just another bragging right for the rich.

        1. Glad this has created some spirited dialog about the one percenters.

          I might suggest you direct your anger at someone else, however. I’m a food writer who, yes, fetishizes food for an audience who is passionate about food.

          And ps. you might want to not use a computer with a Healdsburg business IP on it for your rants next time.

          1. “You might want to not use a computer with a Healdsburg business IP on it for your rants next time.” Is that a threat? A commenter makes perfectly reasonable response to an article celebrating the lunacy of economic displacement by the majority of citizens and Miss Biteclub has this threatening invective to spew? Yes, yes she does, this is where her heart lies people, failing to see the foolishness of her focus she attacks with this not so veiled threat. “Let them eat cake” indeed! That’s if they still have a job one Miss bitter Biteclub has her way.

          2. It’s trolling 101. I can see your ip, and i can see where you come from and I can get a pretty good idea of who you are, if not exactly who you are. So if you’re a newbie troller and you think you’re anonymous, I’m letting you know that you’re not. Think of it as a public service.

            I’d rather people talk to me using a real name, a real email and real humanity and I’ll respect you a whole lot more.

            The IP and email are visible only to me, so you don’t have to use the excuse that you’ll get spammed. I’ve reached out repeatedly folks who seemed to have a bone to pick, in order to better understand their perspective. Once someone apologized and said they didn’t realize I was a real person. The other times, there was no response.

            That tells me they aren’t all that brave about standing up for the convictions they espouse behind a computer.

          3. “I’d rather people talk to me using a real name”. Says the commenter using a pseudonym. If that’s true then get into another business that accommodates you’re need to control. Perhaps you didn’t notice but 90% of ALL commenters in this blog specifically and online in general prefer to not use a “real” name. And it’s no wonder when the blog itself threatens reasonable responders whose critiques are characterized as “rants” along with the admonition that “you might want to not use a computer with a Healdsburg business IP on it” implying they are doing something nefarious by speaking up about inequality.

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