C Magazine Editorial – Finer Things
Culinary duo Katina and Kyle Connaughton plant new roots in wine country with a farm-driven restaurant and inn.
Imagine a wine-country restaurant where you relax with an aperitif on the rooftop garden just as the setting sun paints the mountains in the distance pink and gold. Potted citrus and fruit trees, flowers and finishing herbs perfume the air. While you look over the wine list, a server arrives with the tasting menu’s first dishes. And when you’re ready, you head down to the serene 55-seat dining room, where a table is yours for the entire evening.
Located in downtown Healdsburg at the corner of North and Center streets, SingleThread sounds like a dream—and really, it is. Every detail is perfect, from the handmade Japanese pottery, custom woodwork and antique hardware to the wraparound kitchen with its charcoal grill. Traditional Japanese greens, as well as other fruits and vegetables, come from the restaurant’s own farm. Staffers dive for sea urchin on the coast just north of the Russian River.
The idyllic project, set to debut in September, has been a consuming passion for the couple behind it: Kyle Connaughton, a chef with a world-class résumé, and his wife, Katina, a farmer and culinary gardener trained in sustainable agriculture. The two met in high school in L.A. in 1992 and have been together ever since, from California to Japan, Great Britain and back home again. While Kyle assumed the chef position at three-Michelin-star chef Michel Bras’ restaurant in Hokkaido, Japan, and moonlighted at traditional Japanese restaurants, Katina studied Japanese gardening and farming. When he joined three-Michelin-starred restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray, England, as head chef of research and development in the experimental kitchen, she worked as a chef and culinary gardener for a private Victorian estate.
Through all of their travels, the two had SingleThread in mind. It’s been five years in the making, including building the space from the ground up, planting 2½ acres of a 5-acre parcel of land along the Russian River, and putting together an all-star team.
Materials for the interiors are locally sourced. Tiles in the dining room are made from clay dug at the farm. Handles on the hand-forged knives are carved from wood foraged from the Sonoma Coast. And what may be California’s smallest bonded winery is installed in a corner of the dining room. (A single 450-gallon tank, it will be the key to annual collaborations with guest winemakers.)
For months, Kyle and chef de cuisine Aaron Koseba have refined dishes for the three menus, which will shift slightly every few days. Kyle may take much of his inspiration from Japan, but the food at SingleThread is eclectic, modern and sensual. A favorite from the opening menu is a dish of live Sonoma Coast sea urchin with Kujo negi (scallion) cream, roast heirloom potato puree and local caviar. Another is wild salmon, gently smoked in a donabe (ceramic pot) with shio koji (a seasoning made with fermented rice), myoga and radish.
When diners book a table up to two months in advance through TOCK (tocktix.com), they choose from one of three 11-course tasting menus—omnivore, pescatarian or vegetarian, priced at $295 per person (includes tax and 20 percent service charge; wine pairings are an additional $155 or $295). “We’re very conscious not to make our menus too long or serve too much food,” the chef assures. “It’s easy to overindulge in a good thing. In the end, we want guests to feel invigorated.”
After, you can wander back up to the roof garden for a whiskey or brandy and view the stars through a telescope from the local Robert Ferguson Observatory. If you’re very lucky (and have reserved well ahead), you’ll retire to one of the five beautifully appointed rooms located on the second floor, and wake in the morning to a custom-tailored breakfast made with homegrown ingredients—and a day exploring Sonoma County. Rooms start at $700; 131 North St., Healdsburg; singlethreadfarms.com. • S. IRENE VIRBI