A Northern California culinary team
creates a personalized respite.
creates a personalized respite.
Before the first seating at SingleThread, Chef Kyle Connaughton and his team gather in the dining room to discuss the new strain of farro being served that night, which vintage varietals they’ll be pouring and—most importantly—the names and backgrounds of their guests. The entire staff must know which play the Broadway producer worked on, whose wife is celebrating a birthday, and where the shellfish-averse guests will sit.
To eliminate clumsy formalities, correspondence with Kyle’s team begins after booking. Upon arrival, there is no check-in, no “Hi, I’m John, I have a reservation at eight.” Guests are greeted by name and served a hot or cold welcome beverage, depending on the season in Healdsburg, Calif. When the weather is warm and days are long, guests are escorted to the functioning roof-top garden to decompress with a glass of Champagne and a canapé as the sun sets behind Fitch Mountain. Calm music helps guests get into the mindset for the evening ahead. Later, they are invited downstairs to settle into an 11-course dining experience.
“Everything we do works to support that feeling of closeness—the sense of that fleeting moment that the night is very unique to the guests there
Kyle Connaughton and his wife, Katina, envisioned the SingleThread Farm-Restaurant-Inn experience to feel like an elegant dinner party, and they welcome guests as they would in their own home. When guests enter the dining area, they first see a muted and methodical staff transforming ingredients into Michelin stars in the pristine wide-open kitchen. A veteran of restaurants around the world, Kyle is most inspired by his time in Japan, which speaks to the shelf of donabe (earthenware pots) that serves as both cookware and a beautiful art installation behind the team at work. He works with nine artisan groups in Japan to create custom cookware and dishware that are an integral part of each course. At their table, guests are met with an intricate spread of “bites” such as pickled mackerel with preserved plum on stoneware or live bay scallops served in a scallop shell.
Natural elements appear in the dishes and the décor, such as the persimmon branches and gingko nuts sprinkled around the tables in late autumn. SingleThread is equally as reflective of Kyle and Katina’s time in Japan as of the unique terroir of Sonoma County. Katina heads SingleThread Farm, situated between a vineyard and the Russian River a few miles from the restaurant. It’s clear after just a couple of courses that vegetables are the star of the menu.
Katina’s team cultivates exotic varieties—but only those most suited to thrive in Northern California. Inspired by the Japanese farming calendar, they focus on 72 microseasons, and the restaurant represents the best from the farm on each particular day. In December, guests enjoyed Kindai tuna sashimi with Buddha’s Hand fruit, lily bulb and tosazu jelly, and amazake snow. The dish was presented atop a mossy frozen “pond” to mark the farm’s first frost. “Everything we do works to support that feeling of closeness—the sense of that fleeting moment that the night is very unique to the guests there that night,” Kyle said.
Atmospheric subtleties elevate the ephemeral menu. As the dining room fills and wine bottles empty, the tone and tempo of the music rises to match the mood. Informed by Kyle’s friends in technology, theater and music, the team developed a lighting and music sequence that mirrors the pace of the dining experience. The seven lighting scenarios can increase the energy or highlight the different floral moments arranged daily by in-house foragers.
Just as the details of an Audi are meant to be experienced more than noticed, the changes in lighting and music are designed to be felt more than noted. Discreet directional speakers underneath each table create a slightly different environment for each party. “It’s just sort of multi-sensory aspects of the designing experience,” Kyle said. “It’s not just what the food’s going to taste like or what the service is going to be like. It’s really about how a guest feels physically, emotionally.”
“We didn’t want a hotel with a restaurant built in. We wanted a restaurant with guest rooms.”
The music becomes more reflective as the dining room begins to empty at the end of the evening. The soundproof kitchen door is slid shut to mute the staff’s work. Guests leave the dinner party at their leisure or head upstairs if they reserved one of the five guests rooms in SingleThread’s inn. Inspired by traditional Japanese ryokans, Kyle said, “We didn’t want a hotel with a restaurant built in. We wanted a restaurant with guest rooms.” As guests settle into their custom-made beds and reach to turn out the lamp, the last thing they see is camellia and oak, foraged and artfully arranged by Katina.