It’s been one of the Wine Country’s most eagerly awaited openings for nearly five years, but for husband and wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton, Single Thread – a fine dining restaurant, farm and inn – has been a labour of love for more than two decades. The journey has lead them and their young family through Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and later on, to England, where Kyle headed up research and development at chef Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, and Katina honed her skills as a culinary gardener on the Victorian estate where they lived.
Now back across the pond, the couple have combined their global know-how, love of Japanese culture and modernist sensibilities to open a ryokan-inspired restaurant and hotel that adds an extra level of intimacy to the concept of farm-to-table dining.
Located in Healdsburg, Sonoma, a short stride from the city’s famous 19th century plaza, the restaurant is the result of a carefully executed masterplan that starts with the couple’s nearby farm, a five-acre plot of land between the Russian River and the storied San Lorenzo Ranch. Here, Katina and her team cultivate fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, honey, eggs and olive oil, which – along with local meats – makes its way to the Single Thread kitchen, where Kyle transforms the produce into an 11-course kaiseki-inspired tasting menu.
Best described as modern with a Japanese twist, Kyle’s cooking pedigree is apparent, with inventive dishes such as aromatic guinea hen flavoured with sansho and served with matsutake and red kuri squash or black cod cooked ‘fukkura-san’ with leeks, brassicas and chamomile dashi.
This can all be enjoyed in a cosy dining room designed by New York-based firm AvroKO, who has created an intimate space that feels like an extension of the couple’s home. This is further enhanced by swathes of walnut wood, bespoke furnishings and ceramic tableware produced by 8th generation master potters, the Nagatani family of Iga in Japan.
For the full ryokan experience, try and nab one of the five guest rooms, where omotenashi – traditional Japanese hospitality – ensures outstanding service that, should you wish, can end with a Japanese breakfast served traditionally in-room the next morning.