About five minutes into my dinner at Single Thread Farm-Restaurant-Inn, I wondered if it would be tacky to record my server on my cellphone. How else to absorb the poetry as she described the dazzling array of dishes in front of me?
When we sit down at this upscale Japanese restaurant, our table is already laden with a diorama of a dozen tiny bites, in architecture of small pottery bowls, pedestal plates, whelk shells stuffed with their own sea snails and mossy bedding on stacked wood sheltering more tiny nibbles.
There is no menu, and the server quotes ingredient after ingredient, many in Japanese terms for unusual seaweeds, herbs and essences. We recognize Dungeness crab tucked in tofu skin, there are open-top egg shells brimming with savory custard and set on a nest of straw, a bowl of multi-color beets and pickled plum sliced like flower petals ... plus heaven knows what else.
And so the meal continues, stretching over four hours, in a parade of dishes we can admire, if not remember. The briefly written menu is presented only as we leave, packaged in a long white box which opens to reveal an embossed, origami adorned, tissue paper-wrapped, folded cardboard slip finished with a hand-tied bouquet of herbs and stem berries. There’s also a little handwritten thank you card from the chef, Kyle Connaughton, and his wife and business partner, Katina.
Well, chef Connaughton did promise us something Healdsburg had never seen before over these past two years as he and his team worked to create this shrine (longer, actually, if you count the three years he and Katina lived in Hokkaido, Japan, researching the cuisine). As with authentic kaiseki, a meal is art, each ingredient sourced with great purpose, meticulously arranged to showcase the chef’s prodigious skills and presented with a healthy dose of reverence.
Personally, I appreciate the pomp. But then, I once did a two-week kaiseki tour around Japan, eating the elaborate meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sketching their detailed arrangements, ingredients and preparation notes in a journal. I do wonder if less-obsessive diners and our local, generally more casual Wine Country crowd will embrace this complicated approach.
Although, considering that meals cost $294 per person including tax and service, Single Thread is going for the fanatical French Laundry crowd, not everyday diners. And with five guest rooms atop the restaurant, priced from $800 to $1,350 a night, sophisticated tourists craving a complex culinary event are certainly a prime target.
The experience begins with the reservation process. We request tickets online, then wait for a confirmation email that we’re in and payment is accepted (and we’d better show up, since sales are final). Prepaid wine-beer-sake pairing adds $202 per person, or $384 for an extra high-end wine pairing, bringing indulgences like Tsurunoe Shuzo Aizu Chujou Junmai sake from Fukushima, Japan, made as it has been since 1790, we discover, with original rope and pulley equipment. Teetotalers can get elaborate tea and juice pairings for $98, or, we can get wines by the glass or bottle.
So far, while the restaurant is busy enough, the expected crazy rush on the 55 seats hasn’t occurred. Perhaps because it’s the slower winter season, but online checks many nights since the Dec. 2 opening have found reservations available, and advertised via Twitter and Facebook.
5 Steps to Fitness
The key to fitness is understanding the human body, how and why it works, said Rich Anderson, owner of Fitworx in Santa Rosa.
If you’re looking to get in better shape, he offers these tips:
Throw your scale away: “Fitness is not the number on your scale, what percentage of body fat you have or what you look like in the mirror,” he said. “It’s your performance.” If you’re lean and muscular, you’ll be a fat-burning machine 24 hours a day.
Eat well: That means avoiding frozen and canned foods, not making a habit of fast food. “Visualize yourself as a machine and give it the finest fuel,” he said. That includes lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and more. Anderson thinks of sports drinks as “garbage.” Drink water instead. And toss the supplements and pre-workout powders, too, he said. “Physiologically, you don’t need them.”
Tune up on a daily basis: Go for a walk or run, swim, hit the gym or ride your bike. “Attack everything. Give every activity the ‘oomph’ factor,” he said. “Be better, faster, stronger every time you train. And remember, you don’t begin to burn fat calories until after 35 minutes of exercise.”
Continue to challenge yourself: “Mix things ups,” said Anderson. When you do the same routine every day, the body can plateau, and losing weight becomes difficult. Change the routine — times, modes, terrains, weather, duration and weights. “Confuse the body, and your body and mind will adapt. If you usually work out in the morning, for example, work out in the evening. Or, instead of running 20 minutes on the treadmill, run 30 minutes outside. It will shock your body.”
Keep moving: That means even at work, or while you’re watching TV. Hit the floor and do 10 pushups, jog in place, do 20 squats or leg step-ups on a chair.
For more information: 696-9063, facebook.com/rich.anderson.50951.