Kyle Connaughton's Single Thread Farms Restaurant debut nears in Healdsburg
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. An early fall opening looks promising as the farm, the menu and the building on a site that once held Healdsburg’s post office begin to take shape.
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.
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, the space will surely 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.
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 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 the Connaughtons’ life experiences, his in restaurants and hers as a farmer in Japan and Sonoma County.
Connaughton describes it simply as “omotenashi,” 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 pescatarians. To further personalize the experience, diners will be able to note allergies and intolerances when tickets for the meals are purchased in advance. That means each party may have slightly different menus customized for their tastes.
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.
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 that have been made specially 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.