Visited but not Vetted. Description of my visit sans dining or staying at this charming Ryokan style Inn.
While roaming around the Sonoma countryside a few months ago, I was happy to be allowed a walk through visit of the newish SingleThread Farm Restaurant and Inn.
Background: With great anticipation, SingleThread opened last year and is owned by husband-and-wife team Kyle and Katina Connaughton. Katina’s previous experience includes stints as a culinary gardener and chef in the UK as well as the Zazu gardens in Sebastopol. She also oversees their five-acre farm in Alexander Valley that supplies vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, honey, eggs and olive oil to the restaurant.
Chef Kyle’s menus are a twist on California cuisine with traces of Asia and Great Britain. Among his previous kitchen stints, he worked for Michel Bras at Toya in Hokkaido for three years, which is where he most likely perfected his foraging, plating and cooking skills. In 2006, Kyle was invited to head up the experimental kitchen of the well-known Fat Duck outside of London by the famed English chef Heston Blumenthal. (We’ve sent our clients to Toya in Hokkaido and Fat Duck).
Arrival: A massive wood door leads into a small reception area defined by dark wood and tile floors. Guests are immediately whisked to the third floor roof top garden. Cocktails and small bites are served amid the perfectly manicured rolling wood boxes filled with herbs, vegetables and edible flowers. Views of the Russian River and Dry Creek Valley set the stage – just as a five star hotel property sets the stage with an arrival gesture, this is a lovely calming introduction to the theatre ahead.
Rooms: Ryokan evocations abound in the decor and sensibilities. Ancient ryokan inns scattered throughout Japan offer simple yet elegant traditional rooms and are frequently paired with Michelin starred dining. SingleThread rooms are minimalist in design, decorated in calming monochromatic tones but sparkle with high tech amenities: Zalto wineglasses, cutting edge Raito drip coffee brewer, house made chocolates, matcha and obscure brands of bottled beer.
Dining: Guests can choose between three different 11-course menu options (vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivore) tailored specifically to each guest’s preferences. Dinner reservations start at $295 and must be paid in advance. A back stage team consisting of Farmers, Chefs, Foragers, Artisans, and Hospitality Professionals supports the Chef. I didn’t dine, however from what I’ve read, every aspect is well produced theatre; including choosing a particular hand molded Bloodroot Blades artisan knife before the meat course is served. Another nod to Japanese quality, details which all add to the pure beauty of the experience. Departing the dining room and kitchen area, I inquired about a beautiful hand made wooden chest – each drawer held the service utensils laid out in the exact order of dinner service.
Besides the enthusiastic descriptions of the artisans who raised the farm animals or the beekeeper, I was very impressed by the collection of Japanese ceramics of famed minimal aesthetic pottery by Takashi Endo, a Kanagaawa based artist.
A beautiful collection of donabe clay pots, one of Japan’s oldest cooking vessels, artfully lined thick wooden kitchen shelves. The Nagatani Family of Iga, Japan, who are eight-generation master potters, produce all of the various donabe and service pieces used at SingleThread. The local artisan dining and kitchenware shop Shed sells these clay pots.
Interesting side story on the family and a visit by Chef Kyle conducting research on his co- authored book: ‘Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking. ’ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2016/01/15/food/the-joy-of-eating-japans-traditional-clay-pot-cuisine/
https://www.singlethreadfarms.com/Let us know if you would like to stay!