Where to splurge on a real California dining experience
Chef gardener couple Kyle and Katina Connaughton bring an imaginative farm-restaurant concept to Sonoma.
Sonoma Wine Country in northern California has always been overshadowed by its neighbouring Napa. In terms of fine dining, there was little happening until 2016, when Kyle and Katina Connaughton launched the Single Thread Farm Restaurant & Inn. Located in Healdsburg, the concept is hailed the most ambitious opening seen by northern California in ages.
“Our mission is to offer a kaiseki experience using local and seasonal ingredients,” says Kyle Connaughton, referring to the traditional Japanese multi-course dinners that take the dining experience to the level of an art form.
“Sonoma is the perfect location. People are making excellent wines and producing fantastic ingredients, but they don’t take themselves too seriously,” he notes.
Just a few months after its opening, Single Thread received the highest four-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer and two stars from Michelin. Knowing Kyle Connaughton’s background, this comes as no surprise. He has spent the last twenty years working his way through the best restaurants in the world alongside the likes of Japanese master chef Yoshihiro Murata and French culinary artist Michel Bras in Japan.
Starting their own restaurant on a small farm was the couple’s long-time dream. After several years in Japan and the UK, they finally moved back to California in 2012 to search for the perfect spot to combine cooking and gardening. Four years later, they discovered the ideal venue on the former site of a post office in downtown Healdsburg.
It’s easy to identify the gardener in the family: Katina – whom Kyle met at a hard-core punk concert in LA at the tender age of 15 – has her arms covered in tattoos of vegetables.
With a background in sustainable agriculture, she now oversees the Single Thread farm a few miles from the restaurant by the Russian River, where a former five-acre vineyard has been transformed into a blooming garden.
“Our aim is to grow at least 70 to 80 per cent of Single Thread’s produce on the farm. The rest is also locally sourced from Sonoma,” she says.
The farm’s seasonal offering forms the core of the restaurant’s eleven-course menu, combining Japanese-Californian kaiseki with French influences.
The cosmopolitan influences are also visible in the interior of the 50-seat restaurant, which seamlessly combines old-school Japanese aesthetics and understated rustic luxury.
Text Mikko Takala
Photos Tommi Anttonen
Finnair flies to San Francisco four times a week during the summer season. From there it’s about an hour’s drive to Sonoma Wine Country.