Review: SingleThread Farm, Healdsburg: A Heartfelt Californication of Japanese Cuisine.

by Zoe Bowker

Hyper-Seasonal Dining and Sustainable Farming Reign Supreme at This Sonoma County Culinary Gem.

Tucked away in the quaint town of Healdsburg, Sonoma, in the heart of California’s wine country, you’d be forgiven for walking straight past SingleThread’s dark and unassuming corner building. It’s easy to miss the three-Michelin-starred establishment, the subtle signage giving away no indication of the complex operation that lies behind its doors, one dedicated to hyper-seasonal cooking, locally sourced produce and exquisite hospitality. SingleThread is not just a restaurant, it’s an entire ecosystem, with Inn, dining room, farm and farm store working together as cogs in a surprisingly large machine. Our recent visit to SingleThread, voted #46 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List 2024 (coincidentally what brought us to the USA in the first place), left us spellbound by its harmonious blend of Japanese and Californian influences, its commitment to sustainable farming practices, and the sheer artistry (and agility) of its culinary offerings.

We journeyed to Healdsburg as a guest of SingleThread, and were given the opportunity to explore their farm and experience not just their evening dining experience, but also their jaw-dropping breakfast offering, exclusively offered to Inn guests.

Kyle, Katina and The Farm.

SingleThread is the brainchild of dynamic husband and wife duo, Kyle and Katina Connaughton, whose ceaseless passion for what they do is as admirable as it is inspiring. It’s a wonderfully synergistic union, with Katina taking the reins at the farm, while Kyle heads up the kitchen. It’s a partnership that spans decades, beginning as childhood sweethearts at 15, culminating with the couple opening SingleThread at 40. Together, they are a culinary force to be reckoned with, challenging the fine dining status quo by doing things entirely their way; blending nature with technology, and marrying global traditions (largely Japanese) with local influences.

SingleThread Farm Healdsburg Sonoma California Review Kyle and Katina

Kyle’s time in Japan profoundly influenced his approach to cooking, instilling a respect for seasonality, precision, and the artistry of food presentation. This influence is palpable in almost every dish at SingleThread; Japanese aesthetics and meticulous attention to detail are seamlessly integrated into Californian farm-to-table dining. Whilst it’s overly evident in the food – pickles, dashis, tofus, donabes and wagashi pop up throughout the menu, it’s also evident in the service – the team practice the principle of ‘omotenashi’, where the aim is for a guest’s needs to be anticipated before they have to ask, and even in the bathrooms, which of course, feature the iconic Japanese TOTO toilets. His extensive experience includes working alongside the legendary Michel Bras in Hokkaido and serving as the Head Chef of Research and development at The Fat Duck.

Katina, on the other hand, brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for sustainable agriculture. Her expertise in farming practices is the backbone of SingleThread’s hyper-seasonal approach. Katina manages the farm with a dedication to biodynamic principles, ensuring that the produce is not only of the highest quality but also grown in harmony with nature. Her innovative methods, such as selectively pulling green strawberries to allow the remaining fruit to grow plump and sweet, reflect a commitment growing the finest produce their land can offer. The green ones are then pickled, because waste is a foreign concept here. Katina’s work on the farm is crucial in supplying the restaurant with fresh, seasonal ingredients, making each meal at SingleThread a celebration of the harvest. The SingleThread logo is emblematic of their love for all things vegetal, featuring Kyle’s favourite ingredient grown on the farm (and the only vegetable grown year round), the kujo negi (Japanese onion flower).

Our farm visit was a highlight, nibbling on fresh vegetables and fruit we picked as we strolled through the fields, concluding with a delightful bento box lunch crafted from fruits, vegetables, and pickles that simply could not get any fresher. As someone who has to eat a lot of rich and indulgent food on a regular basis in this job, It’s refreshing to enjoy food that is light and full of goodness, especially when compared to the often heavy, meat and dairy-laden fare typical of fine dining establishments. The farm also boasts a store, offering exquisite Japanese-crafted products (with the price tag to match), including knives, ceramics and glassware, alongside housemade pickles, chili oil, and freshly harvested vegetables (on the much more affordable side)

Breakfast at the SingleThread Inn.

Staying at the SingleThread Inn is an experience in itself that comes with unique perks, although on this trip, given the very small number of rooms available on property we stayed at Montage Healdsburg, which we can highly recommend (you can read our full review of Montage here). A unique perk of staying at the Inn at SingleThread is their extraordinary breakfast offering (usually served in-room, but as we were not staying on property, we enjoyed it on the property’s rooftop).

Inn guests can choose the Japanese breakfast or the Californian, but we hear couples often choose one of each for the best of both worlds. The Japanese breakfast, our personal favourite, featured a parade of pickles, each more vibrant than the last (including the aforementioned green strawberries). A soul-soothing miso, cedar smoked salmon and dashimaki tamago so delicate it feels like a whisper on your tongue transport you to far eastern isles. A yuzu kosho donabe rice with fresh sweet pea shoots and flowers delivers spring vibes in spades, and the most luscious, creamy soft-boiled egg – oh, the egg! – redefines what an egg can and should be. We definitely felt like we were doin’ a health with this spread and happily indulged in as many pickles as were offered (ok, perhaps the creamy egg felt a little on the naughty side).

The Sonoma breakfast, not to be outdone, strutted in with bacon and sausages from local suppliers that could make even the most stoic vegetarian reconsider their life choices. Crumpets with house-made jam and clotted cream? Check. Fresh berries, including mulberries that seemed to have been kissed by the morning dew? Absolutely. Mushroom toast and beans to fly the vegetable flag for the English side? You got it. If that sounds like a lot, it most certainly was. Think tasting menu disguised as a breakfast – our table for four was overflowing.

Guests staying at the Inn also have the unique opportunity to enjoy a multi-course donabe dinner in their rooms if desired, and they are guaranteed a reservation at restaurant (note that the cost of these dinners is not included in the room rate). Staying at the Inn is admittedly not cheap, a night coming in at around $1500 USD before taxes from our research, but for serious foodies that want to immerse themselves in the Single Thread gastronomy universe, there’s no better way to do it. Inn rooms also come replete with complimentary beverages and snacks including Russian River Brewery’s Pliny the Elder, De La Calle Tepache, Kimino Yuzu soda, housemade sweets, seasoned nuts, sparkling and still water, and much more. Guests are also invited to explore the beauty of Sonoma County from behind the wheel of a fully electric Audi e-tron, the product of a recent partnership between SingleThread and Audi.

The Tasting Menu Experience.

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The dining room’s sleek, dark interior contrasts with the farm’s rustic charm, embodying the fusion of tradition and modernity that defines Single Thread.

SingleThread Farm Healdsburg Sonoma California Review Dinner

As the menu changes depending on what is harvested from the farm that day, we’re guessing that no two meals are ever exactly alike at SingleThread. Our tasting menu began with a course aptly named “Late Spring in Sonoma,” our table carpeted with foliage, flowers and snacks, akin to a Renaissance painting of spring’s bounty.

The “Strawberry Moriawase,” a delicate arrangement of watermelon radish, daikon, heart of palm, myoga, and sorrel sauce, was a fitting stage for Katina’s aforementioned green strawberries, while the “Celtuce & Potato Pave” with pea tofu, komatsuna, and shojin dashi was a hymn to Japanese simplicity. Duck liver parfait? Not as you know it, transformed into a salad course with salanova, apricot, and almond playing a perfect supporting cast. Then came the “Summer Squash Tamal,” a serene and subtle dish with squash blossom, farm herb dofu, and citrus basil.

Just when we thought the parade of dishes might be winding down, the rhubarb palate cleanser arrived, an elegant intermezzo with farm herbs, ginger, and olive oil. It was a moment of pure, unadulterated refreshment, only to be followed by the pièce de résistance: Masami Wagyu with hakurei turnip, pickled ramps, spring onion, and green peppercorn. The “Zakkokumai,” a morel donabe rice pot with duck mousse, carrot, lotus root, and genmaicha miso butter, was perhaps our favourite, a dish so soul-satisfying it should come with a warning label.

The vegetable-dominant menu was a breath of fresh air in a world often saturated with heavy, meat-centric fare, something that sets Single Thread apart from your typical fine dining experiences. Dessert featured a delicate “Cacao” with farm honey, vanilla, and chocolate, followed by the exquisite “Wagashi” with ume and shiso, barley and kumquat, huckleberry and matcha, and lemon thyme and pine nut.

Single Thread Farm is more than a dining destination; it’s an ecosystem where sustainable farming and culinary craftsmanship unite. Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s passion and innovative vision create a dining experience that blends Japanese and Californian traditions, resulting in harmonious and surprising dishes.

For those foodies venturing to California, Single Thread is an absolute must visit. Book a room at the Inn, relish the exclusive breakfasts, and immerse yourself in the Connaughtons’ vision, which celebrates the true essence of dining well and living well, while respecting nature’s bounty. Here, every bite tells a story, and each visit feels like a cherished homecoming.

Head to SingleThread Farms website to make a reservation or book a stay.

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