Design Dish: The Laws of Harmony at Single ThreadAuthor:Annette Hanami
All photos by Bob McClenahan except where noted
The logo of Kyle and Katina Connaughton’s new restaurant Single Thread is the onion flower, an allium that grows in different varieties throughout the year. It honors the ingredient-driven, seasonal food that drives the menu, and the growers and makers behind them. The couple bring to the venture over 20 years of working in the finest restaurants around the world where they came to appreciate the height of hospitality and for Chef Kyle, the unbridled creativity of food science. All of these threads are woven together seamlessly in a sophisticated AvroKo designed space that’s rich in meaning and exceptional in details.
Entering the Healdsburg restaurant, one feels they could be entering a ryokan, a Japanese style inn. The Connaughtons spent many years living in Japan which influence the hospitality, menu and design at Single Thread. The textured and polished tiles on the feature wall were designed after the porous and glazed clay donabe bowls, or hot pots, from Iga Japan that are used in the restaurant as a flavor-inducing cooking vessel but are also a symbol of intimate, communal dining.
Inside, the 52-seat space feels like a stylish living room with cushy upholstered seating, curtain-like panels and lush carpeting. To make the experience feel more like a “dinner party”, Chef Kyle designed the dining room to wrap around the wide open kitchen. The interiors are richly layered with warm South American walnut tables finished with brass inlay, dark redwood walls and Asian-inspired linen ‘lanterns’ but finely integrated into the design are more tailored elements, reflecting Chef’s food science approach to cooking honed over the last decade including years as Head Chef of Research and Development at Three Michelin Star Fat Duck in London.
Each of twelve screens in the room are subtly designed with the DNA footprint of the vegetable that peaks in a particular month. Also weaving through the interiors are mathematician Fibonacci’s sequence of numbers which appear as a recurring pattern in the carpet, post details and panels, just as pervasively as it does in nature – so much so that the occurrence is often called the “law of nature”. The same balance and harmony expressed by Fibonacci patterns in nature whether through the number of petals on a flower, spirals in cauliflower or even layers of an onion, are carried through in the design where warmth and precision meld together.
A natural harmony flows into the dining experience too with an 11-course menu of seasonal dishes inspired by kaiseki, but without the rules. According the Chef Kyle, from the “lacquerware, earthenware, glassware, flavor and texture … there’s a narrative to the menu, a feeling of peaks and valleys [where] everything is balanced from what comes before and after.” The rough-hewn ceramics, hand thrown by the 8th generation Nagatani family from Iga, have a timeless wabi-sabi character to them, showing the beauty in their imperfection while showcasing the transience inside of the hyper-seasonal ingredients grown on their 5-acre farm just a few miles away.
In a private space off to the side, feature walls display tiles made from clay unearthed from the farm. It shows the systematic progression of increasing amounts of iron oxide in the clay according to depth that represents Chef’s innovative yet organic approach to cooking.
In pursuit of the Japanese omotenashi standard of hospitality, or anticipation of guests’ every need, Chef sought to create a serene atmosphere where ancillary noise and clutter are minimized. There are no POS terminals or TV screens on the floor while Avroko custom-designed credenzas streamline service with lined drawers pre-set with cutlery for each course. The evening falls into a natural rhythm with lighting that adjusts automatically according to the atomic clock.
For those that choose Single Thread as their sole destination, and many will, guests can also book one of the five, well-appointed guest rooms upstairs.
Kyle and Katina decided to make Sonoma home because of the biodiversity of terroir and community of growers, farmers, chefs and craftspeople here, of which they are now a part. In the restaurant, there’s a small section zoned for winemaking, with the fermentation egg visible from the floor, where each year a local winemaker is selected to produce about 450 gallons of wine. It represents an important message they wanted to convey for the restaurant in their new home of Sonoma. As Chef Kyle said, “We wanted a California feel dedicated to crafts and craftsmanship and have a relationship with the people who make them.”
SingleThread Farm, Restaurant and Inn is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday. Guest rooms are available every night. 131 North Street, Healdsburg
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