Dinner – Sunday, May 28, 2017
We returned to Healdsburg and Single Thread at the cusp of summer – Memorial Day weekend. It was a glorious day outside – we spent the morning hiking in the redwoods, and refreshed ourselves at the Bear Republic brewpub for lunch. As evening arrived, we arrived at the restaurant with great anticipation, eager to see what had changed in the four intervening months since our first visit.
Apologies in advance for the inconsistent lighting – our table was directly in the path of the setting sun.
The most obvious change was that we started our dinner on the building’s rooftop. In January, this area was still incomplete, as the Bay Area recovered from torrential rains that inundated Northern California. Now, we lounged in the sun, admiring the planters filled with herbs and vegetables. A platter of snacks arrived: (1) White asparagus soup, fines herbes, mint; (2) Sugar snap peas, yuzu miso cream; (3) Puffed rice crackers, onion soubise, fennel; (4) Senbei, young fava and pumpkin seed filling. The senbei, in particular, were outstanding – the delicate potato-tapioca wafers sandwiching a thick, super-smooth, umami-laden filling.
“Late Spring in Sonoma County” – Part 1
The signature spread of seasonal bites awaited us at our table as we descended from the rooftop. Highlights included a green garlic panna cotta with Hokkaido uni (bottom left), kinmedai sashimi with shiso, carrots with homemade goma tofu and kombu (far right), and gailan with pine nuts and shiso (far left).
“Late Spring in Sonoma County” – Part 2
More dishes continued to arrive as we enjoyed the initial courses. These came in succession: (1) A delicately fried tempura of maitake mushrooms; (2) A beautiful blue Ameraucana egg filled with sabayon, smoked spinach puree and caviar; (3) A bowl of artichokes with cara-cara orange; (4) An oyster warmed over the hearth, dressed with malted potato foam and sesame.
Red and alpine strawberries, avocado, verjus snow
Sugar snap peas
Dungeness crab, preserved lemon vinaigrette, roasted and salted salsify
One of my favorite dishes of the evening – layers of sweetness from the peas,
crab and salsify were terrifically balanced, never overpowering each other.
Monterey King salmon “ibushi-gin”
Shio koji vinaigrette, char roe, myoga
A nearly identical course (featuring steelhead trout) topped our list of dishes from our first visit – it was just as impressive here with the cherry wood-smoked salmon. A perfect synergy of textures and flavours.
Poached foie gras
Tea of last year’s tomatoes, Tokyo turnips and their greens
Black cod and maitake “Fukkura-san”
Late Spring vegetables, leeks, broth of gyokuro tea and young lettuces
Duclair duck, white and green asparagus, morels
Duck is so often disappointing – either chewy, or insufficiently rendered, or (wrongly) treated like another red meat. This was not the case here – the skill with which the protein was cooked made this my favourite course tonight. Its delicate texture and flavour were treated with respect, and not eclipsed by the other ingredients. Fantastic.
Duck hearts, duck confit beignet, nettle puree, herbs from the vine rows
Warm strawberry compote, grains of paradise
A frozen cloud of aerated strawberry juice topped the sorbet and granité of lemon verbena granite. Not overly sour, as first desserts can sometimes get (a phenomenon that likely stems from the kitchen trying to compensate for a typically rich/fatty savoury course – no such problems here!)
Hojicha ice cream
Cherry compote, brown butter, puffed amaranth, kinako tuile
Spearmint chocolate eggs
Smoked Medjool dates with miso, burnt honey and lime custard
After our first visit in January, I mentioned the concept of kaizen. Now, with 4 stars from the Chronicle and a plethora of other accolades under their belt, another important characteristic is hansei – it is the process of self-reflection, of acknowledging one’s missteps, of greeting success with humility, and of dedicating oneself towards getting better. It’s always tempting to rest on one’s laurels, and countering this mindset is an active process. The Connaughton’s were not present this night, but the kitchen (and front-of-house) showed no sign of taking it easy. I look forward to them pushing even further.