Dinner – Thursday, July 9, 2020
Our previous dinner at Single Thread was in the immediate aftermath of the devastasting Kincade Fire. Who could have known then that our next meal would occur in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic? Our family has been beyond fortunate so far, even as so many around the country and around the world suffer (in many cases, needlessly, due to the incompetence of our elected leaders).
We’ve maintained shelter-in-place protocols since early March, only venturing out for essential trips. Even as the Single Thread team pivoted to some bold takeout menus, we didn’t feel that it would be in the spirit of the SIP to drive 3 hours round-trip for takeout. However, when dining rooms reopened in Sonoma, and with a desire to support one of our favorite “local” restaurants, we decided (not without significant deliberation) to visit for our first dine-in meal in over 4 months – if anyone was going to have the most thoughtful safety protocols in place, I’d trust Kyle Connaughton and his team.
Early Summer in Sonoma
In this new normal, it was comforting to be welcomed by the familiar hassun spread, this time celebrating the now of early summer. As usual, produce from the farm and seafood dominated the bites – the highlights for me this evening were: (i) a caviar-topped lemon basil panna cotta; (ii) a simple slice of pickled saba; (iii) a shared portion of avocado and tetra squash with sesame; (iv) a warm bowl of malted new potatoes with littleneck clams and onion powder.
Wild Kagoshima kanpachi
First-of-the-season tomatoes, pickled wasabi
This course came in a two-tiered lidded vessel, which we uncovered ourselves – a requirement in the post-COVID world, but also a beautiful act of discovery. At the bottom was the raw preparation of kampachi, with wonderful farm tomatoes, a tomato gelée and frozen olive oil. The chirashi-like presentation was gorgeous. The other tier featured some lightly seared kampachi belly and a tartare, with more iterations of tomato. Every bite simply exploded with flavour and texture – our dish of the meal.
Fairytale eggplant agedashi, negi, myoga
Wild Sonoma salmon, trout roe, kuro goma
A close second to the kampachi course, the lettuce was set atop a chive bavarois mixed with flaked salmon flesh (I think there was also a chicory “soil”). Steelhead trout roe was strewn across the field of lettuce, bringing a sharp brininess. Wonderful.
Young sweet corn
Yuba, grilled baby spinach, basil
A thick pudding of charred corn was the base for grilled leaves and a crispy terrine of yuba and potato. Two elements really elevated this dish for me – a hit of (I think) miso layered into the terrine, and the warmth of yuzu kosho. A great summery dish.
Santa Barbara spot prawns, prawn head broth
Santa Rosa plums, turnip, kanpyo, red sorrel
72-hour braised wagyu shortrib, maitake, pickled ramps
I loved how this was presented like a teishoku set! The main dish was a subtly sweet Koshihikari rice porridge, in which was set a cube of braised shortrib. This was accompanied by a bowl of maitake mushrooms and radishes in various forms, as well as a maitake-beef consomme. Hearty, yet not inappropriate for the season.
Green almond, creme fraiche, pie crust granité
The temperature in Healdsburg was in the high 30s (that’s high 90s for the Americans), so this dessert from Baruch Ellsworth was a godsend. It was super refreshing yet remarkably earthy at the same time, due to the syrupy mulberry emulsion (note the self-pour due to COVID!) and whole mulberries buried in the snow.
White chocolate, sake kasu, shiso
Osmanthus suiteki, passionfruit miso custard, yakgwa
Umeboshi Japanese cheesecake, mugwort-honey tea
I was confident that the team could deliver a 3* experience under trying conditions, and we were not disappointed. Despite this being one of the first few nights after reopening, the entire experience was carefully planned – from the service modifications, to clever course presentations, to the touchless payment.
In fact, the only letdown was the behavior of our fellow diners, who exhibited a callous disregard for the restaurant staff and other guests – we observed only one other table besides us who bothered to mask up when speaking to staff (one guy even coughed in the face of a server!). I think this experience with other patrons was enough to dissuade us from visiting another dine-in restaurant for a while, but I’m at least happy to report that Single Thread hasn’t lost a step.
Postscript: Three days after our meal, Sonoma County re-closed indoor dining rooms due to the mounting number of COVID-19 cases.