Kyle and Katina Connaughton grew up in Los Angeles County and developed their culinary chops during stints in Asia and Europe—but there's a very good reason they opened their three-star Michelin restaurant Single Thread in the heart of Sonoma County.
"We fell in love with Sonoma County really early on—when we were young,” Kyle explained on the California Now Podcast. “We actually drove up here when we were 23, to Mendocino County, to get married. We got married out on the long cliffs called the Headlands that go out into the ocean. And on our way back, we had kind of planned our whole wedding around going to Chez Panisse in Berkeley. But we came through Sonoma County, and we came through Healdsburg, and we stopped in Healdsburg and had lunch. And we just kind of said, 'This is it. This is the place.'"
And they meant it. The couple returned to the area and opened Single Thread to rapturous reviews in 2016. The intimate Healdsburg restaurant-inn-farm hybrid is now one of the most celebrated restaurants in the Golden State.
Sonoma County "really is such a beautifully supportive agricultural community," Katina Connaughton explained, "and we're able to grow year-round here, and work amongst some of the best growing conditions with some the most genuine people and farmers. It's really wonderfully inspiring and we adore it. We love to bring the outdoors in, and Sonoma County makes that easy for us."
During their conversation with California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson, Kyle and Katina called out some of their favorite places to eat and drink in a variety of Sonoma County communities. Here's a small sampling of what they shared. To hear all of their recommendations, download the podcast.
Like many locals, the Connaughtons frequent The Flying Goat for coffee and head straight to Noble Folk for their ice cream fix. “There's also an amazing cocktail bar in the square called Duke's that's doing some really great and creative things,” Kyle noted. “And there's great restaurants around like Campo Fina, which has an amazing backyard patio and great wood-fired pizzas.” “And bocce ball tournaments!” Katina chimed in.
“We always have to stop in at Wild Flour Bread” whenever we go to Occidental, Katina says. “It's a really rustic bakery and we pick up different things, from sticky buns to amazing breads. There’s also a great cheese shop right there in town.”
When visitors ask for winery recommendations, Katina enthusiastically guides people to Freeman Vineyard & Winery.
“They are dear friends of ours and they have such a beautiful property and they do an incredible tasting down in the cellar, in their caves. Their Pinot Noir is unparalleled. It's perfectly balanced. It's just beautiful. It pairs so well with all of our foods. It's just a great wine—one of our favorites.”
In Santa Rosa and Windsor
“Russian River Brewing is an incredibly special place,” Kyle says. “In fact, so many people make a pilgrimage just to drink Pliny the Elder and the special release of their Pliny the Younger. But they do so many incredible beers and they're always experimenting, trying new things. They had their original brewery, a very small brew pub in Santa Rosa, which is still really a favorite of ours to go for their incredible pizza and their great beers. And now their new facility, which is much closer to us, is in Windsor. They’ve created a really incredible tour there for people to go and get a little bit more information as to what makes their beer so special."
“There's some really great restaurants up there, like Diavola, which is a really great sort of Italian joint with great pizzas, wood-fired pizzas,” Kyle says. “And next door to that, they have a kind of really cool gastropub called the Geyserville Gun Club. There's some amazing tasting rooms along that little road. It's kind of like an old, Western town that's been modernized into this little wine country village.”