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What is farm-to-table dining?

Farm-to-table dining is a food movement that emphasizes the connection between restaurants and local farmers. It’s about fresh ingredients and amazing flavors. This relatively new trend toward fresher ingredients has taken off only within the past 15 years. But think back to Berkeley in the early 1970s, and you may recall the opening of one of the first farm-to-table restaurants, Chez Panisse.

Why does farm-to-table matter?

Sourcing food products that are grown close by means that chefs get the freshest ingredients for their restaurants. And fortunately, Napa and Sonoma counties have plenty of outstanding farm-to-table eateries to choose from. Always changing, daily menus are built on what’s in season. And many restaurants simplify the supply chain even further by cultivating their own gardens.

There’s no doubt about it: locally raised food is fresher, more flavorful, and richer in vitamins and nutrients. Packed with natural flavor, locally sourced ingredients inspire a simpler menu where the dishes speak for themselves without being buried under sauces. Plus, because transportation across long distances isn’t an issue, farmers are able to supply more delicate heritage and heirloom products. And there’s the added benefit that when restauranteurs purchase food from nearby farmers, the local economy benefits.

Is there really a farm-to-table movement?

With the farm-to-table dining movement, consumers have become more conscious of how animals are treated, such as free-range versus caged, about the use of antibiotics in meat production, and GMO produce. Where you choose to dine in Wine Country today means more than a five-star review. A demand for local ingredients is creating a fundamental shift in the quality standards and production practices of the food industry.

This global shift toward farm-to-table sprouted a program from Slow Food International called “Snail of Approval.” Now popular among “progressive-minded food lovers,” the Snail of Approval recognizes restaurants that “promote regional cooking traditions, local agriculture and artisans, and enjoying the good life.” The standards are rigorous. You can’t get any closer to home cooking than a Snail-approved eatery. The ingredients are guaranteed fresh and humanely raised, but the home-cooking comparison stops there. These restaurants offer inspired, innovative culinary delights that raise the bar on your dining experience.

So next time you’re in Wine Country, you may want to check out some of Sonoma County’s snail-approved restaurants. Besides having gained Snail of Approval status, these eateries share a comfortable atmosphere, casual ambiance, and food that is beyond your expectations.

Backyard — Forestville

Pizzeria & Salumeria — Geyserville

Naked Pig —Santa Rosa

Shed — Healdsburg

Zazu Kitchen + Farm —Sebastopol

Are you willing to try a farm-to-table dining experience?

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Don’t know whether you’ve been in Healdsburg Wine Country lately, but the buzz in town is all about Single Thread Restaurant— a whole new approach to farm-to-table restaurants. I haven’t been there yet, but it is definitely on my 2017 must-do list.

It’s a farm-to-table sensory experience

It just opened at the end of 2016 after a lot of fanfare about how great it was going to be. It seems to be living up to expectations. Single Thread isn’t just well-prepared food — it’s a sensory experience. The eleven-course tasting menu extends over hours, immersing guests in each morsel, each moment. Andrew Dalton in Eater San Francisco called the food “culinary bliss.”

Owned and run by husband and wife team, Katina and Kyle Connaughton, the concept behind Single Thread has been building over time. Kyle’s credentials run from SoCal to New York to Japan to England, where he was head chef of research and development at Fat Duck, a Michelin three-starred restaurant. During his time there, Restaurant magazine named Fat Duck the “best restaurant in the world.“ He developed a signature multi-sensory cuisine for their menu. A culinary scientist and foodie extraordinaire, Kyle is also an award-winning author of several cookbooks.

It’s a local, farm-to-table food experience

Katina oversees Single Thread’s farm, located only ten minutes from the restaurant. Many of the menu’s fresh ingredients come from their five acres along the Russian River. The farm is not only fruit and veggies; Katina also tends olive trees, beehives and chickens. Sourcing Sonoma County ingredients, this is a true farm-to-table approach.

From raising crops to exquisite presentation, this place seems to get it right. The secret sauce of this dining extravaganza is in the details. With an emphasis on hospitality, the staff welcomes each guest with a fully personalized experience. Each step of the meals brims with grace and style.

It’s an unforgettable farm-to-table restaurant experience

To get a seat, you buy a ticket in advance. Then you’re contacted to arrange menu details specific to the preferences of you and your guests. Sounds like an awesome way to celebrate an anniversary, Mother’s Day, or any occasion that you want to be unforgettable. I’ve heard that you don’t even get a menu until the end of the meal, a sort of memento of your evening.

It costs about $300 per person, which includes gratuity and tax. Add on wine-pairing for more. Single Thread is right downtown, just a block off the central plaza. Open 5:30 – 11:00, closed Mondays singlethreadfarms.com. If you go, let me know what you think!

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