When SingleThread announced in late July that they would be partnering with Kistler Vineyards to host their Summer Wine Dinner Series, I started plotting my trip to wine country. I love Kistler wines. I love SingleThread. I was super excited about the opportunity to marry them both together with a 10-course tasting menu. However, I could never find a reservation for just one person. I looked. I stalked. I considered going for my birthday. I considered paying for two people but only being one person just so I could enjoy the experience. I never did. And, knowing they don’t offer reservations for one person, I didn’t even consider dining at SingleThread this trip.
Remember yesterday when I was sitting outside of SingleThread for an hour and a half hoping to get up to their rooftop wine bar? WELL….I didn’t tell you everything that happened during that hour and a half wait. When I was chatting up Michael about getting up to the rooftop, I explained that I had really wanted to dine at Kistler but could never find a reservation for just one person. He agreed that they don’t offer the experience for one person. And I get that! I’m not upset about that. It doesn’t make business sense. Why would a restaurant take up a whole table for just one person when they could get double the revenue from two? And SingleThread isn’t hurting for diners! They don’t need to open up reservations for fewer than two people.
Well, about 10 minutes after that chat, Michael reappeared at my Jeep window asking if we could chat. Ummmm….okay? Was he bored too? What would he have to chat about with some psycho stalker (me) parked on the curb at the front door of his restaurant? He clearly likes the dramatic effect. He drug it out. He explained that he wasn’t sure if it was something I had done (huh?) or if I just have good luck. But, apparently SingleThread DID have a reservation for one diner that night. Someone somehow had gotten themselves in. Someone had made an exception. But that someone had sprained her ankle and had just canceled her reservation. Now here’s Michael with an empty table for one knowing he’s got me sitting on the curb itching to dine with them. He barely got the words out and I was reaching for my credit card to secure the reservation. It was about 4:30pm and the reservation was for 7pm. I still had time to experience the rooftop bar. Thank goodness I was at least wearing a dress. I wasn’t sure I had enough time to visit the rooftop and to go back to my hotel to change. But I figured I was semi-appropriately dressed. I was about to wear a denim jacket to a Michelin 3-Star dinner (insert facepalm emoji).
I was literally crying a little and shaking. I was in shock. I hadn’t even tried to get into SingleThread. I was just being chatty. Lesson learned – BE CHATTY! You may remember that I dined at SingleThread back in January and had an “experience”. I’ve been wanting to dine there again to see if I could successfully make it through the whole meal. Spoiler alert – I made it through the whole meal. And here it was. Thank goodness I didn’t eat a big lunch!!! I was about to enjoy the 10-course tasting menu!
Pulling up to Kistler’s Trenton Roadhouse at dusk is magical. There’s no other word for it. It’s perfectly illuminated with lights strung over the patio. There’s a casual seating area under the “big oak tree” and swing. I don’t usually take selfies on these trips – let alone post them! But, I like this one of me on the swing – even if it is a little blurry – selfie at dusk on swing!
I chose a comfy seat under the tree and was presented with a fruity cocktail and plate of several appetizers. A couple of these looked VERY familiar from my first dinner at SingleThread – that egg! And the larger bowl seemed like creamy mashed potatoes? Thise whole course isn’t even listed on the menu so I’m just guessing here! When it was my turn, I was led through the roadhouse, past the wines of the night, and out onto the patio.
I had a great table! I was at the edge of the patio overlooking the “lower grounds” and barn. The photo below is of the table situated behind me. I think it gives you a great idea of the setup on the patio. I tried to capture a photo of my romantic view, but my little iPhone was not up to the task. Or maybe it’s the photographer. It’s likely the photographer. Each table had a heater. And the staff made sure I knew they could bring me blankets if I got cold as well. The heater kept me toasty. And, I luckily had a wrap in the Jeep that I threw over my denim jacket – who cares about dress codes!?! Actually, I joked about it with one of the servers and she assured me that I was appropriately dressed. Because I wasn’t planning on this dinner. I had dressed for tacos from a food truck and a glass of wine at a rooftop wine bar.
Just like the restaurant, the impressive display of first course bites was waiting for me at the table. Many of them were similar or the same was the ones I’d enjoyed in January. That course was paired with a glass of 2006 Dom Perignon.
So let’s dive into the courses. Many of them continued to be very recognizable from my first meal earlier in the year. The only difference was a seasonal spin on some of the components. There were many more fresh tomatoes and cucumber and even strawberries! The first course was definitely one of those that were “similar”. The menu describes it as “Wild Kagoshima Kanpachi – Farm Tomatoes, Cucumber, and Pickled Wasa”. I didn’t take photos of the Kistler bottles – the labels don’t photograph well and they’d all pretty much look the same. This one was paired with the 2017 Laguna Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay.
The next course was also very reminiscent of my first meal. And that’s not at all a complaint! I love the smell of the grilled fish. This time it was “Black Cod Ibushi-Gin – Matsutake, Purple Barley Crepes, and Shio Koji Vinaigrette”. All I heard was build-your-own-tacos. In the photo below, there’s a small dish with a lid – that contained the crepes which were AMAZING. You can see the two pieces of Black Cod on the donabe grill. Then there were “taco fixin’s” in the three little bowls. And that back basket contained the scariest mushrooms I’ve ever seen. They remained untouched.
Here are the scary mushrooms. I’m sure folks who enjoy voluntarily eating mushrooms would probably appreciate these. But, not this gal. The servers even commented when clearing my table that my mushrooms were untouched.
This was the final result of my taco-building exercise. I’m sure there was a much more appropriate way to eat this course. But to me it was finger food. I actually ate my second “taco” separately by component. I ate the crepe alone. I gnoshed on the Black Cod all by itself. I liked tasting the individual elements. It was paired with the 2017 Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay.
The next course was a salad. I struggled with this one until I found the “dressing” at the bottom of the bowl. But, doesn’t it look like a little head of lettuce to you? Each of those leaves has been artfully arranged to create a beautiful masterpiece – well, that’s just the way they do it at SingleThread. Each course is a work of art.
The menu description for this guy is “Farm Salanova – Cured Wild Salmon, Smoked Roe, and Chive Bavarois”. It was paired with a side-by-side of the 2016 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay and the 2016 Stone Flat Vineyard Chardonnay.
I’ve already lost count of how many courses we’ve had. Next up is “Summer Squash – Spot Prawn, Squash Blossom, and Prawn Head Broth”. It was paired with the 2017 Trenton Roadhouse Vineyard Chardonnay. I don’t have a lot to say about this course. I struggled with that fried Squash Blossom. But the flavors were delicious.
I was given a choice in the next course. The “standard” meat course is duck. But, I could go for the upcharged wagyu. Now, this girl loves to choose the upcharge. But, I queried my server as to the wine pairing. I knew we were at Kistler. I knew they make only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And I know I love duck and pinot. I’m sure the wagyu preparation probably paired wonderfully, too. But I couldn’t bring myself to do beef. She actually exclaimed that – I believe it was Bill Price – said that this dish was made for this wine. So, I’m glad I didn’t go with the beef. The pairing was the 2017 Cuvee Natalie Silver Belt Vineyard Pinot Noir. The menu describes this course as: “Duclair Duck – Calimyrna Fig, Turnip, and Kanpyo”.
As soon as the “Grains Course” was presented, I knew this was the course that gave me trouble in my first visit. So, I was a bit hesitant. The menu describes it as “Sonoma Grains – Wagyu shortrib, Pickled Ramps, Maitake, and Beef Consumme”. It was paired with the 2016 Laguna Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir. The largest bowl contained what I would call a risotto with Wagyu Shortrib. The bowl on the left contained beef consumme. The bowl at the top contained “stuff” that included mushrooms. I explained to my server my previous struggle and that I tried combining all of the dishes into one soup. The look on her face was priceless! She exclaimed that these were NOT meant to be combined. You got it! The chef wants the diners to eat some of the risotto, take a sip of the consumme, and finish with a bite of the “stuff”. I obeyed. I loved the risotto. The consumme was incredibly rich. And I held a bunch of the “stuff” in my chopsticks for a few moments before building up the courage to take a bite. I knew there were mushrooms in there. And I’m sure my struggle was all in my head. I needed to make it through this course. If I could make it through this course, I was home free! I did not finish this course. It was too rich for me at this point in the meal. Thinking back to my first dinner at SingleThread and comparing it to French Laundry – I’ve always thought that SingleThread would do well with a bread course. I needed a bread course right about now. Those crepes were served too long ago!
After surviving the previous course, we moved onto what they call the “Trenton Roadhouse Chardonnay – Mushroom and Oak”. I was SO confused by this course. It was served with hot tea. I had my choice of Chamomile or a Green Tea. I don’t even know what I was eating in the photo below. But, I liked it. There was a creamy sauce in the little pitcher that I poured over the stuff in the bowl.
Then we moved onto dessert. This may have been my favorite course of the night. It contained fresh strawberries. Strawberries! In mid-October! Here I was given another choice. I believe the “standard” wine pairing was the 1997 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes. My server exclaimed that I wanted to do the upcharge for the wine. And I didn’t argue. I know nothing about French wine. I know nothing about Sauternes. But then I remembered that I had what was apparently a famous Sauternes at The Restaurant at Meadowood earlier in the year. I quickly pulled up the bottle shot from that meal. And was not at all surprised when the exact same wine – a Chateau D’Yquem Sauternes – just one vintage older (a 1996) came out to the table at SingleThread. I asked more about this wine. I wondered about the retail price-point. Granted, this one is 24 years old so you’d have to take that into account. I’m guessing that this wine was the star of the night. I also compared the two courses these great restaurants had chosen to pair it with. Meadowood – a cheese course. SingleThread – a more traditional dessert. It’s been a few months since I dined at Meadowood (and I can’t wait to go back after they rebuild), but I remember not loving the pairing. SingleThread nailed it. The Sauternes paired beautifully.
The menu description for dessert: “Albion Strawberry – White Chocolate, Sake Kasu, and Shiso”.
Last but certainly not least was the final course, the tower of tiny bites described as “Wagashi – Melipona Honey Yakgwa, Japanese Cheesecake with Umeboshi, Suiteki with Apricot, and Miso Custard with Spiced Nashi”. All were very tasty.
Now it was time to pay for this feast. SingleThread does an amazing job at contactless payment. They sent me a text. It wasn’t nearly as adorable as the bill presentation when it’s not a pandemic. But it was super easy.
I’m so incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to experience the Kistler version of SingleThread. It was something I really wanted to do. But, here are my thoughts….
– I preferred the setting at Kistler’s Trenton Roadhouse over dining inside of their restaurant. It was a beautiful, fall evening. The heaters provided the perfect amount of warmth.
– While I love Kistler wine, I think I’d prefer to have more of a variety. While the wines were lovely and worked nicely with the food, I would have preferred them to choose wines from the big wide world out there that might pair better.
– I felt the cadence of the meal was better at their restaurant. I felt like I was waiting more between courses. And that may not have really been the case. I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison. When I dined at the restaurant, a friend dined with me. There was conversation. I had no one to talk to when the servers left this time. I may have been eating faster than a table with more than one would have and I didn’t have friendly conversation to distract me from a waiting period between courses.
– The SingleThread experience was definitely achieved. The food was of the same caliber at both locations. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything by dining on a patio vs their amazing dining room.
– I don’t know if I have to visit again anytime soon. The dishes were so similar both times. And, the cuisine isn’t my favorite with that much seafood. But that’s exactly what they are so that’s not a complaint, just a personal preference. It was fun to see the changes they made when they had summer/early fall produce to use compared to the dishes in January. But, if I’m going to put out that kind of money for a meal, I’m ready for something different. I needed to dine at SingleThread again. I needed to be able to enjoy the entire meal without getting sick. I accomplished that. Thank you Michael.