Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Our Donabe on Art Culinaire

Our donabe products are featured in the current issue of Art Culinaire, a highly prestigious culinary magazine for professional chefs in the world!

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It's a special feature of almost 20 full pages about Chef Kyle Connaughton and his restaurant, Single Thread, including many gorgeous donabe recipes. Thank you, Kyle and Art Culinaire!

Happy Donabe Life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trip to Sonoma...Donabe Cooking Class at SHED and Single Thread Opening Night

Kyle's steam-fried cod and vegetables in tagine-style donabe, Fukkura-san

Yesterday was the super eventful day for me in Healdsburg. Rain was pouring hard all day long, but my spirit was high.

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I had a donabe cooking class at SHED in the afternoon. So, I spent all morning doing final prepping for the class. The class started at 2 pm, and 13 guests participated in this sold-out class. This photo is taken by SHED.

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This is the only photo I took during the class, as I was too busy! We made 5 different dishes in the class and 4 of them were made in donabe. Here is the menu.
Smoked sausages, walnuts and soft-boiled eggs (Ibushi Gin)
Cilantro & persimmon salad with "banno-zu" vinaigrette
Steamed tofu, maitake & matsutake mushrooms with scallion and yuzu rind toppings (Mushi Nabe)
Niigata-style sake hot pot (classic-style donabe)
Buttered scallop & daikon rice including premium mochi mugi barley (Kamado-san)

I had such a great time doing the class! I was so happy everybody enjoyed the class. All the participants took home little souvenir bags from me. They were samples of premier short grain rice by Tamaki Farms in Uruguay, and mochi mugi barley by Hakubaku. These grains are essential in my kitchen and the rice recipe in the class was also made with them. Big thank you to Tamaki Farms and Hakubaku for generously contributing the samples for the class!

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After the class, I walked back to Single Thread, and this time, I checked in at their hotel upstairs. I had an honor to be the first official gust in their hotel! It's such a beautiful room with all the top design/ quality furniture and amenities. The most importantly, the room was so cozy and I could really relax inside.

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The room has a kitchenette and the complimentary wine (Pinot Noir by Freeman Vineyards), homemade snacks (the seasoned Sonoma nori seaweed was so addictive), and many different drinks including gourmet coffee maker, matcha shaker, etc. I wanted to try everything!

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There are 5 guest rooms in their upstairs hotel, and there is also a beautiful library room.

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Later in the evening, I walked downstairs to the restaurant. Yes, it was the first official (soft) opening night at Single Thread! Super exciting.

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After seeing all the constructions past years and prepping past couple of days, it felt almost surreal that there were actual guests inside of the restaurant and it looked so alive.

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All the lucky first customers.

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Chefs and front-of-the-house members were operating everything so smoothly that it was hard to believe it was their first official night.

This evening, I was also very happy to reunite with Eric, my special friend and who was also a photographer of our DONABE Cookbook, and his girlfriend, Alma. We sat down together and the epic dinner experience started.

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Hassun course...small dishes were plated one by one at the table.

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Every bite was extraordinary.

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Wine and sake pairing with every course.

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Dan & Kyle! Cured foie gras with sablé.

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Black cod and vegetables, steam-fried in tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". It was brought to the table and chamomile dashi was poured over it.

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Aaron's sonoma grains, cooked in double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamado-san", with uni wrapped in Japanese wagyu beef. Heavenly.

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The pastry chef, Matt's talent is beyond anybody's imagination.

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Gravenstein apple sorbet. You crack the shell and there were treasures of chestnut sable, Saikyo miso chestnut puree, apple butter and shaved white truffles. Oh WOW.

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Wagashi coures.

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Kyle and Katina. They did! They really made it happen. I am so happy for them and I send all my love to them. Congratulations to both of you and the entire team of Single Thread!!

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I went back to my room after 1.30 am, then I got to choose breakfast menu. This morning, I had the wonderful scrambled egg tartan with shaved black truffles, cold brewed matcha and almond milk iced latte, and gyokuro green tea.

The whole experience at Single Thread was simply above and beyond. The quality of every detail in food, service, and place was top notch, and the best of all, you feel the love and omotenashi (hospitality) everywhere. I am certain Single Thread will be the world's top destination. Our donabe is lucky to be part of it.

Happy donabe life.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trip to Sonoma...A Day Before Opening of Single Thread Farms

I arrived in Healdsburg, Sonoma, yesterday. I flew in to SFO then took a shuttle bus to Santa Rosa Airport where Kyle came to pick me up. The traffic from SFO to Santa Rosa was so horrible and it took almost 4 hours! So, when I finally arrived in Healdsburg, it was already evening.

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Kyle, Katina, and the team of Single Thread Farms have been working so busy for the opening of the restaurant. Kyle took me straight to the restaurant and I was so surprised and happy to see it's finally come together! The last time I was there was in September and the inside was still under construction. But, now, the beautiful kitchen and dining areas are ready. Look at all the donabe in the display!!

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Here are hand-carved branding irons ("yaki-in" in Japanese) of Single Thread logo and toiro kitchen's donabe character. These are custom-made by an artisan in Japan, and I finally brought them here. The Single Thread iron will be used for branding their original Japanese-style confectionary ("wagashi") or maybe pancakes?! And, I asked Kyle to hold my donabe-shape iron until my new shop opens, then I want them to make special dora-yaki (Japanese sweet pancakes filled with sweet bean paste) for me! I hope it will not be in the distant future.

After hanging out in the restaurant, we had dinner at Valette, right across from Single Thread. Dustin, the owner chef, took such a great care of us and even let us taste his homemade Pinot Noir. So nice!

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I woke up feeling great, and spend the morning at Single Thread. Today was the final full day before their official "soft" opening tomorrow. So, the chefs and crew were so busy getting everything ready.

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Everybody was so focused.

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Kyle's homemade yuzu-kosho. So delicious.

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I love watching chefs working. They are so cool.

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Then, in the afternoon, I walked to SHED to do my own prepping for tomorrow's DONABE Cooking Class! Before prepping I enjoyed lunch there. I love SHED.

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Beautiful whole roasted chickens from Petaluma. They are not for my class, but it was made by their chef for the restaurant service. They smelled so good. I worked until evening, then walked back to Single Thread.

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When I got back to Single Thread, they just finished their family meal before the dress rehearsal, and Kyle made me a bowl and it was waiting for me. It was mabo-don (spicy tofu and meat over rice)! After the long prepping, it totally hit my spot.

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So, the dress rehearsal for tomorrow night's first official dinner service began. All the team including the servers were there.

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Very serious and detailed rehearsal.

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The rehearsal lasted until midnight.

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I got to participate in the rehearsal as a test customer to sit down and tasted a few dishes. Lucky role! The dishes were not all the same details as the actual menu for tomorrow, but they were so amazing.

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The photographer, Jason, who has been documenting Single Thread's journey to the opening sat down with me and we enjoyed the delicious dishes.

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I was so lucky to be at Single Thread with the team on the very important day. So tomorrow, I will actually dine here as a guest. I really can't wait for the experience.