Eat Bringing Usu-Zan and the SingleThread Ethos to Blue Sky
The beacon for our little rural, fishing village in Hokkaido, Japan was a small, active volcano, whose name, Usu-Zan, originated from the indigenous Ainu people’s word for the mountain. We woke to a constant plume of volcanic smoke, which gave the area its unique landscape and incredible agricultural bounty.
While our day-to-day world is now spent in Sonoma Wine Country, where I’m Owner-Chef, and my wife, Katina, is Owner-Head Farmer, of SingleThread Farm Restaurant, and Inn, our time living under the backdrop of Usu-Zan honed our approach to farming, cooking and warm hospitality. Usu-Zan by SingleThread at Blue Sky Lodge is our transportive seven-course culinary homage to those exceptionally formative and memorable years in Hokkaido.
In Hokkaido, my world was spent working at Michel Bras in Toya, while my wife’s world was spent in the village, where she became friends with fishermen and farmers and their families. It was here, with these wonderful people, where we learned the true face of Japanese hospitality.
Much of our time in Hokkaido was cold. For a couple of months in the winter, it’s arctic cold, so coming together with friends meant huddling around a donabe hot pot. We shared meals of such incredible high quality, where every ingredient came directly from the land or sea just around us, all in pretty humble surroundings. We ate in the homes of these farmers and fishermen, where cultural barriers were broken, and we were surrounded by so much love and warmth. These are our favorite memories of our time in Hokkaido, and they’ve really stayed with us in a very powerful way.
While we created the Usu-Zan experience at SingleThread in Sonoma last year, this year, we really wanted to create it in an alpine environment to mimic the true spirit of Usu-Zan. The Lodge at Blue Sky turned out to be the perfect place, with an amazing feeling of Hokkaido. Park City and Hokkaido are both cold, alpine environments that are especially beautiful in winter in a rustic way.
With Usu-Zan at Blue Sky, we’re creating a sense of adventure for guests, but also a sense of comfort. We’ll start with a few individually plated dishes, but the essence of the experience is our hot pot, which will be cooked in beautiful donabes, each hand made using fossil-rich clay, by 8th-generation master potters from Iga, Japan.
The Usu-Zan menu will feature special seafood and beef from around Japan’s Northern Island as well as artisanal products through the many relationships forged with these producers during our years living along the bountiful Hokkaido coastline. King Crab, Uni, scallops, crab, salmon, salmon roe, tarako (cod milt), Rishiri konbu from Renbun Island, Hidaka konbu from just above our hometown of Toyura, and Hokkaido Wagyu beef will be some of the highlights.
While we’re bringing a big part of Sonoma with us—namely the produce from our 24-acre farm—so much of Usu-Zan at Blue Sky will incorporate the incredible landscape here. Gracie’s Farm has been custom-growing greens specifically for the residence, and Katina and I are building a beautiful centerpiece out of wild items we’ve foraged around the property. It’s a real integration of Sonoma, Hokkaido and the Wasatch Mountain Range, all informed by SingleThread and Blue Sky’s love for the land.