The name Two Birds/One Stone refers in part to Douglas Keane and Sang Yoon, the chefs and business partners who met while contestants in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. It also stands for the Japanese and California flavors that come together at their new dining destination, which was an immediate hit upon its debut in St. Helena in 2016. The restaurant occupies the 1880s stone winery at Freemark Abbey, a property established by Josephine Tychson, the first woman vintner in California.
“The produce [in Napa Valley] is better than anywhere else in the world,” says Keane. “Elephant-heart plums might be my favorite local product. Acid, umami, sweetness and even a pinch of bitter, all rolled into one beautiful, juicy stone fruit.”
“We wanted to offer something completely unique from all of the other places in the Valley, as well as use the flavors that both Sang and I love,” says Keane. “Being able to create a unique contemporary, Asian-influenced dining experience in possibly the oldest and most historic building in the area was something we couldn’t pass up.”
The Japanese-inspired contemporary California cuisine (or California-inspired yakitori?) always surprises. Take, for example, deviled eggs garnished with gribenes (chicken-skin cracklings) and the Japanese spice mixture shichi-mi togarashi, which add flavor and texture. Every dish reflects the purity and simplicity that’s a hallmark of the best in California and Japanese cooking.
Although the wine list is Old World, the restaurant also supports the local scene. The rotating “Wines By” glass list features exclusive blends on tap from a dozen local winemakers. In addition, the restaurant offers free corkage for any Napa or Sonoma bottle. It also offers a list of winery-donated bottles, with the purchase price donated to local charities.
“We play no favorites and support everybody equally,” says Keane. “Instead of just putting a local brand on the menu, we wanted to give individual winemakers their due, showing the actual artisan and letting them be the star.”
- 4 ears corn
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons Saikyo miso
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallion greens, for garnish
Shuck corn and clean remaining silk. Cream corn by scoring kernels lengthwise with large knife a few times around cob. Using sharp edge of knife, scrape corn pulp and milk into large bowl.
Combine corn, butter and salt in sauté pan over medium-low heat. Stir until butter just melts. Add miso and cook, stirring often, until combined. Pour mixture into small serving bowl. Garnish with scallion greens. Serves 4 as a side dish.
Lauren Buzzeo, tasting director at Wine Enthusiast, suggests a California ode to Rhône like Paraduxx 2015 Proprietary White (Napa Valley); $30, 91 points. A blend of 67% Viognier, 22% Chardonnay, 6% Roussanne and 5% Marsanne, it has a full body and lush tropical-fruit flavors that harmonize with the sweet corn and buttery notes of the dish. Bright acidity and stony minerality keep the palate fresh and lift the miso’s umami character.