Coi: Stories and Recipes (Phaidon Press, 2013). Order your copy.
By Peter Meehan
Sometimes, when I’m talking to a person not given to spending grand-ish sums on dinner, or to somebody who might be more conversant in obscure vinyl releases on Ecstatic Peace than the topics I write about in Lucky Peach, it can be hard to explain why a particular restaurant matters. Why I feel a connection to it, or feel that its food is “cool” in the way that other methods of expression are, and so much more naturally.
Coi is one of these places, these cases. Not so much in that it is capital-I important as it is a trip that’s worth taking, and one you wanna take again as soon as it’s gone, like Highway 1 running through the redwoods. Of course it’s expensive and refined and pretty and professional and I imagine the bilious billionaires who keep the world of fine dining spinning on their golden fingers feel perfectly catered to when they’re there. But it’s not for them, and it’s not exactly for me, eating there in my hoodie and Vans, either.
It’s Daniel’s place, and, on some level, it’s there for him. It’s one of a handful (maybe a couple handfuls, let’s be generous!) of restaurants around that’s a truly personal space. It is where Patterson does his thing. Where he distills the landscape that surrounds him and the choppy wake of the stories of his life into Things That Can Be Eaten. The filmstrip images of Jackson Pollock spilling and splattering paint or Pablo Picasso drawing with light come to mind—not to draw an underbaked comparison between Chef and Artist, but because the magic of those blips of sound and vision are the feeling that we are witnessing something being made, of creativity in action, kinetic and alive. A vital transference of ideas and energy into something we can, on some level, digest. The best meals at Coi capture some of that energy.
This is no small feat. It’s easy enough to impersonate what’s come before in the kitchen and easier still, in this Instagrammed era, to impersonate what else is going on right now. Daniel’s cooking has always run contrary to those impulses: he cooks what he knows, what he feels, what his imagination commands him to. When that kind of cooking works, that’s the thing, man. That’s the experience. In the realm of star-spangled dining, I’d trade you a million penguins and their bottles of Dom Perignon for one plate of honest food. (And would parenthetically assert that it’s much harder to create that honest feeling while up on the high-wire of high-end cooking than it is down here, lower to the ground, where we all usually eat.)
All of that is that a long ramble to say this: I couldn’t be more excited to have this book to spend time with. It offers everybody who hasn’t had the chance to meet Daniel—with his hidden poetic tendencies and inky black humor and ability to actually string sentences together into stories that take us places—to see what goes on back there in his head, and how that tangled mess of Boston back story and pink-orange melting California sunsets gets smelted into some of the best fancy food in the U.S.A. To Daniel: Kudos on putting this beauty together.
Everybody else: remove the cloche, inhale deeply, and dig in.