Coi: Stories and Recipes
It's a San Francisco thing. Well that's what the locals will say. Daniel Patterson, Michelin starred and fascinating, is the man behind "Coi: Stories and Recipes". A recipe book indeed, but more interestingly it's a new class of chef books - fitted out with stories that are actually interesting to read. The author says it perfectly, "it's the story of Coi written through food." And believe me you want to sit down and eat this, feast on it and ask for a third helping. And then read the book again, learning about the man and his life - and in the process maybe you'll learn something new in the kitchen.
Swirling around Patterson are titles like California dining "revolutionary" and "pioneer" - but the man is just a kid who started working kitchens in Massachusetts (age 14), but probably mostly swept floors and washed dishes while keeping a watchful eye on all the cooking happening around him. And so many years later, his attention span shows. Forget the accolades - he's a humble straight shooter who likes to eat much more than to get fame for his concoctions.
The book, a coffee table number that feels like it needs to live in the kitchen rather, ushers in the concept of California in a way an East Coaster will relate to. A "the weather's great" comment and a smile when culture is discussed, but that's just how many a New Yorker feels upon first arrival. In time Patterson discovers California that he never knew. He speaks about barns, silos and cows, a place where orchards outnumber people and forests, valleys and mountains touching that big sky. A true to the word adventure; ready to be tackled with a knife at least for Patterson.
The photography is big and expressive, showing more than just food - landscapes and close-ups of flowers reminding us that eating is not just about the food but about life and everything that fed the ingredients that eventually end up on your plate. Sections like "Salt and Seawater" and "Vinegars" for instance feel so honest and earnest that you can't help but fall in love with Patterson and his kitchen. No celebrity chef, no reality show blow ups here, just a yarn unwinding itself all over you.
Oh then there are the recipes - from savory chanterelle porridge (pig's foot, wood sorrel), to Prather ranch beef encrusted in lichen with wild spinach, chanterelles, and bordelaise infused with native spices. And then for the sweet tooth things like silken white chocolate with kiwi and coffee or panna cotta with cherry blossom and first fronts of wild fennel. It doesn't get much better than this. Forget licking your lips, get involved. The man is a great writer, but even better in the kitchen.
"Coi: Stories and Recipes"
by Daniel Patterson