Lucky Peach's Peter Meehan on Coi
The great US writer and Lucky Peach editor says he "couldn't be more excited to have this book to spend time with"
There are many reasons why America has become a wilder, more diverse place to dine in today. But some of the credit can go to Lucky Peach, the fast-paced Gastronomy magazine published by McSweeney's. The title was co-founded by the great New York Times contributor, Peter Meehan, who has done more than almost any other American food writer to introduce fine dining to an audience more likely to spend their cash on concert tickets and sneakers than eight-course tasting menus.
So we were very happy when he wanted to write the foreword for our new book, Coi. Coi, is of course, the San Francisco restaurant headed up by the incredible Daniel Patterson. Read on to find out why Meehan is encouraging everyone with even a slight interest in what they eat to "remove the cloche, inhale deeply, and dig in."
"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.
"It's Daniel's place, and, on some level, it's there for him. It's one of a handful (maybe a couple of 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."
Liked that? Then read Massimo Bottura's as evocative description of Coi here. You can also browse through photographer Maren Caruso's pictures from the book here. Watch this interview with Daniel here. And you can buy Coi from the people who made it here.