Thursday, August 27, 2015

best thing i ate last week (8/2-8/9): celtuce, just dug potatoes, comté, burnt hay, tarragon at Coi

A vacation has taken me off the regular posting cycle, but after two weeks tooling around the Bay Area (including moving Frod Jr. into U.C. Berkeley), I'm home in Miami and ready to get caught up. That means circling back to the first day of our trip: a visit to Coi, which I squeezed into the schedule on account of Chef Daniel Patterson's announcement that he will be stepping down as executive chef in January. (Patterson simultaneously announced that Matthew Kirkley, last at L2O in Chicago, will be taking over the kitchen. In a curious coincidence, I caught Kirkley at L2O only a couple months before it closed last year. That was an excellent meal, and while it's disappointing to see Patterson step away from cooking at Coi, I expect good things are in store.)

(You can see all my pictures from the dinner in this Coi - San Francisco flickr set).

The primary ingredient in this dish is celtuce, featured both in thickly sliced discs and thin ribbons of its stalk. It has the hearty snap of a broccoli stem, and a delicately bittersweet flavor somewhere in the neighborhood of lettuce, celery and asparagus. Freshly dug potatoes are cooked until just tender, and crowned with caps of nutty, buttery melted comté cheese. These sit over an oil blackened with powdered burnt hay. Those black and charred aromas are brought back to green and fresh by a few wispy leaves of tarragon.

"Coi" is an archaic French word meaning "quiet," and Patterson's cooking voice can be quiet, subtle, understated. Sometimes you have to listen closely. If you do so, in this dish maybe you'll hear something that sounds like a field of grass blown by the wind, with all these variations on the vegetal tastes of the pasture.

Runner up: the stone fruit curry with black lime cod, green beans and blueberries at Al's Place, just named the Best New Restaurant of 2015 by Bon Appetit magazine. Like many of chef Aaron London's dishes at Al's Place, the combination of ingredients sounds absolutely implausible, and tastes absolutely delicious.

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