By Daniel Patterson (Phaidon, $49.95)
“This is not a cookbook,” says Daniel Patterson toward the end of his introduction to Coi, which is named for his revered San Francisco restaurant. And he’s right. From its minimalist white cover, to purposefully vague directions like “Acquire starter culture,” to a warning to exercise a high level of caution when making some of the dishes inside, this book is not really for use in the kitchen, at least not by mere mortals. But it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. Each “recipe” begins with an essay that’s ostensibly about the dish’s origins but often much more than that, whether it’s Patterson’s own personal history, his (late-blooming) love for California and it indigenous ingredients, or profiles of local food pioneers. Perfectly matching Patterson’s lyrical writing is the stunning photography, a mix of graphic images of the recipes (most shot on a stark white background sans plate) to rich full-spread images of the California countryside and waterways that so inspire the chef and, hopefully, the reader, too.