April 2020 may be remembered as one of the worst possible moments to open a new restaurant. “It was obviously very unfortunate timing,” muses Ali Cohane, though her tone is far from downtrodden. The pandemic put the entire community on lockdown, and despite two years of preparation, Ali’s latest culinary endeavor — Coelette — couldn’t open on schedule in the spring.
Ali, the restaurateur behind Jackson Hole’s wildly popular constellation of Persephone and Picnic cafes, took over the historic cabin on the corner of
King Street and Pearl Avenue and breathed new life into it. Known as the “Coe Cabin,” it was originally the family residence of Jackson’s downtown blacksmith. (His shop occupied the cabin that is now King Sushi.) But after two years of renovation and thoughtful concept development around Coelette, the coronavirus brought the dining world to a grinding halt.
“It definitely threw us for a loop,” Ali admits. “A lot of what we designed was about having a communal, shared experience.” But true to the resilience that permeates mountain towns like Jackson Hole, Ali refused to consider defeat. Though a couple of months behind schedule, Coelette opened its doors to an enthusiastic public in August and ultimately “stayed true to what we wanted to do.”
After careful consideration of what she felt the Jackson dining scene was missing, Ali landed on a community-focused restaurant that serves farm-to-table fare in a way that is both rooted in the region’s culinary history and looks to international influences for inspiration and innovation. “One of the first things you notice is that the menu isn’t broken up into traditional elements — salads, starters, mains, and such,” she explains. “All of those things are on there, but it’s meant to be more of a mix-and-match, choose your own adventure kind of experience, which really encourages sharing.”
Communities at the elevation and latitude of Jackson Hole enjoy a spectacularly brief growing season, which means that locally sourced ingredients are tough to come by during parts of the year. While other kitchens might truck in ingredients from elsewhere, Coelette draws on history to continue using local food in the middle of winter.
“We’re employing historical practices of canning and preserving to hold onto summer’s abundance,” explains Ali. “We are embracing these old, traditional techniques, and bringing them into current times.”
Like the pioneers that first called Jackson home, the team at Coelette is discovering ways to preserve food at its freshest and savor it during the valley’s chilliest months. Ali and her team aren’t just looking back in time for inspiration; they’re also looking around the globe for innovative concepts
from other communities. “We’re calling it ‘Snowline Cuisine,’” she explains. “Whether it’s Japan, Scandinavia, the Alps, or somewhere else — we’re
exploring how other places at a similar latitude and altitude embrace their limited growing season and create amazing locally sourced food.”
Ultimately, Coelette is defined by the beautiful balance drawn between old and new, tradition and innovation. The cabin itself is one of Jackson’s oldest, and Ali’s renovations have both showcased its traditional charm and infused it with contemporary energy. With eclectic interiors thoughtfully designed by Christian Burch and John Freschette of Made and Mountain Dandy, the ambiance is at once rustic and chic.
Even the restaurant’s name seeks to evoke a sense of balance; “We wanted to pay homage to the Coe family who called this home,” explains Ali. “And the Western vibe — elements of leather, metal, and wood — has a sense of masculinity around it. It felt right to choose a name that was distinctly feminine.”
Perhaps this deep sense of balance and identity has contributed to Coelette’s resilience. Ali is hopeful for the future, and rightly so; if there’s anything that the world is craving more than ever, it’s delicious food and the restorative joy of sharing a meal together.