Monday, May 17, 2010

Gather Me Some Goodness

After months of talking about crossing the bay for a meal at Gather, a new-ish restaurant in Berkeley that celebrates the 'gift and privilege' of food (love it!), Oliver & I made the trek. East Bay adventure! After a quick yet screechy trip on BART (seriously, has it always been that LOUD?), we arrive at a beautiful corner space. The rustic reclaimed wood lured me in & the open kitchen chock full of brilliant ingredients cued my glands. It was pretty easy to see that Gather & I would be fast friends, but I had no idea that it would knock my buds into next year with bursts of flavor constructed (brace yourselves) without dairy. (Is that a record scratch I hear?)
The carefully crafted seasonal menu, produced with ingredients cultivated 'safely, justly, and sustainably,' at Gather is always 50% carnivore & 50% veggie. Of the veggie options half are...vegan. As a lover of most things dairy, I have to admit I am a bit baffled by this VEGAN concept (not to offend Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, or any other vegans that may be reading this). I can understand & appreciate no meat, but I am a firm believer that butter makes it better &'s no secret that it makes me weak in the knees. So, when I see vegan menu options, I am certainly skeptical. But from the time we entered the lovely space to the time we sat pondering the menu, the vegan charcuterie dish had been recommended by 4 passionate eaters. (I know, I had the same question...How does one make VEGAN charcuterie?) It was unavoidable. We placed our order.
You can tell by the looks of it, the term charcuterie is used pretty loosely. It's really 5 bites of veggie wonderment carefully crafted by Executive Chef Sean Baker, who clearly gained some serious vegetable whispering skills during his time at Millennium in San Francisco. Here are the specifics of the goodness...
  • Spring onion top chickpea pannelle, spring onion “butter" (spring onions pureed with olive oil to the point of smooth-creamy-butter-like dreaminess), Cabernet sauce
  • Snap peas, grilled asparagus, breakfast radish, “tonnato” sauce
  • Marinated clamshell and king trumpet mushrooms, saffron tomato sumac “mayonnaise”
  • Roasted beets, cashew crème fraiche, pistachio green garlic pesto
  • Grilled Maitakes, roasted sunchoke “sour cream,” chives, black lentils
This may sound mad as a March hare, but this dish now sits cozy in my top 10 of all time favorites (and is probably the only one without some sort of dairy or pork joke). So delectable. The secret, aside form stupefyingly fresh ingredients, is olive oil. Lots of wonderful olive oil. I see the light.
Of course, follow-up orders included marinated Berkeley burrata with morels, ramps, grilled radicchio, smoked artichokes, and saba (WHAT?!? would have to pull out the duct tape to keep me from ordering this) and a delicious duck sausage pizza. Also delicious...and cheesey.
Moral of the story? Vegans, I no longer think you are too can enjoy a mouthgasm, and that makes me happy. I will no longer be hesitant to try your food when it calls to me, but...I love burrata, duck sausage, & cheese.

Three curds for Gather!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life, Cheese, & the Pursuit of Printing

It has been quite some time since my last post, but rest assured I have been busy busy in the name of cheese...well, mostly. There was a Goat Festival at the ferry building (I have a warm-gooey-triple-cream-style spot in my heart for baby goats), saw Ruth Reichl (former editor of gourmet, my all-time favorite writer, and pretty much my foodie hero) speak at the Jewish Community Center, and, with the help of my lovely parents, got my shiny new raclette melter up and running (more to come on's good stuff!). I also enjoyed a holiday in Hawaii. Not a lot of cheese involved in that journey though I did spot Cowgirl & Cypress Grove cheeses in a fish market on Kauai (Bay Area represent!) and even ordered a salad at Bar Acuda (delicious restaurant in Hanalei) that included the one & the only Humboldt Fog. Not going to lie, it was an amazing time.

All in all Spring has flown by & the Mission Cheese flower is beginning to bloom. For those of you that do not know, I am in the process of opening a cheese-related establishment in San Francisco. A task that is definitely more difficult than it sounds, times, but all together very entertaining. I feel compelled to share. My most recent 'adventure' was a wild goose chase for a respectable printing service that does not involve me handing over my business plan to a seemingly harmless, but none-the-less complete stranger behind the counter.

I have, in my professional life, had some really special moments with copy machines, but I have to say, this takes the truckle. If only my home printer did not produce documents that appear as if they've been basking in the sun since 1979, I would be golden. So, for your reading pleasure...the play by play:

Day 1
  • Ahhh, Kinko's/FedEx combo is a few blocks from my apartment, Perfect! Walk on down to print files that I have emailed to myself. This should take no time at all!
  • Ancient PC will not open my PDF files & said PC is spouting that hideous start-up/shutdown jingle. No visible volume control. Remaining calm.
  • Return home to save PDFs to a thumb drive for easy printing on a wonderfully convenient device with a USB port.
  • Back to Kinko's, insert thumb drive into printer, and wait for document to load...10 minutes later...anxious nausea...pacing...20 minutes later, document has printed. 1 of 4 documents complete (the going rate is now apparently $.79 per color copy...ouch).
  • Since FedEx is right here, I figured...why not take advantage of the one stop shop. Approach counter for service. Museum back setting in.
  • "I'm sorry, did you say $14? Is it arriving to San Jose in an hour via FedEx fixie? Oh that's ground shipping, 2-3 business days. Stellar." Nauseous.
  • Surrender for the day. Kinko's/FedEx is now the enemy. I was certain I would never return
Day 2
  • Brand new day & three copies to be printed & mailed off. Plan of attack, Copy Central in the Castro & post office in the Haight.
  • Get to Copy Central, forgot thumb drive, files won't open from my email (shocking). Printer quality seems inferior to Kinko's (what?). Leave Copy Central.
  • Cruise back home, pick up thumb drive, & I find myself walking back to Kinko's (huh?) with a book in hand to stave off the nausea.
  • Insert thumb drive. I am no speed reader, but 20 pages in my book printing has occurred. There is now a crowd lingering around the printer waiting for something to happen. Cancel download. Try again. Error 1...error 2...error 3. Nauseous. Leave Kinko's. Growling. Empty handed.
  • Walk back to Copy Central. Sweating.
  • Ask the lovely man behind the counter to change up the paper for a better printing quality. Thumb drive works (VICTORY). Let the printing commence.
  • Proudly approach the register, 3 copies on hand, ready for payment and a trip to the post office.
Man: "That will be $11"
Me: "Nice!"
Captain Rip-U-Off: " copies...that will be $44.26"
Me: "For the love of ink...what?!?"
Mayor of Jerktown: "Color copies are expensive, just like fancy cheese"
  • After a heavy dose of stink-eye, I hand over payment. Nauseous.
  • Train & walk to post office. Send documents for a much better rate than the previous day. Props to the P.O. (Mum...I hope you are reading this)
Two days, four 29 page documents, several bouts of anxious nausea & museum back flare-ups later...mission accomplished.

Stay tuned for the next adventure. I need to eat some cheese.