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 & cheese...well...it'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 product...no 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?!?...you 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 food-haters...you 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!!!

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