Gather for some good food!

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I keep hearing wonderful things about this restaurant in Berkeley called Gather, but I have yet to try it. I asked my Twitter-friend-turned-real-friend, Cathy Curtis (who seems to be one of Gather’s biggest cheerleaders) to write a review for us. Here is what Cathy has to say about Gather. Now I really want to try it! ~Sally

Gather for some good food in Berkeley!

I realized I was becoming jaded about restaurant dining before Gather arrived on the scene in December of 2009. I wasn’t as excited about eating out as I used to be. But with Gather, I eagerly anticipate the meal and the experience, no matter how many times I dine there. Each time it’s like opening a delightful gift that you didn’t expect. From the happy smiles on fellow diner’s faces, it’s obvious that many feel the same way.

First of all, it’s the creative and inventive menu so artfully put together by the chef, Sean Baker. He has turned once neglected vegetables – like kale, parsnips, escarole and beets into dishes that you actually crave! Instead of over-burdening entrees and consequently our digestive systems with too much rich butter, the sauces and dressings are flavorful, added with a light hand, and are made with healthful ingredients such as nuts, mushrooms, nori and tahini.

Three of my favorite dishes are examples of this artful way of cooking. The kale salad is  a mound of  blanched kale, roasted winter root vegetables, thin strips of red onion, lemon juice, oil, toasted pine nuts and a generous portion of grated fiscalini cheese floating on the top like snow.  The escarole salad includes escarole leaves, toasted nori, garlic lemon tahini dressing and breadcrumbs which add just the right amount of “crunch.” But it’s the vegan charcuterie that really shows off the cuisine that is uniquely Gather’s – a smorgasbord of seasonal vegetables diced and sliced and shaped into little islands of flavors – a burst of citrus, smoked maple, smoked parsnip or dill added to heighten the flavors.

Then there are the pizzas. The edges are puffy like clouds but when you take a bite there is that satisfying crunch. The rest of the pie is thin and layered with ingredients that complement and uplift each other. For example, the fuji apple pizza: fontinella cheese, pancetta, sliced apple, and rosemary all covered in a bounty of fresh arugula. Heaven!

This limited sampling of menu items I’ve described could satisfy me for a long time. But the menu holds so much more.  You can eat vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and also enjoy meat, poultry and fish on any visit to Gather, each prepared with the same attention to detail and flavor. Try the Prather Ranch Burger with caramelized shallot-tomato sauce, the marinated Pt. Reyes mussels or the barbecued young chicken.

The staff at Gather are young, friendly and seem really happy about working there.
At times the service can be a little slow but that is most likely due to a back-up in the kitchen as the crush of orders for pizza or vegan charcuterie overwhelms the system from time to time. If you go there regularly, you start to recognize faces which just adds to the fun.

The décor is as refreshing as the food. Almost everything in the restaurant is made from something recycled like the bench surrounding the perimeter of the restaurant fashioned from pre-worn leather belts, the lighting made from sawed-off vodka bottles and the wall-art created from cardboard packaging materials. I wouldn’t call Gather a cozy restaurant. The ceilings are high and the layout is open. It’s not quiet and subdued. So you may not choose Gather for a romantic tete-a-tete.  It’s much more of a restaurant to relax, enjoy, and well, gather.

Cathy Curtis is a fee-only independent financial advisor specializing in the finances of women, their families and their businesses. Her website is www.curtisfinancialplanning.com. She also leads a special interest group, Bay Gourmet, at the Commonwealth Club of California planning food and wine programs for the membership and the public.  Check out the trip to Burgundy, France that Cathy will host in October of 2011.  If you would like to contact Cathy she can be found on twitter @curtisfinancial and Linkedin. Or join in discussion on her Facebook page Women and Money.

Thanks Cathy!

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