For those of you who don't know about Alice Waters, she is considered a pioneer for starting the slow food movement, which maintains that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. Basically, it's the philosophy used by just about every great restaurant in the Bay Area these days. (And most other places for that matter.)
After the lecture, we decided what better way to celebrate this concept than to check out one of the hottest new restaurants in Berkeley which is the epitome of this philosophy, Gather. All of the ingredients...from the vegetables to the meats to the wine are organic and local. Their menu is constantly changing to reflect the freshest ingredients of each season. Even the liquor they use for their cocktails is organic. (We sampled a few of these concoctions, and they were all fabulous).
Full disclosure: Gather is part of my friend Kim's company, Back to Earth Catering, so they treated us very well on our visit. But I can honestly say that regardless of her affiliation with the restaurant, it was one of the best meals I've experienced in a very long time.
The one on the right is crispy cardoons with frisee, chopped duck egg, pancetta, and aioli. It was so good that we got halfway through it before I remembered to snap a photo. In case you were wondering what cardoons are, (because I certainly wasn't familiar with them), they are in the thistle family, so they are similar in taste to an artichoke, but they grown in long stalks, sort of like celery.
As for what we actually ordered on our own...we started with this Kombu-cured local halibut with avocado, lemon leaf, and Esplette chilis. It was probably my least favorite out of everything we tried, but it was still very, very good. (Which tells you something about just how amazing all of the food was).
This is their signature dish...the Vegan "Charcuterie." It's vegan, so of course there's no actual meats or cheeses on the plate, but it is probably the most creative mixture of flavors, textures, and presentation that I've ever seen. If you go, you absolutely MUST get this dish.
From left to right: turnips with young Butternut squash, smoked persimmon and carrot. Up next: rutabaga, sweet potato, parsnips, and horseradish leaf salsa verde. Next was a beet tartare, Pugliese sel Otrantina pesto, and Desiree potato lardo. And finally, excotic mushrooms, Tonda Padana smoked tomato puree, carrot escabeche, and seaweed. (Don't worry, we googled half of this on our phones as we were eating it).
This one was Sean's take on a Romaine salad. But clearly it is unlike any Romaine salad you've ever had...in fact, it will blow all of the other ones out of the water. It included roasted root vegetables, pear, a beet-black lentil vinaigrette, and creme fraiche...along with delicious fried garlic on top.
And even though we were so incredibly stuffed, we couldn't leave without ordering dessert. We got this chocolate budino with toasted fig leaf ice cream, braised cherries, and Sonoma salt with a little olive oil on the bottom. If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life...it would be this one. Seriously...it was out of this world good. Even better than the Delfina panna cotta I recently had...and you know how much I enjoyed that.
Anyways, long story short...Gather is a great place to do exactly that. Gather. Gather with friends and get ready to have an amazing meal with ingredients gathered locally.