Gather

I too often document my everyday life using my iPhone because, let's be honest, it lives in my pocket and convenience is everything these days. From time to time, my husband reminds me that I have a pretty fantastic real camera that's quite compact, and that maybe I should use it. Then I remember, "Oh hey, I have a blog" — so here I am, fully acknowledging that I over-utilize my iPhone and Instagram and under-utilize my camera and blog. What better time to break out my Sony Cyber-shot RX100 than my first visit to Gather, a Berkeley-based restaurant I'd been hearing friends rave about since our West Coast move back in March. I'm not quite sure what I can say about this place that hasn't already been said, but I have to at least attempt to describe just how divine the experience was.

Though I didn't take any interior shots, the ambiance is warm and inviting with lots of beautiful salvaged woods, metals, and light fixtures, but nothing too flashy. My friend and fellow bloggirl Christina gawked at the bar's impressive beverage program for a solid 15 minutes while we sat at our cozy bar-side table, and we ultimately ended up ordering proper lady cocktails: an Old Cuban and an Arsenic & Lace (both delicious). The bartender, who also acted as our waiter, was incredibly helpful and friendly — which helped contribute to the greatness of the evening.

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Since Gather offers an intriguing mix of seasonal vegan options on their menu, we decided to take advantage of this rarity and share some vegan delights. First was the incomparable vegan charcutarie plate, comprised of: new crop turnips with black romesco and mushrooms, rutabaga and winter squash with horseradish salsa verde, autumn vegetables with cashew ranch, and smoked apples with chili jam and walnut juice. The quality of ingredients and inventiveness were apparent, and we thoroughly enjoyed and devoured this plate. We actually asked for bread to sop up the extra sauces because they were seriously that good.

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Let me preface this next bit by saying that I'm a HUGE fan of pizza. I know what you're thinking, 'Who isn't a huge fan of pizza?!'…am I right? Well, to give you some perspective on my obsession, I would make and eat pizza for every meal of every day if I could. So when I tell you that the vegan tomato pizza we ordered at Gather is the honest-to-goodness best pizza I've ever had, that's a big deal. The super tart and sweet tomato sauce was topped with a creamy house-made cashew cream sauce, spicy chili oil, and finely minced olives, capers, and parsley. And the crust! It was perfectly tender and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside and just the perfect thickness. I have no clue how this crust was vegan because it tasted like buttery brioche. I did not miss the cheese for a second, and that's how I know that these passionate chefs are very, very good at what they do.

I'm blessed by the many talented friends and chefs in my life and have therefore enjoyed an array of culinary treats over the years. Since moving to the Napa Valley, I have visited only a handful of incredible restaurants that are memorable, but not in the way I feel about Gather. I found my experience here to be one of genuine originality, made complete with distinctive new flavors and textures I've never come across before. This is shocking to me for a few reasons, primarily because we chose to order a completely vegan meal. The experience was elevated due to the chefs embracing more than just the usual "clean" tastes found in traditional vegan food. The team at Gather obviously puts their hearts and souls into the creation of these recipes, as well as the preparation and presentation of the food — their intention and passion are clear and present in every bite. I cannot wait to go back…until then, I'll dream about the tomato pizza.