Breaking News
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Info Post
by Emma Krasov
Opened merely days ago, a new restaurant, café, and bar Gather by the Cal’s main entrance rapidly fills up every night, and there is a good reason for that. Its menu is local, organic, sustainable, and half-vegan half-carnivorous (house cured meats – mmm!). It is also equally indulgent and guilt/gluten-free. All about this place is wholesome, thoughtful, conscientious, and yet enjoyable beyond belief.

Recycled materials, used in furnishing and interior design look rather noble, like thick wooden tables recycled from a retired water tank, blond banquettes reclaimed from high school bleachers, seats made of 600 leather belts salvaged from the Alameda County antique fair, and light fixtures formerly known as vodka bottles.

Gather owners, Ari Derfel and Eric Fenster, professional mountain guides among their many occupations, decided to start a business together after a fateful bump-in on a street in San Francisco, although they knew each other since college. “In 2000, Eric went on a vision quest, where this idea came to him,” said Derfel in a brief interview with this reporter over a plate of Pacific albacore crudo, as translucent as a semi-precious stone.

“The restaurant was supposed to materialize in 10 years, but we opened a bit ahead of that.” Before Gather, the duo founded the first organic catering company in America, called Back to Earth, in 2003 and became self-taught chefs. In their 12-year plan there are an organic farm and a retreat center still waiting to materialize in the future. For their first restaurant, Derfel and Fenster decided to entrust the rein of the kitchen to an experienced and reputable Executive Chef Sean Baker, who now creates his daily masterpieces based on fresh market ingredients. It’s easy to trace any of them at Gather, since patrons are encouraged to ask about the Source Book, where every piece of meat and every chunk of vegetable’s previous whereabouts are duly recorded.

Chef Baker’s unsurpassed specialty gotta be the oxymoronic-sounded vegan charcuterie. My own justification for the name of this amazing array of perfectly matched vegetables dressed in delectable sauces is that should people have eaten their veggies prepared this way every day, they would have never missed meat or even dessert.

That’s not to imply that the real charcuterie plate or the dessert sampling were anything short of perfect! An all organic bar with creative cocktails, all-California wine list and locally-brewed beers enhance the splendor of Gather. On January 11, the restaurant will add lunch and in February breakfast to its 7-days-a-week work regime to invite Cal students, office workers, and just about the entire community of Berkeley and beyond to gather over its small plates, pizzaz, and libations and rejoice together.
Gather is located steps to Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley Rep, and Aurora Theatre, on the ground floor of The David Brower Center at 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley. Call for reservations: 510-809-0400 or visit Photography by Yuri Krasov.


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