Happy Contradiction

The vegan "charcuterie" plate at Gather in Berkeley is actually worthy of its name

Do not–under any circumstances–scoff at the term "vegan charcuterie" while dining at the new Berkeley restaurant Gather.

The disjointed pairing of two oxymoronic terms may have you tsk-tsking under your breath. But after one bite, those judgmental exhalations will transform into gasps of wonder.

Chef Sean Baker has a long history with pristine vegetables. Previously he was the chef at Gabriella Café in Santa Cruz, where most of the produce came from one-acre Lindencroft Farm nearby. At Gather, he continues to work with Lindencroft, in addition to sourcing produce from other exemplary purveyors such as Martin Bournhonesque, T & D Willey Farms and County Line.

These vegetables' enviable genealogy shines in the six preparations that comprise the vegan "charcuterie" plate. Yet Baker is unafraid to harness and manipulate his superb raw ingredients.

Thin rounds of celery root are blanched, then pressed around a stuffing of slow-cooked broccoli stems and onions startlingly akin to a benchmark cream-of-broccoli soup. Sweet and musky Rugosa squash is cooked two ways: pureed and cubed for a sweet-sour caponata. The puree is then spread on crostini and topped with the cubed squash–one ingredient, two brilliantly complementary treatments.

Roasted cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with dill-almond pesto; Purple Haze carrots cooked sous vide with cashew ricotta and pea tendrils; slivered chicory and fried sunchoke salad: The list goes on (and on), as Baker and his team continuously rotate the plate's components.

If Baker and company's vegan "charcuterie" is the future of produce treated with the precision and meticulousness usually reserved for salumi, we'll let Baker and company call it whatever they like.

Gather, 2200 Oxford St. (at Allston Wy.), Berkeley; 510-809-0400 or gatherrestaurant.com