Gather restaurant in Berkeley, flavor tripping party in Honolulu

Biting Commentary is back on the Island…Here's my last Bay Area item and a heads up on a Honolulu food event.

This last trip to San Francisco, I've done something I've never done before: traveled with a vegan. Usually, my trips to the city are charcuterie-, pastry-, seafood-, fried chicken-laden affairs. But while I certainly cheated on my friend when out of her sight (hello Nopa custard french toast and ice cream), I also came away with experiences I would never have had otherwise. And isn't that what travel is all about?

Namely, there was our dinner at Berkeley's Gather, a place that serves vegans and carnivores and everyone in between. The banquettes may be upholstered with reclaimed leather belts, but the restaurant was devoid of a sanctimony that you might expect out of a Berkeley restaurant that upcycles for its interior design and serves vegan food. A spicy tomato pizza with capers and cashew puree electrified our tastebuds, a mushroom dashi with whipped tofu provided as much comforting satisfaction as a hamburger might to a meat eater, and a vegan charcuterie platter proved I could still have my charcuterie in San Francisco. OK, not exactly. This wasn't a plate of fake cured meats, but a still life of black trumpet mushrooms on a deeply savory puree of pine nut, miso and rosemary; carrots with translucently thin shaved fennel; cauliflower with nori and whispers of celery; all tasting so much more than the sum of its parts.

Our last sit-down meal of San Francisco, and I wouldn't have had it any other (meaty) way.

Flavor Tripping Party

The miracle berry. It's not acai or coffee cherry with marketably high antioxidant levels. It doesn't cure cancer or heart disease. Rather, it makes sour taste sweet, makes lemons taste like candy, vinegar like sugar syrup. Try this "miracle berry" (scientific name Synsepalum dulcificum), yourself this week at a a flavor tripping party a la those featured in the New York Times four years ago.

Eat the berry, then plan your flavor trip itinerary among the spread of sour and bitter ingredients and pupus at the party.

$55 online/$60 at the door, 6 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 7 at The Standard,