Community, local flavors, and expert preparation
PORK TERRINE With grilled country bread, and pickled carrots and onions.
As we continue to withdraw from the institutions that once organized modern life, we fill the abandoned spaces with restaurants. Few of us actually make things, for example, or adhere to a religious code, so now when we go to old mill buildings or old churches it is often to admire the labor of chefs, and express reverence for local and organic ingredients. Now in Yarmouth an old Masonic Hall has been repurposed into an appealing new restaurant called Gather. It might be Maine's best-yet reclamation of a shell of our previous communal ambitions.
People once gathered to do something; now we come together to consume. Gather offers a really handsome space in which to do so. The old hall has a sort of humble beauty in the form of a boxy simplicity with some polish — from the sheen of the wood floor to the inlaid high ceiling above. The white walls are decorated with a spare rusticity. An open kitchen, raised on the former stage, glows quietly in the back of the room, adding ambience without calling too much attention to itself. At the center of the room is a long communal table, which reinforces Gather's theme, over which hang some striking chandeliers — candles glowing within metallic-atomic spheres. There is a long bar, a wall of booths, a little lounge with a couch, and a corner with kids' toys.
In this space the Masons once combined a goofball sensibility with adult ambitions and masculine anxieties. They gave each other funny titles and put napkins on their heads in silly rituals, while they also strived toward greatness in achievement and behavior. Gather's menu lets you range from the humble to the ambitious with your napkin in your lap. The service is informal but professional, and the menu hides some seriousness behind a sheen of lamination and categories like "burgers and mains," "pizza" and "kids." In fact, Gather's best dishes are expertly prepared appetizers and entrées that appeal to adult sensibilities.
For example, crab and corn fritters had an airy lightness beneath a dark and crispy exterior. The aroma of crab and corn mingled with something citrusy and terrific. Even lighter was a puffy pile of finely shaved Brussels sprouts, touched with a barely sweet dressing to cut any bitterness, and studded with huge crunchy croutons and halves of perfectly soft-boiled eggs. Even the pork terrine managed to avoid heaviness. It was moist but not wet, studded with pistachios, with hints of something sour and tarragon. It came in a generous serving with grilled country bread and pickled carrots and onions.
In the short-rib entrée the meat was perched atop a fried puck of celery root — the vegetable not sliced or shredded but left in big tender pieces, an unusual preparation that was really terrific. It added some crunch and sour between the tender rib-meat and the rich lentils at the bottom of the bowl. A simple and satisfying fettuccini Bolognese was made with lots of rich, earthy mushrooms rather than meat. One slight disappointment was the braised beef, which had a good texture but seemed under-seasoned and sort of drab. But that was the exception. In general Gather's food shows both thoughtfulness and expert technique — the latter especially notable in the way beets and summer squash were not served too soft (as they so often are), and in a salmon dish combining ultra-crisp skin with moist flesh right on the edge of translucence. A dessert of crème brulée was salty in a surprisingly pleasant way.
: Restaurant Reviews
, food, Yarmouth, Gather, More