Whenever I take a trip up north to the Bay Area, I always feel so much more at home there than I do down here in southern California, despite having spent the vast majority of my life in this sleepy coastal town. Maybe it's because I love my sister and her boyfriend's newest abode in a charming East Bay neighborhood minutes from everything; the house itself is so homey, with the easy-going presence of its equally-lovable inhabitants completing that reliable feeling of warmth and comfort. It certainly doesn't hurt that there is so much more overt diversity--in all aspects of the term--there than here. That, of course, extends to the food--something that my dear big sis also recognizes and makes a point to showcase. The widespread recognition in the Bay gives both me and my sister tasty excuses to explore food together without either of us having to compromise our specific dietary preferences. So we get to try new things, bond, learn a thing or two about what we're eating, and of course, appease our appetites--a win-win situation, for sure.
My sister always insists upon accommodating my vegan diet, whether that involves eating out or at the house. So normally, upon my arrival, she will have already researched restaurants in the area that sound both appealing to her, her boyfriend, and me, and plan to eat at said location. This time around, a slightly-more-than-casual night out included a visit to Gather in Berkeley. My sister heard about the place while reading this article online, found further praise through various customer reviews, and determined that the three of us would have a merry time filling our stomachs there. Gather's restaurant menu contains half vegetarian and vegan options, half meat options, which ended up suiting all of our food preferences well. We found the place to have a good atmosphere befitting the name. I ended up ordering the Eggplant Pizza, a brick oven-baked creation with eggplant, tomato, olives, fresh mint, and cashew puree. It was delicious--yes, even in the Daiya and Teese age, it is still possible to enjoy cheese-less pizza--but too large for me to finish in one sitting. That was fine by me, because the next day's leftovers were still quite tasty.
In general, I ate really well (and by "well," that's more in the sense of sensory appeal rather than relative to my usual health-consciousness). While I usually enjoy my trips to the Bay, this one in particular was enlightening and memorable; I spent much-needed face time with some beloved friends, who happened to enjoy their respective goodie boxes. So yes, the food was good, but it can't compare to the overall experience. I'm sad to be back "home," but at the same time, various newfound perspectives from the trip might be useful for making positive changes for myself in the future. And that can only be a good thing.