FEED ME: Gather Up, Im Falling in Love

By on May 6, 2015

feed-me-2Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I know, I know. Im featuring two wine dinners in a row in this column. This one is even at a restaurant I covered only four months ago. But thats how excited I am about what Gather is doing. My first dinner there, back in February, I thought their spaetzle was the best I’ve had outside of Germany but I wasn’t super excited about the deconstructed take on jambalaya. I thought the latter dry and shared my thoughts in this column. Evidently, I wasn’t the only person who had commented on this.

After that column was printed, I got an email from the restaurant managers thanking me for my honest critique. They said it wasn’t the first time they had heard that comment, and they were going to add some wetness to that dish.

feed-me-6The gesture showed me that, beyond its Tuesday Tastings at 2 (read my piece about that here), Gather really listens to this community. Im sure my comment about the jambalaya isnt the only one the restaurants owners, managers and chefs have taken to heart. (Check out the beignonut on its menu, which came from a Tuesday Tasting.)

Since my initial review, there has been a change in the kitchen: the baby-faced-but-inventive culinary badass Joel Hammond has taken over as executive chef. In addition to unveiling a summer menu, Hammond also has a plan to begin growing herbs and greens in the restaurants basement.

Starting soon, Gather is going to have several outside tables where you can get both food and drinks.
Sadly, what Im most excited about likely wont happen again until the fall: a four-course, prix fixe wine dinner. Gather had its first wine dinner two weeks ago and it quickly sold out at $75 per space. While co-owner Graeme Swain has visions of doing not only wine dinners in the future, but also whiskey and vodka dinners I hear Grand Teton Vodka Company is soon opening a tasting room next door to Gather this inaugural effort where the restaurant paired its dishes with Jackson Hole Winery libations was about as perfect as could be.

Each of the four courses was paired with a wine from the valleys only winery the grapes come from Sonoma and the winerys chief winemaker took a couple of minutes to explain each pour.

feed-me-3After I had finished the three savory courses and was in the middle of dessert (a flourless chocolate cake with Grand Marnier whipped cream), Hammond briefly emerged from the kitchen to describe his work for the evening. His time with us was more mingling and answering questions than giving specific descriptions.

I didn’t directly ask him many questions, but I eavesdropped on others. And what I heard made me appreciate the menu even more: Hammond himself caught the trout in the smoked trout cornette amuse (served with 2014 Jackson Hole Winery Rose) and the first course was a choice between spring nettle soup topped with bacon and including a perfectly soft-poached quail egg, or a watermelon salad. Having never had nettle soup, I opted for that. Of course Hammond foraged the nettles himself.

feed-me-4As interesting and flavorful as the nettle soup was, the star of the menu was the sous-vide Snake River Farms Chateaubriand main course. (Diners got two options for each course; the other entre option was seared pheasant breast) I had hoped to overhear that Hammond had wrestled the cow himself, but he did not.

Even had the beef shown up on a plate with nothing else, which of course it didnt as Gather does some of the most beautiful presentations in the valley, it would have ranked among one of the best steaks I have ever had.

It was prepared a perfect medium-rare. Although cooked sous vide this means Hammond and team put it in a vacuum-sealed bag then submerged it in hot water the steak was later quickly charred on both sides to add a bit of texture. The outside was so flavorful, I guessed Hammond had perhaps dusted it with coffee (a trick I think might be a favorite of his). When I asked him, his answer was much simpler: Salt and pepper, thats all we used, he said.

The steak was well over 1-inch thick and I rarely needed a knife to cut it.

My only problem with the steak is that it wasn’t served with my absolute favorite JH Winery wine, its 2012 Catch & Release Zinfandel. Instead the steak was paired with a 2012 Rendezvous Red, which is a 60/40 blend of Cabernet Franc and Syrah. The Rendezvous Red is wonderfully approachable and far from boring, but I just so love the Catch & Release.

feed-me-5Its not that we didn’t get to drink any Catch & Release. Its spicy notes go best with chocolate, so it was served with the chocolate dessert.

While Gather does not anticipate holding any wine dinners over the summer I think its something I want to save for locals in the off-season, Swain said do look for its new outdoor seating, a new summer menu and a cocktail version of its Tuesday Tastings at 2, Calling the Shots.

Starting sometime soonish stay tuned for details, the restaurant said and continuing through the summer (by reservation only), one Friday per month at 4 p.m., the restaurants mixologists and bartenders will create several signature cocktails that participants get to taste and then vote on. The Calling the Shots winner will appear as a drink special on the following weeks menu.

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Reservations recommended (required for the Tuesday Tastings, any future wine dinners, and Calling the Shots); 72 S. Glenwood; open daily 5 10 p.m.; 307-264-1820; gatherjh.com.


About Geraldine Mishev

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