Photographs by Evan Norton
As its name suggests, there’s something comforting about Gathering Together Farm, the farm-to-table restaurant in Philomath, Ore. In a word: homey.
It begins upon arrival. Surrounded by farmscape, I approach the restaurant through an entryway of wooden steps covered by a canopy made out of tree limbs and branches. The friendly waitress warmly greets me and asks for my party’s name before leading me to my table with a personalized name card on it.
The entire atmosphere is relaxing. Most of the seating area is on an outdoor patio that’s enclosed by sliding-glass doors with wooden frames, which can make the restaurant almost completely outdoors in the summertime.
However, even when the winter keeps these doors closed, there’s still a sense of bringing the outside in. Painted tree branches crawl up the interior walls and hanging flower baskets are scattered between tables. The tables, chairs and benches are made of roughly cut wood and round paper lanterns suspend from the wooden beams above.
I should note here that dinner reservations at Gathering Together Farm are necessary. It’s not a huge space to begin with and it seemed that guests stuck around at their tables for quite a while, enjoying their food and their company.
Not unlike the environment, the eats at Gathering Together Farm are earthy and wholesome with a hint of indulgence. Their menu changes weekly and often depends on the produce in season. Consistently, the antipasti items are often variations of soups and salads, with a few unexpected items thrown in like duck liver mousse with beets and pistachios. 12-inch pizzas of different varieties, which can be ordered as an appetizer or a main course, are also a staple of the menu. They’re baked in a rustic wood-fired pizza oven that sits off in the corner of the restaurant
To start, I order the trio of antipasti, which includs small servings of a pickled cucumber salad, a lemon-dressed salad of radishes, carrots and snap peas, and an espresso-sized cup of chilled sorrel soup. At $7.50, the price seems a bit high for the portion given to me. Nonetheless, the salads are extremely fresh and the cool, green sorrel soup tastes like a creamy pesto sauce.
With this, I ask for a glass of the Spindrift Pinot Blanc, which is dry, crisp, and served chilled at $7 a glass. Along with eight to ten types of local wine, the drink menu contains several Oregonian beers, including an interesting Ginseng Porter from Oregon Trail Brewery.
As it should be, the main course is the absolute highlight of the dinner: large, perfectly cooked prawns over a bed of warm polenta, all basking in a salty, buttery sauce, garnished with cool, crunchy snap peas, radishes and cucumber. The contrasting textures and temperatures really make this dish satisfying. My only complaint is that the sauce is nearly a bit too salty, but it doesn’t ruin the dish for me. That aside, each of the main courses seem reasonably portioned, ranging from $15-$20 depending on choice of meat (or the single vegetarian option). My belly is content but I’m not left with much on my plate.
Luckily, I save room for dessert. Of the four options they have available, I’m able to try both the lemon cheesecake and the flourless chocolate cake, both with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. Everyone at my table agrees that the cheesecake is the winner. It has the right amount of sweetness, offset by the bright lemon, and an authentic cheese flavor with a dense texture.
The thing that really stands out about Gathering Together Farm’s cuisine is the raw freshness and earthiness that’s often missing in the average restaurant. While sitting at my table, I can literally watch trucks loaded with crops from the farm across the street deliver straight to the kitchen before they end up on my plate.
It’s the comfort of knowing where my meal comes from and the restaurant’s folksy, down-to-earth vibe that makes me want to return to Gathering Together Farm.