A chalkboard sign outside the secret location highlights the chefs of the night: Yoni Lang and Jeffrey Miller. They met during their time at Uchiko, and after going their separate ways for a while, they decided to reconnect for this sushi pop up. Once inside Noah Marion Quality Goods, guests are greeted with Junmai sake from Texas Sake Company at the brass top bar. A neon sign and a row of hammers adorns the bar, providing an old-school yet stylish charm. It's a tight space, so naturally the guests start introducing themselves and mingling. There are place cards at each seat, and I ask the girls about it. We're doing something new. We placed people's dates diagonal from each other so that they would naturally open up and invoke conversation. It's a subtle, yet practical tactic on their part. And sure enough that's exactly what happened.
Because you see, these events aren't just food events. The name "Foster" comes from fostering a community. And in this busy city that is Austin, it's difficult to meet people. Sure you can go to a bar, talk to someone over loud thumping music and most likely never see them again. But those interactions are quite shallow, filled with uninteresting conversation. I want to get to know people from their core. I don't care what school you went to, or where you work. Tell me about your passions, what you geek out about, what you believe in. I find myself drawn increasingly more to people who can share those things with me, and people who have a creative soul. The ones who care about travel, food, painting, photography, music, writing, anything that brings beauty into this world. People who can create art that is original, poetic. And coincidentally, these foster events naturally attract those types of guests. It's a magical mystery.
Once the guests were seated, conversations started flowing, and so did the sake. Nigori, oak aged junmai, and I can't remember the rest but all very clean and flavorful. And the food... Each course was crafted carefully, with so much intention. All of them being small bites made it easy to enjoy and savor every one of them. They were all delicious, but there were two in particular that stood out to me from the rest. The kinoko sashimi reminded me of a caprese salad; light, refreshing, and herbal. But instead of mozzarella or basil, the chefs used meaty mushroom slices and shiso. The dessert with the soy sauce caramel reminded me of winter days at my grandma's in Japan. We would eat roasted rice cakes dipped in soy sauce and powdered with sugar and kinako during the new year. I was plagued with nostalgia and a sweet, familiar comfort at the candlelit dinner table. And by the time we were wrapping up dessert, it had already been 5 hours of eating and drinking with new friends. A perfect way to end the night.
Hiramasa Crudo — white ponzu - chive
Hotate — cauliflower - ikura - millet - grapefruit
Kinoko Sashimi — smoked olive oil
Beef Tartare — shiso rivogate - quail egg
Sake Chicharron — creme fraiche - ikura - dill
Bincho — pico de gallo
Hon Shimeji — thai chili - brown rice vinegar
Shima Aji — gomashio - nikiri - cherrywood
Ebi Étouffée — brown roux - holy trinity
Saba Toast — sourdough - tomato - avocado
Crab — charred green tomatos - street corn
Sake Maki — aka kosho - nikiri - shiso
Fruit - cream - soy sauce caramel
And if you're curious about the style change in my photos, I'm trying to be more conscious of light ever since my workshop with Don (which you can read about here). Playing with it, moving my subjects around it, finding the perfect angle for it. Light can really change the mood in a photograph I think. And to me, the best photographs are the ones that can invoke some feeling, a little tug at the heart, an involuntary sigh, maybe some goosebumps and a chill up the spine. It's possible to do that, but having good lighting is key. At least that's what I believe. Do you agree?