The moment I read the description of what chef Sarah Heard was envisioning for the next Foster ATX event, I was intrigued. I remember seeing her once at the annual Fall Festival at Boggy Creek Farm, where she was preparing a beautifully sculpted dessert at her stand. I can't really recall what the dessert was (maybe a mousse of some kind?) but she had a little boy helping her pass them out. It was such a touching moment, and it stuck with me. So when the girls at FosterATX asked if I wanted to provide my backyard as the event space, the answer was a definite yes.
Sarah's vision for the dinner was to highlight the summer fruits and vegetables, sourced from local farmers and her own garden. Most farmers and gardeners know that vegetables at the peak of it's season are much more flavorful and juicy than its counterparts. To create amazing dishes, the quality of the produce also needs to be high. I've shamefully gone through phases in which I doused all of my food in sauces and spices. But recently I've been trying to make the effort to shine the spotlight on the produce and meats I use, instead of masking their natural flavor. Sarah's description of the dinner seemed perfectly in line with what I wanted to accomplish in my cooking, and I wanted to learn from her.
Unfortunately, there was a thunderstorm scare on the day of the event, and we ended up switching locations to the home of the girls at FosterATX. But everything worked out in the end. As each guest was greeted at the wooden gate, they passed the fence overflowing with jasmine and arrived at an intimate patio. The beautiful yellow tables from Loot Vintage were decorated with fresh flowers and eucalyptus along with chic black candles in vintage brass holders. Beautifully printed menus adorned with sprigs of rosemary welcomed each guest at their seat. Even in times of panic, Shelby, Stephanie, and Sara always perfect the vibe of each of their gatherings. They really are a huge inspiration.
As guests started seating themselves, the first aperitif was served. A simple gin and rosemary cocktail from Revolution Spirits. They seriously make the best gin around here, and my go-to gin for cocktail experiments are from Revolution Spirits. It's smooth while still keeping a nice herbal touch. I ran out of their gin recently, and out of desperation, bought some Aviation gin. What a mistake. I'll be switching back to Revolution Spirits as soon as I can make a trip out to their distillery again.
When it was time for the first course, Sarah came out and introduced her dish. The beet tart with junes joy chèvre, fennel pollen, soft bitter greens. The tanginess of the cheese (from Antonelli's, a local cheese producer) paired perfectly with the sweetness of the two-toned beets. This was my friend Hannah's favorite dish. The flavor combination was simple, yet so well balanced.
The main course was a crispy skinned redfish with coppa, fennel, cold smoked tomatoes, roasted red pepper fumet, and faro. The redfish was from the gulf, and the coppa was handmade by Sarah's boyfriend who is also a chef. The plate itself was so beautiful with the bright red fumet and the perfectly browned redfish. As a fish lover, this was definitely my favorite dish. This was paired with an amaro and soda cocktail. Who knew a distillery in Austin made their own amaro?
The dessert was a lemon pith panna cotta with green tea, rose water, and almond lace tulle. As much as Sarah emphasized how easy it is to make panna cotta, I know from experience that achieving the perfectly creamy consistency is pretty difficult. Too much gelatin will make your panna cotta into milk jello, but hers was superb. It had a very complex flavor profile as well, thanks to the bitterness of the lemon pith. This was paired with an amazing dessert cocktail made with coffee liquor.
In addition to the wonderful ambiance and the most incredible food, what really stuck out to me from this evening was Sarah's curiosity for trying parts of plants that people don't usually consume. She skillfully incorporated fragrant tomato leaves in the entrée and made an interesting gel out of fig leaves (which tasted like coconut) to go with the panna cotta. I love chefs that are innovative, and I really admire Sarah for that. She also gave me some gardening tips which was really thoughtful. Overall, another magical night :)
If you live in the Austin area and would like to attend one of these pop up dinners, go check out the gatherings page at fosteratx.com!