dinner parties

Brunch party in our garden (FosterATX + Daphne House)

 

There's nothing I love more than collaborating with local creatives on a project centered around food. As many of you probably know from my blog, entertaining and throwing dinner parties are my favorite way to connect with people through home cooked meals and lots of wine. There's something inherently beautiful about treating guests with hospitality in my own home. It's a way to showcase my love of cooking but in a theatrical way, with a carefully set table and matching plates and silverware. We expect good ambience from a restaurant because that's expected and the restaurant industry is strictly business, but when we walk into someone's dining room that is carefully decorated for the guests with food and drinks prepared by the host, it makes us feel so special and warm inside. And that feeling is what I think the guests of FosterATX become hooked on and keep coming back to. So when the Foster girls reached out to me about a brunch party collaboration, it was a definite yes.

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After having the girls over one night for one of my dinner parties, we've been talking about using our space for a food event. We live in a small home but with a spacious backyard with lots of greenery and character. The theme was "garden brunch" and in my humble opinion, our place was perfect for it. The brunch consisted of a 5 course meal prepped by the lovely couple (Tanner and Maradeth) behind Daphne House, a local catering company. The focus was all gluten-free meals including the desserts. From grits to bruschetta to fried quail, everything was prepared in our tiny kitchen. Sam from Bricolage Curated Florals provided the vibrant centerpieces, and Cathead Vodka provided the vodka for the bloody marys. Loot Vintage Rentals provided the tables, chairs, plates, glasses, and silverware. There were lots of mimosas to go around as well and some amazing golden milk from Crcuma, a food truck in town. It was a day filled with familiar faces and new faces, amazing food, and being in my home without feeling quite like my home. Everyone transformed our backyard into a dreamy space, and everyone involved had a good start to their weekend.

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Dinner party!

 
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This post is long overdue. I teamed up with Madeline from the blog Madeline Hall and decided to throw a dinner party in my backyard. Check out all of the yummy goodies we made, in addition to the lovely cake baked by The White Kitten Bakes and props from Kettle and Brine! I met Madeline at the FeedFeed event during SXSW and as soon as I read her blog, I knew we would have a ton in common. We talked about doing a styled shoot together and after a few weeks, we had everything figured out! We had a blast styling the table and getting to know each other. 

 

 

FosterATX Event: Summer Harvest

 

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!

 

FosterATX Event: Il Nido Cena, A Taste of Italy

 

Half a year ago, I was starting to learn how to use a DSLR and quickly fell in love with photography. From there, I started my Instagram account in hopes of connecting with local creatives and started searching for people near me by querying local hashtags. I stumbled upon FosterATX's account and was in awe when I attended the first event. There was so much beauty and style: beautiful lighting, a welcoming entrance, craft cocktails with the perfect balance, talented musicians that can stir something inside you, and an intimate environment with creative people like talented photographers and makers. Half a year ago, I was struggling to fit into this amazing city that is Austin, mostly because I didn't know how to find people that I clicked with or had the same interests. I don't necessarily like partying, but I enjoy the occasional craft cocktail at a speakeasy with toned down music. If the bar is an old Victorian house with lots of charm and moody lighting, I'm there. I like talking food. Like really talking food. Going to innovative restaurants and analyzing every exotic ingredient and discussing what makes everything balance out so well. Honestly, traditional tacos and BBQ are quite boring in my opinion (sorry Texas!). I like traveling because it inspires my cooking and the artist inside me. My fellow coworkers (who are engineers) never understood why I was so fixated on incorporating art into everything. I almost contemplated moving back to New England, frustrated that nobody resonated with me. But then I found Foster. These girls really care about design and put so much effort into creating a beautiful space. And by attending these events, I've met so many people who are the same way. It's been an exciting journey watching these girls curate jaw dropping events one after another, and this most recent one is definitely one of my favorites.

At around 7pm, guests arrived at this beautiful red home on the East side. Walking through the side gate, you enter the cozy backyard embraced in string lights and Italian instrumental music. Each guest is handed a glass of rosé and encouraged to mingle and walk around. There's an olive tree in the back which adds a nice Mediterranean touch, and the tables are set with textured napkins and bouquets of eucalyptus and wild flowers. Everywhere you look, there's greenery. There's something soothing about the whole place.

After some hugs and how are you's, everyone started seating themselves and exchanging introductions with their neighbors. The guy who owns Peached Tortilla sat near us and got bombarded with questions like how did you start your business and do you still work in the kitchen. Conversations about restaurants in town dominated the table for a while because let's face it: all attendees are here because of their passion for food.

The girls introduced themselves and chef Ryan Peace, who talked about each course as they were served. More wine was poured as the night went on and there was chatter about cooking, favorite Ramen places, Netflix cooking shows, and travel. Andew had just flown back from Belgium that morning and already made plans with Anthony to drink the sour beers he brought back. Erica and I gushed over the langoustine that was served, which was flown straight from Italy for the event. We were trying to teach people around us how to crack open the shell and the girl next to me sent hers flying... and everyone had a good laugh. People were stuffed by the main dish and the affogato was a great pick me up after the food coma daze everyone was in. By the end of the night, we were all friends and said our farewells before heading home. There's something special about sharing a 4 course meal with people under the warm glow of the globe lights, and Anthony and I walked back to the car wishing we could experience it all over again.

 

Sources: table and napkins (Loot Vintage Rentals), ceramic plates and glassware (Peached Tortilla)

 

Menu

Antipasti: Stracciatella, Salsa Verde, Botarga, Arugula

Primi: Baked langoustine, green garlic & saffron risotto, prosciutto chip

Entreé: Lamb shank ragu, Anson Mills polenta, birds nest, duck egg

Farewell: Blood orange affogato