photos by hannah haston
You’re given an address. You arrive at a warehouse, walk in the door and wait with a group of strangers, all curious about what lies behind the entryway. You’re soon taken on a journey that carries you from learning about the history of the space to the background of the person next to you to the culinary adventure that lies ahead. At this point, you decide you’re not leaving any time soon. You grab a cocktail, have meaningful conversations with your new friends, and set your attention on finding your name card at the 40-foot dinner table. There’s a musician setting the tone with intoxicating sounds, an artist telling you the story behind his work hanging on the wall behind you, and a feeling behind every detail of this experience that somehow ties it all together and lingers with you long after leaving.
This is what FosterATX is all about: curating intimate gatherings that engage you with interesting people and the town you call home. Their gatherings provide a setting to not only meet new friends, but also local chefs, musicians, and artists that are pursuing their passions and sharing them with you. Of course, we were curious to see what a dinner party would look like in co-founders Stephanie, Shelby and Sara’s own home, and it’s no surprise that we were in for a treat. Scroll on to read about their story and their favorite ways to make every guest feel right at home.
Tell us about Foster ATX:
It all ties back to a five-week backpacking trip across Europe. The three of us graduated from The University of Georgia with the hopes of doing something bigger. To live a life full of passion and purpose. We returned home from our time abroad and felt uninspired by where we were going and what we were doing. On a whim, we booked a trip out to Austin. It dawned on us that we could bridge what we loved so much about our time in Europe — the culture, the energy, the community — with the overflowing talent in this town. We dropped everything and moved a few months later.
In May of 2016, our website officially launched and we held our very first gathering. Fast forward to now and we have held 48 gatherings to date. At the heart of it, we curate intimate pop-up dinners and concerts in unique spaces around town — all with the mission to bring our community together in a meaningful and authentic way. We have collaborated with some of the most talented chefs and musicians, brought magic back to house shows, and shared rich stories around the dinner table. With each gathering, our intention revolves around hospitality — from the guests to the musicians, chefs, brand partners, bartenders, and artists — making sure that everyone that touches the event feels at home.
Our hope is that the experience doesn’t end when the night does. That it lingers with them — the feeling of inspiration, warmth, and exceeded expectations. Our measurement of a successful event? When the person who shows up alone leaves having the most incredible time.
Your must-have entertaining tool:
Endless candles. They effortlessly set the tone, every time. Also, mezcal. We once were greeted with mezcal sippers at our Airbnb in Mexico City and have since sought to replicate the same experience in our own home. It’s a subtle yet an unexpected moment of delight for guests — and really emphasizes the act of slowing down and enjoying.
The perfect dinner party playlist includes:
A mix of classics and newly discovered. It creates the comforting sense of nostalgia where guests are singing along, to elements of intrigue with new music. Often times you will hear tracks of local artists — ones that we’ve gotten the opportunity to work with and get to know on a personal level. Kalu & The Electric Joint, Cowboy Diplomacy, The Lagoons, David Ramirez, Wild Now, The Hard Truth, Naala, Fort Never to name a few. We’ve got a lot of great people in our corner to say the least.
Go-to centerpiece solution:
Eucalyptus and overflowing greenery.
Tell us about your house!
We are currently renting our home which we stumbled upon on Craigslist. We had to fight hard for this one. A mother and son renovated the home together and it’s filled to the brim with character. We scored the biggest win with this beauty.
What’s your go-to source for recipes?
So much of our inspiration comes from people we’ve collaborated with for Foster dinners. We’ve been lucky enough to be in the back kitchen with our chefs and trying out really fantastic dishes that you simply can’t get elsewhere. Although we can’t recreate what they do by any means, it’s our biggest source of inspiration and often influences new dishes at home. We are proud to say we’ve perfected the 6-minute egg all thanks to Chef Ryan Peace).
What would we never find at one of your parties?
LED candles. To be honest we can be pretty careless with spilling wax, but we’d rather clean it up every time over putting out led candles. There is something about the act of lighting 10+ candles before a guest arrives that just immediately sets the tone, both for you and the guest.
Always in your refrigerator:
Topo Chico, eggs (3 cartons at all times), kale, mushrooms and Crystal hot sauce. A kombucha here and there.
Spicy Mezcal Margarita, always. We like to puree fresh cucumber and jalapeno to make it refreshing with a good kick.
Our entertaining style in 5 words or less:
natural, simple, welcoming, intentional, warm
The entertaining rule you never break:
Always have bites waiting for guests upon their arrival. Even if you’re still preparing the rest of the components of the evening — it allows for guests to be a part of the experience while you’re doing last minute touches on cocktails or dishes (while keeping them well fed).
Secret to a great dinner party:
Set the tone from the moment guests walk in. Make room for deep, intentional conversations. The food and drink are important, but the moments spent unplugging, diving into thoughtful conversation, and lingering over a meal is what it’s all about. Don’t rush to clean up — allow for the night (and wine) to flow. Once you start moving around to clean up, it often sends the message that you’re ready to wrap things up. One of the biggest takeaways from our travels abroad is to linger. Slow down. Enjoy the company and the moment.
What’s your standard host outfit?
Sara – something loose, barefoot
Stephanie – something comfortable, and typically dark. I’m often in the kitchen up until the last minute — and as much as I love white/cream, the spills and stains are real.
Shelby – Black on black, always barefoot.
What guest behavior is your biggest pet peeve?
Cell phones out.
Your signature dish for parties:
You can’t go wrong with a quality cheese board. The best part is that there’s so much room for creativity — incorporating a variety elements to make each one different. Especially bringing in other treats like homemade hummus, roasted veggies and fresh bread from a local bakery (Easy Tiger and Texas French Bread are our go-to’s). We love to have fun with it — making it colorful and vibrant, while highlighting as many in-season elements as possible.
Current favorite color palette for parties:
Natural tones – wood & greenery.
Favorite tabletop item you own?
Serving dishes and spoons from a vintage market we stumbled upon in Mexico City. The three of us traveled there together this past November and it was one of our most memorable trips to date. We’ve traveled to over 11 countries together, but for some reason just hoping on that quick flight to Mexico City really did it for us. The design, the food, the mezcal and the hospitality. Mexico City absolutely blew us away in every way possible and we love having little reminders of the city here in the house that we use everyday. We are at our best when we are diving into new cities and cultures. We come back feeling invigorated and inspired — it started and always goes back to travel. It’s who we are.
The restaurant meal I’ll never forget:
One of our most memorable meals to date was in a small restaurant in San Sebastian, Spain. We had been hiking all day and were open to just about anything — we weren’t looking for anything spectacular. We ended up ducking into a tiny resturant off a small cobblestone street and what unfolded was a 5 course decadent dinner with curated wine pairings and the most incredible conversations. Often times the most unassuming places will far exceed your expectations.
What scares you about entertaining?
It’s funny, entertaining genuinely runs in our blood. When we’re not busy curating a Foster gathering, we’re likely hosting friends in our home. We find so much joy in it. Having done as much entertaining as we have over the past few years, we’ve learned to let go of the fear, stress and worry that often times comes along with entertaining. Things will go wrong, you will forget a key ingredient of the recipe, and a spill will happen, guaranteed. It’s about rolling with the punches — embracing the imperfections and the human-ness of it all, and sitting back and enjoying the company.
Favorite after-dinner activity or game:
We have a cozy little treehouse in our backyard that always manages to lure guests in after we wrap up inside. We’ll bring out all the pillows, candles and blankets we have and pile them all up to create a mini oasis. Some of our most cherished memories are squeezing 8-10 people out there to share stories and deep belly laughs. It’s a special place.
Do you reference any family traditions when you entertain?
Always make people feel at home. The same goes for each Foster gathering we curate. Often times guests are walking in vulnerably by themselves or with just another friend or two. Our hope is that whenever we entertain, people instantly feel at ease — they feel welcomed and comfortable. It starts and ends with intention. We often say that we collect people over time as part of our larger Foster community — so the more we can collect in one night, the better.
Dream dinner guests?
Liz Lambert, Ryan Holiday, Oprah, Justin Vernon
Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without ____________.”
Music and people. A vinyl spinning and the right people to enjoy it with.