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The Midnight in the Garden Pop-Up Celebrates Some of Texas’ Top Culinary Talent

Born out of pandemic innovation, founder Alex Bell brings creative family-style dinners under the stars to Austin foodies

Born out of the pandemic, Midnight in the Garden founder Alex Bell found it devastating to hear about chefs closing their doors. Not wanting their talents to waste away during those uncertain times, Bell came up with the idea to create an outdoor oasis where chefs could continue showing off their culinary talents.

Taking to his Instagram to recruit his foodie friends, Bell enlisted friend and chef Damien Brockway (of Distant Relatives) to provide a safe culinary experience in his backyard.

Top right: Founder Alex Bell

Soon the garden grew from the backyard to unique and magical spaces across the city. Still, his backyard bloomed into the garden through the talented direction of his partner, Jaycee Grover. Armed with an eye for decoration and a passion for helping Alex’s idea flourish.

With several pop-up style dinners a month, Midnight in the Garden is like a friendly foodie gathering where everyone feels like family. Bell and his team tap talented food and wine stars for each iteration of the event, and each one is cozy, unique, and an exploration of mouthwatering flavors.

Last week, we attended the Midnight in the Garden dinner featuring chef Kristina Zhao of Dashi in San Antonio.

Chef Kristina Zhao of San Antonio’s Dashi.

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Surrounded by flickering candlelight, beautifully overgrown flora, and an open-air gallery of black velvet art, we dined on a multi-course meal that felt never ending in the best way possible. Bell presided over the evening, weaving a narrative with a cast of dishes, wines, and desserts all spectacularly made by Chef Zhao. Chef Zhao delighted guests to a culinary poem centered on her Sichuan heritage and journey to becoming a star in the San Antonio food scene.

A lotus root salad stood in for her first return to cooking in college, as pork belly, noodles, sprouts, and yum yum sauce described the first flavors San Antonians fell in love with at her restaurant. The entire meal came with savory notes of melt-in-your-mouth poached fish and eye candy displays of scallops on a half shell in a fountain of dry ice-induced fog. Ending with a sweet conclusion of Blueberry Naigaimo in chilled glasses.

Despite having entered as strangers, no one can maintain a cold shoulder when there’s a chance of missing out on a bite of Zhaos coveted smashed cucumbers with garlic and bird-eye chili. With parting chocolates in hand, the bittersweet need to leave only left us wanting more.

With Bell’s innovation and passion to champion chefs, Midnight in the Garden will leave everyone wanting to stay well past midnight in the garden.

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