Finding Forster: The Workshop explores grain in Silo City - PHOTOS
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 20, 2013 @ 9:45pm
When you consider the connotations surrounding words like “underground,” “exclusive” and “guerilla,” the last idea that pops into your head is probably a multi-course dinner prepared by an elite chef at an unexpected locale.
This seemingly cutting-edge dining practice isn’t as progressive as you might think—Jeremy Townsend of Ghetto Gourmet was a pioneer of these so-called “pop-up restaurants” in 2003 in Oakland, Calif.—and, like most food trends, the approach’s popularity ebbs and flows.
Much like the food truck craze that’s bombarded Buffalo over the last three years, the Nickel City is a little late to the pop-up restaurant ball-game.
Former Athenaeum Hotel chef Ross Warhol held a series of pop-ups, while Pure Peru’s Martha Sosa offered another as a fundraiser—while uber-secretive omakase buffalo has been in existence for nearly a year.
Through the Workshop, former Mike A’s Steakhouse chef Ed Forster (pictured above, right side of photo) is attempting a feat that’s pretty foreign to Buffalo: uniting adventurous eaters through social media and word-of-mouth for a themed meal at a surprise setting—unveiled only 24 hours before the dinner itself.
Our freelance blogger extraordinaire, Nick Mendola, neatly laid out Forster’s cooking history and aspirations for the Workshop Buffalo in this recent interview.
For the first dinner, between 50 and 75 pre-selected attendees and their guests were given directions on Wednesday evening for what to wear, where to meet, what to expect and what to bring.
Although the event organizers stressed secrecy, few questions were left unanswered for those who paid the $45 dinner fee in advance. Don’t plan on “showing up at the door” of these events with a puppy-dog face and the expectation of admission.
Attendees were told to refrain from posting anything on social media that would disclose the location until after the event was over—no checking in, no Instagram photos, no Silo City selfies (toughest part for me).
The banks of the Buffalo River played host to the early portion of the dinner, as Forster and Park Country Club chef James Roberts—among others—doled out small portions of the first three dishes described to the right. A worthy note: the poached shrimp and rice puff were served delicately (precariously? My rice puff toppled off onto the table) atop a flat rock—intended for skipping after the food was consumed.
(Also, for what it’s worth, my stone skipped eight times—the advantages of having a backyard pond as a child.)
While Roberts scurried back and forth from a small fire pit, Forster lurked over a portable deep-frier, tending to his molten Painted Meadows rabbit and puy lentil croquette while simultaneously squeezing out dots of mustard chiffonade onto small plates.
Under the roofed-off train-track area between grain elevators, Mike A’s Lounge bartender Tony Rials orchestrated the cocktails—a Manhattan or an apple-cider infused vodka drink—while Community Beer Works’ Ethan Cox oversaw three varieties of craft beer on hand.
After a couple words from Forster—little more than a ‘thank you’ for attending and a bit about the dinner theme—Workshop patrons moseyed inside the nearest grain elevator for phase two of the food.
Here, Forster, Roberts and co.—with DJ Mike Cutler spinning in the background—prepared the remainder of the delicacies, including the tostada (with a refreshing touch of mint), corn bisque (which blanketed the smooth panna cotta and the spicy harissa aioli) and black barley-rubbed angus beef striploin.
Due to previous commitments, I didn’t get to stick around for the striploin (pictured right courtesy of Buffalo Eats) or the dessert duo, but enough of Buffalo’s foodie crowd snapped images that can be found below.
Don’t miss the gallery put together by Buffalo Spree’s KC Kratt, who did a fine job of capturing the inaugural Workshop.
Much like Martin Danilowicz’s project on Connecticut Street in the West Side—Martin Cooks—Forster’s venture represents risk, a desire to make Buffalo relevant as a food city on a national level and the passion to introduce Buffalonians to an adventurous style of eating.
Who knows where Forster and his Workshop clan will set up next? Who knows who they will invite? The roof of HSBC Tower? The rocks of Squaw Island? Inside the tigers’ cage in the Buffalo Zoo? That last one is improbable.
Comment: A very nice picstitch of the first Workshop courtesy of Buffalo Foodie Nina Barone
Comment: Rials (right) and his fellow bartender from Mike A’s Lounge
Comment: An image of Forster’s tostada
Comment: Forster in action with the corn bisque inside a grain elevator
Comment: A glimpse inside of the molten Painted Meadows rabbit croquette stuffed with puy lentils
Comment: So it’s hard to make braised beef tongue look aesthetically pleasing, but trust me, the yoghurt brought life to a dish that Buffalonians look at warily
(First photo in body—of Roberts & Forster—is courtesy of Buffalo Eats, while striploin photo is courtesy of Donnie from Buffalo Eats. All other photos at bottom are attributed appropriately.)