Sherrie Castellano learned she would be moving during the holiday season in 2014. By New Year’s, she had left her home along the right edge of the country for the Midwest. The career opportunity for her husband was too good to pass up; for her, she wasn’t so sure.
“I was a reluctant Midwesterner,” she admits. “So I had to look for ways to be happy.”
And a little over a year later, she’s warming up to the Show Me State. And hosting dinner parties … though not the kind you might expect.
Castellano (right) wanted to create an affordable and unique dining experience, so conducting a series of seasonal, pop-up dinner events—and partnering with local farms and purveyors to keep costs really low—made perfect sense.
So each season, she will be getting to know her new(ish) home a little better – through its food. Her dinner features a craft cocktail to start, four plated courses showcasing the produce of the season and served with local beer and wine, and one more craft cocktail to call it a night. She sells tickets to the events online, and hosts anywhere from 10 to 20 guests at each event.
“All of my work tends to be at home, on a computer or behind a lens.”
Though behind a stove for much of the evening events, she’s able to pop out and greet her guests along the way.
“I love to explain each dish – when I’m not losing my mind in the kitchen!”
One thing she explains right off the bat: why the meals are all plant-based.
Castellano's four-ingredient Carrot Gazpacho.
Castellano herself manages a celiac diagnosis. While the disease limits the foods she can consume, it has also empowered her to get to know those she can eat even better.
“My celiac diagnosis reignited my love of cooking,” she says.
It’s also made her more sensitive to those who struggle with food allergies or sensitivities. She’s not only open to working with food challenges at the pop-ups, but she welcomes them.
“I grew up the oldest daughter in a house with four children,” she explains. “I have come to know that I care for people through food.”
She hosted her first pop-up—Late Spring—in her backyard in May. And while she began the evening with a few natural anxieties (“What if it’s awkward?!”), she said the evening’s vibe and energy only boosted her confidence and excitement for planning the second.
That second pop-up—Midsummer—will take place on July 14 at Living Room, a coffee shop in Maplewood.
Tickets for the events are $40, alcohol included – a price point the now much less reluctant Midwesterner wants to maintain as she continues to make St. Louis her home and the St. Louisans she’s coming to know her friends.
“I want it to be less about me, and more about taking care of others and fostering community.”