Portland takes food and music quite seriously, and it’s not uncommon for the cultures that surround the two to overlap. The ambience of many cafes and restaurants relies on background music—live and recorded—while many concert venues have better than dive bar munchies to fill showgoers’ bellies.
Imagine, though, showing up for dinner in a field full of wildflowers. The inviting sounds of guitar, banjo and laughter fill the air. Within moments you have a craft cocktail in your left hand while your right shakes hands with the founders of Serenade, who just served it to you. You’ll spend the next four hours in this intimate experience, where a private concert plays for you until the musicians sit down alongside you to share a meal, all prepared right there with local ingredients. This is an environment where the line between old friends and new ones is quick to blur.
Serenade is a collaborative pop-up that draws together local chefs, breweries, wineries, musicians, farms, friends and strangers. Founders Kaela Fox and Austin Quattlebaum began it as an experiment in the backyard of their Foster-Powell home in fall of 2016, and it’s since blossomed into recurring seasonally (and often geographically) themed meals for up to 40 hungry guests.
Five years prior, the pair were guiding rafting trips in California when they caught each other’s eye. Quattlebaum’s Georgia roots run deep with a family history in food; his dad owned a restaurant where he spent a great deal of time learning, playing and working in the industry. It was not until his teens that music entered the picture, which is much of what his career (with Crow and the Canyon and Quattlebaum) is defined by today.
Fox grew up in a family of musicians where potlucks were a normal way of life. With large groups of people joyously gathering over food and songs, it was only natural for her to recreate it in her adult life.
In their own unique ways, both have a love for community, food and music pulsing through their veins. Perhaps this is what makes them so skilled at hosting an evening where “people walk in as strangers and walk out as friends,” Quattlebaum shares.
Each curated event draws on connection in the most intricate fashion, stimulating eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and most importantly, the hearts of the community attending. Local chefs like Jaret Foster and Mona Johnson from NE Portland’s Tournant or butcher Zeph Shepard of Proletariat are chosen in harmony with musicians like the Ben Larsen Trio or Moorea Masa to create a unique vibe at each gathering. And no event would be complete without thoughtful drink pairings, from partners like Townshend’s Distillery, Lagunitas Brewing, Union Wine and Angel’s Envy bourbon.
Beyond the carefully selected food and music, Serenade is the couple's platform to “contribute to the community and lift everyone up in the process,” Quattlebaum says. “It’s about breaking down barriers between the chefs, musicians and the people eating.”