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Once Upon a Table

Every once in a while you hear about a new idea and simply fall in love with it. That is what happened to me when I heard about this new dinner party concept called Once Upon A Table. Dinners are held bi-monthly at a secret location with the aim to put home cooking back on the menu. All dinners are served in the homes/apartments no matter how large or small and each dinner has a certain theme. Sofia, founder of Once Upon a Table, tells us all about their most recent dinner called Passionately Paired. Check out their website for pics from the evening and email Sofia at onceuponatable@gmail.com if you would like to be notified about future dinners.

10 singles, 7 courses of lovingly prepared food, 3 passionate cooks, 12 bottles of vino, and 1 long table in a secret venue. These were the ingredients for Once Upon A Table’s second event: Passionately Paired. “Passionately Paired” was inspired by a book my good friend Matt gave me for my birthday called the “Flavour Thesaurus” . The book cleverly works through 99 flavours grouping them into unique pairings and combinations each described in a quirky write up. It’s a great read. The food for the evening was prepared by a trio of ladies united by their passion to cook, eat, laugh, talk and share ideas. To add a twist to the theme we decided not to limit pairing to flavours and textures, but to include people pairing too. We therefore only invited singles to the secret supper – 5 eligible guys and 5 gorgeous gals. A bit of a chemistry experiment perhaps, but fun.

The secret dinner was held in the gorgeous home of a very dear friend who generously gave up his space for a day and night so that we could do our thing. Upon arrival guests were welcomed with prosecco and pomegranate cocktails in the living room of the apartment. One guest told me that this was a brilliant way to “warm everyone up, and get them feeling relaxed”. To be honest, the 3 cooks needed “warming up” too –we were not sure how the pairing of people part was going to work out!

But the bubbly helped and the canapés were snapped up: Asparagus parcels wrapped in salty prosciutto, drizzled with a sweet balsamic glaze, pungent gorgonzola paired with caramelised red-onion, fig slivers and walnut crostini, watermelon dipped in honey and homemade dukkah, and dates enveloped in bacon (a twist on pigs in blankets). After the chit chat we invited our guests to the dinner table for the first course – a cold pea soup flavoured subtly with a splash of fresh lemon and garlic served with chunky homemade croutons.

To ensure that the guys and girls all got to speak to one another we asked the gents to move to the next seat on their left after each course. They all politely agreed and did as they were told. After the first round of musical chairs we served Shreya’s refreshing salad of rocket, caramelised beetroot and fresh goat’s cheese dressed in a tangy mustard vinaigrette. Before the main dish tiny glasses of homemade lemon, lime and mint sorbet were served to guests giving them a moment to refresh and take a breather (in hindsight perhaps a bit too much food?!) And then the main dish – fresh summer cherry & port sauce over duck breasts served on a bed of herbed polenta alongside braised bok-choi.

Looking across the table as everyone was tucking in was encouraging. We didn’t expect the conversation to flow so easily. People genuinely felt at home. Of course the wine helped, but more importantly the surrounding comforts – being in a real home (albeit a complete stranger’s to our guests), eating genuine, unadulterated home-made food and chatting with likeminded souls gives this type of evening an unmatched ambiance that you cannot buy in a restaurant, bar or club. The three of us cooks eventually joined guests at the table for the final highlight of the evening: Toni’s dark cocoa torte topped with a dollop of homemade chocolate mousse, almond ice cream and raspberry coulis. This was the perfect way to round off the meal and to ensure guests were not left unsatisfied!

In the wee ours of the morning we handed guests their gifts – jars filled with Sofia’s home made Dukkah. New friends left the apartment to continue the merriment…apparently they all got home at 3am. The evening left us feeling warm, happy and rewarded. We’re looking forward to the 3rd Once Upon a Table secret supper in October – so watch this space!

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