Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lost in Jersusalem - our second secret supper dinner in Melbourne

This blog post in LONG overdue! sorry everyone as somehow moving to London, new house, looking after my toddler time has just flown. Anyway, ...back to it...

Ahhhh...what a magical secret supper LOST IN JERUSALEM was! This was our second Once Upon A Table pop-up secret supper dinner event in Dec 2013 in my home town Melbourne and it was simply a feast all the senses. Big thanks to our talented photographer friend Sutejo Tan for taking these beautiful shots. 

We chose the theme 'Lost In Jerusalem' as it is such a unique ancient city and melting pot of cultures, flavors, colors, smells and sights. Chef Vitti and I are also somewhat obsessed by Jerusalem born chef Yotam Ottolenghi whose food is delightful. It's worth saying have no religious or political agenda and feel very sad about the current Gaza Hamas conflict for both Palestinians and Israeli's. 

Our menu was epic...Cocktails, canapes, selection of 8 mezzes inspired from the 4 quarters of Old Jeruslem: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. 6 shared main platters. Finished off with an orgasmic dessert we called 'Land of Milk and Honey'. 5 Paired wines from our generous and lovely sponsor Jack from The Table Tasting Wine Shop and Kwencher Premium Ale. 

The secret home location for the secret supper dinner was the modern apartment of Ahmad and Jen in South Yarra. Ahmad's had heard about our previous event and generously offered to host. He is Palestinean and his father was born in Jerusalem which was perfect as he offered to cook a few authentic Palestinean family dishes!

Once Upon A Table Melbourne team from left to right: Chef Vitti, Stylist Bridget (6 months pregnant!), Chef Angie (me), Sous chef Sophie and Stylist Aurora (missing from the picture as she had to go home early to look after her 2 months old baby. What a super mom!)

 What a pleasure to be reunited with my talented and hard working Once Upon A Table Melbourne team! I love these talented ladies and friends whom without Lost in Jerusalem would not have been possible! 

 The gracious hosts Jen and Ahmad who had no idea we were going to take over their apartment, cook up a storm and give their apartment a complete make over!

Stylists Bridget and Aurora worked their magic to transform Ahmad and Jen's modern 2 bed apartment into an exotic Jerusalem tea house and awesome feasting rooftop terrace. A heavily 6+ months pregnant Bridget did an amazing job inside the flat with souk inspired finds. Big thanks to Sarah Naarden for lending us many of her mum's antiques from when her parents went to Israel in the 60's.  It looked so gorgeous that hosts Ahmad and Jen were somewhat sad when we took all the decor down after the event. 
I only wished we took a 'before' pic to compare.

Aurora and her sister in law Sammie put together a very cool installation piece above the feasting table with leather goods, olive branches, glass oil lamps and fairy lights. It was pretty spectacular to say the least.

The feasting table was beautiful - Fez turquoise tableware from Elly at Royal Hamam, small terracotta pots of jasmine and olive leaves, silver goblets (thanks to Philappa's late grandma's collection!) and fuchsia wild roses from my Mum's garden.

After two days of prep, nervously checking the erractic rain and thunderstorm forecast in Melbourne, we were ready and even the weather gods smiled on us and brought beautiful 27 degree day and sunshine! yay!

Sophie prepped the beautiful ruby colored 'Fruits and Spice from Paradise' welcome cocktail - vodka, cherries, pomegranate with cardamon syrup. And we were ready to welcome our guests to Lost in Jerusalem!
Thirsty guests were invited to sample ice cold bottles of Kwencher Pale Ale one of our generous sponsors.
 Lightly pickled cucumber rolls with trout, preserved lemon and mint

After welcome cocktails, our eclectic mix of guests who were lucky enough to get a seat at our intimate 24 person table (we sold out in 5 mins!) were then led out of the apartment with no idea where they were going, to the shared roof terrace were we had set up the alfresco feasting table.
Jack from The Table Tasting Wine shop pouring the first sparkling - Golan Heights Yarden 2004 Brut from Israel to pair with the mezze selection.

The thing that amazed me when I visited the old city of Jerusalem is that the old town is literally sectioned off into 4 areas for the Jews, Christians, Muslim and Armenians. The old city is actually very small which means you often see the 4 faiths living literally side by side. Right next to the Western Wailing wall where Jews mourn at the remains of one of the greatest Jewish temples, you can also see the majestic golden Dome of the rock an ancient Islamic monument and hear Islamic call of prayer.

We wanted our mezze selection to reflect these 4 faiths and cultures as a symbol of hope that one day they will truly live in harmony with each other. 

Chef Yotam Ottolenghi says in his cookbook Jerusalem that 'the love of food' and 'hummus' is probably one topic where all faiths are united. Each culture, family, person has their own take on hummus and wax lyrical about their favorite hummuseria (hummus speciality shop duh!). So to complement our homemade flatbreads with Za'tar and sumac we made Jerusalem style hummus vs Ahmad's family hummus style and a very moreish Mahammara dip of chargrilled peppers, walnut and pomegranate molasses.
I love the blog post on Mahamarra by Maureen Abood.
These delightful bite sized Blue Granadier fish falafels were served with a homemade harrisa and homemade aioli. They were gone in a flash as you can see below.
Stuffed sardines with bulgar, currants and pistachios....perfect combo of salty, sweet, nutty and zesty lemon juice. So pretty too.
Crunchy sweet and colorful sweet potato latkes served with homemade garlicky labne. Latkes are usually eaten by Jews during the Hannukah festival. The oil for cooking the latkes is symbolic of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flam that is celebrated as a miracle.
Ahmad recreated his mama's Palestinean recipe for Shush Barak lamb dumplings in yoghurt garlic soup. 
This was just the mezze starters....
Vitti and I are feeders, we love to cook, we love to feed and shamelessly stuff the faces of our guests til they can't move. We cooked up some delicious shared main platters that were beautifully paired with a selection of wines from Jack's The Table Tasting Wine shop, including a Chateau Musar Jeune Rose 2010 and Chateau Musar Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Sinsault 2005 from Lebenon. 

 A dish full of flavor, color and spices yum!  BBQ Baharat spice quail with freekah, barberries and almond salad.
Barahat is a fragrant spice mix of paprika, cumin, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and cloves. Make it yourself or buy it from a Middle Eastern shop.
Cumin, coriander seed and chill spiced lamb kebabs that melt in the mouth hot off the BBQ!
My dad who is famous for his Xinjiang muslim style lamb kebabs shared me 2 secrets to getting really juicy kebabs 1) ensure you cut small cubes of lamb with bits of fat for extra flavour and moisture 2) marinating it 24 hours in spices, onions and water as the meat absorbs the water making it extra tender and juicy.
Prawn and squid salad with shaved fennel, lime and pomegranate pearls. Fresh, zesty and delicious!
Classic, simple Fattoush salad with sumac, pomegranate Molasses and pitta chips.
Ahh..nothing like eating and drinking good food on a warm summers night with a breeze and candlelight and a romantic little snuggle (guests Josh and Erin).
By this point, guests were pretty happy and stuffed full of food and wine and they needed a intermission.
We served up little glasses watermelon and rosewater granita...perfect for a summers night.
Meanwhile my little doughnut babies were patiently waiting to be fried up and gobbled up. Ok perhaps we were waiting eagerly to gobble them up!
There's nothing more satisfying that hot doughnuts injected with homemade fig and pomegranate jam and dusted with cardamon sugar. 

Suddenly everyone made space in their full bellies to pop a few of these in.
Bridget managed to scoff 8 ...or perhaps it was 10?!! She was 6+ months pregnant at the time.
Chef Vitti and Chef Angie were pretty chuffed with our 'Land of Mlik and Honey' dessert we created. This delightful sweet finish consisted of homemade Burnt Rooftop Honey ice cream and pistachio baklava crisps, Labneh panna cotta, Jewish Hanuakkah cardamon sugared doghnuts with homemade fig and pomegranate jam. 

Big thanks to Vanessa, Matt and the Bees from Rooftop Honey for donating the lovely honey!

We always prepare a little thank you take-away gift for our guests. It's always homemade and cooked with love like all our food. For Lost in Jerusalem we made Pistachio and Cardamon baklava with rose and orange syrup.

Whew! what a night! Finally after two full days of prepping, cooking, decorating etc we could relax! 

Big thanks to my super talented and hard-working Once Upon A Table team, Chef Vitti, Sous chef Sophie, heavily pregnant Stylist and project manager Bridget and Stylist Aurora! An immense amount of love, time and effort is put into making these secret suppers special and they all do it out of love and generosity not money as don't run them for profit.  We make everything from scratch and the reward for us is the smiles, happy bellies and look of delight and suprise on the faces of our guests.

It's intense and the day after the event none of us could barely walk or even think of we'd been on our feet 17 hours from 9am to 2am! (even poor heavily pregnant Bridget, very sorry!). Next time we are definately going to save some $ in the budget for a professional cleaner!
Sophie, Chef Angie (me), Chef Vitti and Bridget, ( we are missing  our dear Aurora)
 Our extended Once Upon A Table team - including hosts Jen and Ahamd, Vitt's lovely husband Maurice and daughters Lia and Alyssa.

Special mention goes to our photographer friend Sutejo Tan who took the awesome pics! Also to hosts Ahmad and Jen who had the guts let complete strangers take over their house for a weekend!! Congrats also on your recent engagement!

Also big thanks to the most supportive husband Maurice and lovely daughters Lia and Alyssa who are the most helpful, hard working little helpers. They helped prep, bbq, serve, clean, plate until 2am! Vitti you are a very lucky mum!

Thank you to our guests for putting your complete trust in us! It takes a certain type of someone to sign up for a night, transfer us $ without knowing what they will be eating, who they will be meeting and where they will be?!!? Hahaaha!

Big thanks to our friends and family whose help we roped in (thanks Mum and Dad for staying up late at night with me in the kitchen testing out dishes) and especially our generous sponsors: Table Tasting Wine Shop, Royal Hamam, Pino's Fine Produce at Pharan Market, Kwencher Pale Ale, Rooftop Honey.

I sadly wont be in Melbourne to create the next Once Upon A Table secret supper as have moved to London but Vitti and the team will be there to create some new secret supper magic soon!

If you would be interesting in hosting a future event, email us with details and pics of you home. Check out our host Jen's blog entry about being a host. 
Also if you would be interested to collaborate or be a sponsor get in touch!

Stay tuned and email us on with 'add me to the Melbourne list' you want to get on the mailing list to be informed about the next event.