Goodbye 2014 : A Food Photo Essay

It's the 29th! What better a date than this to recap the 29. endeavors in 2014.

2014 was a special year for me.  I completed my first full year as a chef. Yay! Swapping careers took a while, and despite the many times when I questioned the decision, I am happy to report that I am indeed exhilarated. This year was about growth, learning, accomplishments, partnerships and tiny milestones that mean a lot, yet keep me humble. The only drawback of being your own boss is that there is no team to throw a holiday party with! But I'd like to believe that I'm in part celebrating with hundreds of new friends I made in 2014. Wherever in the world they might be. (Are you listening folks?)

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3 Simple DIY Ideas To Make Your Holiday Table Pop!

'Tis the season to drink wine. Red wine. And while we're at it, we may as well get creative (read cheap) and soak in DIY ideas that shout festive. Here are 3 of my favorite ideas created in the 29. Kitchen this holiday season. All they need is 1 part skill, and 2 parts love.

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Dinner Under The Bridges - A PopUp Picnic

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"It's September! see what a season brings, a cooling breeze, and your heart does sing

Changes to the plate, and that sullen mood, it's time to reconnect with your food

Take a gamble, give a new cuisine a try, perhaps a spiced fritter in lieu of that french fry?

Whatever you dare, it'll be oh-so neat, for there will be new storytellers you'll meet

There is magic on a table that shares, moments of unparalleled freedom from worldly cares

So eat, smile, give a compliment or two...nothing like happiness from a taste new!

When you're done, take a look around, count the new friends you just found

Wasn't this as simple as just being you? and that my friends, is a dining experience true!"

You know those weeks when you wake up everyday and something seems to go wrong? This, is definitely NOT it. This week I feel elated, accomplished and pretty exhausted. Go on, ask me why.

On Wednesday, in a collaboration with Komeeda NYC, I hosted a popup picnic dinner under the Brooklyn & Manhattan Bridges. The setting was perfect, the wind was on our side, the sunset gleaned brighter than usual and along with my wonderful co-host, the guests were just the kind of bunch you want to spend a random NYC Wednesday evening with. In short, it was magical. And I was so glad to be a part of creating it all.

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In a true 29. style, the meal consisted of a 5-course indian inspired menu. The guests were welcomed with mini spicy rice frittata bites smothered in mint yogurt and curried eggplant toasties. Not a bad way to begin eh? While they said their hellos, got to know each other, and prepared for the surprise that awaited, we lit some candles, spread out the cushions and worked our way to the highlight of the day - the dinner.

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As the sun set over the Brooklyn & Manhattan bridges, our popup came to life. The courses, seasonal, balanced and apparently scrumptious (duh!), started with a raw Chilled Green Grape Soup with with mint, ginger & spices. A roasted Chickpea Chaat in a tangy tamarind vinaigrette colored the plates next. Then came the Fishcake Sliders - my personal favorite - and complementing it was a little game to keep our guests in the spirit (and occupied while I plated the next course!). The fourth and final savory course was a trio of Turmeric Pilaf, Masala Chicken & Spiced Lentil Broth. I had to respect the carrot season so the dessert was one of my regulars, Carrot Halwa drizzled with gooey homemade burnt sugar caramel & coconut dust. (Mmm, I might have some leftovers as I type..)

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Chickpea Chaat (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

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Sliders (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

Pilaf Trio (©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com)

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Needless to say I had fun. And as I leave with you with a more visuals of an event that we would've loved to meet you at, a BIG shout out to all those who came! Especially my collaborator-in-crime and the brain behind Komeeda, Jabber, and our shutter-eye for the evening, Felix, who's photos reflect the very essence of the event! (Check out his photography at Cooperfield Weddings)

Oh, and there is much more where this came from. 'Nuff said. Watch this space!

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©Komeeda

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©FelixChen-CopperfieldWeddings.com

Summer Story - A Photo Essay

Every summer has a story. Mine is soaked in spice, color & laughter.

Yes, it may not be over, but the end of warm months is nigh. And before I go on holiday, I want to leave you with glimpses of some of my past dinners. The flowers, berries, sunny days and sweet compliments sure inspired me to roll out one event after another. And with that came many a new dish. Some good, some amazing and those that just got by. But each plate was a learning experience.

"It starts with the lists, grueling with many a slip...

The Preparations

The Table

On to the little wins, that welcome the guests as they step in...

Chickpea Profitrolls

Colorful Fryums

Brussels Slaw w/ Sour Cherry Raita

I might be the host of the night, but it's the food that steals the show at every bite

Masala Fish w/ Bean Puree & Carrot Slaw

Spicy Chicken w/ Fenugreek Flatbread

Beet Salad w/ Cinnamon Plum Compote

And sometimes I am caught in a moment deep, or a note that makes me weep! 

At work

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And when the sweet does come into sight, you gotta see the guest's plight!

Ginger Chai Custard + Banana Pops

Chocolate Chai Pot De Creme

Hopeful, happy or just hungry, whatever your emotional yearning may be

Don't wait for a friend or two, come join my table already will you!"

The 29. PopUp in Pics

"On the nineteenth day of June, we played it chic

In a space downtown, neat & slick

The table was laid, candles lit

Smiles were in, and frowns didn't fit

People twelve, came for 29.

Foodies at heart, and souls so fine,

They talked & laughed, over courses five

Left happy, with a little bag of spice

The night that started 2 months ago

Ended with pride, and much more

And after all the gratitude & love

All I want now, is to "pop" my feet up!"

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The first of 29.'s PopUp dinners was a huge success! 12 people, 5 courses, and an experience that you can't put a number on.

The preps were grueling (specially for a single pair of hands!)

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But the outcome? Well worth it all...

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I did some rummaging around NYC for fresh off-the-tree (literally) berries & flowers, and I think the love showed on the plates! The food, bearing the usual 29. style, was well received by all the hungry guests. Phew...

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Thank you to all who came, trusted me with their meal, and left with a smile that made me believe in myself just a little bit more. Here's to much more PopUp fun in the days to come!

Looking for a unique way to celebrate that special occasion? 29. can arrange a private PopUp dinner in lower manhattan for a group of 8-12 pax. Contact me today for details!

Mini Curried Egg Tacos

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"Egg oh egg, in all your might

Cook in seconds, and bind everything tight 

Baked or fried, breakfast or lunch

You're pretty darn famous, that's my hunch!

Curries, salads & more, you have a special way

Asparagus might come & go, but you just stay.."

One of my biggest discoveries after moving to the US was how conscious people are about what they eat.

At first I thought it was a fad. But as I scanned grocery aisles, read unfamiliar brand names and suffered a few allergic reactions, I began to understand why people were so particular. Unlike Asia, where packaged food still has limited use in households and is very much limited to commercial dining, the US pretty much runs on it. And with that comes the safety associated with food labels. Thus, I'm always on a mission to create at home all that we see & love at restaurants - like these delectable mini taco shells!

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Eggs, unfortunate for me as others say, have never been my favorite. Call it a grudge I carry from boarding school, or the sharp unique smell that has me staying miles away. But I do like experimenting with them - because they're so versatile, amazing in baking & can be adapted to taste. I noticed that if you sneak in a little masala into a regular egg recipe, it makes them much more [for me that is] palatable.

In the past I have baked a few brownie bites, scrambled some in my weekday fried rice, whipped up some quick macaroons, made my husband's favorite brunch frittata & even made a jar of mayonnaise, but these bite-sized appetizer with a filling of subtly spiced boiled egg salad made me reach for seconds. Yes, me!

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You could just be lazy and use store-bought taco shells, but the marriage of slightly Indian [almost samosa like!] crust with a spiced eggs is one that, I believe, will make it through the tough times.

But hey, don't take my word for it. Try the recipe and decide for yourself!

Ingredients

For the Tacos [I made my own but you could just use store-bought]

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon carom seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Water to knead

Oil to fry

For the Egg filling

2 large eggs, boiled

1 teaspoon Sriracha

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

Salt & pepper

 

Make the Tacos

Mix the flour, salt, soda & carom seeds. Add the oil and mix with your fingers till it reaches the consistency of course sand. Add water, little at a time, and work into a smooth dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 mins. Roll out the dough into a thin round and cut out 2-3" circles using a cookie cutter [the size depends on how large you'd like your tacos to be]. Coat with a little oil and line them up on a wire rack [see pic] so as to let them bake in a taco shape. Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes, till the shape is retained, and then drop into the hot oil for a quick fry. Drain on a paper towel and keep aside.

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Make the filling

Mash the eggs well with a fork and mix with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning and then add a dollop of the mixture into the taco shells. Sprinkle with paprika before serving.

A simple & delicate way to entertain a crowd. The recipe works so well for a canape brunch, or a simple cocktail party!

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Hosting Tips & A Photo Essay

With spring in full bloom, it's time to dust off the cobwebs from that pile of party invites.

Whether you are a pro-host, or one who struggles with putting out an appetizer table, these simple tips will help you make your night just a tad fancier.

Also check out my latest recipes for inspiration, some upcoming supperclub meals and my very first PopUp dinner in NYC this June! And if you can't be bothered entertaining, but love a feast, contact me & join my table instead. It's always dressed to host you!

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1. Spring is all about color. Not only should your dishes be dressed up with fresh produce, even the table deserves a little love. Use old wine bottles to create DIY vases that look oh-so-adorable with a swig of flowers!

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2. Be creative. Use wine tumblers to serve entrees like rice based dishes. Why you ask? Well, why not! Isn't it simply beautiful?

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3. Mix & match ingredients. Play around with food - sometimes the strangest of combinations create the most mind blowing bite. The jar of olives in your cupboard, the almost-stale bread, the endless bunch of kale ....are not quite as unworthy as you think. This dish - a spicy chicken dumpling served atop a creamy curried cauliflower puree was an absolute hit at my dinner!

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4. Get people in the mood. The only thing worse than bad food at a party, are bored guests. Get the happiness started with little shots that help break the ice and get the conversations flowing. Trust me, it'll work.

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5. Something fresh. Salads - an element that most Indian meals are devoid of. Add an individual sized  seasonal salad, like this squash & cucumber 'spaghetti' w/ pickled radish & cilantro lime dressing, to your buffet table. Not only is it uber simple to put together, but it will also add a vibrant crunch to your meal. Oh, and chill your dishes before serving - it will keep the crunch that much longer!

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6. A Giveaway. Who doesn't love a little competition. Incorporate an easy game into the evening, with a winning gift of something edible, something handmade or something you prize - like a cookbook. Not only does it encourage interaction, it shows you off as the power host you now are...

Life in Little Bites : Food Photos

"Plates of bites savory, and those with spice

An echo of claps, or a room of smiles

Thank you notes, praises & song

Meeting strangers, bringing a friend along 

Birthdays and reunions, food for thought

This is my life, the one I always sought..."

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Working in the Investment Banking world was tiring. But only till the day I decided to swap it for a frying pan.

Running your own business, specially one related to food, is not child's play. From a multi-person corporate support system, you're suddenly down to being your own admin, sales, technician, social media specialist, event organizer, caterer and... dish washer. Hours of standing, less than plump pay checks, no public holidays and always having to smell of food are truly balanced by the little things my guests do. They don't know it, but every tiny gesture goes a hellafa long way. That request for a signed menu, laughing at my attempted jokes, an almost standing ovation, a flattering blog post or a simple gratifying smile - these are the things that make me do what I do. These are the things that make being a chef worthwhile!

And if it isn't already fun enough, along comes the visiting best friend who happens to also be a brilliant photographer. In a month that is swamped with dinners & events, I could think of no better way to show my love, than to make her work a little ;). Below is proof of the stunning genius that she is, a master of capturing every tasty moment! Oh, and she also makes a remarkable sous chef! Do give Gayatri Nair Photography a look, and for those about to get married, you should know that you need her there for your special day.

Some people call my work face serious. I call it focus for deliciousness. Happy Thursday!

Check out some recent reviews of my dining experiences via Sanura Weathers on her award winning blog: My Life Runs on Food & Ohneka Farm's most talented blogger: Navriti SoodContact Me to setup a private tasting or visit Events for upcoming dinners in NYC.

[Follow all the scrumptiousness on FaceBook, Twitter & Instagram]

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29. Dining Experiences : A Visual Journey

It's the 29. Busi-versary! {err, do you have a better word for it?}

Last year on this very day I launched the 29. Private Kitchen. Without a firm idea of the direction I was headed in, I decided to just cook my way through it. And that is exactly what I have been doing!

With a busy start to the year [in a good way!], more & more people are rolling up their sleeves to dig in to some Indian Tapas. Well, high time! Thus, the 29. kitchen has been anything but untouched. And although I might have been less-than-prompt at posting recipes, I always have enough photographs to keep you occupied. Here is a snippet of my culinary journey through Jan & Feb 2014...

[Unless otherwise mentioned, all photography is copyright of 29.Calories]

Pickled Potato Cracker Cups - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Sweet Potato Chaat - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

Vegan Fritters - Photo Courtesy Suite3-Oh-6

29. Business Cards

Water Station

Spicy Potato Cups

Tandoori Shrimp Cakes

Eggplant Kulcha Bites

Choco Coconut Tarts

Red Bean Salad Cups

Spouts & Kulcha Chaat

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Tandoori Meatball Chaat

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Sweet Potato Bites

Appetizer Buffet

Mint & Veg Biryani

Carrot Halwa Custard Parfait

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Date Tea + White Chocolate Truffles

 

This Week in Food Pictures

"A busy week it's been
Successes, failures & new challenges seen,
A lot of cooking, yes lots
From little puddings to flavorful pots,
Trials & errors, recipes that repeat
Bites with crunch, and those with heat,
Events & dinners, people new
Reviewers, readers, and comments few,
Here are the snippets, simple & clean
Of food, colors, and the week that's been..."

It's been one busy week! While I work on the recipes, here are some pictures from all the adventures this week. If only these could fill you up eh!

Come try my food at one of the upcoming dining experiences! Got a large group? No problem! Contact me to discuss a private tasting.

Carrot Pudding with Burnt Sugar Pot De Creme

Event Buffet Table

Curried Cauliflower Soup 

Vegan Semolina Halwa with Orange Compote

Masala Minced Chicken Sliders with Beer Shooters

Popcorn & Chocolate Bread Pudding

Mint Chicken Tikka Salad on Bread Cups
Vanilla Cupcakes with Pomegranate Swirl

Top 10 Recipes & Tidbits From 2013

From exciting experiments to fearless failures, 2013 was a momentous year in the kitchen for me. It was also a year of my first half-marathon, lots of travel (4 different continents!), buckets of coffee, never-ending TLC from family, some downs but many many many ups. 

And as I welcome 2014 with new resolutions, earnest smiles, test recipes and you - my ardent readers, I can't help but look back fondly on some of my favorites from last year. Here is a list of my top 10 recipes (in no particular order).

Make me happy and leave me a comment with your picks will you?

1. Savory Jalebi for the beer guzzlers
2. Caramel Bread Pudding for those with a sweet tooth
3. Curried Guacamole for them Guac fans
4. Carrot Halwa Cheesecake or Parfait for those who love a twist
5. Okra Chips for the healthy
6. Masala Gobi Pizza for the experimental
8. Truffled Mushroom & Cheese Samosa for the bite-sized
9. Whole-Wheat Gougeres for the fancy french
10. Wonder Tea Recipes for all those who need to stop calling it 'chai-tea'!

Not to mention the fun I had creating, plating, feeding and [not] cleaning up for all my dining events! For memory sake, here is a photographic recap of some past events from 2013 - makes me pull my collar up high ;)


A big 29. shout out to all of you who made 2013 more-than-memorable! And remember, keep eating your way through 2014. 

Christmas Colors - The Meal That Closed 2013!

"To those who came
And smacked their lips,
To those who thanked
And taught me tricks.
To those who support(ed)
And taste it all,
To those who fearlessly
Told me to get some balls.
To those who are patient
People old & new,
To those who with me
Bid 2013 adieu!
I love you much
With a heart so true,
Here's to 2014, and cooking
Many more storms for you..."

29. wishes all it's readers, supporters, commenters, criticizers a very very happy Holiday season!
Today I hosted the EatWith Management team for my last meal in 2013. Personally, it was a great deal. The team who has been monumental in helping me grow, market and keep working on what I love were actually in my living room. And thankfully, did not leave disappointed.

My meal was inspired with the colors of christmas - Red, Greed and a touch of Gold. And no, I don't believe in food colors. Why use artificial 'helpers' when nature offers so much. Don't believe me? Scroll down for the pictures and you'll see!

I started the team with warm Lentil Soup with a dash of Chili Sesame oil. Sounds strange? Try it - the Indian spices with a slight chinese kick was quite a combination. Be careful though, don't add too much. The soup was paired with spoons of curried chickpea hummus & homemade wholewheat crackers (baked namak paare). Notice the red, green & golden?

The conversation started just as the courses were heating up. I served
- Spicy Spinach Chicken in Bread Cups w/ a dollop of cream cheese. Inspired by all things green and similar to my Spinach Corn Deep Dish Pizza Bites.

- Masala Gobi (cauliflower) with Potato Fritter Nests & smashed Avocados. Yes please! My take on a sort of a deconstructed Aloo Gobi. This was an experimental dish but the combination did wonders, specially the spice from the gobi, crunch from the fritters and the creaminess of avocados! One satisfying bite. Inspired by the gold twinkle of the season. I also served some chilled Pomegranate & Mint tea along for those who might need some help with that tingling heat. 

- Last but not the least was the South Indian Tomato Brown Rice w/ Mint yogurt & homemade wheat crisps. Inspired by the happy red, I think this won the show - both by taste & presentation!

(PS-I was too excited to get pics of the first two, but will upload them when I make them next time!)


I ended the afternoon with Fig Milk Pudding Truffles dipped in a gooey dark chocolate ganache. And of course,the sprinkles for added happiness. I sneakishly grinned as I watched the guests play which-sprinkle-color-do-I-like-more? I think red won. Paired with some warm Cardamom Masala Chai, this had holiday written all over it!

The best part. The sunset decided to join in the fun and co-operate with my color theme! Bye bye 2013.

To try any of these dishes or teas, join me for my upcoming Dining Experiences in 2014, or contact me for a private tasting! I'll see you there.

The Last Lunch : A Thanksgiving Photo Journey

"Here's a little jingle
To start your holiday,
Food, fun & family
Or whatever makes you yay!
You don't have to be special
To enjoy a meal warm,
Eat with strangers 
And still soak up the charm..
Put on your best shirt
And grab that festive cheer,
Celebration is about you
So come make friends dear!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I hosted the last EatWith lunch in my apartment. No, I am not quitting. No ways! Just moving apartments.

In the true spirit of the holiday, my menu was an Indian-Inspired-Global-Style-Thanksgiving-Tapas : if there ever were such a thing! The idea was to go beyond America while enjoying Thanksgiving, and bring in that global palate in an authentic 29. style - by fusion or presentation. Thus, each course was served in a style popularized by another country/cuisine, but boasted of Indian flavors. Confused? Read on, you'll know what I mean.

We started on the streets of India. A warm Chicken Chili Soup with winter spices, paired with crisp Cumin Sweet Potato Poppers. 



It was a small group this time so I tried my hands at a sit down meal as well. It was different, and quite enjoyable actually!

The mains courses were:

1. A truly American inspired Turkey Fritters served with a sweet spiced mango chutney and Alfalfa sprouts. It's Thanksgiving, there had to be Turkey!

2. Traveling to Mexico, the guests had a go at Roasted & Spiced Eggplant Tacos with a cold carrot slaw.  [recipe coming soon]

3. Ending the savory courses with an Italian take on pilaf was the Curried Cauliflower Orzo Pilaf, served with some sprinkles for a crunch.







The journey had to bring you back to India eventually. So, the sweet showcase was a Semolina Coconut Pudding with a pomegranate burnt sugar glaze & cinnamon cream. A warm, silky end to a great holiday lunch. Thanks to all those who came, and hello to all those who I'll be seeing at my next few meals...




29. Dinner Recap : The Warmth of Spice

Another dinner. Another menu. And another hell-of-a night! 

I know you're all itching to see the pictures so without saying too much, I'll jump right into the star of the show - the 29. table. 

The welcome bite was themed to bring warmth on a cold autumn evening - a Hot & Sweet starter combo of Spicy Red Cabbage Rasam Soup & Sweet Mango Chutney Crackers. Delish! Both were 29. first timers and more successful than I had anticipated them to be! No complaints there.

The mains were:
1. Grilled Tilapia and Curried Cauliflower Puree served in Gol Gappas. A perfect combination of silken warmth and that ever endearing crunch.

2. Roasted Eggplant Pinwheels sautéed with vegetables & spices, served in a chaat form. The little boats made it look rather cute - if I may say so myself! The flavor of roasted (almost charred) eggplant sure did a dance in everyones' mouth. A sure keeper for future events.

3. Chicken & Lentil curry served atop Brown Rice Ajwain Pulao , finished with warm Alfalfa sprouts. A slight asian touch on an otherwise typical Indian dinner dish. If anyone was still hungry, this filled in the gaps just right.


The sweet end to it all was my second experiment of the day. A smooth Carrot Chocolate Pudding served with Cinnamon Cream. I usually make this with rice, like kheer, but decided to use a bunch of sweet winter carrots instead that were threatening to take over my refrigerator. The result was, to say the least, a great end to a creatively enjoyed meal. And the sprinkles brought an early christmas cheer to my gathering. Oh joy! [recipe coming soon]

Was this my most-loved menu yet? Someone did ask for an autograph, so perhaps it was. But only till the next one.


Want to try the next 29. menu? Sign up for one of my upcoming events!



October on a Plate : A Photo Essay

"A warm greeting
With a touch of spice,
Feeding strangers
29. does like!

Colorful soup shots
To begin the treat,
Then a few sticks, cups & rolls
Sans any meat.

While the wine does air
The fritters come out,
Talking and mingling
With flavors all around...

Moonlight on the bridge
With water sparkling bright,
The flavorful chicken next
Is just as great a sight!
Conversation grows loud
There is humor in hunger,
The warm curried bowls
Cause a mini stir!

With tummy's growing full
The end is [sadly] nigh,
With a sweet ol' sigh...

And as we wind up
Another night of celebration,
I get a few hugs
And an imaginary ovation.

Thank you to those
Who love my unique feast,
I know I'll cook forever
If you just promise to eat...."

Check our upcoming events or contact us to book a private tasting today!