Our annual Holiday Dinners are a big deal in the Marketman household and it takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to pull them off well. Here are some of the snippets and tips that may be of help to you in your future special celebration meals… Our main Christmas tree was mostly decorated by the crew this year while we were away on a trip until early December. One of the HUGE advantages of having staff who have been with us since our daughter was born is that they know the drill almost better than we do, and hundreds of ornaments were unpacked carefully and hung on the tree beautifully. They also took care of wrapping most of the gifts under the tree, 90% of whom were for their families and other guests to our annual crew and family Christmas party (this year with a guest list of 45 and counting!!). I have said it many times before, and I’ll say it again, we couldn’t pull off these dinners by ourselves, I wouldn’t even attempt it. :)
Our dining table is first covered with a thin layer of foam (taped to the underside of the table) to provide a little cushion under the tablecloth. The large tablecloths (12-14 feet long, almost all courtesy of Sister) are laid flat, moistened with water from a spray bottle, then ironed directly on the table, with a towel underneath to protect the foam and table. We find that if you iron the tablecloth elsewhere and bring it over, you inevitably end up with some creases…
The cutlery is laid out according to the menu, and the widest plate is used to gauge where to put the cutlery… That was important for these dinners as I used an unusual appetizer plate that was extra wide.
The crew actually set the table with the widest round plate first, and when we put the rectangular plate, we had to adjust all of the cutlery to ensure that there was enough space when the appetizers were served. Details, details…
We spent several days in the kitchen preparing items for the menu, but I managed a quick early morning trip to the Dimasalang flower market on the day of our first holiday dinner for some simple arrangements of red roses massed in low vases. Red tapered candles and dried pine cones completed the simple setting.
Mrs. MM laying the glasses for the dinner. Based on the seating plan, a few guests that don’t drink wine (but would enjoy a glass of champagne for a toast for example) were not given wine glasses so waiters wouldn’t mistakenly pour wine where they shouldn’t.
The buffet table was home to this year’s Jamon Serrano, and was laid with serving utensils for the main course that would be served buffet style.
An acacia cheeseboard was set beforehand with cheese knives and labels so that the crew were aware where to put what cheese, and to do that some 30 minutes before the cheese course, so that the cheese would warm slightly.
In the kitchen, the menu, plates and plating was posted so everyone knew what to use with what course.
The pantry was raided and several large bottles of Volvic (Mrs. MM is convinced it’s better than Evian), bought at a huge discount at the Duty Free shop a couple of months back were put on the bar, along with several bottles of San Pellegrino, so guests could have either sparkling or still water with their dinner.
An hour before dinner, Erick, who has served at special holiday dinners in our home for 14 years, briefs a second waiter about the meal, guests likes and dislikes, wines and other beverages, etc. They light the candles and let them burn for a minute or so to ensure they light quicker at the start of the dinner. The candle wicks are straightened and clipped to an even length. Erick is now a manager at Zubuchon, but he flies to Manila for these dinners to help us out and to visit his kids who live and work here.
The napkin rings are silver plated angels, a gift from Sister, and perfect for the Christmas season. And small place cards indicate where guests should seat themselves.
Menus were prepared and placed on the table so guests could read what was in store and to hopefully help them pace themselves. But apparently, the font was a bit small (too many dishes) so folks asked that I explain each course anyway. One guest amusingly took a magnifying glass from a side table and used that all night to see what was going to be served next! Dinner menu up next… :)