26 Dec2014


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… :)



  1. Dragon says:

    Merry Christmas MM and family. You have well-trained, efficient and appreciative staff. While you may have done that for primarily “selfish” reasons, i.e., your convenience, you have actually given them one of the best gifts ever: human capital wealth. They have more skills, they know they are appreciated, you have instilled gratitude, humility and self-worth. Can’t get any more generous than that.

    Good job. :-)

    Dec 26, 2014 | 8:24 am


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  3. Rona Y says:

    Fish course, salad course, soup course, meat course?

    Is the knife above the plate for dessert or butter (but no bread plate)?

    I agree with Mrs. M about Volvic, btw. It tastes purer to me (some people prefer mineral water to taste like minerals, but I don’t).

    Dec 26, 2014 | 8:37 am

  4. Marketman says:

    Rona, eagle eyes! Knife for the cheese course, then I think waiters put the dessert spoon and fork after that. It was a seafood appetizer, meat appetizer, soup, main, cheese course, dessert.

    Dragon, we have had our share of problems, but overall, I think our staff policies have worked extremely well. They are most certainly considered “part of the family”…

    Dec 26, 2014 | 8:44 am

  5. Natie says:

    Thanks for sharing.. I look forward to these posts.

    Dec 26, 2014 | 10:54 am

  6. millet says:

    “luxe but homey” is the most apt description. love it all!

    Dec 26, 2014 | 11:04 am

  7. Andrea says:

    luv everything!

    Dec 26, 2014 | 1:58 pm

  8. ami says:

    Wow! Such attention to detail.

    Dec 26, 2014 | 4:05 pm

  9. Betchay says:


    Dec 26, 2014 | 5:53 pm

  10. EJ says:

    Trust you and your guests had a fantastic celebration, MM!

    Dec 26, 2014 | 7:01 pm

  11. corrine says:

    I smiled at the photo of your two staff ironing the table cloth on the table. Cool!

    Dec 26, 2014 | 8:52 pm

  12. bakerwannabe says:

    Where was Carson? I can imagine Carson with his gloved had inspecting the set up and sliding his fingers on some furnitures to check on dusts and finger stains on the crystals. Such a lovely set up you have. Guests would feel comfortable and yet appreciate all the details that went into it.

    Dec 27, 2014 | 12:13 am

  13. friedneurons says:

    Amazing. Your annual holiday dinners really do seem like massive productions, which I’m sure all your guests enjoy fully.

    I have never hosted a home dinner with service a la russe, and I probably never will. It’s very nice to do it vicariously through your blog. :)

    Dec 27, 2014 | 1:06 am

  14. kristin says:

    Happy Holidays MM and Family!

    Dec 27, 2014 | 8:22 am

  15. AlexME says:

    Upon reading this article and very descriptive settings being accomplished I was going to comment on how the MM household is like the Downton Abbey of the Philippines. Note the uniforms worn by the crew. “bakerwannabe” above got it right. Happy Holidays MM!

    Dec 27, 2014 | 1:58 pm

  16. Patricia says:

    Wow! The overall setup is simple and classy. :) I didn’t know that thing about lighting candles for a minute or so first. Looking forward to your holiday menu post. :)

    Dec 27, 2014 | 5:23 pm

  17. Rochelle says:

    So true AlexMe! MM is our local version of Downton Abbey! how wonderful to see all of these MM! taking a note or two for future dinner with guest ;)

    Dec 27, 2014 | 8:39 pm

  18. Junb says:

    probably worth a documetary film to show how elegant a Christmas dinner can be :)

    Dec 28, 2014 | 9:28 am

  19. Mandy says:

    I love this post!! :)

    Dec 31, 2014 | 9:25 pm

  20. ihid says:


    Jan 6, 2015 | 3:56 pm


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