28 Nov2006


Last Thursday was Thanksgiving. But there was no turkey roasting in our oven. We had foregone our annual Thanksgiving meal for a chance to dine on “An Ancient Roman Dinner” prepared by Margarita Fores, held at the reknown Goldenberg Mansion beside Malacañang, by the Societa Dante Alighieri – Manila, for the benefit of the Pundaquit Orchestra / Casa San Miguel Foundation. We arrived at around 7:30 at 840 Solano Street, the equally old and proud residence beside the Goldenberg Mansion, for cocktails and appetizers. Its impressive façade, the large driveway, upon which the horse carriages could maneouver (if I hadn’t been so stressed, I would have arranged for a carriage from Ayala bridge so that we could make a Bond entrance!), the gardens and beautiful lighting all set the stage for an elegant evening which would hopefully take us back a century or so to a time when dinners were how they were meant to be. Rising up some wide stairs designed so the flowing gowns of the residents or guests could easily swish behind them as they made their grand entrance to the sala…) we entered a huge sala with several large chandeliers.

The proportions of the home/rooms were definitely of another era. Ceilings must have been 15 feet plus high, enough to give every room an airy and regal feeling, gold2and even better, to hang outrageously European crystal chandeliers. The widest planks of hardwood were underfoot and the mouldings and other architectural details were rather impressive. It’s sad that not more of these mansions have survived; and unfortunate that we get to see them so rarely these days. The home is now set up as a museum of sorts, albeit poorly maintained, and it houses all kinds of porcelain, crystal, antiques, etc. that Imelda Marcos and others presumably acquired with ill-gotten wealth (the proof of which, by the way, has eluded the courts thus far, apparently). As the elegantly garbed ladies teetering in Jimmy Choos or Christian Louboutins tripped every few seconds on the frayed carpets in the buffet area, some of the conversation turned to the irony of plunderers funding purchases of such excess…while Juan de la Cruz wondered where his coconut taxes went, the Baccarat and Flora Danica was used to serve gourmet adobo to the powers that were… There is a long history to the Goldberg Mansion but during the Marcos era it was purchased and annexed and used to house collections of antiques and housewares that Madame acquired all over the world.

Marketman and Mrs. Marketman were thankfully, appropriately dressed for the occasion. In fact, we possibly took to heart the “elegant” dress code more than others. gold6For those sartorially curious, and wondering about my recent James Bond fixation, I was the one in the dark navy blue Corneliani suit, a crisp white Turnbull & Asser shirt with French cuffs, fastened with a pair of cufflinks that Mrs. Marketman gave me as an anniversary present one year. They are a personal favorite, if a bit over the top… they were inspired by a pair of absolutely gorgeous Faberge cufflinks made around 1900 and given by Barbara Hutton, to her third husband, Cary Grant as a wedding present in 1943. Mrs. Marketman was in an elegant black dress with a silk scarf. And yes, her heels were catching on the carpet as well!

Now to the food which was supposed to take its inspiration from Ancient Roman meals. gold3Appetizers laid out buffet style or brought to you by waiters included crisply executed fried Squash Flowers, Oyster Mushroom and Apple fritters, the former of which was delicious albeit “pure” in that it was not stuffed with anything at all. There was a welcome assortment of Olives and Grilled Peppers Marinated in Red Wine and Rosemary for that needed piquant hit. Also, some Grilled Philippine Tuna with a Boiled Egg-Pinoli Vinaigrette. What really caught my eye were the Sautéed Snails on Polenta Squares and a dish with Sausage, Cow’s Brain, Arborio and Sage. The last two dishes are the only ones I went back for seconds, though the entire buffet was beautifully laid out with a spectacular floral arrangement by Margarita as a centerpiece. If there is one thing I would say negatively, it is that laying out a buffet of appetizers for 100 people and keeping it “fresh” is always a challenge. While the individual items were interesting, and I certainly totally enjoyed them, I suppose I was expecting more…

From the first house we crossed a bridge into the Goldenberg Mansion itself. Here were viewed several beautiful rooms, well appointed and with the later addition of the Imeldific acquisitions that included Flemish tapestries, more chandeliers, paintings, Chinese antiques, gold4Italian furniture, the finest Baccarat crystal that reportedly was scrubbed with abrasive brillo-like pads during the Estrada years that ruined most of them… Dinner for 100 was to be served on several tables set up in the entrance foyer and main hallway of the mansion. The classic and simply stunning black and white pattern on the floors, the high ceilings and unusual mouldings all made for a stunning setting. The main dinner was served as three separate plates of MEAT. First, some Roast Pigeon with grapes (two on my plate), Acacia Honey and an Herb Mayonnaise… This, for me was the hit of the evening. Moist and flavorful, the pigeon (which Margarita confided were purchased from the Arranque market) was delicious and at half a bird, a generous serving. Before the second plate was served, a whole Roast Baby Goat was brought out on a platter to be shown to the diners. We then had carved servings of Roast Baby Goat seasoned with Garlic and Rosemary and served with some Minted Chickpeas & Onions (I got 6 chickpeas). The goat was good, not overly gamey and strongly infused with spices. Finally, we had generous servings of Roman-style Stuffed Roast Pig (Porchetta) with Fennel, Poached Oranges and Potatoes (I got one cubic inch of potato). This was good, but correctly placed at the end of the meal, there to fill any gaps you might have left in your stomach given the style of dinner service with several courses.

I completely understand the intent of the meal and the desire to serve “tastes” of several dishes, but I personally like the family style of eating more where I can gold5heap onto my plate that which attracts me… But then again, I only get dressed a la Bond a couple of times a year… The food was interesting, again well executed for such a large party and with unfamiliar kitchens, though I would have liked a bit more carbohydrates and vegetables to go along with all of the MEAT. I suppose ancient Rome wasn’t yet into pasta so this was probably a more authentic meal than our stomachs are familiar with. In my opinion, we had a wonderful meal. And frankly, the food was only 30% of the experience. The home itself counted for another 30% and the wonderful musical program by Alfonso “Coke” Bolipata and his students/scholars at the Casa San Miguel Foundation definitely the main event. That 10 year olds from the shores of Zambales can master their violins or cellos is a truly inspiring thought. And some of the proceeds of the evening were being donated to this foundation. Imagine if “Coke” were on a Diet…he would be called “Diet Coke”…heeheehee, sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Oh, and I forgot to mention dessert. First was a plate of Goat Cheese and Ricotta, Roasted Walnuts & Chestnuts and Chestnut Honey. Good concept, outrageously chi-chi presentation. On a huge oval plate was presented perhaps as small a serving of goat cheese as might emerge from my ear on a Q-tip, a smudge of ricotta, perhaps one chopped up walnut and dribbles of honey. Sorry, I know we don’t want to waste anything but this was a dessert portion for someone with 1/10th my caloric requirements to stay sane. This was followed by wine soaked apples and pears (literally two nearly paper thin slices (a whole apple could feed 15 people…), and a bay leaf cheesecake slice that a mouse would sniff at as being too small. Red Wine served with Dinner. Coffee or Tea. We were very happy that we attended the benefit. Many many thanks to reader “Frayed” who provided ALL of these photographs. I didn’t bring a camera thinking it would be uncouth, but everyone else seemed to have one. There are no photos of the food, sorry. For those interested in Italian language classes, please contact the Societa Dante Alighieri – Manila at dantemanila@yahoo.com or call 759.2016.



  1. corrine says:

    Why is it called Goldberg Mansion?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 9:10 am


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  3. Marketman says:

    corrine, the Goldenberg Mansion is named after its previous owners (prior to the Marcoses who purchased it for the government I think). However, the house is perhpas nearly century old and built by the Eugster family, of Spanish descent. The house was renovated by National Architect Leandro Locsin in the early 1970’s.

    Nov 28, 2006 | 9:25 am

  4. joey says:

    What a grand looking time! I wish people dressed up for dinner more…

    Nov 28, 2006 | 9:55 am

  5. acidboy says:


    just to add: wow, you pulled off those cufflinks? very dandy! :) can i ask what book is that with Mr. Grant’s picture?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 10:12 am

  6. sylvia says:

    Fascinating! I agree with Joey about wishing that people dressed up more for dinner. Although, I have to say, Manilans are better dressed than these Californians who are soooo casual.

    MM, would the Goldenberg Mansion be, by any chance, open for tours to the public?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 10:15 am

  7. wysgal says:

    I agree with Joey … reading this is inspiring me to get my whole family to dress up for dinner at home, just for fun. =)

    Nov 28, 2006 | 10:25 am

  8. blackpearl says:

    Yes, I too agree about people dressing up for dinners. Whenever we have parties at my parents’, my siblings and I always make an effort to dress up — like nice little cocktail dresses for the women and long sleeved shirts for the men. Never mind if some of our guests show up in jeans.

    Nov 28, 2006 | 11:09 am

  9. alicia says:

    What a truly fantastic experience! I was eating turkey leftovers in pajamas while you were feasting on flora danica.. my personal favorite set of china.. maybe someday I’ll be able to afford a set for two! I must admit when I read “Ancient Roman Dinner” I had visions of you and Mrs Marketman chomping away on disney size turkey legs, laying on sofas next to a spittoon! The cufflinks are gorgeous by the way!

    The cheese course sounded fantastic.. a lovely idea for dinner parties! Do you have any ideas how to fry up the squash flowers to make them crispy? I have attempted this several times and they always come out soggy and gross!

    Nov 28, 2006 | 11:26 am

  10. acidboy says:

    Perhaps the next eb should be a formal shindig?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 1:02 pm

  11. Maria Clara says:

    If Madame Marcos took over the Mansion at the height of their power, it is indeed a beautiful piece of property. We all know Madame Marcos has eyes for beauty. A well orchestrated party with all the fabulous trimmings and settings including the food, wine, flowers and entertainment. You and Mrs. MM are properly dressed for the occasion. I can picture you and Mrs. MM — both dress like a high profile Hollywood celebrities! The only low note of your evening at the Mansion was the dessert part. You need a toothpick to pick up the goat cheese and ricotta and the sliced apple and pear otherwise it will shatter into small pieces if you pick it up with a spoon. It is so funny to me how they kill the beauty and brilliance of the finest Baccarat crystal by allegedly using abrasive brillo-like pads to clean them. In doing so, they buffed off the crystals. What are they thinking?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 1:15 pm

  12. tulip aka pinaygourmand says:

    I remember visiting the Mansion so often as a child, my father who used to work for the Marcos government would usually bring me there. It is where my appreciation for art started. I wish I made it to the dinner but my family comes first as always and had to settle for a Thanksgiving dinner at home.
    By the way your cufflinks are definitely gorgeous. Somehow though, I have a pair of earrings and a ring with almost the same design but most alike with the Faberge cufflinks.

    Nov 28, 2006 | 3:05 pm

  13. Jean says:

    Wow! this is a one-of a-kind experience. I envy you. BTW, are you and Mrs. MM visible in the 4th picture? Talking about dressing up … basta ako, I love dressing up for parties. I always plan my outfit.. but don’t you feel somewhat frustrated when your guest show up to your party improperly dressed?

    Nov 28, 2006 | 6:01 pm

  14. Manilastreetwalker says:


    Unfortunately, the Goldenberg mansion isnt open to the public as it is used by the first family themselves, however, if your one of the lucky few (guess I am..hee hee) whos ever laid their eyes on what’s inside that palatial home, you’d that the Marcoses were royal family. Imagine, toilets with chandeliers!


    Such sumptuous dinner in such a grand surrounding, that must have been some Roman holiday…or, uhhmm…orgy..? ;op

    Nov 28, 2006 | 6:02 pm

  15. asunta says:

    mm what a lovely dinner. yes i do wish that we can dress up like the way our grandparents used to do. i do agree with the daniel craig being the best james bond to date. enjoy your bond moment.

    Nov 28, 2006 | 8:40 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    acidboy, the book is actually one on “Cufflinks” and the entire book goes through the history of cufflinks, and shows several cufflinks from the last 150+ years… Also, it talks about some well known personalities and perhaps pieces they used. sylvia, to my knowledge, the Mansion isn’t open to the public…even though it is in theory owned by the public… the last person to stay there (as in sleep there) was Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand…before he was deposed… wysgal and blackpearl, I am a fan of shorts and bare feet but once in a while, dressing up does give a party that extra edge… alicia, unfortunately, we couldn’t EAT OFF the Flora Danica… and yes, some folks had visions of togas and someone feeding us grapes… Maria Clara, not only scratched the crystal, but removed the gold detailing around the rims… tulip, yes the house is fabulous. Jean, no, we are not in any of the photos above…

    Nov 28, 2006 | 9:35 pm

  17. anonymous paul says:

    that’s one fancy eyeball. i love the ancestral homes in that area. whereas the Goldberg Mansion prolly isnt as open to the public, you can actually call-in to visit the Legarda Mansion (aka La Cocina de Tita Moning) in the same vicinity.

    and in my opinion, i dont think the cufflinks are over the top. there are only so many accessories men can get away wearing and better a big bold one than those wimpy silk balls. of course i could be a bit biased

    Nov 28, 2006 | 9:54 pm

  18. Joseph Nicdao says:


    Your other readers may have escaped it – but I did notice your good-natured sense of humor. I had a good laugh reading your remarks about the dinner, e.g.:
    -“I got 6 chick peas”
    -“I got one cubic inch of potato”

    and the best: “On a huge oval plate was presented perhaps as small a serving of goat cheese as might emerge from my ear on a Q-tip, a smudge of ricotta, perhaps one chopped up walnut and dribbles of honey. Sorry, I know we don’t want to waste anything but this was a dessert portion for someone with 1/10th my caloric requirements to stay sane. This was followed by wine soaked apples and pears (literally two nearly paper thin slices (a whole apple could feed 15 people…), and a bay leaf cheesecake slice that a mouse would sniff at as being too small.”

    My own experience with such paper thin slices of food actually made my blood pressure rose to the ceiling. Years ago when I was at NAIA and waiting for my flight, I felt hungry and went to the nearest food kiosk. Their ham & cheese sandwich looked appetizing, and order I did. As you might have guessed, the ham was paper thin, and was pasted only on the outside of the bread, with an equally paper thin slice of cheese. The price: P140.00. I never bought anything at NAIA after that. If I have my way, I’ll bomb all those food kiosks at NAIA for plain robbery.

    Nov 29, 2006 | 1:30 pm

  19. acidboy says:

    Thanks MM.

    Nov 29, 2006 | 4:22 pm

  20. maria says:

    looks like a complicated experience. the complicatedness made it fun eh? : ) wow, all those things to clean up afterwards… i hope they have really gentle dishwashers to take care of the lot.

    Nov 30, 2006 | 1:18 pm

  21. Bonjin Bolinao says:

    The mansion was built and owned by the parents of Stella Goldenberg Brimo, the piano pedagogue, of St Paul Conservatory of Music in the late early 60’s up to the 80’s. I worked on a project in bringing Mrs. Brimo home some years ago for a benefit homecoming concert. She now lives in Canada.

    Dec 1, 2006 | 11:32 am

  22. Marketman says:

    Bonjin, I was under the impression the Goldenberg’s bought the mansion from previous owners…I didn’t know they built it themselves…

    Actually at this website, the author, suggests that the house was first known as the Eugster residence, on Calle General Solano, which was then acquired by Don Jose Lacalle in the 1890’s, later purchased by Don Michael Goldenberg, presumably in the early 20th century until it was forcibly purchased from his family by Imelda Marcos in the 1970’s…

    Dec 1, 2006 | 11:48 am

  23. Red says:

    hello. goldberg mansion is really interesting. do you know their telephone number or do they have any websites? thank you

    Apr 20, 2007 | 4:29 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    Red, sorry, I was a guest at the Goldenberg through the Dante Alighieri Society so I don’t have the contact information for the mansion itself…

    Apr 20, 2007 | 7:51 pm


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