17 Dec2006


My favorite foodie movies include: Age of Innocence, for its spectacular cinematography of the numerous elegant meals that take place in upper crust, turn-of-the-century New York, with the exquisitely dressed tables and all of the attendant porcelain, silver, etc. I also loved Babette’s Feast for the utter single-mindedness with which Babette decides to put on the feast to end all feasts, despite her limited means. I also loved a recent English film, Gosford Park, that concentrated heavily on the inner workings of the manor staff and finally, I liked Kazuo Ishigura’s, Remains of The Day, on the lifelong dedication of a butler. For amusement, I loved the movie Tampopo on the Japanese love for noodles… I mention these movies because I think there is a part of me that would fit in better in a different era of dining and entertaining, but I couldn’t permanently move there without my airconditioning, kitchen aid mixer, Viking stove and computer with internet hookup… When we have our December holiday parties, we pull out all of the stops and these are major events in the household. Aside from the careful planning and acquisition of food, the preparation and cooking and the serving, there are a whole lot of other tasks that are required to make a truly memorable meal…


Another favorite movie is the remake of Sabrina with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond, particularly the scene where they are preparing for a garden party and the florists, caterers, musicians, etc. are all setting up in the garden. If I won the U.S. LOTTO and had unimaginable resources, the first thing I would do is figure out how to hire a steward, butler and valet and a supporting crew of 15. I jest. party7We just aren’t in that era anymore, but I can still dream. In the meantime, I have to do all of this with a fraction of the crew that it normally requires…and I think we do a pretty darn good job at it, thank you… So first up, the silver. If you’ve got some, what better time to use it? In preparation for our holiday dinners, we take a lot of the silver out and polish it. There is nothing like the weight, sheen and reflection of light off of real sterling silver. Silver plate these days can look just as good, but having sterling is a real luxury. Most of our silver is either inherited, wedding presents, gifts from generous souls or purchased from manufacturers. We don’t have that much, but we do use what we have. Since the silver must be immaculate and not have any fingerprints when laid on the table, the crew took it upon themselves to don some disposable plastic gloves when doing the final handling of the utensils as they are being placed on the table…


The dining table is first covered with a thin layer of foam (I don’t have a standard felt liner for a 10-11 foot long table) which will serve to party9soften the whole setting and cushion the plates, glasses and silverware. It also ensures that there isn’t much noise on the table other than the guests speaking to each other. The tablecloths must be pressed just before use so that there are no creases that scream “I just came out of the closet and was last ironed a year ago…” The plates and glasses must be grease and fingerprint free as well. I know, this sounds like a pain in the rear to orchestrate, but it truly is all about the details. I could go on and on about the setting, the centering, etc. but I would almost certainly get “fish-panned” and in the final analysis, I would agree with you that this is somewhat frivolous. But there is something nice about doing this 3 or 4 times a year. Nothing shameful about having an occasional highly civilized meal, despite our much more informal and practical everyday lives…

I also like to set out the buffet table ahead of time. That means laying out platters and serving utensils ahead of time so that I know where the food is going party6to go. I sometimes use post-it notes to identify what food is going on what dish to help the cook and waiters. This year I also decided to “copy” a trick that I noticed in use by super caterer Gaita Fores, where she used Chinese wood stands and pedestals meant for ceramic antiques or planters to have several levels of platters on the buffet…it was so much more elegant than the usual catering stainless steel chafing dishes. I went to Landmark Department store and bought a few cheap stands and voila, a multi level buffet! If you are going to have waiters circulate with appetizers, it is useful to identify the platters or trays you will be using and perhaps a drawing of how you want the food laid out.

Speaking of waiters, having some sounds a bit extravagant, but good ones are absolutely worth the money. We have our “suki” waiters who know exactly how we serve our meals, what our kitchen set-up is like, the pacing I like, etc. They are attentive without being intrusive, quiet, efficient, anticipate guests requirements and basically run the show once we sit down to dinner. They moonlight from their day jobs when they party4take on dinners at our home. Even with a buffet, we still have waiters to serve drinks, clear plates, etc. Flowers or other décor are also an important part of a full-blown dinner as well. But as with the tougher economic times, I have been rather circumspect with flower expenses this year, opting for less perishable Christmas ball arrangements. But in past years, I have done spectacular rose and dalandan topiaries. Oh, don’t forget the candles. There is nothing like a table set with real crystal, polished silver and porcelain plates AND lots of candles…it sparkles and makes all of the guests look brilliant as well. And if you have a strange picture in your mind of dinners in our home by now, you should know that we have a rented three bedroom house with a kitchen that has less counter space than many small apartments, so a “manor” this is definitely NOT. And I can tell you that in the end, we eat better, are far more relaxed in a comfortable home setting for less than a similar meal in a snazzy restaurant, all costs included… And 99% of the time, there is a heaping bowl of sinigang, a steamed bangus, some monggo, barbecued pork or other such dish to sustain us at our dinner table, not the fancy meals I am about to feature in the posts coming up…


We also like to place menus are on the table(s) so guests know how to pace their eating. I also post a computer printed menu in several parts of the kitchen so that it is clear what food is going to be served and when. The types of plates to be used (color, size, etc.) are identified on these menus and if possible, I pre-plate one of party3each dish to make sure the cook and everyone else knows what the dish is supposed to look like. Usually, we only plate the appetizers, soup and desserts while the main course is done buffet style. In the days ahead, details of two recent holiday dinners held at the house – one with a Pinoy theme in honor of a visiting balikbayan, and another more Western-style dinner…



  1. Maria Clara says:

    You Christmas dinner party is a symphony and you are the conductor. It is like a state dinner. I like your table centerpieces the Christmas ornaments. Everything is fabulous. Kudos to a great maestro for hosting great Christmas dinner!

    Dec 17, 2006 | 3:58 am


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  3. nikita says:

    how lovely ü

    Dec 17, 2006 | 8:10 am

  4. socky says:

    I love foodie movies, too! Babette’s Feast and Tampopo are right there, top of my list. Do watch Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. Chinese food naman. Sideways, on wine.

    Dec 17, 2006 | 9:53 am

  5. tulip says:

    Marketman, you did just a superb set up! Intricate details and a definite 5-star service is a must even at the comfort of your home. And you did describe the bulk of work exactly as if you do it professionally! My mom before having early retirement was into the catering business just for meticulous foreign friends and she did get stressed out every time she does the work with her crew and she drags me into it as well. Nowadays we seldom yield to some request of arranging festive meals into their homes but rather invite them at our place which is still pain-staking nevertheless but fun and worth isn’t it? I also like Sabrina and Age of Innocence for obvious reasons. I do share the sentiments with you Marketman, kudos to you and the crew!

    Dec 17, 2006 | 12:43 pm

  6. timmy says:

    for noche buena, my ma use to bring out the heirloom crockery of my lola. they are 80 pieces in all and quite a chore to use because my mother would do the careful washing herself before and after the meal. But she so wants us to like them and eventually adopt them.

    at the end of the table, my mother dressed to the nines with her apron on, would ladle the soup from the extra large tureen into each of our, and our guest’s cup, which I now think, is a truly dramatic performance!

    Dec 17, 2006 | 1:21 pm

  7. timmy says:

    How about VATEL? that french film which starrred gerard depardieu,tim roth and uma thurman? Vatel’s story is the very storty of the honor of a chef: if you cannot feed your guests properly, then you must kill yourself instead!

    In the movie, Vatel was placed in charge of a three day feast to be given in honor of Louis XIV with three thousand guests in attendance. I got my dvd copy from quiapo 2 years ago.

    Dec 17, 2006 | 1:38 pm

  8. len says:


    I’m glad you’re doing this. After all life is to be enjoyed to the fullest. My kids though would think I turned into a Martha Stewart desciple if they saw this on our Christmas dinner table.

    Merry Christmas!

    Dec 17, 2006 | 2:05 pm

  9. Mila says:

    ooo, all the movie suggestions would make for a foodie marathon movie feast (visual)! I love Eat, Drink, Man Woman; Vatel; Babette’s Feast. Add Big Night to the list! There was another article a few years back that listed all the great food movies.

    Dec 18, 2006 | 10:48 am

  10. ThePseudoshrink says:

    And there I was, thinking I am Type A with obsessive-compulsive tendencies… ; )
    This is just amazing and perfect! How I would love to see you and your crew in action.

    Dec 18, 2006 | 11:00 am

  11. stef says:

    if i hadn’t typed the url in myself i would have thought i was on martha stewart’s site! please take that as a compliment.

    Dec 18, 2006 | 7:30 pm

  12. corrine says:

    Very informative…especially about putting foam under the table cloth. thanks!

    Dec 19, 2006 | 8:35 am

  13. millet says:

    i totally agree…no use keeping our beautiful elegant things in the camphor chest…take them out and use them and enjoy them with family and friends. Merry Christmas, MarketMan and Mrs. MM and Kid!

    Dec 19, 2006 | 6:57 pm

  14. Chunky says:

    whew! just read this based on the link provided on a recent entry. that’s a lot of details. are you an OC? *wink* no offense meant…i am a tad OC myself.

    Jan 7, 2008 | 6:06 pm


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