01 Feb2012

Looking ahead to a new year, one often wishes for a clean slate. Personally, I write up my goals (resolutions) for the new year, and I do try to accomplish most of them. But life has a way of screwing things up (or I get lazy), so by the end of the year, things are a little hazy… :) At any rate, enough with all the green and red of Christmas, time for some blues and whites evocative of a clean beginning. Actually, it was just an excuse to use these luxurious placemats and napkins that sister stuffed into our suitcases last November when we returned from New York. She was cleaning out her deep closets and thankfully (I think), she foists off fantastic tableware to her youngest brother, knowing they will at least get some use and readers perhaps will get some little bit of joy out of reading about them in use… The table linens are from Pratesi, that venerable Italian house that is better known for their bed linens… the stuff that has sidled up to more naked Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Sheiks, and miscellaneous bijillionaires and celebrities than anything else, except perhaps Porthault or Frette. I have never even been inside a Pratesi store. :)

Sister trolls closeouts and sales like a professional, and probably can’t resist good quality linens when they present themselves… but I have to say, these are beautiful, but seriously high maintenance linens. One drip of soy sauce and a painful internal scream could erupt. Such dining stress. :) The thick white cotton placemats, of an enormous size I might add, are embroidered around the scalloped edge. They paired nicely with the blue and white plates, but probably intimidated the two guests we had over for dinner last New Year’s Eve! Placemats are supposed to be casual, for goodness sakes, but these were like casual in a “oh, by the way, Prince so-and-so is dropping by this evening for a bite to eat…” :)

Did anyone else notice that the plate in the top photo is off-center? I just did. Where was the butler that night? By the way, did you know that the proper distance between place settings is measured as two feet from the center of one plate to the center of the next plate beside you? I just read that in a Town & Country article on butlers… random trivia, just in case you were curious. That distance leaves enough space for footmen and butlers to serve between guests comfortably…

Photographed in late afternoon, the table was lit by several levels of candles, the tall thin candles of beeswax, in crystal candlesticks. Other candles are in porcelain or unglazed bone china “clam shells”. Small shot glasses will be filled later with some water and a single butterfly orchid bloom in each. Everything light, white or clear…

Just before sitting down to dinner, we lit all the candles and nice warm glow settled over the dinner table. Exactly the ambiance we were hoping for. It felt festive… but we were actually sitting down to a very simple and comfort food type meal…

…another view of the table…

…and one of the crocks of cassoulet that Mrs. MM made for the evening. This one without pork products, and a larger crock with pork products. This two-day in the making dish with duck confit, lamb and pork sausage and beans is something we do just once or twice a year in our home, and for this New Year’s eve, it was requested by the Teen, so cassoulet it was. The dish gets better with age as well… and isn’t fussy about when you bring it to table… so there was absolutely no commotion getting this meal on the table. A salad of greens with a vinaigrette dressing and some crusty french bread and we got ready for the New Year!



  1. myra_p says:

    MM, really beautiful setting. The bone china is so pretty, all lit up. These are from the Legazpi market right? Btw, a belated thank you for the chicharon. I ate half, then used the rest to sprinkle on my pancit palabok (which I believe you have never made yet). Think old school, with tinapa and kamias :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 6:15 am


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  3. lina pileggi says:

    classy & elegant arrangement Marketman. Lived in Europe in the 80s and now in Canada. I have to learn & adjust to fine dining with my italian in-laws .

    Feb 1, 2012 | 6:36 am

  4. melanie says:

    Everything looks so beautiful! Warm and welcoming…but I’d probably be unable to start eating with you as I would take time admiring the beautiful blue of the plates and the lovely embroidery on the place mats. In my favorite color,too! And you’re right, MM, a drop of any sauce would give both you and me the shivers! Maybe I’d ask the Teen for some plastic sheet like the kind she covers her books with…to put on top of the place mat? hahaha

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:04 am

  5. Betchay says:

    As always…the setting screams simple elegance!
    May I know what the small mother of pearl dish on the upper left hand corner of each setting is for?….butter dish?…for sauces?

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:12 am

  6. Betchay says:

    Melanie, plastic cover to protect almost anything is so Pinoy!!!! :) I remember watching on TV/movie comedies…..sofas are also protected with plastic covers!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:15 am

  7. Marketman says:

    myrap, yes, bone china from Legazpi market source. Glad you had the chicharon. I have actually made pancit malabon/palabok several times, just never published a recipe… it turned out very well… melanie, the key is to NEVER get used to the plastic… hence you avoid or simply deal with the spills… :) Betchay, yes, butter or to lay your small piece of bread down on while you eat the cassoulet… But if you notice, no butter knives near the butter plate…tsk, tsk. :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:16 am

  8. sister says:

    Terrific! Even at the Abbey the staff gets Christmas and New Year’s Eve off and buffet is the order of the day for lunch. What about the Servants Ball? You have your own staff party version…
    I am so happy to see all in use. I should have been the head housekeeper at the Abbey.
    Yes, 2 ft. is the standard and also allows for some elbow room unless one is obese.
    Since you do not have Carson, you will be forgiven the silver above the plate.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:22 am

  9. myra_p says:

    Ooh, please publish your recipe! I love tinkering with old Filipino favorites that home cooks rarely touch because they’re so easy to order.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:32 am

  10. Marketman says:

    sister, hahaha, yes a Carson would be nice. Have recently been reviewing the curriculum at several European vs. American butlering courses and thought about taking an 8 week course (pricey!) so that I can teach a few aspiring butlers here at home… who knows, they may end up working for Middle Eastern sheiks’ butlers… :) Yup, no footmen that evening (nor most all evenings for that matter) hence the convenience of the dessert silver above the plate.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:33 am

  11. Marketman says:

    myrap, was hoping to save it for that mythical cookbook that I haven’t started to write… :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:35 am

  12. wysgal says:

    Just as a curiosity, why is your cutlery facedown? Is there a particular reason or just personal style?

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:35 am

  13. Marketman says:

    hi wysgal, it’s been a while. The silver is a European set, so the details or design are on the other side, so when in use, the spoons and forks are set “upside down” on purpose… actually it’s the norm in europe, I gather. The set has these ginormous spoons, so big there’s no way you could use them with rice and adobo… hahaha. With silver that has the design on both sides, or the other side, you would set it with the tines of the fork facing upwards…

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:40 am

  14. millet says:

    love this! you’re right, by New Year’s Eve, everyone needs a respite from green-red-gold, and your setting is so refreshing. i got a set of similar linen placemats and napkins as a gift, and although i make it a point to use my “good” stuff for regular daily use, i’m too scared to soil the linen thingies.

    there must be some scotchguard fabric protector somewhere that you can spray on these things to provide a protective film? have been looking all over for that. something that would stay till about five washes?

    my late grandmother was such a fan of gawgaw (starch), and she used to starch everything till a napkin could stand upright on its own! the starch would be invisible, but would provide an almost-impermeable film that gave you a few seconds to wipe up that spot of toyo before it penetrated the fibers. lipstick marks were left on the starch, too, but by then, the napkins were too stiff and rough your lips could get bruised just dabbing on them.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 9:18 am

  15. PITS, MANILA says:

    butlers measure distances between covers … this has always fascinated me. a ruler appears from nowhere just to check if the measurement is accurate.
    and really, it is stressful if droplets of sauce end up in the linen. just like if my personal knives, enameled cast iron pots and pans are used by other people … hahaha!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 9:29 am

  16. Susie says:

    MM,if you haven’t yet, watch the series on the queen at Windsor Castle. One episode was on how they get ready for the banquets, ruler and all. Best part was when the queen actually checked! She is as OC as the rest of us are :-)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 11:10 am

  17. bermes says:

    Fantastic setting. The napkin does however remind me of KKK. The non Katipunan one.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 11:35 am

  18. Gej says:

    Elegant set-up! And that cabinet (armoire?) in the background is beautiful!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 11:55 am

  19. Dragon (Melbourne) says:

    @ Susie – I managed to catch that episode of QE2…ruler and all. OC indeed!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 12:22 pm

  20. uzisera says:

    I hate to put a damper on things, but its kinda boring reading what plates, napkins you used during the holidays. Granted you do not force me to read your blog but the breathless reactions your readers give are so funny. “I chose this pattern” “wow, wonderful taste marketman!” type of comments, really banal.


    Feb 1, 2012 | 12:51 pm

  21. Marketman says:

    uzisera, you are of course entitled to your opinion, but as you say, then simply skip the post, no one is forcing you to consume it. Given that there are over 3,200 different posts on this blog, surely there is something you find less “banal”. And if not, why bother to read the blog at all? Surely not every reader will find everything interesting nor to their taste, that’s normal for something with a large audience. And for a food blog, I don’t think tabletop settings are out of the realm, in fact, they get quite a lot of hits, as did single-purpose implements such as marrow spoons… One wonders, in a vacuum, just how boring your place setting and food might be when you sit down to dinner. :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 1:14 pm

  22. uzisera says:

    when I sit down for dinner, there’s a plate, food and gratitude to God for his blessing. just don’t be deluded by the breathless comments Marketman

    Feb 1, 2012 | 1:22 pm

  23. Marketman says:

    I am not deluded by the comments; it seems to be you that is irked by them more than anything else…

    Feb 1, 2012 | 1:33 pm

  24. shiko says:

    Either the kind uzisera is wonderfully overconcerned with the inner feelings and beliefs of the venerable and quite responsibly adult MarketMan, or she is terribly insecure that someone’s getting “breathless comments” that are, I’m sure by any respectable survey, well deserved.

    As for myself I’m quite evenly breathing, thank you very much, as I extend my heartfelt appreciation to MarketMan for sharing with someone of middle-class origins like myself such heretofore unknown luxuries as Italian linen-makers-to-the-stars’ placemats. I’d rather be aware, however “painfully” (or breathlessly), of the levels upon levels of excellence and beauty that artisanship has achieved, than, say, pitifully parochial in my concerns, gustatory, aesthetic, or otherwise.

    Anyhow Mister MM, I must say I’m even more thrilled (“chuffed”?) than usual to find, not only a new post, but that you and the great Sister follow a certain Abbey too ;)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 1:40 pm

  25. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    Simply elegant..learning a lot about being a little bit classy on your blog is why i visit you daily. Bravo !!!!…is my “breathless comment”

    Feb 1, 2012 | 2:06 pm

  26. millet says:

    i have a touch of asthma right now, but am nowhere near breathless, thank you.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 2:33 pm

  27. Biy says:

    I was suppose to make a banal comment based upon these wonderful table settings that in itself is yummy . I was imagining myself to be one of lucky ones sitting on it. . Imagining myself what if i took a bite at the linens ,then after reading a post that is kinda not positive ,my eagerness to blurt out my admiration vanish ! Oh did someone just entered and disrespected the dinner table? It sure does feel like it. Let us not forget what our parents taught us about respect and saying negatives over dinner. Especially if its not our house.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 2:34 pm

  28. Footloose says:

    Something tells me I’m going to be finally present at Market Manila fans going tribal.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 3:26 pm

  29. Footloose says:

    Oh I was going to say (before the consummately self-monikered commenter butted in), the bone china tea light diffusers are quite effective. That’s the one thing the rabble can pick up from this post. Should come in handy with the frequent brown-outs.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 3:46 pm

  30. Marketman says:

    Footloose, the bone china clam shells and Christmas patterned holders are made by the same Filipino factory that made the sea urchin bone china votive candle holders I featured here. I spotted them at a weekend market, and recognized them to be the one and same design of Bernardaud, which they were, but these are seconds. And they cost a fraction (perhaps 1/10th) of the retail price in New York and elsewhere… So yes, luxurious but very affordable. :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 3:51 pm

  31. Footloose says:

    Yes, I remember the post well.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 3:53 pm

  32. Jannah (Abu Dhabi) says:

    Uzizera I’m one of the regular reader of MM. Point is I’m a Muslim, but that does’nt not stop me from enjoying this blog and if there is (very seldom) post that I don’t like, I simply skip it.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 5:46 pm

  33. Rowi says:

    One drop of soy…. painful internal scream… : ) Exactly my sentiments, especially when it stains a hundred year old linen/damask tablecloth. It’s a painstaking effort to put such a lovely and inspiring spread as you have done MM, but the satisfaction of seeing the results and the enjoyment of dining with delicious food in a convivial setting is worth one or 2 drops of soy… : )
    Though I would love to have a Carson or Mrs. Hughes before and after the dinner.
    Sister, you would certainly give Mrs. Hughes a run for her hard-earned pounds.

    I noticed that you have the spoon and fork laid upside down. In France, I’ve seen it set this way, however here in Sweden it is still face up, at least in formal settings such as the Nobel banquet. I’m not sure if the difference has something to do with the monogram/emblem engraved on either the back or front of the spoon/fork.

    Thank you for sharing your New Year’s dinner tablescape. It was a wonderful read!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 5:49 pm

  34. Marketman says:

    Rowi, yes, where the design on the flatware or the monogram are, that’s what faces the diner when they sit down… Jannah, all religious affiliations welcome. :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 6:01 pm

  35. Papa Ethan says:

    Hmmm… me suspects, the fishpan has mutated! >:-(

    Feb 1, 2012 | 6:18 pm

  36. bisdakRN says:

    And there goes Debbie Downer, our fishpan awardee for this month. Anyway, I do love to read your posts about table settings among other else :)

    Feb 1, 2012 | 6:34 pm

  37. MrsKookie says:

    About the candle holders (Im talking about the big ones with the snowflake-like deisgns) – we have a few also at home and recently (I dont know how or why), it “melted”, while there was a candle burning inside. Good thing we saw it in time else it would have burned the tablecloth. (Now I realize, maybe I should NOT have placed a table cloth under it). Anyway, just be careful with those.

    Oh and new year/month, new fishpan comment :D

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:06 pm

  38. Thel from Florida says:

    MM, Bless your heart always for your interesting posts. I’m very grateful for learning so much. My husband is getting me a Pratesi for my birthday in April. Cheers!

    Feb 1, 2012 | 7:55 pm

  39. sister says:

    Time to take out more fish pans from storage, maybe the ones from Alain Ducasse’s ill fated NY restaurant. Who would have imagined there would be such a kerfuffle over some place mats.

    You can dress up your dining table for very little and mix and match high and low end items. It’s an affordable luxury, just like your Starbucks latte, and recycled to booth while you throw away your paper coffee cup. Why eat over the sink?

    If I spend all day making dinner it deserves a carefully thought out presentation.

    Rowi, you’re right, the engraving, initials or crest, was usually on the back of family silver meant to be handed down through the generations. If the silver was stolen it would be identifiable.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 9:05 pm

  40. millet says:

    BOINGGG!…said the fishpan. Laughing out loud here af er reading the comments about engraved family crests ang initials on flatware. I remember going to fiestas and parties as a kid why the flatware each had a swipe of “kyutiks” (nail polish) on them.

    Feb 1, 2012 | 9:39 pm

  41. millet says:

    miss the smell of real beeswax candles. Mrs.Kookie, i7 there any likelihood your candleholders were acrylic instead of glass or crystal?

    Feb 1, 2012 | 9:53 pm

  42. Marketman says:

    Mrs. Cookie, the candleholders you refer to in these photos are made of bone china… so unless the temperature was in the several hundred degrees, I can’t imagine these “melting”… so perhaps we had similar looking holders, but of a different material? At any rate, what does sometimes happen is that the insides of the holder get black from the candle smoke, and they are a bit of a pain to clean, but so far, managed to clean them all up…

    Feb 1, 2012 | 10:31 pm

  43. alicia says:

    Just love it.. simple me, banal, prosaic me

    Feb 1, 2012 | 10:39 pm

  44. Westy says:

    I’m glad to see you using all of the fine linens and china in your collection. My sister and I were recipients of all the old family china and doodads as grandparents and childless great aunts and uncles passed on in the 1980s. Some of it sadly had to be sacrificed to antique stores to be enjoyed by other families, simply due to the volume of it all.

    The first Thanksgiving that I had a great aunt’s Limoges set out brought her sister to tears, she’d only seen what was her sister’s wedding china from 1925 used twice before in 60 years! It brought years of family history out during that charming afternoon and evening—apparently the china had been bought at Gump’s in San Francisco with the surviving great aunt’s help.

    Thanks for your post, MM, it’s brought back many fond memories today.

    Feb 2, 2012 | 12:08 am

  45. alilay says:

    @ millet LOL at the “kyutiks” i also saw them on fiestas and other handaan or piging, sabi ng Anda ko (lola) some households borrow forks and spoons (that time di pa masyado uso ang plastic fork and spoon) from relatives and neighbors so they’ll know the red kyutiks is from aling edna and the pinks are from tiya fely.

    Feb 2, 2012 | 3:33 am

  46. betty q. says:

    Alilay! …kamusta? If you still see Maria Clara, please say hello to her for me!!!!

    Feb 2, 2012 | 3:56 am

  47. Shalimar says:

    Some Filipino friends could not sometimes understand why I would use placemats, candles, flowers on my table even I was only having a bowl of arroz cal do ;-)
    Ambiance I guess…

    Feb 2, 2012 | 4:36 am

  48. Natie says:

    Fishpan comments do stir up the site….hehe

    Feb 2, 2012 | 4:56 am

  49. millet says:

    oops..missed a line there…”going to parties as a kid and asking my mom why..”

    Feb 2, 2012 | 9:44 am

  50. Josephine says:

    You do set your table as is done here in France – but in the best houses only, where the monogram on the back of the silver is worth showing…but what I really want to know is do you confit your own duck? If so, where do you get ducks and the requisite fat in Manila? This used to be a real rigmarole when I lived in Australia – ducks too skinny, duck fat way too pricey – of course in France I never bother, I just buy it and it’s very reasonably priced, but would like to attempt it when I’m back at home.

    Feb 2, 2012 | 9:46 am

  51. Marketman says:

    Josephine, unfortunately, we don’t confit our own ducks, for the same reasons you specify. We buy it canned, bottled or frozen which works well enough for the cassoulet… I do have access to pork lard in vats… but not duck lard…

    Feb 2, 2012 | 10:15 am

  52. Laura says:

    As for me, I’m always open to food related ideas from presentation & photography to table settings such as this…so thanks for always sharing the lifestyle with your readers. I also think that bamboo cabinet shown in the background of photo # 4 is beautiful!

    Feb 2, 2012 | 10:32 am

  53. myra_p says:

    Hey MM, have you “investigated” our new fishpan nominee yet? :D How curious when a troll strolls into this blog and dumps their internal angst on your asthmatic readers, thinking s/he knows anything about us/you.

    On a side note, I’m breathlessly waiting for you palabok recipe.

    Feb 2, 2012 | 4:18 pm

  54. Marketman says:

    myra, actually, the wordpress software (as ancient as it is that this blog is built on) makes simple “investigations” easy… the commenter, uzisera, appeared to be a first time poster, but in reality, is “aleli”, a long-time reader who has commented several times in the past four years or so, so should have been aware of the breadth of topics covered on this blog, from my post on poverty in the philippines, one of the HIGHEST page view posts, I might add, to rants, to simple dishes, to the most sophisticated and expensive foods and doodads. If she visited regularly, she would have known that I often post holiday meals and SETTINGS and had featured dozens of one of a kind silver implements. So new to the blog is definitely not true. In fact, I would guess she has read or perused HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of posts before this little swipe with her knickers in a twist. And because she used her real email address, I do not think she really meant any strong offense, but on the other hand wasn’t confident enough in her position to say what she wanted to say using her normal name, instead using a new alias but forgetting that she had previously commented many times under the same email address and IP address, hence the conclusion she is one and the same. I find it most odd, in my attempt to sign off for good a year or more ago, she left me a comment THANKING me for the posts she had apparently enjoyed reading over the years, and as with all readers, GRATIS and without interference from bothersome ads. So the same person once grateful for at the very least, a minute or two or three diversion that is marketmanila (not claiming to be anything more than what it is, a blog that chronicles what I eat, cook, come across, write about, purchase and enjoy) would now feel she has to be, should I say, rude at the dinner table when she is a guest and has been eating my food for at least four years. It’s just a question of manners, really. And don’t get me started on the “God” aspect. I have gotten into trouble before for saying something as soon as people use “God” as the excuse. I am sure if God were at our proverbial dinner table, he wouldn’t be thrilled with the comment either. :)

    At any rate, I didn’t mention this earlier as she seems to have taken the two comments and not added more; but since you asked, yes, I have a feel for the commenter, and now that I know this, the comment was particularly uncalled for. As you allude to, first time visitors wanting to stir up things is one thing, but a long-time visitor aware of the types of posts should have been able to simply skip this one if they liked. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me or my views, but it matters how it is voiced. You should see some of the stuff from first time readers I simply delete without a second thought; or that the spam software catches and I don’t even bother to read… :)

    Here are some sample previous comments:

    In a post I did on lechon’s we cooked for Pnoy’s fund-raising dinner in Cebu before he was elected President (Jan 2010):

    “Sorry, not my vote”

    In a post on the girl who spewed expletives at me for the siling labuyo fiasco, where her mother was the masteral degree candidate and not doing her own research, in answer to a post of mine whether I should send a letter to the Dean of U.P. Los Banos, she wrote (Aug 2009):

    “Don’t send the email. Be magnanimous in victory. Your point is already well taken. Give the brat a break and maybe she’ll learn from this lesson without destroying her future.”

    In a post announcing bi-annual sale madness at S&R (Mar 2011):

    “It’s a bit embarrassing to read this article knowing that some people in Japan and even some compatriots in Bahrain are subsisting on so little food and other necessities.”

    And in my attempt at a sign off post where I thought it was time to call it quits from blogging for a while (Sep 2010):

    “Thanks for the lucid postings.”

    :) Yes, LUCID indeed. And yes Myrap, as you can imagine my frame of mind right now, I was kind to have resisted sharper retorts. Had this person been at dinner in our home, they would never be invited back. Simple as that. :)

    Feb 2, 2012 | 6:35 pm

  55. Pecorino1 says:

    I always appreciate your posts about table settings. It’s a topic that interests me. I suspect many of your readers are like me that way.

    When I still lived in Manila more than 7 years ago, I would buy French canned duck fat at Terry’s (Labeyrie and other brands). I’m lucky that here in Bangkok, duck is easily available in supermarkets. Dressed whole duck, breasts, thigh/legs, gizzards. I can confit to my heart’s content using rendered duck fat.

    Feb 2, 2012 | 7:53 pm

  56. Marketman says:

    Pecorino1, it’s been a while. :) Yes, you can get duck fat here, for a price. The last time I got goose (not duck) fat for fries, I paid PHP1,800 for two liters or so, and that was wholesale, so I couldn’t imagine what the price of the confit would be if I had to buy duck fat locally…

    Feb 2, 2012 | 8:16 pm

  57. alilay says:

    @bettyq, I will tell her. she pass by my apt. on her way to school last year and i mentioned that she is being missed at marketmanila.com. mr. MM naku pareho pa kami ng name ni uzisera but unlike her i want nice table settings

    Feb 3, 2012 | 3:05 am

  58. Biy says:

    Speaking of rudeness of some people.believe it or not as i cross that busy pedestrian i look at this guy next to me that was drunk .he then suddenly hit my shoulder . I was shocked and confused and what did i do to him . ? Oh man what can i say theres plenty of crazy people.

    Feb 3, 2012 | 6:35 pm

  59. Gezel says:

    Ha Ha ” Knickers in a twist” you sound so much like my husband when provoked.( So English)

    Feb 4, 2012 | 12:05 am

  60. Hechoayer says:

    This looks fantastic MM! I enjoy your blog very much. These placemats and linens look exquisite.

    Feb 8, 2012 | 8:12 am

  61. cookiesheet says:

    Hi! Where did you bought the beeswax candles?

    Feb 27, 2012 | 1:31 am

  62. Marketman says:

    Hi cookiesheet, my sister purchased the beeswax candles in New York.

    Feb 27, 2012 | 5:41 am


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