06 Jan2014

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It’s always easier the second time around. At least that seems to be true in the MM household. The first dinner always has heightened stress levels, and there are inevitable glitches, but the second dinner that is usually held the next night seems so much smoother… For 2013, we had our second dinner two days later, and the flowers will look familiar as we were able to freshen up most of the arrangements, though we added a pail full of new flowers to make sure everything looked good. The tablecloth is the same shade of linen, but a fresh piece and ironed in place.

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Plain white Limoges china make the table look different from the first dinner, and the addition of red tapered candles set in crystal candleholders ups the festive holiday feel.

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Candles lit at different levels (including votive holders) casts a nice warm glow on the dinner table and guests. I keep wondering why we don’t use candles more often during the rest of the year… we should.

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The Teen’s comments that things looked too spring-like were taken under advisement… the next holiday dinner after this one had a decidedly holiday “red and green” look.

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All set and ready for guests…

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…yes, we do actually have guests. I know I rarely post photos of people, but I guess I break that rule here… This was our “international dinner” with friends from way back… a Korean roommate from college and his wife, French Canadian, Polish Canadian, Tanzanian Canadian, German Canadian and Balinese friends and family. We had folks who are Christian, Catholic, Hindu and Muslim to celebrate the holidays and friendship.

Not quite a Downton Abbey-esque dinner (the gaps between people were too narrow to serve properly) but we had two modern-day “footmen”, our trusty waiter (now Manager that oversees waitstaff and training at Zubuchon) who has served holiday meals in our home for nearly 15 years and an able assistant. We only have waitstaff for a few holiday gatherings a year, and they really make the meals feel extra-special.

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The first course was a buckwheat blini (mini-pancake) with beet-cured salmon and red fish roe served with creme fraiche with dill. The plate was garnised with chervil, which I was surprised to find at S&R.

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The second appetizer was a bit of burrata cheese (very creamy mozzarella) with the most amazing tomatoes from Gejo/Nacho and garnished with Gejo’s purple and sweet green basil leaves. A light drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some cracked black pepper as well.

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And it’s here that I got caught up in the food, and DID NOT remember to take photos of the main course, so you will just have to imagine… We had a Roast Turkey with Damson Plum Sauce (Damson Plum jam from Sister), a couple of 2-2.5 inch thick Bistecca a la Fiorentina, creamy mashed potatoes, mushroom dressing with black truffle oil, Buttered and herbed vegetables. A cheese course followed and for dessert we had strawberries, blueberries and Cebu mangoes with heavy cream as well as a wonderful carrot cake brought by some of our guests.

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A glimpse of the menu taped to a kitchen cabinet for the first holiday dinner… see all the crazed notes on what plate to use with what dish? Pandemonium reigns in the kitchen during the first meal of the season…

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The second dinner was MUCH calmer in the kitchen and service was a lot smoother… Also, for those of you planning to do this, notice some real “shortcuts” employed. Many of the appetizers are homemade BUT served at two meals (since guests are different) so you save on prep work and time. We bought a whole 7-rib roast beef, but had the two largest ribs cut into beautiful Bistecca cuts, so both sets of guests had the most special of roasts/meats, while a second choice of ham, turkey, etc. was offered to make sure each meal met varying dietary restrictions and preferences. I stocked up on vegetables and garnishes and used them on both evenings. Also, when pressed for time as I was, I jettisoned all the plans for fancy desserts like souffles, creme brulees, tarts, etc. that I have done for previous years… and relied on simple fruit desserts and things guests were happy to bring with them. After a large meal many guests have so little dessert for the most part…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Betchay says:

    I like the yellow plate with the christmassy colors of the veggies! Do you do your dishwashing in the dishwasher? I wouldn’t trust our helpers with the voluminous breakables especially the crystal glasses! LOL! And your silverwares, how do you keep them shiny without tiring your hands from wiping and re-wiping? My mom left each of her kids some heirloom silver pieces and I think the genie in my silver pot have already escape long before from all the cleaning and wiping! ha!ha!ha! And to think I have not actually use them…only on display in our china cabinet!

    Jan 6, 2014 | 4:20 pm

     
  2. Marketman says:

    Betchay, I think the secret is to USE the silver as often as you can. We use the silver a lot during the holidays, but at least once a month or more during the year as well. They develop a nice patina over time, and I find we only have to use silver cleaner on them once or twice a year if that. Just wash with a soft sponge in warm soapy water, dry well with a clean cloth, and store in ziplock plastic bags by type of utensil, remove as much air as possible and store in drawers. If you have a silver box that’s lined with felt, then use that… Ultimately, the silver looks best when old and even scratched, rather than shiny and new… Some of this silver was purchased at estate sales or auctions, and go back perhaps 50+ years (some single use implements we have that Sister gave as presents go back 150+ years!) and we have no desire to keep in a cabinet on display… :)

    And no, in the city, we have no electric dishwashers, they are hand washed. The best crystal and china have to be hand-washed anyway, and would suffer in a dishwasher. I sometimes do the most delicate glasses myself, but the day after the party, when I have had some rest. That way, if I break anything, there is no one to blame but myself.

    Jan 6, 2014 | 4:28 pm

     
  3. Betchay says:

    Thanks for the tip MM. OK, additional new year’s resolution…use the silverwares! :)

    Jan 6, 2014 | 4:46 pm

     
  4. Susan says:

    Ohhh, love this post! Makes it more personal with the guests in your pics, next time get in the pic too : )

    Jan 6, 2014 | 5:12 pm

     
  5. marilen says:

    Yes, love this post and the happy faces of dear friends/guests who enjoyed your love and hospitality, MM

    Jan 7, 2014 | 8:26 am

     
  6. ami says:

    MM, didn’t you get red candle wax on your white linens?

    Jan 7, 2014 | 12:04 pm

     
  7. Marketman says:

    ami, the candles are dripless. Yes, dripless, they burn off al the wax as they get shorter… But having said that, if there is even a slight draft in the room, they do drip a bit. So you put a little glass candle wax holder/catcher at the base of the candle to catch the errant wax… If you look very closely at the first and third photos (or enlarge it) you can see the wax catcher… :)

    Jan 7, 2014 | 12:51 pm

     
  8. Joey in Dubai says:

    When you were just posting photos of your dinner table complete with all those intricate flower arrangements, fancy cutleries, plates and all that jazz (with sitting arrangements pa!), I was imagining you and your guests dine in bejeweled gowns and black ties. Sosyal! Now, I am just amazed, with my mouth agape, to finally see a photo of your guests garbed in come-as-you-are, plain, informal attire! Wow, do some of them come in shorts? How I wish I can gatecrash one of your dinners! You’re really amazing, man!

    Jan 7, 2014 | 4:57 pm

     
  9. Marketman says:

    Joey, hahaha, we have a VERY INFORMAL household. And I wear shorts to most dinners during the year, but for the holidays, I manage to wear long pants most of the time… :) Guests almost always come casually, unless we tell them it’s a bit more snazzy, which is rarely the case…

    Jan 7, 2014 | 6:28 pm

     
  10. Risa says:

    Curious (I need to review HomeEc)– fork tines have to face up in a table setting, right?

    Jan 8, 2014 | 5:59 pm

     
  11. Marketman says:

    Risa, there are at least two kinds of service (actually more). In a European service, and that is the silver used in the photos above, the design on the cutlery are on the “back” of the pieces, and as such are set “upside down” as it were. I guess Europeans tend to eat with their fork tines facing down, not up, and that is consistent with the setting.

    For an American setting or the setting many of us are used to, the tines are set facing up. It’s a bit of arte or artifice, but the etiquette of setting a table does have its nuances if one is so inclined…

    So in the second photo up top, from outer to inner on the utensils, the outer fish knife and fish fork is for an appetizer of salmon, the next fork and knife is for the salad, and the last knife and fork is for the main course. Because we served steak as one of the main course options, we put a steak knife if guests preferred to use that. But technically, I think it is incorrect to use a steak knife to cut a non-steak item such as sliced ham or turkey… At the top of the plate, rests a mother of pearl handled dull knife and two tined fork. These are for a fruit (and cheese) course. Sticklers for formality would suggest you don’t put these beforehand, and your waiters (or footmen 100 years ago) would place them there just before the fruit and cheese were served. The utensils for dessert would follow after that. It all sounds ridiculous, I know, but you asked. :)

    Jan 15, 2014 | 7:50 pm

     
  12. Cucharatenedor says:

    What nice, crisp colors and really, a beautiful experience shared through this blog. It is good to read on such dining affairs that pay attention to both form and substance in this day and age of microwave and fast food.

    Jan 23, 2014 | 2:39 pm

     
 

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