Open kitchens providing a new form of entertainment
Margette Sarmiento makes every holiday gathering special with long-running traditions and creative surprises
As we enter a quaint white living room, made ornate with fresh flowers and a Christmas tree in one corner, a friendly Siberian husky and a little poodle, named Luna and Mo- mo ( short for Moet) respectively, run down the stairs. Christmas is definitely in the air here; even the dogs feel the holiday cheer, greeting guests with so much warmth and openness.
Margette Sarmiento recently moved into this new house and will be celebrating her first Christmas here. Just like every year, December is hectic for everyone, but aside from the Christmas shopping and the parties left and right, she also has to prepare for her two sons’ birthdays, which fall right before the holiday.
If everyone’s here for the holidays, how do you make it less stressful?
I prepare way ahead of time. It’s really in the preparation.
What is the most memorable experience you’ve had?
Every Christmas, we always try to make a gimmick. Once, we decided to buy cheap but funny gifts. To me, that meant so much because there was a lot of humor and creativity in the gifts that we gave. [For example,] my son gave me this goblet that can contain the equivalent of one bottle of wine, because I love wine. Someone else received rolls of toilet paper because he stays in the bathroom really long. We try to get creative with things.
What’s the most important element in preparing for holiday dinners?
I think the table setting is the core of the celebration because everybody gathers around it. As you can see, the dining area is the core of my house. Everybody meets here so I try to make it as attractive as possible.
Can you describe the style of your table setting?
The plates that I used were inherited from my in-laws. I use them every year when we have our family dinner. This year, I decided on using roses to pick up the Victorian look of the plates.
How do you keep your space kid-friendly?
My children and grandchildren are already used to the process. They’re pretty trained, so they know what it’s like.
Do you have a holiday staple?
It’s basically the dishes I cook. I also serve a lot of tapas because they really enjoy them. I specially prepare angulas, baby eels from Spain; that’s my tradition. Then I have food coming in from the south of France and wine coming in from Spain. That would be the concept for this year: a Mediterranean feast.
How do you entertain when you’re not yet done cooking and guests start arriving already?
I purposely made the kitchen open so that when the food is not yet ready and I’m still cooking, I still get to be with the guests. They can be in the kitchen with me. I make them watch me cook, and that’s part of my enjoyment.
Do you have a particular playlist during your dinners?
I particularly like Vivaldi, classical music. But my children always change it to music of newer artists.
What’s your most important tip to a host?
It would be for the host to enjoy the whole setup, the whole experience, because a lot of them get nervous and fret. They end up not enjoying anymore. The host has to be the first one to relax, to be accommodating, and to savor the whole moment.
MARGETTE SARMIENTO SOURCES FRESH FLOWERS FROM THE LOCAL MARKET FOR HER HOLIDAY DECOR.