From the décor to the fare, natural elements take the stage
From table setting and décor to food, Kate Anzani reveres all things that come from nature
“Other than being cooked well, food has to be made from good ingredients. I would always complain that our products are too small, but in truth, I’m so thankful that they’re small; [That means] they’re natural,” shares Kate Anzani, wife of Italian chef Marco Anzani and co-owner of the Anzani Group of Restaurants.
After getting sick from her most recent trip abroad because of ingesting genetically modified food, Anzani has made transparency in food provenance her mantra. And with the couple’s company known for all things epicurean, they are now cultivating pockets of herb and fruit gardens and a small mushroom farm in their own backyard. But apart from growing food, Anzani takes it to the next level by using real fruits as her festive décor.
Describe your theme for this year’s holiday season.
I want to showcase my personal advocacy of real food. The wreath outside is wholly made from fruits. The Christmas tree is decorated with dehydrated slices of oranges and lemons. The red berries on the table are actual berries from the palm tree.
Do you always have themes every year?
Yes. I work on the elements first. This year, I went with copper and stone, and I’m thinking of including wood as well. Last year, I went for the peppermint candy theme.
Do you have any holiday tradition that you religiously follow every year?
Making gingerbread. The holiday is on the 24th—obviously, that’s the Filipino way of celebrating Christmas. My sisters and I hold a gingerbread-making activity [for the kids] at around 8 p.m., then Noche Buena is at 9 p.m.
What’s your menu this Christmas?
I want holiday dinners to be home-cooked meals. I don’t care if it takes long to prepare, so one week before, we start preserving jams and compotes. Some are hard to find here so we try to get everything in before December.
This year, we’re having a ham hock. It’s still the leg of ham, but we’ll do it Italian style, which they call cotechino.
We have different menus. One is for Christmas Eve and one is for Christmas brunch, which starts at 10 a.m. Then after brunch, there’s a 2 p.m. snack. Usually, the leftovers from the night before are served for Christmas Day dinner.
What’s one holiday trick you can share to make gatherings less stressful?
Once the guests arrive, you need to feed them and let them drink something. By doing this, you can take an hour longer in the kitchen as they’re still happily getting comfortable with each other. Because everyone is stressed these days, it’s important to give each guest the time to [ bring down] their walls. I find that’s usually done within 30 minutes and after getting alcohol in their system.
Also, if you, the host, are stressed, your guests feel it too. If wine makes your nerves calmer, then by all means, down a glass of wine. For me, though, I prefer to drink after. I’m very focused on cooking.
How do you usually serve the food? Is it buffet style or plated?
Christmas Eve is just family, Christmas Day is for everyone else. If there are more than 12 guests, I usually do restaurant sitdown service. If it’s more than 50, hell yeah, buffet style.