Friday, May 29, 2009

Perseverance and Faith - 20 years ago in history

In one dawn 20 years ago, with tanks and soldiers rolling over Beijing's Tiananman Square, crushing the bones and flesh of innocent students and other protesters (as well as our hearts), history was forever changed. We all witnessed first-hand a defining historical moment that has been haunting us even to this date; and little did we know at that time, this bloody event turned a new worldwide tide against despotism and tyranny regimes, and a few months later, Berlin Wall - the symbol of oppression of freedom, fell, for once and for all, and the world was never the same.

Just when we were still consumed by all the horror news coming from Beijing in June 1989, another chapter of history quietly unfolded a few days later, not in Beijing but in Paris; not on a public square but on a red-clay tennis court; not by a troop of cold-blooded soldiers and political leaders but by one young man, not of a cowardly oppression but a David-vs-Goliath triumph. Michael Chang, 17 years old at that time and merely 5'9" tall, against all odds, has won the French open men's singles, defeating hot favorites Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg along his way. With the stunning victory, he became the youngest Grand Slam male champion (a record still holds to date), the first ethnic Chinese to win a Grand Slam tournament, and the first American to win the French Open since 1955. Every cloud has a silver lining.

The highlight of his road to the championship is certainly the match he played against Ivan Lendl in the 4th Round - trailing two sets to none and in obvious pain in his knees because of cramps, he crawled back one set at a time and won the next three. Many - me included - would probably still vividly remember his cute underhand serve which caught Lendl by surprise and the double-fault that Ivan Lendl made which ended the match (apparently Michael distracted him by making an awkward stance in the middle of the court and forced him to hit the ball well long as a result) That game remained one of the longest in French Open history (4 hours 37 minutes) and one true classic sporting moment.

Michael Chang went on to become one of the greatest tennis players in the world, reaching Grand Slam finals three more times (French Open in 1995, Australian and US Open in 1996), and ranked number 2 at one point. He's a crowd favorite in Hong Kong in the 1990s - mostly because of his charming look - and he repaid us by winning the tournament here (then called Salem Open) three times - more than anyone else. I remember going to watch him play in Victoria Park one year (when he lost in the semis), keeping an autographed match programme as a treasured memento, and wearing his Reebok sneakers proudly on the street when I was young. Who knows how many other local kids picked up their tennis racquets for the first time because of his influences. He's one of the first Asian atheletes who gained worldwide success and fame, and in a sense, paved way for many others to follow soon afterwards.

Well, Michael's story is about perseverance, confidence, hard work, never-say-die spirit, joyful attitude and faith. He dedicated his victory and success to God, and he testified that during his course to the French Open triumph, many times he considered quitting and it's Jesus who urged him to stay on. He shared with us the power of prayers and that he will pray before every match, not for beating his opponents, but for his actions and words be used to glorify God. Overcoming his height (and reach) constraints, he always run around on the court, going after every balls, hitting those "impossible" shots which others would have long given up on. He's always been a model athelete, and never been in any kind of trouble or scandal, which is a rare commodity these days. His professional career outlasted many of his peers (including Pete Sampras and Jim Courier) and after retirement, he continued to be an inspirational figure on and off the court, running tennis camps and sharing his story with others around the world, using every opportunity he has to draw people to Jesus and Christianity.

Just as this month we remember what happened 20 years ago in Tiananman Square and vow to persist until freedom and democracy are upheld in China, let us also remember and reflect upon the historical triumph of Michael, and be inspired once again by his perseverance and the faith in the Lord.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Krug Room

CYY 的生日飯, 今年我們選了到文華的The Krug Room. Krug Room其實即是MO的Chef's Table, 每天只供應Tasting Menu的晚餐, 由酒店的總廚Uwe Opocensky一手設計和炮製, 菜式嘛... 據chef uwe 自己的形容, 是progressive gastronomy 的style, 風格也深受Ferran Adrià的影響, 當然Dining Room內還feature了被譽為全城最extensive的Krug 香檳Collection...

星期六的傍晚, 我們抵達酒店大堂時, 已經看到負責招呼我們的waiter在等候著, 帶領我們從chinnery bar後面穿過一道non-descriptive的門口, 到達我們今晚用餐的"隱閉"地點 - 一間長長的dining room, 只放著一張雲石做的高身communal table, 牆身和地板以橡木作裝飾, 旁邊也放了champagne第一趟發酵用的木筒作擺設, dining room的一邊, 就靠著廚房, 透過玻璃窗, 裡面的作業情況一覽無遺 - Relaxed, 簡單, 耀目而不落俗套. 桌子上作裝飾的碟子, 寫上了詩仙李白的<<將進酒>>: "人生得意須盡歡, 莫使金樽空對月", 此時此刻, 尤為貼切. Oh, 還有, 房間內, 有一面黑色的牆, 上面以粉筆寫上了我們Dinner Menu的"謎面" - 只是些單字 - "Farm", "Pond", "Miyazaki"... 看了, 已有"未進餐, 先興奮"的感覺, 就是想看看每個單字代表的是一道甚麼的菜式, 帶來的是一樣甚麼的味道.

晚飯先以一杯Krug的Grande Cuvée作序幕, 要逐一形容Chef Uwe為我們預備的菜式, 恐怕並不容易. 也為著保留神秘感, 所以在此不贅. 總之, 寫在menu的, 看到的, 嚐到的, 和感受到的可以是截然不同, 雖然可能是些平凡得不可再平凡的食材 - 蔬菜, 龍蝦, 魚生, 宮崎牛... 只是從賣相到味道都充滿了意想不到吧. serve每一道菜之前, Chef Uwe都會親自一一解釋. 細心一看, 其實每一道菜式都表現了分子料理中的不少技術, 同時照顧了視覺, 嗅覺和味覺多元的享受, 從此也看得出他設計餐單的深度和心思, 也給我們上了一趟很有趣的烹飪課.

就例如amuse-bouche後的第一道菜 - "魚子醬", 是以蘋果汁配以香檳, 混入海藻膠 (sodium alginate), 再"逐滴逐滴"放入加入了鈣粉(calcium chloride)的水裡, 形成了像魚子醬般質地的小粒粒, 放在小罐中上桌, 這正是el bulli的得意傑作. And FYI, 這些"化學品"其實並不是甚麼新發明, 而且也經常運用在日常食品中 - 例如麥記的蘋果批的餡就加入了海藻膠, 以帶出糊狀的口感. 其他分子料理的煮食方法如spherification, gellification, sous vide, cold smoke, flash-freezing (by anti-griddle)都一一用到. 書就看得多, 真正見到嚐到又是另一回事, 真令人拍案叫絕.

新意還不單是在食物方面: 晚飯中間, 廚師特意帶來了Ferran Adrià有份參與釀製的Inedit Beer來伴其中一道名為morning mist的菜式, 是很柔和很smooth的啤酒, 剛巧跟菜式散出"一縷輕煙"的香氣和大麥的味道相配. Matching wine就見得多, matching beer反而是頭一遭.

這天晚上, 絕對可不只是一頓愉快美妙的晚飯這麼簡單, 而是體會了藝術與烹飪, 科學與創意一次妙不可言的結合. 要"搭枱"的一餐飯, 這肯定是我們最貴的一餐 - but really is a very chilled, delightful and tasteful evening, and a well-worth one too (反正"千金散盡還復來"嘛, 不是嗎?)

when? may 16 2009
where? The Krug Room at The Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong
occasion? birthday celebration
menu highlights? miyazaki, lobster noodle (I will leave it up to you to imagine what they actually are)
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut
Pazo de Señorans Albariño Rias Baixas 2007
Inedit Beer by Estrella Damm

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

425 days

Just as we feel like we have just touched down at HKG after separate trips to UK and the Philippines not that long ago (in March and April), we are already planning for our big one next year - South Africa!

That's because we have bought the tickets for the World Cup 2010 successfully! (can't be more happy when we found that out one late April morning from their website saying our tix application's going through!) It's going to be the Semi-final match at Cape Town, to be played in the new stadium by the waterfront (the picture's only a simulation - they are still racing to complete the stadium on time for the tournament) The tickets ain't cheap, but it's hard to pass up on this once-every-four-years experience.

It's still 425 days to go (oh yes, I already started counting down!), but I am getting excited already. Hopefully my England team can finally make it that far then (and more), and Rooney won't do anything stupid to get himself red-carded this time.

Now we are trying to get a pair of Quarter-Final tickets as well - so we can double the fun! Keeping our fingers crossed on that - we will know in a couple of weeks whether we got lucky.