February 21, 2014

Horsing around at dinner

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I don't know nothing about equestrian events, despite having lived just a stone's throw from a race track for a number of years.  I never had much interest in watching people dressing up and jumping over fences on their horses.  But when Tigger extended an invitation for me to join him at the Longines Hong Kong Masters, I figured it was a good opportunity for me learn something.  It is, after all, one of the events that make up the Masters Grand Slam Indoor.  So I brought out my heavy artillery and rode out on the train to AsiaWorld Expo.

I made a quick stop at the Feeding Hong Kong booth to say hello to Gabrielle, then headed to our designated table so I didn't have to carry my gear around.  We were in a good position to catch the action on the field, and I could see all the obstacles laid out on the course.  I did wonder, though, if the horsies had to jump over the Mercedes station wagon...

Those of us with tables dined while watching the competition, and the organizers made sure to deliver quality cuisine which measured up to the expectations to the VIPs these events typically attract.  The organizers brought in Chef Yves Mattagne from Michelin 2-starred Sea Grill in Brussels, who served us a 3-course dinner tonight.

Baltic salmon, herbs cream, potato foam, croutons - this was very delicious.  The herb cream was so yummy... and the potato foam, too.  We were off to a good start...

Duck magret, roast, carrots mousseline, passion fruits, macadam nougatine - when my plate arrived, I kinda froze, blinked a few times, and slowly recovered from shock.  These little slivers of duck breast was all I was getting for MAIN COURSE?!  No wonder they kept refilling our bread basket...

To be fair, the duck was absolutely delicious - I just could have done with triple the amount on my plate.  The duck bisteeya was also pretty yummy, as was the carrot mousseline.  The passion fruit sauce felt a little out of place, I thought...

Tainori dark chocolate, cremeux, raspberries, dulce leche, meringue - this was pretty good, too.  I lapped it up very quickly... Soooo smooth and creamy.

Of course there was also free-flowing alcohol.  We started with some Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, which is the official Champagne of the event.

2012 Antoine Moueix Expression Sauvignon Blanc - oaky, vanilla, tropical fruits like peach, a little flinty.

2009 Château Tour de Capet - minty, a little fruity, light-bodied, pretty flat and drank poorly.  Later on the alcohol really showed, and didn't work well with the duck or the passion fruit.

But what of the horsies and their riders?  Well, I actually had more fun than I thought I would.  It was an eye-opener to watch a group of riders - most of whom are at the top of the game - coming to Hong Kong to compete.  I guess since the "courses" aren't always standard like an actual track, all the riders had to come out and "walk the course" to measure the distance between jumps.

It's also interesting to see these big horses - specially bred for show jumping - leap over the bars set at 1.45 meters high.  As graceful as they can be, it's easy to forget that we are, after all, dealing with animals here... and despite years of training and the long partnership between (wo)man and horse, there are times when the horsies just refuse to do what they've been asked to do... Yes, they can act up, get spooked, or whatever... and refuse to jump.  Two refusals by the horsie and the team is disqualified.

Of course, since horsies are animals, they don't get no toilet training... Every once in a while the staff would have to come and clean up the "accidents"...

The crowd, of course, cheered for local entry Kenneth Cheng whenever he came through.  Unfortunately he was just a little young and inexperienced compared to this group, but he made a gallant effort anyway.

In the end, I gained an appreciation for the sport and learned something.  Many thanks to Tigger for the kind invitation.

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