The winter solstice is upon us; the breeze accompanies us every evening as we return home through an almost ghost town. It's time to open the wardrobe, dust off that coat we didn't remember having for about a year and put an extra blanket on the bed. The days are short and full of thoughts related to our families and to this Christmas which is slowly approaching and which, like it or not, we have to face here, far from the usual affections, from our homes with art deco details.
Last year we were doing the last shopping, organizing the luggage to go home taking with us "that special gift" bought in a very far away country. How the weather changes and how difficult it is for some of us to adapt to changes, situations, to show ourselves detached in the face of the memory of how we were exactly 12 months ago when Covid, the masks and the dramatic global economic situation were not remotely imaginable.
We Italians usually complain when something doesn't go exactly as we would like but, likewise, we are also the first who manage to play down everything and transform a complete fiasco into a fun and positive situation (even more so when food is involved! ).
Make way for joy, imagination and all that is hidden behind the organization of the holiday par excellence, Christmas, which this year, exceptionally, will be experienced in a different, but no less, heartfelt way.
In this regard, we have decided to focus on the sense of community and ask some of our most loyal customers on this topic: Lucia, Sofia, Alessandra and Pinal.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you come from, what your passions are and how long you have lived in Hong Kong.
Lucia: I have been living in Hong Kong for seven and a half years and in these days I am obtaining the permanent resident card. A small milestone that made me think back to 2013, when I arrived from Milan, the city where I was born and raised. I am a journalist and I worked for 15 years at Rizzoli Corriere della Sera dealing with current affairs and culture and to follow the project of my family, my husband Gianni and two children, Alessandro and Giovanni who are now 18 and 13 years old, I left a beautiful position but I do not regret, on the contrary .. Here I founded Mind the Gap, a small publishing agency and with my partner Valentina Giannella we write for the main Italian newspapers. We recently published the book Green Nation Revolution, dedicated to all young people who want to undertake a career in the field of sustainability.
Sofia: I was born in Rome and I lived there for many years. Before moving to Hong Kong with my family we lived in London, my three children were born there. Hong Kong is home now, I love exploring neighborhoods I don't know and for passion but also for work, I often go to Sham Shui Po to look for unusual fabrics and prints for our womenswear brand, The Tangerine Road. Every time there is a discovery, there is everything, one shop after another, buttons, silks, linen, belts, clasps, stones of all kinds.
Alessandra: I'm Alessandra Bettiol and I'm 44 years old; I was born in Treviso, a small town near Venice. I have been living in Hong Kong for a couple of years because I joined my husband who came to work in Hong Kong, transferred from the company he currently works for. In Italy I was the owner of a professional firm that dealt with immigration-related practices; from May, on the other hand, I became President of IWA, The Italian Women’s Association, a charity founded many years ago that operates in Hong Kong and which collaborates with many other local charities especially on the subject of women. This year, despite the difficult situation, we managed to do very well and to bring together many new members.
Pinal: I am Pinal and I’m from Surat, better known as Diamond city of India, I am also a mother of a toddler, a stay-home mom, decor obsessed specially of table decor. Lockdown this year has been amazingly creative for me, it has only helped me recognise my true passion that is decorating every corner in my house, to celebrate occasions & festivals in the most unique way possible. It has only been 6 years in this beautiful country but Hong Kong feels like forever to me. Having studied in a convent school, Christmas is very special to us as well: from Ave Maria to Jingle Bells, we’re always used to sing the Carols in our morning assembly. Christmas time is always beautiful especially when my house is so full of decorations which inspired me for this Christmas Eve!
How do you spend Christmas this year? Have you already thought about how to organize the table?
Lucia: For the first time in all these years, the pandemic forced us to stay in Hong Kong. We dreamed of our mountains, Christmas with our families, Milan, is not possible. We have accepted it and we are gearing up to celebrate in the best possible way and respecting traditions. The table set is always essential, even if you have lunch or dinner alone or in two (the children are grown up and are often not there). For Christmas we will have a white tablecloth with touches of gold, Saffron crystal glasses, Richard Ginori serving plates with red strokes. We care!
Sofia: This year, for the first time, we will spend Christmas in Hong Kong. On the eve with French and Italian friends, it will be a mix of traditions and the menu will be based on fish, risotto with scampi, salmon, oysters and French cheeses. I took a red linen tablecloth with Christmas embroidery, poinsettias, butcher's broom, and red berries.
Alessandra: This year, very difficult and special for everyone, I will spend Christmas in Hong Kong with a group of friends to whom my husband and I are very close and with whom we are happy to spend this Christmas. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be with my family to celebrate Christmas Eve together. I will also miss the Christmas atmosphere in Italy, my decorated city, the places to drink mulled wine, roasted chestnuts, prepare Christmas Eve dinner with my family, buy fresh fish at the fish market for evening, making last minute gifts. In the afternoon we usually started preparing the ragù for the pasticcio, a typical dish of the Christmas lunch. In my family I am the person in charge of preparing the table for both Christmas Eve and Christmas lunch, which I prepare and decorate in a different way every year.
Pinal: my table decor is always 50% pre planned. I really love to see my tables full of Christmas theme desserts like Doughnuts or cake or popsicles or any dessert. And this time I have assembled and decorated a ginger bread house with snow on my own so can’t wait to showcase that as part of my table decor [editor’s note: please, send us a picture of this!].
Is there usually a typical dish that is cooked in your region? If so, which one? Will you prepare it again this year?
Lucia: At Christmas you can't miss the cappelletti with broth, lasagna and boiled meat mixed with green sauce. This year my husband, who discovered a great passion for cooking, decided to prepare stuffed capon for us. About what? Surprise !! Finally, the mascarpone cream for pandoro. And the inevitable panettone, which for a Milanese family like ours is a must have.
Sofia: The Roman menu for lunch on the 25th is strictly based on meat, cappelletti in broth, lasagna or homemade fettuccine with meat sauce, artichokes alla giudia, alla romana and sometimes even the lamb cooked in the oven with potatoes. Finally, pandoro and panettone cannot be missing, with nougats scattered everywhere. In Hong Kong we will certainly make cappelletti in broth, artichokes and if we find puntarelle, another typical Roman dish, I'd like to cook them
Alessandra: this year, with friends, we decided to make a menu that included various traditional dishes from the regions from which each of us comes. You will eat the Emilian lasagna [editor's note: the writer is the person in charge of preparing the dish!], Genovese pasta and trenette with pesto sauce. We will also prepare some mixed appetizers and, of course, Panettone and Pandoro with mascarpone cream that I prepare cannot be missing!
Pinal: Sadly I don’t cook much and that I am really bad at it but this year I will surely do something special for this Years Christmas Eve, besides the ginger bread house!
How do you like to prepare the table? Do you have any items you can't do without?
Lucia: I love serving dishes: pots or pans never reach our table. I like oval, long, white plates with light decorations. Dishes with a personality that enhance the food they contain. And then I love jugs. I recently bought one from IVV, a historic Tuscan brand that works glass in an artisanal way, in which the water takes on a brilliant shade. Beautiful to see.
Sofia: At Christmas, I like to decorate the table with a heavy red linen tablecloth that has Christmas embroidery, in the center white, red or green candles in a bouquet of pine branches and pine cones. We will make tree shaped cookies with the children to place next to the pine cones and pine branches.
Alessandra: In Italy, usually, I'm the one who takes care of the preparation of the table for both Christmas Eve and Christmas lunch. Every year I prepare and decorate in a different way but an item that I would never know how to give up for the table are the wine glasses because they always give, even to the simplest table, a touch of elegance!
Pinal: I love every item for the table but I have to be honest I have some favourite products from IVV I am very obsessed with these days: the island trays with white and green cloche and also the two tier glass stand and bowls. I use them always since I bought them and I can say they are amazing and elegant at the same time!
So, enjoy your Christmas in Hong Kong and see you soon with another interview with Roberto Ame', Head of F&B operations at Castellana Restaurant.