'Escape From Christmas' Chinese Banquet, 2011

The first dish to arrive was a palate-preparer of sliced cold cucumbers with pepper sauce.

Every year some friends and I stage an afternoon banquet called "Escape From Christmas." This year for a second year in a row, we had it at a Hong Kong-style restaurant with the quizzical name of Dining Room Management Group, which is now also called Yong Gee. We ate course after course until we nearly burst. Here is a visual record of what we downed this afternoon.

We shared two giant tureens of West Lake beef soup, a pillar of Zhejiang cuisine, made with a light broth, egg drops, ground beef, and tons of cilantro and scallions. Very refreshing! It's sometimes considered a variant of egg-drop soup.

The 11 of us nearly demolished a whole duck.

We downed a couple of plates of pork pot-stickers with black vinegar.

This was the only dud of the afternoon. We'd asked for shrimp with X.O. sauce and we got this pallid stif-fry -- not bad, just not distinguished. The pea pods were the best part.

The pea shoots were excellent, but they shot by so fast, I didn't have a chance to take much of a picture.

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