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abooja

eG Foodblog: abooja (2010) - Rockin' the Suburbs

98 posts in this topic

As usual, I am late. Why should my first (who am I kidding? -- my only) eGullet food blog differ at all from any other aspect of my life? I am late for things. For instance, dinner will be late tonight. Again. I suppose I could have skipped Dexter last night, but it was really good, and I am really obsessed.

Hello, and welcome! As astounding as it may seem, the fine folks at eGullet have invited *me* to blog this week. Me!! Who the hell am I? Clearly, no one. All your eG faves must be holed away in charcuterie and pastry boot camps 'round the world, leaving only yours truly to keep the flame alive. I sort of feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend, except I am neither heroic, nor do I expect this to have as cheerful an ending. -- May I add that I, too, am disappointed that Gifted Gourmet isn’t this week's featured blogger.

First things first...

rosh hashanah 2007 meal - circles.jpg

This was a meal I prepared for Rosh Hashanah in 2007, while still shacking up with my now-husband, Howard. Sadly, this was not our living room in Ashkelon, Israel, but our first apartment in Hackensack, New Jersey. I spent the first 30 years of my life in Brooklyn, New York – Bensonhurst, to be exact – then a few years in Astoria, Queens, then Hackensack. We’ve since migrated to Lawrenceville, New Jersey and, now, Exton, Pennsylvania. I am of (mostly) Italian American / Roman Catholic extraction, while Howard, originally from the Bronx, is Jewish. Neither of us is religious. After four years together, I still have not mastered the art of of Jewish cookery. There is brisket on the table, along with challah that was made, and served, with butter, as well as butter-laden chocolate babka. Apparently, this is a no no. I have tagged these items as “treif” in Facebook. Fortunately, no one in this household really cares. Unfortunately, we are both going to hell, whose tropical climate may be the most sensible explanation I can offer for the pineapple.

I have a couple of things planned for this week, and I am off to go do them. A pastrami is the works, as well as several gluten free items. I recently discovered that gluten is an issue for me. This absolutely kills me. I love to bake bread and, as most of you know, gluten free bread is the stuff of nightmares. Howard is also diabetic, a condition he never took seriously until a few months ago. As such, I will attempt at least one sugar free dessert this week. Then there’s the now annual Christmas cookie bake-a-thon, mostly for distribution to Howard’s colleagues. I plan to make at least eight different varieties, plus some English toffee, and it all needs to be done by December 15th. Of this year! That’s about a pound and a half of cookie per person for several dozen people. You do the math. Doughmaking will have to somehow coincide with the rest of the week’s activities. Given the back pain that helped start the day, I expect to be in full traction by week’s end.

More to come…

Edited to include religious denomination.


Edited by abooja (log)

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Fantastic. I come from a Jewish-Italian Catholic Household. Am looking very forward to your menus and the marriage of those two cuisines.

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On Saturday, we drove to Brooklyn for my friend's 40th birthday party at the new condo she shares with her newish husband. Against my better judgment, I purchased a fairly sizeable food-related gift that I'm certain she will want to return, and which should take up a good chunk of counter space. I hope it sucks as much as it's purported to. Any guesses as to what it may have been?

Nevertheless, she was kind enough to invite us, and to serve us food and drink once we arrived. Here are some photos of the spread:

pigs in blankets.jpg

party food.jpg

broccoli, corn and beans.jpg

Note the Vitamix lurking in the background of the first shot. There was excellent chicken piccata, which almost certainly glutened me, grilled flank steak, some sort of stuffed chicken breast, spinach lasagna, roasted cauliflower, mashed potatoes, broccoli salad, corn and black bean salad. And dips and chips and salami and cheese. And this cake, which I believe is from The Chocolate Room in Dyker Heights:

birthday cake.jpg

I decided to exercise some self control and not try the cake, but it was widely adored. Hmmph. I take comfort in the fact that I will be baking a gluten free seven layer cake later in the week, along with my first ever attempt at chocolate macarons, which are naturally gluten free.

About this term, "gluten free". I hate it. Prior to beginning this diet nearly two months ago, I cringed at the notion of ever becoming one of its bedeviled practitioners. The words themselves convey cardboardish tastelessness, and a desire to place good health before good taste. Using them as often as I already have in this blog may be offputting to some, and to me, but the facts are what they are. This does not mean I will never cook with gluten again. In fact, I’m baking a rye bread (or two) to go along with the pastrami, since anything less would be a crime. But for as long as I can possibly stand it, I will otherwise try to commit to this diet. I am determined to make my gluten free life as tasty as possible. I also intend to cheat from time to time. I never did get to try the pain au chocolate recipe from Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, and the Valrhona chocolate batons in the freezer aren’t getting any younger.

Next: Dinner with Dad.

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Hi Lisa,

How fun. Where exactly is Exton, PA? I too am Jewish and my partner is catholic, in fact everyone I've ever been with has been Catholic. I guess that is just the norm for me. Its never been an issue. We have a menorah in the window, I make latkas on the first night and we celebrate xmas. The best of both worlds.

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Hi Lisa,

How fun. Where exactly is Exton, PA? I too am Jewish and my partner is catholic, in fact everyone I've ever been with has been Catholic. I guess that is just the norm for me. Its never been an issue. We have a menorah in the window, I make latkas on the first night and we celebrate xmas. The best of both worlds.

Hi, Cali --

Exton is about a 45-minute drive northwest of Philadelphia. It's very suburban and strip mallish, but in an upscale kind of way. We rent a townhouse at the top of a hill with lots of great wildlife right behind us. More importantly, Wegmans is three miles away. :smile:

Edited after I looked at a map.


Edited by abooja (log)

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After the party in Brooklyn on Saturday night, we spent the night at my father’s house. I luxuriated much of the morning on a foldout bed, then started on the usual (for my father) early Sunday dinner. Knowing that time was short and the drive home nearly 2.5 hours long, it had to be simple. And Italian. And gluten free, of course. I opted for pasta e fagioli, which I had recently prepared, and enjoyed. My version included canned cannellini beans, roasted tomatoes, lots of finely chopped onion and celery, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, parsley, the dreaded gluten free pasta, and was served with parmigiano reggiano:

pasta e fagioli prep.jpg

As a kid, I would sneak spoonfuls of pasta, straight from the colander, before my mother or grandmother added it to the lentil soup. If it was fresh, I would even eat it raw, straight out of the bag, extracting lengths of soft perciatelli from the perforations in the bag. This gluten free stuff has decent texture, if cooked perfectly, but the taste is abhorent. I purchased bionaturae organic gluten free penne because that is what I used the last time, and it worked. I tried to force myself to eat it plain when tasting it for doneness, but had to spit it out. It smells odd. It doesn’t reheat well. But in this soup? Perfectly acceptable, smothered as it was by aromatics and tomato, and contributing to the velvety texture of the soup:

pasta e fagioli.jpg

The real achievement here is that my father actually enjoyed it. He claimed to notice no taste or texture difference from his usual Barilla, and even asked for a second bowl. I left him with a little over three quarts of the stuff. I'm curious to see how it reheats for him. I deliberately left off the words "Gluten Free" when labeling the soup. Why remind him?

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I'm glad you are close to Wegmans, but maybe you can explain to folks how the word ACME can have three syllables.

Not sure if you are planning on going out during the blog, but you are in Han Dynasty territory.

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I purchased a fairly sizeable food-related gift that I'm certain she will want to return, and which should take up a good chunk of counter space. I hope it sucks as much as it's purported to. Any guesses as to what it may have been?

Note the Vitamix lurking in the background of the first shot.

Wait. You gave her a Vitamix? And you think she'll want to return it?? I should be moving into my new condo next month .. you're more than welcome to come. :wink: (Or did I confused the mention of a gift with the mention of a Vitamix?)

Was the food at the party catered or did your friend cook? Looks great.

I've tried some of the gluten free pastas and have the same issues that you do. There's one made from quinoa that I haven't tried yet but keep meaning to - it seems to me it might be better than the ones that use a mix of rice, tapioca, etc.

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Not sure if you are planning on going out during the blog, but you are in Han Dynasty territory.

Unfortunately, with the whole gluten intolerance problem, my days of Chinese fast food are mostly over. I've read here about Han Dynasty, but managed never to get there. :sad:


Edited by abooja (log)

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I miss GG, too, but I'm happy to see you blogging!

For a gluten-free treat, try Gesine Bullock-Prado's recipe for starry starry nights. As long as you aren't allergic to nuts or chocolate or eggs, I think you'll like them!

Do you think you've always had problems digesting gluten, but they've just become worse as you got older, or was yours more of an adult-onset problem? I'm curious about gluten-intolerances--until maybe 5 or 10 years ago, I only knew 2 people with problems digesting gluten, but now I know several dozen.

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Wait. You gave her a Vitamix? And you think she'll want to return it?? I should be moving into my new condo next month .. you're more than welcome to come. :wink: (Or did I confused the mention of a gift with the mention of a Vitamix?)

Noooo, I did not! Wish I had one for myself, in fact. Her gift was considerably less expensive. Hmmm...she must have opened it by now. It was a FoodSaver, with extra bags and plastic rolls.

Was the food at the party catered or did your friend cook? Looks great.

She mostly catered, and had a friend make some dips, including hummous, guacamole, and salsa. I wasn't going to post a photo (since half-eaten dip isn't so photogenic), but since I mentioned it, why not. The photo is blurry and otherwise stinks, but I loved the flowers on the table:

appetizer table.jpg

I've tried some of the gluten free pastas and have the same issues that you do. There's one made from quinoa that I haven't tried yet but keep meaning to - it seems to me it might be better than the ones that use a mix of rice, tapioca, etc.

I actually prefer the flavor of corn based pastas, like Schär, but still don't love them. This diet is really motivating me to cut back on my carbs.

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I'm looking forward to your blog - already loving the amount of food you're sharing!

Do you find your focus is more on meals that don't involve gluten or on reasonable substitutes? I've known a few coeliacs and their approaches vary, but they all say hidden gluten is the most frustrating thing of all.

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I miss GG, too, but I'm happy to see you blogging!

For a gluten-free treat, try Gesine Bullock-Prado's recipe for starry starry nights. As long as you aren't allergic to nuts or chocolate or eggs, I think you'll like them!

Do you think you've always had problems digesting gluten, but they've just become worse as you got older, or was yours more of an adult-onset problem? I'm curious about gluten-intolerances--until maybe 5 or 10 years ago, I only knew 2 people with problems digesting gluten, but now I know several dozen.

Why, thank you! And I'll have to look up that recipe. No other food allergies here, so we're good on that front.

I'm not exactly sure, but I suspect it's been a problem for around ten years. I've always had digestive issues, and they got markedly worse before being diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis a couple of years ago. It's an auto immune disorder that eventually left me saddled with hypothyroidism. Three doctors and three medications later, my current endocrinologist suggested that we may be barking up the wrong tree with my various medications and dosages, and had I considered that I might be gluten sensitive. I tested negative for Celiac, but my digestive health took a distinct turn for the better after a few weeks on the diet. That puts me in the Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) category, which features many of the same symptoms with the exception, perhaps, of actual damage to the small intestine. This slight difference makes me feel somewhat better about occasionally cheating, but only when really worth it. We'll see how I feel about that Thursday morning, the day after the rye bread. :unsure:

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I'm looking forward to your blog - already loving the amount of food you're sharing!

Do you find your focus is more on meals that don't involve gluten or on reasonable substitutes? I've known a few coeliacs and their approaches vary, but they all say hidden gluten is the most frustrating thing of all.

Thanks! I really enjoyed your blog last week, particularly the reaction I got when sharing the photo of the raw kangaroo meat with my husband.

It's only been a couple of months, but I've found this diet easiest to handle when I focus on reasonable substitutes in dishes that I would typically prepare. Thus far, I do not consider GF bread to be a reasonable substitute. I've baked hamburger buns from scratch and hot dog buns from a King Arthur Flour mix, and hated both. The hamburger buns, however, made pretty fabulous bread crumbs, so I used them to prepare a chicken parmigiana. The sweets that I've baked have been more successful. The oatmeal raisin cookies were the best, followed by a GF version of the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe, GF rugelach, GF peach cobbler, and GF brownies. I realize that's a lot of baking for a handful of weeks, but I wanted to know if I could ever come to terms with this as a permanent lifestyle change. I'm starting to believe that I could.

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Well, we've certainly seen an impressive amount of food porn already ! And as I said, in the "coming attractions" promo, I am in serious, serious lust over your cobalt glassware in the Rosh Hashana dinner pic. Especialy the square serving dishes, the large platter that the brisket is on, the wavy plate under the pineapple, the square plates with the rounded corners....wait. I guess that's all of them in that photo. Where on Earth did you find all those lovely pieces? I have a few contemporary pieces, and a set of stemware that was my grandmother's that are clear with cobalt bases, but I would sure love to add some additional pieces.

And *my* curiosity is certainly piqued. How can "ACME" have 3 syllables?

Looking forward to the rest of the ride.


--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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Well, we've certainly seen an impressive amount of food porn already ! And as I said, in the "coming attractions" promo, I am in serious, serious lust over your cobalt glassware in the Rosh Hashana dinner pic. Especialy the square serving dishes, the large platter that the brisket is on, the wavy plate under the pineapple, the square plates with the rounded corners....wait. I guess that's all of them in that photo. Where on Earth did you find all those lovely pieces? I have a few contemporary pieces, and a set of stemware that was my grandmother's that are clear with cobalt bases, but I would sure love to add some additional pieces.

And *my* curiosity is certainly piqued. How can "ACME" have 3 syllables?

Looking forward to the rest of the ride.

Thanks! I think you're going to be disappointed when I tell you what they really are. The square ones are Corelle dinner dishes we bought at some outlet in New Jersey when we first got together. The large platter is an Emile Henry piece that I bought on discount at Century 21 in Manhattan when I worked in the area. And that wavy dish? Martha Stewart dessert plates (we have the matching mugs!) from Kmart. :blush:

As for the pronunciation of Acme, I have never heard that. Then again, I never shop at Acme (too depressing), plus we've only lived here two years.

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And *my* curiosity is certainly piqued. How can "ACME" have 3 syllables?

As for the pronunciation of Acme, I have never heard that. Then again, I never shop at Acme (too depressing), plus we've only lived here two years.

In Philly, at least, it's the "Ac-a-me", where the second a is a schwa (ə). You see it in a few other places, e.g., Passyunk Avenue is "Pass-a-yunk". I'm not sure where that accent comes from...German influence from the Pennsylvania Dutch? Italians? :unsure:

But ditto on depressing. No Wegman's in Philly proper, though, so I'd have to pay $4 in tolls and borrow a car to get to one. Good incentive to go to farmer's markets, I guess.

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Good morning!

I, too, am a total pasta addict. I could eat it for every meal.

I wonder if one of those smart people that experiment with molecular gastronomy could invent a "pasta" that tastes better??

For what it's worth, I love my food saver. :wub:

edited to say that I also am glued to Dexter every Sunday...I can't believe it's already the last episode next Sunday :(


Edited by Shelby (log)

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Wait. You gave her a Vitamix? And you think she'll want to return it?? I should be moving into my new condo next month .. you're more than welcome to come. :wink: (Or did I confused the mention of a gift with the mention of a Vitamix?)

Noooo, I did not! Wish I had one for myself, in fact. Her gift was considerably less expensive. Hmmm...she must have opened it by now. It was a FoodSaver, with extra bags and plastic rolls.

Though not a Vitamix, I think a Foodsaver is a pretty darn good gift. I'd be happy to be given one.

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Last night, I made gluten free chicken pot pies. I've been working on other projects simultaneously, about which I'll post shortly, so dinner wasn't served until 9 p.m. Since my all-time record is 11:50 p.m. on Christmas 2009, I was feeling pretty good about this. I also have not made pot pies in forever, and this is my first attempt at making a GF pie crust, so there was a bit of a learning curve.

My primary concern, naturally, was the crust. I wanted it to be flaky, and not biscuit-like, so I nixed the recipe from Gluten-Free Baking Classics (Annalise G. Roberts) because it included an egg in the dough mix. I'm a big fan of the vodka pie crust recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I found a GF version of the recipe in the comments section on SeriousEats.com, and went with it. It substitutes brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour for the all-purpose flour, plus 2-1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum. All other ingredients and proportions are identical to the original recipe.

gf pie dough ingredients on counter.jpg

Backing up a bit, I'd like to talk about the recipe conversion process. I keep a copy of the original recipe handy, which I have already converted to weight measurements, a notebook, a calculator, a scale, and a cheat sheet with the one cup weight equivalent of an assortment of GF flours, which I previously scaled out via the dip and scoop method.

recipe conversion.jpg

There is both chilled shortening and cubed, cold butter in this recipe, making even the GF version rich and flaky.

gf pie dough ingredients in bowl.jpg

The finished dough chilled for a few hours, then I scaled out 4-ounce chunks, one for each 7.5" pie plate. By the time I took this shot, it lost .05 ounces of weight.

scaling gf pie dough.jpg

Rolling it out was more of a hassle than usual. The dough was quite dry. The recipe I used called for .5 cup more flour than the original CI recipe, but I went with it because the guy claimed success. I have also found that GF recipes require a bit more flour than those with wheat flour. I had to be especially careful with this dough which, in its original incarnation, is quite moist.

gf pie dough rounds.jpg

As for the filling, I knew that I wanted something distinctly unexotic, with carrots, peas, and potatoes to accompany the chicken. Once again, I went with Cooks Illustrated, but made some adjustments. I poached two pounds of whole, split chicken breasts instead of boneless. Their recipe does not include potatoes, so I boiled some cubed russets in an adjacent pot. Frozen peas defrosted on the hot stovetop.

pot pie ingredients on stove2.jpg

The original recipe involves making a light roux with .5 cup of all-purpose flour. Since I was adding potatoes, and was averse to the idea of using that much GF flour in the filling, I just thickened the stew with a cornstarch slurry and the aforementioned potatoes. I also added 1 tablespoon of dry sherry instead of 3, and about 2 ounces of heavy cream to finish. I could have done without the parsley, visually speaking, but I used much less of that as well.

chicken pot pie filling.jpg

I typically like a two-crust pot pie, but was concerned about the GF pie crust holding up, and wanted to cut back on the carbs for Howard's sake, if not for my own. The original CI recipe calls for keeping the filling hot before topping it with crust. This runs counter to all my instincts about baking pies, but I dutifully followed the recipe anyway. This crust, while crumbly and impossible to crimp while cold, was equally impossible to crimp after it warmed up, so I sort of just smooshed it into the indentations on the plates. Here's what they looked like before all that:

dough topped pie rounds.jpg

And after they came out of the oven:

gf chicken pot pies.jpg

pot pie money shot.jpg

The verdict? Pretty darn good! While neither the filling nor the crust was ideal, they were certainly more than adequate. The crust was flaky, though not nearly as flaky as the original recipe. It tasted "normal", with no odd aromas or flavors. As underwhelming as that must sound, that is a major achievement for me. I don't want to make food that tastes okay, considering it's gluten free, but food I enjoy eating so much that I don't even think twice about its gluten content. This was one such dish. Success!

Coming up: Pastrami & Rye Prep

Edited for grammar


Edited by abooja (log)

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Tinkyada gluten-free pasta is delicious. I'm not gluten-free, and I buy it sometimes.

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Tinkyada gluten-free pasta is delicious. I'm not gluten-free, and I buy it sometimes.

We still have a bag of that from when Howard was following an allergy elimination diet that included just rice, lamb, and a handful of other foods. He couldn't stand it and, quite honestly, I never tried it because the color just didn't appeal to me, let alone the texture.

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I have been outside in my pajamas while tending the smoker with the pastrami in it, but I thought I'd post some fridge shots before taking my first shower in two days. This is the spare refrigerator in the basement/media room. My parents bought it for us as a wedding present because the fridge in our old Lawrenceville apartment had a miserable, old over-under number that was way too small, even for just the two of us. This one sees a lot of bulky leftovers, large bags of onions, beverages, and cookie dough (soon to come). In this case, I'm storing the vacuum sealed, pressed pastrami under two cast iron dutch ovens weighted down by water bottles.

downstairs fridge.jpg

The next two shots are of the deep freezer, right next to the downstairs fridge in the media room. The bottom drawer is filled with chocolate, nuts, and various chips. The shelf directly above contains most of my storage flours, as opposed to the stuff I use regularly. I'm guessing that I must have 22 or more by now, but I haven't counted since before the gluten free diet began. Above that is one of the free turkeys we recently got from Giant, a local chain supermarket, along with a pork shoulder, various cuts of lamb, etc. Above that is the first free Giant turkey, when I was still able to get Empire kosher. Those ran out in no time. There also are a dozen or so two-packs of homemade hamburgers and a few packages of cooked meatballs. The meatballs are not gluten free, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to eat them after all the work that went into making them.

I always store butter in the freezer door. The white box of Valrhona batons is the blur in the upper left-hand corner. One day...

downstairs freezer.jpg downstairs freezer door.jpg

Edited for grammar, etc.


Edited by abooja (log)

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Is that....SIXTEEN pounds of butter in your freezer?

I am in awe.

Actually, yes. I stockpile it for baking purposes, particularly at the end of the year. If you'll notice, another twelve pounds lurk in the refrigerator. :blush:

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      In Newfoundland there are no snakes, skunks, racoons, poisonous insects or arachnids.  There is also no ragweed - allergy sufferers rejoice!  There are over 120,000 moose and it is home to one of the world's biggest caribou herds.   They also have some of the continent's biggest black bears.
       
      Note: This information was taken from the official Newfoundland and Labrador web site.
    • By chefmd
      My son married a lovely young lady from Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia, China.   Mongolian: ᠶᠠᠠᠠᠰᠢ ᠬᠣᠲᠠ (Ягши хот); Chinese: 牙克石; pinyin: Yákèshí
       
      We had a wedding in the US but her family also wanted to have a traditional wedding in China.  DH and I have never being to China so this was an exciting opportunity for us!  We spent a few days in Beijing doing touristy stuff and then flew to Hailar.  There is only one flight a day on Air China that we took at 6 in the morning.  Yakeshi is about an hour drive from Hailar on a beautiful toll road with no cars on it.  I wish we took pictures of free roaming sheep and cows along the way.  The original free range meat.
       
      The family met us at the airport.  We were greeted with a shot of a traditional Chinese spirit from a traditional leather vessel.  Nothing says welcome like a stiff drink at 9 AM.  We were supposed to have a three shots (may be they were joking) but family took pity on us and limited it to one only.
       

       
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