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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Reviews’ Category

Our time in Spain seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the short time of our return. In Canada, everything seemed to come to a head the day after we got home!

To put your minds at ease, we were in the province of Almería in my cousin’s little village of San José, some 573 km (356 miles) from Madrid. Our stay took place during low season, many (probably more than half) restaurants and shops were closed for the season and there were very few tourists. My cousin’s flat is in a complex of 14 and the busiest weekend had maybe 5 flats inhabited; during week days there were usually only two inhabited flats and we were one of them! The province of Almería has only 46 confirmed cases to date (March 20 when I wrote this post), we were fortunate. We are into our second week of isolation with no symptoms (I am so relieved). But it’s a moving target and we need to be diligent. Having been away for 40 days we haven’t seen any of our friends so coming home to isolation is emotionally challenging. A big thank you to you, our blogging community, you’re never too far away with a kind word. As we are learning to be virtual with our local friends, it’s comforting to know that our virtual friendships are tried and true.

We had lunch at La Tagliatella in their CC Torrecárdenas, Almería City location just prior to skipping over to Northern Europe. It gets 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor reviewers. The food was excellent and service was good too. Our Spanish is pretty sad so the young woman serving us brought English menus to the rescue, we didn’t even ask.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated in a contemporary Italian style and unless you look out the interior window, you wouldn’t know you are in a mall. There were very few patrons when we dined (at one point it may have been just us!).

We began with a little amuse-bouche that was a cracker topped with fresh cream cheese (sorry, forgot to take a photo).

I had the Carpaccio al Tartufo Bianco (paper-thin slices of veal, with white truffle ice cream and white truffle pearls)(~16 €), it was excellent. It was accompanied by a very large but very thin, grilled bread/cracker with a drizzle of olive oil. It was a little difficult to eat but it was delicious (later during our sojourn in Northern Europe, I discovered that it should have been saturated in olive oil). The carpaccio was doused generously in olive oil and a little too generously peppered; the truffle flavour was mild but enough to enjoy (sometimes it can be too strong). The white truffle ice cream was sweet, which was a bit of a surprise but there was so little of it, it did not impact the enjoyment of the dish.

JT had the Scaloppine (slices of Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, fries and vegetables)(~15 €). It didn’t look like much but it was quite delicious. The fries were a nice portion too (quite the opposite of what we became used to in America!).

JT felt like a little sweet after lunch and I felt like an espresso so we ordered the Caffè Gustoso (Coffee with chocolate truffles and a mini tiramisu)(~6 €) which was perfect for sharing (I forgot to take a photo so I took one from their website). The tiramisu was a take on the classic dessert but the pudding itself was quite tasty. The truffles were exceptional.

If you’re looking for a nice Italian meal in Almeria, check out La Tagliatella. They have two locations.

Overall rating of La Tagliatella, Almeria (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Miss you Dad. March 23, 1923 – July 16, 1981

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Mesón El Pescador, San José

I am uncertain if it’s just us, but travel seems to get easier as we get older. I seem to recall that the transatlantic flights used to bag us completely, but now it hardly bothers us at all. And I used to be able to sleep on the plane, now I just binge-watch a series that I’ve downloaded. We generally land in the UK in the morning and stay one night; JT and I drop our luggage off at a hotel and take the train into town. Last year, we even saw Come from Away in the evening and we were still OK around midnight!

First things first, we ordered our adult beverages.

For our 2020 trip, we flew into Gatwick, spent the night and then the early the following morning we flew into Almeria and picked up our car. We like to feel at home as soon as possible so we unpacked our luggage and drove into town for lunch. February and March are definitely low season in San José and many of the retailers and restaurants are closed. We don’t mind because we don’t like crowds or the heat of the summer when everything is open. Unfortunately, Mesón Il Pescador was one of the few restaurants open when we went hunting for lunch. We just dived in without reading reviews which is totally out of character for me, but it turned out well and I’m glad we went. Sadly, it doesn’t get good reviews but it was relatively busy with the locals when we stumbled in, so we took a chance that it was good and it didn’t disappoint.

We sat outside along the beach and were lucky to get a table. There were mostly locals dining that day; I could tell because they were all sporting winter jackets while the tourists are wearing T-Shirts and Shorts!

Steamed Mussels € 10. ($14.50 Canadian)

JT ordered a ham and cheese sandwich that wasn’t available and then the chicken cutlet of which they also ran out. The steamed mussels (10 €) were his third choice. The dish would have been nice with some crusty bread alongside, we asked but it never showed up. The mussels were relatively large, fresh and tasty. I ordered the grilled octopus (20 €) (incidentally, it was my only choice) which was grilled to perfection, tender and nicely flavoured by the grill. The octopus was drizzled with a good, spicey olive oil which made for a nice sauce to dip the fries into. Although it was delicious, I found the 20 € pricey.

We enjoyed the meal and if I crave grilled octopus again, we will definitely go back. But read the reviews and be your own judge. We may have been lucky that day.

Pulpo a la Plancha 20 € ($29 Canadian)

Overall rating of Mesón Il Pescador (in my opinion): Decor n/a, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: n/a (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

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This post was written entirely on my iPhone 8, in the air, flying from Granada to Gatwick in a EasyJet sardine can.

By the time you read this post, we will have returned from a whirl-wind vacation to the UK and Spain to escape the freezing temperatures and snow of Toronto. Let me back up a bit, shortly after we returned from our month-long holiday in Arizona, we had a week or so of nothing but bleak, grey winter days and I hit my limit! My wonderful cousin let us stay in her flat on the Mediterranean coast in a cozy little town, in the province of Almeria, all I had to do was get through January and most of February; no problem because I had this to look forward to:

We flew into Gatwick and stayed the night in London, where we dined and saw the musical “Come from Away” (very good, by the way)! The next morning we boarded a commuter train to a small city near Manchester, where my friend and Master Chef runner-up, Dave Crichton, picked us up. Dave and his lovely wife Zahra gave us the grand tour, but the real highlight was that Dave cooked dinner for us! What an incredible treat to have a fellow blogger AND contestant of Master Chef UK 2018 cook for us! It was a feast to be reckoned with: emulsions, sauces, exotic meat and even a wonderful carrot ketchup! I know you are dying to know if he made us his famous Careless Whisper dessert, indeed he did! We sampled several flavour combinations with tea when we arrived at his home. The experience was exceptional.

For our dinner, Dave made us the most velvety, creamy Truffled Parmesan Mousse with a goats cheese, mushroom duxelles, tarragon, truffle stuffed morel. It was indeed very moreish.

The main course was fennel crusted Iberico Presa, seared and prepared sous vide, served over carrot ketchup, pumpkin seed pesto, Madeira jus garnished with the best tasting parsnip crisps! The flavours and textures were outstanding.

The finale was a delightful Miso and walnut butterscotch tart with black sesame ice cream. Now I don’t usually eat dessert and JT was eyeing my serving but to his dismay, I polished it off and nearly licked the plate clean!

Dave, Zahra, John and I

The following day, Dave and Zahra gave us the grand tour of Manchester and in the evening we were treated to dinner at Hispi Bistro in Didsbury (South Man). The meal was delicious but Dave’s cooking really stood out for me.

I must say that I am intimidated by the thought of cooking for he and Zahra when they visit us in Toronto or Arizona. But there were a few inspirational dishes we had during our stay in Spain. Something from Restaurante Alameda, Granada might just make the cut.

We literally stumbled upon Restaurante Alameda during our first few hours in Granada quite by accident, we were hunting for a lunch place! Sadly, it didn’t open until later so we made reservations for that very evening. It is Michelin rated but doesn’t have a star, yet.

I must tell you that the food impressed us, it was nicely presented but even more importantly, it was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that we made reservations for the next (our last) night in Granada.

The restaurant is contemporary in design with some rustic elements (like the back-lit birch half-logs along the wall) and effective function (such as the sound absorbing ceiling). The lighting is moody but enough to read by but not enough to have to wear sunglasses (as many European restaurants are!). The plates are rustic but tables are mostly covered in linens.

The first night we dined at 7:45, still considered early for Spaniards but more in line with how we like to eat. Service was fine, nothing outstanding, but relatively efficient (even if our waiter seemed a little overwhelmed). We received a little amuse bouche of a deep-fried phyllo wrapped prawn that was delicious (no photo) and then we shared a starter of Burrata (no photo) and locally grown tomatoes. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you will know that the tomatoes are exceptional! The best I’ve ever tasted. There were a variety of tomato species and they were all perfectly ripe and flavourful. The burrata had just the right amount of bite and creaminess! The dish was finished with sweet pepper flakes and dotted with little balsamic pearls.

My second course was an octopus carpaccio, it was deliciously thin and moreish, although, it could have used a touch more acidity than the little lemon pearls that speckled the plate.

JT had a cannelloni with veal ragout, that was more like a lasagna, none-the-less, it was outstanding! It was the reason why we decided to return the next night! Although the second night, we decided on only the burrata and the cannelloni to be shared! The pasta tasted homemade, the ragout was rich and meaty with a creamy béchamel and Ricotta. It was comfort-food at its best!

Sadly, the second night was a bit disappointing. Service seemed an afterthought; we were seated behind a table planning a wedding with what seemed like the catering director or owner, and they were definitely priority. Ambiance faltered as well, as the music kept cutting in and out of the speakers near us.

The burrata was again flawless, but the cannelloni came out barely lukewarm. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to send a dish back in an unfamiliar place. So we grinned and beared it. Still delicious but… Afterward, I mentioned it to our waiter, in a nice way, of course. I wasn’t sure it was understood but when he brought the bill, he told us that they had removed the cost of the cannelloni entirely! Now I realize that we should have said something at the time and not afterward, live and learn.

Notwithstanding, I am still comfortable in recommending this restaurant, and if I ever go back to Granada, I would consider dining there again.

Overall rating of Restaurante Alameda, Granada (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Restaurante Alameda, Granada

C/Rector Morata, 3 (Junto a Plaza del Carmen)
18009 Granada – España
Tel: +34 958 221 507
restaurante@alameda.com.es

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Updated March 30, 2019: added Oretta’s Burrata Truffle Egg photo

Over the last few years, I have worked (prepping and cooking) many times with David Rocco, author, chef, and producer. About a year ago, I decided to follow him on Instagram and I have not regretted it. He doesn’t post too often and he posts about his family as well as the standard self-promotion that celebrities post about. I love the posts about his family. He has three kids and an absolutely gorgeous wife. The first time I heard of Oretta, an authentic Italian restaurant in the Entertainment district on King West in Toronto, was on David’s Instagram (apparently, he goes quite often)! The food looked beautiful and delicious so I immediately put it on my restaurant bucket list. If you’re looking for American-Italian-family-style gluttony, this is not your place, but if you’re looking for authentic Italian cooking in a tastefully decorated Italian-style space, this place might be for you! This is the type of restaurant that all the beautiful people frequent, particularly during TIFF.

The first time I stepped into Oretta was last summer, for dinner, it was like stepping into a high-end restaurant in Florence, Italy, it literally took me back to 1989, when we last visited that special place. High, vaulted ceilings, geometric wall art, interesting tiles and spectacular food. We have eaten several times since, and I have wanted to post a review but have always forgotten to take photos (story of my life). The food is authentic Italian and it’s delicious! They even have Neapolitan pizza (in a wood-fired oven, no less).

Everything is wonderful at Oretta, but each and every time we have been there with reservations, we have ALWAYS been seated beside a table of infants. Literally, babies. And each time I have to ask to be moved, which they do quite happily (but why on earth do I need to ask?). I must have a sign on my forehead that says, “seat me beside the noisiest, fussiest table, please!” It won’t stop me from going but I know that I will need to ask to be moved. Every. Single. Time.

Their menu has the usual suspects (arancini, burrata, polipo, polpette, foccacia, pizza, pasta to name a few) but it’s their brunch menu that is truly special. Sadly, it was one of those times that I forgot to photograph it but I can certainly speak to it. I had ordered the Uova Burrata E Tartufo (truffled eggs with burrata). It was to-die-for! The truffle added the perfect earthiness and the burrata, portioned in every bite, gave the dish the richness that made the brunch extra special. It was so good that I actually dream about it, it was the type of dish you wish would not end. My only regret was that I gave JT a bite to taste and he wasn’t thrilled but he doesn’t like truffle so it was wasted on him!!

The last time we were there was at the end of January. I was obsessing about the egg dish and so looking forward to having it again, but sadly Winterlicious had just begun and they didn’t have their brunch menu. No worries, though, all the food is great.

I ordered the Polipo ($20.00), charred octopus, chickpea puree, red pepper jam, olives, pancetta, crostini. The octopus was perfectly cooked and not overly ‘charred’. The creamy chickpea puree and subtly sweet red pepper jam was the perfect canvas to showcase the polipo. The briny umami of the olives balanced everything perfectly.

JT ordered Manzo ($22.00) 6oz seared flat iron, caponata, tomato emulsion which was also quite tasty. Although the steak was perfectly cooked, it was a tiny bit chewy which made me think it might not have been brought up to room temperature before cooking. The dish was meaty and the soft sweet vegetables made for a lovely contrast. Both meals were worth ordering again, so we will definitely be back. But those eggs…

We were recently in Cancun, Mexico for a destination wedding (don’t get me started) for my Goddaughter/niece. They literally picked the most expensive place in Cancun (don’t get me started). We haven’t been to an all-inclusive for 25 years and this 2-day experience reminded me why, it’s just not our thing!  What was most disappointing is that not one room had an ocean view, not one. I cannot imagine why you would go to the Carribean and not want to see the Ocean from your room. Anyway, now I can put my focus on our next trip, Spain.

Here are a few pics. Click on any one for a gallery view.

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It’s not often you will see a ‘fast food’ establishment reviewed on this blog, but this time I had to do it. My first experience at Mi’Hito Sushi Laboratory was with a dear friend and long ago tenant, Lower Level Leanne. We needed a quick and healthy bite after we shopped at Tap Phong (my favourite restaurant supply store). She ordered the Rising Sun Sushi Burrito which was filled with raw salmon, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, tempura crunch, tobiko, carrot, crab meat, green onions, spicy mayo dressing ($11.99) and I had the Ahi Tuna Poké Bowl which had raw tuna, spinach, cabbage, carrots, edamame, crab meat, mandarin orange ($12.99). Although my poké was good, both she and I were blown away with her burrito, made with seaweed instead of a wrap! And it was HUGE. So I knew, the next time we were downtown and needed lunch, Mi’Hito would be our stop!

JT and I were touring downtown for Doors Open 2018 way back in May (scroll down to see some of our pics of Our Adventure) and fortunately, we were close enough to Mi’Hito to make a lunch stop (OK, full disclosure, I planned our route to end close to it!) This time JT and I shared a custom Sushi Burrito, made with raw tuna, avocado, lettuce, seaweed slaw, corn, sesame seeds and cucumbers ($15.99), it was awesome, fresh and totally filling. And their wasabi (in a little packet like soy sauce) was the hottest I have EVER had! The burrito comes in a really cute paper cutaway container, which is great for takeout, but a little overkill when eating in.

The food is served on little aluminium trays with small packets of soy and wasabi. The restaurant itself is fast food, no table service. It is brightly lit, with several large back-lit menu boards hanging behind the counters and a TV in the seating area. You can order off the menu or chose a custom bowl, burrito or taco. They also have sushi, but the burritos are so much more interesting!

I will definitely keep this place on my radar when I’m downtown.

This is half of the burrito. It is about 8 cm (3 inches) in diameter and about 22 cm (9 inches) long (full burrito). There are no vacant holes in this puppy, it is CHUCK FULL!

Here are some of the photos from Doors Open 2018. We visited several sites over two days but these were the most memorable pics. We have lived near Colborne Lodge for 17 years and have never toured through the house. You can read about the house and its history here. The Masonic Temple is special to me because my parents’ Puppet company performed for a CBC Children’s Christmas Party in the 1970’s. The graffiti pics are from our esteemed College of Art. There was graffiti all over the inside of the building, it was rather shameful. Plus, it wasn’t all that great for an art college!!!

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There is a new Japanese restaurant in our hood and it’s called Kenkou Sushi. It literally took over the space of a previous Japanese chain called Sushi 2 Go and sadly, they still haven’t changed the signage (apparently, they are waiting for good weather). Personally, I think this is a mistake as Sushi 2 Go was expensive and inferior quality than the present family owned resto. For some bizarre reason, chain restaurants usually don’t do well in my little hood so this bodes well for Kenkou Sushi. I’ve been 3 times since the beginning of February and it’s been excellent each time. It’s not fancy, but the food is fresh, tasty and nicely presented and best of all, it’s quite reasonable. If you are looking for a good Japanese restaurant in Toronto’s west end, I suggest you pop in, it’s right beside Jolanta Interiors at the corner of Bloor and Willard, you’ll need to look for Sushi 2 Go until the weather gets nicer!

The restaurant is simply decorated, with the sushi kitchen lining the back wall. There are only 7 tables but they do takeout. I like a place a little fancier for dinner, but I’ll certainly do takeout for dinner.

We decided to have a late lunch and make it the main meal of the day, but I still couldn’t finish my entire Bento Box! Both lunches came with Miso Soup, Small Salad, 6 California Rolls, 5 pieces of tempura (including 2 shrimps) and glass noodles.  JT ordered the salmon teriyaki (because he is making more of an effort to eat more fish), sitting on a bed of sautéed veggies.  The salmon looked to be about 110-120 g (good solid 4 oz).

Salmon Teriyaki Bento Box $14.00

I ordered the Sashimi Bento Box that came with 10 pieces of very fresh fish. They are not specific what fish comes out, it depends on what is fresh each day. They were wonderful and flavourful. As I previously mentioned, I was unable to finish it all, so the leftovers (I did eat all of the raw fish) will be lunch tomorrow.

Sashimi Bento Box $16.00

It’s excellent value and I love that the family members work there. So if you’re in the mood for Sushi, give them a go.

Kenkou Sushi

2370 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M6S 1P5

Hours:
Everyday: 11:30 AM–10:00 PM

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Last May I decided I wanted to see Kinky Boots for our wedding anniversary, I knew it would be a treat but I honestly was not prepared for the sticker shock! The price equaled a nice weekend away in our own wine country at a four-star hotel (all be it, during off season)! So I passed. Then, last month I received an email from a local radio station that they were offering a discount to see the show (I don’t know why, because they seem to sell out) but I wanted to see it and so I checked out the deal.  We ended up getting two seats in the first level balcony for $90, all in (and by all in, there is 13% tax as well as ‘convenience’ fees, whatever they may be). It was a matinée on a Wednesday afternoon (freelancing allows that freedom) so we decided to check out Chef Rob Feenie’s Cactus Club before the show.

CC_Front

Rob Feenie is a celebrated Vancouver Chef who presides over 18 Cactus Club restaurants in Canada and the Toronto restaurant is the only one east of Calgary! Located in First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district, the place is poised for high-end business deals over delicious luncheons and the suit crowd for after work drinks.

The Cactus Club Toronto is on three levels, each level boasting a unique style but serving the same menu; I’ve heard that this location is their flagship. We dined on street level which has a casual bar-like décor and ambiance, sadly with a few TVs.

CactusClub

The patio was still decorated with beautifully lit Christmas trees and propane heaters, a little excessive to say the least, but beautiful!

They don’t take reservations, they do have a few tables set aside for reservations, but their preference is for walk-ins, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. The front of the restaurant is set back into the building allowing a large hall to accommodate stanchions with velvet ropes for the large queues that, no doubt form. Most of you who have known me for some time, know that I do not wait in line for a restaurant so, this set-up did not bode well for me. However, it was a Wednesday, noonish and we were shown directly to our table. Whew! But as a side note, we have tried to make reservations for dinner a few times and have been turned down which is too bad because I would have liked to return.

CC_Interiior

Bar Interior from our booth. Too bad about the TVs.

The decor for this part of the restaurant is contemporary but warm. The perimeter is lined with large booths (but mostly sat only two people) around an enormous bar with stools all around. The window side had some little tables as well. What’s really interesting is the original art collection! On the upper levels you can enjoy your dish sitting alongside an original Warhol, Basquiat, or Mr.Brainwash!

Although we dined during the lunch hour, it wasn’t overly busy and they seemed to have a reasonable number of staff to ensure service was good. The kitchen is on the second or third floor which means the bus-boy is running up a flight of stairs with a basket of dirty dishes every 5 minutes or so, it also means that the food must be carted down the stairs alongside patrons walking up to the ladies or men’s rooms, which I found a little strange. Our server was attentive, friendly and considerate (asked if we were on a schedule).

We started with Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($16.50) which turned out to be an extremely generous serving, in fact, JT and I said we could have been satisfied with just this course! It’s sweet and spicy Szechuan glazed chicken garnished with peanuts and crispy fried wontons with Korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I would definitely order this dish again.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

My main course was the Tuna Stack ($16.00) made with raw ocean wise™ albacore tuna and avocado tossed in a citrus tamari vinaigrette (ceviche-style) garnished with crispy tempura, nori, sesame and micro cilantro with a large stack of deep fried wonton chips on the side. This too was a very generous serve and could have easily fed two people for a light lunch.

CC_TunaStack

Again, the Tuna Stack was a very generous serving size.

JT ordered the Short Rib Sandwich ($17.50) with sweet potato fries (which were extra, but I can’t recall how much), this dish was the least impressive by sight, flavour and size of the three we had — it was still delicious but not “WOW!” The sandwich is two halves of toasted sourdough bread with caramelized onions and Emmental cheese on tender short rib meat served with beef jus and a mayo that was a little like tartare sauce! It was fine, but not memorable.

CC_ShortRibSandwich

Although visually the Short rib sandwich was the least exciting, it was very tasty.

CactusSelfie

The Ladies Room had this mirror with the hashtag #cactusselfie which I thought was cute.

We loved the Cactus Club and based on the food, service and ambiance would love to return but the potential queues at 7:30 in the evening for a table does not grab me…frankly there are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line for another one!

Overall rating of Cactus Club (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Cactus Club

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 1am
Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1:30am

End Note:

In case you are wondering what we thought of Kinky Boots: It was very entertaining and the music was catchy (not much sing-talking either, which I find annoying). The acting was captivating and the story played out very nicely.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre is an early-20th-century, Beaux-Arts-style theatre owned by Mirvish Productions. The theatre is gorgeous on the inside but the seats are incredibly small (the upholstery on the seats doesn’t look that old) so I will warn the ladies to wear slacks and taller patrons should only sit in the aisles seats.

RoyalAlex

That’s JT on the left and me on the right and I’m only 163 cm (5′ 4″) tall! 

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