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Friday Dunch at Mamasita…

Finally after three cancellations this lunch went ahead… but not without a few hiccups… We turned it into a dunch as work kept getting in the way and dunch allowed us to finish everything we needed to at the office before enjoying a serious business lunch/dinner… and a few friday froffies…. or margaritas as was the case…

We couldn’t choose between two city restaurants that don’t allow bookings; Mamasita or Chin Chins? Both have been open for over a year but the no bookings policy had kept us away… Dunch was once again the perfect solution to a no booking policy… Can’t be too many peeps that want to eat at 3:30pm…

Finally, it was time to try out the famed Mamasita… where the queues start at 5pm and snake down the street until midnight, or so I had heard… I was very late to our late lunch due to public transport issues… I hadn’t “not driven” on a Friday night for as long as I could remember… since way before Feb… so I was kinda excited and the long trip drew out this excitement further… I walked up the stairs, once I found the tiny hidden door at the top of Collins St, and was surprised by the understated-ness (is that a word?) of the room. I found the ladies at a table in the middle of the restaurant, the first round of wines nearly empty. The tables seemed close together but besides a big group of girls up near the bar, there weren’t many others in for dunch… perfect… The waitress was pretty keen to take our food orders, trying twice to rush us along before we had decided on a bottle of wine. Once we had the drinks sorted, and because we were feeling some pressure to order, we turned our food fate over to our waitress with the instructions:

Bring us your best…. and we are REALLY hungry…

If you have read a few previous posts you will know this is my preferred way of ordering as good restaurants will generally assume you don’t mind spending some cash and will deliver the best experience they can (not over-the-top in the cash department though… like you know when a sommelier up-sells you on every bottle? Now that is annoying)…

We started with the famous corn, no pics as we were starving! haha. It was good. It didn’t blow my mind but it’s corn you know? How good can it be? Here are a few pics of the rest of our meal and corresponding thoughts..

Tostaditas - de Carnitas & de Cangrejo

Little crunchy bites of goodness. De Carnitas on the left, pork shoulder, pickled jalapeno, and a little crackle on top and de Crangrejo on the right, crabmeat, avocado, cucumber and habanero… so this last ingredient is pretty interesting… It’s the tiny red sliver on top and is described in Wikipedia as:

The habanero chili is one of the more intensely piquant species of chili peppers of the capsicum genus…

I WISH THAT I KNEW THAT BEFORE I ATE IT! It was so hot… The four of us were in agony… It’s funny now to think back but at the time… it must have only spent a little time in my mouth as it only felt like it was burning a hole in one little part of my tongue as opposed to one of the ladies lips that turned bright red… the bottle of wine was quickly emptied… the girls went for a ciggie break and I had to order a glass of milk…. pretty embarrassing for us but we could have used a little warning… Luckily our next dish was a refreshing palate cleanser

Ceviche - kingfish

The restaurant was filling by now and as first thought, the tables were REALLY close together… The dishes were coming out super fast too. In fact we actually asked if we could slow the pace a little… We were beginning to understand that this was not the type of restaurant you went to for a long, leisurely, comfortable, relaxing lunch…

The rest of the dishes were pretty good but we were all very careful with any chilli that we saw…

Soft taco - chicken
Ensalada de quinoa - corn, coriander, spinach chilli & pico verde
Deep fried polenta

The deep-fried polenta was our last savoury course and was sensational. I have to say now though, as I write this and re-read the menu, I sorta wish we had tried some pulled pork but I guess this is because of my pork obsession! As per my rules, dessert was required. I had a corn ice cream cone and the ladies had margaritas

dessert = 3 margaritas & an ice cream cone with caramel popcorn

By now we could see the top of the queue we had heard so much about poking up the stairs. The pressure was on us again, with staff asking couple of times if we wanted anything else, so we decided to move to the next destination rather than stay for a couple more cocktails and let the throngs come for their mexican…

I thought the food was pretty good… the price was excellent at under $360 for the four of us with quite a few drinks… but I have to say, I don’t understand the queues, with so much good food in Melbourne, why waste hours of precious time waiting in a line on Collins St… to then be rushed through your meal in a busy, close-sitting restaurant? Dunch was the perfect way to eat Mamasita… can’t wait for Chin Chins next!

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Put Victoria on your table – at Joost Greenhouse

Now that I am a food blogger…. (haha!)… I thought it only fitting that I should go to at least one event during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. As I have a friend that works at By Joost, (pronounced like toast) and I love what they are doing; building a number of businesses around a core focus of sustainability, I was most interested in sampling The Greenhouse. A completely sustainable pop-up restaurant powered by canola oil generators, complete with pee-harvesting toilets to fertalise mustard seeds….. seriously….

The Greenhouse By Joost

As a signed-up member of MFWF, I received early release tickets. I wasn’t fast enough to book the Rene Redzepi dinner which seemingly booked out in minutes, but having experienced the real thing at Noma last year, I was very happy to book tickets to the Put Victoria on your Table event instead… a bargain at $150 for four courses compared to Rene’s event… ha! I put the call-out to my foodie friends and was very exited that the great Dr Lats was available. An old housemate of mine who has spent the last few years either in grey london-town or red far-northern australia. A perfect night for a catch up.

We arrived at The Greenhouse on the south bank of the Yarra and went up to the rooftop beer garden for super views of the city and a custard cider. I had no idea what a custard cider was but it was certainly enjoyable, served in a reworked, recycled longneck minus the neck… G&T’s seemed to be served in a recycled mayonnaise jars and I saw champagne being served in tall skinny old jars too… Now I was beginning to get it… totally sustainable right…

We headed downstairs into the restaurant and sat down on a table of ten. We had two very different groups of four on either side of us. One group, more hippie, bikie like from north of the river celebrating a birthday and a snobby group most definitely from southside, celebrating the right to free speech and the ability to complain about almost everything… Well that’s what it seemed like anyway…

PVOYT menu and table setting

Each course was designed and prepared by chefs from different restaurants using all Victorian produce, and was accompanied by a matching beverage.

First off the bat was a whiskey cocktail with apple, peach, and lemon juice and cinnamon sugar.

First drink - whiskey cocktail

A risky choice and definitely not appreciated by my friends on the right but once you got past the initial hit of dark spirit it was actually quite tasty… strong certainly, but an unusual and interesting accompaniment to the first course… or three mini-courses as it turned out to be… described on the menu as:

smoked eel with barley, pork fillet with snow peas and peach salad and baked ricotta on a tomato coulis with dried black olive

I think we were quite relieved to discover that it was in fact three dishes and not one with 5000 too many ingredients… These mini-courses were designed and prepared by Pietro Porcu from The Tearooms at Yarck

Smoked eel with barley
baked ricotta in tomato coulis

Next course was designed by Matthew Fegan from Mr Carsisi in Kyneton and accompanied by Giant Steps Yarra Valley Chardonnay:

Lemon and sourdough crumbed Port Phillip Bay mussels with butternut pumpkin hummus, pastirma, smoked black chilli and lemon dressing, soft herb salad

This was actually one course and probably a surprise favourite for me. I am not usually a huge fan of mussels but when crumbed and fried…. well they are delicious and the butternut hummus was amazing!

mussels and the amazing butternut hummus

Third course, prepared by Andrew Doughton of The Long Table in Red Hill, made the meat lovers happy with a delicious slab of waygu, accompanied by a glass of Carlei 2006 Tri Rossi from the Yarra Valley:

Wood grilled Sher waygu, kancoka farm fig, grapevine ash, celeriac & radish pods

We noticed a pretty funny thing by this stage. The canola oil generators did not stretch to power lights so the restaurant was lit only by candles…. and we literally couldn’t see what we were eating… The only way I could see what the dish looked like was to take a photo… good atmosphere though!

waygu - lit by camera flash

Finally we had dessert… well actually a cheese course… I heard a few grumbles to my right… The cheese course was designed by The Greenhouse chef Matt Stone, who normally resides in Perth at the permanent Greenhouse… Again we couldn’t see the dish, descirbed only as:

Victorian cheese platter

Accompanied by the delicious Crittenden 2011 Moscato from Mornington, the Victorian cheese platter turned out to be one very stinky blue… stinky in a good way, like right up your nose stinky, but another risky move perhaps as blue cheese can be quite polarising. This dish also appeared to have ash sprinkled on top, a couple of radicchio leaves and some figs to tie it all together with some sweetness.

Victorian cheese platter

People were noticeably louder by the time the cheese course was underway. It was now that our host for the evening decided to have a little chat with each of the chefs and thank us all for our attendance… minus a microphone… must not be sustainable… I have no doubt the chefs were super entertaining to those in the front row 😉

Dr Lats and I lingered over our moscatos as the other happy diners departed. A thouroughly enjoyable night was had by all… except maybe the four from south of the river on my right…

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Grand Prix lunch at Ichi Ni

Another family Sunday lunch and another VERY hungover sister of mine… I have clearly, finally, grown into my role as the mature, intelligent and beautiful older sister… It was the first weekend both sisters were in Melbourne for at least 2 years… Big occasion and one sister had never met the other sister’s boyfriend (of four years)… Wow! Plus the wonderful Aunt Chrissie was in attendance. SO many family catch-ups, so much fun! It’s like we are in training for Family Xmas (a tri-yearly event that moves around the country to each of my father’s siblings state of abode)… This year Victoria. Lookout!

We started with some nibbles:

Endamame

I picked Ichi Ni for this particular Sunday lunch, having seen the weather and with the hope to catch a few rays in the awesome front courtyard. It is also my favourite Jap Jap restaurant. Awesome food, location and ambience, whether you sit inside or out! I totally forgot the Grand Prix track is just around the corner and Sunday was the big day… oops. Bad for traffic but frikkin cool for airshows right? ha! I also hadn’t been to Ichi Ni for a while and was certainly craving some ebi mayo….yyuuummmm… BEST PRAWNS IN MELBOURNE!

The incredible, amazing ichni ni ebi mayo

I did think we would be sharing a few bottles of wine over our lunch, however littlest sister’s hangover brought the party mood down somewhat… We did sample a rice beer, a soy beer and a glass of crisp australian reisling for me…. the perfect accompaniment to the following feast…

The LARGE sushi and sashimi platter - art on a platter
Soft shell crab roll
Spicy Dragon Roll

Littlest sister’s state was not improving and the raw fish array, which was fabulous, was probably not helping her cause….

sick sister

Another lemonade and a serve of deep fried chicken and she seemed on the up by the time we had finished our fab family fun lunch…

Tori Kara - deep fried marinated chicken.. for the sick little one

After a great lunch, the perfect combination of fresh and fried, we took a stroll along the St Kilda foreshore, we checked out the markets and most randomly… we took a quick ride on the scenic railway at Luna Park… MUCH SCARIER than I remember… haha
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Early, girly brunch at Three Bags Full

My little gang of girlies used to brunch super regularly! Ben could never understand how we needed to see each other so much and we would still have so much stuff to talk about… DER… Anyway, a core member of the gang has moved to Sydney on a short (hopefully) sabbatical and it turns out she was the main organiser of our brunches… therefore we haven’t had one for AGES!

Having heard about the queues, we knew we had to get organised pretty early when we made the decision to try out Three Bags Full on a Saturday morning. 9AM was meeting time. I heard a few of the boyfriends had a raised eyebrow at the time we all got up this particular Saturday… Things are definitely changing… There was only one alcohol-foggy brain amongst us… and after a coffee we were all on an even playing field. Three Bags Full seems to spread across three rooms. The main room and outside area was PACKED. We were shepherded into the middle room which was pretty empty when we arrived but filled very quickly. Brekkie was delish and felt noticeably cheap… but maybe that’s because recently I have been on reduced caffeine….

Bircher muesli with shredded apple and yummy crunchy bits (nice sunnies Em!)
Avo, persian fetta & pepitas on toast with one SOFT poached egg

I ordered the avo on toast which perfectly hit the spot and although the serve of avo looked huge on arrival… as usual I managed to finish it all. I also had a little taste of the bircher which was outstanding. I am not normally into bircher as I find it too soggy but the addition of yummy, crunchy bits was an inspiration… A really fab start to the weekend but we were hurried out a little… first the bill came without us asking for it, and then we were politely asked to leave… Kinda annoying but there was a big queue as we left I guess…

Ticked a second northside destination off my list… I need to hurry through the rest so I can come back to this one… maybe on a weekday though…
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Just a little piece of cake…

If you read my last post you will have seen the HUGE lunch we consumed at My Mexican Cousin

After a meal like that I would normally be skipping dinner, which I thought would be easy that night as I was heading to bookclub… Unfortunately, when I got to our lovely host’s house I was a little excited by the dip… and then the cheese… and then the….. Passionfruit sponge cake bought especially from Flinders Village Cafe… Check out the size of the piece I got served… and polished off in no time…

Passionfruit Sponge Cake

DELICIOUS!

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Creole with clients at My Mexican Cousin

Client entertaining at My Mexican Cousin was an interesting experience that I have been thinking about for a few days before starting this post… I was chatting about it to some friends earlier today, in this week’s episode of the Northside brunch challenge, and one of them told me about a food blogger, BurgerMary, who wrote an honest and critical review of the menu when MMC first opened. In a surprising and humble response, the powers that be at MMC hired her as a menu consultant… but then, perhaps equally surprisingly at the end of her contract, changed a bunch of her well advised revisions prompting her to once again update her story. BurgerMary obviously has deep knowledge of Creole food and seems super-qualified to comment. Reading her blog and the comments feed made me realise that I am definitely not qualified to talk specifics and origins of food and I hope when you guys read my blog you understand that it’s more like a food commentary. Experiences that I like and sometimes things that I don’t, because food and dining experience is obviously super subjective! Woot! Just wanted to make that clear!

Now back to our meal. It started a little ominously… We had called the day before to book as we were taking VERY IMPORTANT CLIENTS (…. they will like that!):

“Can we please book for five peeps at 12:30 tomorrow?”
“Nope, don’t worry about it you will be fine to get a table at 12:30 for five people.”

When we arrived, five people at 12:30, on a VERY hot afternoon the inside of the restaurant was full. The waitress looked around as she mumbled:

“Sorry, we’re pretty busy as we have a big booking coming in shortly”

Pretty annoying right? Given we had tried to book..? Anyway, we got a table outside… pretty hot… We ordered cornbread and chicken drumsticks immediately to quell what could have been a dangerous situation had Cyclone Stacey been unleashed. You know what they say about getting between a hungry woman and her food… DON’T.

Deep fried chicken drumsticks with blue cheese sauce

The chicken and blue cheese sauce was very rich and very delicious. The cornbread was equally tasty and was complimented by butter… and in my case more blue cheese sauce… We decided to order a bunch of dishes to share as the menu was quite different… As I mentioned above I have done a bit of research on MMC since we ate there, but before I knew anything about it I can tell you we were confused about where the inspiration for the menu came from (I have since seen the Creole-pedia on the website that explains more… but the website menu is not current, so some of my descriptions are based on my shaky memory). As I was eating I could taste different flavours that reminded me of Indian and Middle Eastern food. oops… Lots of pics below… because we ate A LOT and it looked very pretty!

Fried crocodile with fennel salad

Second day in a row eating crocodile… Final opinion is that it’s a cross between calamari and chicken… Doesn’t have much of it’s own flavour so it relies on good flavour additions to the dish.

Empanada style pie filled with pumpkin, and spices on zucchini mash

This “Jamaican Hand Pie” was FABULOUS! Maybe my favourite dish! Just such tasty vego flavours. The fried soft shell crab worked well with watermelon and chilli salad that you can’t see hidden underneath.

Soft-shell crab with watermelon salad

We ordered two serves of the beef ribs (slow cooked for 48 hours and then flash fried) and the creole chicken for main, perfectly accompanied by creole rice and a butter lettuce, candied pecan & goats cheese salad.

slow cooked beef short rib with red cabbage coleslaw
Creole chicken
Creole rice

You are now beginning to understand that this particular lunch gang are all good eaters right…? Now check out the desserts we shared! The pastry-doughnut things were out of this world!!!! Oh God… I almost had to lick the salted chocolate dish clean… almost, but thankfully regained my composure before embarrassing my colleagues..

Creme brulee with nuts and caramelised banana bits
Dark chocolate mousse with pulped orange, raspberry coulis & cream
Pastry, doughnut-thingys with salted chocolate & chantilly cream

Overall my MMC experience was excellent! Even though we had a little hiccup with booking in the beginning, and sat out in the heat, the food trumped all. It was really, really rich and as you can see by how many times I have written “fried” unlikely to rate well in a weight watchers survey… But I really, really enjoyed it and would def go back for more creole “influenced” food when I need a rich lunch (and no dinner)…
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Friday feasting in South Melbourne…

Another good day to work in South Melbourne… I started my day with an early morning spin class at South Melbourne Rec. A very positive move from someone intending to eat out for both breakfast and lunch… a negative move in fashion stakes though… So annoying having to plan your outfit the night before… especially when you have a bit of a late one… So I ended up heading to breakfast looking super cool in a pair of denim knee-length jeans (?!?), two sizes too small… dammit! And also no jacket, on a morning where autumn was well and truly showing her presence… double dammit…

First up, a breakfast meeting at St Ali. First we had to do a quick drive-by Freshwater Place to pick up one of the attendees…. That shows the love we have for St Ali… that we would do a round trip to pick up and drop off our buddy to eat a quick brekkie. Had a great gossip session over a couple of yoghurt boards and Stacey’s breakfast antipasto – A made-up breakfast of sides with seemingly no central focus but when combined it made perfect sense…. Similar to our conversations really….

Yoghurt, chunky muesli & poached plums

This was a case of me ordering light as I knew I was out for lunch later that day. Pretty tasty light brekkie but it’s hard to go to St Ali and not eat My Mexican Cousin…. mmmmmm…. must eat corn fritters…
St Ali on Urbanspoon

Lunchtime was another girls gossip session… Obviously in between the gossip, we had some serious work discussions too right…? FUN! The weather had improved drastically since the morning and it was actually too hot to walk to Lamaro’s from Clarendon St. I have already written about Lamaro’s on my blog but I just love eating and telling you about it so I figured since it’s so delish, it worthy of a second story. Also I ate very different dishes this time. We shared the tasting plate between three. It was HUGE! On the menu it says “a seasonal selection of tasty morsels for the land, sea and garden”. No kidding!

The incredible tasting plate

Let’s play spotto from the top: I can see quick fried prawns, goats chess fritters, salami, prosciutto, marinated mushrooms, pickled onions, gherkins, mini toasts, olives, relish, pate, rillette, beetroot salad and…. PORK BELLY!!!! wahooo!! Seriously impressive! And easily enough for the three of us!… ooh I forgot breadsticks too! ha!

For mains it was nearly three for three on the raviolo special. Pumpkin filled and topped with burnt butter sauce, walnuts and chives but Lise couldn’t go past the parma… An old favourite. I sensed a minor case of food envy on her part. I also forgot to take pics before we had hoed in too much… Oops. But I did take dessert pics of Jocks sorbets and the yummy chocolate fondant.
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Great day… great, great day! and for dinner… peanuts and rose… Woot!!

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Family fun at the chocolate warehouse…

Another fabulous family field day. I call it a field day as it meant another trek across the river to East Brunswick… It is so so far… I mean I get to Victoria St and I figure I must be there already and it’s not even half way! Dammit and obviously I am already late by this stage… oops! My wonderful aunt (who lives in East Brunswick… (I wonder who chose the venue huh?) and my cousin who traveled from Perth (yes okay she wins!) were waiting… hungry! We had scheduled brunch for 12 noon as I had a wedding the day before and was worried I wouldn’t be feeling so great…. Turns out I was actually okay, unfortunately my sister visiting from London, was not so lucky and became the “bad niece” as she was so ill she was banned from my car and therefore never even made it for brunch… ha!

So, I eventually arrived at L’atelier de Monsieur Truffe AKA The Warehouse of Mr Nose (?!) according to Google. HAHA! A big open space, a chocolate warehouse, entered through a cool red door on Lygon St. I didn’t immediately see the ladies and therefore made it all the way through to the front (back) counter and chocolate retail space… Woot! I knew I would be back for some take-away choccie before I left! Anyway, I found the fam and Auntie Chrissie mentioned pork belly as soon as I sat down… She must have known my pork belly after noon rule… I had decided before I had even looked at the menu…

pork belly roll, with mango, coriander, & thinly sliced chilli
Mozzarella salad with rocket, pear & hazelnut

Both Auntie and myself had the pork belly. Lots of bread but delicious and rich, with the herbs, fruit and chilli cutting through the fat of the belly… YUM! Lil cuz had the mozzarella salad which was equally pretty but definitely not as filling. Lucky Auntie was so generous with her brunch as I definitely wasn’t.

Four and a half fabulous hours of conversation, and 3 bags of chocolate treats (including a little box for “bad niece”) later… I was en route back to East St Kilda, thinking how incredibly lucky I am to have such a great family!

L'atelier by Monsieur Truffe on Urbanspoon

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A Summer Stokehouse Wedding…

Can I write a blog entry about a close friend’s wedding? God yeah, if it was as perfect as yesterday’s event was.

I know I said this was about a summer wedding… and it is actually March but wow, did Mother Nature turn it up for Soph and Andy’s evening… and the rest of us, as we sipped french champagne on the balcony, watching the evening sun sparkle on the water.

bubbles on the balcony

You couldn’t really ask for a better start to the evening than canapés and bubbles on the Stokehouse Upstairs balcony. Or my other favourite thing about a Stokehouse wedding, less weather dependent… essentially an a la carte menu and an excellent selection of wines to choose from…. mmmm yum! PLUS (but wait there more) an awesome group of peeps to celebrate the beginning of this marriage in style… Some pretty entrees for you. My beautiful ceviche… delightfully bright, in both appearance and taste… and my friend George Farquarson’s sweet venison…

Kingfish ceviche, salted grapes, flying fish roe, sunflower seeds, zucchini & chardonnay vinaigrette
Cured venison, plum marmalade, horseradish, almonds & elderflower jelly

A choice of four mains… my choice the lamb; cooked three ways, roasted rack, slow cooked neck and fried sweetbreads (for the second time in my life)… A very rich meal that I matched most excellently with more bubbles… Normally at a wedding I get a bit distracted by the time the main comes out but this time I was extremely focussed on my meal… and the meal of the person on my right… Had to try the beef right?!

Boneless rack of lamb, slow cooked neck, sweetbreads, cucumber pickle & mustard apple soubise
220g Angus beef served with oyster mushrooms, charred baby onion & green olive butter

Wowee what a beautiful meal, a beautiful view, a beautiful bride… Just beautiful!
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A GAStronomical start to the day in South Melbourne

There are a lot of good things about working in South Melbourne. Food choice being at the top of my list, particularly brekkie choices. If I go out for brekkie it’s rare that I would go past some kind of hot dish with eggs. My feeling is, if it’s cold, it’s pretty easy to do myself. There is one exception that I go back to time and time again…. The muesli at GAS on Coventry St South Melbourne. I am not going to say it’s the best in Melbourne as I cannot claim to have tried them all (and have heard the muesli at Pope Joan is to die for) but in my muesli realm it is definitely the best yet. I am talking about the roasted muesli of course.. And although this dish is essentially a cereal, I think it would be difficult to claim a low fat tag…. I could be wrong but his stuff tastes far too good to be healthy!

On this particular morning, a work friend and I were just going to grab an energy boosting bite to eat before a three hour meeting. We went to GAS but we were trying to be healthy so we ordered away from our standard roasted muesli with greek yogurt and two serves of rhubarb and instead ordered a similar, seasonal speciality… the mango cheeks with rhubarb, pomegranate and greek yoghurt…

Mango cheeks, rhubarb, pomegranate and a special side dish

Notice anything..??

We just couldn’t go a brekkie at GAS without the muesli and asked if we could get a little on the side…. hahaha!
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