Category Archives: Food

Austin Texas 2014 Part Two

I must admit, when Janet and I went to Austin this time I fully realized everything I missed. I miss the fact it can be 80 degrees in February. I also miss the music, food, our friends and our neighborhood.  I really like what’s happening on the eastside at the moment. Not everyone will agree with me but I like the changes.

It all started with Franklin Barbeque. They moved into the hood and it drew in the barbeque lovin’ crowd. Now, the Quickie Pickie has transformed from a dark scary place into a beer lover’s mecca. A new restaurant has moved in across the street from Quickie and it was packed with people sitting outside eating and enjoying the weather.

The only reason Janet and I left the eastside this trip was because we had to go to Chuy’s, one of our favorite TexMex establishments.  Janet developed a taste for Margarita rocks, I enjoyed a burrito as big as my face and we missed Austin terribly even as we sat surrounded by its glory.

We never made it out to El Sol y La Luna, our favorite spot for migas tacos, but I indulged my need for migas at Kerbey Lane Café. I had never been there before but I will definitely go back (even though they made their migas with tortilla chips). We also stopped by Hula Hut for Margaritas (!) and tres leches cake. It tasted better than it sounds.

I’m sure we did more than eat when we visited, I just can’t think of anything. We did go for a jog along the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake but that was mainly because we needed to burn a few of those margarita and cake calories. I’m glad I’m not tracking my eating habits at the moment.

I miss parts of living in Texas but I love most of living in Seattle. Solution? We talked about keeping the house on the eastside and being snowbirds…living in Austin during the winter and the rest of the time in Seattle/Portland. Yes, we had that much fun.

jenn

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Portland Food Tour 2014

I am a Seattle girl through and through but I must admit I love Portland to itty bitty pieces. There’s a lot to love about Portland but one of the better reasons is the food. I don’t think I can ever spend enough time there to eat at all the worthy restaurants. The last time Janet and I went to Portland we spent time with three absolutely wonderful places. I can’t wait to go back!

Killer Burgers

I have a special place in my heart for cheeseburgers. My food pyramid has cheeseburgers and beers at the top. Killer is a relatively new establishment and Janet talked me into going with her. It wasn’t very hard to do: she asked and I said yes. We went in for dinner on a Thursday night and there weren’t many people in the rather large dining area. We ordered at the counter and went to wait for our double patty burger (which we split, a much better bun to burger ratio).

We waited for approximately 20 minutes. The whole time we’re thinking ‘what a waste of time’ and ‘why are we still here?’ When they brought our burger out we noticed it had bacon on it. Apparently, all their burgers are served with bacon. Things were looking up. It only took one bite before we were both hooked on Killer Burgers. The patties were juicy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. The cheese and bacon were perfectly distributed and enhanced the burger. This burger was so good I will think about it until I go back to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Soon, I hope.

Sugar Mama’s Café

This place looked great from the outside: open and bright and inviting. The name also spoke to me, I love cafes and sugar. We went for breakfast and ordered an egg scramble. It was really good and their coffee was delicious. What really caught my eye was their freshly baked cinnamon roll. It looked so good Janet and I went back the next morning so I could order one.

Our delightful waitress heated up the cinnamon roll and smothered it in butter. I can vividly remember the sensation of the roll melting in my mouth. It was fluffy and sweet but not so sweet it was cloying. The cinnamon roll, along with their wonderful coffee, was all I needed to start my day. I had an omelet too but that’s beside the point.

Grassa

This is another new restaurant Janet saw on one of her walks and we decided to eat dinner there on Friday night. It’s a tiny space but they utilize it well. Two long communal tables are centrally located with tables, a counter, and a couple of booths along the perimeter. The waiters were friendly and helpful especially when their credit card machine wasn’t working properly. Unfortunately, they fixed the problem and we had to pay.

I was a little concerned with the menu. I’m not even close to the definition of an adventurous eater and when I saw the choices I had a mini panic attack. I noticed one of the noodle and fish dishes used squid ink and I asked Janet why anyone would do that to their food. She informed me that the ink didn’t have a flavor – it was just for show. I was a little concerned with black teeth but ordered the dish despite my reservations. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the pasta. It was a little weird, eating black pasta, but the flavor was a perfect symphony of pasta, fish, garlic and salt in my mouth. I think it was even better the next day as leftovers.

jenn

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The Oregon Coast and Our Impending Bike Ride

The family and I just spent a few days in Newport which is located along the coast in the middle of the beautiful state of Oregon. I can honestly say the Oregon coast is much different from the Gulf coast. The major difference being in Oregon it’s freakin’ cold during the summer; the Gulf not so much.

Since we had two kids with us, Jessie and her visiting BFF from Austin, we had to eat more organized meals instead of the normal cereal I like to eat two or three times a day. Here are a couple of pretty good restaurants (and a candy store, of course) we found on our trip, in case you’re ever in the Newport area visiting.

Cosmic Soda Pop and Candy Shop – Okay, this one is actually in downtown Portland, where we made a pit stop on the way to Newport, but it’s worth a look if you’re anywhere near Portland and have a sweet tooth as big as my snarly toothed monster. This shop had a wonderful collection of old school candies and a large selection of soda for the kids and kids at heart.

My mom brought me back, from London, a candy bar I absolutely adored called Crunchie by Cadbury…or something along those lines, I’ve forgotten already, and Cosmic actually carried it! I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find my new favorite candy bar. Especially when I have such a hard time describing it: it’s chocolaty, with a honeycomb thing in the center…I can’t remember what it’s called though…it’s crunchy and airy and delicious…do you have that?

Mo’s – I try not to eat too much fish & chips, I know fish is brain food but I’m pretty sure the grease they fry it in isn’t, but sometimes I just have to have a little F&C. Even better: Mo’s serves their F&C in cahoots with a cup of their world famous clam chowder. Yum. Mo’s clam chowder was delicious: creamy, flavorful with just the right amount of small clam pieces. Just how I like it.

My favorite part of F&C, the fish, didn’t disappoint. It tasted like they had just caught the cod that morning and fried it up before the poor fish knew what hit him. I would have to say Mo’s F&C are my second all time favorite, a distant second to Spud fish & chips mind you, but Janet swears the F&C are better in New England. I’ll be the judge of that!

Savory Café & Pizzeria – I just love pizza. I love cheese, marinara and meats loaded on a giant piece of bread! Janet and I ordered the Mexican pizza and weren’t disappointed. It was just what we needed: pizza and Mexican food wrapped into one tasty, spicy package. The kids had spaghetti with meatballs and a giant chicken and rice burrito which reminded me of Chuy’s (an Austin Tex-mex favorite) big as yo face burritos.

Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life Ride

For those of you super fit people (you know who you are) 35 miles on a bike probably doesn’t concern you much. To an asthmatic 44 year old, fairly out of shape woman who prefers to lift weights than actually move around, it’s a terrifying thought. So, of course, my better half, in a Snapple and chocolate induced haze, signed us up for the “short” route. On the bright side: Janet could have signed us up for the 65 mile route!

She registered us several months ago and you might assume that gave us enough time to actually train for said ride. You would be mistaken. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the event but just in case we both got all our finances in order. Just in case. I did forget to say a long and emotional goodbye to Jessie, before she left to go camping with her dad, but she knows I love her.

The CF ride sounds like a well run, pain free event, with mechanics, support vehicles and rest stops scattered along the route. To say I’m terrified would be slightly exaggerating my feelings. I’m just downright scared. I’m glad we’re arriving at seven in the morning, for the ride, so I can sleep through the first part. I might just make it that way.

jenn

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How Do I Love Thee, Texas Barbeque?

Since Janet and I stayed at the Aloft this past weekend in Portland, we were situated directly across the street from a Famous Dave’s BBQ joint. After living in Texas on and off for about fifteen years, I hesitate to order BBQ in other states, but especially in the Pacific Northwest. We are known for a lot of things but BBQ and Ice Tea (which go hand in hand, really) are not two of those things.

Janet and I decided to try Dave’s because it’s been a really long time since we had our BBQ fix. Eating at Dave’s made me realize just how much I missed Texas BBQ. Famous Dave’s was fine but can’t hold a candle to our favorite Austin BBQ spot: Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q – where you can get BBQ and fill up your other tank with gas!

If you live in Austin Texas, you will have a favorite BBQ spot because I’m pretty sure they have a committee who won’t let you live there if you don’t like BBQ. A lot of folks will join one of three bandwagons: Rudy’s BBQ, the Salt Lick and County Line BBQ, and faithfully eat at their favorite choice. (There are lots of other BBQ joints, lots, but I’m narrowing my choices to these three and Austin only.)

Same thing goes for iced tea. You either like sweet tea or unsweetened tea and you’ll rarely meet anyone who will tolerate one if they prefer the other. Usually you’ll hear, “Oh, you don’t have unsweetened tea? I’ll just drink water,” and it won’t be in the ‘oh, goody, I LOVE water’ tone.

Why do Janet and I worship at the alter of Rudy’s? Let me just tell ya: it’s mostly the brisket, sause and setup. When you first walk in to Rudy’s, they have a large winding area you go through, to get to the counter (kinda like Disneyland), which is lined with glass bottled sodas and beers. Right after the drinks are the usual BBQ sides in a giant refrigerated display case. So, before you even order your meat, the drinks and sides are already in your hot little hands!

You order the most important part of the meal, the meat, at the counter and watch while the professional slicers cut your meat right in front of you. No need to sit down and have a waiter slowly make his way over to take your order, the front counter crew will have loaded up your food and removed a big chunk of change from your pocket in no time!

Since Janet can only eat regular brisket (wet) and I can only tolerate lean (dry) we both get what we like without annoying the other because Rudy’s has them both.  Because, you know, if Jenn ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! And the BBQ sause (not sauce)! It is, without a doubt, one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth (right behind their delicious, melt in your mouth brisket). There are some camps, in the BBQ world, who swear any kind of sauce should be banned from BBQ, but I think a truly great sause only enhances the meat.

I’m sure other states make great BBQ too I just haven’t found it yet. Famous Dave’s must be pretty good because it’s a chain and if it were terrible nobody would eat there, eh? And in defense of Franklin’s on the Eastside of Austin (within walking distance of our house), we haven’t tried it yet. Something about a line 30 or 40 people deep, waiting to get in every single day, lets me know something exceptional is happening there. I just don’t want to stand in line (it’s hot in Texas) because I’m lazy and I’m usually at Rudy’s.

So, if you are anywhere near Austin, please visit each and every BBQ joint in town, and a couple hugging the county line, so you too can jump on a bandwagon. If I’m in town, you might see me at Rudy’s, crying tears of joy, while eating lean brisket on squishy white bread drowning in Rudy’s sause. Either that, or I’ll be at Chuy’s…don’t get me started on Tex-Mex!

jenn

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Places to Eat in Seattle

I’ve been spending some time in the Seattle Center area, lately, and I try to be good with our self imposed budgetary limitations, but I’ve checked out a few restaurants on the sly. I enjoy walking around the Center; Roxy does too if it’s not raining or cold (she hates those two together). Luckily for Rox, it’s rarely wet and cold in the great Pacific Northwest during the winter!

The Seattle Center is much more interesting and diverse than I remember from my youth. There’s a lot to see and do there such as the impressive Space Needle (I do remember that part), KeyArena (where the Seattle Storm shoot hoops), Pacific Science Center, numerous museums and stages and the Experience Music Project. I’m not sure what the EMP building is supposed to represent but it kinda looks like Godzilla spit his gum out in the parking lot. I hope there weren’t any innocent bystanders when he hocked that up.

Pie

Also on the 74 acre grounds of the Center is a place called the Armory. It’s a food court now with a number of local eating establishments. There’s a Subway and Starbucks, too, in case you missed the other ten located within a two mile radius. My favorite spot in the Armory is a place called Pie. It creates sweet and savory varieties of small, portable, tasty pies. Janet and I went to Pie one Friday night and had a Cauliflower and Cheddar pie with a baby Key Lime pie for dessert. I will definitely go back and try some of their other choices as I love meat pies and most things with ‘key lime’ in the title.

Pho Viet Anh

I’ve been meaning to try a Vietnamese sandwich for ages and finally got around to it a couple of Fridays ago. I didn’t know what to expect, I’m not a very adventurous eater, but I enjoyed the food and ambiance. No frills and tiny, the restaurant envelops you when you first walk in and gave me a warm and homey feeling.  We ordered a pork sandwich and I fell in love with the vegetables and bread. The pork was almost an afterthought, on my part, and next time I think I’ll order the vegetarian option. I’m not sure what they did to make the veggies taste so darn good but Janet and I have been thinking about them for days. I know, right! That never happens with veggies.

Pagliacci Pizza

No food list of mine would be complete without a pizza entry. This is one food type all three of us agree on (and if we let Roxy eat pizza, four). At Pagliacci’s you can buy pizza by the slice, a budget friendly way for everyone to eat pizza at the same time without having to buy three entire pies. I must admit, I really like Pagliacci for their freshly tossed Caesar salad. I can think of no better way of eating lettuce than to smother it in Caesar dressing and throw in large chunks of bread disguised as croutons. The tri-nivore in me loves a slice of pepperoni pizza with a side of salad. Tri-nivore: a person who eats meat, fruits and veggies and, my favorite, carbs.

If you ever find yourself in the Seattle area, check out these restaurants and definitely stroll around the Seattle Center to collect your ten thousand steps per day. On most Wednesdays, Roxy and I can be found walking around the area. Unless it’s raining and cold then forget it.

jenn

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Food For Thought

When I go to a new city I love to go exploring.  Everything is shiny and sparkly in a new town.  All of the outdoor activities (kayaking, walking, hiking, badminton, tennis, etc) are new and enjoyable again and I love to buy a city map and plot out walking loops.  Of course, all those healthy things are mostly in my mind and pale by comparison to the enjoyment of new eating opportunities.

This is not my first time staying with Janet at work, but there’s so much to explore here in sunny, dry California I still have a lot to see and do before I go to my actual home.  Where is my actual home?  I don’t have one yet, but I sure hope I find one this weekend.  Good thoughts, everybody, good thoughts.

I enjoy eating, some things I enjoy eating a great deal, but I wouldn’t say I’m a foodie.  I’m way too picky and set in my ways for complete enjoyment at meal times.  It’s not flavors or ethnic foods which bother me.  My issues are with textures and squishy things.  I don’t like mushrooms, for a number of reasons, and I can’t eat soft things like oysters, or cut up tomatoes, and the thought of touching ground turkey again makes me a little nauseous.

I’m trying to broaden my horizons, however, because Janet is a foodie who really enjoys a good meal.  I never felt comfortable going to a Thai, Vietnamese, or Sushi restaurant because I never knew what to order.  Janet has been very patient and loving with me, taking my hand and guiding me through the menus of foreign lands.

When you stay in a hotel and don’t spend a lot of time cooking, eating out becomes a necessary evil in your life.  I’ve always wondered how restaurants, especially fast food varieties, stay in business and seem to thrive like they do.  I’m starting to realize how nice it is to have something familiar in a foreign California town.

Janet and I were hungry, the weekend we arrived here, and couldn’t figure out what to eat.  The hotel parking lot is littered with fast food establishments and some I like (Wendy’s) and some I don’t (Carl’s Jr.) but I wanted something lighter than fast food.  Janet suggested the Olive Garden, located in the parking lot adjacent to ours, just a few steps away, and I said, sure, why not?

It was perfect because I knew I like their Minestrone soup and their salad.  I didn’t have to worry about the quality of food, or how much it would cost, or how the restaurant looked inside.  I already knew all that.  It’s comforting to be hungry, not know what you feel like, and think, ‘well, I can always go to Wendy’s, I know I like their spicy chicken nuggets and baked potato’.

I enjoyed the soup and salad at the Olive Garden, it was light but filling, relatively cheap, and tasted exactly how I remembered from last time I ate there with Jessie in Seattle.  I also knew how much it would cost, so I didn’t have to worry about wasting my money (don’t say it, Budge!).  That doesn’t mean Janet and I don’t like to try new things.  We love exploring the food world and as long as there’s no fungus and minimal lettuce, I’m just fine.

We’ve been to two restaurants this week: one new to Janet and both new to me.  The first one’s a Sushi place called Wasabi, which is located in Folsom, CA.  No, we’re not staying at the prison with Janet visiting me on the weekends.  Trust me: you’ve seen the inside of one prison, you’ve seen them all.  Just Kidding, Mom!  (In case she’s reading.)

I was a little hesitant to try sushi.  For some reason I equate sushi with raw fish and if you’ve ever taken a microbiology class of any kind…well…you just don’t eat raw things. Ever. Janet convinced me to give it a try explaining how everything in the Viagra roll was cooked thoroughly.  Why would she lie?

Yes, you read that correctly: we ordered a Viagra roll.  It was funny (and a little embarrassing) because they rolled up the rice and shrimp with spears of asparagus which hung out the front end.  I hope you can visualize that because I’m not going into any deeper explanations.  So, they cut the roll and sprinkle the top with what I thought was shaved carrots.  I always take off my glasses when reading menus and the world always has a lovely soft, innocent look without them.

I ate two or three pieces when I innocently said, “that’s nice they put carrots on top, you know how much I like carrots.”  Janet’s eyes ricocheted up and locked on mine.  She had that look I’ve seen once or twice before; the ‘I was really hoping you wouldn’t notice or mention that’ look.  Uh-oh.  I briefly thought about changing the subject, some things are better left unknown to me, but I forged ahead.

“Those aren’t carrot shavings?” I asked as I leaned in to get a closer look.  Hey, those look like…Janet cut into my thoughts with a not very convincing, “Those aren’t fish eggs at all.”  I was crushed.  I’d heard Janet talking about the Viagra roll, and how good it was, for months and she never mentioned fishy eggy things, not even once.

“Really?”  I asked.  “Okay, they’re little tiny fish eggs.  You can barely see them, they’re so small.”  Sometimes, in relationships, things just flow well; rhythms are created and no thought needed for the flow.  Sometimes, however, you need to explain how you want your partner to respond, no matter how unnatural and unintelligent it may make them feel.

When I see a dead animal alongside the road, I want you to tell me it’s sleeping, sometimes in an incredibly unnatural position, but sleeping nonetheless.  When I ask you if I look good in these pants, even though I can’t zip them up, I want you to say, you bet, I’ve never wanted you more than I do right now.  When I ask if the caviar on top of a squishy Viagra roll is shaved carrots, I want you to say: yes, honey, yes it is.  And I want you to say it with conviction.  Sometimes you have to explain these things, just the once, and then never mention them again.  Ever.

I can honestly say I’ve tried sushi and I never have to do that again.  Maybe I should have told them I wanted it well done with shaved carrots on top.  I’ll do that next time.  Snicker.  I think Janet felt sorry for me, and probably a little happy I actually tried it, because the next restaurant we went to was called Dad’s Kitchen.

Dad’s Kitchen was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (I think I got that right, Janet and I just call it triple D) and Guy had them make a burger with bacon and blue cheese.  It looked so good on TV, we wanted one right then and when we realized it was located in downtown Sacramento, we jumped in the car and drove out there.

It was pretty good: the meat’s good quality, the bacon was tasty, and the blue cheese was mild.  I’m not a big fan of blue cheese (unless it’s on the world’s best buffalo chicken sandwich at Cafeteria 15L) and wasn’t disappointed I could only taste the blue cheese on the outer edges.  Since Janet and I split our meals, my first bites were on the inside and all I could taste was burger and bacon.  Not a bad taste to enjoy.

Dad’s burger had a nice roll, not too soft and not too hard, and the fries were well done and fresh.  I must say, my favorite thing at Dad’s?  Ordering the Sweaty Betty Blonde Lager, which was crisp and tasty, just the way a lager should taste.  I can’t believe, in one week, I ordered a Viagra roll and a Sweaty Betty!  That was more fun than going to Starbucks, when they first rolled out their lighter coffee, and ordering a tall blonde!  Yes, there’s a 12 year old boy inside of me just dying to get out.  He would like a tall blonde and a Sweaty Betty; no need for the Viagra roll.

I think tonight Janet and I are going out for seafood, another new restaurant we can try.  I hope Janet has learned her lesson from the Viagra roll debacle.  Just nod your head and agree with my delusional way of thinking.  Life will flow much smoother that way.  Oh, look!  A sleeping cat.

jenn

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Why Am I So Hungry?

Jessie and I just got back from wandering along Tumalo Creek in Shevlin Park on the west side of Bend in beautiful, sunny Oregon.  I’m so glad we came to Bend but I can’t see us moving somewhere just for the summer again.  Moving is not one of my favorite things although you wouldn’t know that by how many times I’ve moved since that first one from my childhood home.

If we change our approach, maybe it would be easier, but to move half of our stuff for only three months is a lot of work, so I’ve learned.  If we ever do this again, we’ll rent a furnished place and only bring some of our clothes and a few important things like Safari my stuffed, big eyed giraffe.

So, besides stomping around in the wilderness, what have we been doing?  Why eating of course.  There’s a great burger place in downtown Bend cleverly called Bend Burger Company which makes a very tasty burger, tater tots (a personal favorite of Janet’s) and delicious looking shakes.

On the northern side of town is a little pizza joint called Little Pizza Paradise located in the Cascade Village Shopping Center, in case you are ever in Bend and dying for a pizza.  I just loved everything about the pizza: the sauce was good, toppings were perfect and it was just the right thickness.  I like thin crust but it has to be pizza crust not crackers like I’ve had before and never liked.

I must say, Janet and my favorite restaurant and bakery isn’t even in Bend but in the neighboring town of Sisters, Oregon.  We’d heard good things about the stuffed jalapenos at Los Agaves, right after we moved in and raced over to try them.  We ordered the jalapenos and flautas and waters.  The jalapenos were so hot we couldn’t even breathe properly while eating them.  The water only made it worse.

Janet swore she sustained permanent tongue damage, never having tasted anything that hot before.  Fully a month later, I can still hear Janet muttering, “damn!  Those were hot!”  I think she’s gotten over the pain, but the memories will linger for a very long time.  I can see us on the porch, rocking in our old lady rockers and Janet will lean towards me and ask, “Do you remember those jalapenos?”  Which, of course, my reply will be, “Who are you?”

The flautas were so delicious we talked about going back and not ordering the jalapenos.  Jessie and I went today and I ordered the fish tacos which were even better than the flautas.  I don’t like to judge anybody or anything…oh, wait, that’s Janet, I do like to judge.  When I go to a restaurant, I judge them on the little things.  I judge Mexican restaurants on their salsa, rice and beans.  Why?  Because if the sides are good it tells me they care about their food.  Anyone can make good cheese enchiladas but I’ve tried some terrible rice and beans in my days.

Los Agaves makes a delicious salsa, Spanish rice, and black beans.  The salsa was spicy and not-chunky, just like I like it; the rice was fluffy and fresh; even the black beans had been seasoned enough to stand out on their own.  Moving on to the actual food: the fish tacos at Los Agaves are dangerously close to becoming my favorite taco; knocking off my current favorite at Taco Del Mar.

Not only do I have a budding relationship with Los Agaves, but right next door is Sister’s Bakery; another great reason to visit Sisters.  They have these delicious, fluffy, huge buttermilk sticks that just make me smile.  I don’t even want to know the calorie count, I will only eat one after a hike in the woods.  I can’t tell you much about anything else they bake because I can’t get past the buttermilk stick.  I seem to be hungry again.

Book 1 Update:  Book 1 done!  Devan’s Story: Blue Hydrangeas by JJ Wallingford on Amazon as an ebook.  I’m working on getting it out to the Nook and the Apple bookstore, but it seems to be taking me a while.

Book 2 Update:  Since I’ve sold almost 20 books on the first one, I decided to start book 2.  I’m about 10k words in right now and I really like the way the first draft is going.  Of course, I could be biased…let’s go ask Janet!

Facebook:  I’ve started a Facebook page for JJ Wallingford.  Send me a friend request and I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the book and life in general.

jenn

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