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Tuk Tuk Taproom Offers a Feast for the Eyes and Taste Buds

Tuk Tuk Taproom Offers a Feast for the Eyes and Taste Buds

Bahn Tom Ha Noi are yam and shrimp fritters you fold up in a lettuce leaf and top with herbs and fish sauce.

Bahn Tom Ha Noi are yam and shrimp fritters you fold up in a lettuce leaf and top with herbs and fish sauce.

Time is running short on Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, which runs through Saturday. There’s still time to grab the special dinner at Tuk Tuk Taproom, which runs long on flavor.

Chef David Gilbert’s menu is a feast of small plates worth sharing. He presents a riot of colors, Asian-infused flavors and textures, all of which are perfect with many of the beers available, such as the Hitchitano Nest Real Ginger Brew or the light, seasonally welcome Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen. If beer’s not your think, try the Proseccco on tap or the kombucha that’s made specially for the Taproom.

Rather than sing the hymns of the many dishes we sampled, here are photos of several to whet your appetite. Surprising flavors abound, but for this one time, we’ll let the photos do the talking.

 

Ya Rou Mian is a crispy noodle salad with tofu, Sichuan chiles, scallions and a sesame-soy dressing.

Ya Rou Mian is a crispy noodle salad with tofu, Sichuan chiles, scallions and a sesame-soy dressing.

Gat Tod Samoon Prai is Thai-style fried chicken with lemon grass and other seasonings.

Gat Tod Samoon Prai is Thai-style fried chicken with lemon grass and other seasonings.

For an extra $10, you can add a plate of pork belly to your table.

For an extra $10, you can add a plate of pork belly to your table.

Kaeng Matsaman Curry featured stewed lamb in a sauce with potato, eggplant, clove, cinnamon and peanuts.

Kaeng Matsaman Curry featured stewed lamb in a sauce with potato, eggplant, clove, cinnamon and peanuts.

Che Chuoi Chung is a refreshing mix of poached bananas, tapioca pearls, coconut soup and litchi.

Che Chuoi Chung is a refreshing mix of poached bananas, tapioca pearls, coconut soup and litchi.

Tuk Tuk Taproom
1702 Broadway(210) 222-TAPS (8277)
tuktuktaproom.com

 

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Restaurant Week Lunches Offer Excellent Food, Bargains

Restaurant Week Lunches Offer Excellent Food, Bargains

Chez Vatel's chicken with pasta (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Chez Vatel’s chicken with pasta (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Two recent lunches during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week illustrate what bargains can be had during this week-long celebration. Think about it: You get a three-course meal for $15. When was the last time you paid that for fine food?

Zinc's Meatloaf

Zinc’s Meatloaf

At Zinc Bistro & Bar, some friends and I settled in among the attorneys and downtown professionals having their power lunches to enjoy a three-course menu that will largely vary by the day on which you visit.

You can choose a cup of the day’s soup or the house salad. Either should be a good choice, if you have the luck we had. The soup that day was a curried tomato with plenty of spice and a complex series of spices bolstering the fresh tomato flavor. The Zinc Salad featured a lively mix of greens, grape tomatoes, nuts, pears and goat cheese tossed in a bright orange sherry vinaigrette.

As good as both of these dishes were, they couldn’t hold a candle to the day’s special, which was meatloaf with a mushroom-laden sauce. If you’ve had Zinc’s burger, known as the “crack burger” to its addicted following, then you might consider this the meatloaf equivalent. It was that rewarding. Credit also goes to a healthy array of vegetables and starches on the side, including pan-fried potatoes with blue cheese crumbles, roasted red pepper, cooked red onion and sauteed yellow squash. If Zinc ever features this again as a special, don’t think twice; just order two helpings and have at them both with gusto.

Dessert was listed as a peach cobbler, but it was more like a rustic cupcake with peaches baked in. The batter was suffused with warm spices that offered the promise of cooler fall temperatures to come, and it left a smile filled with the pleasure that comes from something made with love.

Chez Vatel's seafood chowder

Chez Vatel’s seafood chowder (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Chez Vatel & Bistro had a chalkboard full of options and, since we were early, a couple of unadvertised specials. So, before the restaurant filled up, we started with a comforting bowl of seafood chowder, a refreshing vichyssoise and a salad tossed in a basil vinaigrette that let the herb, not the vinegar, dress the greens in flavor.

From the main course options, we feasted on skate that practically melted on the tongue, braised pork butt that was tender, and chicken served up with a welcome helping of house-made pasta. The big surprise was how good the vegetables were. Once again, there was a generous array that included snow peas, carrots, broccoli, broiled tomatoes and french fries that approached perfection. The vegetables varied from plate to plate, but all were fresh in a way that really satisfied. So much so, in fact, that this diehard carnivore will give chef Damien Watel’s vegetarian plate serious consideration the next time I’m there.

Dessert was the French classic, Far Breton, a prune flan-style cake that arrived with a gorgeous splash of color on the side , thanks to berries, creme anglaise and a coulis. Beautiful as it was, it was no match for our forks. No trace of it was left behind.

It was yet another reminder why fans of the restaurant have voted Chez Vatel & Bistro the No. 1 restaurant in San Antonio in the recent Zagat guide.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Saturday. Several restaurants have announced extensions, including Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, Arcade Midtown Kitchen, the Boiler House, Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights and Umai Mi.

Zinc Bistro & Bar
207 North Presa St.
(210) 224-2900
www.zincwine.com

Chez Vatel & Bistro
218 E. Olmos
(210) 828-3141
www.bistrovatel.com

Chez Vatel's skate

Chez Vatel’s skate

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Analyzing Restaurant Week Strategy Over Seared Halibut at Bolo’s

Analyzing Restaurant Week Strategy Over Seared Halibut at Bolo’s

Sink your teeth into Bolo's Cubano.

Sink your teeth into Bolo’s Cubano.

A record number of San Antonio restaurants are taking part in Culinaria’s Restaurant Week this year, and the approach differs from place to place.

Seared halibut with Peruvian potatoes

Seared halibut with Peruvian potatoes

Some load up on options, so you and your dinner companions can have your choice of courses offered. Others, like Bolo’s at the Omni in the Colonnade, have a single choice on the menu, one appetizer, one main course and one dessert, for $35.

Which works best?

That’s what Bonnie Walker and I pondered as we had dinner at Bolo’s.

We could appreciate being able to try a place new to us that offered an array of choices, because who knows when we’d be able to return. So, we might have a lingering taste of several small plates, several entrees and who knows how many desserts.

But when you have only one choice on your menu, someone in your party can branch out and sample the regular menu — and who knows what surprises that might yield.

In this case, smiles abounded with most every bite, no matter which menu the dish came from. We could also limit the amount of food somewhat because, to be honest, a week of three-course meals can take their toll, even on old pros like us.

Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops

Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops

We started the evening by sharing the Restaurant Week appetizer, a pair of Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops served over melted leeks. The scallops were firm, pleasantly on the rare side, with a crumble of mushroom and nut sprinkled over the top of each. The leeks had been melted, as promised, and every last bit of solid food disappeared. Neither of us cared for the sweet sauce that accompanied the dish, which undercut the sweetness of the leeks, but it was easy to eat around.

Our entrees may have seemed like a study in contrasts, but each worked well. The Restaurant Week menu promised seared halibut over purple Peruvian potatoes and a saffron sauce. Little did I realize that the dish would be a riot of color that included microgreens on the fish, a light purple from the potatoes, the buttery yellow of the sauce and more. Helping it were the inclusion of roasted carrots and asparagus spears wrapped in some type of ham or prosciutto, both of which offered added textures and, of course, flavor. The centerpiece, a beautiful slab of halibut, had been cooked through, so that it flaked easily with a fork and yielded a solid sense of the sea.

Bolo's Chocolate Bombe

Bolo’s Chocolate Bombe

Bonnie had been craving a Cubano ever since she saw the movie “Chef” earlier this summer, and the pressed sandwich is a staple of Bolo’s menu. After making sure the roast pork had been freshly made in house, she ordered the traditional favorite, which arrived with plenty of ham, Swiss cheese and pickle all melted together with the roast pork. The bread was ciabatta, not the traditional Cuban bread. It was a little crustier than expected, but not a bad substitution.

For dessert, Bonnie ordered a peach cobbler, which more like a crumble with oats, dried fruit and brown sugar over slices of caramelized peaches that practically melted on your tongue. Of course, there was some butter permeating the warm serving, while a scoop of vanilla ice did its best to melt in.

My Restaurant Week offering was a called a Chocolate Bombe, and it was “da bomb,” to use some slang from a few years back. It wasn’t a traditional bombe, but was it ever tasty. Instead of chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell, this was a dome-shaped, dense chocolate cake, frosted and covered with Texas pecans. A little mousse had been piped around the outside of the cake and in a nest on the other side of the plate, which served as the home of a truffle. It passed the welcome excess test, and what I couldn’t eat made for a nice breakfast the following morning.

The restaurant wasn’t overly busy, so our chef came out to greet us after dinner and ask how the special menu was. That’s always welcome when you’ve had food that’s satisfying. And it makes me want to head back to Bolo’s again and try a few more items on the menu. Isn’t that what Restaurant Week is supposed to do?

Bolo’s at the Omni Colonnade
9321 Colonnade Blvd.
(210) 691-8888
http://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/SanAntonio/Dining.aspx

Peach cobbler

Peach cobbler

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Hot Joy Makes Bon Appetit Top 10 List

Hot Joy Makes Bon Appetit Top 10 List

Congrats to one of San Antonio’s newer restaurants, the all-over-the-plate inventive Hot Joy at 1014 S. Alamo St.

Hot Joy logoBon Appetit released its Top 10 Best New Restaurants — and right at No. 7 is Hot Joy.  It edges out an Austin food truck called Thai-Kun, at No. 8. (This is something we’d like to see become a trend!)

Described by writer Andrew Knowlton as a pan-Asian stoner-food temple in San Antonio, the slide show starts with Hot Joy chicken wings and meanders through the menu by chef Quealy Watson. Chad Carey is one of the restaurant owners.

Watson may not have ever been to Asia, but the food of this restaurant is described as a “new sub-genre” which, “when executed with passion and skill, rewards the pleasure center of the brain just as much as some preciously foraged $100 tasting menu.”

Before choosing their top 10 best, Bon Appetit also placed San Antonio’s Cured, at the Pearl and owned by chef Steven McHugh, to the top 50 best new restaurants in the country.

The other 10 restaurants can be seen here, with slideshows, at this link.

 

Hot reds and cool stone welcome guests to San Antonio's Hot Joy.

Hot reds and cool stone welcome guests to San Antonio’s Hot Joy.

 

 

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Look for ‘Barbecue Lover’s Texas’ Now in Bookstores

Look for ‘Barbecue Lover’s Texas’ Now in Bookstores

East Texas barbecue, such as this three-meat plate from New Zion Missionary Baptist, is one of several styles of barbecue in Texas.

East Texas barbecue, such as this three-meat plate from New Zion Missionary Baptist, is one of several styles of barbecue in Texas.

It was tough work, but someone had to do it, just to make your lives a little easier. So, San Antonio authors and SavorSA co-owners John Griffin and Bonnie Walker spent a little over four months on the Texas barbecue trail last fall for publisher Globe Pequot Press.

Barbecue Lover's TexasThey sampled a lot of pit-smoked meats from the Panhandle to Brownsville, from El Paso to Port Arthur. They took hundreds of photos and put thousands of miles on their cars, all to write “Barbecue Lover’s Texas” (Globe Pequot Press, $21.95), a guide to some of the state’s most popular and beloved food.

Along the way they found restaurants and food trucks, converted gas stations, plate lunches sold from residential yards and even a church-run operation — all offering Texas’ great brisket, ribs, sausages, sandwiches, side dishes and more.

In “Barbecue Lover’s Texas,” which is officially released Aug. 19, you’ll read about the people they met, hard-working folks with histories to tell about what they do and how they do it, people who taught themselves and folks carrying on traditions handed down through generations.

Also, the book differentiates areas of Texas and how the concept of what exactly is considered “barbecue” changes from region to region and sometimes by ethnicity.

Lovers of Texas barbecue can find the book in stores now. SavorSA will also post book signings and more over the next months.

Indulge your inner carnivore with this mouthwatering tour of Texas.

Indulge your inner carnivore with this mouthwatering tour of Texas.

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Join Sustainability, Food-Issue Discussion: TEDx, Food Policy Council

Join Sustainability, Food-Issue Discussion: TEDx, Food Policy Council

If your concerns about food reach beyond finding the next trendy restaurant or cocktail bar, this upcoming TEDx salon, with the Food Policy Council of San Antonio, has a variety of issues on its menu.

There's nothing like vegetables at their freshest. The salon-type gathering will be Saturday, July 26, at the Urban-15 space, 2500 S. Presa St. from 5-9 p.m. and includes speakers and a potluck prepared by local chefs. The price is $35.

To address ways to support a healthy, sustainable and local food system for all people, in all walks of life, the discussion topics will range from connecting to the environment, our impact on the economy and include community participants in a dialogue about food and the policies that surround it.

Organizers say the target audience can be best described as: eaters.  Real eaters. These are people in San Antonio who care about equitable access to quality food and quality ingredients. This includes farmers market aficionados, green/environmental activists and supporters, buyers of organic produce, restaurateurs and caterers and educators (K-12 and college level).

Speakers include Judith Vega of San Antonio Metro Health, Angela Harsell of Green Spaces Alliance, Elizabeth Johnson, Mitch Hagney and Kerry Meath-Sinking, local chefs and professionals who work with local farmers

The potluck follows with dishes from Elizabeth Johnson, Steven McHugh, Taste Elevated, Gaucho Gourmet, Brook Summers, Restaurant Gwendolyn and more, including sustainable cocktails by The Brooklynite’s Boulvedier Group.

Tickets are in limited supply: Click on this link

 

Food Police Council of San Antonio

The Food Policy Council of San Antonio serves as a stakeholder forum to support a healthy, sustainable, and local food system for people, the environment, the economy and community; gathers and disseminates information for all who work toward that goal in the San Antonio area; and advocates for policy improvements relating to food.

TEDxSanAntonio

TEDxSanAntonio encourages and supports events intended to foster discussion and community building around ideas worth sharing in San Antonio.

 

(Sponsored by Defining Delicious and Urban 15)

 

Posted in Daily Dish, Events, Featured, News0 Comments

Zucchini and Apple Olive Oil Cake

Zucchini and Apple Olive Oil Cake

This is a spicy, flavorful cake that originated as Mario Batali’s Zucchini Olive Oil Cake. We adapted it slightly by substituting half of the zucchini called for in the recipe with grated apples. So, if you like, you could use 2 cups of shredded zucchini. Walnuts will taste great, but if you have pecans you could use those, too.

Zucchini and Apple Olive Oil Cake

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 cup of shredded zucchini
1 cup shredded apples
1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and oil until light. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, followed by the dry ingredients, beating thoroughly to combine. Add the zucchini and walnuts.

Pour into a greased 13-inch by 9-inch cake pan.

Bake the cake 35-40 minutes, or until it is golden brown on top and springy to the touch in the center. Dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar and serve.

Adapted from Mario Batali’s recipe, with thanks to www.spoonfulblog.com

Posted in Cooking, Featured, In Season, Recipes0 Comments

Cool Off with Some Spiky Strawberry Gazpacho

Cool Off with Some Spiky Strawberry Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a great way to use what’s fresh in the market. But no two recipes are alike. The original Spanish version is said to have used stale bread and almonds. This version calls for strawberries mixed with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and garlic.

Strawberry Gazpacho

Strawberry Gazpacho

This recipe, which appears in Maggie Stucky’s “Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup” (Storey Publishing, $19.95), comes from someone who has a Spanish background. It was created by Anna Bueno of Bedford, Mass, who offers the following story: “I learned to cook from my mother. When I was growing up in Barcelona, we all went home for lunch from school, and I would watch her cook  and she would teach me things. Just little things about whatever she was making at the time. No recipe, just talking.

“One of the things we often had on hot summer days was a bowl of cold gazpacho. But sometimes, the strong aroma of the garlic and the onion was too much. A couple of years ago, while having a lovely dinner at home with some friends, one of the guests suggested adding some strawberries to the traditional gazpacho and using less garlic. I decided to try it, and I also reduced the usual amount of sweet red pepper and cucumber. The result was an incredibly refreshing, fruity gazpacho. Make sure you only use the freshest, highest quality ingredients for this soup.”

Why, you ask? Because you can taste the difference.

So, now it’s your turn to play with the recipe. What would you change? You could use tequila instead of the sherry vinegar. Or maybe use minced celery instead of the cucumber. The choices are yours.

If you have an industrial blender, such as a Vitamix, you don’t have to chop a great deal beforehand, meaning this gazpacho can go together in minutes.

Strawberry Gazpacho

6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 4 cups)
4 cups hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1/4 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/4 bell pepper, red or green, seeded and chopped
1/4 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Toss everything in a blender and let it liquify.

Toss everything in a blender and let it liquify.

Measure the chopped tomatoes. If you have more than 4 cups, slice additional strawberries to equal the volume of the tomatoes.

Combine the tomatoes and strawberries in a blender, and add the onion, cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper. Blend to a smooth consistency.

Place the soup in a container, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight, allowing the flavors to blend. Serve very cold.

Garnish with strawberry slices, if desired.

For large crowds: This is a fine choice for large groups when gardens are overflowing with tomatoes.

Makes 6 servings.

From Anna Bueno, Bedford, Mass./”Soup Night: Recipes for Creating Community Around a Pot of Soup” by Maggie Stuckey

 

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Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta

Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta

This is a panna cotta with a difference. Not only is it not made solely of heavy cream, it has an unusual topping of salted caramel, plus a dark chocolate-almond ganache to turn up the richness, not to mention sheer appeal. As if panna cotta needed an added attraction!  We are waiting for just the special occasion to try this recipe.

 

Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel and Chocolate-Almond Ganache

Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel and Chocolate-Almond Ganache

Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup California heavy cream, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta:
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup California heavy cream
1/2 cup California cottage cheese, pureed smooth
1/2 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved

Dark Chocolate-Almond Ganache:
4 ounces 60 percent cacao bittersweet dark chocolate chips
2/3 cup California heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon coffee extract or liqueur
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or liqueur
pinch of salt
Optional Garnish:
Whipped cream, Maldon salt, shaved dark chocolate, toasted almonds

For Salted Caramel: Add sugar and water to a large heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Swirl pan until a clear syrup forms. Once liquefied, turn heat up to high and cook until syrup turns a rich amber color approx. 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add cream then stir in salt. Continue stirring until a glossy caramel forms.| Cool slightly then pour through a mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup. Set aside.

For Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta: Sprinkle gelatin over condensed milk, let stand 5 minutes to soften.  Bring heavy cream to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to low.  Stir in cottage cheese puree, vanilla seeds, and condensed milk until well combined. Cook until gelatin dissolves approx. 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly, pour into another glass measuring cup.

Divide cooled caramel among 4 4-ounce ramekins or glass jars, refrigerate for 10 minutes, then top caramel with equally divided panna cotta mixture.

Refrigerate for one hour.

For Chocolate-Almond Ganache: Put chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil in a sauce pan. Pour hot cream over chocolate.
Whisk in coffee and almond extracts until mixture is smooth and all the chocolate is melted.  Once panna cotta sets, top with chocolate ganache. Return to refrigerator, chill for 2-3 hours.

Garnish with optional whipped cream, Maldon salt, chocolate shavings and toasted almonds.

Serves 4
Recipe, photo courtesy of the California Milk Advisory Board.

 

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Black Pepper NY Strips with Horseradish Sauce

Black Pepper NY Strips with Horseradish Sauce

Grilling out for Father’s Day? This recipes, from Weber Grills, uses one of the more flavorful cuts of beef steaks, the New York strip. Pepper and horseradish are strong flavors — just what dad loves — and so do we.

Grill some vegetables to go with this steak, make a potato salad and this meal is ready to go.

Black Pepper NY Steaks with dressing

 

 

 

 

 

Black Pepper NY Strips with Horseradish Sauce

 

Horseradish Sauce:

¾ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish  (press liquid out of prepared horseradish with a spoon and a sieve, or squeeze most of the liquid out in a paper towel. This keeps the sauce from becoming runny.)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

NY Strip Steaks:

4 New York strip steaks, 10 to 12 ounces each and about 1 inch thick, trimmed of excess fat

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

For the Horseradish Sauce: In a medium bowl mix the sauce ingredients. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator while you are grilling the steaks.

For the Steaks: Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat (450 to 550 degrees).

Lightly brush the steaks on both sides with the oil, and then smear the mustard on both sides. Season them evenly with the salt and pepper. Allow the steaks to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Brush the cooking grate clean. To make crosshatch marks, lay the steaks on the cooking grate over direct high heat as if they were the small hands of a clock pointing to 10 o’clock. Close the lid. After two minutes, lift the steaks with tongs and rotate them so they point to 2 o’clock. Close the lid and let them sear for another minute or two. Flip each steak and continue to cook for an additional 2 to 4 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve the steaks warm with the sauce on the side.

From Weber grills

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