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Eating a 31-Year-Old Time Capsule Auberge de L'Ill


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  • 2 months later...

Arriving in Illhaeusern, we looked for the Relais and Chateau flags to point the way to Hotel Berges and Auberge de I'Ill. There was no signage what so ever; it was as if they were hiding the restaurant and the hotel. I did notice a lot of cars parked in front of one building and voila this was it. When we asked Joelle, the attractive, English speaking manager of the hotel why "the secret", she explained that they had a problem with bad mannered tourists who walked all over the private grounds, kept staring in the hotel windows, annoying the guests.

We booked the Fisherman's cottage, a free standing, 2 story cottage right on the water - the I'Ill River.

Imagine a ski-chalet lodge with pine walls and deep down comforters, wood floors, etc. Downstairs a small living room, bath and nice closet space. Upstairs a great bathroom and a comfy bedroom. Right outside our door, to the left of our little porch was a wood-fired Japanese hot tub. The porter asked if he wanted to try it and he immediately got some wood and started the fire. (At midnight, after dinner, the hot tub was ready and we soaked under a beautiful Alsatian sky along the I'Ill River.).

The walk from the Hotel [which is set up as a separate business, a partnership with Marco, his brother-in-law who used to work at La Marmiton, a small French place on Montana Avenue near our home.] to the restaurant is across a beautiful lawn and up a few stairs into an elegant, and surprisingly large restaurant.

On Saturday night at 8 PM the dining rooms were packed with an international assortment of French, Germans, English and Americans. The main dining room has huge picture windows over looking the gardens and the river.

The setting is truly magical - during the day gondolas glide by on the river, ducks swim lazily and hearty tourists canoe by. The banks are strew with flowers and shrubs - everything is immaculate.

We were shown to a table by the window, a bit off to the side.

We knew we were going to be eating 3 meals here and realized that we would have to pace ourselves and try not to eat the whole menu in one sitting.

Champagne and Amuse

1. a small piece of smoked herring on a crispy baguette toast

2. a cheese puff similar to a gougere

3 a crusty crisp of parmesan

We spoke at length (half French and half English) to the Maitre d' about how to orchestrate our 3 meals. He more or less said, OK, take it one meal at a time. I had reviewed the menu, read up on this historic place and knew the signature dishes so I had already begun to figure out how to pace our adventure.

2nd amuse--filet of St. Pierre in a sauce of cumin with small haricot vertes served in a black iron casserole.

1st course--brioche de foie gras de gelee. The foie gras and gelee was encased in the brioche with the gelee in a strip above the foie gras--absolutely perfect in every way.

2nd course--a Paul Haeberlin signature dish (Paul is the father who is now around 80)--La Mousseline de Grenouilles. On a Bernadaud plate they presented a mousse of pike --you cut into the cooked mousse and inside was spinach, frogs leg meat, fine herbs in a butter cream sauce--this was a truly different, special, wonderful dish. The cooked set lightness of the mousseline encasing the frogs legs was a culinary marvel.

This was hearty food - not for the meek or for those who are concerned about cholesterol or who forgot their Lipitor prescription.

3rd course--la volaille de bresse "Mieral" rotie a la broche accompanee d'un petit baeckaoffa aux truffles (cuisses roties sur salad au 2nd service)

They wheeled a golden roasted whole chicken (roasted on a spit) to the table. The captain deftly carved with the legs removed for second service.

The breast was napped with a perigord sauce with truffles. The baekenofe, which literally means "baked" turned out to be a small casserole of diced potatoes with truffles and small bits of pork. The casserole had been baked sealed with pastry around the rim. The skin of the chicken was crispy and very flavorful, however, the breast meat was a bit dry.

Second service with the roasted leg meat and salad was perfect. The crisp skin made it "chicken heaven."

As we knew we had 2 more meals to go and portion size is a word Marc Haeberlin sees as only "huge" or "huger" or "humungous", we skipped dessert and had coffee.


We established a rapport with Serge immediately by mentioning Hubert and Chantal. It turns out they are oldest friends. We learned about their younger days. and enjoyed hearing of their exploits. In fact, Marc Haeberlin, Marco, Serge, Hubert and Chantal Keller - Fleur de Lys- all went to school together and have all remained close friends.

96 Pinot Gris, Jos Meyer, Vieilles Vignes--a perfect choice with the early courses.

88 Chapelle Chambertin, Jean Trapet. The wine was very nice, mature Burgundy, perfect with the Bresse Chicken.


Lunch on Saturday and Sunday is a bargain at 106 euros--a special menu which features 4 of the signature dishes. I think this was one of the reasons that the dining room was almost all French families with large tables of 8 and 10.

It was a gorgeous day and we had our champagne and amuse on the patio right at the edge of the river. The amuses were the same as the night before with the addition of a beef tartare on a crusty baguette.

After our amuse, we were shown to a beautiful table right next to the window in a spot in the center of the dining room where we could observe the whole room, have a full picture window overlooking the river, but away from the high traffic areas.

2nd amuse--at the table--a marinated slice of salmon with a chive sauce and trout mousse topped by a touch of caviar. On the side was a tiny mound of frisee lettuce and half of a lightly hard-boiled quail egg.

1st course--La terrine de foie d'oie truffee. Again Chef Haeberlin's idea of a tasting menu size portion is a bit outside of reality. A mid-size terrine of goose foie gras is wheeled to the table. The server scoops out two enormous oval spoonfuls of the foie gras and sets them on the plate. He then spoons enormous "quenelles" of gelee next to the foie gras and then he waits--he waits for the perfectly toasted pieces of freshly toasted brioche to be delivered from the kitchen.

The foie gras was less compacted than the en croute version the previous evening. We liked it better, but agreed to eat only 67% of the portion--control had to be exercised because we had a lot of food coming on the wonderful luncheon special menu.

2nd course--Le Salmon Soufflé--another signature dish from Paul Haeberlin.

A mousse de brochet (pike) encased a piece of salmon with a bit of tomato confit in a Reisling cream sauce. Haeberlin's use of mousse in all its forms, cold, cooked as an encasing, savory, sweet was extraordinary; the mousse used in both the grenouille and the salmon was so light that it was almost ephemeral. Again portion size was huge.

3rd Course--I did not taste my husband's dish but it was 3 beautifully cooked pieces of lamb (rose) wrapped in cabbage leaves with mashed potatoes with tons of butter, the whole thing perfumed with black olives and thyme. Delightful, not overpowering at all and just enough to eat 67% to save himself.

Me--This was a dish from the Gods. Encased in feuillete, a multi-layered dish--starting with the flaky pastry casing, cabbage, foie gras, truffles, supreme of pigeon, more truffles, foie gras, cabbage and pastry. Imagine a small football intricately decorated and filled with this wonderful "stuff" then all covered with wonderful truffle sauce. This was one of the finest dishes I have ever had and even though I was suppose to be saving myself, I ate every bite.

We skipped the fromage but wanted to see Haeberlin's signature dessert--Peche Haeberlin. A poached peach was served with a champagne sabayon and pistachio ice cream.

At lunch most of the clientele was French as I stated before. They were very well dressed and appeared to be knowledgeable diners. They might have been tourists. But, they were upper class tourists. The main room was packed. Service was 100% professional and on top of it all the way.


99 Dageneau Silex, Puilly Fume--wonderful, familiar old friend.

70 La Lagune--an extravagance, but not crazy--it is a real favorite, drinking very well. There is both a look and "feel" of age, but well worth drinking now.

3rd meal-- Dinner

Unlike lunch, The clientele at dinner were mainly Germans with a sprinkling of Americans and French. The groups were mainly twos and fours rather than the eights and tens at lunch.

The room was more relaxed and leisurely.

By now we were feeling "at home" . Serge the sommelier, our server and the maitre d' greeted us warmly. We were shown to "our regular table" by the window. We had planned on a two course meal as we wanted to taste the famous truffe dish.

The same amuse were presented with the champagne.

2nd amuse--a pot-au-feu terrine with a horseradish sauce. The terrine was triangular in shape consisting of (from the top point down) carrot, turnip, pigeon, carrot, pigeon and zucchini--a colorful and delicious start. There was also a small bit of frise with a partly hard boiled quail egg--no caviar--but delicious.

1st course--mille-feuille croquant de bricelets et d'oeuf poche sur un tartare de saumon mi-marine mi fume aux oeufs de harengs fume. This again was one of the best dishes we have ever had.

It was a multi-layered presentation - starting from the bottom ["first floor" according to the waiter] was salmon tartare, then a light layer of creme fraiche, then a crisp, next a poached egg dotted with herring eggs and topped with another crisp.

Around the plate there was a small quenelle of red salmon eggs and 2 small quenelles of black herring eggs.

2nd course--La Truffe sous la cendre.

This was a totally decadent, obscene, over-the -top dish.

The presentation was deceptively simple. The waiter plated up a baseball size pastry "thing" on some truffle sauce at the serving table.

It turned out that the baseball had a center core--100% black truffle-- a whole black truffle about 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

The truffle was surrounded with forcemeat [pork, pigeon, and foie gras] then covered entirely in pastry dough. Rich truffle sauce was spooned on the side.

September is not truffle season, but there was abundant pungent truffle aroma in the air and plenty of flavor. What would it be like at the height of truffle season?

This dish made you feel that you were Louis the 14th at Versailles eating in the most decadent way surrounded by loyal serfs --who could just look on.

Later on the trip we had the famous truffe dish at Boyer (to be described in a later post) and in retrospect we liked Boyer's version better.


Serge had suggested a 1983 Hugel late harvest Reisling. He said it would be perfect with both dishes and it was.

The Alsatian white, late harvest wines at Haeberlin are presented in a glass, especially created by Serge for the wine--it is called GRAND CRU SERGE DUBS. Later we were presented with two as a gift.

To say we were full is an understatement - no dessert, no cheese, we did have coffee and trudged back to our fisherman's cottage in the heavy rain. One funny comment--just before coffee our waiter crumbed the table--he knew and we knew that were no crumbs--we laughed --he said "crumbing for my conscience" - a perfect example of the fine humor and relaxed atmosphere.

Before we left Marc Haeberlin came out of the kitchen to thank us for coming to his restaurant and hotel--what class.

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We spoke at length (half French and half English) to the Maitre d' about how to orchestrate our 3 meals.  He more or less said, OK, take it one meal at a time.

Now that's what I call advice!

I ate here twice in the early nineties and two lovely meals in the gorgeous setting which your report fully evokes. Never stayed there though, which is clearly the ovbvious thing to do.

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Cabrales really had me worried awhile back, but you've definitely relieved my concerns.

marcus -- Don't worry :smile:; there are many restaurants I dislike. The truffe sous la cendre is begging to go into my tummy, although not necessarily this year. :laugh:

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He warmed up and was extremely helpful after that first glich, but if I hadn't studied the menu beforehand, I would have been in trouble.

I loved L'Arnsbourg, just outside of Strasbourg, but Haeberlin's food is firmly rooted in Alsace - the heartiness, the richness of the ingredients, local dishes raised to haute cuisine, even the portion size reminds you where you are. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges --- they really have to be judged on their own merits as each chef's approach is completely different.

Also, Serge is one of the finest sommeliers we have ever encountered and the pride of the Haeberlin family is so evident that you get caught up in their quest for perfection.

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Nearest train stations on the French side are Selestat and Colmar. I utilized Selestat, which was accessed through Strasbourg. See my prior thread on Auberge de l'Ill for additional information. Note that there is no TGV between, for example, Paris and Strasbourg. :wink:

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thanks cabrales but as i not feeling very clever 2day please could u redirect me to your previous thread

ta x

sarah w -- Below is a link to the thread:


Strasbourg is the closest major French city to Illhaeusern. From Paris, Strasbourg is a 4 hour train ride (from Gare de L’Est), as no TGV is available to this destination. At Strasbourg, the train to Selestat can be taken (approximately 20 minutes); Colmar is another nearby town.  From Selestat’s train station, the restaurant is an approx. 15 minute by taxi (charge approx. 20 euros). There is not always taxi availability at the station, and the restaurant can be contacted to have a taxi waiting at the appropriate time.  ...
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  • 3 months later...


I have just returned from a fleeting visit to Alsace for dinner at Auberge De L'ill and thought i would share my trip with you e-gulleters. I apologise if my recount is not perfect but no notes were taken and a few drinks were consummed

To start our 4 person "bargain" trip worked perfectly, we flew stanstead-strasbourg for £45, early flight

picked up a car at the airport and drove to Selestat. A lovely village, we strolled about and had a pleasant lunch of choucrote for the men and steak au poivre for the ladies.

Then we set off for Illhaeursern..We were staying the the hotel hirondelles, a lovely hotel and £45 for the room and brekkie, very near Auberge

We rested then set of for a beer at the only bar in the village

Dinner at 8:30pm

We were in the larger dining room by the window looking out onto the fairylit grounds.

We started with 4 house aperitifs, cherry liquer and champagne

canapes: Foie gras on toast, parmesan crisps and smoked eel on toast

Amsue: very light, slighty sweet jerusalem artichoke soup with john dory


1) variation of scallop: incl, with cauliflower puree, foie gras lobe, towered with cavair, tartare

2) the pigeon consomme served in a steamer tower, with ravioli of quails egg

3) red mullet and langoustine salad

4) foie gras terrine

All were consummed with much satisfaction and enough room for the next course

We decicide to all share the famous 125 euro truffle dish

Quite entertaining to watch 2 waiters divide into 4 and sauce this baseball sized dish but well worth

our £21 bite each, the sauce was out of this world


1) Assiette of suckling pig, incl: trotter, croqutte, belly, fillet

2) gratin of sole and lobster with a pomme puree quenelle

3) scallop and truffle pasta

4) Lobster and girolle ragout


These were very very good

2 x poached white peach, sabayon and pistachio ice cream...The sauce just clung to the perfrect tasting peach

crepe suzette, delicious unfortunately i didnt choose it but we all managed to share

Assiette of chocolate, amazing mousse's,ice cream,tart,filo pastry

Petit fours:

Macaroon, raspberry topped sponge, fruit mousse tart and chocolate sponge

2 plates of chocolates,small biscuits and marshmallows- these were gradually nibbled

We had to bottles of local and v.reasonably priced reisling and a bottle of pinot noir

We finished with 2 alsace beers, 2 gin & tonics , and 2 cigars

TOTAL: 762 euros approx £510......

The building looked stunning by day and by night and the weather was beautiful.


After a good nights sleep,brekkie, we spent a boozy day in colmar, then stopped and

ate very quickly in strasbourg..

Returned at 22:30pm

All in all a wonderful weekend

Thanks for previous help from egulleters on how to get there etc


Edited by sarah w (log)
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  • 4 years later...

Whoever the God (or Godess) of Food is, he (or she) looked after us in memorable style. We forced ourselves out of bed at 5;45 and landed in Basel at 9:15 to collect a car and drive into town for some cigar buying and lunch at the Kunsthalle dining room with friends. It’s a mediocre, overpriced restaurant, as we have always known it to be for over 20 years. Yet, it’s one of the more agreeable places in town, maybe the only one other than Donati. Its outstanding attribute is that it’s one of the few restaurants that still has a chariot of desserts, although we didn’t avail ourselves of it. We left town right after and drove to Colmar to the charming and historic Hotel des Tetes. At 8:00 we arrived at L’Auberge de L’Ill for our first visit since 1976. Of course the magnificent setting alongside the river hasn’t change for the worse. In fact, it looked even better with the addition across the bridge of a hotel. Jean-Pierre Haeberlin is still roaming the dining rooms and terraces, looking close to 90 and half out of touch. When he stopped at our table, I told him about our first visit in which we sat at a communal table (the Siberia of the place) and served by women in traditional Alsatian garb.

Now the Auberge is big business. A large group had gathered along the banks of the river having drinks and I guess they all dined in a large second dining room. Not surprising, the ratio of dining room staff to diner seems to have been cut by more than half if you measure it against the provincial three-stars of the 1980s. We had one waiter who seemed to do every chore for us and the diners in the immediate vicinity, such that we never saw our sommelier after he took our order.

As we imagined we would, we ordered as if it were 1976 all over again. We began with the terrine of goose liver and the Mousseline de Grenouilles “Paul Haeberlin”. The terrine was classic and first rate, simply served with one mediocre piece of brioche toast. The mousseline brought back memories not just of that dish but the kind of cooking that has all but vanished. (Of course we thought of Chapel’s legendary Gateau du Foie Blond.) My comment after the first taste was that this is the kind of dish you no longer see. As important to me, it confirmed that my sense of taste has changed little, that the glory years didn’t end because of any reason other than shortcutting and other economies of scale, and that, thank God, there was still a place you could go to have a succulence and richness that still, if barely, survives. The mousseline itself was heavier than it should have been and there was a tell-tale browning at the bottom. But so what!!! The several nuggets of frog inside were delicious and the sauce soul-warming.

My wife’s main course of roasted baby pig, a loin and small chop, far exceeded any pieces of pork we have had in recent times. The chop was superior; its skin was crisp and crackling, but not lacquered and thick such that you couldn’t cut it easily with a knife, which you could do with this one. My wife called this dish “masterful”. As it was the start of the deer-hunting season, I ordered the noisettes de chevreuil. It arrived a bit more cooked than what I would have liked, but not worth asking for a do-over, especially since the red wine sauce was rich and profound. I wasn’t taken by the croquettes of potatoes, but a bouquet of mushrooms (mousserons, perhaps?) and the puree of beets were splendid and perfectly matched.

Although we were mindful that the next day was to be dedicated to cheese (see my post below), we looked at the chariot of cheeses and gave into temptation. I guessed that since the restaurant was closed the two days previous, the cheeses must have all been freshly replaced. We couldn’t recall a choice as impeccably ripe, and I, in particular, made the most of it.

We shared a dessert that was not great, but still acceptable. a triangular pastry filled with an almond crème patissiere, accompanied by both fresh and carmelized cherries, and a small serving of yogurt ice cream. Including a 145 euro bottle of 2000 Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes” from Amiot, the check came to 449 euros. Even at that, it was money well-spent for culinary reincarnation. Our feeling is, however, that the Auberge is not a “you hardly can go wrong” type of place. We felt that we eked out a great meal owing to our experience and remembrances of a prior visit. Many of the dishes (filets were much in evidence) struck us in written form as banal and the fixed menus seemed unexciting. Nonetheless we plan on returning and discovering empirically for ourselves.

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Thanks for this great report. I have been to the Auberge three or four times so far and have my next table booked in July. On my last visit I also had the terrine and the mousseline, followed by another classic, the peach Haeberlin - all of which I enjoyed tremendously. To be honest, I am far more tempted by the classics on the menu than by Marc's new creations. Wonderful that places like this still exist and survive!

Yes, it can be very busy, but I felt we were well looked after by Paul's daughter. The waiters are very efficient and Serge Dubs, the sommelier, has to divide his skills between dozens of tables. We also saw Jean-Pierre, bless him, and when we said to him how good he looked he told us that he survived a stroke just a few years ago. Long live the Haeberlins.

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You're right, Judith. No one ever asked about food allergies, either. I guess they figure if you would die from eating peanuts, you would mention it.

Ameiden, have you gotten around to trying the new dishes? How is the souffle of salmon? I'll never forget Chapel's souffle de barbue. I wonder if they are similar.

Did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Fernand Point?

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Bu Pun Su, Colmar is the nearest town, which I assume has good train service. From there you would need to hire a taxi for the fairly short ride (12 km., I seem to recall). Perhaps if you spent the night at the Auberge de L'Ill, management would come and get you. They should, given what they charge for rooms.

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  • 1 month later...

And now finally, there is the place I am sure you have all been waiting for - the Auberge de l'Ill in Nagoya, Japan.

Being located in a scyscraper, it is probably not quite as picturesque as the original. But who cares if foie gras, salmon and grenouilles taste just as good?

Edited by ameiden (log)
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And now finally, there is the place I am sure you have all been waiting for - the Auberge de l'Ill in Nagoya, Japan.

Being located in a scyscraper, it is probably not quite as picturesque as the original. But who cares if foie gras, salmon and grenouilles taste just as good?

While in Japan two weeks ago, I had dinner at the Vert Brise, Alain Passard's restaurant in the Tokyo Prince Park Tower hotel and lunch at Michel Troisgros in the Century Hyatt hotel also in Tokyo.. Passard's was overall undistinguished; high point was a grilled piece of Japanese beef (Passard does steak superbly in Paris) and a small French producer's champagne aperitif. Troisgros has a French chef and was good; frogs legs (the reason I'm posting) were very good. Overall I've been pleased with foie gras at Japanese restaurants. I wouldn't expect the Auberge d'Ill outpost to match the original but I think that the ingredients you mention will come out well.

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I'm just curious whether Vert Brise cooking Alain Passard's food (i.e. the way Alain Ducasse runs Beige) or it just happens that at that time Passard cooked there as a distiguished guest chef? Thanks

From what I can tell Passard has a continuing relationship. There are menus constructed from his specialties (perhaps modified a bit). He does go there from time to time according to the Maitre d'Hotel at Arpege. The restaurant is on the top (33rd) floor of the Tokyo Prince Park Tower. I stayed at the hotel and could have an American breakfast served there, which I did most of the time, or a buffet breakfast at an adjacent restaurant . Lots of windows with interesting views. I ate at Beige the first year it opened and thought it was industrial gourmet with high prices and have no interest in returning. Ducasse also is connected with Benoit in Tokyo. They have recently announced a Summer sale of meals at much lower prices. Ducasse's "Spoon" in Tokyo failed a couple of years ago.. Your post on Troisgros was quite interesting. There is a Miichael Troisgros restaurant now in th Century Hyatt in Tokyo. I had a good lunch there; frog legs much as you described were on the menu and quite good.

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  • 4 weeks later...

It was a lovely summer day on the banks of the river Ill.


If this looks familiar to you, be aware - the house of Haeberlin has changed. After passing through a new reception area, one enters an environment that reminded me more of a seventies spaceship than of a rural village in Alsace.


The Haeberlins have totally redecorated their Auberge, with the help of the same interior designer that helped Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee (so I was told). So the contrast couldn't have been greater when I ordered some of the a la carte classics - starting with the Salmon souffle in a wonderful Riesling sauce.


This is still a great timeless dish worth three Michelin stars. And if you are greedy enough like me, you have it as a starter! Went down well with a 2001 Riesling Frederic Emile from Trimbach.

My main dish was another Haeberlin classic, the famous Lobster Prince Vladimir.


It still passed the test of time, the lobster and spinach were wonderfully tender, only the sauce seemed a little rich these days. Some gnocchi were served by the side.

To finish my lunch off, I had the Peach Haeberlin, poached and served with pistachio ice cream and champagne sabayon. As good as ever!


All in all, yet another delightful experience in Illhaeusern despite the new decor taking away much of the old atmosphere. To see Jean-Pierre Haeberlin (whom I associate so much with the tradition of this place) walking around on this funky new carpet, between the groovy plastic designer chairs, seemed a bit strange to me. But I suppose this the flow of time ... Marc's more modern dishes have taken over most of the menu and needed a new design to go with them. Although there was still a fair amount of Foie gras terrine being served, most diners seemed to have chosen the more modern options. Well, after I had a nostalgic trip this time with some of Paul's dishes, next time I will try some of Marc's!

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