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Eating My Way Through Paris


ajgnet
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You got me. Did not go to Louis XV yet.

Technically, Savoy's food is much less admirable than Ducasse/Piège's. And all in all, food is somewhat average at Savoy by three-stars standards. But 1-it is ingredient-based and always pleasant. Most of all, it is not pretentious. In general. And 2- Savoy is a master of party, of showtime. A dinner at Savoy, despite a definitely 2* food, is always a great moment when they make you feel special. And wines are just great (if not cheap, nothing at Savoy is). In a word, I would say that the third star of Guy Savoy lies with Eric Mancio, the sommelier/directeur du restaurant.

Re truffle, I recommend Savoy and Rostang because they are among the chefs who are part of the truffle connection. They know how to get good truffles in big quantities at good prices. (This is not an ingredient with a free market). And also because they know how to prepare that particular ingredient. As far as dishes are concerned, the sweetbread is what jumps to mind for Savoy. More so than the soup, which I think is grossly overevaluated, unless it is just being made in too casula a way those days.

My dislike of Ducasse has nothing to do with changing the menu often or not. It has to do with the fact that it is just not good enough. At least none of the times I went there. But at the same time, I have no plan to go again. It also has to do with the de-personalisation of cooking, which I believe is the opposite of civilisation and of what I like.

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Based on many people's experiences I agreed with your explanation of Guy Savoy. This is why I never really believe that 3-star restaurant is truly equal to 3-star food only, instead 3-star establishment is more about creating a 3-star (overall) experience

Just check the english version of Simon's website (by Adrian Moore) - apparently the issue with Arpege is more of the organization's wise - similar to management issue with Le Cinq last year. The different is that many people complain about Le Cinq's food while only a few that I know would be unhappy with Arpege's dishes

I don't know much whether many of the staffs are paid below "3-star average" in Arpege. However, I know that Passard likes giving opportunities for his staffs either in the kitchen or front office to pursue higher in his career. For instance, when Pascal Barbot opened L'Astrance, Passard gave his Arpege regular customers contact to Barbot (Lapaire, the manager, told me that); Stephane Thivat moved to manage a wine cellar somewhere in France. I'm not sure if this is the management's "mistakes" since you would let your best people to leave. The positive part would be: it's quite clear where the problem is and to actually fix the front staffs should not be too "difficult" compared to find the right chef

This also explains a bit why I "grade" restaurants based on a few categories and put different weight on the criteria as well as still believe even among Michelin's 3-star places, they're not all "equal". Just my 2 cents

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ajgnet,

thanks for an excellent review of l'ambroisie - glad that you had a wonderful experience after being "turned down" in your first visit. I assume this is your best meal ever? How's it compared to Calandre, Savoy or French Laundry - either food only or overall experienced combined?

I have this "stupid" question to everyone  :raz: . For Pacaud's feuilleté de truffe fraîche “bel humeur.” or something similar to this dish, what would happen if instead white truffle (forget about the price for the time being) is used? Would it fit well with the foie gras? Or the alternative - like the creamy sea urchin plus white truffle would work better?

There are no stupid questions.

Robert R

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Nice review ajgnet.

It is interesting that you almost forgot eating the mache salade with truffle slices. I eat them simultaneoulsy with the tourte. The idea is to contrast what you aptly describes as truffles as texture versus truffles as scent. But there is no right or wrong way....

Pacaud is very picky on his lobster supply. I wonder whether it is the texture that is tough ( a good rock blue lobster from Brittany) or slightly overcooked? Personally I don't like "cottony" texture in lobster. Maine lobster has that texture and then when you cook it sous vide, a la FL the result....well, it is not lobster!

This said, if you are in Paris in June go and try Pacaud's lobster with new potatoes.

For sequencing: I am amazed that you had lobster after and NOT before truffle. Was your waiter Pascal? Has he said nothing?

And, did they really not object when you ordered all desserts on the menu. Especially 2 chocolate based ones? I take my hat off!

One question: are you sure the salmon amuse is sous vide?

Thanks again for writing a deeply felt report. Makes me feel doubly bad that I am missing the truffe bel humeur this year. Blame it on French "vacances scholaires" which is changing every year.

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ajgnet,

thanks for an excellent review of l'ambroisie - glad that you had a wonderful experience after being "turned down" in your first visit. I assume this is your best meal ever? How's it compared to Calandre, Savoy or French Laundry - either food only or overall experienced combined?

I have this "stupid" question to everyone  :raz: . For Pacaud's feuilleté de truffe fraîche “bel humeur.” or something similar to this dish, what would happen if instead white truffle (forget about the price for the time being) is used? Would it fit well with the foie gras? Or the alternative - like the creamy sea urchin plus white truffle would work better?

it's hard to say if this is my best meal ever. but it's also hard for me to pinpoint one specific meal as my best. although generally, i find myself happiest in japan with slices of raw fish. simple, fresh, clean, delicious. i'm pretty sure i could live off kuruma ebi ("car" shrimp i think in english?), white rice, and green tea. i will say that this has been the most memorable meal i've had so far in paris, and i've been glowing about it ever since.

i've never been to calandre, or anywhere in italy in fact, but i would never even compare this with french laundry or guy savoy. this meal was in a league of its own.

Edited by ajgnet (log)
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Nice review ajgnet.

It is interesting that you almost forgot eating the mache salade with truffle slices. I eat them simultaneoulsy with the tourte.  The idea is to contrast what you aptly describes as truffles as texture versus truffles as scent.  But there is no right or wrong way....

Pacaud is very picky on his lobster supply.  I  wonder whether it is the texture that is tough ( a good rock blue lobster from Brittany) or slightly overcooked?  Personally I don't like "cottony" texture in lobster. Maine lobster has that texture and then when you cook it  sous vide,  a la FL the result....well, it is not lobster!

This said, if you are in Paris in June go and try Pacaud's lobster with new potatoes.

For sequencing: I am amazed that you had lobster after and NOT before truffle.  Was your waiter Pascal?  Has he said nothing?

And, did they really not object when you ordered all desserts on the menu. Especially 2 chocolate based ones? I take my hat off!

One question: are you sure the salmon amuse is sous vide?

Thanks again for writing a deeply felt report.  Makes me feel doubly bad that I am missing the truffe bel humeur this year.  Blame it on French "vacances scholaires" which is changing every year.

that's really interesting, and thanks for the feedback. if i'm ever lucky enough to try this dish again, i will definitely take your advice. i was so mezmorized by the feuillete there could have been a fire and i would not have noticed. though, i did find it hard to smell anything from the salad since the scent of the tarte was so strong. what you're saying makes sense though.

thanks for the recommendation about the lobster and new potatoes ... this chef has my full and complete attention right now; i hope to stop back around then. i was sort of surprised about the sequencing as well; but that was the doing of my waiter, who was not pascal. he actually recommended that order. he did not object to all the desserts on the menu ... it was such a doable number!

i was surprised to hear about pacaud using sous vide as well. while i'm pretty sure my waiter had confirmed this, i'm suspecting more and more that this was an error. i think it was just ever so lightly smoked.

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  • 1 month later...
Off topic, Ajgnet. Has you blog, A life worth Eating, been taken off the internet? I tried connecting today, but had no luck.

And BTW, I found this also a very interesting blog: http://countryepicure.wordpress.com/

hi there -- the site was down for some upgrades this morning; but should be up now. i love country epicure ... glad you like it too. le cinq review is coming this week ... stay tuned.

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also my friend aaron (tupac) is coming to visit in 2 weeks, when we're going to finish the rest of the michelin 3-star restaurants. i'm looking forward to some serious eating.

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also my friend aaron (tupac) is coming to visit in 2 weeks, when we're going to finish the rest of the michelin 3-star restaurants.  i'm looking forward to some serious eating.

Well, good luck. We dined at Le Meurice and at Pierre Gagnaire last week. The latter remains my favorite restaurant anywhere.

See:

http://countryepicure.wordpress.com/2008/0...gnaire-paris-2/

Michael

www.epicures.wordpress.com

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also my friend aaron (tupac) is coming to visit in 2 weeks, when we're going to finish the rest of the michelin 3-star restaurants.  i'm looking forward to some serious eating.

Wait a minute! tupac still hasn't finished writing up Tokyo! Tell him the trip's off till that gets done! :angry:

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Well Michelin just took one off your list. Do you have Arpège plans? Gagnaire? etc.

Yes sir. L'Astrance, Gagnaire, and L'Arpege for sure, maybe repeating one of the latter two on the last day.

Well, good luck. We dined at Le Meurice and at Pierre Gagnaire last week. The latter remains my favorite restaurant anywhere.

See:

http://countryepicure.wordpress.com/2008/0...gnaire-paris-2/

Thanks for sharing, Michael. Looks like a lovely meal, particularly Linda's langoustines.

Wait a minute!  tupac still hasn't finished writing up Tokyo!  Tell him the trip's off till that gets done!  :angry:

Wow, looking back at that thread, I really did just trail off. :biggrin: I'll try to remedy that now!

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Well Michelin just took one off your list. Do you have Arpège plans? Gagnaire? etc.

Yes sir. L'Astrance, Gagnaire, and L'Arpege for sure, maybe repeating one of the latter two on the last day.

I've heard that L'Astrance must be booked 2 months in advance- I hope you don't mind me asking how you may be repeating one (sounds like you'll decide later?) or have you had the ressies for awhile?

Also aj do you eat at bistros and neighborhood joints too or just the haute cuisine? :smile:

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I've heard that L'Astrance must be booked 2 months in advance- I hope you don't mind me asking how you may be repeating one (sounds like you'll decide later?) or have you had the ressies for awhile?

You're exactly right about L'Astrance. I misunderstood our schedule a bit, and so I misspoke! Last day is still up in the air at this point.

Also aj do you eat at bistros and neighborhood joints too or just the haute cuisine?  :smile:

I don't want to speak for him, but I will say that in the not-haute category on this trip, ajgnet will be our fearless leader as we knock off a good bit of my list:

Au Boeuf Couronné

Au Trou Gascon

Aux Lyonnais

Chez L'Ami Jean

Chez Michel

L’Ardoise

L'Avant Goût

Le Pamphlet

Le Sèvero

L'Os à Moelle

Mon Vieil Ami

Ribouldingue

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Are you planning a visit to Ledoyen?  It's a favorite of mine, and I think there's a fair chance you'd still be able to make a reservation there.

I think ajg already had plans for Ledoyen prior to this trip, though I could be wrong. That said, it's still on my list of possibilities for the trip.

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I've heard that L'Astrance must be booked 2 months in advance- I hope you don't mind me asking how you may be repeating one (sounds like you'll decide later?) or have you had the ressies for awhile?

You're exactly right about L'Astrance. I misunderstood our schedule a bit, and so I misspoke! Last day is still up in the air at this point.

Also aj do you eat at bistros and neighborhood joints too or just the haute cuisine?  :smile:

I don't want to speak for him, but I will say that in the not-haute category on this trip, ajgnet will be our fearless leader as we knock off a good bit of my list:

Au Boeuf Couronné

Au Trou Gascon

Aux Lyonnais

Chez L'Ami Jean

Chez Michel

L’Ardoise

L'Avant Goût

Le Pamphlet

Le Sèvero

L'Os à Moelle

Mon Vieil Ami

Ribouldingue

From a very recent nine day stay, here is what was written to a friend about two of them and a third (thank you John Talbott for La Cerisaie):

Sunday lunch went to Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile St. Louis.

The cooking was exquisite, but in a non fussy way.

The preparation for two of the dishes was on an extraordinary level. What they do to vegetables to get the flavor is not to be believed. Throw

in a great wine list, priced very reasonably (we had a 2005 Boillot

Volnay for 72 Euros), very good service and a really pleasant place

and this was our best meal of some very good meals. Had mijotee

teide de legumes de saison aux raisins et aux amandes avec tartine de

tapenade (unbelievable);legumes marines en tartine filets de maquereaux

et vinaigrette aux epices;vol-au-vent aux

asperges et ris de veau (also unbelievable); celeri, pruneaux et noix, magret de canard roti aucitron confit; tarte chocolat et sorbet; profiterole vanille-chocolat.

Monday lunch in the 14th., way out beyond blvd. Monparnasse ( about a

mile beyond the Luxembourg Gardens). It is La Cerisaie 70 blvd.

Edgar- Quinet. Worth the detour. We'd go back in a second. A small

(maybe 8 tables, mostly for two) bistro, run by a husband and wife

(he in the tiny kitchen by himself and she in the dining room with

one waitress). Again, the emphasis is on getting the maximum amount

of flavor out of excellent ingredients. He's a master. So many good

things to eat with a strong emphasis on the southwest but near the

Spanish border. A very adequate wine list with more than enough to

choose from. A real gem of a place with no one but French going there.

We had tourin des pyrennees, ravioli de fois gras; terrine de foie gras;cochon noir debegorre;agneau de lait des pyrennes with stuffed peppers;baba aux pruneaux;

sable de pommes avaec glace vanille.

Thursday for lunch we went to Au Trou Gascon where we hadn't been in

20 years. It was as good as we remembered. Way out in the 12th (but

easy to get to by Metro), it is the original restaurant of Alain

Dutournier, whose second restaurant is the well known two star Carre'

des Feuillants. Mostly businessmen and a few couples at lunch,

all French. Pleasant room, very good service without being either

fawning or cold... just right. Madame was as pleasant as could be. Great menu with so many things to try

(again food from the southwest), even better wine list (both the menu

and wine list very reasonably priced). We had

gateau de topinambour, foie gras, truffle noir (with the Jerusalem

artichokes serving as the pastry in essentially a millefeuille... outstanding dish); fricassee de petit gris, ravioli verte; la cuisse d'oie confite en pot

a l'ancienne, galette de pommes, and a salad with intense fresh mushrooms;le cassoulet, lighter and more elegant than most, but also more flavorful; tourtiere chaude et croustillante, glace caramel; russe, pistache glace.

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From a very recent nine day stay, here is what was written to a friend about two of them and a third[...]

We very much enjoyed our meal at Au Trou Gascon two or three nights ago. Especially the first bottle of wine we had (Domaine Arretxea Hegoxuri).

And I'm very happy to read that report from Mon Vieil Ami considering we're headed there tomorrow night!

Edited by tupac17616 (log)
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  • 2 months later...
Have you gone on a diet, ajgnet?  :laugh:  We miss your reports, my friend.

Alas, it looks like AJG is AWOL. So I'll go ahead and post the 1st in a series of write-ups of some meals we enjoyed during my trip to Paris during March/April. As always, pictures can be seen on our blog here.

Chez l'Ami Jean

At popular chain restaurants in the US, the wait for a table can be nerve-racking. The little light-up coaster the hostess has given you may vibrate wildly any minute now. Your raspberry martini is not safe. And I know this was the first time we’d had to wait for a table in France, but the only thing the hostess at Chez L’Ami Jean handed us was a wooden board full of charcuterie. It comes as no surprise which of the two aforementioned countries has lower crime rates, higher voter turnout, lower cholesterol, and a higher life expectancy.

It was 9:30 or so on a Wednesday night, and Chez L’Ami Jean was a madhouse. The kind of madhouse with several pork legs hanging from the ceiling. My kind of madhouse. I munched on some saucisson sec as they told us several times that the wait would be just a few more minutes. With cured pork in my hands, I am a patient man.

Of course, it was about 700° (Celsius, naturally) in the room and there was barely any space to stand, much less to sit. So after we cleaned up the charcuterie board I dashed outside to lose a few layers of clothing. I came back in to find the place no less crowded. Like first graders hovering around the kid at school whose mom packed him homemade cookies for lunch, we had all jammed ourselves into this hot, raucous restaurant just for a taste of Stéphane Jégo’s cooking. I noticed I wasn’t the only one who stared longingly at the dishes that passed by and closed my eyes to take in their aromas. We all seemed to be captivated.

We finally sat down at a tiny cozy four-top along the wall. There were a few daily specials on the nearby chalkboard in addition to the 3-course fixed price menu for 32€, and some of them were too good to pass up (so I’ll list the a la carte prices below). There was also a carte blanche menu for 60€. Next time I am all over that. In any case, we ordered and then snacked on some bread and a dip of cottage cheese, chives and Espelette pepper. Actually the dip was pretty terrible, so we really just snacked on the bread.

It wasn’t long before our entrées arrived, and the first they set down was the Asperges blanche vinaigrette tiede d’herbes maraîchers (17€). Steamed white asparagus came dressed with a warm herb vinaigrette, topped with crispy carrot and beet chips and a thin slice of ham for good measure. The asparagus were fork-tender but not at all mushy, and the refreshing vinaigrette was a nice reminder that this was early spring on a plate, even if the temperature outside suggested otherwise.

A friend of ours ordered the Emulsion de petit pois et asperge, croûtons, ciboulettes et lards, a vibrant green pea and asparagus soup with tiny crispy croûtons, chives and bacon. They brought her not just a cup or a bowl, but the whole tureen. Enough for each of us to have a bowlful and then some. It was thick, velvety, and really tasty. So much so that we seem to have forgotten to snap a photo. Oops.

Certainly the winner among the first courses was the Confit de pomme grenaille au beurre, crème d’ail et escargot de Bourgogne. Ridiculously buttery potatoes with a beautiful bright green parsley and garlic cream, tender snails and spicy chorizo. Oh, and a crispy slice of ham. (Basically everything here is garnished with pork.) Offering my personal analysis with all the wisdom of a five-year-old, I declared this “the best potato-parsley combo ever.” That basically sums it up, I think. Really delicious.

They had unfortunately just run out of the morel-stuffed chicken breast we had seen at a several other tables, so instead our friend got the Fricassé de poulet de ferme “cuisse” crèmé servi en cocotte de tradition. Stewed chicken leg served in a cream sauce and topped with carrots, onions and snap peas. And if that wasn’t enough, on a second plate they served her another huge piece of roasted chicken au jus, garnished with (you guessed it) two strips of crispy ham. The chicken in both cases was cooked well and it was very moist. She seemed to prefer the cream sauce-and-vegetable presentation to the one served with the pan juices. But I think we were all lamenting the unavailability of the morel-stuffed chicken. I say “we” because I definitely would’ve asked for half a small bite of it. It looked wonderful.

We got our morels anyway with the Assiette de morilles cuisinées à la crème tout simplement (32€). These mushrooms are one of my favorite signs of spring, and this ultra simple preparation — basically cooked with loads of cream and butter — was delicious. Mixed in with the morels were some lovely fat English peas, onions and a few stray bits of bacon. In addition to the plated portion, a second helping came in a separate crock so that it stayed warm while you ate, which I thought was a nice touch. It was much easier to enjoy this very tasty dish once I chose not to remind myself of its equivalent price in US dollars.

The weakest of the main courses, and really the lone disappointment of the evening, was the Joue de porcelet cuisiné mijoté en vinaigré de lentille de Puy. It tasted as simple and straightforward as the menu description: braised pork cheeks (garnished with crispy pork, obviously). It was very tender, pulling apart easily without the use of a knife. But ultimately the flavor was bland, even dull. The carrot and onion did little to hide the fact that this was basically just a big chunk of meat that had been cooked for a really long time. Nothing wrong with it, necessarily, but I was hoping for more depth of flavor considering some of the great stuff we’d eaten already.

Far from disappointing were the Ris de veau “pomme” rôti, puis braisé à la vanille, jus tranché (42€). Two fist-sized pieces of sweetbreads (poetically translated as “the calf’s laugh” in French) were first roasted and then braised with vanilla bean. Some very thin and crispy carrot chips were on top. The sweetbreads were cooked very well — really creamy on the inside — and extremely tasty. And the whole dish smelled absolutely fantastic. The portion was so big that I needed some help to finish it off. (And by that I really mean it was so good I was able to use it as a bargaining chip to taste everyone else’s food!) Oh, and I definitely should not forget to mention the smooth, extremely buttery potato purée that came as a side with both the sweetbreads and the pork cheeks. It was Robuchon-esque — which is to say it was a cardiologist’s nightmare and an eater’s dream.

If the myriad of recommendations I had read for this restaurant were to be trusted, Riz au lait grand-mère en service, confiture de lait was the way to go for dessert. And they were right. This rice pudding was thick enough to stand a spoon in and very creamy. It had a very pronounced vanilla flavor; milk jam drizzled everywhere made it even richer. There was enough in the self-serve bowl to feed a small country, but we quickly polished it off (out of politeness, of course).

I thought for a second about asking for another round for the table, but we’d already ordered a second dessert to share — the Sablé breton maison, tombé de fraise et framboise, glacé vanille. A thick round of buttery shortcake was served with macerated raspberries and strawberries, and topped off with vanilla ice cream and crispy nougatine. The cake was sweet and tasty, if a bit dry. But this problem was easily solved if one got enough ice cream in every mouthful. Overall this dessert definitely paled in comparison to the rice pudding, but then again that was a tough act to follow. Fortunately some extra consolation came in the form of a small dish of warm madeleines they brought out as well. That was a nice little surprise.

By the time we wrapped up, it was approaching 1am. Between this dinner and lunch at Pierre Gagnaire it had been a wonderful day, and I was a very happy man. Now I know the exchange rate is killing the US dollar right now (which probably explains why all the folks we stood elbow-to-elbow with before this meal were speaking French). But as far as I’m concerned, Chez L’Ami Jean’s 32€ prix fixe is an incredibly fair neighborhood restaurant price for Michelin star-quality cuisine. This is the kind of bistro I had dreamt about before coming to Paris, but only in the the way a little kid dreams about the tooth fairy. You don’t know if it actually exists, but you sure hope it does. And in the mean time you’ll enjoy whatever gifts it brings your way.

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Thanks for the great report, Tupac. We will be staying in the neighborhood this summer and I thought Chez L'Ami Jean would be a good place to go, as I missed going on our last trip. Seeing your report makes me want to eat there even more. Why was your wait so long, did you have a reservation?

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Thanks for the report Tupac. I'll have to hit this place some time. Seems like you could share a main course and eat very cheaply indeed.

Do you think ajnet has eaten himself?

I look forward to your other reports.

I have just wolfed two Krispy Kremes brought into the office for a colleague's birthday. I already feel dirty, but reading these reports just rubs salt into the wounds.

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Thanks for the great report, Tupac.  We will be staying in the neighborhood this summer and I thought Chez L'Ami Jean would be a good place to go, as I missed going on our last trip.  Seeing your report makes me want to eat there even more.  Why was your wait so long, did you have a reservation?

Glad you enjoyed it, Shaya. We did have a reservation, and probably waited almost a half hour. But then again, we had only finished lunch at Gagnaire about 5 hours earlier, so we were probably more patient than usual.

Do you think ajnet has eaten himself?

It could very well be. Poor soul.

I have just wolfed two Krispy Kremes brought into the office for a colleague's birthday. I already feel dirty, but reading these reports just rubs salt into the wounds.

No worries, Andy. There are worse things than a few Krispy Kremes. Namely, this.

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