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Cafe Boulud


Felonius
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I am visiting from out of town for Saturday only and have reservations for dinner here. Which of the four menus should I order from, and why? Any other tips I should follow? The pickings are slim in DC, so I'm really looking forward to a great meal.

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Hi silentbob. There aren't four different menus, but four different categories from which to choose on the menu. So, you can mix and match.

More than a few people here have recommended ordering a tasting menu, though I'm not sure if you can lose either way you go.

Has anyone ordered from Le Voyage, the part of the menu that focuses on the cuisine of a particular country? I've always wanted to see what Carmellini does with these dishes, but I think it makes more sense to explore the French options first.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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We ate there this past Saturday night. First let me tell you that the service was terrific. Our food was also top notch. I had the pate en croute for an appetizer. It was good, but a little on the salty side. Also I would have expected a little more aspic, but I'm not complaining. My wife had the hamachi carpaccio, which of course was top notch. For mains we enjoyed smoked duck breast and stuffed rabbit tenderloin. I preferred my dish, the duck, which was tender, juicy, and just a bit smoky. It was served with some rice and confit stuffed in a brussells sprout leaf, as well as turnips. Very tasty and winter apporpriate. My wife;s rabbit was also nice, served with little rabbit mousse ravioli and brussells sprouts. For dessert we went light and split a cheese plate (we had plans for Payard afterwards).

The wine list is very comprehensive, though overpriced. Surprisingly, we found a terrific bargain (in relative terms) in their Marcassin Pinot Noir. A fantastic wine....

You will enjoy yourself. Maybe Yoko Ono will sit in the adjacent table, as she did when we were there. Judging from the waitstaff, I would say she is a regular... :wink:

A

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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  • 4 months later...

To revive this oldish thread: we just came back from an absolutely delicious dinner at Cafe Boulud. We don't go there often - perhaps once a year - but have never been disappointed. The pleasure was heightened by the visit having been unexpected: we were in the neighborhood and just dropped in on the off chance. The place was hoppin' even on a summer weekend night, mainly I think with regular customers, but there was one table free near the bar, and we accepted it with pleasure. No one bumped into the back of my chair all evening!

"Cold" - i.e. properly tepid - seafood salad, zippy with lemongrass and chilis; addictive pissaladiere, made with fresh anchovies - huge-looking thing about 6 x 12 inches in area, but its thickness could be measured in microns (well, so could mine if you had enough microns, but you know what I mean), and it got eaten without difficulty.

Good black pasta (hand cut, yet) with little clams (cockles, presumably), shrimp, minuscule octopi, squid; Tender lobster in a Thai-ish coconutty sauce, with little tomatoes, herbs and the occasional litchi or loquat.

Nice selection of cheeses, all in perfect condition.

OK peach cobbler with I-forget-what gelee (hybiscus?) and I-forget-what ice cream.

A glass of pink Champagne and a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

I continue to find Andrew Carmellini a very impressive chef.

Edited by emsny (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I just had the most wonderful dinner at Cafe Boulud. My friend Sarah had decided to take me for my birthday after hearing me talked about going. Chef Andrew Carmellini greeted us at the table and joked that had he known that I was going, he would have bought in fresh food.

The tasting went above and beyond our expectations. We started the meal with a single Oyster, then moved on to a wonderful plate artfully arranged with two soup spoons: one containing a fresh tomato salad with basil, the other a lovely green beans and asparagus salad. Next to the spoons were a fantastic foie gras terrine on a bread with sweet apricot and toasted brioche, and a little ball of fried rice and ricotta cheese. This was followed by a fresh cucumber gazpacho with topped with smoked salmon that was simple and yet pleasing to the palate. Then we moved into a bold flavored octopus with cranberry beans that balanced the subtlely of lemon confit with the strong spicy peppery accents. A note here is that I usually compare eating octopus to chewing rubber and refrain from ordering it. However, the octopus here is so well done that it has the crunchy texture without being chewy. Next up was a spicy thai curry lobster with basmati rice. Okay, if you are expecting the average thai curry, you would be very pleasantly surprised. This dish was so perfectly scented that it makes you never want to order from your average thai places ever again. The sauce was a rich red curry redolent of fresh lemon grass, and the lobster was complimented with lovely baby asparagus and cherry tomatos and finished with thai basil. Lastly, we were served with a seared main scallop wih corns and shitake mushrooms-the dish is quietly inventive, contrasting the sweet summer corn with the earthy flavors of shitake mushrooms, topped by a almost caramelized sea scallop.

Desserts came in two parts: First, we were served a strawberry sorbet with cherry and straberry compote and creme friche. The strawberry sorbet has a sharp lime flavor that cleansed the palate and the creme friche provided a great counterpoint. Then there was a chocolate dessert with a rice crispy granache that was luscious and creamy and made you think of heaven.

The service was very attentive even though the room can get very loud at times. Atomsphere was friendly and warm. Not a date place, but definitely a good gathering place among friends. If the place wasn't uptown, I'd go back there anytime.

Ya-Roo Yang aka "Bond Girl"

The Adventures of Bond Girl

I don't ask for much, but whatever you do give me, make it of the highest quality.

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  • 3 months later...
This restaurant's dishes tend, as a broad generalization, to be lustier than those at their peers.
We had lamb and duck and squab, all of the portions generous, all of the flesh flawlessly cooked. I'm not an enormous fan of smoking meats, which can make them taste too much like the smoking and too little like themselves, but the squab stood up to the process, its livery richness discernible and intact. A glaze of honey and spices (coriander, fennel, star anise) on the roasted duck provided a sweetness that was measured, deferring to the bird.

Cafe Boulud (Frank Bruni)

Soba

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  • 3 months later...

Honoring a friend's request to celebrate her birthday at Cafe Boulud, we dined there last evening. We had a table in the area closest to the door and near a bus station. This resulted in our overhearing repeated instruction by a captain to his waiters and having the overflow of waiting diners insinuate into the area. It sounded and felt like a cafeteria or bus station [pun intended] experience.

We inquired re: the tasting menu and were told, without price, seafood-soup-pasta-meat and cheese plates before 2 desserts....all surprises. Apparently that included the price, which they failed to mention. Anyway, we so opted giving as our only "restriction" nothing raw. We were a party of THREE. Imagine our surprise when the waiters arrived with TWO oysters. We pointed out that there were 3 of us...to no avail. Eventually, the maitre d was called and she replied, "But she didn't want raw". Are you really suggesting that two out of 3 diners should be served...or that they couldn't have changed the item to a shrimp or whatever? As this was becoming uncomfortable for our guest, we let it go but I find it totally unacceptable. Also, does one raw oyster without condiment equal/constitute a seafood course???

This course was followed by a plates of 'welcome items'...mini bites in ceramic chinese spoons. Only the beet and blue cheese item had taste appeal. Unfortunately, the fresh anchovy spoon also had been placed on the table earlier as an amuse. Is the kitchen this unimaginative...or don't they even care. It was a funny sequence of courses anyway.

There was a warm white asparagus melange accompanied by a shotglass of chilled asparagus soup---tasty......followed by divine sweet pea ravioli. This last dish was everything one expects from such a restaurant, but the only item which ranked this way.

The meat was braised short ribs on a puree of potatoes. The waiter then asked if we wished cheese OR dessert? We kept asking weren't both supposed to be included and he kept saying we could have either until, again, the maitre d' said both were included. This was hardly the gracious service one would expect at Cafe Boulud.

We requested no goat cheese. It came w. goat cheese. "Oh they come like that...here's a plate, just take it off!"

The desserts were totally uninteresting....a cold fruit soup and a warm chocolate nuggest w. ice cream. We departed having had a very negative experience. We will not return.

This topic was merged from a newly created one into the overall Cafe Boulud thread - docsconz

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I would agree that those behaviors are appalling and below the level of what this restaurant can and should be. Hopefully, it was simply an aberration and not indicative of a more general trend. Of course, that doesn't improve your experience.

Was there no mention of the tasting menu (and price) on the printed menu? Even if they prefer to not divulge the specific courses they should provide the details re: number of courses and price.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The menu stated that a tasting menu was offered and

please inquire. Upon inquiry they indicated that there

were 5 courses [as outlined above] and that all were

surprises. Then they inquired if there were any restrictions,

to which our friend answered as above. I think that they

need a waiting/reception area, better scheduling of

their reservations, noise protection/buffers, better

trained staff, more management. I wouldn't even know

what to say about their two oyster issue as it seemed

so inhospitable or ungracious and weird to us.

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That really is strange whether the oysters were considered an amuse or a course. I don't think it is justifiable.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Oh, terrible to hear. I ate at CB recently and recieved oysters as a pre-amuse gift. It went: two oysters each, then selection of amuses, then first course...

So you never recieved anything resembling seafood after the oysters? Did they try to make any amends with extra desserts, or at least aknowledging their mistakes?

Drink maker, heart taker!

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Raxelita, What I found distressing was that they didn't

even understand that they had made a mistake. The maitre

d' said 'but she doesn't want raw'. Anyone who took a

guest there, would be made quite uncomfortable.

Then the waiter offered cheese or dessert and we had to

push for the cheese that was the 5th plate on the tasting menu.

No they didn't send extra foods....but then, we didn't really

need or wish these...just a modocum of service. This is too

upscale a restaurant for this. Hopefully, someone in management

will read this post, check it out and instruct staff accordingly.

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Hopefully, someone in management

will read this post, check it out and instruct staff accordingly.

On the off chance they don't, perhaps you should send a letter.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I would definitely send a letter. I had a colleague who ate at Daniel with some regularity, and had a very disappointing meal there. Without going into the details of his disappointment (frankly I don't remember them), he wrote to the management and received a very gracious response, including some kind of offer of free food, with special attention to be paid by the chef.

It seems to me there may have been some misunderstanding regarding the cheese/dessert issue. I think it's pretty customary to have either and not both; the house may have actually made a concession in giving your table both, Paula, although I find the goat cheese aspect of the service unacceptable. And that oyster thing is just appalling. But if you look at it from their perspective, the staff may think they comped you a course in order to satisfy you. That doesn't excuse the dreadful way in which they handled your eating restrictions/preferences, but it is something to consider.

I actually had a delightful meal at Cafe Boulud two weeks ago, on a Saturday night. The wife and I were kind of amused at the Upper East Side crowd and the really quite ugly and cramped decor. But the food blew me away. I started with the handmade fonduta ravioli with chestnut, chervil, fontina cheese and fresh black truffle shavings. This dish was exquisite. The balance of soft creamy cheese and truffles was outstanding. That whole section of the menu (click on "Dinner Menu & Desserts")-- called "Le Potager"-- is pretty inspiring. How many restaurants offer vegetarian options like these? Both my duck main and my wife's lamb main were superb. Like many, I wasn't that impressed with the dessert options.

On the service front, I did request that the service slow down after our appetizers came too quickly following the amuse. I find I'm making this request a lot when we eat out lately. They honored it at CB, allowing us a nice period of rest between our apps and our mains, and letting us finish our wine before dessert in peace. We felt pretty well taken care of.

I'm sorry your experience wasn't like ours, Paula.

Edited by SethG (log)

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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Seth, You remind me of a happier visit when I also had those

divine fonduta ravioli [and my husband had an equally

divine crab salad w. grapefruit]. Although a different texture,

flavor,etc this visit's sweet [green] pea ravioli dish was also great

and I wouldn't hesitate to enthusiastically recommend it.

Incidentally, when you inquire re: the tasting menu, they explain

that it's 5 courses [listed above] ending w. a cheese plate for a

break prior to two desserts....so there wasn't any accomodation

for our table.

Hospitality and service were major problems on this last visit........

but even said. I'm glad that your meal was enjoyable.

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Paula JK

I'm sorry to hear about your unpleasant experience at Cafe Boulud. I dine there regularly and it has become my favorite restaurant in NYC. It is not perfectly consistent, nor is any restaurant for that matter. In my experience over the years, it is more consistent than most at its level.

I checked my calendar and it seems that you were there on a Saturday night. One thing I would suggest is that if at all possible, you should try Cafe Boulud on a weeknight if you really want the best tasting menu experience. I'm not trying to make excuses for them, but I have found that they are so slammed on Friday and Saturday that they generally don't do as well with a tasting menus. It's much more fun on a Wednesday night (especially if you go on the early or late side), when Andrew Carmellini has time to relax and think about something more creative than what you experienced.

Again, I am not making excuses. Cafe Boulud and Daniel aim for the highest of standards and they ought to deliver After over 100 meals there I'd say they do about 85% of the time, and that nearly every disappointment for me has come on a Saturday night.

I would encourage you to write a thoughtful letter mentioning your disappointment, and perhaps noting some positive aspects as well (the green pea ravioli or something you particularly enjoyed on a previous visit). Five years ago I had my first disappointing meal at Cafe Boulud and did the same. They replied in a most gracious manner and I have been a regular customer ever since.

I assure you that Cafe Boulud can be one of the absolute best restaurants in NYC both in terms of food and service, and am sorry they failed to live up to that standard during your last visit. If you like their approach to food, I'd give them another chance.

By the way, I had dinner there last night and was pleased to see the spring pea ravioli back on the menu. A subtle yet fantastic dish in my opinion.

Edited by Felonius (log)
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From today's New York Times:

After nearly six years, Andrew Carmellini will leave his post as executive chef at Cafe Boulud on May 8 to join Marlon Abela's restaurant group, Marc US. The company, which owns Gaia in Greenwich, Conn., and several restaurants in London, plans to open one in New York. Bertrand Chemel, the sous-chef at Cafe Boulud, will take Mr. Carmellini's place.

Best of luck to Chef Carmellini and to Chef Chemel!

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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Despite the experience & suggestion of several posters, I had no intention of

writing a letter to Cafe Boulud. To my surprise, on Tuesday I received a

telephone call from 'Andrew Carmellini' who had "sleuthed" me out. He

had read egullet [and employs it himself, especially when travelling] &

wanted to "make it up" to us. I did not know that Mr. Carmellini was

the chef. His conversation was so personable, soothing and lively that

I just assumed that he was probably the restaurant's manager. He

invited us to be their guest.

Frankly, at that point, I wasn't certain that we wished to revisit and felt

that acknowledging their responsiveness & graciousness would be a nice

way out. Some more smooth talking and I began to feel like a grinch...so

off we went last evening.......and am I glad that we did. Certainly they

did a fabulous job of "making it up" to us. Service was solicitious and

cuisine excellent.

Now, as I return to the status of ordinary diner, I do so with great respect

for this restaurant's philosophy of pleasing diners, their responsiveness to

complaints and their gracious generosity to right a wrong. You can imagine

my surprise when I read the NYTimes yesterday and learned that

Mr. Carmellini was the chef! What a wonderful combination of talents

he holds. We wish him great success in his new endeavors.

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Wow. That's pretty impressive, that the chef called you himself to invite you back. I'm glad you didn't pass up the opportunity he gave you, and that you had a good experience!

"I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast;

but we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!"

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  • 6 months later...

Choices New York City Entry #32

Every menu is a case of future shock. So many choices. How can one select? If one is an optimist, greatness must be hid somewhere on the menu; the pessimist believes that there are land mines aplenty. Several strategies present themselves. One can rely on the advice of pure and just friends, hoping that tastes match one's own and that the kitchen prepares no evil surprises. Or one may rely on the advice of the server, a bought friend if only because of the romance of a tip. One desires to learn the secrets of the kitchen, although suspicious souls sometimes surmise that the strategy is to push those dishes out the door that others reject. Finally one may read the menu with the diner's mix of hope over experience that such fictions often inspire: we depend on the culinary novelist. One searches for dishes that fit our passions or our preferences.

A few nights ago some friends and I visited Café Boulud, chef Daniel's more casual establishment in the wake of Steve Plotnicki's encomia. In my experience Daniel Boulud's cuisine is technically proficient, but lacks the heart and brilliance of the very finest practitioners. The night we dined was the evening that Chef Boulud discovered that Michelin had awarded him but two stars (I concur). However, I had a passing fear that we might be served screws and bile. I eyed the knives for bloody smears. But not to worry, Daniel Boulud is the consummate professional, both the saving and the boundary of his cuisine.

One should not approach Café Boulud with the assumption that it is Daniel. The peace of the latter is nowhere to be found. Only on the haute reaches of the Upper East Side would the buzz of bumping waiters be considered elegant cosiness. I had the same experience the day before at the Halloween parade in the Village spying more frugal costumes.

I relied on the wise advice of S.P. and ordered the Grilled and Marinated Octopus "La Rioja" with Authéntico Chorizo, Peppers and Tomato Compote. For the reason that I avoid chewing gum and rubber bands, I often avoid "Big Squid." But, as Steve remarked, this was a superb rendition. The Octopus was so good that I could have ordered eight portions and eaten them as chips. With the mix of meats and pungent vegetables, this was the finest appetizer of my New York months.

Fennel Risotto with Zucchini Flowers, Artichoke and Basil selected by one of my partners was an excellent version of risotto, a delicious melding of flavors. If the risotto looked like, well, risotto, it certainly tasted as good as risotto might taste. The dish was perfectly calibrated in taste and texture.

The third appetizer, a soggy Goat Cheese Souffle with lumps of Beets was misbegotten. The souffle did not hold together as a pool of liquid was revealed at the bottom of the ramekin. The beets lacked much flavor. All appetizers are not created equally.

Mr. Plotnicki raved (I think that is the word here) over CB's Porcetta. Despite my pleading, our server assured me that the dish was not on the menu (he did not, however, accept my helpful offer to root through the fridge). I asked our server - he who had just broken my heart - what the chef would recommend. He provided me with four possibilities. I selected Door Number Three: Sea Trout served over Chanterelles and Greens (I did not catch all the ingredients). When it arrived I was startled. This sea trout looked and tasted exactly a fillet of salmon, so much so that I assumed that a mistake was made. No so, I was told. (I still couldn't check on that pancetta. Sigh.). The dish was Chef Boulud at his most pedestrian; the fish lacked heart. It was perfectly cooked, but was not a dish that would have been much outside my own culinary range. I found the dish bland, if competent, and quite unmemorable - and revealed the dangers of relying upon the judgement of a server, although perhaps one with the best of intentions.

The finest of three entrees was Roasted Duck, "Mostarda di Frutta" with Sicilian Pistachios, Ripini, Baby Turnips and Balsamic Jus. So many duck dishes are dull combinations of fruit and poultry, but these fruits in sour citrus mustard were an excellent and startling accompaniment. Imagine this savory mixture nestled near rich duck meat. In contrast to the trout, this was Chef Daniel at his best, a stellar duck plate.

Our third main dish was Veal Tortellini. While the ground veal was pleasant and the cream sauce well-made, the pasta was somewhat heavy and dull. It satisfied without inspiring.

We ended with Roasted Figs with Sangria Flavors and Fromage Blanc Sorbet. Figs are a favorite, and these figures in a sangria jus were a pleasing end, yet neither the fruit nor the sorbet astonished. Here was a fine bistro dessert, and reminded me that when the noise and perfume lifted, this is the mark of Café Boulud, a café with elegant pedigree.

There are delights to be found on Chef Daniel's menu - notably the octopus and the duck - but how to find them? We rely on the kindness of both friends and strangers, and sometimes we are not disappointed.

(I should properly note that the chef at Cafe Boulud is Bertrand Chemel - although I refer to Chef Boulud as a convenience and because the restaurant relies on his reputation).

Café Boulud

20 East 76th Street (at Madison Avenue)

Manhattan (Upper East Side)

212-772-2600

My Webpage: Vealcheeks

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  • 2 months later...

Hi, All, I am having trouble finding info specific to Cafe Boulud, especially as a choice for restaurant week. Has anyone tried this place for restaurant week in years past? Is it worth $25 for lunch or can you pretty much get lunch for this amount or close to it during the year? What have your experiences been eating there? We have a reservation there this year but will be spending extra to stay in a hotel to experience the place. It would be helpful to know if this restaurant is worth going to for restaurant week. (Sorry if I have somehow missed any previous discussion on this, but my search in the forum has not come up with cafe boulud.)

Thanks for any input available. :smile:

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I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Z. My experience and the reports I've heard and also the credible-seeming message-board posts I've seen all point to Cafe Boulud delivering a weak Restaurant Week performance. I get the impression of a restaurant that is doing the Restaurant Week thing reluctantly. Cafe Boulud is one of my favorite restaurants in all New York, but I would not recommend it for Restaurant Week. Over the course of many Restaurant Weeks, I've come to the conclusion that the Danny Meyer/Union Square Hospitality Groups are by far the most enthusiastic participants in the promotion, as is their cousin Craft.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, Fat Guy's feedback was what I was afraid of. I tried to get a reservation at Union Square Cafe but they were already filled fr restaurant week. Too bad, we may forgo the lunch and just head home early to Long Island. :sad:

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