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Prairie Grass Cafe - Northbrook, IL


ronnie_suburban
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Something on that list will appeal to my little foodie, though I guarantee you, I am not getting him a freakin petite filet.  Folks who've been there, how easy is it to bust out of there fast if I find myself dealing with a meltdown?  (Why yes, I do plan ahead, so that I don't ruin other people's meals).

Though let me say, the thought of inexpensive quality cocktails makes my heart sing with even more joy than the thought of that glorious shepherd's pie.

In the case of a meltdown, I'm sure you'll have everyone's full cooperation in getting you out of there :biggrin:

Seriously though, this place seems to be all about service and I think they're expecting (and hoping) to be patronized by families with small children. I think they've pretty much "seen it all before" and would accomodate you accordingly if you needed to make a quick exit.

For our dinner, we arrived right around 5 pm and the place was still relatively empty. When we left at 6:30, the place was maybe 2/3 full. This also bodes well for gaining some assistance with a quick exit. Probably a different story on Saturday night at 7:30, though.

As for the unanticipated change of gears, believe me I know. I used to be Ronnie "Grateful Dead Show" and it was somewhat of an adjustment becoming Ronnie "Suburban" but hey, the rewards are well worth the sacrifices. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

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ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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FYI, admittedly short notice but a co-worker just called PGC to make a 7 pm reservation for tonight and they had nothing available until 8:30...and this on a Wednesday night in the suburbs :shock:

Early indications are very positive for PGC. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Bustling! :biggrin:

I just called PGC to make a 6 pm reservation for this Saturday and they were already booked :shock:

It's a little frustrating but I'm very happy for them. Suddenly, having a small child is becoming the best conduit for dining at PGC. When we have the boy in tow, we have to go early (5:00-5:30) and at this point, those are the best--and only--hours to get a table. :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I forgot to post this! We went back last Thursday evening, and it was every bit as good as the first time - if better! This place is a real winner. This time we tried the bone-in ribeye, which was superb. I remember reading that they were going to buy their beef from some special ranch (owned by Bill Kurtis? Or am I losing my mind?), and the taste really shows. Rohit, the co-owner (and Sarah Stegner's husband) couldn't be nicer if he tried. He remembered where we sat the week before and what we drank. I tried the pizza this time (low-carb diet be damned) which had finely chopped ratatouille - delicious and light. Shrimp spring rolls were light and flavorful as well. I didnt' try my friend's beet salad, but she raved. I had the shepard's pie this time - good again. Can't wait to go back. And they're on OpenTable now.

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I forgot to post this!  We went back last Thursday evening, and it was every bit as good as the first time - if better!  This place is a real winner.  This time we tried the bone-in ribeye, which was superb.  I remember reading that they were going to buy their beef from some special ranch (owned by Bill Kurtis?  Or am I losing my mind?), and the taste really shows.  Rohit, the co-owner (and Sarah Stegner's husband) couldn't be nicer if he tried.  He remembered where we sat the week before and what we drank.  I tried the pizza this time (low-carb diet be damned) which had finely chopped ratatouille - delicious and light.  Shrimp spring rolls were light and flavorful as well.  I didnt' try my friend's beet salad, but she raved.  I had the shepard's pie this time - good again.  Can't wait to go back.  And they're on OpenTable now.

Yeah, I saw that they are now on Open Table and even in that venue they seem to be the hottest spot in the area right now. 5:00 only from what I could tell--and from what the reservationist told me.

Also, no surprises about Mr. Nambiar's abilities, as he's the former restaurant manager at Season's.

And yes, you are correct about their beef; at least as it was originally reported by metromix.com back in July...

The duo already have a beef supplier lined up--he's one of the investors. Bill Kurtis, veteran television news anchor and documentary producer, is a prominent backer of the new venture, and his Kansas ranch will supply grass-fed beef, a hot commodity in the foodie universe.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Another GREAT meal! The place was more packed than the last two weeks. It's well on its way to being a MAJOR player on the casual north shore dining scene.

I had the bleu cheese salad and the Italian sausage. Now I know from good sausage :rolleyes: , and this was wonderful! I tried the baked pear in the almond cake for dessert - another winner. Pumpkin pie (perfect flavors, not too much nutmeg!) was on the menu instead of the pecan pie.

Funny story: We got to meet Cindy Barrie, the publicist for the restaurant. Rohit wanted us to meet her. She thought I was eGullet's own Ronnie*! After setting the record straight, we proceeded to have a nice conversation with her (as my Grey Goose was calling to me) and her husband Lee. We exchanged cards and promised to keep in touch. Apparently, she's reading eGullet, and asked if I knew of any other food-related message boards - the Check, Please! site was the only other one I could come up with, which is a mere shadow of eGullet's.

I could really get used to this place!

(*Ron, when are we going to finally meet?!?)

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Another GREAT meal!  The place was more packed than the last two weeks.  It's well on its way to being a MAJOR player on the casual north shore dining scene.

I had the bleu cheese salad and the Italian sausage.  Now I know from good sausage  :rolleyes:  , and this was wonderful!  I tried the baked pear in the almond cake for dessert - another winner.  Pumpkin pie (perfect flavors, not too  much nutmeg!) was on the menu instead of the pecan pie.

Funny story:  We got to meet Cindy Barrie, the publicist for the restaurant.  Rohit wanted us to meet her.  She thought I was eGullet's own Ronnie*!  After setting the record straight, we proceeded to have a nice conversation with her (as my Grey Goose was calling to me) and her husband Lee.  We exchanged cards and promised to keep in touch.  Apparently, she's reading eGullet, and asked if I knew of any other food-related message boards - the Check, Please! site was the only other one I could come up with, which is a mere shadow of eGullet's.

I could really get used to this place!

(*Ron, when are we going to finally meet?!?)

Really happy to hear about the crowd and your meal. I too, thought the sausage was great.

Amazingly, I was going to hit PGC on this very night but got sidetracked with a project at the end of the day which prevented it. 50/50 I'm there tomorrow at 5, depending on how things go at the office.

As for meeting up, we should plan something asap. Frankly, considering our respective meals and posts over the past few months, I find it remarkable that we haven't run into each other at some point already. :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Just in case--even though we are going early--I made a 5:00 pm reservation for tonight. Can't wait to try a few more items. Just hoping that the Chinese buffet I had for lunch doesn't impede me too much at dinner :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Had a great dinner tonight at PGC.

Imagine my excitement when we walked into PGC at 5 pm and were seated near the back of the room, next to none other than Bill Kurtis himself. He and a companion (who also looked familiar) were in the process of conducting a beef tasting. There were more than a few steaks (no sides) on the table...different cuts, different donenesses. Chef Stegner and another Chef (Bumbaris, possibly) were at the table with him, trying the cuts as well. Not too many people were in the place at the time, but still there was some buzz around the "beef" table. Being the rube that I am, I couldn't help but stare as we sat down. Mr. Kurtis, who must be used to that, looked right at me and waved. So, I waved back and said "hi."

As they tasted the various steaks on the table, they chatted back and forth and seemed to be enjoying themselves. At the end of their tasting, I was impressed to see Mr. Kurtis taking with him, every partially eaten steak that was left. No way was he leaving those luscious steaks behind. Who could blame him? :biggrin:

We tried a couple of terrific appetizers...lamb pizza and baked feta cheese. The pizza was actually more like a very delicious and completely horizontal version of gyros. The pizza-like "crust" was more like a perfectly crispy pita and the sauce was tsatziki or very close to it. The lamb atop the "pie" was tender and savory. Great dish. The baked feta in olive oil with banana peppers was also great. It was a cross between the tapas-style baked Queso de Cabra and the traditional Greek saganaki. Very nice, not-too-pungent cheese baked to a tender state and serverd in a warm pool of olive oil. The only thing that could have improved this dish was having more of it. :wink:

I also had a very offbeat salad comprised of marinated, local beets (damn near pickled and wonderfully so), pear slices, Hazelnuts and goat cheese. Wow! A memorable combination, a memorable dish.

Inspired by Mr. Kurtis, I ordered the juicy, well-charred and smokingly hot bone-in ribeye which came with a deliciously distinctive twice baked potato (spiked with caramelized onions and gruyere), char-grilled red onion and watercress. The prefectly cooked medium rare steak was served with a red-wine reduction. My wife ordered the Spinach Phyllo Strudel over Ragout of Mushrooms and Artichoke Confit with Tomato Vinaigrette. I tasted it and gave it my full stamp of approval :wink: We also tried a side of White Beans & Rainbow Swiss Chard that was quite tasty.

We were way too full for dessert but the home-made vanilla ice cream which my son ordered was awesome. It was such a huge portion, he couldn't come close to finishing it, which was just fine with me :biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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PGC was packed by 6:30 on Sunday evening, I can report. There were a number of children there (uh oh) but the place was so crowded that I hardly even noticed them getting out of their seats and hanging on their parents. We were seated in a booth which I thought was rather nicer than being in the middle of the room (with all the kids!). We arrived at 5:30 and only about a third of the tables were full, yet it took a bit too long for our drink orders and then food orders to get taken. We weren't told about the specials until we'd been sitting with menus about 20 minutes, and the waitress clearly recognized that was a faux pas and we'd undoubtedly already decided what to order. There were 3 of us including my 16 yr old son, who is on his way to being a bit of a foodie. For first courses we had the crab cake, the chicken liver pate, and the lamb rolls with yogurt sauce. I ordered the latter, not realising they were spring rolls of a sort--too carby for me, really, but fortunately I got to share the pate and crab cake, which were very good. My husband had the shepherd's pie. I was a tiny bit disapointed in it after the build-up--I thought it came off as too sweet. My son's sirloin burger with blue cheese and bacon came with delicious, slightly over-salty fries (It also came with a bun, despite what it said on the menu; was that a concession to his youth?) My entree was the best: the crispy boneless half chicken which came with especially good lemoney sauteed swiss chard. For dessert we tried the pear in almond cake (which my son and I agreed was like eating a bit of Christmas--something about the cinnamon?); the crepes suzette and the cookies. None of us really liked the former; although the crepes were beautifully made, neither the strawberries or the grand marnier sauce seemed to be sweetened, and the effect was not very dessert-like. The cookies, however, were wonderful: tiny snickerdoodles, nugget like chocolate chippers, and some little chocolate-walnut brownie things that were worth "sinning" for. We liked the decor and thought the prices were reasonable. My husband gave high praise by saying that PSC might replace Brasserie T in his heart. Too bad they are stuck in that building with the Fast Signs logo! But they were turning away business, so the honeymoon is definitely on.

Edited by Midwesterner (log)
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Nice report, midwesterner! I agree about the pear dessert - delicious, though I found the cake a tad bit overcooked. The flavors were spot-on, however.

Stick to the pies next time instead of the crepes - they're perfect!

I told my partner's mom that we found an apple pie that's as good as hers, and that we don't need her for anything anymore! :biggrin: We made her guess how much a slice cost - she's from West Virginia - and she guessed on the high side at $2. She almost keeled over when we told her they were getting $7 for a slice - we want her to move here and start a pie-baking business! :biggrin:

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  • 3 weeks later...

Had another wonderful meal at PGC this past Tuesday evening. Some highlights (and one lowlight)...

Cocktails at the bar (while I waited for my family) were reasonably-priced and poured generously--$6.50 for Stoli and soda. Unfortunately, there was a group of "gentlemen" near me who felt it was completely appropriate to loudly discuss, in detail, the distances (or lack thereof) of their ejaculations. Of course, it's a bar--and I'm no prude--but this stuff really crossed the line, IMO. I felt bad for the (female) bartender who had to endure it and I also thought it was noteworthy that when chef Stegner emerged from the kitchen and walked past the bar, the subject matter changed immediately. Is there anything uglier than grown adults who cannot handle their liquor? I think not.

The lamb pizza has changed. :shock::biggrin:

On a previous trip, when we'd ordered it, the dish was basically a large, warm and crispy pita topped with lamb, cheese and tsatziki sauce. This time, it still came on the same deliciously-prepared pita but the dish was more integrated and thus, more pizza-like it its appearance. The entire surface had an orange tint to it this time around. I didn't detect any sauce so I'm not exactly sure what provided the orange tint. Either way, it was still delicious and when I realized out loud that there was no tsatziki, our server overheard me and immediately offered to bring some. "No thanks" I said. I'm almost always more than happy to eat a dish as the kitchen intended it to be eaten. I did, however, wonder if the revision of the dish had anything to do with a slightly negative rap given to it by Pat Bruno in a Sun-Times review a few weeks back.

Speaking of our server, she was absolutely phenomenal. Of course, as others have correctly mentioned, PGC's pedigree is strictly Ritz-Carlton, and in our experience, the service at PGC has always matched that pedigree--thorough and professional. But even so, our server on Tuesday was superior to our previous servers. It's hard to describe exactly why. I think it just had to do with her innate understanding of the gig. I never needed anything for very long and I never really had to ask for anything either. Nor did I feel at any point that she was hovering or being intrusive. I can only guess that it was a combination of intuition, training and experience which guided her. On our previous trip to PGC, our server seemed almost nervous and there were a few awkward moments. I guess what I'm saying is that this time around, our server made us feel more comfortable than we'd ever felt before at PGC. I predict that it's probably impossible to come upon bad service at PGC but this time around it just felt perfect.

Overall, the food was great again. Again, our server came into play by recommending something that we would have never ordered--boneless breast of chicken. She was so matter of fact about it (even mentioning that she doesn't usually order chicken when she goes out) that my wife decided to try it out. The dish really was amazing. The breast was crispy, plump and garlicky. The spinach served with it was amazing (yes, the spinach was amazing) and so too were the sauteed carrots and spicy croutons. A fantastic plate. I ordered the Flatiron Steak which was tasty and comforting and my MIL went with the Shepherd's Pie which again transcended, in spite of high expectations.

We also had a great wine from one of the most distinctive lists I've seen in a long time. On this night, with my MIL in tow, we ordered white and were really pleased with the Louis Latour 2002 Pouilly Fuisse. And, at around $40 dollars, it was a decently-priced bottle. PGC's wine list is filled with lower mid-range priced wines that really run the gamut.

One last note...a crew from WLS TV's (local ABC affiliate) 190 North were in-house filming a segment for an upcoming episode. I don't know when the segment is schedule to air but if/when I find out, I'll update here.

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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Unfortunately, there was a group of "gentlemen" near me who felt it was completely appropriate to loudly discuss, in detail, the distances (or lack thereof) of their ejaculations.  Of course, it's a bar--and I'm no prude--but this stuff really crossed the line, IMO.  I felt bad for the (female) bartender who had to endure it and I also thought it was noteworthy that when chef Stegner emerged from the kitchen and walked past the bar, the subject matter changed immediately.  Is there anything uglier than grown adults who cannot handle their liquor?  I think not.

So that WAS you, Ronnie! :rolleyes::biggrin:

We braved the slick rush hour roads on Wednesday evening to revisit PGC.

The place was hoppin', this time with larger parties, presumably families who were together for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We were in a casual mood that night (and thankful to have arrived in one piece), so we stuck to cocktails. Our server, Nora, was one we'd had during two previous meals. I wouldn't be surprised if she was the one Ronnie & Co. had, as her service was spot-on perfect. The caesar salad was well-executed and appropriately garlicky. The croutons were on the soft side, and slightly sweet. I tried the "double stack" burger this time, which was fantastically flavorful. Two thin quarter-pound patties came medium-rare, as requested, with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, lettuce and tomato. Mayo, ketchup, and mustard were served in little cups built right into the plate. I asked for a double-baked potato instead of the french fries, and was obliged. Greg had the chicken this time, and agrees with previous posters about its perfection. Dessert consisted of the pecan pie (for me) and the cookies and a tall glass of skim milk (for Greg).

We found out about the previous evening's 190 North taping. It's supposed to air on 12/5.

On a cold, snowy night, PGC is the pefect place for some great stick-to-your-ribs food and wonderful, professional service.

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Ronnie, when I had the chicken a few weeks ago the greens on the side were swiss chard, not spinach--maybe that why it seemed like unusually good spinach? :)

Pretty sure it was spinach but it may well have been chard (the stems were also green which I why I guessed 'spinach'). The menu bills it only as "braised greens" so perhaps it's rotated. In either case, it was the way they were cooked which made them soooo darned good...I'm betting that quite a bit of fat was used to cook those greens...Yum! :smile:

So that WAS you, Ronnie!  :rolleyes:    :biggrin:

LMAO! :biggrin:

Our server, Nora, was one we'd had during two previous meals.  I wouldn't be surprised if she was the one Ronnie & Co. had, as her service was spot-on perfect.

Our server was Yelena...and I'll admit that in a moment of petty Machiavellian maneuverism I intentionally neglected to mention it upthread (although, we certainly did mention it to her that night). But, as long as you've "shown me yours, I'll show you mine." :biggrin::laugh:

We found out about the previous evening's 190 North taping.  It's supposed to air on 12/5.

Thanks for updating that; much appreciated. Setting up the Tivo now... :smile:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

Did anyone catch the PGC segment on 190 North last night? I thought it was pretty good. Chefs Stegner and Bumbaris came off very well. They seemed so low-key and unflappable. I was surprised that even though Chef Stegner mentioned that her husband, Rohit Nambiar, was "at the front door" of the restaurant, he was neither named nor shown in the segment. Happily, the food shown in the piece looked fantastic. And the bubbly, talking head reportress who anchored the segment actually pretended, somewhat insipidly, to be enthused about the food. Sometimes local tv segments like this one remind me why I often think of Chicago as the world's biggest cow town.

I was happy that Chef Bumbaris commented about the home-made sausages which are served at PGC, saying that so few restaurants [in the area] serve them. He's right and his renditions (lamb, Italian) are fantastic.

The segment also revealed that the prairie "footage" which loops on the plasma monitors in the dining room at PGC was shot by Bill Kurtis at his Kansas ranch, which supplies beef to the restaurant.

I managed also to see myself and my family in the background of several shots in the segment. One thing that could not be missed was that giant Q-tip otherwise known as my MIL's hair-do :shock::biggrin:

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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I managed also to see myself and my family in the background of several shots in the segment.  One thing that could not be missed was that giant Q-tip otherwise known as my MIL's hair-do :shock::biggrin:

Are you sure you don't mean "hair-don't"?!? :rolleyes:

I caught the segment on Sunday night too, and it was rather unfocused; Rohit really should have gotten some screen time, because he's the main reason the front of the house runs as well as it does. The segment, overall, was more about the restaurant as a "scene." Still, it's nice to see it getting coverage.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had the homemade lamb sausage with ratatouille and goat cheese, and I loved it. Better than the shepard's pie, to my taste (Heresy!).

I'l also give a thumbs up to the feta cheese starter with hot banana peppers (truly hot). It's a good one to share, since you spread the warm cheese on baguette slices.

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I had the homemade lamb sausage with ratatouille and goat cheese, and I loved it.  Better than the shepard's pie, to my taste (Heresy!).

Yum! Lamb Sausage and Goat Cheese! :wub:

We tried the ancho-marinated skirt steak (a new item) last week - exceptional!

The banana cream pie was as good as the other pies we've sampled.

I like how the menu at PGC changes ever so slightly each time we go in. It keeps us interested in going back sooner than we ordinarily would.

For those of you burger lovers out there, their double-stack burger is out of this world. Thin patties, but extraordinary flavor. The burgers are always on the menu.

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  • 1 month later...

Here I go again!

Another wonderful meal this evening. Tonight, there was a special which wasn't on the menu - an exquisite short rib on silky, buttery mashed potatoes. And cherry pie (a first) on the dessert menu. I also tried the moist chocolate cake with chocolate icing - perfect! - with ice cream, natch.

Heads up: Phil Vittel sighting tonight! Expect a Trib review soon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I was excited about the Phil Vettel Review coming out today. I'm taking relatives from LA to Prairie Grass on Sunday, though it'll be my first time too. I thought this food would be a great representation of good, honest, midwestern food. After reading all the comments on this thread, I can hardly wait. Interesting that Vettel had the same reaction to the pie that others here have:

The dessert list is, surprise, simple, the star attraction being "Mom's Homemade Apple Pie," which is really a recipe from Stegner's mother. It's a good pie, made fresh daily, although my sample probably escaped from the oven a few minutes too soon.

I've been shuffling my plan for dinner all week. Pretty sure I'll be going with what seems to be the concensus can't misses:

Pate

Shepherd's Pie

Any version of dessert pie

I'm currently eating a notepad in anticipation.

Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about.

Troy McClure, hosting the film, The Meat Council Presents: Meat and You - Partners in Freedom

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