LA’s newest Ice Cream sensation

Opening on Feb. 1, 2018 The Dolly Llama Ice Cream shop is the newest sweet treat in Los Angeles.

Its a Four Step process to achieve cones like these.

Step 1: Order a bubble waffle ice cream cone. They are currently a street food sensation in Hong Kong. Unlike a regular waffle cone, the Bubble cone batter is pillowy in texture. Once the batter is poured, it’s coiled into a cone. Black and white Dolly Llama paper is wrapped around it creating a unique, puffy edible ice cream holder.

Step 2: Choose an ice cream flavor. There are 8 different flavors: Vanilla, Chocolate, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Cookie Monster, Horchata, Green Tea and Coffee.

Step 3: Get Saucy with a selection of over 10 that includes: Nutella, Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter, Caramel, White Chocolate Matcha, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Speculoos, Red Berry, Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate.

Step 4: Top it off. There are almost 30 different fresh fruit, favorite candy and whimsical toppings. The topping section has Strawberries, Bananas, Raspberries, Blueberries, Pineapple, Mango, Almonds, Coconut Shavings, Gummy Bears, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Captain Crunch, Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Graham Crackers, Chocolate Chips, White Chocolate Chips, Circus Animal Cookies, Kinder Chocolate Bar, Maltesers Malt Balls, Oreo, M&M’s, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Sprinkles, Marshmallows, Brownie, Pretzel Balls, and Popcorn.

Stepping inside for a tasting, I was encouraged to build a unique ice cream filled with all my favorite flavors. My Bubble waffle cone had a generous scoop of salted caramel ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate sauce, pink and white circus animal cookies and gummy bears. It was delicious.

The staff also make Waffle Sticks dazzled with sauces and toppings.

Dolly Llama makes Shakes too. Four different creative flavors include :

1. The Dolly Llama made with Cookie Monster ice cream, whole milk, cocoa puffs, whipped cream, and sprinkled with M&M’s and topped with a Kinder Chocolate Bar.

2. Peanut Butter Shake served withvanilla ice cream, whole milk, Reese’s cups, and topped with whipped cream, peanut butter, crushed almonds and chocolate chips.

3. Cookie Snob made with vanilla ice cream, whole milk, speculoos cookie, whipped cream, and sprinkled with cinnamon and topped with Circus animal cookies.

4. Chocolate Lover made with chocolate ice cream, whole milk, Oreo cookies, whipped cream, and sprinkled with white and dark chocolate chips and topped with a brownie.

Other beverages include Hot-chata, Hot Chocolate or Hot Vanilla topped with marshmallows.

A second location is scheduled to open in Koreatown inside the historic Western Avenue gilded corner building near The Wiltern Theatre. Stay tuned for its grand opening.

The Downtown Los Angeles location is at 611 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90014.

Astro’s Golden Delights

With award season approaching, Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken is making glittering gold red velvet doughnuts that are a perfect treat for your awards show viewing party. They are available for $5 each, and must order 24 hours in advance online or by phone.

I was invited to try one of these red velvet cake doughnuts with a edible glittery gold glaze. During Oscars weekend these special doughnuts will be available at the restaurant.

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The Boston Cream Pie doughnut is one of my favorites

For Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 4, Astro’s is offering a game day package, which includes six football shaped Boston cream doughnuts and 24 honey sriracha or Korean barbecue wings for $59.95.

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The individual football-shaped doughnuts are $3.50. Pre-order starts Jan. 29 for pickup or delivery on Super Bowl Sunday. They will also be available in the restaurant only on Super Bowl Sunday.

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While I was there I tried a few of the fried chicken sandwiches, kimchi cole slaw and tater tots. The fried chicken on a buttermilk biscuit with flecks of Cheddar cheese is pure comfort food.

Astro doughnuts & fried chicken is located at 516 W. Sixth St. Los Angeles, CA. (213)622-7876. There is another location in Washington D.C.

Starting the day off at Culina

Pulling up to the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills, not only will a friendly valet welcome you, but Marilyn Monroe will catch your eye.

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American artist and sculptor J. Seward Johnson is famous for recreating life-size bronze casts of famous and ordinary people engaged in everyday activities. He recreated Monroe’s famous white dress blowing above a subway grate featured in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch.

I shot a photo of Monroe before meeting my friend Kim on the terrace at Culina for Chef Byron Thomas’ Wellness Breakfast. We thought it would be a great start to 2018.

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Looking over the menu, Thomas has created a healthy, colorful and flavorful breakfast for locals and guests staying at the Four Seasons Los Angeles in Beverly Hills.

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We started with the juice menu featuring over 20 freshly squeezed fruits and vegetables that guests can customize for their own creative beverage. The menu also offers a selection of three blends that include the green goddess made with kale, basil, mint, honeydew, apple, cucumber and celery. Choose from three different shots with names that include Get Well Soon, Wake Me Up and Let’s Focus.

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Wellness dishes include a savory breakfast bowl made with sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, red quinoa, sprouted mung beans, black kale and a poached egg. Kim told me she orders this almost every time.

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There is a chia pudding bowl, an acai bowl and avocado toast. That’s what I ordered and enjoyed the crunchy grilled Ciabatta bread, with slices of avocado and heirloom cherry tomatoes. The housemade pickles, chia, flax, and sunflower seeds balance the smooth textures with a pleasing crunch.

You never know what celebrity you will see while dining at Culina. As I got up to leave the tall English actor Will Poulter walked passed me and smiled. He was one of the stars in hit 2013 movie We’re the Millers with Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts.

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After breakfast I walked through the Four Seasons to admire their decor, flowers and artwork. Celebrity floral designer and artist Jeff Leatham arranges exquisite floral pieces for the lobby at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles. He also has a floral boutique inside the property.

Culina is located inside the Four Seasons Los Angeles at 300 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Phone (310)860-4000.

 

 

Escape to Downtown LA

When I was invited to participate in one of the Escape Rooms in downtown Los Angeles, you know those intriguing spaces where you’re given clues and a time limit to escape – I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My daughter and I joined six others in the Pyramid room, a secret tomb deep inside a Mayan setting. The physical adventure began as we tried to solve a series of puzzles to reach and uncover the secret Mask of the Jade Warrior to escape. Using clues and sometimes questions from our moderator to enter various themed rooms, our one hour time limit ran out before we could find the mask and escape. Learning only 41% of the participants escape from this room, we didn’t feel completely defeated.

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To pick up spirits, we met others who were in different rooms at Terroni for an Italian dinner. It’s only one block from Escape Room LA. Owners and friends Cosimo Mammoliti and Paolo Scoppio opened their first Terroni in Queen, Toronto in 1992. With its success, they opened two other Canadian Terroni restaurants. Then in 2007, they opened their first Los Angeles location on Beverly Blvd., before renovating this downtown 6,000 sq. ft. space in 2013.

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Walking into the restaurant, we admired the beautiful soaring coffered ceiling (They don’t build banks like this anymore), and elegant floor to ceiling arch windows along the sidewalk. There is also an impressive glassed-in wine room. The large bar offers an array of specialty spirit bottles to make creative cocktails, while in the main dining room there are cozy booths and a viewing window with hanging meat and sausage, bottles of cooking wine and cheese.

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Looking at the menu we noticed an array of creative Southern Italian dishes with starters including bread with handmade taralli and olives. Taralli is an Italian snack similar in texture to a cracker or breadstick. Other crunchy apristomaco (translated in English to stomach opener) includes deep fried zucchini flowers with ricotta & Parmigiano; deep fried arancini with meat and cheese, and fried calamari served with lemon.

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The chefs grill calamari and serve it on greens with sliced onions, a sprinkling of capers and tomatoes. Looking over the salad section, I ordered the Nizzarda and enjoyed the mixture of arugula, slices of Italian tuna, cubes of potatoes, sliced eggs, chopped red onions, tomatoes, black olives, green beans, and two anchovies. White wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil brought out the “Nicoise” flavors.

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The chefs come in early and work late to make all the handmade pastas offered on the menu. There are a couple of homemade spaghetti dishes, a bucatini, a potato gnocchi and a rigatoni decorated with dandelions and slices of homemade spicy Italian sausage. The tagliolini is topped with fresh clams, fresh mussels, calamari, scallops and tiger shrimp in a light tomato sauce. My favorite pasta at our table that we all shared, was a slowly cooked lamb rage on top of capunti pasta. This freshly made pasta resembles a short, oval and open peapod.

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With over 30 pizza varieties on the menu, we ordered two of the hand stretched, thin and crispy pies. My daughter enjoyed the traditional Margherita with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Another person at our table ordered the C’t Mang white pizza with ripe slices of pear, chopped nuts and a sprinkling of gorgonzola and mozzarella. There were long strips of smoked prosciutto and a drizzle of honey on top to balance the sweet and savory flavors.

Before leaving we noticed next door to Terroni is Dopolavoro (means after work in Italian), a casual Italian marketplace inside the bank building. The Terroni owners opened it for locals to swing by at the end of the day, to pick up some Italian delicacies and pre-made meals. The store offers olive oil, cheese, wine, bread, milk, eggs and handmade pasta to prepare at home.

IMG_5987Looking for a fun outing this weekend? Escape to downtown Los Angeles for a night of solving clues before or after a meal at Terroni.

Escape Room LA has space available through March, 2018. Click on this link to go online to select a date and time Escape Room LA. Prices are Tuesday – Thursday: $32 per person  /  Friday – Sunday: $37 per person. Book 2 or more games for the same day – get 10% off!*  /  Book all 4 games for the same day – get 15% off!* *Must book full rooms to receive discounted prices. Call (213)689-3229 to receive these discounted rates for booking multiple games. Escape Room LA is located at 120 E. 8th Street (between Main and Los Angeles Streets).

Terroni is at 802 S. Spring St. (213)221-7234 and Dopolavoro 808 S. Spring St. (213)954-0300. Terroni in the Fairfax area 7605 Beverly Blvd. (323)954-0300.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on Jan. 25, 2018.

BOA Steakhouse’s exclusive dineL.A. experience

With the winter edition of dineL.A. in full swing, now is the time to visit BOA Steakhouse for their exclusive series dinner menu. BOA is typically a pricey, special occasion destination, but during dineL.A., the restaurant offers multiple courses of innovative dishes at a fixed price.

Sitting outside on the romantically dim patio with heaters to keep guests toasty, my friends and I excitedly looked over the one-page menu and decided to order different dishes to taste all the starters, entrées, side dishes and desserts offered.

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For my first course, I ordered the foie gras torchon, intrigued by foie gras on a funnel cake with blood orange marmalade. The nearby funnel cakes of the Santa Monica Pier served as executive chef Michael Neflas’ whimsical inspiration for this signature dish – but BOA’s crisp, slightly puffy cake proved more refined. To top it off, the creamy foie gras featured a dollop of bright blood orange marmalade, offering a hint of citrus sweetness to balance the smooth, fatty delicacy.

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Others at the table ordered the classic tableside Caesar salad, which the server prepared right at the table. With salad tongs in hand, he mixed lettuce, dressing, anchovies and squeezed lemon before tossing and serving the salad on individual plates. Another friend ordered the chef’s selection of four oysters served on a beautiful dark blue plate with a lemon and red wine-mignonette for seasoning in the center.

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For our second course, I ordered the popular goat cheese baklava. Made with baked phyllo dough, it’s filled with a spread of goat cheese and black truffle. The top is dotted with crushed pistachios and drizzled with honey. Served with a side of curly frisée, the dish is truly delicious.

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I also tried the pan-seared scallop served on a plate with a smear of salsify, cauliflower and carrot purée. Salsify offers the texture of a potato with an essence of artichoke or white asparagus, and pairs well with the thinly shaved cauliflower flowers decorating the dish.

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Others at the table ordered the black truffle cannelloni that looked more like a taquito rolled with truffled ricotta cheese, a touch of brown butter and Parmesan cheese. It was good, but a little too dry for my liking.

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Entrées include a nice portion of 40-day dry-aged New York steak and a duo of Mary’s Farm duck. The latter dish arrived with a pan-seared duck breast and duck leg confit resting on top, and drizzled with duck jus all around the plate for added flavor.

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Local wild sablefish, also known as black cod, is a silky, delicate fish that provides more omega-3 fatty acids than most other fish. At BOA, they serve it with a roasted garlic bulb for a savory dish.

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For those seeking the ultimate surf ‘n’ turf, order the cod with a 4-ounce slice of A5 wagyu. It’s the most tender and flavorful steak. Side dishes include the potato and butternut squash gratin, mac and cheese, and lobster mashed potatoes.

 

Even though we were thoroughly satisfied with the dishes, we still ordered both of the desserts on the menu. The Winter in the Windy City is visually spectacular with a stencil of Chicago’s skyscrapers in chocolate and sprinkling of powder sugar as snow. Inside a perfectly round almond biscuit made of Joconde sponge cake was chestnut-flavored Bavarian cream with crème chantilly and buttermilk granita. It was light and refreshing, with ice crystals melting on my tongue, almost as if I were catching a snowflake.

The last dessert was also visually pretty, consisting of a rectangular piece of mascarpone cheesecake with small cubes of milk crunch and fennel pollen syrup. On top of it all was a sprinkle of orange Mimolette cheese from France. Little light green honeydew balls provide a pop of color, as did a scoop of green apple sorbet.

BOA West Hollywood also offers a three-course, $25 lunch that includes the goat cheese baklava I mentioned earlier. Entrées include porcini ravioli with hazelnuts; spicy espelette-crusted, blackened albacore; or broiled chicken with charred peppers, marinated cucumbers and kaffir lime with jasmine rice. Desserts include a poached pear with almond snow and chocolate ice cream, or butterscotch bread pudding with pear sorbet.

The Santa Monica location is offering the dineL.A. dinner menu for $95 until Jan. 26. If you enroll with your American Express and spend more than $30 in a single transaction, you will get a $10 credit on your statement. $$$ 9200 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310)278-2050. 101 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310)899-4466.

Cookbook Review – OPA! Healthy Greek

My New Years resolution is to eat healthier and live a fuller life. When my friend Christina Xenos sent me a copy of her Opa! The Healthy Greek Cookbook, I excitedly embraced this gift as a guide to fulfill my 2018 resolution. I decided to make a recipe a week from her book to get me and my family on track to eating well.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, a traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. It’s been associated with a lower level of oxidized, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries. This way of eating has also reduced incidence of cancer, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer.

A Mediterranean diet is an eating plan incorporating fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains with a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine while limiting unhealthy fats.

 

Xenos learned how to prepare, eat and love food while cooking with her mother and yiayias (grandmothers). She always had a yiayia living with her while growing up, and fondly remembers her yiayia Chrysanthe sending her outside to pick grape leaves to help her make dolmathes.

As a professional chef, her company Sweet Greek Personal Chef Services hosts Greek-themed pop-up dinner experiences. She and Theo Stephan united to share their most beloved family recipes to help the world eat healthy Greek cuisine that is easy to prepare and full of exciting flavors.

The first chapter is all about understanding Greek Cuisine. “The essential ingredients of Greek cuisine are the same today as they were for the Bronze Age Minoans living on the island of Crete.” In the book is a map of the 8,498 miles of coastline around the peninsular archipelago. Readers learn about the food regions of Greece—Northern Greece, Central Greece, Peloponnese, the Greek Islands, Crete and Cyprus.

Chapter Two is a list of essential items in every pantry to prepare Greek food. “Healthy Greek cooking starts with certain key ingredients.” Olive oil, lemon, vinegar, tomatoes, cinnamon, mint, parsley, Greek oregano, dill and basil are a must.

Small plates called mezza are featured in Chapter Three. These are great starters or appetizers to serve to your family or at a party. It’s pages are filled with easy to make phyllo crackers to dip into Kalamata olive spread or eggplant dip, and tomato folderovers.

I found the recipes are easy to follow. At the top of each recipe is a guide telling chefs if the recipe is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and nut-free. It will tell you how many servings the recipe makes, the prep time and cooking time.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make Greek penicillin, Chapter Four teaches readers how to make the velvety Egg-Lemon Chicken Soup. Other soup recipes include a gluten-free Greek gazpacho and lentil soup. Also in this chapter are a variety of healthy salads that include an arugula salad with oranges, fennel and pomegranate.

There is a chapter focused on beans, rice and pasta. Another offers a plethora of seafood main dishes, meat dishes and desserts.

What I liked at the end of the book was the Holiday Menu guide that include everything you need to make for the ultimate Greek Wedding. “Greek Weddings begin at sundown eating, dancing, drinking ouzo with plenty of Opas!” There is also a Christmas Menu, a New Year’s Day Menu typically served on January 6, Epiphany (Days of the Enlightenment) a major Greek Orthodox holiday.

Did you know that Easter is the most important of all the Greek holidays? It’s usually the biggest feast of the year. Xenos and Stephan offer a menu that you can prepare for your next Easter family and friend get together that will impress everyone at the party.

So for 2018, I will be living a good and healthy life more, while saying Opa each week as I make a new dish from the Healthy Greek Cookbook.

OPA! Healthy Greek Cookbook can be found on Target, Amazon or Xenos website My Sweet Greek.

Golden Moments Watching Aladdin

Want to see a great Bromance where the lead actors have each others backs? Go see Aladdin now at The Pantages. The first time I experienced Aladdin was in 1992 with my young daughter as we watched Disney’s animated feature until we could sing every word to each lyrical songs by Howard Ashman (two time Oscar winner) and Time Rice (three-time Tony and Oscar winner) and music by Alan Mencken (Tony Award and eight-time Oscar winner).


Disney brought the show to life at the Hyperion Theatre inside Disney’s California Adventure from 2003 to 2016. The musical was also performed onboard Disney Cruise Line ships. Since it was a Broadway style show at these venues, I knew one day it would premier in New York and hopefully come to Los Angeles.

Sitting through the opening night performance, I noticed this newer Broadway-musical has many of the same characters and songs, with a few new additions. Director Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, and Something Rotten!) and book writer Chad Beguelin opened Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 2014 to critical acclaim.

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Adam Jacobs – Aladdin

It’s hard to be the Genie, after the late comedic Robin Williams brought the lovable character to life in a schizophrenic whirlwind of humor and charm, yet actor Michael James Scott is bigger than life character onstage receiving adoration from the Los Angeles audience, especially in the golden “Friend Like Me” musical number.

Adam Jacobs is the perfect Aladdin. He opened the show as the title character on Broadway and we are lucky in Los Angeles to see this talented and charismatic Broadway star onstage.


Not only do Aladdin and the Genie have chemistry together, but the show humanizes the animal characters, introducing three new and very entertaining friends of Aladdin – Babkak, Omar and Kassim (photo above of actors Philippe Arroyo, Zach Bencal and Mike Longo), instead of Aladdin’s kleptomaniac monkey partner Abu.

The rich voice behind Jafar is actor Jonathan Weir. Instead of a wisecracking parrot sidekick, the evil villain has a hilarious human partner played by Reggie De Leon as Iago. Jafar’s references to the beloved bird from the animation is in a line to De Leon “Really Iago, must you parrot everything.“ Iago reminds me a lot of Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

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Jasmine played by Isabelle McCalla

Jasmine played by Isabelle McCalla’s performance warms up when she takes a magic carpet ride with Jacobs. Who wouldn’t, he’s dreamy.

New songs in the show include Aladdin singing a moving number, “Proud of Your Boy” and the hilarious “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin and Kassim.” They come back after intermission with the show stopper “Somebody’s Got Your Back”.

Aladdin is designed by seven-time Tony-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley, and six-time Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz. Their sets are spectacular, especially when the emerald green interior of the cave where Aladdin and the Genie meet, turns into a brilliant golden oasis with a tap dancing, fist pumping number with references to other successful Menken, Ashman and Rice Disney musicals. The applause was almost deafening as Michael James Scott was visibly moved by the audience adoration, thanking Los Angeles for their kindness.

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Actress Michelle West

There was some Disney magic during the breathtaking magic carpet scene with a black sky and shooting stars, as Aladdin and Jasmine soared above the stage without a base or cable lines for the audience to see.

Two-time Tony-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes colorful array of Las Vegas style “bling” outfits include belly dancing ladies in harem pants, shirtless sword swallowing men and a sparkling Genie’s Zoot Suit.

Another impressive scene was “Prince Ali” with choreography by Nicholaw, vocals and music by music director Michael Kosarin, orchestration by Danny Troob and dance music arranged by Glen Kelly. Disney style streamers are shot into the audience and pyrotechnics create a grand scale introduction.

As a line in the show states, “It’s not what’s on the outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.” Inside the Pantages, they have another winning show that appeals to families (children under 8 might be scared during a couple scenes) and Aladdin fans of all ages.
Disney is currently working on Aladdin, an upcoming American musical movie directed by Guy Ritchie. It’s scheduled to premier in 2019.

To purchase tickets, Click on this link.

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