Category Archives: New York Restaurants

Where to Find a Fireplace in NYC

by Louise, Director of Operations

So far, it’s been a pretty cold winter in NYC (and everywhere else!) We’ve seen temperatures in the teens enough times that there’s nothing more we’d all like to do than huddle around a nice fireplace – unfortunately, working fireplaces are not so common in New York hotels and apartments. But if you know which bars or restaurants to visit, you can still hear the satisfying crackle and feel the decadent warmth. Here are some of our top picks:

fp_campCamp
179 Smith Street, Brooklyn.
You’ll have to venture into Brooklyn for this one, but you should visit Brooklyn on your trip no matter what! Camp is located on Smith Street in Cobble Hill, one of the best neighborhoods in Brooklyn for dining and bars. The cozy layout with a generously sized fireplace, faux animal heads on the wall, board games and make-your-own s’mores could not be more inviting, especially when the mercury drops!

fp_ninthwardNinth Ward
180 2nd Avenue, Manhattan
In addition to the quintessential fireplace, Ninth Ward offers rustic décor, mood lighting, inviting booths, and some of the best poutine in the city – it comes with andouille gravy and gouda! Also try their signature cocktail, the Laura Palmer: Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka with fresh lemon juice. You might forget that it’s winter entirely.

fp_lanternskeepLantern’s Keep
49 W 44th Street, Manhattan
If you want this cocktail snob’s opinion, midtown is rather bereft of really special cocktail bars. Lantern’s Keep, in the Iriquois Hotel, is a notable exception. The intimate atmosphere feels like a step back in time, and the traditional speakeasy-style cocktails are all expertly crafted. If you’re trying to avoid a crowded bar scene, this spot is for you – make reservations at least 24 hours in advance (more is recommended) and a table will be waiting for you.

fp_blindtigerBlind Tiger
281 Bleecker Street, Manhattan
On the other hand, if you’re into the “scene,” there aren’t many more active spots than the Blind Tiger, in the heart of Greenwich Village. They have one of the best and most extensive beer collections in the city, a delectable small-plates menu that is above and beyond your traditional bar food, and a very devoted clientele. If you want to avoid the crowds, pay them a visit for lunch.

These are just my favorites – if you have your own top spots for blaze-gazing in the city, leave them in the comments!

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Filed under New York Restaurants, NYC News and Information, Out on the Town

Mangia! The Brooklyn pizza tour!

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

pizza5When boarding the bus for the Brooklyn Pizza Tour, I was not sure what else to expect besides getting pizza from two of the best pizzerias in Brooklyn without having to wait in line (which by itself is worth taking the tour!) Our tour guide, Paula, was very entertaining and informative, telling a lot of great stories about the Brooklyn Bridge (and the woman who made it finally happen), the Grimaldi’s pizza feud, sites of attempted mob hits, and other little known facts about Brooklyn.

pizza4The views coming in were wonderful; within the first half hour or so, we passed over the Manhattan Bridge, (which included photo ops for the Brooklyn Bridge), saw work being done on Jim Carrey’s new NYC apartment, and made our first stop into DUMBO where we were able to walk around Brooklyn Bridge Park and take pictures of the beautiful skyline.

We boarded the bus again for Grimaldi’s and Paula showed us a few spots that were used to film major motion pictures. She used the television screens on the bus to show us the movie clips and paused the screen when we approached the exact site. We reached Grimaldi’s to see a long line of people wrapped around the corner and were advised to not make eye contact (a standard NYC rule of thumb). Whenpizzatour1 exiting the bus I could see why. We were able to walk right inside where our tables were waiting, and received their delicious thin crust Margherita pizza within minutes. All of the ingredients are fresh (with the cheese brought in every morning) and are cooked in one of the few coal brick ovens left in the city for about 3 minutes. The basil adds a touch of flavor and color (The colors of the Italian flag!)  They also have a nice selection of bottled sodas; the Black Cherry was popular choice at our table.

After our first pizza stop we learned more about Brooklyn’s pizza history from Paula as we headed toward Bay Ridge and other Brooklyn neighborhoods. She took us past beautiful mansions and brownstones and showed us a few more movie locations complete with scenes (Goodfellas and Annie Hall to name two). We then headed over to our second pizza stop L&B Spumoni Gardens but not without driving along 86th street, location of the opening of Saturday Night Fever, complete with the Bee Gee’s Staying Alive.

pizza2We arrived at our next pizza location, L&B Spumoni Gardens, where we were able to, once again, skip the line. This restaurant was voted to have the best Sicilian pizza in the city by an NYC magazine for so many years in a row that they eventually did away with the contest altogether. L&B were also featured on a Travel Channel favorite, Man vs. Food. Due to the special way they prepare their pizza (you’ll find out how when you take the tour!) it is light, fresh and simply heaven on a plate. I hope my favorite pizzeria in Jersey City, NJ never sees this write up, because I can say L&B has the best Sicilian slices I have ever had. Even as I write this I am contemplating the next time I can go back.

By this point, my friend and I were just about full, but we still had it in us to get a small cup of their spumoni. Spumoni, as I learned on the tour, is a type of Italian ice cream that is typically layered. The Spumoni Gardens’ spumoni consists of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio. I advise, even if you couldn’t eat another bite, to at least ask for a free sample of spumoni (after all L&B’s is famous for it!) It makes for a sweet, refreshing end to your meal.

pizza3Our group then boarded the bus to make one last stop at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk, (no stops at Nathan’s, but then we didn’t need it!) though our tour guide did offer to give subway directions back to the city for those who wished to stay at Coney Island, and walk more of the boardwalk or check out the rides at Luna Park. As we walked the boardwalk, our guide walked among the group to talk to us and answer any questions we had. Once we passed the Cyclone, it was time to board the bus one last time to come back to Manhattan.

During the ride back, Paula played one last video of all the famous actors, musicians and athletes to come from Brooklyn. Just before we entered the tunnel, she put on some Frank Sinatra which felt appropriate as we rode back to NYC relaxed, full, and happy. I highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to try amazing pizza without waiting in long lines, and also those that may have done most of the Manhattan tours and is looking for something different. This tour definitely has something for everyone; a great neighborhood tour, some movie sites, and of course great pizza.

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Cronut Crazy

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

After reading so much about the delicious dessert that had taken the city by storm since May, I decided to use one of my days off to finally get my hands on one of the sweet must haves of the summer. Being no stranger to waiting in line for hours on end (from free concerts to standing room tickets to meeting celebrities at conventions) I figured it was worth a go, especially for something so delicious!

cronut1My journey to the Dominique Ansel Bakery began at 5am. Multiple sites recommend getting there before 6:45 to make sure you get one before they sell out. On average they make around 250 a day and only 2 cronuts are allowed person. I arrived at 6:30 and could see the line as I exited the Spring Street stop which already reached around the corner from the bakery. I counted myself 89th in line. There were many different types of people on the line; guys in business suits, families, interns, tourists, even two young girls playing card games on a blanket. By the time my coworker arrived ten minutes later 20 people had already lined up behind me. I would have liked her to join me, but an argument I witnessed minutes before between a man who had come to meet his friend in line and a man that had lined up behind them showed me that this kind of thing is frowned upon, so she had to go to the back of the line.

cronut6Over the next hour and a half several people would walk past and ask what the line was for (each one gave a confused or incredulous face when they were told we were waiting for the cronut), one even walked by and referred to us as “Cronies”, which I’m guessing is the name of the cronut fans. Several people (including myself) got out of the line just to take pictures of how long the line was.  Finally 8 o’ clock came and the line began to move along, the workers came out from time to time to move us to free the sidewalk and to answer any questions. They had also come out with a plate of treats, but I’m lead to think that they were only for the front of the line as I didn’t get one. I found out that the bakery had made 325 cronuts to sell for the day, but also 200 for their preorders (which you don’t have to wait in line for if you are lucky enough to get through to call in Monday mornings) and also 600 for a segment they were doing for the Jimmy Fallon show. They only let in around 15-20 people at a time, so even though they opened at 8, I did not get in until 9am.

When you finally reach the doors, which at cronut5this point felt like the golden gates, Mr. Ansel himself is there to hold open the door for you. The shop really is on the small side like most bakeries (even Cake Boss’ Carlo’s Bakery is on the small side!) so to have a limit of 15-20 people makes the atmosphere much less hectic than the outside line. The workers at the bakery could not have been nicer and treat you as if you are visiting on a nice relaxing day (as if there was not a huge line of over 100 people outside). They also had some classic rock piping through to create a very nice vibe. We were ushered to the back of the bakery where there is a window so you can see the chefs baking and preparing. I watched as they used pastry bags to inject cream and the blackberry goodness inside. They are then brought to the front where the icing and small sprinkle of lime was added.

cronut2My time at the register finally arrived and in addition to the cronuts I had also ordered the frozen smore which I had also read about online. The frozen smore is a giant marshmallow that holds a center of vanilla ice cream and chocolate. The marshmallow is placed on a hibiscus stick and then burned to order with a torch. (To answer your question, YES! It is as delicious as it sounds. )

cronut3Sadly, by the time my coworker reached the bakery she had run out of time and had to leave for work, so she only had time to purchase a coffee and a DKA (Dominique’s Kouign Amann). I decided to do the right thing and give her one of my two cronuts to which she traded her DKA. When she left I went into their back garden; they actually have two, one air conditioned, and one outside. I wanted to save my cronut for home so I enjoyed the frozen smore and the DKA. They were both delicious and surprisingly available without having to wait on the long line (which is only for the cronuts). The smore was a lovely gooey, cold, and sweet bite all rolled into one and the DKA reminded me of the flavor of the old pretzel butter cookies with the sugar “salt” that would come in the blue tin (which were always my favorite) but of course it was so much more fresh and delicious. As I told a friend, you could taste the butter, sugar, and love. There were a few birds in the garden as well; I shared a bit with one and felt for a few minutes as if I were back in Paris. I was amazed that despite this bakery’s newfound popularity they are still able to keep this relaxed atmosphere. As I left with my golden box The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun was playing and Dominique Ansel held open the door for me and thanked me for coming; which could not have been a more perfect ending.

cronut4After all that the big question- How was the Cronut? Was it worth waiting for? Is it really like taking a bite out of Heaven? A resounding yes! Though it may seem silly, it felt good to finally hold the thing that I had wanted and waited for so long. The cronut as a whole was fresh and delicious and the little bit of lime added just the right amount of tart to the blackberry. I’m excited to try the August flavor… coconut!

Tips and tricks:

  • Do your research, check out yelp reviews and also the Dominque Ansel Website http://dominiqueansel.com/cronut-101/ It’s also good to know what you want to get before you get inside so that the lines move along and the people in line behind you are less likely to be feisty. (I HIGHLY recommend the Frozen Smore and the DKA)
  • Get there early! Especially if you plan to go on a weekend. Plan for 6-6:30am, some even get there for 5am.
  • Be sure to bring a book or something that can keep you entertained for 2 or more hoursGet there as a group; you cannot meet up with friends already in line and friends cannot meet up with you; from what I have witnessed this is strictly enforced by other people on the line.
  • Visit the garden in the back; after waiting for hours to get inside you may as well, it’s like a little Paris café within SoHo.
  • If you’d like a Cronut without waiting in line, they do take 2 week advance preorders on Monday mornings at 11am. It is very difficult and only the lucky get through. Or there is always Craigslist or some that offer a Cronut delivery service, but those often charge around $50-100 per order and also might not be that reliable. Though it is far more rewarding to just take one morning and wait in the line.

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Hot Summer in the City

by Louise, Director of Operations

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s definitely summa-time here in NYC, and if you’re going hard on the sightseeing chances are you’re going to want a nice cold treat at some point. But you’re on vacation! You don’t want to hit up a chain you could easily patronize at home. Resist the millions of Starbucks, Haagen Daaz, and frozen yogurt shops of all ilks and indulge in some treats you can only get in New York City.

Schmackary’s
http://schmackarys.com
schmackarysSchmackary’s is a haven for those seeking delicious snacks before or after a Broadway show (or really anytime) – and that includes the stars of the shows themselves! Located on 45th street near 9th avenue, just on the border of Hell’s Kitchen and Times Square, Schmackary’s opened just over a year ago by a former aspiring actor from Lincoln, Nebraska. Since then, it has taken the theater district by storm with inventive and ridiculously delicious cookies. As if their cookies weren’t awesome enough on their own, they will take any two cookies and sandwich them with a scoop of ice cream for a treat you won’t soon forget. Their shakes are also pretty insane – the malted milkball shake haunts my dreams.

Blue Marble Ice Cream
http://www.bluemarbleicecream.com/find/scoop-shops/
Blue Marble owns and operates NYC’s only certified organic ice cream plant – located in Brooklyn. They also use locally sourced ingredients, biodegradable bowls/spoons/etc, “green” building materials for their shops, and on and on. Plus they have a partnership with a group of women in Rwanda, whom they helped to open the country’s first ice cream shop. “So,” you’re thinking, “They sound like great people but WHAT OF THE ICE CREAM?” Don’t worry. It’s freaking amazing. You should eat all of it.

Big Gay Ice Cream
http://biggayicecream.com
biggayWhere else but New York could an ice cream truck bill itself as the “Big Gay Ice Cream Truck” and launch a successful business with two brick-and-mortar locations? Okay, San Francisco…but still! It’s a pretty New York thing. The owners of BGIC combine traditional Mister Softee-style softserve cones with a variety of toppings I can pretty much guarantee you haven’t had on ice cream before – wasabi pea dust, sriracha, curried coconut and much more. Supporting small business, enjoying an old comfort food, AND trying something new all it once? It’s almost too much awesome. BGIC has two locations now, one in the East Village and one in the West Village, serving the combos that made them famous and a variety of other treats. Make the trip!

il laboratorio del gelato
http://www.laboratoriodelgelato.com/thelab.php
You can buy pints of this these fresh, unique gelato and sorbet flavors at several retail locations around the city, but for the full experience you should go to the storefront on Orchard Street, where you can watch the desserts being made in the open kitchen before your eyes! There are over 200 flavors (though only 48 are available at the café at a time), so bring your appetite and at least a few friends.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
http://www.vanleeuwenicecream.com/
vanleeuwenLaunched in 2008 by some more of those crafty Brooklyn kids, Van Leeuwen produces some of the best ice cream you will ever taste, made primarily from local ingredients and supporting small producers and artisans. Everything is delectably rich and creamy while not being overly sweet and with nothing artificial. They have an unbeatable mint chocolate chip flavor that is (gasp) NOT bright green. They’re signature yellow trucks can be found around the city and they have several stores too.

I could go on and on, but you’re probably thinking you need to stop reading and go get some ice cream…so please, I implore you, when you visit NYC this summer walk past the Mister Softee and the Baskin Robbins and find a real New York ice cream shop!

Recommendations of your own? Post them in the comments!

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La Villette: Classic French cuisine in the West Village

by Louise, Director of Operations

Greenwich Village is not lacking in restaurants. In fact, it is fairly overwhelming to make even a simple food choice, whether you’re looking for pizza, a bagel, or an ice cream cone – the sheer volume of options can leave even the hungriest visitor feeling a bit lost. When you’re looking for a nice, relaxed sit-down meal it can be even tougher.

Allow me to narrow it down for you: next time you find yourself in the West Village, you’ll want to check out La Villette. This newcomer to the Village restaurant scene occupies a cozy, beautifully lit space at 10 Downing Street filled with rich reds and clean whites. The warm ambience is complemented nicely and unexpectedly by lively, pulsing music that is remarkably unobstrusive despite being not unlike the style you’d hear in a club.

We were warmly greeted by charismatic owner of La Villette, Angelo Peruzzi, upon our arrival and led to a fantastic table that offered a view of the whole restaurant and the floor to ceiling windows looking out on 6th avenue. We started with a couple of the restaurant’s signature cocktails – refreshing, invigorating and expertly-crafted – while we pondered the menu and discussed how many of the enticing selections we could dare to try in one sitting.

lavillette1For our first course, Chef Christophe Bonnegrace brought us one of his signature dishes: Le Poireaux Vinagrette Janick (slow braised leeks with mustard vinagrette). The presentation of this dish is simple, clean and elegant, and the flavors match. It’s the perfect way to whet the appetite and start off a wonderful meal. Next, out came a selection of seafood, all expertly prepared (unsurprising considering Chef Bonnegrace’s upbringing in Provence). The tiger shrimp with lemon and cayenne pepper was particularly fantastic – the shrimp perfectly tender and the cayenne offering exactly the right amount of spice to make the flavors pop without overwhelming our palates. Dishes like these always make me particularly joyful – a few simplavillette2le ingredients are all you really need to make magic happen, and many chefs tend to forget that.

Next up was a selection of house-made charcuterie. The pate de campagne was incredibly delicate for a country-style pate, and the foie gras terrine made my day, especially when I paired its rich lushness with the perfectly sweet fig compote that arrived along with it. I could have eaten several of these terrines, and I’m sure I will when I visit aglavillette3ain in the future.

For our entrees, we sampled two of La Villette’s signature dishes – La Lapin a La Moutarde (braised mustard rabbit with green olives) and a cajun-rubbed chicken breast served with french fries and a side of beurre blanc, poured over the chicken tableside. The rabbit was tender supple with wonderful flavor, complemented beautifully by the accompanying mustard sauce. This is a classic dish in Provence, but one that many Americans may never have tried. If you haven’t had rabbit, logo_la-villette-brasseriethis is the way to try it for the first time. There is no doubt that Chef Bonnegrace knows how to highlight its natural deliciousness that is really unlike any other meat. The chicken could be considered a fairly mainstream dish, but the addition of the beurre blanc really sends it over the top, taming the cajun spice and bringing out the chicken’s underlying sweetness.

But oh – we were far from done with our meal as of course, you can’t dine at a French brasserie without dessert. Two French classics were presented to us – a simple but perfect crème brulee (nothing irks me more than when chefs add unnecessary flavoring to crème brulee, as it is absolutely perfect in its essence) and a gorgeous apple tart, the puff pastry crust perfectly crisp and supple without a hint of toughness. By this point we were well into happy food delirium, but when our server mentioned cheese I just couldn’t say no. Cheese lavillette4is a serious weakness for me, and based on the impeccable selections we’d seen so far I had a good feeling that this would be a cheese plate worth sticking around for, and I was absolutely right. The board features five phenomenal French cheeses, with portions much more generous than what you often see (another pet peeve of mine).  We lingered over the plate and a final glass of wine for a long time, already so sated but knowing we weren’t going anywhere until that cheese was gone.

As we prepared to leave, we noted with little surprise that four and a half hours had passed since we’d arrived. That’s just the kind of place La Villette is – you can get lost in the food and ambience for ages, barely aware that the time is passing. So be careful if you have theater tickets, or better yet – make your reservation when you don’t have anywhere else to be, take off your watch, turn off your phone and enjoy.

Want to try out La Villette for yourself? Feel free to contact me for your preferred reservation!

Check out La Villette’s amazing New Year’s Eve menus below!

La Villette’s New Year’s Eve menu – 5-6:45 PM seating

La Villette’s New Year’s Eve menu – 7-8:45 PM seating

La Villette’s New Year’s Eve menu – 9-11:45 PM seating

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A perfect family dinner at Alfredo of Rome

by Tara, New York Guest Concierge

SAMSUNGBefore our trip to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, my friend, her mother and daughter, my aunt and I went to dine at Alfredo of Rome. Despite being a little late for our reservation (gotta love NYC traffic!) the hostess was very courteous and sat us right away. It was very busy for a Friday night in the city, as Rockefeller Center at Christmastime is bound to be, but we were greeted and had our order taken fairly quickly. My friend and my aunt split the Pailiard di Pollo with spinach and potatoes (They are both light eaters, and the entrée was enough for both of them and even to share some with me!), her mother had the Insalata Riccia (which I will be ordering on my next visit!), and I had the Trittica di Pasta. Her daughter is a picky eater, but they were able to accommodate us with penne and marinara.

SAMSUNGWhile waiting for our entrees we were given a bread basket with 2 dipping sauces, my favorite was the sweet chili (not too sweet and not too hot!) and my friend absolutely loved the tapenade. No sooner did we finish the bread when the entrees arrived (maybe 10 minutes!) Everything was delicious, and the portions were generous which made for some fun family style sharing. The chicken was delicious and juicy and the salad was perfectly seasoned and dressed. I got to enjoy their famous fettuccine alfredo, along with tasty veal ravioli and lasagna with a creamy cheese filling.

For dessert we ordered the tiramisu (my favorite) and the profiteroles which take 10-15 minutes to prepare, but the wait is worth it! The profiteroles came covered with a hazelnut sauce which, as a Nutella fan, I was very happy with. It was my friend’s mother’s birthday so we were also treated to a slice of chocolate cake with a candle (she was very surprised!) Her daughter was even given a complementary dish of vanilla gelato that was creamy and sweet.

alfredo3The manager is an absolute delight, visiting our table often, checking on how we were enjoying everything and even telling us about the man who makes the vanilla gelato! The waitress also kept an eye on the time because she knew we had to get to Radio City for the show, which I was grateful for because I had almost lost track of time. Everyone in my group had an enjoyable time; my friend was particularly happy because her mother had had such a good time and even finished her entire entrée (which she usually never does!) After going out to different restaurants and leaving disappointed, it has become difficult for them to eat out together, so she was happy to go to a place that her mother enjoyed. Needless to say, we would like to return during our next family outing to the city!

Did Tara’s review make you hungry? E-mail info@newyorkguest.com for your preferred Alfredo of Rome reservations!

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World Yacht: A Perfect Evening on New York Harbor

by Louise, Community Manager

My two best friends and I are fairly spread out across the tri-state area, and between distance and schedules we only get a chance to all be together a few times a year. This last Sunday was one of those happy times, and we decided to spend the end of our day on a World Yacht Dining Cruise.

The view from our table as we pulled away from the dock

Dining cruises are absolutely a perfect romantic activity – in fact, the couple seated directly next to us had just gotten married! – but they are also a great outing for friends. We had a perfect table right by the window and watched the Circle Line cruises depart while we waited for our own departure time, sipping drinks brought to us by our waiter, Clayton.

The Freedom Tower

Appetizers were served before we even left the dock, which I wasn’t expecting but was awesome – no need to waste optimal cruising time eating! We all three ordered the irresistible grilled watermelon salad – juicy watermelon combined with crunchy butter lettuce, salty crumbles of feta, and aged balsamic – and it was the perfect way to start the meal. I didn’t lick my plate, but I thought about it!

The live band was awesome and played great standards like Stand by Me, The Way You Look Tonight, and of course New York, New York. The pianist and singer had an amazing soothing voice, the perfect accompaniment for dinner. We thoroughly enjoyed their performance as we tucked into our entrees – mahi mahi with fresh pineapple salsa for me and skirt steak with purple potatoes for my friends.

When we finished our entrees the band had taken a break and we decided to go check out the outdoor lounge on the upper deck of the ship. It was completely gorgeous upstairs, especially with the beautiful weather and the striking sunset that was taking place. The deck has plentiful chairs and loveseats for those who wish to make themselves comfortable with a glass of champagne or a cocktail. We spend quite a while up there watching as we sailed past the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges and headed for Lady Liberty herself.

Even though I’ve lived in New York City my entire life, I am still struck by the beauty of the Statue of Liberty whenever I get close enough to really see her. She was particularly beautiful against the backdrop of the stunning sunset, and nobody on the ship could stop taking pictures.

After giving our cameras a workout, we headed back downstairs for dessert and coffee. We ordered all three desserts – the fruit tart, a cheesecake, and a warm chocolate ganache cake. All three were delicious. The band struck up again and drew all the couples on board on to the dance floor with a few romantic tunes as we headed back to the city.

Being able to spend quality time with my favorite ladies is a priceless thing that I wish I got to do more often, and World Yacht was the perfect venue for us to spend an evening together. Whether you’re in town with a significant other or with friends, I absolutely recommend it! You can contact me directly for help with your booking at lgeller@newyorkguest.com.

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