10 Things To Eat In Florence

Ziggy:

I’m off to the land of Wiener Schnitzels, Utopencis, and Goulash. No, not my in-laws, much further. I wont be around for a few weeks, so I leave you with this oldie but goodie

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Carapina FlorenceIt was like seeing your dentist in the supermarket. Flying from Newark, the last thing I wanted to see upon landing in Florence was standing there in all its glory, IKEA!  And it was not your average IKEA, no.  This was a mean and scary one.  I mean the Airport is located in its parking lot!  I did not come 4182.6 miles which included a scenic tour around Charles de Gaulle on a shuttle from hell to eat Swedish Meatballs.  I needed to see pizza ASAP and 90 minutes later I did.

When in Florence, or Rome, or anywhere else pretty much, leave your eating habits behind.  Forget the bread with butter, your evening cappuccino, your well done steak.  Eat and drink like a local and let the chefs do their thing without asking for alterations.  When we went to Portugal a few years ago we kept hearing about the Portuguese obsession with Bacalhau, and how they…

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Santina – Lucca via Miami Beach

Santina CecinaA lot of firsts for me at this new Carbone/Torrisi team hot spot.  The first time I took a picture of my napkin.  The first time I had Cecina in NYC.  And the first time I caused an incident of mammoth proportions.  Mammoth!  But lets start with the first first.

The Napkin – I will just let the pictures do the talking.  You may see a cinamon bun, though I immediately see the rolling Bowery steak from Bowery Meat Company in that napkin.  Maybe I should see a mental health professional about that.  Its not just the napkin.  I didnt take a picture of the outside umbrellas and server attire but I urge you to google this place.  On both visits I felt like I was missing a white sweater around my neck and a tennis racket.  Miami Beach Chic under the the High Line.

Santina

The Cecina (pictured above) is like a crepe, or pancake, made from chickpea flour.  Its a specialty of the Ligurian Sea coast spanning from Nice to Pisa.  In Lucca, we saw them bake the Cecina in a wood burning pizza oven.  Its thicker and can be eaten alone with just some seasoning.  Here the Cecina is more like a thin spongy crepe, like the Ethiopian Injera.  Not intended to be eaten alone I dont think.  So when I see other bloggers say to avoid this because its flavorless, I say the point is being missed here.  Combine it with any of the 5 “toppings” (tuna tartar, mushroom, shrimp, lamb tartar, avocado) for a very playful and tasty snack.  So far I had the lamb and tuna.  You can make four little wraps using the four Cecina slices (pronounced Chechina), or you can just tear some to scoop the toppings like in a druze village.  There’s no right or wrong way of eating it, and I highly recommend it and the rest of the menu

One of my biggest fears while dining out happened during the Cecina course.  And I don’t have many fears to be honest.  The only fears that come to mind are death, falling while putting pants on, and dying after falling while putting jeans on.  No one in the history of the world ever died while putting their pants on, and I don’t want to be the first.  When I’m spending my hard earned money while dining out, my biggest pet peeve is getting the dishes too quickly, or at the same time.  It happens far too often lately, and its getting a little annoying.  Here I got the Shrimp Zingara middle course not even five minutes after the Cecina.  I wasn’t even halfway done with both the cecina, and fantasizing about being back at the beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The servant quickly realized the situation and asked me if I want him to take it back to keep it warm in the kitchen, which I never know what to say to that for so many reasons.  “Hmmm, I suppose.  Will it still be good?”.Santina Zingara

Shortly thereafter, after I finished the Cecina, another server came over to take the plates away including the bottle of the green salsa verde that came as part of the Cecina arsenal.  I then watched in horror as the green bottle, almost in slaw mo, lean over, coming down crashing.  A team of scientists could not ungreen the floor after that.  I felt particularly bad about this incident because moments earlier I made a mental note to put the bottle back in the allocated spot after using it a few times, and I never did.  The waiter may have assumed the bottle is secured in its spot after picking up the tray, and oops.  I apologized to him three times about this faux pas, but the staff can not assume the patrons are in the habit of putting everything in its place.

The moment was gone.  I’m suddenly on the wait staff shit list, and I’m about to get a dry shrimp Zingara that was prepared 20 minutes ago and probably missing its Zingara by now.  But to my surprise the shrimp dish arrives good as new, as if it was just prepared.  The shrimp didnt toughen and were soft as a baby bottom.  The rice was toasty, nicely al dented and had plenty of zing to it.  The only issue was too much capers, as by the end I found myself separating them away from the action.  Maybe they indeed made two Zingaras because I mistakenly was charged for two (or was it a shit list confirmation)

Putting service and personal issues aside, everything else I had was original and well prepared.  On a previous visit with a friend we shared a Cecina, and an ingenious Guanciale e pepe.   The name resembles the familiar Roman Cacio e Pepe, but the ingredients bring it closer to the rice version of Gricia, a lesser known Roman pasta.  Guanciales, black pepper and grated Pecorino play together ever so nicely.  I also really liked the simple, herby whole grilled porgy with sliced hearts of palm so sweet they taste like pear.

Looking forward to taste the rest of Santina.  If I’m welcomed.

Santina
820 Washington St (under the begining of the High Line, south end)
$$$

Santina Guanciale e pepe Santina Porgy

 

 

 

 

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The Book of Danji

Danji TofuA rare phenomenon in my personal dining experience.  Something I very rarely see and actively try to avoid was all around us this time.  The walking dead has nothing on these guys.  The lone approach of avoiding direct eye contact didnt work in this particular case because they were everywhere you turned.  I’m talking about.. you probably guessed it by now..{gulp}… theater goers!  I know, scary stuff.  We saw them on the way to Danji, inside Danji, and even by the theaters!  We saw them walking in and out in a bizarre orderly fashion (a line?) out of the mothership which they call, Ellen Stardust, or something like that.

But it turned out not too painful at the end.  In fact, while I was in the process of suggesting the tofu to the couple next to us in German (“Der tofu ist ausgezeichnet, ich KILLA”), I realized something.  Theater goers are just misunderstood.  They are simply regular working folk, just like you and I.  And thanks to blog posts such as this one, they are able to eat well after watching puppets having sex on a stage, or Book of Mormon.  It also hit me that after many lunches this is my first dinner at Danji and I was simply not emotionally prepared for this change of scenery.

The book on Danji is this.  A playful menu that includes more than one signature dish in a cozy setting that feels nothing like your average pre-theater dining spot.  The menus are inside the drawers in front of you, and no matter how many times I go there, I always, without fail, hand the menus to the waitress only to be reminded again that I can just put them back in the drawer.  One of these days.  Here’s what to get at Danji

Lunch:

Tofu – I’ve already written about this one extensively.  Quite possibly my favorite veggie dish in NYC.  Normally what I do is let someone else have the extra chicken wing and pretend to be polite, in order to get the extra tofu.  I throw them a bone (literally) and they fall for it every time.  Not Mrs Ziggy however, though she did split the last one.  This is pure awesomeness.

Bulgogi Beef Sliders – Another one of the signatures.  You get two sliders but you can add more if needed.  Small, and packed with sweet deliciousness.  I’ve written about them before as well.

KFC Wings –  I can only think of a few wings in town that I prefer.  Ma Peche’s jerks , maybe Pok Pok.  Plenty of joyous heat and complexity in this one.  The key is not to wash your hands for a few days after eating them, or until your next convention.  Whichever comes sooner!

Bibim-bap – This is  a traditional rice dish with marinated veggies, egg, spicy gochujang sauce and the item you choose (beef, pork, veg, etc).  I’m partial to the Kimchi Pork, but its all good.

Danji tofuDanji SlidersDanji - WingsDanji Bibim - Bop

Dinner:  Any of the above except Bibim-bap which is not available, plus…

Garlic honey wings w. sesame seeds – My guests this evening actually preferred this over the spicy wings

Spicy Yellowtail Sashimi –  This was a surprise in a way since I was expecting more of a basic Yellowtail Sashimi, but instead they were wrapped around some veggies sitting on top a lovely chojang sauce.  Good flavors throughout.

Soy-Poached Black Cod W. Spicy Daikon – Last week we were invited to Fushimi one of those Nobu wannabes in Staten Island.  Inexplicably Fushimi removed their Black Cod from the menu (we were there before) to Mrs Ziggy’s chagrin.  So ordering this classic at Danji was a no brainer, and it did not disappoint.  Sweet, perfectly cooked cod, along with a hefty piece of daikon that was braised until it had the texture of a potato.

Kimchi Bacon Spam Wet Fried Rice – A grower.  One of those dishes that kept growing on me to the point of not able to stop eating.  There’s ham, bacon, pork belly, egg on top, more of that spicy korean sauce, and plenty of toasty socarrat for the occasional crunch.  Excellent stuff!

Spicy Octopus w. thick noodles – I’m a bit more on the fence on this one.  I enjoyed it, but I couldnt help but wonder if the dish would be better served with a milder sauce perhaps to bring out the flavors of the octopus a bit more.  Still, I pretty much demolished this thing and recommend it

No dessert.  Just walk along 9th and go to something like Annabel, or if you have the time, Gotham West Market for Ample Hills Salty Crack Caramel.

Danji
346 W 52nd St
$$$

Danji Sashimi Danji Cod Danji Fried Rice Danji Octopus Danji

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Seven Provo Bites – May 2015

Flamingos Grouper

Grouper at Flamingos

To continue the tradition, I offer you 7 more TCI dishes to chew on (plus a bonus 8th).  Except that you can file this one under the “Lazy Post” column as I’m just gonna throw them out there.  As you saw a few days ago I have a lot on mind and so I dont have the time for a full blown WWH type post this time.  I hope to write more for WWH in the future if I’m still welcomed.  But I’ve adopted a lazier more relaxed approach to picture taking, and they are no longer magazine quality.  Perhaps its time for a change anyway and write about something else?  My family is a little worried, but lately I developed a particular interest in birds.  They are just so colorful and pretty!  If anyone needs a TCI bird correspondent, I’m your man.  No birds were harmed during the making of this post, except for stealing some of their food.

Conch Fritters at Crackpot Kitchen

Conch Fritters at Crackpot Kitchen

Salmon at Seaside Cafe

Salmon at Seaside Cafe

Fish Tacos at Caravel

Fish Tacos at Caravel

Fried Snapper at Coyaba

Fried Snapper at Coyaba

Pumpkin Tortelli at Caicos Cafe

Pumpkin Tortelli at Caicos Cafe

Arancini at Lupo

Arancini at Lupo

Bugaloos - Snapper

Snapper at Bugaloo’s

 

 

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Capizzi – Fughetaboutit!

CapizziI figured the best way to express myself this time around would be by sharing the latest clinical results from my team of doctors.  The monthly report is normally 38-50 pages long but here I will just share the “thoughts” pie chart on page 17.  The chart varies from month to month but the big players are more or less constant.  And since my Islanders were ousted last night, I expect Hockey to be replaced by sex, pasta or a combination of sorts very soon.  But as you can see, I do think about pizza often.  I recently had to impose a limit on my pizza intakes and now I’m down to just twice a month.  So when I have a bad one on occasion, I do get cranky a little.  I need to make it count.

meta-chartAnd so to make it count I either go to Don Antonio or Capizzi these days.  Sure a slice or three from Sacco, or Merilu, or a combination of the two (my current preferred method) does the trick.  While Don Antonio is one of the best in the Neapolitan business.  But there’s something magical going on at Capizzi, which is just about my favorite pizza in NYC at the moment.

The pizza at Capizzi is as solid as it gets.  It’s the Pat of the NY Pizza scene.  Sometimes it looks more Neapolitan, sometimes more NYC like.  Its somewhere in between really, and always delicious.  I would even say it gets better with age.  The ingredients are fresh, some ingredients like the sausages are made in house.  The dough is first rate, and the pie comes out of that wood burning oven (built by Joe the owner) with a thin crisp bottom, and the perfect char.  The ingredients on top speak for themselves.  In Italian!

Taste/Pain Ratio  is something I talk about sometimes.  The formula that measures the level of taste to the level of enjoyment or suffering one must endure for it.  Like women’s shoes.  Your sexy new heels will not look very sexy if you are in pain and cant walk straight.  You may think you are sexy, but you are not.  Grimaldi’s may dish out a decent pie, but it demands quite an effort to get there and stand on line, resulting in a low Taste/Pain ratio.  Tourists do the pilgrimage to the legendary Di Fara in Brooklyn, spending half a day door-to-bite, convincing themselves that its worth it, while not realizing that there’s around 20 places that would suit them just fine in Manhattan.

Capizzi may very well have the highest Taste/Pain Ratio in NYC.  There’s never any sort of wait.  Yo get a comfortable table and personal service each and every time (both aspects may be lacking sometimes in Don Antonio and the busier Tavola across the street.  Busier than Capizzi that is).  Capizzi is old school Brooklyn without the rich history of a Lombardi’s, and the sexiness of a Don antonio, hence not very touristy.  Joe Calcagno’s has been making those pies since he was a child in Brooklyn, helping papa.  Capizzi (a small town in Sicily where grandma came from) is one of several current Joe holdings including a popular restaurant/pizzeria in Staten Island.  Its where I go for my pizza fix

Capizzi
547 9th Ave

Capizzi Out Capizzi in

 

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Italia – Getting Organized

TuscanyI spent the last couple of days day dreaming categorizing all the Italian posts, filing them in the proper locations.  On the left side you can now see the five categories under Italy…

Florence

Rome

Tuscany

Emilia-Romagna

Piedmont

Venice, the lakes, and other parts are not there because I dont have enough blog posts on them (at the moment the count is about 0).  Here are all the tips you need on Venice:  The greatest museum in the world:  Rialto market.  The greatest bite post the greatest museum in the world:  Antiche Carampane.  That is it.  Once I come back, I will start writing on Venice and the rest of them.

But I must say, out of the 290 posts published so far since I started this blog, the Italy posts are by far my favorite.  Sure its nice to write about my home town, my adapted home town, and even New Orleans once in a while which produced the most viewed post on EWZ (571 shares on Facebook alone).  But the Italy posts, while not much in the way of generating traffic for some reason, are the reason why it took me two days to do this.  A lot of staring and day dreaming.  Italy is the reason I have a hard time getting overly excited about our trip next month to Prague, Salzburg, Vienna.  It spoiled me forever

Gattavecchi

Gattavecchi crew in Montepulciano

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Why I Like to Take Groups to Da Andrea

Da Andrea TigelleWhat is your favorite Italian?  The most confusing, challenging subject since sex education in High School.  Not only I don’t really know, but I also don’t have a clue what is your definition of “Italian”.  Italian can mean 21 different things, for the 21 very different regions including the Italian region of Staten Island.  It could also be a steakhouse (Costata), a pizza joint (Marta, Don Antonio), or a fusiony place like Piora.  Many of the so called “Italian” dont really have much in common.  In fact whenever we talk to Italian chefs in Italy about what they do and where they eat in NYC, they often mention Italian restaurants.  Because to a chef from Piedmont, a Roman restaurant may be just as foreign as Korean.  Ok, maybe not.  But to them there’s no such thing as Italian restaurants.  They are just restaurants.

But if you would ask me which of our so called Italian restaurants I frequent the most, the answer is fairly simple. For lunch, Mercato.  For dinner, Da Andrea.  Ok, maybe not as simple as I thought, as you can see.  Da Andrea is not what I would call a foodie destination.  Its a fun, fairly popular family operated neighborhood joint specializing primarily in Emilia Romagna cooking (owners from Bologna).  We’ve been frequenting Da Andrea since they were located on Hudson street deeper in the Village.  Back then they were half their current size, with lines around the block sometimes.  They didnt take reservations then, and they dont do now, unless you are 4 or more.  When I have to pick a place for groups between 4 and 12, Da Andrea is the first place that pops to mind.  Why?Da Andrea Calamari

1)  As busy as they are on a nightly basis, it’s easy to reserve large tables with a phone call.  Otherwise, trying to reserve large tables in Manhattan is like having a three day root canal

2)  It’s cheap.  At least for NYC standards.

3)  The food is generally good and family/group friendly.  My idea of family style dining is not Carmines where the dishes are super-sized low quality.  Regular size dishes can be just as family style.  You just need to know what to order and how many of them.  At Da Andrea, we must get the Tigelle, Modenese style baked to order flat buns that come with Prosciutto di Parma.  The simple, always fresh grilled calamari here is fantastic.  The tower of veggies is normally a big hit.  And as far as pastas go, the Pappardelle with sausage ragu and truffle oil has to be one of the most popular pasta dishes in town.  Its my guilty red sauce pleasure.  Although, admittedly I didnt detect much truffle flavor or scent last time.

4)  The house wine is good (and cheap)

5)  You can linger.  Chances are your large table isnt booked for another party, so you can take your time.  In fact last time, our waitress advised us to order our mains later on, in order to have ample time between courses.  You can take your time here

6)  100% success rate.  If it aint broke, why fix it.  Generally, everyone enjoys this place (you can tell), and at the end of the day that is really what counts

Da Andrea SpaghettiDa Andrea CapreseDa Andrea Veggie tower Da Andrea Pappardelle Da Andrea Cavatelli

Courtesy of https://whyhaventwebeenherebefore.wordpress.com/

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Best Dishes in Hell’s Kitchen – Round 4

Blue Ribbon Sushi Oxtail Fried Rice

Rest of the rounds can be found here

Oxtail Fried Rice at Blue Ribbon Sushi – Responsible for roughly 27% of my wet dreams.  We are blessed with all sorts of crazy fried rice dishes all over town (Ivan Ramen, Gato, Pure Thai), but this one may top them all.  Adding to the richness are bits of bone marrow, and on top of all this craziness is an egg omelette.  Once you mix it all, you get something really special.  This Blue Ribbon is inside the 6 Columbus Hotel, and depending on who you ask it may not be exactly in Hell’s Kitchen.  Some sites like Yelp think it is, and if you ask me, deliciousness should know no borders (I just came up with this)

Danji Tofu

Tofu at Danji – I smell this dish as soon as I go in.  Along with the fiery Korean Wings (some of the best in the city), Bulgogi sliders, the tofu is a must order for me on every visit.  The fact that its a tofu dish alone, and its on this list speaks major volume.  Four rectangles are flash fried, and topped with ginger scallion dressing, and that wonderful soy vinaigrette I smell upon arrival.  The result is crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and incredibly delicious throughout.  You will want to eat every single detail of this dish.

Pork Buns

Steamed Pork Buns at Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen – These are Xiao Long Bao, aka Soup Dumplings, not the pork buns we know and love (Momofuku, Ippudo).  In fact everything about the place is confusing.  The Ramen is not exactly Ramen, there’s no Kung Fu anywhere, and the pork buns are not pork buns.  But they are quite spectacular, once you develop the art of eating them properly.  You may want to hold a napkin in your right hand initially as you may splatter some juice on your neighbor.  But practice will make perfect , and after a few of these babies you will be eating them like a pro.  Just scoop it up unto the soup spoon (add some vinegar before or after), nibble once to make a hole, let the steam out for a few seconds… attack.  This is not a place to linger, nor for a fancy pre-theater meal, as you may share your table with common folk who may not be wearing Louboutin.

Pam Real Oxtail

Oxtail Soup at Pam Real Thai – This is a no-brainer since I included it in the Best Dishes of 2014.  Delicious lasting heat, complex broth, with two hefty meaty bones.  Fatty in all the right places, like slow dancing with your mother-in-law.  If my mother-in-law could cook like this, I would have an affair.  I believe it has miracle powers (cured all my flu like symptoms, and frontal balding).  It’s my favorite soup in the city of Ramen.  Disregard the lazy, minimalistic decor at this old timer (compared to the rest of the Thai in the area).  Though once you try Pam’s cooking, the decor will look like something out of a contemporary French country catalog

City Sandwich Egg Tarts

Pastel de Crema at City Sandwich – Yes, we are listing the city’s top sandwich stop and not having a sandwich.  Criminal in a way.  Until you try these things at this Portuguese inspired joint.  Yes, I suppose you can find them in your nearest Chinatown as well (They were introduced to China via Macau while under Portuguese rule).  This is the Portuguese national snack.  A creamy egg custard inside a flaky crust.  But if an egg tart is not to your liking, try their mini Panna Cotta

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Di Palo’s is my Favorite Food Store in NYC

IMG_1622Walk on Mulberry street between Broome and Hester on a sunny day, and you may notice a peculiar thing, or three.  People sitting, watching other people, and everyone is eating the same thing.  Penne with red or vodka sauce (I presume for the Russians), Frutti di Mare, and the occasional chicken parm parked right next to their guidebook.  I apologize to the people watchers who had to endure me through the years but I just love walking on that stretch simply because its such an interesting and unique attraction.  A street in the middle of Chinatown devoted entirely to tourists.  Dont get me wrong, I would not expect anyone to know that there are gems like Rubirosa, Osteria Morini, and Parm less than 5 minutes away, just like I would not know where to eat in their hometown.

But lets think for a second what would happen when the guidebooks finally get the memo that there is no such thing as Little Italy anymore.  All the businesses will most likely close, except for one, Di Palo’s.  Ok, maybe La Mela as the last of the red sauce mohicans.  But Di Palo’s has been there for almost 100 years, and unless they get booted out they are not going anywhere anytime soon.  Instead of sitting at a place that bills itself as home to the “Best Canolli in the World” (of the pre-filled and frozen kind) and watch people that look like me (again, I’m sorry), you should be sitting in Di Palo’s breathing history.  This is the real Little Italy stuffed in this small enclave on Grand steet, with a story bigger than all the red sauce joints on Mulberry combined.IMG_1616

This is not the place for a quick purchase, unless you come early in the morning when they first open.  In here you linger.  This is the only store in NY where you feel good about getting a number and dont really mind waiting much, because you know you’ll be getting the same kind of treatment when its your turn.  Once your turn is up, you may get one of the Di Palo’s (Lou, Sal, Marie) or one of the trusted workers who are probably used to seeing people skipping turns just to get one from the family.  Either way, you will get a personal interaction that is almost unheard of in NYC.  With almost zero regard to the amount of people waiting, you will be able to taste just about everything the store has to offer, and have fun doing so.  Spending more than 30 minutes is not that far fetched, and if you get Lou, Sal, Marie, chances are you’ll want to be there for an hour.  Many top NYC chefs do the same thing, come in and take a number. Chef Daniel Boulud calls Lou Di Palo one of the seven wonders of New York.

What to try/get:  Their fresh Mozzarella is extremely popular.  Burrata, aged Pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mortadella from Bologna, not NJ.. Soppressata, Prosciutto di Parma, Cacciatorini (hunter salami), peppered salami, Finocchiona, Felino from Felino, not Utah.  The one item I absolutely must get every time is Truffled Pecorino.  They have several, usually from Sardinia or Tuscany.  Eataly has none.  Also you can get Sullivan Street Bakery Focaccia (great for a picnic), fresh pasta, various sauces including Urbani truffle sauces and more.  If you havent been and enjoy good food, you owe it to yourself

Di Palo’s
200 Grand St

IMG_1620 IMG_1621 IMG_1618

Categories: Chinatown, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Bassanova – Some Ramen are Better than Others

Ziggy:

Bumping this one up with a lame update, but hey the pictures are great

Originally posted on Eating With Ziggy:

Bassanova YuzuApril 12th, 2015 Update:

I have mixed feelings about reblogging this one.  On one hand I have an important update on Bassanova (Important to me at least.  To roughly 89% of yous this is as important as the news that Bruce Jenner is now wearing a bra).  But on the other hand, after reading the original post below, I have no clue what the hell I’m talking about there.  I suppose I can just rewrite the entire thing, but that would not be keeping it real.  You are with me folks, with the good and the bad, and the terrible.  And the “He must be high on kasha or something”.

I’ll make this one quick and painless, without any Morrissey references.  Its painful enough for me to even spell Morisseey.  But I really do wish everyday was like this Sunday.  A nice day of eating with the misses where I introduced…

View original 603 more words

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