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At the Market This Week

Welcome signs of spring...after a long, long winter. 


Best Med Diet Dish at...Lupa

MEDITERRANEANISTA SEEMS TO HAVE SLUMBERED her way through January. Snow, snow, snow. Merry house guests gone. Memories of communal cooking and countless feasts fading.
But lunch at Mario Batali’s Lupa Osteria Romana seems to have roused me from my Rip Van Winkle sleep. It was an official Snow Day when our reservation date came up, and we happily padded our way down to the Village—our old neighborhood.
Through Washington Square Park.
Down Thompson Street past the chess store. (They get the prize for cleanest pavement.)
Past the building that housed a live poultry and rabbit market when we lived across the street above our landlord’s Italian restaurant. 
Past buried cars.
And stranded bicycles.
To the doorstep of Lupa, where a warm welcome—and lovely Mediterranean smells—awaited.
Lupa is an informal and friendly trattoria, Batali-style—we sat at one of the simple wooden tables in the front (a back room has tablecloths). Down one side is a long bar that I hear gets very crowded on a usual day (i.e. when most of the city’s residents aren’t stuck in snowdrifts). Roman dishes are simple and tasty; we particularly liked the sound of the vegetable antipasti brussels sprouts with apples, for one, or beets with pistachio. 
Our Restaurant Week menu started with Lupa’s pasta e fagioli—a puréed white bean soup with escarole and sage, perfect for the snowy day—and a delicious capon & pork terrine with celery mostarda and bitter greens.
Next came butternut squash farrotto (like a risotto, but made with farro)—a real treat for this farro-loving girl—and branzino with cardoon and potato purée. Finally, fresh ricotta and honey for dessert—a sublime creamy finish to the meal. We drank a lovely dry Frascati —Rome’s signature white wine—and a Chianti-like Morellino di Scansano from Tuscany. The wine list represents all parts of Italy, with half the bottles under $50.  (The Frascati Superiore Cantine Conte Zandotti 2009 is $29, for example, the Morellino di Scansano “I Perazzi” La Mozza 2008, $35.)
$21 Lunch Prix Fixe: Restaurant Week is over at Lupa, but it is now offering a three-course “Roman Style Lunch” for $21. Burrata (fresh mozzarrella with a creamy center) with butternut squash and mint, and Paccheri alla Gricia, pasta with guanciale (Roman bacon made from pig’s jowls), caught my eye. I better hurry back—specific dishes change regularly “inspired by ingredients, seasonality or a regional favorite.” Served Monday through Friday, noon to 3:30 pm. I can also imagine just pulling up to the bar and ordering a glass of wine and a salumi plate or some of those wonderful vegetable antipasti. 
Lupa Osteria Romana
170 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10001
(Lunch reservations are much easier to get than dinner, which books up a month out. Some walk-ins, with a wait of course.)

Mediterranean Sparklers

FUNNILY ENOUGH, IT WAS MY Polish father who introduced me to the Italian sparkling wine Prosecco. His lifelong love of all things Italian began in his 20s when he spent several of his army years in Italy during World War II and then stayed on for a year afterward as well. But I have to credit Commissario Guido Brunetti—the police inspector of Venice in Donna Leon’s novels—with opening my eyes to a more day-to-day appreciation of it: The detective can often be found drinking un ombra with cicchetti (Venetian snacks) at a bar midday, or sipping it as an aperitif or with his professor wife Paola’s fabulous home-cooked meals.
Prosecco is just one of the sparkling wines of the Mediterranean that are perfect for toasting the holidays. Ask your local wine seller for their favorite producers and bottles. Here are a few I’ve liked, from Gotham Wines, my neighborhood wine store, and Astor Wines downtown. When the wines are available from the stores’ online sites, I include a link.
ITALY/ Prosecco
Mionetto IL Prosecco D.o.c. di Treviso, $10
Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine made from Glera grapes. While Champagne undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, with the second fermentation taking place in stainless steel tanks. Mionetto has been making Prosecco since 1887 in Valdobbiadene, just north of Venice, the area where most Prosecco comes from. This bottle often shows up chez nous to celebrate, well, just life. The producer suggests it’s “perfect with brunch, lunch, dinner or potato chips.” You get the idea.
Mionetto Valdobbiadene Superiore D.o.c.g., $18
Made from 100% prosecco grapes from a single vineyard, this dry gentle sparkler has a floral bouquet with apple and peach flavors. (At Gotham Wines store.)

FRANCE/ Blanquette de Limoux
From Languedoc Roussillon in southern France. I was interested to learn that Benedictine monks started making sparkling wine here in 1531, a century before the first Champagne was produced. Estate-bottled, this wine today is considered “qualitatively close to a high quality non-vintage Champagne.” Apparently, Thomas Jefferson liked it back in the day, too.
A vintage estate-bottled cava, served to me just the other night with mezze by my friend, Brenda. That is true friendship.
Made following the Champenoise method by Tselepos, a small respected family winery in the Peloponesse, from Moschofilero grapes.
And on my list to try soon, a few staff picks from my friends at Gotham Wines:
Penisola Sorrentina “Gragnano,” $16
A dry red frizzante (slightly bubbly) blend of Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciasinasso grapes, made on the Sorrento peninsula in southern Italy. It’s favored as a good match for pizza, working well with the tomato and the cheese. Or any light meal, for that matter.
Rosa Regale, Banfi, $18
A sweet red sparkling wine from Piemonte, with a wonderful burst of raspberry on the palate. Pairs beautifully with chocolate.
Castello di Luzzano “Magot,” $22
A white frizzante made from Pinot Nero grapes in Lombardia. Light straw yellow, fragrant on the nose, crisp and well-balanced. “For the sophisticated palate,” according to my Gotham guru.
Gotham Wines & Liquors
2517 Broadway (at 94th St)
New York, NY
Astor Wines & Spirits
399 Lafayette Street (at East 4th St)
New York, NY
Twitter: @astorwines

Dolci: A Few Mediterranean Sweets for the Holidays

DON’T YOU LOVE A CUISINE that insists on 13 desserts for a proper celebration? That’s the Provençal tradition for the gros souper on Christmas Eve, which I imagine must leave leftovers for days after that. Here are a few sweets our household is particularly fond of at this time of year.
This summer I stumbled upon Villabate Alba Pasticceria in Bensonhurst (what planet have I been on that I hadn’t even heard of it?). The cannoli at this Sicilian pastry shop, made with ricotta straight from Palermo and with the lightest, crispiest shells, were heaven—the BEST I’ve ever tasted. (Ask my family; I’m really picky when it comes to this popular dessert.) Even though Sicilians originally ate cannoli only during Carnevale, to heck with tradition; I’m going to make a point of treating my house guests to some this Christmas. Because it’s all about them, of course.
Villabate Alba Pasticceria & Bakery 
7001 18th Avenue (and 70th Street)
Brooklyn, NY
Closer to home, I’ll pick up some panettone, the Milanese bread-cake studded with raisins and candied citrus peel that is eaten at Christmastime. There are wonderful (certa apocryphal) stories about its origin.

I usually get the boxed version that’s flown in to New York stores from Italy during this season. But Grandaisy Bakery’s fresh-baked panettone, made “true to tradition with rum soaked raisins, citron and a touch of honey,” is quite a treat, I’ve discovered. It comes in 2lb ($16) and 4lb ($26) sizes and will be sold through Three Kings Day. (You can also order online for $26 and $36, including shipping.)

Grandaisy Bakery (3 locations)
250 West Broadway
73 Sullivan Street
176 West 72 Street (and Amsterdam)
New York, NY
What’s your go-to source for panettone in NYC? And how do you like to eat it? Toasted for breakfast? As an after-dinner sweet with prosecco? Let me know in the comments box below. 
We’re going to start a new tradition in our household today. Thirteen desserts. Merry Christmas to all!

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 5

THE MEDITERRANEAN SHOPS THAT DOT NEW YORK are a great source of treats and gifts for you and your foodie friends. Shopping in them is part of the pleasure—a step into another world for a time. I like to take a minute to pause, if I can, ordering a coffee and a snack at an Eataly counter or a few tapas—and more coffee—in the back café at Despaña. There are always the samples and tastings, too. Yum.
Villa Manadori Artisanal Aceto Balsamico di Modena
This dark, rich balsamic vinegar is far removed from the everyday balsamic you’ll find in most supermarkets. (I first tasted it drizzled on a roasted vegetable dish at Le Verdure in Eataly; later I learned it’s the balsamic of choice at Babbo as well.) I’d heard that Di Palo Fine Foods, a 4th-generation store in Little Italy, was a good source for high-quality balsamic vinegars at very reasonable prices, and, sure enough, I found this one in the store on Grand Street, an excellent buy at $32.99. (It usually runs about $45.) In a tall elegant bottle, packed in a white box, it makes a lovely gift.
Of course, for $200, you could go for the real nectar of the gods, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, which has D.O.P. status and must be aged for at least 15 years. In the case of this particular bottle of balsamico tradizionale, the cooked grape must is aged for 30 to 40 years in successively smaller fruitwood barrels. (Standards are strict; even the bottle has to be a particular shape.)
Di Palo Fine Foods
200 Grand Street
New York, NY

Sour Cherry Compote with Balsamic Vinegar, from Le Tamerici 
I met Paola Calciolari, the founder of this small artisanal producer, at Eataly last month when she was doing a tasting of her compotes, wine jellies and mostardas. Each one was so tasty, it was hard to choose among them. I love sour cherries, though, so I went with this one ($13; selections from the product line available at Eataly, above). It’s delicious with soft cheeses like Taleggio and Brie, or on your yogurt in the morning. Learn more about Paola’s company here.

Eataly NYC
200 Fifth Avenue (enter on Fifth or 23rd)
New York, NY
Lunardo Black Truffle Honey
Truffles, without the truffle budget: For $19.50, experience how the “sweetness melts into a gorgeous, deep, earthy truffle flavor.” (Many truffled products have little more than truffle aroma; Market Hall Foods is careful that actual truffle appears in this honey.) Delicious served with chunks of parmigiano reggiano. 
Online: MarketHallFoods.com

Jamón Ibérico Bellota
This is truly the king of Spanish dry cured hams, the most prized pata negra, and it has only been available in the United States for the last couple of years. It’s handcrafted according to the exacting standards of a Denomination of Origin label from indigenous black Iberian pigs that roam freely in oak groves and meadows. In the last few months before slaughter, the pigs eat only acorns (hence, bellota) which, we’re told, accounts for the particular rich complex taste of this ham. It’s then dry cured for up to 36 months. Need further persuasion? Much of the ham’s beautiful marbled fat is oleic acid, a healthier monounsaturated type of fat.
You’ll find Jamón Ibérico Bellota at Despaña, a shop in SoHo that transports you to Spain the moment you step inside. It sells for $159/lb machine-cut, $169/lb hand-sliced. Nope, that’s no typo. But the folks at the store will happily sell you a few paper-thin slices of this delicacy, so no one need miss out on the flavor sensation. Hostess gift? Foodie potluck? We spent $10 for our slices one day this fall and ate them as soon as we hit the sidewalk, the best bicycling refueling snack I’ve ever had. (Despaña also stocks a full range of Spanish charcuterie at more everyday prices.)
408 Broome Street
New York, NY
Previous Holiday Gift Guides:

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 4

THIS IS THE TIME OF YEAR when I find myself drawn to “getting organized” articles, and only my friend Carol W. surpasses my enthusiasm for new calendars, which for at least a few weeks, I deeply believe must be the key to “New Year, New You!” (I save the old ones, too, but that’s another story.) So I want to be sure you don’t miss the Moleskine Wine Journal, not strictly a calendar, but a way to track what bottle was opened when and avoid those annoying conversations with one’s spouse—what was that Tempranillo we liked? No, wait a minute, wasn’t that the one we couldn’t stand? And the Moleskine Recipe Journal, which like the wine journal is slightly bigger than 5" by 8", has room for squiggles and jottings that are sure to guarantee that the recipe comes out perfectly each time. Think of it as scrapbooking for cooks.
If your iPhone is what keeps your life together, it can help out in the kitchen, too. Mediterranean diet–friendly recipes, time-savers and an encyclopedia of cheese—apps for all tastes. 
Jamie’s Recipes, free, plus add-ons available for purchase 
Jamie Oliver wants to bring his fresh food revolution to everyone’s household. This follow-up to his hit app 20-Minute Meals covers some of the same ground, but wins fans because of its user-friendly interface, healthy recipes, basic how-to videos and shopping lists.  The free download includes a tasting pack of 10 recipes plus 4 videos, with the option to buy 10 additional packs for $1.99 each.
Mario Batali Cooks!  $2.99 (holiday special)
Cook along with Mario as he demos the app’s 63 recipes from different regions of Italy. It’s fun and informative: It also includes videos on technique and kitchen basics, plus advice on wine pairings.
All 2,000 recipes from the “less-meatarian” maestro’s big heavy book, with quick conversions of recipes into shopping lists and a built-in timer. Latest update includes holiday menus.
Fromage, $2.99
History, production info and wine pairings for 750 cheeses.
Scales recipes to more or fewer portions, converts to/from metric.
Suggests solutions if you’re in the middle of cooking dinner and suddenly realize you’re missing an ingredient. Latest release includes healthy substitutes, too.
 Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 3

These are the books I find myself turning to again and again, despite all the temptations on bookstore shelves. Chefs and scholars, cooks and storytellers, the authors are the perfect guides for anyone setting out to explore the Mediterranean diet. Perhaps someone you know?
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
My navigator and my anchor in all things Mediterranean. I like her common sense, her knowledge and perspective on the Mediterranean diet and her dishes. And she tells it all so beautifully.

by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox
OK, so I try not to cook out of this book every night, but it’s hard to resist because the dishes are exciting—and doable—and Jenkins, chef-owner of Porchetta and the just-opened Porsena, writes intelligently so you’re always learning—about cooking, ingredients, culinary traditions—as you go along.
by Martha Rose Shulman
This Martha’s recipes were my early inspiration for a new (for me) Mediterranean way of eating. Thank god they’re now in a book so I can throw out my stained computer printouts from her online column—and keep wowing my guests with the cooking.
by Clifford A. Wright
An 800-page intellectual and culinary feast, indeed. If you like the stories of history—and good recipes to boot, this is the book for you. Wright was inspired to do his culinary study, in part, by Fernand Braudel’s landmark history of the Mediterranean. Now Wright inspires us.
by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner
Despite the famous photo of Batali with a string of sausages around his neck, in this book he shares lots of easy-to-make dishes starring vegetables and grains. I’ve especially enjoyed the salads and vegetable antipasti. Not a vegetarian cookbook, by any means, but we hear that’s coming next.
by Claudia Roden
Born and raised in Cairo, Roden shares recipes for tagines, eggplant dishes, mezze—all informed by her deep background in Middle Eastern cooking (her 1972 A Book of Middle Eastern Food was a groundbreaker) and the stories she has to tell.
So many cookbooks, so little time—I know I have so much more to explore. Do you have a favorite cookbook full of recipes for a Mediterranean diet? (With inspired ideas for vegetables and fruits, grains and legumes, and, of course, a great love of olive oil.) Let us know in the comments box below. Here’s what I plan to dig into next. Maybe you already have?
Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking 

In case you need other gift ideas with a Mediterranean flavor:
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday List, Part 1
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday List, Part 2

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 2

Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
CITRUS FRUITS AND FRESH HERBS ARE BELOVED big-flavor ingredients in Mediterranean cooking. When I began making more Med dishes, I was struck by how many lemons I was buying—and zesting and squeezing and slicing. And I loved the new taste adventures with oranges—not eaten just as a fruit in hand, but sliced with tapenade, or zested and juiced for a citronette over grilled asparagus. Almost every Med recipe calls for one fresh herb or another—parsley by the fistful, or rosemary, thyme, mint, oregano in soups, salads, you name it. So here are a few gift ideas for making herb and citrus wrangling a snap for the Mediterranean cook in your life. 
Citrus squeezer ($12). Comes in different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges, but all three might crowd a New York apartment drawer. You choose. 

Microplane Zester/grater 
($15). After years of struggling with multipurpose gadgets for zesting citrus fruits, using this is heaven. It takes just the zest and leaves behind the bitter white pith with hardly any effort on my part. (Can be used to grate cheese, too.)


Cuisipro Fresh Herb Keeper ($20). How many times have you bought a bunch of thyme or mint, used a bit, then had the rest end up lifeless by the time you need it again? Slots in the removable tray hold and hydrate stems while keeping the leaves dry; it can also be used to store asparagus.

Herbs stay freshest, of course, when they’re actually living plants in the ground. I grow indoor pots of basil, thyme, rosemary and oregano in fits and starts. (They do require watering!) These are particularly pretty. Plus: a couple of gift ideas for New York City gardeners who actually have a patch of ground or outdoor terrace.
French Country Kitchen Garden ($22). Three pots, with organic soil, drip tray and seeds for parsley, marjoram and lemon basil.

($25). Three pots, with peat pellets, drip tray and seeds for basil, oregano and chives.
When I had a country garden, I loved Shepherd’s Garden Seeds because they sold such exotica (at the time) as Lolla Rossa lettuce and arugula. Renee Shepherd, its founder, now runs Renee’s Garden, where you can find a Container Herb Collectionseeds for Cameo basil, fine leaf chives, Slow Bolt cilantro, true Greek oregano and Gigante parsley, and Container Vegetable Collection—Super Bush tomato, Garden Babies lettuce, Gold Chard, Bush Slicer cucumber and  Pizza My Heart pepper. ($14 each)
For the outdoor gardener, go local with a Hudson Valley Seed Library gift membership ($20). Members grow seeds in their home gardens, enjoy their flowers and fruits, and then save seed at the end of the season to return to the library for credit toward their next year’s membership. I came across the beautiful Art Packs (not included in the $20 membership) at New Amsterdam Market, each seed pack beautifully illustrated by a different New York artist. You can still catch Hudson Valley Seed at the market Dec 19th. 
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:


Meatless Monday: Do You Have Recipes to Contribute?

MEDITERRANEANISTA’S Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad is on this week’s menu at Meatless Monday. I’ve written before about this nonprofit public health campaign and the work it does. Go check out its recipe bank for all sorts of inspired ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even snacks. Do you have a recipe to contribute? Don’t be shy. 

Mediterraneanista's Holiday List, Part 1

Gifts and Treats for You and Yours
We’ve made some wonderful discoveries this year during our travels around New York City’s five boroughs and beyond, on the trail of one Mediterranean essential or another. So if you want to add a little Mediterranean flavor to your holiday, I have a few suggestions.
You can get many of these items online, but for some, alas, you’ll have to jump on the subway (or your bicycle) and head over to one of the amazing Mediterranean shops that dot New York. For me that time will be part of the pleasure: When I stop in at Eataly or Despaña, say, with my Christmas list, I plan to sit down and drink a coffee, order a few pintxos or a pizza or pasta and rest awhile until I’m ready for another whirl of Christmas preparations.
This summer I visited Hester Street Market quite a few times, motivated to take the 7-mile bike ride from home because I knew Guerrilla Ice Cream would be waiting as a reward. One day, Mediterraneanista had an extra treat: I discovered SOM Extra-Virgin Olive OilAsena Basak was at the market giving tastes and selling the cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil her family produces on their farm in Milas, Turkey near the Aegean coast. It’s a delicious estate-bottled extra-virgin oil, made from Memecik olives grown by the family. The 2010 harvest will be available in April or May. (Follow SOM on Facebook.)
~Buy the SOM 2009-10 harvest at Garden of Eden stores or online
Back on the Upper West Side, I recently ran into the Franks (Castronovo and Falcinelli) at our local Whole Foods. The chef/owners of the Greenmarket-driven Frankies Spuntino restaurants are very friendly guys; they were there showing off their new cookbook, The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, and giving us tastes of their amazing olive oil cake, pretzels and other goodies. As if cookbook writing and running Frankies 457 in Brooklyn and Frankies 17 on the Lower East Side isn’t enough to keep them busy, the pair go to Sicily every year to oversee the production of Frankies Extra-Virgin Olive Oil— cold-pressed from organically grown Sicilian olives in the Nocellara del Belice DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin). They were expecting a shipment from the new harvest any day.
~Buy Frankies olive oil online or at these stores.
Mediterraneanista likes her olives any way she can get them. This Jardin de l’Olivier olive oil soap ($8.50) is nourishing for the skin—and what a beautiful objet, with its olive leaf shape, don’t you think? And the “Olive Tree” and “Mediterranean” tea towels ($21), made in France by Tissage Moutet, are almost too pretty to use. They’re woven in cotton by a fourth-generation business located in Orthez, a town in the foothills of the French Pyrénées.
~Buy tea towels and olive oil soap at QuelObjet.com.
Go to Union Square Greenmarket any Monday or Friday this month, and you’ll find sachets and dried bunches of lavender from Lavender by the Bay to make you think of summer and Provence. Or White Flower Farm has a lavender plant in a gray glazed pot ($42) that is hard to resist. 
On Christmas Eve, Bistro de la Gare will celebrate with a traditional Italian “Night of the Seven Fishes” dinner as a prix fixe menu for $65 (tax, tip and wine not included). As of 12/10, tables are still open for some times between 5:30 and 10:30 that night.
~Make reservations at 212-242-4420.
I love the seasonal Mediterranean menus at this Greenwich Village restaurant. Here’s what chef/owners Maryann Terillo (formerly of Jarnac) and Elisa Sarno (formerly of Babbo) have in store for Christmas Eve:
La Notte dei Sette Pesci
Amuse: Baked Cherrystone Clams and PEI Mussel “Oreganata”
Antipasto: Baccala Three Ways—Fritelle di Baccala, Insalata di Baccala, Baccala Venizia
Salad: Shaved Fennel and Roasted Peppers with Bagna Cauda 
Pasta: Seppia Ink Fettucine with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat
garnished with Grilled Octopus
Secondi: Fritto Misto—Eel, Fresh Shrimp, Oysters, Calamari and Skate with 3 sauces: salsa verde, salsa rossa, maionese limone
Dessert: Bowls of Fresh Fruit and Nuts, Struffoli
Bistro de la Gare
626 Hudson Street (near Jane)
New York, NY
Make life with holiday crowds easy: Cobble Hill restaurant Brucie has a lasagna drop-off service, we learn over at Tasting Table. Bring your pan in one day; pick up your meal-for-a-crowd the next evening on your way home. Great combos made with top-quality ingredients: eggplant, tomato and Swiss chard, goat cheese and mushrooms, roast pork and butternut squash.
234 Court St.
Brooklyn, NY

The giant Italian food hall that opened this summer at 23rd and Fifth offers classes at La Scuola di Eataly, which is headed up by Lidia Bastianich. Eat-Ineraries ($35) are one-hour small-group guided tours led by a senior staff member, with behind-the-scenes peeks at all the departments and tastings along the way. Chef’s Kitchen ($110–275) lets you join chefs like Esca’s Dave Pasternack, Manzo’s Michael Tosano, Del Posto’s Brooks Headley and Dean of La Scuola Lidia Bastianich for a demonstration and tasting (with wine pairings) as they prepare a signature dish. And there are classes with artisanal food purveyors like Pat LaFrieda and Eataly wine director Dan Amatuzzi. (See the Jan–Mar schedule here.)  

To give a particular class as a gift, register the recipient online for that class. Once the registration is complete with credit card approval, that space is reserved. If you like, you can then contact lascuola@eataly.com to obtain a certificate stating the class for which the gift recipient is registered.
Or you can buy an Eataly gift certificate, available only in the store, not yet online, but this doesn’t reserve a place in a class, and some sell out quickly (the classroom seats 22 for tastings, 20 for Chef’s Kitchen).
Eataly NYC
200 Fifth Avenue (enter on Fifth or 23rd)
New York, NY
Mediterraneanista’s Holiday Gift Guide:
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