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Archive for October, 2016

7th Annual Sunday Supper South

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

October 30, 2016, Ponce City Market, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Sunday Supper South

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Taste of Atlanta Festival

Friday, October 21st, 2016

October 21-23, 2016, Midtown at Tech Square, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Taste of Atlanta

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16th Annual Afternoon in the Country at New Location

Friday, October 21st, 2016

On Sunday, Nov. 6, Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International (LDEI|ATL) will host the city’s most memorable food and wine tasting event – Afternoon in the Country. Although Atlantans look forward to this fall affair every year, 2016’s Afternoon in the Country promises even more top culinary talent as the event moves to its new, larger venue – the Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club.

From 1 to 4 p.m., attendees will enjoy more than 115 tasting stations from Atlanta’s finest chefs, such as Gerry Klaskala of Aria, Jamie Adams of Il Giallo, Pano Karatassos of Kyma, Matthew Basford of Canoe, and Kevin Rathbun of KR SteakBar, paired with the area’s best farms, along with fine wines and premium micro-brews. These stations will be set up under festive big-top tents on pristine lawns surrounded by the Chattahoochee River, beautiful lakes and long-range countryside vistas at the Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club for a picturesque backdrop. Additional entertainment includes live music by Theresa Hightower and her jazz band, a cake raffle featuring sweets from the city’s most talented pastry chefs, and an extensive silent auction offering exclusive dining and travel packages, food and wine merchandise and original art from prominent local artists.

afternoon-in-the-country-les-dames-descoffier-group-photo-credit-tom-brodnaxProceeds from Afternoon in the Country benefit LDEI|ATL’s scholarship and grant programs which support Georgia women in the culinary, beverage and hospitality arts. The event also supports local non-profit organizations. In the past, these have included Georgia Organics, Wholesome Wave, Global Growers Network, The Giving Kitchen, The Wylde Center and The Atlanta Community Food Bank. Last year’s event raised more than $105,000 for these beneficiaries.

Local sponsors include Foxhall Resort & Sporting Club, PeachTree Tents & Events, Springer Mountain Farms, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Georgia Crown Distributing Company, Bombay Sapphire, Inland Seafood, Halperns’ Steak & Seafood, Henssler Financial, Four Roses Bourbon, Type A Development, Fiji Water, Melissa Libby & Associates, Le Jardin Francais, Dangling Carrot Creative, Sysco, Kroger, Westside Provisions, Delia’s Chicken Sausage Stand, The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Royal Foodservice and Ponce City Market.

Tickets cost $125 for adults 21 and over. Please note, unlike in years past guests under the age of 21 will not be admitted.

Fox Hall Resort & Sporting Club is located at 8000 Capps Ferry Road in Douglasville, Georgia –  35 minutes southwest of Downtown Atlanta. For additional information on this year’s event, visit www.ldeiatlanta.org or download the Afternoon in the Country App for iPhones and smartphones.

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An International Flair

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

By Candice Dyer

Lisa and Fuyuhiko Ito Photo Credit: Sarah Newman

Forget that banal California roll, along with the other fishy items with gimmicky menu names like “sexy girl” or “rock ’n’ roll.”

If you are dining at Umi, trust the award-winning chef Fuyuhiko Ito to guide your chopsticks to something more exquisitely minimalist and Japanese, such as uni, a sea-urchin dish that tastes like a briny custard.

“Just as most Mexican food on this side of the border is more Tex-Mex, sushi has been widely Americanized to cater to American tastes,” says Umi co-owner Farshid Arshid, referring to the rolls that are heavy on mayonnaise and tempura-fried ingredients. “But now there is a real demand for authenticity among diners who want the real thing; they’re ordering more sashimi instead. The true test of a sushi chef is how he prepares something seemingly simple like nigiri, with just the right balance of fish and rice. That level of authenticity and high-quality ingredients are our priorities.”

Atlanta has long offered raw fare, but the dining experiences are becoming more “onakase,” or chef-driven. “Umi” means “sea” in Japanese, and the Buckhead sushi bar – named Atlanta’s best by USA Today – is riding the wave of popularity of cuisines that stay painstakingly true to their origins.

Smaller World, More Exposure

As technology and social media continue to make the world a smaller place, today’s diners are becoming more knowledgeable about foods, and they have a much greater exposure to different cultures.

According to research by the National Restaurant Association, 88 percent of American consumers eat at least one “ethnic” item per month, while 17 percent eat seven or more. Nearly one-third of consumers tried a new cuisine in the past year.

And, in a survey of 1,600 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation, international influences are also making a strong showing at the top of the list of trends in 2016, including ethnic condiments and spices, authentic ethnic cuisine, ethnic-inspired breakfast items and street food.

Moreover, today’s consumers are generally more willing to try new foods and challenge their taste buds than previous generations. Research shows that two-thirds of consumers say they eat a wider variety of cuisines now compared to five years ago, and three in 10 tried a new cuisine within the last year. A full quarter of consumers say they like trying foods that are unconventional by American standards.

“I think a major reason for this trend is all the cooking shows on television, the Food Network, and shows such as Chopped’” says Arshid, who was born in Iran. “Diners are becoming much more educated, experimental and globalized in their thinking.”

Demographic shifts also have spiced up Georgia menus. Some trace it back to the 1996 Olympics, which thrust Atlanta onto the global stage. Since then, Georgia has continued to see a huge influx of new people moving to the state.

In fact, for the sixth year in a row, Atlanta was ranked in a Penske Truck Rental survey as the No. 1 place to move in the U.S. And along with new residents coming from different parts of the country and the world to the state, there comes a higher demand for more restaurants and more variety.

Serving Up Authenticity

The past 10 years have seen an explosion in restaurant diversity across Georgia, says Jay Bandy, a principal of Goliath Consulting, an Atlanta-based restaurant consulting firm that assists with menu development, training, supply chain management and more. “There used to be just the Imperial Fez and a few other old standards,” he says, “but look at Atlanta today. There are several corridors of fantastic international restaurants where most of the world is represented one way or another.”

The community of Clarkston, in particular, has become a lively, heterogeneous hub of refugee resettlement, so naturally businesses and restaurants have sprung up to provide a taste of home. Then there is Buford Highway, the seven-mile stretch of road in Atlanta lined with a United Nations of restaurants comprising Vietnamese pho, Chinese dim sum, and Korean barbecue and bibimbap, along with Bangladeshi halal meats, Indonesian salty fish and authentic Mexican tacos, among other delectables.

“People are not afraid to try new things,” says Sucheta Rawal, director of Go Eat Give, a nonprofit organization that promotes cross-cultural connection and understanding through service, education and travel. Once a month, the group organizes a Destination Dinner at a local Atlanta restaurant to highlight a country’s culture. “Once [people] gain an understanding of the cuisine, they’re more likely to travel and open themselves up to new cultural experiences.”

Chai Pani is one restaurant in Decatur that is reflecting the broader nature of Indian food.

“We serve street food and the kind of food that Indian families eat on a daily basis,” says general manager Isaac Clay. “The richer food from northern India, which is what most westerners are familiar with, is more of a celebratory cuisine, served at weddings and special occasions.”

Chai Pani, which originally launched in Asheville, N.C., in 2009 before opening a second location in Decatur, was started by James Beard Award-nominated Meherwan Irani, who grew up near Bombay. (Irani also opened the Indian-inspired street grill restaurant Botiwalla in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market earlier this year.)

Chai Pani means “tea and water” and is slang in India for going out for a cup of tea, a tasty bite or a snack. Its menu reflects that notion with sandwiches and chaat, or street snacks, that is crunchy, spicy, sweet, tangy and brightly flavored. For those looking for a more substantial meal, the menu also includes thalis, or more traditional family dishes of various meats and vegetables served with basmati rice, daal, raita, roti, kachumber and papadum.

The Decatur restaurant attracts a mix of Indian and American diners. “What we’ve seen over the past 15 years is that more Americans are willing to try new things,” Clay says. “It’s become a badge of honor that you’ve taken a risk to try something different, or something with an unfamiliar spice.”

Restaurants also have become more specialized, he notes. “Whereas you used to just get hibachi or sushi at a Japanese restaurant, now you can get something like Japanese bar food or ramen.”

Atlanta has seen a number of izakayas, or informal Japanese gastropubs, open over the past few years, including Miso Izakaya and Craft Izakaya (in Krog Street Market), and Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur. And more raman shops have indeed come to town, including Raku in Duluth and the recently announced Raman Station opening in the Memorial Drive corridor of Atlanta. The LA-based Jinya Ramen Bar chain also recently opened an outpost in Sandy Springs.

Then there’s restaurants that showcase multiple cuisines, such as The Flying Monk Noodle Bar in Savannah, which serves up fresh-cut noodle dishes from Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Thailand, Korea and Laos.

LottaFrutta, which has locations in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood of Atlanta, Alpharetta and at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, serves up Ecuadorian soups and ice creams, Mexican fruit cups and pallets and Cuban coffee and sandwiches.

Adrian Villarreal, chef and owner of Rreal Tacos in Atlanta, was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, and spent two years in Paris kitchens before moving to Atlanta in 2002. Before opening Rreal Taco in late 2015, he most recently served as chef de cuisine at the Richard Blais-helmed The Spence.

For the menu, Villarreal draws from his own experiences in Mexico along with culinary knowledge from his family. For example, the cilantro and mustard dressings are both family recipes, one from his grandmother and one from his mother. And his mother-in-law gave him tips on which candies to use in some of the dishes.

“The way we achieve our authenticity is getting as close as possible to the true techniques or heart of the food,” he says. “We brought the right equipment, like the 20-gallon copper pot from Michoacán to cook our pork carnitas. We use the right peppers, the right oil, etc. while balancing the use of more regional items in key places.”

And how have diners responded to these efforts at authenticity?

“My guests, who are pretty awesome, for the most part fall in one of three categories:  they are excited to get into a level that is now more authentic-tasting tacos than what was their norm, and there are guests that are familiar with true Mexican flavor and are ready to just try anything in front of them. Then there are some that are familiar with authentic tacos, and they just want my food to taste the way they remember,” he says. “I do believe that the common thread to join all groups is finding a delicious balance where the food and the flavor are still somewhat familiar and comforting but are prepared or presented in a more raw or straightforward composition.”

Staying True to Your Roots

porchlight_headshot_photocredit-greggandcarolinewillet-300-1

Andre Gomez Photo Credit: Gregg and Caroline Willet

For many chefs and restaurant owners, the challenge is staying true to a cuisine’s culinary roots while also putting their own personal spin on the dishes.

Andre Gomez, a native of Puerto Rico who trained under steak guru Kevin Rathbun, opened Porch Light Latin Kitchen, which emphasizes Caribbean flavors, 10 months ago in Smyrna. He sees his role as “bridging a gap” for diners who may not be accustomed to Latin cooking, and he uses locavore flourishes to achieve that goal.

“I’m a classically trained chef, but I try to stay authentic to the Caribbean with its African, Spanish and native Indian ingredients,” he says. “That said, I also realize that I’m in Smyrna, Georgia, so while I use a guava-based barbecue sauce on my ribs, I brine my Springer Mountain chicken in SweetWater beer.”

“It can be challenging to introduce a new flavor, so we started out emphasizing burritos. Our diners, though, have proved to be very open and receptive to new things, so we also have conch fritters and empanadas made from green plantains and pork cheeks instead of the usual ground meats – those are really popular,” Gomez says.

The name of his restaurant, too, was inspired by regional hospitality. “In the South, when you leave your porch light on, that signals that you are welcoming guests,” he says. “I liked that concept, and I try to stay very involved in the guest experience at my restaurant. Latin food culture is very warm and friendly, like Southern culture, so we want to provide an atmosphere where diners can discover and enjoy comfort foods.”

Todd Ginsberg, chef/owner of Yalla! in Atlanta’s Krog Street Market (and The General Muir in Decatur), spent some time in Israel researching the cuisine of his Jewish heritage. “I wasn’t so much looking for recipes as I was for techniques,” he says. “I went into the kitchen of Abuhassan in Tel Aviv and watched how they made hummus from chickpeas taken from warm water – it was never chilled, but made to order. I studied shawarma at Haifa and ate falafel in Jerusalem. Until you sit down with families who have eaten this way for centuries, you don’t get it.”

The Larger Trend

Diners who are more open-minded and willing to try new foods? It’s a chef’s dream customer, but it’s not just happening in big cities like Atlanta.

“It’s a universal thing that is going on now all over the world,” notes Bret Love, owner of Green Global Travel, an ecotourism and cultural preservation organization that encourages people to travel more adventurously. “But it’s amplified in Atlanta because we’ve got the busiest airport in the world and therefore an increasingly international population.”

The capital isn’t the only part of the state that is diversifying its gastronomy. Thai, sushi and Indian restaurants recently have popped up in the smallest towns of northeast Georgia. Athens has two Peruvian restaurants – Cali N Tito’s and Polleria Pablo – that bring in crowds for fried cassava or ceviche, and Cumming now boasts a Peruvian café, too.

Six months ago, tiny Cleveland got its first sushi bar: Yoshi Express. It does not serve uni – yet. Nor is it licensed to pour sake. And many of the menu options can be “deep-fried” for an extra charge of a couple of bucks.

“We are in the South, you know, so you have to offer fried stuff,” says chef Ty Kinnaragh, as he delicately slices a piece of eel. “Still, I have a lot of people who will let me free-style with no restrictions, and I love that.” So far this entrepreneurial experiment is proving so popular that proprietor Misa Thatsana, who is of Laotian descent, is planning to launch another sushi bar in nearby Cornelia.

In fact, international flavors have become so mainstream and up for grabs in every quarter that many object to the isolationism implicit in the word “ethnic.”

“It’s worth considering that all of the food we label ‘American’ came from somewhere else, and that includes pizza, hot dogs and even apple pie,” Chai Pani’s Clay says. “So there’s always been a continual impact of international influences since our country was founded.”

“My perspective is that the word ‘ethnic’ needs to be dropped and changed,” says Ciera Tavana, whose father is from Iran and who runs a super club called SOFIA XIV. “Lots of what folks are just experiencing has been here for years, and it’s a commercial version of it to appeal to new palates.

“These ‘new’ foods are not new to the people who make them,” she says. “I think the most important thing is for people to have respect and understanding for what they are eating. It’s more than a pleasure – it’s a presence.”

“There is no defining Indian food or defining Thai food because every family from that culture cooks a little differently – your dining experience depends on the founding family and their roots,” Chai Pani’s Clay says. “So what counts is whether you enjoy it and it tastes good.”

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The 15th annual Taste of Atlanta promises a delicious weekend

Monday, October 17th, 2016

The 15th annual Taste of Atlanta is just days away. The city’s can’t-miss food festival, taking place Oct. 21-23 in Midtown at Tech Square, promises a delicious weekend packed with cooking demonstrations, celebrity appearances and bites from more than 90 of Atlanta’s best restaurants. Festival restaurants include The Big Ketch, Jim N’ Nick’s Bar-B-Q, Morelli’s Ice Cream, Max Lager’s and Vingenzo’s.

Taste of Atlanta’s Friday night kickoff party benefits Georgia Organics and features bites from the likes of St. Cecilia, O-Ku, Hampton + Hudson and 20 other top restaurants. The good times roll through the weekend with tasting opportunities from over 90 hometown favorites including Bellwoods Social House, Desta Ethiopian Kitchen, The Pig & The Pearl and more.

One of the biggest draws over the weekend will be the main food stages, where two of Atlanta’s celebrity chefs are holding court. On Saturday, Tregaye Fraser hits the Kitchen Workshop stage to share her culinary journey as the winner of the most recent season of “Food Network Star.” On Sunday, Atlanta native G. Garvin will divulge tips, techniques and tastes on the Chef’s Table stage.

Fraser and Garvin top a list of essential events that includes:

  • A barcraft competition in which mixologists vie for the title of Best Bartender
  • A celebration of local, seasonal flavors with chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s and Royal Food Service
  • Hands-on cooking tutorials at no extra cost by local chefs at the Kitchen Workshop
  • Grilling demonstrations on the Big Green Egg Grilling Stage, hosted by Francine Bryson and “Fatman” Kevin Jenkins of “Chef and the Fatman
  • A foodie extravaganza silent auction benefitting Open Hand, which provides comprehensive nutrition care for those dealing with chronic conditions

For the ultimate in ATL bites and bevs, the VIP Grand Tasting Experience grants exclusive access to even more restaurants, including King + Duke and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, as well as the most extensive selection of more than 180 craft beers and wines from Three Taverns Brewery, Orpheus Brewing, SweetWater Brewing Company, Monday Night Brewing, New Belgium and many more, curated by the local experts at Hop City.

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Shaun Doty to open The Federal this Novemer

Monday, October 17th, 2016

This fall, Atlanta diners will once again find the face of acclaimed chef Shaun Doty in the kitchen with the opening of his new restaurant, The Federal. Slated to open in November on Crescent Avenue in Midtown, Doty’s new eatery tells the story of his travels from adolescence to adulthood.

Well known across the city for his straightforward, ingredient-driven cuisine, Doty looks forward to reestablishing the rapport he developed with longtime guests in his previous executive chef roles. “The Federal is a great opportunity for me to go back to doing what I truly love – making a connection with my guests,” he says. “Over the past two and a half years, I’ve watched this part of Midtown change, and I’ve spent a lot of time listening to what my customers are looking for in this neighborhood. This is my chance to create what they’ve asked for.”

Doty will prepare a menu that is influenced by traditional cuisine and has a bistro feel. Garnering inspiration from his work at previous restaurants such as Shaun’s, MidCity Cuisine and Mumbo Jumbo and culinary stints abroad, Doty considers his dishes at The Federal to be “souvenirs of his life.” Steak frites harkens back to the time Doty lived in Belgium, while chopped liver extols his frequent visits to Katz’s Delicatessen while living in New York City.

The restaurant’s name is inspired by the nearby Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, whose grand architecture casts shadows over the restaurant, and serves as an homage to the Midtown neighborhood where it is located.

Joining Doty in this new venture is Lance Gummere, with whom he already has a long history. Gummere worked side-by-side with Doty at Mumbo Jumbo, and the chef duo founded Bantam + Biddy and Chick-a-Biddy together.

The Federal is located in Midtown Atlanta at 1050 Crescent Avenue.

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Himitsu named one of eight best-designed bars in the Americas

Monday, October 17th, 2016

Himitsu, the luxurious Japanese craft cocktail lounge located in the heart of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, has been nominated to the final eight best-designed bars in North and South America by Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. Co-owner Farshid Arshid is traveling to London for the awards ceremony.

Now in its eighth year, the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards is a globally recognized competition dedicated to the design of food and beverage spaces. With over 5,000 entries from the UK and 70 other countries in the past seven years, the Awards attract the world’s top designers, hospitality operators and judges.

“It is a great honor to be included in this prestigious list of establishments, all stunning and creatively designed in their own right,” says Arshid. “Himitsu emphasizes ‘shokunin kishitsu,’ the Japanese philosophy of unwavering devotion to the mastery of one’s craft. Our nomination for this award is a tribute to our designer’s mastery of his craft.” Himitsu is the first full design concept project for Tom Dixon and his London based design firm, Design Research Studio, in the United States. Arshid says “I wanted to introduce Tom’s mastery of design as a full concept in this project.”

Tom Dixon and Design Research Studios also designed The Mondrian London at Sea Containers, the Tazmania Ballroom in Hong Kong and the Eclectic Restaurant in Paris. For Himitsu, Design Research Studio created a darkly theatrical speakeasy, inspired by the rich colors and textures of the Todd Murphy painting ‘King of Birds.’ The 12- by 16-foot painting, named for the R.E.M song, is the lounge’s signature artwork.

Dixon and his team designed a raw yet sophisticated aesthetic, playfully offsetting slick metallic against rougher, natural materials while retaining industrial features and exposed structural details. An elegantly lit, beautiful copper bar is the centerpiece of the 1,300-square-foot space.

Himitsu is furnished with sculptural pieces selected to create distinct silhouettes. Smoked mirror and natural marble table tops sit on industrial Tom Dixon roll bases to form a tactile landscape of surfaces. The discreet staircase which runs along the natural cork-clad textured back wall of the bar gives a sense of exclusivity as guests are taken up to the upper level mezzanine lounge. An installation of Tom Dixon Melt pendants draws inspiration from molten metal and melting lava, emitting an attractive, mildly hallucinogenic light and casting an ethereal luminosity on the surroundings.

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American Cut and The Regent Cocktail Club debut at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta

Monday, October 17th, 2016

American Cut, a modern American steak restaurant and its rooftop terrace bar The Regent Cocktail Club opened at 3035 Peachtree Road at The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

American Cut features signature interpretations on fine dining classics helmed by local Atlanta chef John Adamson. The Regent Cocktail Club pairs craft cocktails with views of the Atlanta skyline. Both concepts are owned by LDV Hospitality, with American Cut created in partnership with Marc Forgione.

“Our restaurants are known for their authenticity, quality and social buzz and are designed to be the epicenter of our communities. Buckhead friends and neighbors welcomed LDV Hospitality to Atlanta in 2014 and have grown to be our family. We are excited to continue to cultivate our presence in Atlanta with American Cut and The Regent Cocktail Club,” said John Meadow, Founder and President of LDV Hospitality.

American Cut Buckhead offers a unique multi-level dining experience including a first level lounge and bar with a special bar menu and daily drink specials. The second level of the restaurant features a 102-seat main dining room alongside two private dining rooms where guests can enjoy an Atlanta-inspired signature menu for a more upscale dining experience. The menu combines bold flavors with unique style to create the restaurant’s take on American classics such as the house favorite chili lobster and the 40-oz. Tomahawk chop. A mix of tableside preparations, ranging from the plank-smoked old fashioned to the OG 1924 Caesar salad.

The Regent Cocktail Club will offer a rotating specialty cocktail menu and an eclectic mix of live musical programming. Inspired by the simplicity and elegance of the original Regent Cocktail Club in 1941, LDV Hospitality goes back to basics with the opening of The Regent Cocktail Club on the third level of American Cut Buckhead. The industrial 5,000 square foot, 75-seat space will be an indoor/outdoor rooftop terrace and bar.

John Meadow began his career in the hospitality industry immediately after graduating from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, starting off as manager at The Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room. At 24, John sought out to create something of his own and opened the bar and grill Local West in midtown Manhattan. After an entrepreneurial freshman success in 2008, he launched LDV Hospitality, which now includes a range of food and beverage concepts throughout the country.

John Adamson, executive chef of American Cut Buckhead has been cooking professionally for 22 years. He began his cooking journey at the age of 16 and was managing restaurants by the age of 21. As the executive chef of American Cut Buckhead, a huge priority for Adamson is to ensure that all guests feel welcomed. “If guests don’t feel welcomed, the quality of the entire dining experience is diminished,” Adamson says.

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Fall Festival on Ponce

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

October 15-16, 2016, Olmsted Linear Park, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Festival on Ponce

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Decatur Beer Festival

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

October 15, 2016, Decatur, GA. For more information, visit Decatur Beer Festival

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