table of contents This week's tablehopper: tahoe transmission.

the chatterbox
the word on the street
fresh meat
new restaurant reviews
the lush

put it on my tab
the socialite

the starlet
no photos please
the matchmaker
let's get it on

the sponsor
this round is on me

Hot restaurant space

Cheese School of San Francisco

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AUGUST 25, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Sometimes I just have to pinch myself, hard. I have been to three of the most magnificent California settings, and all in one week. (I guess the universe was helping to balance the ridiculous pain I was in last week from my %$#& toe injury. Much better now, thank you.)

imageThe trifecta of gorgeous started with a turbo trip up to Healdsburg to dine at the Madrona Manor, what a stunner. The Victorian manor is such a special place: dining on the back verandah is something out of dreamy movie, and the gardens were spectacular (the talented gardener, Geno Ceccato, even has his name on the menu!). Chef Jesse Mallgren is doing such delicious and innovative cuisine—we'd be lucky to have his tasting menus in San Francisco. Plus tableside coffee, cheese, and ice cream service? Yes please.

Oh yeah, and the magical meal was followed the next day by some of the best damned pizzas I've had in California at Diavola Pizzeria in Geyserville—Dino Bugica is one hell of a pizzaiolo. (I'll be posting an update to my Healdsburg jetsetter pieces on both of these places shortly.)

Saturday I drove up to Lake Tahoe, thoroughly enjoying the trip up Highway 50. Year in, year out, the wonder of this sapphire of a lake never ceases to blow my mind. True mountain majesty. And I might add there is nothing like cruising the windy road near Emerald Bay at sunset in an Alfa with the top down and radio bumpin', I gotta confess. We were both purring. Well, until the lagging Prius driver held us up (sorry, they are the new worst drivers on the road—come on, you can at least drive the speed limit!)

After having to sequester myself for a day of book editing (no easy feat up here!), I let myself off the chain Sunday evening and scooted over to the Sierra Valley for a Dinner in the Barn event with Sierra Valley Farms and Moody's Bistro of Truckee. It was such a memorable experience that I had to write it up for you, stat. Check it out in fresh meat.

Yup, I am one lucky, lucky woman. And I'm also a tired one—when I haven't been on the road this past week, I've been parked at my computer way too much. Deadlines, deadlines. Blergh. And FYI, next week's transmission is going to be a shorty—I have to write it in advance since my lovely designer will be off to Burning Man (safe travels to all of you headin' out to the playa!). And besides, the beach at Sugar Pine Point is calling me, "Oh yooooooooo hooooooooo! You there, at the computer! Time to get outside and jump in the lake!"

In summer I trust,


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the chatterbox

Hot restaurant spaceAUGUST 25, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO Whoa, some local restaurants have been taken down with fires this past week, damn. Last Friday, ~CHOW~ in the Castro suffered a fire in the flue in the morning, and will now be closed for a few weeks for repairs. Will let you know when the reopening is in sight, so you can resume your ginger cake with pumpkin ice cream consumption. 215 Church St. at Market, 415-552-2469.

And then this Tuesday before lunchtime, ~TADICH GRILL~ also suffered a fire in the flue. Fortunately, it was contained, and they are already open again. See, San Francisco's oldest restaurant is tough like that. 240 California St. at Front, 415-391-1849.

In the fire-comeback category ~LIMON~ in the Mission is reopening at the end of this week, potentially even on Thursday. It now has a refreshed interior (Eater has some pics of the new space here), and a ceviche bar will now be located in the front of the restaurant. 524 Valencia St. at 16th St., 415-252-0918.

Another opening this week: ~MAZU~ is opening in the old Rohan Lounge space (they are targeting this week, with Sunday at the latest). As I previously mentioned in tablehopper, a former Rohan server, her sister (who is a chef), and their good friend (who was a bartender and server at Rohan) all went in together and took it over, naming it after a mythological goddess of the sea. The partners are sisters KK and Silma Salamin, and good friend Leah Adiol—they are all local San Franciscans who grew up together. They will continue the soju lounge style, serving Pan-Asian fare (chef Silma Salamin has worked at Ozumo, Hayes Street Grill, and Mezze in Oakland). Look for new art, DJs, and a freshening up of the space (new upholstery for the booths, paint, etc.). You can look at a PDF of the menu here. According to the site, hours will be Tue–Sun 11:30am–2:30pm and 5pm–11pm. 3809 Geary Blvd. at 2nd Ave., 415-221-9800.

Folks have been wondering what was going into the former Deep Sushi space in Noe Valley, and I finally got a lead on the haps. It’s going to be called ~DEEP~, and chef Thomas Weibull, formerly of Plouf and Des Amis, is the executive chef (he was brought on by the real estate partners to run the restaurant). He was with the Belden Place Frenchies (Olivier Azancot and Eric Klein) since 2002, and the head chef of Plouf since 2004, but was ready for a change of pace—he left Plouf at the end of July. Deep is going to be focused on Japanese small plates (some will be modern izakaya in style), and using local and seasonal ingredients when possible. They will also be making their own tofu. While some sushi will be available, it will be less of a focus than the previous incarnation as Deep Sushi. Weibull told me he is still in the process of hiring a sushi chef; he’ll have more info, including the opening date for me soon (possibly mid-September). The space is currently being redone, with more seating being added in the back (previously the lounge area), and they are also working on a Zen garden behind the restaurant! 1740 Church St. at 29th St.

Grub Street New York has the news about Nate Appleman's next project: he will be working with Keith McNally on ~PULINO PIZZERIA~, a new pizza project in the Bowery. According to the post, the opening is slated for December.

As for some local pizza, over in Cow Hollow, ~PIZZERIA AVELLINO~ has officially opened in the Curbside Taqueria location. New York–style and Napoletana pizzas in the casa. Hours are Mon–Thu 11:30am–10pm, Fri–Sat 11:30am–11pm, and Sun 11:30am–10pm. 2769 Lombard St. at Lyon, 415-776-2500.

It's time for a snack attack!

A new taco truck is in the mix: look for ~KUNG FU TACOS~ in the FiDi, doing up Chinese tacos with fillings like char siu (BBQ pork), mu shu vegetable, and duck, stuffed in La Palma tortillas. They usually serve Mon–Fri from 11am–2:30pm (or until they run out). Follow their Twitter feed for other locations, new menu items, etc. Parked at Sansome and Jackson.

imageMore FiDi bites: ~BATTER BAKERY~ (you may know these treats from Blue Fog Market and Stable) is opening a kiosk tomorrow (Wednesday) in a former flower stand. They'll be doing breakfast treats (muffins, scones, quick bread, coffeecake) and desserts (lots of cookies, brownies/bars, cupcakes, biscotti, shortbread); flavor varieties will change weekly. They will also be doing some fun ready-made mixed boxes for people to pick up for office breakfasts or meetings. Hours will be Mon–Fri 7am–4pm to start. 555 California St. at Kearny, 415-706-8076.

imageYou just can't stop Anthony Myint and ~MISSION STREET FOOD~. MSF has launched ~MISSION BURGER~ inside the Duc Loi supermarket. What this means for you is a mighty delicious beef or vegan burger, plus fries, starting at noon daily (except Thursday, which is a Mission Street Food day) and possibly running until 2pm or 3pm or so. According to their site, here's more on your options: the beef burger is 1/3 lb. of aged Harris Ranch brisket, short rib, and chuck, granulated* and seared in beef fat (beeftastic!). It's served with Monterey jack, caramelized onion, and caper aioli on a griddled Acme bun ($8). The vegan burger ($7) features a maitake, shiitake, roasted kale, edamame, scallion, sesame seed, and fava-chickpea patty, and is served with avocado and miso "mayo" (they are using seaweed instead of egg yolks) on a griddled Acme bun. Fries are $2. There isn't a place to eat it, so be prepared to stand there and wolf it like the hungry beast you are. 2200 Mission St. at 18th St. (Photo by Jared Zimmerman.)

*About that granulation, here's what MSF says on the site: "granulation is our term for the process popularized by Heston Blumenthal, a Michelin 3-star chef based in London. Blumenthal combines strands of ground meat to create a loosely grained "meat column" (not Blumenthal's phrase), then slices the column into patties. The result is, well, a delicacy."

Cheese School of San FranciscoAlso heard ~LET'S BE FRANK~ is offering beers for $2 on Mondays when you order a dog from 4pm until closing. And don't forget, on Tuesdays you get any two dogs for just $8, all day. But Wednesday is the day I really want to swing by because they have an Alsatian Dog, a family-farmed pork bratwurst with house-made choucroute (a blend of sauerkraut, roasted onions, bacon, juniper, bay, and allspice that has been simmering in wine and beer). Where do I sign? 3318 Steiner St. at Chestnut, 415-675-6755.

A tablehopper ready wrote in to let me know about a new dessert café opening in the coming weeks, ~DELISE~. I'm especially excited about this project because Dennis and Eloise Leung are behind it—they used to run the pastry kitchen of Bong Su before it closed down, and are wicked talented. The site mentions "healthy gourmet pastries and frozen desserts that are lovingly handcrafted in small batches daily. We only use the highest quality ingredients which are organic, sustainable and sourced from local producers whenever possible." I also heard they will be serving coffee from Four Barrel, and gourmet ice cream. I'll keep you posted on the opening date—you can follow their blog here. 327 Bay St. at Powell.

This is promising: ~BIG 4~ in the Huntington Hotel is reopening for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays only, starting September 17th–18th. Nob Hill ladies rejoice! Lunch will be served between 11:30am–3pm. The bar will be open all day on those two days as well. 1075 California St. at Taylor, 415-771-1140.

If you're as obsessed with Masumoto Family Farm peaches as much I am, you will want to swing by Book Passage in the Ferry Building this Saturday August 29th at 1pm. ~MAS MASUMOTO~ will be reading from his newest book, Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land.

I was already driving up to Tahoe when the first ~STREET FOOD FEST~ kicked off on Saturday. Was sorry to miss it, but then again, I might not have been able to enjoy it unless I got there super early. Yes, people were upset with the insane lines (you can see some pics of the madness here) and the delicious food running out, but here's a heartfelt thank you note on the Street Food homepage (hey, just trying to keep things in perspective). And Bay Area Bites posted a nice slideshow of the event, and dang you Beer & Nosh, must you always make me hungry and thirsty with your pictures? Here's to another event next year, taking over five blocks!

The Wild Nunavut Arctic Char season is winding down (it's only eight weeks), and on Monday August 31st, CleanFish and ~WATERBAR~ will be presenting a special dinner with this oh-so-tasty fish as the star feature. Here's a PDF of the menu; the dinner is $125 for four courses and wine pairings. It's a group thing: guests will sit at their own individual tables, but the dinner starts at 6pm. You can also have any questions about char answered at the event. Tickets can be purchased here on or by calling 415-284-9922. 399 The Embarcadero at Folsom.

Over in Oakland, ~CHOP BAR~ is opening this week in the Mono space; the project is from Chris Pastena of CODA, plus Lev Delany, and Jesse Branstetter. It's designed to be a local hangout, with served tapas style (but it's not Spanish), using local ingredients, plus there's a wine bar (there will be six reds and two whites on tap). There's full coffee service in the mornings, and lunch will include salads and sandwiches. The dining room has room for 25, plus there's a bar that seats 15, and a patio with room for about 20 people. Jim Maxwell of Architects II created a space using all reclaimed, recycled, and reused materials. Hours are 7am–11pm. 247 4th St. at Jackson, Oakland, 510-834-2467.

~MIMOSA CHAMPAGNE LOUNGE~ has opened—it hosts a Sunday happy hour that kicks off at 3pm. 2355 Broadway at 23rd St., Oakland, 510-891-1005.

imageDue to open next Tuesday September 1st is ~BOCANOVA~, the new Pan-American restaurant from Rick Hackett (MarketBar) and his wife and partner, Meredith Melville. The restaurant is opening on Oakland's Jack London Square in a restored 1920's vintage icehouse with waterfront views in a 6,500-square-foot space designed by Michael Guthrie (Bix, Myth, Zinnia). The genesis of the restaurant is a bit like how Nopalito came to be: the staff meals at MarketBar were so good that Hackett was inspired to open a restaurant concept highlighting the food from his Peruvian sous chef and mostly Hispanic staff. As he started researching the dishes, the territory for the cuisine keep expanding, spanning Central and South America, while using quality local/sustainable/organic ingredients. A look at the pre-opening menu includes dishes like Dungeness crab deviled eggs/chipotle aioli ($9); petrale sole seafood taco with pickled fennel and carrots ($9); braised lamb with pasilla peppers and honey ($15); and Argentine mixed grill and South American sofrito ($21). Jack London Square, 55 Webster St., Oakland, 510-444-1233.

Got a hot tip? You know I'd love it (and you). Just reply to this email.

the sponsor

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fresh meat






Dinner in the Barn

Hosted by:
Sierra Valley Farms
1329 County Road A23
Beckwourth, CA


Prepared by:
Moody's Bistro
10007 Bridge St.
Cross: Commercial Row
Truckee, CA


$100 per person, includes tax and tip

Held in the summer months.

Photo album.



Cheese School of San Francisco

AUGUST 11, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO I have wanted to attend one of the ~DINNERS IN THE BARN~ since chef Mark Estee of Moody's Bistro & Lounge in Truckee told me about it last year (the event's first year was in 2007). I constantly tell people heading to the Sierras to check out Moody's—Estee is so dedicated to using quality products from local and sustainable purveyors, a bit more challenging to source and do in the Sierras than in the Bay Area. The Moody's menu is full of such delicious seasonal fare.

Last year I interviewed Estee for a piece I wrote for the Pebble Beach Food & Wine guide about chefs and farmers. He told me about the organic farmer he's been working closely with for the past seven years, Gary Romano of Sierra Valley Farms in Beckwourth, near Sierraville. They have a really symbiotic working relationship—it's almost like Moody's "adopted" the farm. Estee has altered his menu to be a daily one—it's now designed to integrate the supply of produce he gets each day from Romano and other farmers, and he tries to take on as much produce as he can. Estee and Romano have also worked together to grow special vegetables, and host fundraising events for a modern greenhouse on the farm.

Gary Romano and his family are well known in the area: they host an organic farmer's market each Friday in the summer, the only on-farm Certified Farmers Market in California. It features produce from other farmers, fish, grass-fed beef, and all kinds of products (including their house-made horseradish!). There's even a cooking demo on Fridays hosted by local guest chefs who make the trek out to the farm.

And what a farm it is: the Sierra Valley is gorgeous, with grazing cattle (I almost felt like I was in Montana) and sprawling fields surrounded by tree-covered mountains. Romano's 65-acre farm (it was much larger in the past, at 900 acres) has been in his family for three generations—it was once a dairy, and became a certified organic farm in 1999. It's also a native plant nursery. The Romano family grows broccoli, radishes, greens, beets, carrots (all items we got to taste at the dinner), plus asparagus, horseradish, micro greens, spring mix, and he's even experimenting with growing wasabi! (You can read the entire lineup of incredible produce the Romanos grow here.)

The meal took place in a barn that Romano's uncles built, dating back to 1936. It's creaky and full of character, with a lovely view of the fields and the Sierra Valley at the end of the table. The Moody's kitchen crew was busy chopping and cooking at their outdoor kitchen setup while we took a tour of the farm with Gary Romano. When it was time to sit down for sold-out dinner (81 folks in all), the POS Band was just kicking in—and even though their name stands for "Piece of Sh*t," I must disagree.

There was such a friendly group of folks seated at the long table—I mean, think about it: why would nasty asocial people come to a farm dinner? Exactly. And then the dishes started to come out, starting with individual bowls of the creamiest Anson Mills polenta topped with a poached farm egg (from Shelley Long in Vinton) and Gary's braised greens with hot pepper and potato. What a dish—so homey, and flavorful. I could have just had this and gone away happy, no joke. And I have no idea how they managed to cook so many perfectly poached eggs for everyone, but they did.

Time for the next course: a salad of plump and bright red beefsteak tomatoes from Heidi Watanabe, inspiring oohs and ahhs from everyone as the platters landed on the table. These sweet beauties were served slightly chilled with pine nuts, roasted garlic, shavings of Parmesan, and olive oil and balsamic, a simple and lovely combination that was creamy, nutty, and tangy.

My jaw dropped over the mixed platter of roasted broccoli, beets, and baby carrots that were just picked 1 1/2 hours prior to the dinner, remarkable. The beets were loaded with flavor, packed with sugary goodness, and so beautiful. If I could eat vegetables like that each day, it would almost be enough for me to be a vegetarian. (Like I said, almost.)

But my favorite was the quick-braised cabbage dish with sliced radishes: so tender, with bright acidity from apple cider vinegar and white wine playing alongside the roasted and sugar-sweet cherry tomatoes, also from Heidi Watanabe. What's remarkable is the kitchen crew doesn't really know what vegetables they're going to be cooking with for the dinner until they get to the farm that day. Impressive.

A platter overflowing with fish and meat came to the table, including some of the most delicious braised short ribs I've had in a while (from Five Dot Ranch)—the chef de cuisine at Moody's, Guy Frenette, had the ribs braising overnight at the restaurant. There was also thinly sliced New York steak, plus juicy Coho sockeye salmon topped with Dungeness crab relish (with balsamic).

Now, dessert is where things really made me swoon: Moody's pasty chef, Lindsey Morgan, is quite the talent (she used to do pastry in San Francisco, working with Jane Tseng of A16 at Charles Nob Hill together, when Melissa Perello and Ryan Farr were there). She also did an on-the-fly creation: a tomato and berry bread pudding that she made with ciabatta, an eggy and custardy wonder that was served with corn ice cream and a pink peppercorn caramel. It stands testament to her dessert that after such a filling meal, there was nary a bite left on any plates. Thank you for getting up at 5am to make that wonderful dessert, Lindsey. I am just heartbroken that I never get to eat it again—she said she only likes to make her desserts once, no repeats! (Sob.)

As the sun set behind the mountains and people started making their way to their cars, strangers (now friends) were hugging goodbye. Everyone was happy, relaxed, and yes, quite sated. People coming together over such clean food is really powerful, especially when you can look the person who grew it right in the eyes.

Thank you Gary Romano and Mark Estee for making these meals happen, and to everyone who helps them, from the kitchen staff to the farm crew to the servers… and the generations of Romanos who have tended that land for over 100 years.

You can look at my Flickr photo album of the event here.

If you'd like to attend a Dinner in the Barn next summer (and I know you do), sign up for the Moody's newsletter here. Since they sell out, you'll want to act quickly once it's announced.

For more on the Romano family and their farming methods, read this wonderful profile by Tana Butler on I Heart Farms.

the sponsor

Cheese School of San Francisco

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the lush

Hot restaurant spaceAUGUST 25, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO I wanted to share a few more details about the half-off wine promo going on in honor of ~FIFTH FLOOR'S~ ten-year anniversary. It's actually extending through Labor Day (September 7th), and you can have half-off on bottles, or half-bottles. For you trophy hunters, rare and one-of-a-kind selections such as the Sine Qua Non "The Other Hand," Central Coast (1995) and a double magnum of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon (2002) are available for $220–$600 a bottle. Click here to explore the Fifth Floor's wine list. 12 Fourth St. at Market, 415-348-1555.

Want to really get some red teeth going? The Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association is hosting an event in San Francisco, the ~HOWELL MOUNTAIN WINES OF DISTINCTION TASTING~ on Monday August 31st. You can look at the list of participating wineries here. Free to the trade from 2pm–6pm, and the public is welcome from 4pm–6pm for $45. Click here to register (if you're with the trade), or to buy tickets. Bently Reserve, 301 Battery St. at Sacramento.

Spruce is kicking off ~SPRUCE WINE UNIVERSITY~, a series of monthly wine education classes one Tuesday every month. Each course will be taught by one of Spruce's sommeliers, and will include a variety of different wines, both old and new world; side-by-side and blind tastings; and more. Each class will be priced according to the wines sampled. The Wonderful World of Wine, the first in the series, is scheduled for Tuesday September 8th. It's an introductory course that will include information on the winemaking process; details about the major wine producing countries; a discussion on New World vs. Old World traditions and profiles of wines; climate and growing condition information; and finally, a tasting of five wines from around the world along with a breakdown of "How To" blind taste. $75, inclusive of tax, gratuity not included. Classes begin at 6:30pm, and last approximately 90 minutes. Reserve at 415-931-5100. 3640 Sacramento St. at Spruce.

Beer lovers will want to take note of the ~BEER & NOSH NOTOBERFEST~. The event will feature Reinheitsgebot-breaking beers from Valley Brewing Co., a feast prepared by Ryan Farr and the 4505 Meats Team, and custom beer-infused ice creams and treats from Humphry Slocombe. The Valley Brewing tap menu includes: Luna Blanca–Central Valley Golden Ale; "Notoberfest" Bourbon Barrel Maibock Lager; Brandy Barrel Aged "Collaborative Evil" Belgian Strong Golden Ale; Olallieberry Sour; India Pale Ale; Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout; and Valley Brew Skullsplitter Root Beer. (You can read a blog post detailing the visit to Valley Brew with the chefs to plan the event here. Saturday October 10th, 1pm–5pm. $50 pre-purchase; $60 at the door (all inclusive for beer, food, and a commemorative tasting glass). RSVP and buy tickets here. Mars Bar, 798 Brannan St. at 7th St.

the socialite


National Eat-In
Labor Day, Mon. Sept. 7th, 2009

Numerous locations



AUGUST 25, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO On Labor Day, Monday September 7th, one year after Slow Food Nation, Slow Food San Francisco returns to San Francisco's Civic Center for a public potluck ~EAT-IN~ in support of its national Time For Lunch Campaign to bring real food to the country's public schools. Based on the premise that everyone is entitled to food that is "Good, Clean and Fair," and that our children deserve fresh, healthy food, Labor Day Eat-Ins will take place throughout the country. To date, 267 Eat-Ins are planned across the nation.

There is no admission price for the Eat-Ins. Since Slow Food will provide tables and seating, those attending are asked to sign up here. Everyone is welcome and attendees are asked to bring their own plates and utensils as well as a favorite dish to share.

Eat-Ins will feature speakers, including politicians, organize letter-writing campaigns and phone banks, and circulate a petition aimed at the Child Nutrition Reauthorization before Congress this fall. This legislative act determines funds and standards for food in schools programs.

The Child Nutrition Act is the bill that governs the National School Lunch Program, and is up for reauthorization in Congress. The National School Lunch Program provides a meal to more than 30 million children every school day. To read The Time for Lunch Policy Platform, click here (it's a PDF).

Even if you can't attend, please consider signing the petition.

the starlet

AUGUST 25, 2009 | SAN FRANCISCO More A-Rod and Kate Hudson sightings came in: last week they also dined at Yoshi's late Monday night, and at RN74 on Tuesday.

Quentin Tarantino was spotted around town: he was at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza and Zeitgeist (although I am not sure about that order—perhaps drinks first, coffee the next day?).

A tablehopper reader's husband spotted Danny Glover at Noodle Theory in Oakland.

And up in Healdsburg, the lovely Anne Hathaway was seen with her boyfriend, Adam Shulman, at The Spa Hotel Healdsburg last Friday. Apparently she attended a wedding at the luxe wine country hotel that was catered by Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen.

the matchmaker

Devil's Gulch Ranch in California's North Coast is seeking a year-round, full-time cook (position available now). You get a small place to live on the ranch, included along with something kind of resembling a salary. Must be able to drive and manage a mobile food facility (taco wagon). For three months during the summer, this cook (you) will be responsible for food service for the staff and campers at our Summer Camps (+/- 50 people). The remainder of the year, the "Taco Wagon" could be available to you on a share basis, or…? It would probably go to several of the farmers' markets, cooking and selling the products from Devils Gulch Ranch. Events and catering, also. Single or couple OK.

Contact Mark at 707-953-0923 or mark [at] devilsgulchranch [dot] com.


All content © 2009 Marcia Gagliardi. I am more than happy if you want to link to my reviews and content elsewhere (thanks, glad you dig it), but republishing any part of them in any way, shape or form is strictly prohibited until we talk first. Please take a look at my Creative Commons license for more detail.

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