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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

Texan BBQ Algonquin Reviews

Texan BBQ Algonquin ReviewI was in this place once 25 years or so ago;  they’ve been around for about 30+ years in this distant Chicago suburb.   It’s fairly standard barbecue fare (for the midwest) offering a full menu, including pork and beef ribs, turkey, sausage, chicken, brisket and additional, non-smoked fare like burgers, chicken fried steak and the like.  Standard sides are beans, slaw, and a choice of potato.  Food is available on plates, with one, two, or three meats, or as sandwiches.

Meats are cooked in house on a hickory fire.

Order and pay for your food at the counter when you walk in, have a seat and your meals will be brought to you.

The have a ‘sauce bar’, where you can fill ramekins of “mild,” “hot,” or “spicy” sauce, but they all tasted exactly the same to me.   We had the ribs/chicken combo, the chicken fried steak, and an order of rings.

The chicken fried steak was  a large serving, two pieces, with gravy and biscuits and the aforementioned sides.   The menu had stated each entree came with Texas toast and pickles, but no such luck today. Biscuits were the order of the day, instead.   If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I go for Texas toast!

Was it great?  Not really?  Worth a drive?  Not really.  A good value?  Not really.   It’s one of those times where as cliched as it sounds, “it was what it was.”  But to last over 30 years, he must be doing something right.  The Texan BBQ also caters.

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

Chicken Fried Steak

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

Ribs & Chicken Plate

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Review

O Rings

 

Two entrees, plus tip, $35.

Texan Barbeque on Urbanspoon

 

Texan BBQ Algonquin Reviews

Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Review

Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa ReviewI should read my own past reviews before I buy groceries.  I had a previous review of Johnson’s kielbasa, and gave it a fairly innocuous rating.  When I cooked heated some this week, I really didn’t like them, and if I remember that, won’t be likely to buy it again.  Any Eastern European version of kielbasa is a savory link, generally smoked, and highly  seasoned with garlic and/or pepper.

The predominant flavor in Johnsonville’s is not the smoke or spices, but a sweetness that probably comes from corn syrup as an ingredient, which doesn’t appeal to me and certainly doesn’t seem necessary.

(Day 2)  I tried these a second day, loading them up with condiments, one with yellow mustard, onion, dill  relish, another with sauerkraut and strong mustard.  Didn’t help, still the predominant taste to me is “sweet,” and that’s not what a polish should be.

If you’re buying groceries for young ‘uns, note that the fat content of each link is 30% of the RDA.  I’ll pass on these in the future.

Pictured below, Johnsonville’s Sheboygan Falls, WI plant, USDA est. # M34224-P34224.

Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Review

Johnsonville Polish Kielbasa Review

Los Angeles, CA – Melody Pizza

Melody Pizza Review

(Editor’s Note): I was contacted by the owners of a new place, Melody’s Pizza,  near LAX in Los Angeles, a new venture for a couple that owns a hot night spot down the street, the Melody Bar and Grill. I was invited to come by, couldn’t make it, so Los Angeles Burger Bureau Chief Larry gathered up his crew and hit up the Melody recently.

Does the Water really make NY Pizza taste better than it’s west coast cousin The LA Slice?

Hell yeah!  And Melody’s Pizza near LAX Airport tries hard to replicate that taste and texture.  Especially in its traditional round (as they refer to it), just saucy enough and not too cheesy, a wonder baked in a Marsal & Sons deck oven imported from New York.  But that alone couldn’t do it.  It takes a Pizza-monger, a man (or woman as the case may be) to master the years it takes of dough making and dough throwing and sauce making and tasting, to get it right.

Melody’s seems to have found that guy. The chef (and expert pizza maker) is a Brooklyn transplant who goes by the name of “Ronnie”. And it’s a “Ronnie” with all the real stuff going for him.  Years of working at premiere pizza joints in and out of the city.  No, not LA City. The Big Apple one.  The accent, the tattoos and the hands and mouth to taste (and throw out NY stories to boot) makes our memories and the melody of Melody’s sing New York, New York, loud and clear.  A near authentic NY style pie in our midst.

Ronnie uses their own Brooklyn Water system including reverse osmosis water treatment along with other secret things the owners just refused to cough up at our meeting at their restaurant one evening recently –  to make the water more like NY water for NY dough for NY pizza.  I was very, very skeptical.

Melody Pizza Review

Marsal & Sons Pizza Decks

It seems to work.

Excellent texture to the dough.  Yet a nice crispiness to the bottom of the pizza.  And traditional taste.

We had a taste of at least 10 pies. But please understand: if you’re ever going to work your way up to being even a beginning pizza critic, clearly, the first thing you must do when tasting a pie that restaurateurs proclaim is NY style… you’ve gotta start with a slice a PLAIN cheese pizza with their tomato sauce. End of story.  Or if that restaurateur is proclaiming that they’ve got the next best thing to a true Italian pie… from the homeland… you’ve gotta start with a small Pizza Margarita. Nothing else on them. Nothing else to screw them up. And clearly NO California Pizza B.S. with adding the kitchen sink to your pie.

Just start slowly. And plain.  And work your way in.  It’s like a Ballet.

So, needless to say, I was very nervous at the thought of discovering a NY slice from my homeland in LA-LA land.

So, I brought my family to taste.  The wife and kids.  Wanted to make sure I wasn’t being fooled.  And my kids have grown up on NY Pizza so they should know it from a mile away.  My wife on the other hand is a different cookie.  She grew up in Great Neck, Long Island so you never know what she’s gonna think real NY Pizza is supposed to taste like (Just Kidding. I have a thing about the Island. Can’t get over it).

The Setting: Small place, a few tables and chairs (for a real coziness) but with a long bar area for Pizza prep viewing and sitting to dine (with at least a dozen such comfortable bar chairs with a granite tabletop).

Melody Pizza ReviewPIZZAs we sampled:

The traditional Round as they call it.  We all had slices and they were really fabulous.  Made me miss home.

Then, we had the Chicken Parmigiana Pizza.  Excellent Sauce. Chicken was very moist. Too often that topping will dry out when recooked in the pizza oven. Not here. Ronnie cooks the Parmigiana on the stove top – right next to his gi-normous pot of his nonna’s recipe marinara – just enough so that the next baking in their Marsal & Son ovens  gives the pizza just what it needs. Beautiful. A particular winner for my kids.

Then came a Gorgonzola and Poached Pear Pie. Pizza Pie, that is. A winner.  With Mama’s original crust. Kind of a cross between a Sicilian crust and a homemade Mama Mia pan pizza crust from the old lady’s oven in her Roma pensione.  Really a highlight at this place.

That same crust is used in the premiere Mama’s pizza, an excellent Pizza Caprese on their Mama’s crust, with an elegant balsamic vinegar glace (a little sweet and not too vinegary) under beautiful hunky slices of mozzarella and fresh cut vine ripened local farmers market tomatoes… with, of course, basil leaves atop each Caprese tower… makes for a wonderful pie.  Not anything I remember out of NYC however.  Much more like something out of the old country of Italia.

Bugogi Pizza (yes, Bugogi. You heard me right) with homemade Kimchi was fab. We only thought that the Kimchi could have been a bit spicier.  Not a NYC dish at all. In fact, would go great if this Pizza Joint were transplanted into Koreatown LA instead of near the airport terminals. This is the Pizza they should have served at Sony’s opening night Hollywood premiere party for The Interview. Oh well, I’d recommend ordering it for home delivery and watching the flick ONLINE instead. Definitely makes the top of list for North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

Melody’s is just across the street from In ‘N Out Burger, a Pie’s throw away. Ample street parking and even some parking in back. They also have their sister restaurant three doors down called Melody’s Bar & Grill, and there’s ample parking beyond it as well if you’re bring in your 767.  In fact, Melody’s Pizza menu can be ordered down the street at their Bar & Grill.  The waitress’ will run over and get your pizza and run back into the Bar & Grill with enough time to serve you up your drink and a karaoke tune as well.

The owners, Christian and Jen, a wonderful husband and wife restauranteur team manage their businesses with love and good taste. They’ve clearly chosen a winner in Ronnie the Pizza Guy who in his off time is a professional online gamer extraordinaire. Yep, NYC pizza and online gaming seem to go well together. You know you’ve got a winner when you pick up your slice and can hold it like a real New Yorker… the famous fold. And boy, it works here at Melody’s.

My favorite: The traditional Round.

Negatives: I miss the noise of the taxis of the NYC streets outside.  It just isn’t the same thing hearing or seeing Uber-mobiles transporting Angelenos to their respective airline terminals outside on Sepulveda. That makes me wanna get on a plane and go to the Big Apple for a slice at one of a dozen joints. But until then, I’ll sing the song of Melody’s.

Melody’s does a brisk biz in delivery too. A great neighborhood to do so in.  The local homeowners and renters and well as local businesses bring their need for pie to this establishment.  But just as important is the fact that this place delivers to all the Hotels in the area near LAX and along Century Blvd. as well as to the hard working LAX staff, flight attendants and TSA workers waiting around for a near perfect pie. It’s even close enough to the airport you could run over and grab a slice if you were hanging out between a plane change!


Melody Pizza has a fairly wide delivery area, if you’re in your jammies and don’t feel like going out. Check out their menu and order online or by calling (424) 227-7686. Open daily from lunch til late at 9146 Sepulveda and they cater, too!

(Editor’s note:  food samples were comped during this visit).

 

Melody Pizza Review

Christian and Ronnie

Melody Pizza Review

Caprese Salad Pizza

 

IMG_4503

Dishing Up Some Meaty Goodness

 

Melody Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

New Orleans, LA – R & O Restaurant

Back in the day, a part of the Lake (Ponchartrain) front in New Orleans was called “Bucktown.” I’ll leave it to you to find out why. Bucktown had bars, restaurants, businesses that catered to the fishing fleet parked on the shore. Today, Bucktown is mostly made up of the Corps of Engineers Levee (now, new and improved!), and a few restaurants have survived.

About the only one with a sense of longevity and continuity, is the R&O, which says on the front of the building “Restaurant and Catering” and says on the menu “Pizza Restaurant.”

Identity crisis? In fact “no,” and most people go to R&O for boiled and fried seafood platters, piled high with local goodness – oysters, crawfish, shrimp, crabs, fish.

Used to be the restaurants here would take the seafood right out of the Lake, but these days, product comes from around the local region.

In addition to the seafood, R&O has a complete Italian dinner menu, sandwiches and pizzas, so it’s pretty high on the family dining list, with something to please most every one. And since it’s an oyster outlet (down here we say “er-ster”, tho), there is always an ample supply of saltines on the table to shut up those rugrats ankle biters.

But I go for the pizza. To my tastes, it’s one of the best in New Orleans, which is not exactly pizza heaven, despite the large influence of Italians in the region, and a great many excellent Italian restaurants.

In fact “pizza” and “dearth” go together here, in my mind.

R&O’s has a great thin crust, bubbly/chewy on the rim, crispy inside, cooked on a standard gas two-decker, like Blodgett or Baker’s Pride (I didn’t peek).

New Orleans is a great town to get Italian sausage, and the hand-pulled chunks on R&O’s pizza are no exception. Excellent texture, seasonings, and cooked to perfection. Real cheese and a mild red sauce (here we call it “red gravy”) bind it all together. The cheese melds together so well, that if you attempt to remove a slice immediately after the pizza has been served, that cheese is going to pull away. Wait a minute! The whole experience will go better.

During the seven years I lived here, I searched uptown, downtown, all around for a good pizza, and R&O became my consistent choice.


View Larger Map


R & O's Pizza Place on Urbanspoon

New Orleans Pizza

Kwik Trip Update

Kwik Trip ReviewIn my previous posts about Kwik Trip, I reminisced about their roots, when I used to do some business with them and they only had a couple stores in LaCrosse, WI.  Today, there are over 400 stores, and 12,000 employees.  If you live in the Upper Midwest, there’s a store near you.  What makes Kwik Trip unique and a master of its segment is that it has developed its own brand names over the years, and thus is able to assure quality and keep prices low.  It’s a business maneuver 7-Eleven has started to copy recently with their own in-house brands.

KwikTrip was also one of the first to include healthy options in their take away food choices (also now being copied by 7-Eleven), and their ‘morning bar’ for variety of coffee and pastries is unequaled in the industry.

One thing new I noticed on my recent trip was the installation of a counter dedicated to fresh, vacuum packed meats – there is a small selection of roasts, steaks, dinner sausages and hot dogs, some from some of Wisconsin’s leading brands, like Klement’s, and some with a Kwik Trip label.  For instance, they had a package of eight natural casing wieners for $2.99, and that’s about 40% less than other brands in grocery stores.  Kwik Trip (packaged) wieners are make by Bakalars Sausage in LaCrosse (plant picture below);  the reason I distinguished the description with “packaged” is because their hot sausage/dog roller grill feature products from Johnsonville, Ball Park, and others.

I understand the company treats employees well, too.   Great products, prices, and management.  Kwik Trip gets my c-store dollar when I’m in the area.

Kwik Trip Fresh Meat

Fresh Meat Display

 

Kwik Trip Review

Bakalars Sausage LaCrosse WI

Fairfield Inn Roseville MN

Fairfield Inn Roseville ReviewDesigned to compete in the category the hospitality industry calls “added value economy”, the Marriott Corporation created the Fairfield Inn brand in the late 1980s. This category of motel offers amenities, but limited “service,” at “value pricing.” Pricing, of course, varies depending on location.  “Limited service” generally means, no on-site restaurant, bell staff and the like.

As with most hotel brands, Fairfields are franchises, and franchisees are bound by a set of rules and standards required by the brand to give the impression of standardization. In other words, guests at one Fairfield Inn should be able to expect the same type of accommodations, services, and amenities from one location to another.

Brands do a fairly good job of policing this policies, in order to protect the value of the brand.

Small business operators being what they are, however, guests should not be surprised to find some variance in quality of operations (plus or minus).

The Fairfield Inn in Roseville, MN, a suburb of St. Paul is operated by TMI Hospitality, a Fargo, North Dakota based operator of nearly 200 hotels/motels of different brands. The company was recently sold to Starwood Properties for over a billion dollars, media reports state.

TMI seems to one of the operators that gives more than required of a franchisee. There wasn’t a single aspect of a recent stay at the motel that didn’t exceed my expectations for the segment. Every member of the staff that I encountered was friendly and accommodating. The motel and rooms were antiseptically clean, as was the swimming pool and pool area.

The complimentary hot breakfast was well supplied and tasty. The first hotel I remember offering this option (in a chain) was the Hampton Inns, in the mid 1980s. It’s rather standard now, in the economy and economy plus segments, and as I mentioned above, because the motels are franchisees, service and quality can vary. I know the menu choices are dictated, as I own a social media company and this year we wrote home pages for more than 400 motels of a couple different brands and the paragraph on hot breakfasts was nearly the identical language.

What I don’t know, however, is whether or not franchisees are required to buy from a central commissary designated by the franchisor, or whether they have latitude on picking their own suppliers and/or offerings.

I didn’t inquire who the supplier was for this Fairfield, could have been a local company, Sysco, US Foods, or someone like that. The breakfast bar was open for four hours daily, and offered (this is similar to the language from the websites we did) “breakfast meats, breakfast breads, cereal, fresh fruit and juices, yogurt, eggs, and hot waffles.”

This particular bar stood out as the attendants had it fully stocked prior to the posted opening, and kept it refreshed and clean. An addition to the offerings was biscuits with sausage gravy.

All food was heat and eat (it comes prepared from the supplier and is just thawed, warmed at the hotel), and was really tasty. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffy, and the gravy was flavorful and had nice chunks of sausage.

Some franchisees make a minimum effort in this area, and may put out the breakfast once, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, and there is no effort to maintain order or cleanliness during the serving hours.

The Fairfield in Roseville not only exceeded my expectations in this area, but they also get kudos for having a full array of condiments and a variety of toppings for the toasts and bagels available, something they surely wouldn’t have to do.

Fairfield’s have done away with vending, instead offering a “market” at the front desk, with a variety of snack food and beverages.  Prices are a bit spendy, but the concept does give you a wider choice and is available 24/7.

Another surprising service? There was a 4-5 inch snowfall overnight, and a hotel employee when out and brushed the snow off every car in the lot. I’ve never seen that, anywhere, and thanks!

Complaints? My nit picky stuff. Pool water was a little chilly, and I suspect the sausage was turkey based. LOL.

I travel an incredible amount, and I’m not loyal to any one brand or another, usually choosing my accommodation by convenient location.

While I can’t say you should start choosing Fairfield Inns to get this level of service, I can expect that any motel managed by TMI will probably have the same standards, and I will definitely  look for TMI properties in the future. Locator here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairfield Inn Roseville MN

Simms Garlic Summer Sausage

Simms Summer Sausage Review A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Garlic Summer Sausage from one of my favorite meat processors, Klement’s of Milwaukee.  I enjoyed the product, and it was at a deeply discounted promotional price, which was even better.   Today I was zipping through Aldi’s for staples, and noticed they had a garlic summer sausage as well, and fairly inexpensive.  Their in-house brand name is Simms.  Many of their other processed meat products use the brand name of ParkView. Not sure why the distinction.

This product is made for Aldi at Abbyland Foods, (USDA est. 1633)  in Little Chute, WI.  Little Chute is almost dead center of the state, halfway between Chippewa Falls and Wausau.  They kill cattle and hogs up there in Little Chute, make a gaggle of processed smoked and fresh meat, and still find time to run a truck stop, c-store, and a couple restaurants.  Abbyland started in 1977, and today has over 1000 employees and sends product all over the USA.  Google Earth pic of the plant, below.

Besides the value pricing, what I liked about this sausage was the garlic was more pronounced than the Klement’s product, but they are both good. Either one of these brands are much better (and considerably cheaper) than Hickory Farms, scourge of every shopping mall in the land at this time of year.  Ingredients with the Simms are straightforward,  pork, beef, salt, and the list of the “less than 2% stuff.”  (Various flavorings and preservatives). It’s a fine grind in an artificial casing. Nice flavor and texture.

Simms Summer Sausage Review

Simms Summer Sausage Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simms Garlic Summer Sausage

Jacks Pizza Review

jacks-pizzaJack’s is one of those former little brands, started as the food equivalent of a garage band, in Little Chute, Wisconsin (outside of Appleton.  Near Neenah.  Kinda by Menasha. Before you get to Green Bay).  Started in 1960.  Grew around the state, then the region, bought by Kraft when they were rolling up frozen pizza brands, and then Kraft spun off their pizza division to Nestle.  I can’t say why.   (Jack’s, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, and Tombstone are all part of this group.)

Jack’s sits in the ‘value category’, you’re probably not going to pay more than $4, and often they are on sale at 3 or 4 for $10.

Jack’s doesn’t list the ingredients on their website, but there is a mess of them, including my least favorite “….mechanically separated….. bird of some kind.”   The company says one of their points of pride is ‘real Wisconsin cheese.’  I would think the Swiss owners would have something to say about that, but I guess not.  Nutritional info says a serving size is 1/4 of the pie, for 380 calories, 160 of them from fat, and 37 grams of carbs. Seems low, but it is an ultra-thin crust.

The brand is kind enough to have the warning “do not eat without cooking.”

Directions call for 11 – 13 minutes at 425, center shelf.  The pie curled in the oven.  Not sure why some frozen pizzas do that and others do not.

Verdict:

Crust:  ultra thin, cracker like

Sauce:  a little towards the sweet side, but ample

Cheese:  a fair amount, good flavor, nice “pull”

Pepperoni:   not bad

Sausage:  very small bits, no flavor at all. I’d prefer larger pieces and a little fennel and/or garlic.

Verdict:  To my unsophisticated palate, most of the brands in the ‘value pricing category’ taste about the same. With the exception of the “ultra-value” like Totino’s or Jeno’s,which you can sometimes find for 10 / $10 – and they are truly awful. Would I buy this one again? I’d probably keep a few around if I ran into another 3 or 4 for $10 deal.   Product locator.

After a year of extensive study (there are a lot of frozen pizza reviews on the site), my favorites remain Chicago’s Vito and Nicks II, and the Screamin’ Sicilian Brand from Milwaukee manufacturer, Palermo.

We’ve talked about value and ultra value here;  I think there needs to be an ultra premium category of frozen pizza.  Probably in the $12 – $15 range.

Below is the publicity photo from Jack’s website, and my photo of the pie just out of the oven.  Waddya think?  Do they look the same?

Jack's  Pizza Review

Prior to baking

Jack's  Pizza Review

Promotional Photo

Jack's  Pizza Review

Just out of my oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacks Pizza Review

I Invent the WeenieBurger

A few weeks ago, I made frankfurters at home, I usually do this once or twice a year. The recipe is rather simple beef and pork on a 2/1 ratio, paprika, black pepper, celery seeds, garlic powder, dry milk powder, ground mustard, white pepper,coriander, and salt. You process this all, adding ice cubes slowly until you get a slurry of meat product which can easily slide into the casings, natural or not, your choice; my preference is always natural.  You can refrigerate them to consume in the next week, freeze them,  or smoke them and then freeze.

Well, I was a little ambitious on the meat, and had a lot left over that I froze in one pound packs, and have been using for various things. Wednesday is my hamburger day, and I didn’t feel like going out, and had no pure ground beef in the house, so I used a pound of the weenie mixture and shaped it into three patties.

Because of the content, the patties carmelized a little in the pan, and the distinctive color is a result of the spices. You’ll note from the pic of the sliced burger, that this is beyond a fine grind, and so the patty tends to be chewier, lacking the air pockets you find in most ground meats.

But for me, flavor was excellent, and I dressed them with dijon/mayo mixture and dill slices. I’ll make them again, and maybe not only when I have left over frankfurter meat!

weenieburger png

weenieburger cut 2 PNG

 

WeenieBurger

Bobak Polish Sausage Review

Bobak Sausage Review“Polish” Sausage is the Americanization of a smoked beef / pork sausage from Poland that is commonly called kielbasa.  The American version is generally milder than the original, depending on the manufacturer.   Many Chicago companies call their polish sausage “Maxwell Street” (style), as an homage to a sandwich that was commonly sold to the immigrant settlers in one of Chicago’s oldest neighborhoods, Maxwell Street, a major east-west thoroughfare;  a lot of that area now is home to the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois.

Back in the day, Maxwell Street was home to a large open air market, where one could buy nearly anything, legal, or illegal, and the Maxwell Street sandwich was common fare in the market – a grilled split sausage, with grilled onions and yellow mustard, served on a bun, sport peppers on request.  Today’s  “New” Maxwell Street market is a very vibrant giant flea market, held on Sunday’s year round, with a decidedly international flair.

Bobak’s, a Chicago area sausage maker, has been around for more than fifty years, and makes all manner of smoked and fresh sausages and deli meats, as well as operating a large grocery with their own products and imported European groceries.  The grocery, pictured below, is at 5275 S. Archer Ave.

(Got a craving for Chicago foods?  Get hot dogs, pizzas, and more delivered to your home!

Bobak Sausage ReviewBobak’s appears to share a production facility with another Chicago brand, located on the West Side.  Based on the low double digit number assigned to the plant by the USDA, this plant, in some form, has been around a very long time, and probably dates back to stockyard days.

The Bobak Polish come in to different lengths, 8″ for buns, 12″ to heat and eat as a dinner sausage.  It has a very mild flavor, and the bun length ones have a great ‘snap’ and a nice smoke.   Ingredients are: Pork, Beef, Water, Corn Syrup, Potassium Lactate, Sat, Natural Flavors, Sodium Phosphates, Dextrose, Sugar, Sodium Diacetate, Garlic, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite.

The bun length ones are five to a 14 ounce package, I paid around $4.00, which is a good value, but that was a sale price.   I prefer my Polish on a bun with kraut and yellow mustard. When I used to travel to Poland on business,  the local employees would treat me to  a sausage soup, which was absolutely terrific.  (Polish soup recipes).

 

Bobak Sausage Review

Bobak Grocery

 

Bobak Sausage Review

Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Bobak Polish Sausage Review

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