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Archive for the ‘Sausage’ Category

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

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Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage ReviewThe ‘gyro’ is a Greek inspired sandwich, with meat (generally beef and lamb) cooked on a vertical roaster, placed in a pita, dressed with tomato, cucumber, and tatziki sauce.

Some purveyors add lettuce and onion. The word “gyro” is from the Greek word for “circle” or “turn.”

The meat is generally seasoned with salt, hot and sweet paprika, white  and black pepper, dried parsley, garlic powder, and oregano.

First developed by the Turks in the 19th century, and called “Doner Kabab” it took until 1971 for the entree to be popular in the US (primarily Chicago and New York) and til the mid 70s before a select group of companies entered large scale production.

Today, nearly any diner or local fast food place in Chicago will offer you a gyro sandwich or plate (no bread). But as much as Chicago is also a “sausage town” I’ve always been curious as to why someone hasn’t taken gyro seasoned meat and placed it in a natural casing to eat on a hot dog bun.

Inquiries to the largest gyro meat suppliers in Chicago have gone unanswered.

So I’m on one of my wandering trips last week, Southern Wisconsin, pull into the burg of East Troy and discover small processor Hometown Sausage Kitchen.

And darn if they don’t make them (gyro sausages). They run about a quarter pound each, at $9.00 a pound.

Ingredients are ground lamb and pork, water, salt, garlic, spices, red wine veingar powder, lemon juice powder, citric acid in a natural hog casing

I brought some home, par-boiled them, and finished them off on a flat top before slapping them into a substantial Turano roll with the aforementioned condiments.

Hog heaven, so to speak.

The sausage makers have perfectly captured the flavor of gyro meat. The grind is fine and the casing just sturdy enough.  These would be a great addition to any cookout.  This weekend, I will try some as a breakfast sausage, fried and cut on a bias.

Chicago sausage manufacturers are missing a bet not getting into this segment.

Hometown Sausage Kitchen is located just outside of East Troy, WI. Exit off I-43, take a right at the end of the ramp, then a left onto County Road L, and it’s about a mile ahead of you on the left. (picture below). They have a lot of spectacular, high quality processed pork products, and while they are primarily a wholesale operation, they do have retail on site, open Tue thru Sat at 9AM.  They also appear at farmer’s markets in the Chicago area.

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Packaging

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Two beauties ready for the flat top

 

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Not as pretty as I imagined, but unbelievably delicious

building

Processing plant and retail outlet.

 

 

 

 

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

Hometown Sausage Kitchen Gyro Sausage Review

 

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Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review – Milwaukee, WI

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Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage ReviewToday I used some of their fresh Italian sausages for a home-made pizza. I only picked up two, of the “hot” not “sweet” variety, and they run about four ounces apiece at about a buck twenty per.

I have this quirk which there is no rhyme nor reason for. When I’m making a sausage pizza, I don’t buy bulk sausage, but links, strip off the casings and use hand-pulled pieces for my topping.

You don’t have to pre-cook it, but you can if you like. It cooks just fine on top of the pie in the regular baking cycle.

So I made my dough, laid on the sauce, some finely diced garlic and sliced cheeses (provolone and mozz – slices melt nicer than shreds, in my opinion).

Then I symmetrically laid out bits of sausage, a sprinkle of Italian herbs, and my personal “go-to” topping, diced green olives with pimentos.

Using fresh dough, it bakes up nicely at 500 for 10-12 minutes.

Glorioso’s hot sausage is a bit hot, it turns out. Most of the time when I select that type of sausage, “hot” means lots of fennel and Italian herbs. But this wasn’t objectional at all, had great flavor, proper about of fat and great texture.

I only bought two as I said.  I should have bought a couple dozen.

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

 

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

Gloriosos Fresh Italian Sausage Review

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Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

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Quijote Brand Chorizo

Quijote Brand Chorizo ReviewThere are many varieties of chorizo sausage in the world.  I prefer the Spanish version, which is an ‘eating’ sausage, fermented, dried, smoked, ready for slicing.

It’s made from pork, fat, and a heavy dose of smoky paprika, along with a few other spices. It’s much milder than “Mexican chorizo” which incorporates chili peppers and is removed from the casing before frying in a skillet, being mashed, and taking on the appearance of finely ground beef.

I don’t see the Spanish variety in stores very often, so when I do, I pick it up. Driving across the Deep South last week, I stumbled onto a display of product in a grocery store, made by Elore Enterprises Inc., a Miami company located near MIA and five miles west of Biscayne Bay (pic below).

It’s very smoky and has the requisite firmness.  These particular sausages are about three inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter.  “Fun size” my daughter would say.

If you want a change of pace in a nice, firm, slightly spicy, slicing “salami” – you should give this style a try.

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Miami Plant Location

 

 

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

Quijote Brand Chorizo Review

 

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Sal and Mookies Pizza Review – Biloxi, MS

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Sal and Mookies Pizza Review“John and Mitchy were getting kind of itchy…”   wait….. “Sal and Mookie were feeling kinda ooky..”  Sorry. Really obscure and I’m dating myself.

So apparently these two guys were in the restaurant business in Jackson, MS (a hotbed of dining lately, really) and they decided they wanted to go into the NY style pizza biz.

According to their own information, they worked on different recipes til they felt they had it down and THEN went to NY to see how their pies compared.  They were satisfied.

Restaurant opens. Success. Pizza, ice cream parlor, sports bar, adult area, all in one.

Met people who wanted to take the concept to the Gulf Coast. Made a deal. Opened. Successful.  Just off the coast highway, across from the Hard Rock in Biloxi.  Spitting distance from the Gulf.

So I wandered in about 7:30 or so on a weeknight, and there were perhaps six couples dining and a gaggle of uncleared tables, must have been kinda busy earlier.

Hostess is awol.  Chef in kitchen behind big glass window overlooking the hostess stand. Nada. Blank stares.

Seems like finally a light bulb goes off and he goes to look for someone.  In the meantime, I’ve located the bartender and he shows me to one of the few “clean” tables.  Cleaned as in “cleared,” when the server did show up, she felt compelled to give it a wipe down.

Drinks ordered, delivered after a little delay. (Was there an employee poker game going on in the back or something?)

Pizza ordered, 14″ “Classic New York” with sausage, mozzarella, and provolone.

Pizza delivered fairly quickly. (By this time, I was the only customer).  Sal and Mookie’s brochure states that they use the finest ingredients:  King Arthur Flour,  Kosher Salt, Filtered Water, Fleishman’s Yeast, EVOO, whole milk mozzarella and imported Italian plum tomatoes.  Admirable, but I doubt the average pizza eater can tell the difference. I mean, hell, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars,  and Dominos are the largest chains in the world, and people seem to be satisfied with the crap they put out.

So do I tell you my opinion about this as a pizza in general, or as a “New York style” pizza?

If I lived here, it wouldn’t be my ‘go to’ pizza, tho this isn’t a part of the country that lends itself to great pizza.  I lived in New Orleans for eight years and pizza there was mostly meh.  I understand they’re working on it.

On Sal and Mookie’s desire to make a New York style.  Crust is too thick, puffy doughy edges, reminiscent of one of the grocery store self-rising things. Sausage is sliced pieces of links, that’s very New York-ish. But the sausage selection isn’t very flavorful.  (There’s a small producer down the road in Chalmette, Marciante, you should go sample theirs).  I didn’t look close, but there was a lot of garlic on the pie, so I can’t say whether it’s in the sauce or was diced bits on top.  I’m ok with that, some people might now be.

I’d personally prefer more cheese, but then real NY pizza tends to be skimpy on cheese. Distribution was a little lop-sided for some reason.

If you’re an occasional reader, you know the true test (for me) is how tasty the pie is the following morning, after sitting out all night. This one passes that test.

Would I go again?  Don’t think so.  In addition to the reasons above, it’s a little spendy, but then it’s sitting right in tourism central.  Total time invested, 75 minutes, surrounding tables still weren’t cleared or cleaned.

I think it’d be a fun place if you’ve dragged your entire family and in-laws to the beach, and wanted a pizza and ice-cream party, with lots of room to spread out.  They also have salads and sandwiches, a few pasta dishes and a kid’s menu.  Full menu is right over here. Non-smoking.  They cater.

Sal and Mookies Pizza Review

Sal & Mookie's New York Style Pizza & Ice Cream Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sal and Mookies Pizza Review
Sal and Mookies Pizza Review

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Fairfield Inn Midtown Review – Savannah, GA

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Fairfield Inn Midtown ReviewI’m not very brand loyal, but after a pretty good experience with Fairfield a few years back, I generally look for them first when I am on the road.

Not as likely to be individually franchisee owned, but rather held by a group management company, the quality of one’s stay is ultra-dependent on how hard the management company works at maintaining the hotel and staff.

TMI Hospitality out of Fargo, which holds a gaggle of Fairfields, does an excellent job.  They have the one in Roseville, MN that I first stayed at.  North Point Hospitality, out of Atlanta, owns and operates the Fairfield Midtown in Savannah.  They built this one from the ground up and it opened in 2016.

On many levels, there are no noticeable differences from one Fairfield to another. They are generally tastefully decorated, with functional rooms geared to the business traveler, adequate work space, free wifi, comfortable lobby, exercise room, pool (this one was outdoor, but heated) and a pretty comprehensive complimentary hot breakfast, where some items change on a daily basis.

Basically, you’re going to find fruit, juices, yogurt, waffles, eggs, breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, breads and danish, muffins, coffee, tea, and milk. One morning there was scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, another cheese omelets and veggie sausage.  Pork sausages were available both days.   There are the usual accompaniments, condiments, cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit jellies.

Some observations, not criticisms, of this hotel. Staff wasn’t as welcoming, friendly or helpful as other Fairfields. Let’s call that level of service “perfunctory.”  I object to a parking fee when the ramp/lot is part of the hotel.  The parking ramp was poorly designed, and should be re-striped, at least, the slots are too small for most current model cars.

Don’t even think about taking a big pick-up or van in there.  As a testament to the design error, the hotel has taped up strips of foam on the concrete pillars to try and assist you in minimizing the potential damage putting your car in and out of the space.

Note if you’re making a reservation:  rooms with Kings have only a shower.  Rooms with two queens have a tub/shower.  Not sure why, but that’s the layout of this hotel.  Speaking of bathrooms, you can clearly hear bath “activities” from adjacent rooms.

Breakfast was fine, as described above, but one day was an hour late, without explanation.  That’s fine if you’re a leisure traveler, or one of a group of seniors off the tour bus, but business people and departing guests are apt to be put off by that kind of thing.

Pluses? Besides the things I’ve mentioned, a nice neighborhood, about 4-5 miles from downtown, shops (including two groceries) and restaurants within walking distance, city bus stops at the front door.  Appreciate the outdoor pool was heated to a very comfortable level.

I’d stay again.  FYI.  Shop hard online for rates. I discovered I was paying 30-40% less than many other guests.

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Breakfast Items

 

 

 

 

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

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Suncrest Farms Ham Review

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Suncrest Farms Ham ReviewI’m crazy about “real” ham. Earthy, cured, smoked, taste and feels like it came from an actual animal. Meat should taste like it came from an animal.

Reality? I’ll eat almost any ham, but I like the real stuff the best and have been known to go on long drives in the Carolinas, Kentucky, Missouri and other places in search of small processors.

Or just stumbling into local groceries in those regions.

I found some good ones last week in North Carolina, “Suncrest Farms.” In addition to being top quality, it’s more ‘value priced’ than most competitor packets. Especially cool that they have “biscuit slices” in a one dollar package.

Just what you need to satisfy a quick craving. As it is both cured (salt, sugar) and smoked, it doesn’t require refrigeration bfeore it’s opened. You can haveSuncrest started in the mid 90s and has grown incrementally in revenue and facility size.  They now top 100,000 square feet of production and storage space in Wilkesboro, NC.  A pic of their factory is below.”Country ham” is a cure method involving primarily salt and time. “City hams” are cured with more sugar, and less smoke, a milder flavor.

Country ham is fairly salty.  Soak in water ahead of cooking (15-30 minutes) or simmer in water before pan-frying, that’s my method. Great for eating, sandwiches, seasoning in dishes.

Sadly, the company does not have an e-store on their site, or a locator.  Nor is it available on Amazon.  Too bad, cause it’s delicious. I’m going to have to plan a stock-up trip again soon!

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Slices after pan fry

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Close up. Note nice muscle grain.

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Suncrest Farms factory

 

 

 

 

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

Suncrest Farms Ham Review

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Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage ReviewThe full name of this product is “Johnsonville New Orleans Andouille Recipe Smoked Sausage.

In its original form, Andouille is a pure pork sausage that originated in France.  It is comprised of organ meat in a natural casing, with seasonings and wine, and then smoked. It is gray.

The first time I ordered it in Paris, I was quite surprised, the innards are quite rough cut and very identifiable. A bit shocking for a boy from a small town in Minnesota.

The French Acadians brought the sausage recipes to South Louisiana, where it kind of got jumbled up with the Creole cuisine influence already in the area. The recipe changed to a much finer grind, pure pork shoulder (no “bits”) with garlic, onion and wine for seasonings, stuffed into a natural casing and double smoked.

The Johnsonville product in no way resembles Louisiana Andouille, and the Cajuns (Acadians) never settled in New Orleans anyway.

So there we are.

Johnsonville is the largest sausage company in the US, measured in dollar volume, and their products are sold around the world.  They are based in Sheboygan Falls, WI and their giant plant (pictured below) is nearby and has the capacity to slaughter over 3,500 pigs daily.

Their “New Orleans” sausage if pork and beef, water, a mess of seasonings, all the usual preservatives and the dreaded corn syrup. You can taste the sweetness in the sausage. There is a tiny bit of “heat,” although true Cajun and Creole dishes are not known for that quality.

The meat slurry is stuffed into a collagen casing. Collagen is made from various animal parts, skin, tendons and such, and was designed to emulate the natural casings (hog and sheep intestines) used in many sausage.

I don’t know Johnsonville’s smoking process.  With that amount of production, I’m sure it’s massively efficient, which means, not a natural wood fire like smaller producers still use, but rather a liquid smoke “shower” within the smoking unit (oven).

It’s a good product for the mass market, of course, and that is what its designed for.

I do mine in  a cast iron skillet. Putting a little “char” on them further imitates a natural casing (to me). You can see one problem is collagen casings split open, so some flavor escapes.  Since they are smoked, you don’t have to “cook” them, just heat them anyway you prefer.

I hardly ever buy Johnsonville, rarely on sale and always 25-30% more than at least one competitor in any given week. Especially their fresh sausages.

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Wisconsin Plant

 

 

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

Johnsonville New Orleans Smoked Sausage Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages ReviewI am crazy for “little smokies” but it’s one of the few things I have remained a brand snob about.

A few years ago, I started with Hillshire Farms All Beef Little Smokies and pretty much haven’t looked back. Although they are spending (north of $4 a pack usually) they are occasionally in the $2.50 range at WalMart and I stock up.

I prefer their flavor and texture, and I’ve tried a shitload of brands, John Morrell, Eckrich, Klements,  and Aldi, to name a few.

So prowling an Asian hypermart last week, I spotted “K Chef” brand, which the package touted as “uncured cooked sausages,” and implied they were “Korean style.”

To me they looked like regular old “little smokies” but I liked the ingredient list (below) and was intrigued that they said they were in collagen casings, as most “smokies” type sausage, like skinless wieners, are formed in a casing mold which is stripped off after cooking at the plant.

Giant bonus. They were priced at $1.99. That may have been a mistake. If not, I’m taking the freezer truck back over this weekend!

The K Chef brand is a product of a New Jersey company, Premier Foods, which was started in 2012 only, and states as their mission: “we are developers, producers and distributors of unique and flavorful ready-to-eat, frozen, shelf-stable foods for you home and commercial use.”

Premier contracted with Family Food Products, Bensalem, PA, for the manufacture and packaging of these sausages, according to the USDA establishment number on the wrapper.

Bottom line.  I liked them. They have great flavor, a little smokier than most, and the casings add a texture dimension usually not found in smokies and their ilk.

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Ingredient list

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

In the pan (char is intentional on my part)

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

Bensalem PA Factory

 

 

 

 

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

K Chef Uncured Cooked Sausages Review

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

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Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review“Mama Cozzi” is Aldi’s brand name for pizzas and related products. They come in a very wide variety of styles, both frozen and take and bake, and are value-priced like most all of Aldi’s products.  I’ve reviewed quite a few of them in the past, read some of them here.

I’m a pizza snob, but I find most of them a tick above “satisfactory.” They are certainly better than Dominos, Caesars, Pizza Hut and 755 of the frozen pizzas on the market.

They had a new one this week, “Tavern Inn” – in the frozen counter, and it appealed to me right away because the package bragged about “one half pound of real Wisconsin cheese,” and you could see the cheese was cut in thick shreds instead of the finely diced method most frozen pies use.  In my personal experience, I have found the former method of chees-ing on frozen pizzas makes for a better, and more even melt.

I thought this pie looked awfully familiar, and since Aldi employs a lot of brand name manufacturers to make their private label products, I would have been willing to bet this was made by Palermo’s in Milwaukee.  It resembles their “P’Mo’s” brand pizza.

But when I looked up the factory number, I found they are actually made by Minnesota pizza company Bernatellos, who labels include Bellatoria, Roma, Orv’s,  Real ‘Za, and “Brew Pub” and that’s the pie that Aldi’s Tavern Inn most closely resembles in appearance. Bernatellos plant is located in a distant northwestern exurb of Minneapolis, Maple Lake, pic below.

So popped this one in the oven, had picked out a combo sausage and pepperoni style, don’t know if there are others, didn’t look. It was done sooner than the package predicted for cook time, and I gotta say, I liked it.  Really.

It’s a cracker thin crust, in fact if you look at the bottom, there are bumps and docking marks that almost makes it look like a matzoh. About the same crunch as well. Ths sausage chunks are good-sized, important to me, and either the sausage or pepperoni had some nice heat to it, which I also like. The sauce leans a little sweet for my personal taste, but tolerable, and the “half pound of real Wisconsin mozzarella?”  Magnificent. Truly.

Aldi has been known to have some pizza styles that have come and gone, hope this isn’t one of them.

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the oven!

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Bernatellos Minnesota Factory

 

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

 

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Buona Beef Grocery Review

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Buona Beef Grocery ReviewI’ve written a lot about Chicago’s Italian Beef sandwich. The easiest way to explain it to those not familiar is to say it’s a highly seasoned French Dip, but the “Dip” part is not on the side but involves dunking the entire sandwich in au jus (only if desired).  You can read my explanation of the origin if you like.

There are myriad restaurants that sell these marvels, many supplied by Chicago’s Vienna Beef Company, some shops that make their own. Used to be another big supplier, Scala, but I don’t see their product anymore, so don’t know if they are around or not. Devanco is another one, each of these probably does private label as well, and there are undoubtedly a number I don’t know about.

Many of these companies package for retail sale, you can find them at Chicago area grocery stores. I’ve tried and written about a lot of them, including Vienna and Mike Ditka’s for instance.

Enter Buona Beef, a mini-chain of Chicagoland restaurants specializing in Chicago foods – Beef, hot dogs, burgers, pizza.  I visited one for the first time a few weeks ago, and it’s quality, good food, efficient (counter) service.  They are supplied by a commissary/factory that they own, and they are also in the private label business, but lately, I’m seeing product in the stores under their own label. Italian Beef, Meatballs, and a couple other things in their line.

The product comes frozen solid in different weights. It is priced competitively, (but I think they are all too high, actually, I’d buy more if it cost less). I can tell you from experience (and the instructions on the package)  THAW FIRST. On an analog basis!  (Meaning in the frig overnight or on the counter for a few hours – not in the microwave!).  Then eat on a very gentle basis in a saucepan, select your bun/rol (in Chicago, Turano’s seems to be the preference).

Tong the meat into the bun if you want it “dry,”  add some jus to the bun if you want it “wet” or dunk the entire bun in jus for “wet.” Chicagoans often have the sandwich dressed with “giardiniera” a mixture of finely diced pickled vegetables, which can be hot or mild.  Melted mozzarella on top? That’s called a “cheezy beef.”  Wanna feel like a real insider?  Ask for a “Combo” which is an Italian Beef sandwich with an Italian sausage nestled in the beef (pictured).

Buona’s grocery product is good, very flavorful, nice slices of pure muscle beef, not a chopped, pressed, formed product like some companies. The ingredients list (pictured below) is straightforward and free of additives.  Up to this point in my life, as far as grocery store Italian Beef goes, Ditka’s was my favorite.  But now it’s a tie. So I’ll buy by price from here on out.

Haven’t tried Buona’s meatballs, will get around to that soon, I hope.  Buona does ship product, if you have a craving.

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Ingredient List

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Into the pan, prior to heating

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Italian Beef “Combo” “Dry”

 

 

Buona Beef Grocery Review

Buona Beef Grocery Review

 

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