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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Saturday, January 1, 2011 @ 08:01 AM

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Well it’s officially 2011 and I want to wish you all a very Happy New Years!  I hope everyone had a fabulous time celebrating with friends and family and that everyone stayed safe on one of the craziest nights of the year.  2010 was a very momentous and crazy year for Adam and I, and it brought lots of great memories.  PCC is coming up on a year old and really has become something we cherish as a journal of all our wonderful travels.  It’s amazing the wonderful adventures we’ve had and all the new cuisine we’ve tried in the name of Winking smile research.  Hopefully, the coming year will be another year of good changes and we are looking forward to whatever those might be, as well as finding new ways to branch out with Pop Culture Cuisine.

New Years is one of those holidays that typically has a lot of hype and lots of parties & events all in the name of celebration; and everyone who knows me knows I’m a person who loves a good excuse to celebrate.  And what better way to celebrate with others than with a festive drink?…of which we’ve encountered quite a few of along our travels, some famous, others just a part of the experience.  Still, I wanted to share a glimpse of some of the gems we have discovered and the places we found them at throughout this past year.  So with festive cheer and no further adieu, I give you the Year in Drinks for PCC…Cheers!

 

Pat O’Brien’s – Orlando, FL and New Orleans, LA

Drink: The Hurricane

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Created during WWII with a bunch of fruit juice and rum, this drink has been their most popular drink and a favorite place for many to hit up at any of their locations.  We have visited 2 locations and every time we are near one we have to stop in for at least 1 hurricane…and usually many more! Smile  These babies are potent, but delicious, and can be enjoyed on their beautiful patios during the day or hopping piano bars at night!

 

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Mariano’s – Dallas, TX

Drink: “The Frozen Margarita”

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You may remember Mariano’s from our review earlier this year, but being the originator of the frozen margarita, it’s hard to not include them again in this drinks feature.  Sweet and tangy like any good margarita should be, this one definitely was tasty and stood out in our minds as one of the better ones we have ever had.  We are now glad to say we’ve tried the first ever created (more than once) and can from now on compare it to our hometown Hacienda margaritas.

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The Pump Room – Chicago, IL

Drink: Cosmopolitan, Chocolate Martini, and White Russian

We lucked out on on my birthday trip a couple weeks ago that our hotel was attached to the famous Pump Room.  Popularized by many celebrities of yester-year like Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack friends, this spot still has the old time feel of a great crooner bar.  We were glad we could enjoy a couple of cocktails their throughout the weekend.  Great atmosphere and really well made drinks.

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Tujague’s – New Orleans, LA

Drink: Shock Top, Abita Brand Beers

One of the oldest bars in the whole USA, this New Orleans’ landmark in the French Quarter is a must stop if you are into history, old bars, or just want to take a break and cool off.  On both of our trips to N’awlins we have enjoyed grabbing a beer and hearing some of the fun stories the bartender (who has been there all most as long as the bar and has become a New Orleans standard) has to tell.  Although I am sure you can get any New Orleans staple drink you want, we opted for a nice cold beer on a nice hot day, and it was a welcome withdraw.

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Cheers – Boston, MA

Drink: Blue Moon

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I am pretty sure everyone out there is familiar with good ol’ Cheers….yes, that sitcom bar from the 80’s with Sam Malone and NORM!  And if you didn’t know that the show was based off a bar in Boston, you must have been living under a rock or you are REALLY young. Smile  Nonetheless, I was lucky enough this past May to be able to pay a visit to the original location in Beacon Hill with my best friend Emily.  I probably could have been adventurous and tried a real Bostonian beer, but already knowing I don’t like Sam Adams, I stuck to something I know and love…Blue Moon!  It was fun to be in the atmosphere, although now pretty touristy, but still fun to look around and see all the old memorabilia.  However, be forewarned, this place is nothing like the “Hollywood” set bar that we all know from the TV show….it’s MUCH smaller.  So you may be in for a shock.

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Epcot Food and Wine Festival – Orlando, FL

Drink: Leffe

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This next spot I will go into way more depth in a future post, but since drink was one of the components of the whole event, I wanted to touch on in briefly.  Each year, Epcot and Vanity Fair put on an International Food and Wine festival throughout the park where culinary dishes and drinks from around the world are matched and can be purchased.  Although we opted not to drink at most of the stops, when we saw an old favorite being featured in Belgium, we knew a small taste was in order.  It was deliciously refreshing on that hot day.

 

Jasper’s – Plano, TX

Drink: Jasper’s Triple Chocolate Martini

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Jasper’s is another restaurant we have already given our glowing review too, but this martini was so OUTSANDING I still compare every chocolate martini to it and often dream about it. Ok…not literally about the dreaming part, but ladies (and gentlemen too I suppose Winking smile) this drink is purely sinful!  Not only is it chocolately, it is also creamy and extremely rich.  They are sweet and probably a million calories, but who cares…this is what a sweet martini should taste like!

 

The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

Drink: Poinsettia

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We had the pleasure of dining at the the famous Walnut Room inside Macy’s during my birthday weekend.  The food and experience are another whole post in and of themselves, but again with drinks being the theme, I must share my beautiful festive poinsettia that I REALLY enjoyed.  The perfect blend of champagne and cranberry juice, it is a drink I am certainly going to be making in years to come, and it was a perfect cap to a perfect birthday weekend.

Anheuser Busch Brewery – St. Louis, MO

Drink: Shock Top, Michelob Brands

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Growing up in St. Louis I was unfortunately never of an age where I could enjoy touring a landmark that was so close to home.  I was glad Adam and I were able to visit the brewery on a trip a few years back and really see the whole process at work.  He and I are Bud people in preference, but it was this trip where I first got to try a Shock Top for the first time and it has quickly become one of my favorite beers.  In fact, since that time, I’ve been seeing it in bars more and more.  We had a great time learning about the history, the beer making process, and most of all enjoying some brews.

 

The Silver Palm – Chicago, IL

Drink: Silver Palm Cabernet Sauvignon

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Although the wine brand and restaurant name are just a happy accident, the wine was every bit as enjoyable as the meal itself.  We gave our rave reviews of the restaurant this year and one of the great features was the great atmosphere, especially where we enjoyed a few drinks after our meal.  I highly recommend this bar (and the tiny Matchbox next door) for a sort of a little unknown jewel for a night out in Chicago.

 

Hula Hut – Austin, TX

Drink: Pink Lemonade

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Unfortunately I can’t remember or find the name of this drink I ordered at the Hula Hut, but suffice it to say, it was their version of a pink lemonade with a kick.  It was very sweet and refreshing from what I remember, but also tasted too much like juice so it went down way to easy. Smile

 

Louie’s – Dallas, TX

Drink: Lindeman’s Framboise

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This was a spot in Dallas that we were so happy to stumble upon when we lived there.  Louie’s not only had great food, but their ambiance truly made us feel at home as former Chicagoans.  Because it was Valentine’s Day that weekend, I was looking for a little something special to drink so I was very happy to discover they have one of my all time favorite items on their menu…Lindemans’ Framboise.  Although they are super sweet, I love the berry flavor and how they a just a fun change up from a typical beer.

 

Well, I hope you have enjoyed our brief recap of some of the wonderful beverages we enjoyed in 2010.  I’m sure there were others along the way, but these were certainly the most tasty, most famous, or most memorable.  I am going to forgo a traditional review of each, but know this…each of these drinks stood out to me or Adam either because of the drink themselves, the experience that went along with them, or both.  We truly love every minute of our culinary adventures and the life journal that Pop Culture Cuisine has become for us.  I hope you all continue to follow our crazy foodie adventures each week…and hey…maybe tell a friend or two. Winking smile  So “For Auld Lang Syne”…HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010 @ 01:08 PM

045Summer is winding down, but I don’t know about you I am seriously looking forward to fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I love summer; the trips, the barbecues, and just hanging out in the sun.  However, having moved back up to the Midwest I am truly looking forward to “having” a fall and enjoying the leaves change, crisp sweater weather, and enjoying some apple picking.  But enough about the weather, I know you all don’t come and read my weekly features to here me blab about the seasons changing, but instead want to hear about a new spot to try or maybe not try for that matter.  But speaking of seasons, this next spot is not good in just one season or another.  Rather, its customers will line up around the block, in rain, snow or shine it seems, making it truly a legend in its own right.  (especially cause it can get downright nasty, weather wise, in this city!)  Opened in 1960, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage, located right in Harvard Square, has been dishing up a wide array of creative burger choices to its patrons ever since.  Started by the Bartley family, Billy their son, has been behind the grill since the age of 12 and according to an episode of Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives he would want to be doing nothing else.  He truly is the gas that keeps the fire continually burning and it would have to burning to keep up with their huge demand, see for yourself.

Source: “Diner’s, Drive-Ins, and Dives: Bartley’s Burger Cottage” [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYofuw_g0Js&feature=search.

The burgers look intense don’t they?  Well I have to admit that I did not actually see this clip before my visit to Mr. Bartley’s.  I know, I know, the horror, I did not do my full out research before a trip.  But truth be told I had already heard from several people (thanks Chad and Christina:) ) that this place was a must visit.  And since my bf Emily, whom I was visiting, had never been, it was the perfect opportunity.  Since Mr. Bartley’s is located near Harvard, I figured it would also give me a chance to be a typical Boston tourist and walk around its beautiful grounds as well, I mean one has to work up an appetite of course.  On day one, Emily and I set out on a long walk from her place over to Harvard Square and preceded to walk around the cute shops and campus.  It was not long before my stomach started growling and I knew it was about time for lunch.  Emily told me how she had heard how crazy packed this place can get, we were not surprised to turn the corner and find this. 

051 046 As you can see, people do not mess around when it comes to their burger for lunch.  And if you notice that man in the blue shirt seated next to the line, that is Mr. Bartley himself, acrotchety old man, but we’ll get to that.  Emily and I hopped in line and preceded to look over 30 burger options on the menu.  Emily and I had decided that we wanted to split one, since our friends had both mentioned how massive they were.  At 7 oz. of meat a burger, I have no doubt!  So we decided upon the “Tom Brady,” a good ol’ cheeseburger complete with guacamole and red onion.

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It was at this point that Mr. Bartley sat down and I must admit I was a little confused and just thought it was some nice old man needing a break.  However, next thing I know he has this pad out and is asking me what I want.  It was then we realized he was taking orders to sort of move the whole process along.  But let’s just say you had better know what you want when he sits down or he will completely skip over you.  We quickly went with that “Tom Brady” and a side of their famous onion rings instead of fries.  Then he turned and asked Emily what she wanted, she was in the middle of saying we were going to split the burger when he snappily replied “no splitting, must order at least something.”  So Emily ordered a chocolate frappe and asked if that was sufficient, he kind of looked annoyed but said that was fine.  It was then that a table happened to be opening out on the patio and we both decided to jump on it and be a little colder than having to wait for a seat any longer.  But at this point I was still a little shocked at the encounter we had just had with Mr. Bartley, but Emily was not all the surprised, she said it was typical no nonsense Boston behavior.  After we were comfortably seated, we were presented with our chocolate frappe to enjoy while we waited for our burger. 

052053Not really sure what to expect with a frappe or even what it was when she ordered one, I quickly learned a little Boston etiquette.  It looked like a typical milkshake, but Emily informed me, that although she is not sure why, milkshakes all around Boston are referred to as frappes.  And asking for a milkshake just isn’t kosher, so for today I called it a frappe, and that frappe was mighty good.  Perfectly creamy and chocolaty and delicious.  It wasn’t long before “Tom Brady’ arrived and man did he look too good to eat.  And I am glad we decided upon the onion rings, because just look at how mouthwateringly awesome they were!

055 056 Splitting this burger was a great idea, because between it and the huge pile of onion rings, there was no way I could have eaten more.  And these burgers are not wimpy either, they are thick and juicy, not dry and a great bun to burger ratio.  Unfortunately we both agreed that the guacamole that comes on the “Tom Brady” was not our favorite, so I likely would not order him again, however given this restaurants massive amount of burger choices I am sure I could find another I may have like better.  Now the onion rings were a different story, these babies as you saw in the video, are too die for.  Cut perfectly and not overly breaded or fried, but rather just a great combination of sweet and salty, that you can grab a fist full and stuff in your mouth.

057 We clearly hated them :).  I would go back to visit just for these onion rings alone, but I wouldn’t mind trying another burger creation as well.  I mentioned that we were unable to eat inside, but I was able to snap a few pictures when we went inside to get some cash.  I also learned that Boston restaurants do not always have public restrooms of any kind due to their size, this one was one of them unfortunately.  It just ain’t big enough, but people don’t seem to mind!

058 059 SIGNATURE DISH: It is clear from their name that they do one thing best, Burgers!  But these aren’t just any ol’ burger, with over 30 varieties and options they have truly taken burger to another level.  And with fun creative names that complement the ingredients it is fun to order up any of their signature choices.

TASTE:  I have already featured a lot of burger places in the short life of my blog, some better than others and I must say that as burgers go this ranks pretty high.  I did not particularly like the additions our burger came with, namely their guacamole, but the burger itself was quite delicious.  Any large patty is often hard to cook without it getting dry on the outside.  But at Bartley’s their use of a flat top grill truly aides the flavor of their burgers, by giving the outside a wonderful crust, while the inside remains moist and juicy.  I would not say its the best burger I have ever had, but this place has so many fun additions, I would love the chance to take Adam to visit their and try and new creation.

AMBIANCE: This was one area I felt was a bit lacking, but this was due to a mistake that I made.  I will admit I chose the patio spot in hopes of getting our food out quicker, I was hungry!  But in doing so, we missed out on getting to sit inside amongst the true bustling atmosphere.  So if almost felt like I was just eating this really good burger anywhere, instead of having the food and experience melt together.  But next time I would just wait it out to get a full true experience.

PRICE:  I felt their prices were very decent, especially since we split our meal.  Their burgers range from about $7 – 10 depending on the ingredients which is fairly typical and reasonable if you ask me.  Substitutions for different fries or onion rings is also extra so you may want to keep that in mind too.  However, again because we split our meal, I believe we only paid maybe $10 – 15 a piece total, not bad if you ask me.

SERVICE:  This was one area I felt was kind of lacking.  This had nothing to do with how fast we got our food, but rather just the attitude I got from our waitress.  She was nice, but just not very friendly or welcoming.  The other thing I did not enjoy was how brash Mr. Bartley was.  Now I am not trying to sound like a baby, but maybe I was just not cut out for the Boston attitude.  I understand that this is his establishment and he makes the rules, I just felt a little nicer customer treatment could likely go along way.  However, I say that and with a line continuously around the corner, his attitude does not seem to be hurting anything.

I had a fun experience at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage and really enjoyed the food, so much so that I hope to return someday so Adam can see for himself.  So with that I give Mr. Bartley’s 3 1/2 Little Piggies.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010 @ 07:07 AM

eagles deliCan you believe it is already July, where the heck did June go?  Well although I know how our month was spent, I’m sure many of you are thinking, “man another summer is just flying by.”  One thing I always look forward to when summer approaches is cook outs, especially the massive cook out and lake day our family plans on the 4th of July.  Of the many foods that often show up at these events, burgers have become almost a staple.  Now that is not to say that a cookout is not complete without them, there is just something so quintessential about summertime and burgers, whether at a cookout or a “burger joint.”

Now it is no shock to you that Adam and I love a good burger and in addition to bbq places, it would seem that we make it a mission to try just about all of them.  And at this point, having tried so many, I would say our palette has become pretty polished, not to sound to cocky, it is just after awhile it is easy to determine what you think is good and what isn’t.  Now everyone is different and taste is a very opinionated thing, but I am going out on a limb and saying that I know what determines good burgers for me.  The same goes for not good ones, I would say it is rare I find one unedible, but I now know what I deem good and sometimes places fall short.  That being said, I do not lump all burgers into the same category, in fact there are times when I crave a certain fast food delight (ahem White Castle I love you).  There are other times when I want a good ol’ diner or drive-in burger, or if I want to splurge splurge, then I pick a top shelf burger as I like to say, one from somewhere where I know a burger is there specialty and it’s just that SPECIAL!

Now this next spot is sort of a mixture of diner meets deli, and let me tell you it did not disappoint.  Eagle’s Deli located in Brighton, MA, down the street from Boston College, has been serving up great and tasty meals to students and food lovers alike for years.  Known around Boston for their burgers, they also pride themselves for their large breakfastplatters and other fine sandwiches, as any good deli or diner would.  However, what seems to keep bringing people back are their notorious burgers, specifically their challenge burgers.  These challenges have only grown over the years too, as people successfully complete the current challenge, it simply grows bigger and get renamed.  The former challengers are still on the menu, however it was their current challenge burger than caught Adam and my attention while watching Man vs. Food. The 5 Pound Challenge as pictured above, yes you read that right, 5 pounds of meat, along with 20 slices of cheese, 20 slices of bacon, and 5 pounds of fries.  Pure insanity if you ask me, but also a bit comical.  Adam Richman attempted the challenge, but unfortunately fell short.  Below are the episode clips, so you can see for yourself.

“Man vs. Food” [Video].  (2009).  Retrieved June 30, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9OVgLv_hww and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O45PX_b2ft4.

After seeing that episode, we happen to also see Eagle’s featured as Travel Channel’s #2 spot to pig out, as well as #21 on Travel Channel’s “Chowdown Countdown.”  These burgers seemed to be the talk of the town and the nation, so when I was given plane tickets for my birthday, to visit my best friend Emily is Boston, I knew Eagle’s Deli was going to have to be a must visit. (Adam was very disappointed he would be missing out on this trip).  Now Emily went to Boston College, so she had eaten at Eagle’s Deli quite frequently and assured me of how good it was, which of course made me all the more excited and Adam all the more jealous!

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We hopped over to Brighton on the morning of my last day in Boston and after the long day we had before I knew I was ready to mow down on a greasy burger for sure.  What Emily was not expecting when we walked in was that the place had been completely renovated, you may even notice a difference between the videos above and the picture I will show you below.  She was disappointed because it was not the same “old” deli she had so fondly visited on many occasions during college, however the new appearance was very visually appealing and did not seem to deter the line of customers practically out the door.  It seems a tad “pretty” for a deli, but I was not about to let that get in the way of my burger eating.

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Now as I said before they really promote their burgers, which in my opinion says they must be good if that is all they are seemingly talking about.  And the challenge burger above is not the only one they serve.  But their challenge burgers are pretty popular, they even have the wall of fame devoted to those who have tried to take them on. Their burgers range in size from the 1/4 pound “Kiddie Burger” to that 5 lb. behemoth, with many lesser pounds in between.  Now knowing my eating abilities, I could have taken on one of those big boys, however, I also knew I had to fly home that afternoon and did not want to feel like utter crap, so I opted for a good “taste” if you will and went with the 1/4 pound Kiddie.

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It was plenty of burger for me and a very enjoyable meal.  Although not the best burger I have ever had, it was well seasoned and had a unique almost Greek flavor in the meat itself.  The bun was just how I like them, not overly huge, lightly toasted, but soft enough to cling to the burger so you can actually bite into it.  The onion, lettuce, and pickle were a great crunchy complement, but I think what made this meal for me was the fries!  Emily warned me they had some good ones and these did not disappoint.  All to often diners scrimp on making a fry taste like anything, but I say what is the point of serving them, or eating them for that matter, if they don’t taste like anything.  Well these had tons of flavor, doubly fried with the perfect amount of crunch, chewiness and most of all saltiness that you expect.

After traveling all that way for this burger, I could not very well leave my honey all alone, without getting a chance to try this out.  So I did what any foodie wife would do, I ordered him the 1 lb. challenge burger, wrapped it all up, and carried it on the plane.  Yep, I flew from Boston to Dallas with a pound of meat under the seat in front of me, is that love or what?(He has done something similar with my beloved spinach sticks :))

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Let’s just say that burger did not make it home entirely in one piece, unfortunately the bottom bun got too soggy to salvage.  But he was at least able to get a glimpse of what my experience might have been like, but he admitted it probably would have tasted better a bit fresher.

SIGNATURE DISH: Even though burgers are not the only thing they serve, they well known for them both around town and now around the country.  And what seems to set them apart in the burger world are these challenge burgers they serve up.  I mean when one burger is $50 and 5 lbs. of meat, I’d say it’s become your signature.

TASTE: Overall, I really enjoyed this burger.  As I said it was not the best one I have ever had, but compared to diner burgers it ranked right up there as one of the best.  It was not dry, instead very juicy and flavorful.  I chose to have American cheese on mine, but I appreciated that they also had other cheese choices.  The bun did its job, but was still and integral part, while not taking away from the burger itself.  And the veggies added the perfect freshness and crunch.  This experience was topped off by a side of wonderful fries, that were simple, yet just what you want a fry to be, a great side addition.  I enjoyed them so much I ate them all, something I rarely do.

AMBIANCE: As I said above, they had recently completed a full renovation of the restaurant.  The decor was very eye catching and appealing and never having been inside prior, I really enjoyed the feel.  There was plenty of space to walk through and there appeared to be enough seating without too much of a wait.  That being said I could see how people may have liked the old “feeling” better, mostly out of comfort, familiarity, and nostalgia.  But I enjoyed the diner feel with a modern kick.

PRICE: I thought the prices were very decent based on the menu items and the amount of food you got.  The challenge burgers as they ranged in size got progressively more expensive, but I still found that reasonable given that they were providing 1 lb. of meat or more.  My meal was less than $10, which for a burger and fries in a relatively expensive city I found not surprising and decent.

SERVICE: Although it has a diner feel, this is a deli, so you place your order at the counter, find a seat, and your meal is brought to you.  The line moved quickly, we found a seat right away, and I did not have to wait long at all for my food.  The girls working behind the counter seemed polite, approachable, and competent.  The other wait staff and cooks seemed on the ball and as I said the food was brought out quickly. Even after placing Adam’s to-go order later, I did not have to wait long for it to be brought out, impressive for cooking a pound of meat.

I really enjoyed getting to experience Eagle’s Deli and I hope I am able to return again in the future.  I know Adam wants to experience the burger first hand and after looking over at other people’s plates while we were there, I really want to try some of their other food.  In the meantime though I give Eagle’s Deli 4 Little Piggies.

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