Category Archives: Wine

Fattoria di MonteMaggio, A Magical Boutique Winery in Tuscany

Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio
Enjoying La Dolce Vita with Ilaria at Fattoria di Montemaggio
Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape
Ilaria is giving me a lesson on the Sangiovese grape

My husband and I recently took a spectacular trip to Italy and visited some amazing regions, rich in cultures and traditions.  One of our destinations was Tuscany and we were living our dream of “La Dolce Vita” (the sweet life). We were blown away by the beauty of the rolling hills and the lush cypress trees. Finally, all the landscape pictures we had seen were coming to life and the views were similar to that of a postcard. On the first day, we got to visit this beautiful winery called: Fattoria di Montemaggio, located in Radda in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico region.  It’s truly magical with a stupendous view of the valley, and well-manicured grounds. There were full-blown roses and fresh artichokes growing in the immaculate garden. Ilaria, the estate manager greeted us with a beautiful smile and gave us a tour of the vineyards. It was clear how passionate she was about her job and demonstrated a great knowledge in the viticulture and viniculture process of wine making. She gave us a little lesson about the stubborn Sangiovese grape, as I explained in an earlier post:  The temperamental Sangiovese grape variety . I pointed out to her that the ground seemed very dry and she replied: “we need to make them suffer”. Of course, she was referring to this particular grape variety.  After a tour of the vineyards and some photo snapping, it was Denis, the cellar manager, who guided the wine tasting.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of wines in the company of Riccardo, our amazing tour guide and the multi-talented Katarina Andersson. She is a translator, an educator and a wine writer at: Grapevine Adventures. The wines were luscious and of high quality which were no surprise to us, after seeing the labor of love that went into producing them. Fortunately, because of the terroir and the micro-climate, Fattoria di Montemaggio is able to grow many grape varieties such as: Sangiovese, with small additions of Merlot, Pugnitello, Chardonnay, Malvasia Nera, and Ciliegiolo. A few months ago, I was able to get their Chianti Classico in my area and paired it with Pork Chops in Tomato sauce. It worked delightfully.  I brought back a couple of bottles from this recent trip and cannot wait to crack them open. If you intend to visit Tuscany, I highly recommend that you put Fattoria di Montemaggio on your itinerary. You will be very happy with this gem of a place.

Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio
Ilaria, the estate manager at Fattoria di Montemaggio

The rose garden at Fattoria di MontemaggioThe view at Fattoria di MontemaggioIMG_8849The views at Fattoria di Montemaggio

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on this beautiful winery and the enchanting photographs that I captured during my visit. My wish for you is to have the opportunity to visit this lovely place and bask under the Tuscan Sun.

Happy Travels!

Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
World renown – WSET (Wine, Spirit, Education, Trust)
Level-2 Certified Wine Connoisseur.
Culinary aficionado & Lover of Global Cuisines & Travels

Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
and by Katarina Andersson – Wine Writer

Fattoria di Montemaggio
Fattoria di Montemaggio

 

 

Gina’s Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

 

Preparing for the Puttanesca sauce
Preparing for the Puttanesca sauce


There are many explanations that describe the origin of this dish. Puttanesca (literally means whore’s style spaghetti) is believed to have originated in the Campania region of Italy. In 2007, when we visited the ruins of Pompeii in Naples, our tour guide Marco from Perillo Tours explained to us the story behind the name of this dish. According to him, the ladies of the evening made it to lure the men into their house by attracting them with the aroma of the sauce.  Other sources claim the ladies made it  because it was easy and quick as they were always busy and had little time for cooking.  Whatever the story, Puttanesca is a delicious and lively sauce that you can whip in no time. It’s best served over spaghetti. It is tasty but on the salty side.

Ingredients:

  • 28 oz. peeled tomatoes, chopped or crushed
  • 1 cup meatless tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup capers, drained
  • 2 can of whole anchovies in oil
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 lb. of spaghetti

    Preparation:1) Bring pasta water to a boil, add salt, and cook according to package directions. I like mine al dente (to the bite)

    2) In the meanwhile, over medium heat, in medium-size saucepan, heat up olive oil, sautee the garlic for 1 minute, add olives, capers, anchovies, continue cooking for about 5-7 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and pepper flakes. Bring to a quick boil, simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. Serve it over spaghetti.Cook’s note: If pasta is done before the sauce, just drain it well and drizzle some olive oil on it to prevent clumping.If you love all these ingredients, you will savor this delicious meal. I recently made it with cod fish over polenta, and it came out scrumptious. Check out my blogpost:  Baccala Mantecato to learn how to desalt the cod fish.

    Wine Pairing Suggestions: Ideally, I recommend the red Lacryma Christi from the slopes of Mount Vesuvius in Campania, Italy. However, it can be challenging finding this varietal. My next suggestions would be a Primitivo from the Puglia region or a Nero N’Avola from Sicily. Whatever your choice, with or without wine, you will enjoy this punchy pasta (if you like all the ingredients).  Buon Appetito!

    Warning: This dish has a high sodium content

    Disclosure: I did not get compensated for the products that I used
    Recipe developed by: Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover
    Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

    Happy Cooking from my Kitchen to yours,
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas, aka Foodiewinelover
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
    WSET-Level 2 Wine Connoisseur
    Culinary and Global Cuisines Aficionado

    Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Gina’s Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta

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If you love pork chops but never had them in tomato sauce, you are in for a treat. I use the thin pork loin chops and a variety of tomatoes such as canned San Marzano whole, strained and chopped tomatoes, and a jar of my favorite meatless sauce.

Gina's Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta
Gina’s Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta

Serves: 6-8 Level of difficulty: Easy-Medium
Allow 2.5 hours from start to finish – This recipe can easily be divided in half but why would you want to do that when the leftovers taste even better!

Gina's Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta
Gina’s Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta


Ingredients: 

  • 4 lbs. pork loin chops, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil + more if needed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 -26.46 oz. container strained tomatoes (Pomi brand)
  • 1 – 26.46 oz. container chopped tomatoes (Pomi brand)
  • 1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, whole, crushed by hand
  • 1 jar of Mid’s meatless tomato sauce (32 oz) or any of your choice
  • Garlic powder to taste, optional
  • 1.5 lb. spaghetti or any pasta shape of your choice
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan) cheese, grated or shaved
  • Flat-leave Italian parsley for garnish

    Preparation:

    1) Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large heavy- bottom pot, on medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Sear the pork chops about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove them. Add more oil if necessary. Do this in 2 batches. Set aside.
    2) Add more oil to pot, saute’ the garlic. Add the tomato paste, stir until it’s nicely caramelized. Add all the tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Add the pork chops to the sauce, bring to a boil. Lower the flame, and simmer on low heat for about 1.5 -2 hours covered with lid-tilted. Stir occasionally to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. The sauce will become very thick and rich in flavors. This dish tastes even better the next day.
    3) While the sauce is simmering, bring water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.
    4) Place the pasta in a large mixing bowl and pour some of the sauce over it. Mix well until every strand of pasta is covered with the sauce. Put it in a serving bowl. Arrange the pork chops on a platter. There will be plenty of sauce left for those who like extra sauce. Don’t forget the cheese and garnish with parsley. Your guests will be wowed by the richness of this dish, and will ask for seconds.
    My wine pairing suggestions: I recommend a nice Chianti, Rosso or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Of course, the choice is always yours.

    Cook’s notes: 1) Use whatever brand of sauce you like. If you feel the sauce is too watery, uncover it toward the end to let it reduce.
    Disclosure: I did not get monetary compensation for these products.
    Warning: There may be small bones in the sauce. Please let your guest or loved ones know.

    Gina’s Delicious Pork Chops in Tomato Sauce over Pasta

     

    Recipe developed by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover LLC
    Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover LLC
    All rights reserved 2017

    Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina aka Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles
WSET- Level 2 Certified Wine Connoisseur
Culinary Aficionado

 

Wine Pairing, Thanksgiving Edition

Sonoma Loeb, Pinot Noir
Sonoma Loeb, Pinot Noir

 

Elegant La Crema Pinot Noir
Elegant La Crema Pinot Noir
Belle Glos Pinot Noir
Belle Glos Pinot Noir
Louis Roederer Champagne
Louis Roederer Champagne

 

 

 

Tattinger Champagne
Taittinger Champagne
Moet & Chandon Sparkling wine
Sparking Rose’
In Memory of My Beloved Dad - One of his favorite wines
In Memory of My Beloved Dad – One of his favorite wines

We don’t get to appreciate the beauty of autumn in South Florida, but at least, we have slightly cooler weather to make the holidays more enjoyable. Sadly for me, this is a somber time as it’s the first holiday season without my dad around. I will pretend to be in the mood and try to get in the spirit.  This is a time  where families and close friends gather around a bountiful table and celebrate with food and wine. Thanksgiving is literally around the corner and it’s time to show gratitude to our loved ones.  For those of you who are hosting, I am sure that your menu is in place but don’t forget to add this wine selection to your list. Today, I will help you pick some delightful wines to serve with your Thanksgiving feast. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. There are many reasonably priced wines that will work wonders.

I want to keep this as simple as possible without getting technical with fancy wine terms.  Wine pairing is subjective and everyone’s palate is different.  Let’s not stress over which wine goes with what food. These are my wine suggestions to add a little pizzaz to your party and make it fun for your guests.

I recommend Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as basic wines for your cheese platters and appetizers, including seafood.  Make sure the white wines are not overly chilled because this effect can take away from the flavor profile of the wines (herbaceous, lime, peaches, pears, oranges…) If you want to impress your guests, add other interesting whites such as Vermentino, Verdicchio  or Albarino. The list is endless and the choice is yours. Keep in mind not everyone has a palate for white wine,  be sure to have some light to medium bodied wine such as Gamay or Pinot Noir.

White wines such as Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are lovely choices for your Thanksgiving dinner. They both add sweetness and aroma of spices, which complement the holiday theme beautifully.

Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc pair deliciously with vegetables such as asparagus and green beans.

Pinot Noir is an excellent red wine to pair with the turkey especially if you have mushrooms in your stuffing. It will bring out the characters of earthiness . There is a vast selection of Pinot Noir in the market. Check out some Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley region In Oregon. They tend to be more rustic with notes of cranberries and on the earthy side.  They’re often compared to the wines of Burgundy. However, if you are on a budget, I recommend Josh Cellars Pinot Noir, Mark West, or Mark West Black Pinot Noir.

When in doubt, you can always rely on bubblies.  They’re festive and vary in prices, from the least expensive to the most sophisticated. Sparkling wines and Prosecco are fantastic choices and won’t break the bank. If you are having a fancy affair, Champagne is always a good idea.

Dessert wines:  Fortified wines are a great choice to pair with decadent desserts. Tawny Port pairs nicely with pumpkin and cherry pies, Muscat d’Asti with apple pies, Mavrodaphne with baklava,  chocolate mousse cake with Brachetto d’Aqui.

This is not a wine tasting party, and it doesn’t have to be precise. Use this blogpost as a guideline to help you decide which wine to serve at Thanksgiving. The holidays are already stressful and there are far more important things to stress over. I am also featuring one of  dad’s favorite wines called Quattro Mani, a Montepulciano d’Abbruzo. It’s very inexpensive and has lovely hints of vanilla.

I hope you will have some fun with these ideas and enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving From My Family To Yours,

Gina/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

All the featured wines have been tasted, and the photos were exclusively taken by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover.

Mark West Black Pinot Noir
Mark West Black Pinot Noir
Pouilly-Fuisse' Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France
Pouilly-Fuisse’ Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France
Franciacorta Ca'del Bosco
Franciacorta Ca’del Bosco
Vinsanto - a delightful Greek dessert wine
Vinsanto – a delightful Greek dessert wine

MerlotandHumboldtFog

Healthier version of Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant, also called aubergine, or melanzane (in Italian) is so versatile, and by far one of my favorite veggies. I love to make it different ways, and enjoy experimenting with them. This time, I decided to make an eggless and breadcrumb-free eggplant parm, an Italian dish believed to have originated in the Southern part of Italy. The result of this dish is  surprisingly delightful. First and foremost,  make sure you pick very fresh eggplants, preferably on the day you are cooking them.  I realize that it’s  not always possible in today’s busy lives. If that’s the case, get it a day or two before cooking it. You do not want an eggplant that’s been sitting in your veggie bin for 2 weeks. I assure you, that will make a world of difference.  You want to look for an eggplant that is smooth, without any bruises, and firm to the touch. Parmigiana is a style/method of cooking, using  tomato sauce and  mozzarella cheese.

Eggplants
Eggplants
Broiled Eggplants
Broiled Eggplants

       Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggplant cut lengthwise
  • Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Lots of olive oil ( make sure you have a full bottle on hand)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 basil leaves
  • 1 container chopped tomatoes 26.46 oz.  Pomi brand
  •  1/2 jar of Mid’s sauce or (about 16 oz of your favorite meatless tomato sauce)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  •  Parmigiano Reggiano, Parmesan cheese to taste

    Preparation:
    1) Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, let them sit for 10 minutes. Place on a metal tray, drizzle them with olive oil and broil for about 7-8 minutes on each side.  Do this in 2 batches. Set aside.
    2) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
    3) In the meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, on medium-heat, heat 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Sautee the garlic for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, basil.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Turn the burner off and set aside. Cover to keep it warm.
    4) Time to start mounting the eggplant as if you are making a lasagna. Smear some sauce on the bottom of a large glass casserole (Pyrex) pan, line up the eggplant (as shown on my photo) top with sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Repeat once more and finish with mozzarella. Cover with foil.
    5) Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Uncover, and broil for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Use a spatula. Hope you will try this delicious version of Eggplant Parmigiana. It has no breadcrumbs and no  eggs. However, it will soak up some olive oil (which is healthy, but beware of calories)

    Please check out my traditional eggplant recipe:  Chicken & Eggplant Parm recipe (chicken is optional) Notice, I use different sauce, that’s because I like to change things up. ———>  https://foodiewinelover.com/2015/08/17/chicken-eggplant-parmigiana/

    Cook’s note: Never place glass dish on the bottom of the oven rack. Use the second from the bottom.

    Wine pairing suggestions: Chianti, Chianti Classico or any medium-bodied red wine will work.

Happy Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours,

Gina Zarcadoolas/Foodiewinelover
My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine over Polenta

Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta
Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta
Enjoying some short ribs
Enjoying some short ribs

Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta Beef Short Ribs braised in Red Wine over Polenta

After a long absence, I needed to get back in the kitchen and prepare some home cooked meals.  My son PJ suggested that I make Gordon Ramsey’s short ribs. It was a collaborative effort with him and the result was a Grand Slam. Of course, he thought he was Gordon Ramsey and acted like him, but, I had to take control in Gina’s Kitchen. Let’s just say, we were each other’s sous chef! I was feeding 6 hungry people and I came up with the following measurements.  This recipe can easily be divided in half for a smaller crowd.

Serves: 6-8  Level of difficulty: Easy-Medium

Time: Allow a minimum of 3 hours from start to finish

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. beef short ribs
  • Olive oil as needed for searing the ribs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 oz. of tomato paste
  • 2 heads of garlic, cut in halves (unpeeled)
  • 1 bottle of red wine, Chianti, Pinot Noir or Cabernet
  • 28 oz. of beef broth low-sodium
  • Italian parsley for garnish, optionalSide dish:

    1 cup Polenta for 4 cups of water, salt to taste

    Mushrooms topping: 

  • 8 oz baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. salted butter
  • 1 tbsp.  olive oil

    Preparation:

    1) Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. ( I keep my house on 75 degrees F.)2)  Pre-heat the oven at 350 degrees F.
    3) In a very large and deep pan, over medium-high heat on the stove top, pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sear the meat on both sides for about 3-4 minutes each side. Rotate the meat in the middle of the pan where the heat is, using a set of tongues.

    4) Place the garlic face-down randomly. Add  tomato paste and stir it in all over the bottom of the pan. Cook until it obtains a rust color. Deglaze with the wine. Cook until it reduces 3-4 minutes.

    5) Add the beef broth, and control the sodium if necessary. Bring to a quick boil. Turn stove top off.  Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 2.5 hours. Just forget about it, figuratively speaking.  (please do not leave oven unattended)

    6)  In a small frying pan, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and the oil, and pan fry the mushrooms until they are golden brown. Set aside.

    7) Prepare the polenta 20 minutes before the ribs are done. If you do it too soon, it will clump up.  Follow cooking  instructions on package.  Keep on the lowest heat until you’re ready to serve.

    8) Remove the ribs out of the oven and place them in a large platter. Take all the garlic out.  Pass them through a sieve and put the garlic paste in the sauce.  Stir well. Now it’s time to serve. Either buffet style or  you can plate it, by placing some polenta on the bottom of a platter, put the ribs on top and garnish with the mushrooms and parsley.
    Wine pairing suggestions: A bold Cab, Chianti or any red wine of your choice.It’s good to be back in the kitchen after a long absence.This blogpost is in Memory of My Beloved Dad, John.  I will always remember him in the kitchen as my potato peeler, my pot scrubber and my right hand daddy’s little girl. I will miss savoring delicious pasta dishes with him, but his legacy will live in my heart forever.

    RIP DAD- 1936-2016

    Disclosure:

    This dish is an adaptation of Gordon Ramsey’s recipe on YouTube. These measurements are mine based on 8 lbs. of ribs.
    Photographed by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

    Happy Braising!
    Gina Martino Zarcadoolas
    My Food, Wine & Travel Lifestyles

Pasta with Pancetta, Peas & Ricotta

Pasta with Pancetta, Peas & Ricotta
Pasta with Pancetta, Peas & Ricotta

This is one of the easiest and most delicious pasta dish you will come across. I assure you, even if you don’t like peas, you will enjoy them  because they are bathing in the pancetta fat. I like to use a short pasta for this recipe. The last time I made this dish, I used a pasta shape called Fusilli that looks like a corkscrew. I sent my son shopping for me, and he told me he could not find the Fusilli but found Rotini instead. They are very similar in shape and look like corkscrews, except the Rotini is shorter.  Recently, a Facebook friend posted this dish on his profile, and it looked delicious. I tried it for Christmas, and it was a big hit. I made it again In January for my family. Sadly, this was the last time my dad was able to eat (food) my pasta. I will not get into personal details but this recipe has a lot of emotions attached to it. I am hanging on to hope that someday, soon, he will be able to taste my pasta again.  Let’s get cooking! Follow me in Gina’s Kitchen!

Level of difficulty: Easy – Serves: 4-6 as a main meal

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb. pancetta, sliced 1/2-inch thick, then chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more to drizzle
  • 10 oz. frozen peas, thawed
  • 15 oz. ricotta, whole milk
  • 1 lb. Rotini or any short pasta or your choice
  • 1/4 cup pasta water, (save after draining pasta)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese)

Preparation:

1) In a large stainless-steel skillet, over medium-high heat, heat olive oil, brown the pancetta, for about 10 minutes, (do not over cook,  you don’t want them too crispy) add the peas, continue cooking while stirring for another 10 minutes or so, until you obtain a nice brown color like you see in the picture. At this point, turn the burner on the lowest setting.

2) Simultaneously, In a large pot, bring the pasta water to a boil. Add salt, and cook pasta according to package directions. I always cook mine al dente, meaning to the bite in Italian, (undercooked for 1-2 minutes) that is your choice, but I recommend it. Save some pasta water, and drain.

3) Add pasta to the pancetta and peas, slowly stir in the ricotta, the water, parmesan cheese, black pepper.  Please note, the burner is still on the lowest setting to warm up the ricotta. Stir it just enough to incorporate all the ingredients and remove quickly.  Drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately while it’s piping hot.

My family had a feast, and my biggest joy in life is seeing them relish my food. This is what fuels me to keep cooking. My life has been hectic, but I am hoping to find more time in the kitchen.

I hope you will try this recipe, and when you do, please share your thoughts with me.

Pasta with Pancetta, Peas & Ricotta
Pasta with Pancetta, Peas & Ricotta

Wine pairing: I recommend a medium to full-bodied red wine with enough acidity to cut though the fattiness of this savory dish. A Chianti, Rosso, Super Tuscan, (and the list goes on) will make a superb pairing. I am not a huge fan of white wine but occasionally, I do enjoy a crisp one with certain meals.

Cook’s note:

1) The use of butter is an option, and you can add it at the end with the ricotta.  It will  make the dish creamier and add richness but it is also added calories. If you are on a low-fat diet, you may want to avoid it altogether and stick to the olive oil. I did not use butter and surprisingly the taste was amazing.

2) Regular bacon can be used instead of pancetta.

This dish is inspired by Timothy Eric DeMarco
This is the ratio and method that I used in my version of the recipe.
Photos by Gina Martino Zarcadoolas for Foodiewinelover

Happy Cooking!

Gina aka Foodiewinelover
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