Myrna Robins

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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There are very few who do not enjoy riding the rails and many who claim that train  is by far the best way to travel. The experience of rattling along in carriages, especially when pulled by a proper steam engine, is an experience both unique and nostalgic, so that many visitors, local and international, mourned the passing of rail transport to Franschhoek.

The station, however, stayed intact and was maintained , not like other forlorn deserted stations across the South African platteland. Occasionally trips were organised to farms along the line – I remember one, in particular, a splendid journey to Bellingham to mark, I think, both a wine launch and the restoration of the old farmstead.

When doing research for my Franschhoek Food cookbook nearly a decade ago, there was talk of reviving the rail link shared by several farms along the R45 – while nothing has come of that  there was great excitement some five years ago when the Franschhoek Wine Tram service was launched, taking guests on a short journey on rails in a 32-seater open-sided tram which stopped at two wine estates in the village. Brainchild of the Blyth family, who no doubt spent many frustrating hours dealing with the logistics of their venture, from bureaucracy downwards, their vision and persistence are worthy of thunderous applause!

The tram proved to be an instant success, offering local and international visitors a fun way to travel that was adventurous, but less hazardous than tasting wine on horseback.

Earlier this month, the Blyth family and GM Brett Garner hosted officials,  media and  visitors to the new Franschhoek Wine Tram Double Deck trams, at Groot Drakenstein station. The service now embraces some 22 wine farms, spanning the valley’s wine route. Travellers can spend between 30 and 60 minutes on board as part of a full day R220 wine tour which extends as far as Vrede en Lust in Simondium.

From the wine tram website, we learn that a combo of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops. They can choose to hop on and hop off for wine tastings, cellar tours, lunch or just stroll through the vineyards.There are six hop-on hop-off routes to choose from, each visiting eight wine estates in different parts of the beauteous valley, while a narrative covers the history of the valley and its wine.

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As Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde remarked   in his launch address, this new expanded service will allow more than 120 000 guests to enjoy the trip in the current tourist season.

Just another good reason to make sure that the stupendous Franschhoek valley is on every traveller’s must-do itinerary this summer and autumn.

See www.winetram.co.za.  For more information  call Brett Garner on 27(0)83  260 0453.

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Posted by on in Recipes

It’s not only brinjals that have three names, I discovered recently, witlof can boast of four – as this intriguing head of tight creamy leaves is also known as chicory, witloof and Belgian endive.

Appropriately, we were gathered at Den Anker, that classic Belgian restaurant at b2ap3_thumbnail_Fanie-van-der-Merwe-standing_20170207-153515_1.jpgthe Waterfront, for the launch of this healthy addition to our summer diets. The media turnout was impressive, and Brian Berkman looked pleased. Farmer and producer Fanie van der Merwe of Bronaar, one of the oldest farms in the Koue Bokkeveld, was more than happy to tell us the secrets of this versatile vegetable that has been popular with northern European consumers for some 170 years.

As one of the few South African producesr, and as one who guarantees a continuous supply 12 months of the year, Farmer Fanie imports the little seeds from Holland at great expense, plants them  outside in the spring, and harvests in the autumn when the plant has developed a large tap root, similar to a parsnip. This is cleaned and refrigerated. The next stage is carried out in the dark, to avoid the development of chlorophyll. The roots are planted in soil-free hydroponics and the head of creamy leaves develops over three weeks, after which the chicons ( leaves) are harvested.

The endives are packaged 2 – 3 to a see-through bag and are available at several supermarkets.

We enjoyed a starter of tiny shrimps paired with crisp apple, shredded witlof, tomato, moistened with mayonnaise. The mix was served in a witlof or endive leaf, which makes an ideal container for any number of  summery salad ingredients – corn kernels and diced red pepper dressed with lightly chillied olive oil comes to mind. Add diced bacon if you wish.

Chef Doekie Vlietman followed with a seasonal salad geared to vegetarian palates, but enjoyed by all: He combined little balls of chevin, crumbed and deep-fried until crisp, with small wedges of fresh pear, briefly sautéed in butter. Finely chopped endive, baby lettuce and micro greens added crunch to the mixture, and crushed walnuts made a good topping. The composition was drizzled with a little honey and paired with a fruity Belgian beer.  It’s a light luncheon dish to recommend, although I will substitute fresh local pecan nuts for walnuts, (which are imported and often tired and old by the time we use them). A Belgian classic, endives wrapped in Parma ham and baked in a rich cheese sauce made the main course.

Apart from agreeable crunch, endives are delicately flavoured, with just a trace of bitterness to add interest. (The current endives seem to be less bitter than those I remember eating years ago – perhaps catering to modern tastes?) Their attributes are many and music to health- nuts’ ears: Apart from being  low in carbs, the witlof is high in fibre, and contains folate or B9, some vitamin C, and is also a source of thiamin, potassium, calcium , magnesium, vitamins B6 and C. There’s more – its both an appetite stimulant and a digestive aid.

Little wonder the Belgians call it their “white gold.”

Also easy to understand why Fanie would like all South Africans, whether health-conscious, slimmers, vegans or vegetarians, - and all those who aim to make 2017 the year they change their diets for the better – to look out for these packs of crisp goodness to relish raw, sautéed and baked. Autumn means picnic season in South Africa – and it would be difficult to find a better edible container for your finger fare.

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Posted by on in Events

 

According to the usually reliable Norwegian forecast, the weather on 

 Valentine's Day will be cool and cloudy in the Boland with a maximum temperature of 20 deg C. Ib2ap3_thumbnail_Rickety-B-Brut-Rose-NV-High-Res.jpgdeal for celebrating the day (and night)  dedicated to love and happiness. There are just so many destinations that are wooing diners to their doors that  both locals and visitors are spoilt for choice. Others may prefer to dine at home, or take a bottle of chilled bubbles to watch a fiery mountian sunset or stroll along a beach as twilight falls.

 

Whatever is on the menu, this is an occasion when a rosé bubbly is most appropriate: Choose one that is brut but not bone dry, that partners both seafood and berry desserts with panache. Given the fact that many consumers are feeling the pinch, look for one that offers good value, while being  both elegant and crisp, along with luscious berry flavours as well. There are several fine Cape sparkles that fulfil these criteria, but - if you haven't yet discovered the joys of Rickety Bridge's Cap Classiques, this is a good time to do so - their non-vintage Brut Rosé, a classic blend of 52% pinot noir with the remainder chardonnay will make an inspired choice. At R145 it is not going to weigh down your credit card either. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted by on in Events

Franschhoek Uncorked Festival

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Celebrate SA heritage over a glass or two of Franschhoek wines, and pair them  with delicious food cooked over an open flame during the Franschhoek Uncorked festival and  Braai4Heritage weekend, September 24 - 5.

Visitors can meander from farm to farm where festival offerings abound. Avoid the queues and pre-book your Uncorked Weekend Pass through www.webtickets.co.za. Tickets cost R140 per person and allows  access to all  participating wine farms as well as a complimentary tasting glass and free wine tastings. Outdoor enthusiasts can take part in a selection of outdoor activities  during the weekend. . For more info contact the Franschhoek Wine Valley offices on 021 876 2861 or visit www.franschhoekuncorked.co.za for a list of participating farms.

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Come and celebrate our Heritage in a fun, colourful and vibrant way this year at Imbuko Wines!!!

 

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On September 24th Imbuko will be hosting their 6th Annual Imbuko Heritage Day/Braai Day on  National Heritage day - uniting around fires, preparing great feasts, sharing our heritage and waving our flag.

This is a Wellington farm and there are directions on their website.

This year there will be 4  Wine Brand Pods illustrating the diversity and innovation of their wines: Du Plevaux Wine with black & white theme, Imbuko Wine illustrating Africa  Pomula Wine Spritzers with a beach pastel theme and Van Zijls wine illustrating holidays in the Hamptons!
Guests will be entertained by  local South African artists, Newton & Co. & Gerry Liberty. Delicious eats & treats will be provided by some of SA’ s best food trucks including pulled Pork Burgers & Smoked Beef Brisket, Wood-fired Pizzas, Calamari, Mediterranean Pita’s and Gourmet Biltong Pies  For the little ones there will be a Kids Zone filled with entertainment .

Tickets costs only R125 per adult – Include free Wine Glass + 4 Glasses of Wine (one at each Brand Pod). Children under 18 enter free of charge. Tickets:
ADULT ENTRY - R125pp (incl Free Wine Glass & 4 glasses of Wine - one at each Brand Pod!) Ticket Sales open on Friday 29 July.
www.webtickets.co.za

KIDS ENTRY - Free

Event starts at 10am and ends at 5pm. The first 100 guests receive a FREE goodie bag.

For more info visit
www.imbuko.co.za

#imbukohday2016

Ps. There is only 500 tickets available.
Last year it was sold out before the event, so dont delay.PizzPizzP
First 100 guests to arrive on the day will get a goody bag filled with delicious truly SA products. Tickets can be purchased at www.webtickets.co.za or at your local Pick & Pay. Only 500 tickets available and they usually sells out weeks before.For more info you can visit their website www.imbuko.co.za

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JAVA MTB CHALLENGE 2016 ADDS NEW TERRITORY TO THE MIX OF FAMILY FUN

b2ap3_thumbnail_Robertson-winery-River-and-vineyard.jpgThe annual Van Loveren Java MTB Challenge offers  fresh challenges to adrenalin-seekers who sign up for the event taking place near Robertson on Saturday, October 1 this year. Not only mountain biking, but there's also a 10km trail running competition across  farmland and mountains as well as food stalls, music and wine tasting. The centre of activities is  the Van Loveren Family Vineyards' four MTB routes, varying in distance between 8 and 85km. Prizes and lucky draws to the value of over R 40 000 await winner.

.The 8km route is an easy, non-technical fun ride that’s suitable for children. The 20km is ideal for beginners and lies mostly along a jeep track with some single track. The 45km is suitable for an intermediate level of experience, taking riders over elevation variance of 800m. The 85km route however, is gruelling and should be attempted only by very experienced riders. The 1600m elevation will challenge even the most seasoned riders.

By entering the events, participants support very worthy causes. The Java MTB Challenge is a fundraising platform for local schools and charitable organisations. Beneficiaries for this year’s event are Robertson Primary School, Robertson Preparatory School, Goudmyn Rural School and Wakkerstroom Rural School.

For more information, visit www.javamtb.co.za or contact Johan Rossouw on java@vanloveren.co.za or 023-6151505

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HOT SUNDAYS, COOL JAZZ, FINE FARE

Enjoy a lavish Sunday Jazz brunch at Taj Cape Town

 

The five-star hotel Taj Cape Town invites guests to join them for a lavish Jazz Brunch on the first Sunday of the month, starting on October 1. Choose from Mint the Grill restaurant or the opulent Lobby Lounge. Proceedings start with sparkling wine, then choose from breakfat items or oysters, prawn cocktails or the roast at the Carvery.

This is a family-friendly hotel, so there's a children' menus on offer as well.

The event takes place on October 02, November 06 and December 04.

To book call Taj Cape Town on 021 819 2000 or email restaurants.capetown@tajhotels.com

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INAUGURAL ELGIN CHARDONNAY COLLOQUIUM

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 , Wines of Elgin will host their inaugural Elgin Chardonnay Colloquium over the weekend of Friday, 7th October and Saturday 8th October 2016.  Guests are invited to join Almenkerk, Boschendal, Charles Fox MCC, Corder, Elgin Vintners, Highlands Rd, Iona, Lothian, Mathew van Heerden, Neil Ellis, Oak Valley, Oneiric, Paul Cluver Wines, Richard Kershaw Wines, South Hill and Sutherland as they showcase their Elgin Chardonnay’s with a selection of the best from around the world. A seminar and tutored tasting featuring top quality international and Elgin Chardonnays takes place on Friday, 7th October, hosted by Jamie Goode, a London-based wine writer, lecturer and respected wine judge.  This will be followed by a gala dinner  at Rockhaven, a beautiful venue in the Elgin Valley.

On Saturday, 8th October, visitors can choose from one of three morning and from one of the four lunch events  co- hosted by participating producers  .The full programme and listing of wines can be found at chardonnay.winesofelgin.co.za or by emailing info@winesofelgin.co.za Tickets are limited so please book early if you would like to attend.

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Season of Sauvignon 29 & 30 October 20

 

 

The Season of Sauvignon Festival is back in the Durbanville Wine Valley over the weekend of 29 - 30 October.

Sauvignon Blanc lovers can expect  to a host of Sauvignon Blanc activities in the Valley throughout  October in the buildup to the festival..

Altydgedacht, Bloemendal, D’Aria, Diemersdal, De Grendel, Durbanville Hills, Hillcrest, Klein Roosboom, Meerendal, Nitida, Groot Phizantekraal and Signal Gun will all celebrate the white wine season in their own individual style. Visitors can look forward to Sauvignon Blanc inspired menus in the restaurants, Sauvignon Blanc tutored tastings in the Tasting Rooms, fashion and art events as well as the chance to taste the variety of styles of Sauvignon Blanc produced in this picture perfect Valley.

The weekend Ffestivities  on 1 October will see each of the participating farms  present the Valley Tasting in their  Tasting Rooms whilst tasting the Sauvignon Blancs of all 12 producers. The tasting costs R50 per perso

Visitors will be among the first to taste and purchase the Durbanville Twelve Sauvignon Blanc 2016. This wine, produced by the Durbanville Wine Valley from a ton of grapes from each of the 12 farms, will be available during the Season of Sauvignon and afterwards for sale from each.

A detailed festival programme and information on ticket sales will be available on www.durbanvillewine.co.za from 1 September. For more information contact Angela Fourie events@durbanvillewine.co.za or 083 310 1228.

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Posted by on in Events

 

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Every now and then one attends a function that delivers pleasure way beyond expectation. In this case a few hours spent in the serenely historic surrounds of a 17th century farm in the incomparable Groot Drakenstein valley enfolded us with genteel but warm hospitality. The aura of the past is present at Bellingham - not so much in the gabled farmstead – but in the green and pleasant acres that surround it. This was heightened by the fact that the host – Bellingham winemaker and brand manager Niël Groenewald - is himself a generous and enthusiastic food-and-wine connoisseur enabling the present to entwine seamlessly with the past.

Launches of new wine ranges can take many forms, and here guests were treated both to an informal tasting followed by a buffet of superior Kaapse kos, a menu partly designed to complement the wine. Our tasting involved matching the new Homestead range to piquant rubs and spreads designed to enhance soups, salads, seafood, poultry, red meat – and even dessert. These trendy creations of Niel’s comprise a lemon and fennel salt rub which paired nicely with the sauvignon blanc, a well-balanced meld of Durbanvhille herbaceous and fruit flavours. A delicious coriander and sesame dukkah with Middle Eastern notes was matched to my favourite of the range, the 2015 chardonnay: Sourced from various Stellenbosch vineyards 60% of the wine spent time in oak

Rosemary and elderberry rubbed into red meats call for the 2014 pinotage, to highlight South African favourites like leg of lamb. These grapes were sourced from Stellenbosch and the wine bursts with mixed berry flavours. The 2014 shiraz is an easy-drinking, gently peppered and spiced classic, companion to a smoked rooibos and paprika sprinkle. From Paarl grapes this spice mix is great for slow casseroles and warming bredies.

There’s a chenin blanc as well, which we did not get to taste, and I guess it leans toward the off-dry as Groenewald accompanies it with a moreish honey butter spread, designed as a dessert topping or salad dressing ingredient.

The Bellingham farmhouse has been altered so much over the centuries that Hans Fransen and Mary Cook simply state that the gable, dated 1777, is modern, though the farm was originally granted to one Gerrit van Vuuren in 1695. Following many owners, the renowned Podlashuk couple bought the property some 250 years later, acquiring a rundown farm, which they set about making very much their own. Having added on rooms at odd angles and various levels, visitors today enter into something of a maze, with interior décor that mingles beautiful antiques with kitsch, exotic eccentricity with the rare and lovely, all in happy abandon.

This fascinating couple were not just famous for their lavish hospitality, but also responsible for developing orchards and vineyards, with Bernard making the first dry rosé in South Africa, followed by our first premier grand cru, or dry white - unknown at that time. The Bellingham shiraz, launched in 1957 was yet another first in the Cape industry.

The new range, priced at R65 for white and R75 for the reds and available from the Franschhoek Cellar in the town mirrors the entertaining memories of the mid 20th century, offering unpretentious wines that can be opened and shared with friends and family .

We took home a little manuscript of Bellingham family recipes in a leather folder, some history preceding tried and trusted recipes from Niël and friends and others dating back to Fredah Podlashuk ‘s dinner parties. It’s a charming heritage collection and one that suggests that a bigger cookbook could offer a treasury of Bellingham culinary bounty. Just one word of advice: today’s cooks need their ingredients listed in order of use!

Now, I just need to get hold of that missing chenin blanc , before I have emptied the pot of honey butter spread… When I inquired earlier today, it had still not arrived at the outlet in Franschhoek.

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Posted by on in Restaurants

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The ongoing story of Stellenbosch Vineyards is complex, one I have only partly unravelled:

Let’s start with the recent launch of a small range of Enaleni wines, part of an empowerment project, and the wines Fairtrade-certified. Stellenbosch farmer Schalk Visser gave a 23ha portion of his farm Nagenoeg to 23 farmworkers, now also shareholders in 2009. This BEE project is now coming to fruition, with four cultivars producing harvests, and at least two wines recently launched under the Enaleni label. These are a 2015 sauvignon blanc and 2014 cabernet sauvignon, both of which are selling at around R65. Both wines are undemanding, easy on the palate, and should find favour with  consumers looking for enjoyable wines to accompany summer fare, weekend braais, or just aperitifs on the the stoep. Enalenif funding has come from both the SA government and Schalk Visser. There is more information on the website www.enalenivineyards.co.za.

Stellenbosch Vineyards, which is marketing the Enaleni wines, is both a wine producer and exporter of several labels, with their head office at the historic Welmoed farm on the R310 outside Stellenbosch. Along with Welmoed wines, they market The Flagship, Credo, Stellenbosch Vineyards, Four Secrets, Infiniti, Arniston Bay, Versus and Infusions.

Their popular restaurant Bistro 13 on the Welmoed farm has established itself as a venue that is true to its title, offering real bistro-style fare – chef-patron Nic van Wyk presenting seasonal, simple, inviting creations  incorporating new trends without going overboard. Summer menu includes items like smoked mackerel salad with pickled fennel, an Asian-style tuna tartare, classic steak tartare, ox tongue gratin and desserts worth keeping space for. Prices are reasonable, if the website is accurate – from R120 to R160 for mains, most desserts around R50.

Wines from the SV ranges, by the glass and carafe, the restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner and for breakfasts as well over weekends. See their website for more info. www.bistro13.co.za.

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Posted by on in Events

 

 

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Muscat de Hambourg is a German cultivar that is uncommon in South Africa, with Stellenbosch Hills being one of two local cellars that processes it. Cellarmaster P-G Slabbert told us this German cultivar reached our shores in the 19th century – I cannot find it listed under any variations of muscat/moskat/etc in my Sothebys wine encyclopedia.

But these grapes were responsible for the fine aperitif or digestif that is La Serena, an aristocratic blend of Muscat de Hambourg with seven-year-old potstill brandy. La Serena is seductive to the eye, offering brilliant shades of ripe pomegranate, with a nose that incorporates rose petals and also  offers a diverse flavours to the palate, including nuttiness. There is no doubt that its handsome packaging matches its patrician status, being housed in a black box, lettered in gold, that requires some ingenuity to open. Childproof? Probably, and possible adult-proof too if being opened after a long liquid dinner… Only 1400 bottles of this anniversary tribute have been made, and it sells for R350. Wonderful birthday gift for anyone reaching their three score and 10 …. And equally appetising well chilled and paired with a variety of good SA cheeses.

But before we reached the stage of sampling this unique liqueur, Stellenbosch Hills had lined up an enjoyable function at the equally serene Signal restaurant of the Cape Grace hotel, where an impressive menu had been created to pair with the Stellenbosch Hills range.

The first course of citrus cured salmon was partnered by new vintages of the cellar’s sauvignon and chenin blancs. These two popular summer wines have always offered very pleasant quaffing at equally pleasing prices. The current prices –R45 and R35 respectively – seem to have stayed much the same, but the quality of the 2015 vintages has rocketed onto a higher plane indeed: the fruity, medium-bodied crisp sauvignon is fresh, flavourful and impressive, while the fresh and zingy chenin presents a tropical fruit salad with underlying minerality – a bargain buy of note.

Staying with whites to counter temperatures in the 30’s, the fine 1707 Reserve White 2013 made an excellent  accompaniment to a delectable porcini mushroom risotto topped with truffle foam. This opulent blend of mostly chardonnay with some semillon, finished with 10% viognier, enjoyed 10 months in French oak, each component maturing separately. It’s a limited edition, and one that can take on all kinds of spicy seafood, poultry and Middle Eastern layered compositions like B’stilla with panache. Also well priced at R70.

To Stellenbosch Hills and its team, including family member and voluntary PR Nicolette Waterford, a toast to the next three decades!

  

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Posted by on in Blog

b2ap3_thumbnail_Spier_FKS__64463.1405397125.700.535.pngThe second vintage of Frans K Smit, the much-anticipated 2009 vintage, is due for release soon. A few wine writers were sent a sample recently, and I opened mine over the weekend, tasted it, and then took it to Karoux, our local gourmet restaurant in McGregor, where it teamed beautifully with a silky duck liver pate, partnered a  steak and shortrib creation with panache, and added style to a sophisticated rendering of skilpadjies on white onion puree.

It is a splendid Cape blend with cab predominating but not overpowering,  the merlot, shiraz and pinotage each adding significant elements to a very classy wine. I think it should be left to its own devices for another few years, when it could deliver quality that will prove that the 2009 vintage attained its predicted heights.

The 2004 was the maiden vintage of this one-bottle range, produced as a tribute to the talent and commitment of cellarmaster Frans Smit and the 2009 marks his 20th year at the historic farm. Along with his impressive list of vinous achievements, Frans is also a hugely popular, modest, friendly, down-to-earth winemaker, which makes reviewing his products even more enjoyable.

The 2009 vintage should be available from specialist wine outlets and online fromhttp://store.spierwines.co.za)in around three months at R745 a bottle.

As it falls into the super-price category, I am going to add my usual comment about any South African wine retailing at R500 and more:  at this price level I think that some percentage of the considerable profit margin  should be channelled to a wineland charity, as no wine, however fine, costs that much more to make, bottle and label than its cousins selling at R450. I know Spier does great community work in the vicinity of the home farm, but I think Frans should be asked to choose a charity of his choice which will benefit from sales of this beautiful blend.

 

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