American, Coffee Shop, Fort Worth, Mexican, Sweets, Uncategorized

La Zona on Magnolia- Fort Worth, TX

Yet another adorable spot has opened in Fort Worth and it would only be fitting that it land on West Magnolia. La Zona only opened this past January, but they’ve been all the buzz in town. Tapas and sangria is the name of the game and, although you’ll have to keep reading on my take of it all, the food is delicious and that sangria was like the nectar of the gods. La Zona is definitely a great addition to the city.

New restaurants typically get a ton of buzz and press, but then you hear they are kind of disappointing particularly when it comes to how smooth service is. Every new restaurants struggles with the new system of things, training, everything. That was the case with the newest addition to West Magnolia in Fort Worth. This is actually why I like to wait a little to go to new places, give them the time to work out the kinks with service and the menu. The changes from what I’ve heard to what I experienced prove they have improved greatly. Our waiter was great, a tad nervous perhaps, but the effort and time he put into our table was wonderful and he did a fantastic job.

Some critiques of the overall restaurants are small, but still key I think. The staff doesn’t have uniforms so it was hard to tell them apart from guests. You only knew they worked there if you saw them with food or they came up asking you about your meal. From observation a good portion of the waitstaff that night were men and I couldn’t help thinking that a simple, but universal button down of some kind would do just the trick. A second thing is the overall vibe. I was really excited about a tapas and sangria inspired restaurant, Fort Worth is missing that and this was the perfect opportunity for La Zona. However, it kind of fell flat. The items on the menu were delicious and the sangria was scrumptious, but it lacked the tapas menu I was looking for. The feel of the restaurant is perfect and cute and spot on, but the menu didn’t necessarily coincide.

With that last sentence on your mind, the vibe is great and the look of the restaurant is adorable. It’s on a huge amount of land for the Magnolia area, but the actual restaurant is really small. The majority of their seating is outside, which is perfect most of the time in Texas, but certainly questionable weather nights would deter me from trying to go. The inside is super cute with lots of colors and fun light fixtures. The bar looked comfortable and cool, a great first date spot for sure. They have movie nights where they set up a projector and have local DJ’s come to entertain the guests and fill the air with fun music.

Like I said the menu wasn’t what I was expecting. A lot of the starters sounded great and tapas like, but from a natural Mexican/Hispanic vibe I wouldn’t really think to order pizza. Some of the pizzas have Spanish flair and flavors, but again it wasn’t what I was expecting. However, I ordered the rioja pizza which had chorizo sausage, red peppers, and onions on it and that was a damn good pie. It was a super thin crust, which is what I like, and all the ingredients were fresh and tasted amazing. I wish it was cooked just a little bit longer because the weight of the toppings just barely sat on the pie, the dough a little too soft.

The sangria was absolutely superb. I’m not a huge sangria person mostly because they tend to be overly sweet, but this sangria was perfect. The sweetness wasn’t too much and definitely tasted to have come from the fruit, no added sugar. We all enjoyed eating the fruit too, which in the past I’ve seen some sangrias without fruit…so is that really sangria? No, but La Zona is serving up real and really good sangria.

Afterwards you have to walk next door to Saint Sofia. Don’t be confused, La Zona is two buildings with the main restaurant being named Hotel Madrid and the cute churro shop Saint Sofia (it’s all on the same property). The churros are all over Instagram when you look up La Zona’s location and rightfully so. It’s super small and cute and transports you to a place where you would see little shacks on a dirt road serving up the best food. The churros were fried to a nice crisp with a soft inside and doused in cinnamon and sugar to leave your taste buds happy.

Overall I really like La Zona and would go again. I think they could work on their “identity” a little only because they could fill the hole that they are saying they are that Fort Worth needs. They’ve found their niche, they just need to fulfill it. In the meantime, the food they are firing is delicious and they’ve already improved so much since they first opened. I can’t wait to see what happens here next.

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American, Beef, Burgers, North Carolina, Uncategorized

Hops Burger Bar- Greensboro, NC

This past weekend I got to make a very special trip to Greensboro, NC to see my sister and brother in law and it was full of extra tummy rubs…I’m going to be an aunt! It’s definitely all about the pregnant lady, but I made sure my food needs were known and I knew I had to try 2015’s best burger in the nation. Yes, this weekend we went to Hops Burger Bar.

Indeed they were named the best burger in the nation, a title not to be taken lightly. Over the years of having some pretty amazing burgers I’ve concluded for myself (sorry if you disagree, but this is my blog) that most burger places are kind of the same, but in a really good way! Having fresh quality beef and ingredients is the norm now and how amazing is that! Now it’s down to the variations and overall vibe and story of a place and Hops lives up to that expectation. 

With a couple locations they’ve obviously done well for themselves, attracting the crowds enough to need to expand. Upon walking into the Lawndale location the aromas of beef and hops fill the air. An array of chalkboards dazzle the board with what’s on tap and the burger of the month. A good size restaurant bustling the middle of a Friday…you definitely know it’s going to be good and worth it. 

The menu of burgers is a huge selection, from the many options of burgers they’ve concocted to being able to make your own made it a difficult decision on deciding what to order! I was literally stuck between three burgers and putting my favorite parts of all three on one burger was just not going to mesh well. So upon asking our waiter of his thoughts, I ended up with the fan favorite…The Spicy Goat.

As you can put together so far about the burger it has goat cheese along with applewood bacon, sweet and spicy pepper jelly and topped with lettuce. In the end it’s just really hard to pass up goat cheese! I’m so happy I got this burger because in one bite I was on goat cheese cloud nine. The biggest hunk of cheese sat in between the incredibly juicy burger and crisp fresh lettuce. The sauce had a tangy sweetness and then would finish with just the faintest spicy kick. The combination was superb, all the flavors melding well and complimenting each other. 

Perhaps the only thing that could steal the show would be the crispy fries. There’s a pretty extensive menu when it comes to the fries, but the classic ones are done perfectly…super crispy yet soft and warm on the inside. I loved the plain old fashioned, having tried the Parmesan and truffle ones they really weren’t winning me over. But look at these golden brown beauties:

Of course more and more restaurants are aware of dietary restrictions and choices, but it’s pretty cool walking into a burger place and seeing gluten free buns available as well as vegan friendly substitutes like veggie patties!

Hops Burger Bar lives up to their title of being the best burger in the nation. Although some time has past since they’ve been given that honor, they are serving up some really great, well made burgers. Like I said, I can’t wait to go back and try more!

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American, Bakery, Breakfast, Brunch, Coffee Shop, Dallas, Fort Worth

Magnolia Table- Waco, TX

One week ago Fixer Upper fans watched the final episode of Chip and Joanna Gaines’s broadcasted projects. The Magnolia cult is not dead though, from a Fixer Upper spin-off to the Silos in Waco, TX Chip and Jo are pretty set for life. Why stop there though? Fans everywhere rejoiced when Chip changed the Elite Cafe sign to ask “Avocado Toast?” and the Gaines’s made their official announcement to open Magnolia Table.

Y’all I can’t lie, I’m a huge Fixer Upper fan and I’ve tried so hard not to fall in love with Waco (Go Frogs), but I can’t help it. Waco has grown on me and I love Chip and Joanna and everything about them and their Magnolia brand. When Magnolia Table opened I immediately opened my calendar, called my best friend Hannah Haston (she’s an amazing professional photographer who works in the DFW/Waco/Austin area, click the link!!) and we made plans for a Monday, months into the restaurant being opened. I have been waiting forever to eat, see, love, and write about Magnolia Table for so long! Two things before we dive in: this blog will contain somewhere around thirty photos (y’all IT’S SO PRETTY I LOVE YOU JO) and it 100% met my expectations from design to food. 

Going into a place that’s been so hyped up and can, let’s be honest, ride on the name to get business I was unsure if the food and service would be any good. And after seeing so many professional photos and the episode of it being fixed up (haha see what I did there?!) I wasn’t sure if it actually would be as stunning in person. I was proven wrong on all fronts. Yes, it was an hour and fifteen minute wait, but you know that going into this it’s going to be a long wait. And that’s when checking out the Take Away section and outdoor waiting area are two smart ideas on their end. The Take Away is primarily there for people to grab either chicken salad, strawberry butter, chicken salad, pimento cheese, or chicken salad (maybe they’ll expand the options soon) as well as some Magnolia merchandise like shirts, tea towels, mugs, and some food extras like coffee and honey. The outdoor waiting area is really well done with some tables and chairs, bench seating around the perimeter, and a shaded area for those hot Texas days. You can grab a coffee while you anxiously check your place in line on your phone. Sipping on a delightful lavender coffee was just the ticket to pass the time. It had just a hint of lavender that wasn’t too much or too little! (Now I bombard you with more outdoor photos 😁) 

Then you walk inside and it’s almost a whirlwind, if that’s not too dramatic to say. You want to take it all in as you’re being seated, the interior really is stunning. From structurally speaking to all the detailing it’s truly eye catching in person as much as in photos. Hannah and I were seated in the back room that had some private seating as well as their community tables and bar seating. We got lucky and got our own table with patio viewing and all of that natural light Jo loves! 

Our waitress was super cute, feeding into the lightness you’d expect from the employees working here. She loved giving us her opinions when we asked, checked on us frequently, and always had a smile. 

Okay, remember Cara (hi that’s me, I’m at the bottom of the post in those overalls) this is a food blog…SO LET US TALK ABOUT THE FOOD! Oh y’all…it is so scrumptious, delicious, met my brunch food expectations. They aren’t riding on their name, they are firing really amazing food here. 

We started with Jo’s buttermilk biscuits with fresh strawberry butter. They weren’t layers of dough, it was almost more of a British scone than a Southern style biscuit on the outside. The inside was, however, pretty classic and a lovely crumbly mess of fluffy buttery goodness. The strawberry butter was superb, with no apparent added sugar it seemed to be just butter and fresh strawberries mixed in one spreadable piece of joy.

Now those of you who know me personally know that before going to a new restaurant I do ample research on the menu and check Instagram for visual reference…Table was no different and I knew way ahead of time what I was going to order. I mean, how could I (a lover of Chip Gaines) not get Chip’s ham sandwich?! 

A plate of beauty really. Let’s start with them tots, these are not your average tater tots. They were fantastic, packed with potatoes that were so light and fluffy with a crispy exterior fried to perfection. Fresh Parmesan and chives were the perfect topping. 

The ham sandwich, consisting of sliced ham steak, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese on a buttery croissant (I prepped my body for the carb intake by not eating that weekend) was everything and more. It was precisely what I would expect Chip to want for breakfast. The croissant was flaky and flavorful, the eggs fluffy and light, and ham cooked with obvious love with those stove-top burnt bits. Cheddar cheese melted in these layers and I was ready to take on the afternoon, grab some shiplap and start a demo day. Well done chef and Chip, you’ve won that cooking baton.

I told you I took a bunch of photos! Magnolia Table didn’t disappoint me at all, not that I was expecting it to, but it certainly could have. It fulfilled my foodie tastebuds, pleased my interior designer eye, and had my Fixer Upper heart full…and my stomach. The Gaines’s have made it quite clear: they aren’t abandoning their fans or passions, simply feeding into our lives one of the best ways possible. They’re opening their hearts and doors saying “Meet me at Magnolia Table…where everyone has a seat at the table.”

“Come and Get It

             -Chip”

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American, Chinese, Ethnic

Gung Ho- Dallas, TX

There are several different areas within the city of Dallas.  When it comes to going out and having a drink most people will tell you to go to Deep Ellen or Uptown. However a just as fun area, less crazy and just as popping, is Lower Greenville and that’s exactly where we went and had the pleasure of enjoying Gung Ho.

The new Chinese-American spot only just opened its doors this past February, right next to its sister restaurant HG Sply Co. It’s prime location is central on Greenville Ave, smack dab in the middle of everything. At first my friends and I walked right past it, HG right next door almost covers it up if you’re walking north on Greenville. Once we back tracked we couldn’t believe we walked right past it. People were dining on the small outside area with others flooding out the doors around the bar. The staff is very accommodating, even on a bustling Saturday night, always checking on us while we waited for a table at the bar. 

The interior is super cool, fun lighting and texture ceilings, intimate booths and Asian inspired decor. The biggest eye catch is the green lit “Gung Ho” bar background enticing you to get a closer look…and a drink. The drinks menu is next level featuring liquors from fig infused rum to famous grouse scotch. Egg whites and lapsang tea accompany other ingredients in these decadent cocktails, new ideas pouring over the back bar. The Lapsang Penicillin featuring famous grouse, lapsang tea, honey syrup, ginger and lemon was a fiery delight. 

The food menu is very inviting, classic Chinese flavors and ingredients with some exciting new twists. They recommend getting a couple of different plates and sharing, which is the best way to try a little of everything. With items from classic dim sum and kung pao chicken, the staff recommended some of the fusion dishes being their favorites. We started with the glazed eggplant featuring a fish sauce caramel, garlic, Thai basil and fermented chilis. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and the flavors really popped, the spicy chilis adding a great kick to it. The glaze added a light sweetness to the dish, this was a standout. 

Several staff members recommended the crack chicken, and it did sound amazing boasting fried chicken in a mala seasoning (yes please) along with those fermented chilis and herbs. This dish was really good, spicy flavors really coming through from the seasoning and chilis, but it was pretty basic being just a fried chicken dish. The meat was delicious and juicy and we got our protein for the night, but not as big a standout as the eggplant. 

The star dish of the night goes to the crab and coconut rice. Our waiter set the dish down in front of me and the aromas of coconut immediately hit me. I was actually worried that because there was such a strong coconut smell that it would mean an overpowering taste. I was totally wrong, the perfect amount of coconut flavor paired with crab and delicious rice and egg topped with fresh scallions left me incredibly fat and happy. A subtle sweetness balanced the other spicy dishes out and left me continuously adding more to my plate as my taste buds kept calling for it.

Gung Ho came as a recommendation from my friend Jonathan who enjoyed the restaurant, but certainly Gung Ho has worked out their new restaurant kinks. They changed the menu up a little and improved the service, from exact timing of our wait time to fast food delivery all on a crazy Saturday night. The cool cocktail menu and delicious coconut crab rice will bring me back to Gung Ho along with its cool interior and fusion vibe. 

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Dallas, Ethnic, Thai, Uncategorized

Crushcraft Thai Street Eats- Dallas, TX

Have you ever looked at your TV guide, seen a show like “Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives” and flipped it on to see Guy Fieri in your town? You’re probably thinking one of two things: he’s at one my favorite places or he’s at a place I’m going to have to try. Well, Crushcraft Thai applies to both responses. Either you’ve been a bunch of times or you had never heard of it. In the case of today’s blog, it was my first time. “This…is Crushcraft.” Lets dive in!

Guy Fieri really liked this place, praising it and saying he would return whenever he’s in Dallas. I can totally see why, from the location and interior to the food, Crushcraft is producing some great stuff. Fast, flavorful, punch in your face Thai classics located right in the heart of Uptown Dallas, you can’t beat that. In a small strip of other cool looking restaurants (will have to get back to this area for some food/bar hopping) Crushcraft is right in the middle of it all. They are open late (Three in the morning Friday and Saturday) catering to that late, drunk, “I need food to absorb the alcohol crowd”. Never would have thought of Thai to do that trick, but how have I not thought of that? Good on you Crushcraft. 

The interior is really cool, replicating a street market in Thailand. Colorful strips of fabric encircle the main dining area, a swirling tunnel of light and happiness. Boxes along the walls also create that street market feel, making it a tad more authentic when it comes to the overall look and vibe. They have plenty of seating from the main dining area to the front having some tables. Certainly late night group friendly as well as intimidate date night friendly. 

The menu is really classic with the Thai ingredients and flavors. You see the menu as soon as you walk in and you look it over and are unsure what to get. It all looks so good, but you know nothing will be bad. Everything is reasonably priced too, especially for the quality. I personally had to take Guy Fieri’s advice and try the classic Thai drunken noodles (phat ke mao).

The kitchen is firing food as fast as a hot knife cutting through butter. I swear it took no more than five minutes until I heard my name being called for my food. Seeing the noodles made my heart leap, it was colorful with the red of the tomatoes popping out and bright greens catching my eye. The aromas wafting up into my senses made my mouth water, my taste buds preparing for the spicy goodness. Concocted with chicken, the classic wide rice noodles, fresh basil, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and chilies this drunken noodle was possibly the best I’ve had. The flavors came through strongly, but not overpowering. They all harmoniously complicated each other sending my senses into happiness. Each element was cooked perfectly, the chicken being juicy and tomatoes bursting in your mouth. With a kick of spice, it wasn’t “tongue on fire” spicy just the perfect amount (they also have samplings of different Thai sauces you can grab so if you want super spicy you can make it that way). Guy Fieri knew what he was talking about and I’m glad I took his advice and chose this dish. Another notable dish is the green curry, a little more spicy and and some different flavor profiles. The jasmine rice was a little creamy making it melt in my mouth goodness and it was full of flavor. The curry wasn’t really soupy either which I personally liked…it was possibly one of the best green curry dishes I’ve had.
Casual, fast dining Thai is the general gist of Crushcraft, but don’t let either of those words scare you. The food they’re making and presenting in Uptown Dallas is incredible, packed with classic Thai flavors and fresh ingredients. The interior look and feel of being at a Thai street market adds to the food experience, creating an overall cool and interesting vibe. With that prime location in the heart of Uptown, Crushcraft is certainly crushing it. 

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Dallas, Fort Worth, French, Savory, Sweets, Uncategorized

Rise Soufflé- Dallas, TX

Qui penserait Ă  aller Ă  un restaurant soufflĂ© Ă  Dallas? 

No need to Google translate that (how do you think I was able to start a blog post in French?), but seriously who would think to go to a soufflĂ© restaurant in Dallas, TX? I’m sure few people think of French cuisine when entering this great state, but a small company of restaurants is making us rethink this. Rise, with “rise no1, no2”, and “no3” are making themselves known for the French classics, one in particular. 

For those of us who don’t know, soufflĂ© is a classic egg based French dish known for its puffy, airy look and texture before collapsing. Many people see soufflĂ©s as a complicated dish to make, achieving an airy whipped egg center and risen browned exterior. With locations in Dallas, Houston and most recently Fort Worth, “rise” is taking the metroplex by storm.

It’s almost as if you’ve walked into a “mom and pop” front in Paris. Toned down colors of purple and red, adorations like wine bottle chandeliers and Parisian styled decor welcome you. The location in Dallas is small and quaint, bursting with energy and laughter. Just as the wall says “Smile you’re at rise”, you can’t help but abide. 

The menu is quite classic, but I am certainly happy if you’re reading this before going. It’s an experience, with a cheese cart and way to order, and so many different options. Here they take your order for everything up front as it takes time to create and cook these soufflĂ©s. I’m glad I went with my friends, Diana and Jonathan, because they knew how it worked and had their own recommendations. One thing we all agreed on was cheese and marshmallow soup.

At rise they have a cheese cart where you can order anywhere from three to five to however many different cheeses, all from Europe including France, Italy, and Spain. They have a real deal spinning cheese board that as you crank the handle it shaves the cheese into small triangles (note that many of the special dinnerware items and dish towels are for sale). Another notable, and what they are quite known for, is the marshmallow soup. No, it’s not real marshmallows, but rather a nice thick tomato soup with goat cheese “marshmallows” on top. Yes, goat cheese marshmallow balls. This soup is heavenly and honestly I don’t think it needs much description, you just need to know goat cheese balls and then check out pictures below. And yes, that’s homemade pesto drizzled on top.

Now onto the star of the night, the soufflĂ©! For the first visit I had to go classic with the jambon (ham) and gruyere. Two very French ingredients harmoniously combined in this spectacular dish. The soufflĂ© came out piping hot, risen to a nice height with a golden brown top. The eggs were cooked beautifully, perfectly whipped and fluffy. There was a good ratio of egg to ham and cheese I thought, the ham diced into small cubes. The flavor was all there, seasonings coming together and filling my stomach, heart, and taste buds with warm happiness. 

Naturally you can’t get a first course, main course, and indulge in the cheese cart without trying the dessert soufflĂ©s…right?! They do have seasonal specials for both savory and sweet options, this night the strawberry soufflĂ© was speaking to us. Our waiter, who was absolutely the cutest, highly recommended it and offered it with the strawberry, chocolate, and grand marnier sauce. He was a keeper, speaking our language of food. Again, beautifully risen soufflĂ© with a gorgeous brown top. The fresh strawberries had a ton of flavor and all the sauces only enhanced the sweetness alongside the base. 

The overall look and feel of Rise is just adorable and welcoming. The dishes are beautiful, full of color and had an authentic homemade look. The decorations at the Dallas location make it feel intimate and special, I’m sure the same look applies to the Houston and Fort Worth locations. The staff always had a smile on their faces, our main waiter being absolutely phenomenal and showing true pleasure in his work in serving us and making sure we got the full experience. 

Rise SoufflĂ© is quite the dining affair to find in Texas. I continue to be proven wrong as I find higher end restaurants serving cuisines other than steak and potatoes (which I never object to, but you know what I’m getting at). It’s so wonderful finding places like rise’s French cuisine and ambiance that as you leave and are given a quote for the evening you really just look around and feel grateful that you get to enjoy fantastic and special meals with beautiful, supportive friends. It’s truly a blessing going on this food journey and having a fun blog, but it’s the people you’re enjoying these meals with that you will never forget. 

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boston, Italian

North Square Oyster- Boston, MA

Ah, to be back home in Boston once again. After taking just, you know, a little trip to the Bahamas for New Years being back in Boston is nice…even if it is -13 with the wind chill. Any-who, its become a sort of tradition now that when I’m home my parents and I treat ourselves to a fancy North End meal. I mentioned this in my Mammamaria post, but treating yourself to a special meal is fun and well worth it. This time we tried Mammamaria’s neighbor, North Square Oyster.

Located directly across the street is North Square, a lovely older building where the restaurant takes up two floors overlooking the square and an adorable little bar next door. The building is timeless, beautiful ceilings that look foreign in comparison to newer buildings in the area. Chairs and booths situated in the rounded out windows make for a cozy feel when sitting there and mood lighting certainly does, well, set the mood!


As we looked over the menu it is not the typical Italian one is expecting. It’s up there with Mammamaria in terms of how upscale and sophisticated the menu is. You won’t find classic rigatoni with sauce, but items like mushroom risotto and gnocchi in a sweet broth. All the items sound superb and any choices we made that night would have left our taste buds feeling a sense of expansion.

The first dish we ordered was actually a special that evening. Gnocchi in a sweet, sour broth. The gnocchi was definitely homemade, perfectly cooked and absolutely divine. The broth was delicious, a different sweetness to it than you’d expect. Not the typical gnocchi dish one would be expecting, but certainly a delicious one.


The next dish we got was the NY strip steak with caramelized onions, trumpet mushrooms, and pommes purĂ©e (mashed potatoes). Okay, first of all, I know mashed potatoes are just potatoes and butter, but these pommes purĂ©e were insane. So rich and buttery and seasoned perfectly. There really is nothing like good steak and potatoes. The steak was really juicy and had good flavor to it and was cooked well. The onions were so fragrant and had a strong taste to them, certainly fresh and I’m sure picked at the market that morning. 


Lastly, and certainly the best of the three dishes, was the mushroom risotto. I like getting risotto when I go out if I can (and feel like it) because risotto is a rice that needs time, not something chefs on “Top Chef” like to make. This mushroom risotto was just incredible. With pickled chanterelles, maitake and cepes, and pumpkin spiced almonds it was out of this world. So creamy and warm, the flavors coming together between the mushrooms and pumpkin almonds. I guess, and I could just not be paying attention, but I never thought of mushrooms and pumpkin spice together! What a combination! It truly took the risotto up a notch with that hint of spice. 

North Square is a higher end kind of place, being in the same square as Mammamaria you kind of have to be. Both restaurants have a bit of a reputation of serving superb Italian food and I can honestly say that it’s true. Different vibes, but one common goal…to serve incredible, high end, innovative Italian food. As you tour the Paul Revere house when you’re in Boston, think about just going up the street. Whether it be for drinks at North Square’s cute little bar or having dinner there, it’ll be worth every penny…your taste buds will thank you. 

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