Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sain's Market Chocolate Peanut Butter @ The Gourmet Company

Going by my social media network, everyone seems to be hooked to Masterchef or some such culinary show, whether they are cooks or not. The show is surely inspirational but more so aspirational, as everyone from novices to seasoned cooks seem to want to churn out exotic cuisine in their kitchens. But exotic foods demand exotic ingredients, and that's where The Gourmet Company comes in. Established in 2009, this online store is your answer to many gourmet product questions, as they stock the finest things from around the world. You'll find  hand-made gourmet pasta, exotic and rare teas and coffees, organic honeys and jams, cheeses, healthy cereal bars, muesli and of course CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER!

Actually, a tweet by the Gourmet Company (@gourmetcompany) about chocolate peanut butter and chocolate chai (Yes! There is such a thing, but more about it later) caught my eye. I expressed interest in reviewing them and they were kind enough to send me some samples. The chocolate peanut butter is by Sain's Market, a brand owned by The Gourmet Company and contract manufactured by Mumbai-based by i2cook.

There was everything to look forward to this product, since it was peanut buttery, chocolaty AND organic! The ingredients, including (dark) cocoa solids, raw sugar, and cinnamon among other things, looked different and promised to be exciting.

I am used to peanut butter from brands like American Garden and more recently, Sundrop, and the I'm a big fan of the chunky variety. So the thing I found unappealing at first was the grainy texture of the butter. The peanuts are finely ground; so it's neither like the smooth peanut butter, nor like the chunky one. It is also very viscous when one tries to eat it plain (isn't that how peanut butter is eaten?). The chocolate bit is also a little disappointing. It is so subtle, that one barely registers it.

The chocolate adds a measure of sweetness and colour to the product, but it clashes with the natural flavour of peanuts and the end result is a bland-tasting product. That said, one must remember that this is an organic and healthy product and does not have those criminal amounts of sodium our dear FMCG companies shove into their goods.

The Sain's Market Chocolate Peanut Butter takes a little getting used to, and tastes much better when had on toast. Priced steeply at INR 295 for a 200 g jar (as all health foods must; sigh!), it is a great alternative to those looking for healthy things in their kitchen, but it is not something a chocolate aficionado will delight in.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Priyagold Italiano Premium Choco Cookies

Wouldja look that this dandy version of Priyagold!? The brand, to me, has always seemed like the poor man's Britannia, selling similar products at lower prices. Because the brand image, the commercials and the packaging have also been consistently aimed at the LIG, it was surprising to see packaging like this from them. The pretty blue box comes with a fancyass name; although what Italy has to do with chocolate chip cookies is anyone's guess. (Also funny because it is obviously inspired by Hide & Seek's Milano!)

Priyagold is the brand under which Surya Food & Agro Limited sells biscuits and more recently, they've ventured into chocolate and candy manufacturing. The company has been around since 1992 and has been a steady contender in the biscuit segment. The Italiano Premium Choco Cookies (*eyeroll*) are the latest from their shed and I must say, they've come quite far in terms of presentation and quality. The card paper box has two separate golden packs of cookies lined on plastic trays. The flimsy trays don't do much in terms of keeping all the cookies intact, but this is standard practice.

The cookies were also rather nice and crumbly, albeit a little on the sweeter side. But if I were to start expecting subtler flavours from Priyagold just because they gold their packaging right, that would be too much. There are a fair number of chocolate chips, but these cannot hold a candle to Parle's Chocolate Chip offerings like Hide & Seek, Milano, etc.

But given that they cost only INR 35 for a 150g pack, they definitely offer value for money and if the brand continues this pretty trend, it should catch up with the rivals soon.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Haldiram's Chocolate Soanpapdi

An Indian mithai debuts on Chocosophy. Finally! Chocolate is taking small, steady steps in this domain thanks to some adventurous Indian sweetmakers experimenting with chocolate. Marrying traditional recipes with cocoa is giving birth to a new genre of sweets, bridging the taste gap between generations. I'm of the opinion that the younger generation of Indians is veering towards chocolate, but the market for Indian sweets is vast. Chocolate has had a hard time growing in India, given the vast variety traditional sweets have to offer.

But when brands like Haldiram's introduce such fusion products, it is an indication of evolving tastes. It could also be that Haldiram is making these for overseas customers, since they are a highly exported brand. Whatever the case, I was one happy puppy when I spotted the Chocolate Soan Papdi. I've always like the regular version and was very curious how well (or not) chocolate would go with it.

Given that Haldiram products are in great demand abroad, their packaging is always great - designed for prolonged freshness. Inside the outer violet wrapping, is a transparent plastic case and under that, foil wrapping. The products are always beautifully presented, and doesn't this almond and pistacchio sprinkling look absolutely gorgeous on the sweet?

The sweet itself was wonderfully flaky and melt-in-the-mouth, typical of Haldiram's quality. I don't remember ever being unhappy with the brand's quality of products. However, it was the chocolate bit that was disappointing.. The only thing chocolaty about this sweetmeat is the colour. It neither tasted like chocolate nor like regular soan papdi. The end result is that this wishy washy tasting product will get a thumbs down from both, the chocolate lover and the purist.

While a 250 g pack costs a mere INR 60, stick to the regular version is what I'd say.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BlackForest Chocolates - part deux

The stash!
BlackForest Chocolates seems to be becoming a Chocosophy staple! Look what I got sent by chocolatier Shilpi Chawla to taste and review. After I raved about her Sugar-free Fresh Apple Cinnamon chocolate in the first review, Chawla decided I ought to taste her sugar-free Belgian dark chocolates and rochers among other things. So the chocolates and some lovely cupcakes made their way to me a few days ago for a review - part deux!

White chocolate cupcakes
The cupcakes were part of Shilpi's cupcake activity that was held at Out of the Blue, Powai on July 14, 2013. This first colourful one was the egg-less white chocolate cupcake, decorated with blue and yellow frosting, some edible glitter and Gems! While I'm not a fan of food colour, these soft, moist and sweet cupcakes may be lovely things to serve at a kiddie birthday party, don't you think?

RATING: 2.5/5

Egg-less chocolate mini cupcakes
The next thing to try from the BlackForest Chocolates' oven were the egg-less min chocolate cupcakes. Because I'm partial to chocolate, I found these better than the white larger ones. The edible sugar embellishments gave them a great look (and my son picked and ate them all up), but again, I would have been happier without them. The cupcake itself was chocolaty and spongy and would I eat them again? Yes.


Sugar-free Belgian dark chocolates
Coming to the chocolates, Chawla sent me the sugar-free Belgian dark chocolates in two shapes - one was shaped like an ice cream cone mounted on a stick (like a lollipop!) and the other was of a regular cylindrical shape. The first was without nuts while the second had some almonds. The chocolate was reasonably aromatic and flavourful as far as sugar-free products go. However, I found them to be a little grainy and they could probably do with a little more tempering. But, they'd make a good option for diabetic or weight-watching chocolate lovers.


Belgian Rochers
The star of this batch of products from BlackForest Chocolates was definitely the Belgian Rochers. I'm guessing, by Rochers, Chawla means nut and rice crisp-filled chocolates, much like the famous Ferrero Rocher. These milk chocolates were delightfully smooth and crispy and Chawla would make a killing if she were to market them well. I absolutely adored them and they're easily one of the best homemade chocolates I've ever sampled.


Visit www.blackforestchocolates.com to know more and place orders.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mi Amere Chocolate Squares

Just how pretty are these? I came upon these recently at a grocer's in Mumbai and was absolutely delighted by the way they look. Mumbai-based company Holvin Foods Pvt. Ltd. makes chocolates under the brand name, Mi Amere and they are responsible for these beauties. In the business since 2009, the company makes artisan chocolates and their products range includes Chocolate Disks, Soft-Centered Bonbons, Semi Soft Centered Chocolates, Solids, Choc-A-Series and Chocolate Modaks. These chocolate squares seem to be a latest addition. They're definitely the first of their kind in India, at least as far as packaging goes.

More than the chocolates, it was the packaging that I was impressed with. At first sight, they look like single large chocolate squares - the kind you would see in a Lindt bar. But the pack mentions four squares, which are revealed once you open it. The size (18.6 g) is just perfect for sampling and ideal for chocoholics like me who like to try different varieties. Priced at just INR 10 per pack, they are absolute pick me ups. Beautifully coloured card paper wrapping , an easy flap, a custom note about the kind of chocolate and matte gold foil wrapping for the individual squares are all quite lovely, and give them an international appeal. The types available are Milk Chocolate, Intense Orange Dark Chocolate, Lemon Pistachio in White Chocolate and Hazelnut Chocolate.

The chocolates, however, are not half as impressive. The lamest of them all was the plain milk chocolate. Insipid, with little or no aroma, this is one product you may want to avoid.

The Intense Orange Dark Chocolate fared a little better, just by virtue of being the dark variant. There's nothing 'intense' about the orange flavour and the chocolate isn't exactly smooth either. But if you had to pick one from Mi Amere's chocolate squares, I'd suggest you go for this one.

While I dislike white chocolate, I appreciated this combination of lemon and pistachio in it. Lemon is a particular favourite and I would have liked it much better without the pistachio. But the two also work well together, and it gets brownie points just for its unusual character.

This last one - the Hazelnut Chocolate - is also pretty lame in terms of taste and texture. Hazelnut in chocolate has been done to death, but I've learnt from this brand that not everyone can do it well. A very weak-tasting chocolate with a few pieces of hazelnut is all that this one has to offer.

If I buy Mi Amere chocolates again, the company will have only the package designer to thank.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lindt Swiss Premium Dark Chocolate

This chocolate blog's made life a lot easier for my family and friends, who now do not have to think twice about what to buy me for a gift. I'm predictably elated every time someone gifts me a bar of chocolate. This whopper was given to me by Pravin, one of my two brothers in law. I did a little jig in my head because DUDE! this was like 300 gm of plain dark chocolate, and a Lindt no less.

For a chocolate lover, plain dark chocolate offers the most primal kind of joy. Flavoured, nutty, fruity, liquor, and crispy chocolates have their own place, but plain dark chocolate stands its own.

There is nothing to be said about Lindt's quality that hasn't been said already. It is little wonder that Lindt is considered one of the most premium chocolate brands in the world, and it has held on to that coveted position for years on end.

 This is a Lindt Swiss Preimum chocolate in what is called a large gold bar format. Made using the company's coveted recipe, this dark chocolate is beautifully smooth and rich. This is the kind, as I always say, that will satisfy you with just one square. While Lindt makes much finer stuff, this guy is not too far behind in the soul satisfying quotient.

The best part is that, you'll find it in most duty-free stores at airports for something like INR 500-600p; yes, I don't remember seeing these at any regular stores. Lindt's Large Format Gold bars are the perfect choice of gifts and are available in flavours like Dark Chocolate, Cherry, and Almond; Gold Hazelnut; Gold Milk; Gold Raisin and Hazelnut, Dark Chocolate and Orange and Silver Surfin Bar.

RATING: 3.5/5

Chocolate hampers at Godrej Nature's Basket for Rakshabandhan

Listen, if you've been looking for excuses to buy chocolate - lots of chocolate - Rakshabandhan is coming up. What's better than gifting it to your sibling for show and then eating them all up yourself? So yeah, where exactly do you get these nice hampers of wonderful, assorted chocolate? Godrej Nature's Basket, that's where.

Rather than picking individual items to create a gift, a hamper becomes an ideal choice as the shopping becomes completely hassel free. Each of these includes imported chocolates such as Lindt truffles, Guylian, Hershys , DueO etc . The gift hamper also includes protein biscuits, oatmeal, organic tea, Weight watcher snacks etc. An attention-grabbing gift hamper can also be custom-made incorporating one’s choice of products in it.

You can also log onto  www.naturesbasket.co.in to surprise your sibling (or yourself!) with that perfect hamper.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Chocolate things at Chocolateria San Churro

If there's one person I know who is as passionate, actually even more passionate than me, about chocolate, it's my friend, Sundeep. The guy pretty much knows all the desserts Mumbai has to offer. He is the kind that will drive a hour in the traffic just to have a cup of hot chocolate, or call a restaurant to reserve a piece of his favourite dessert! Yup. I need more such crazies in my life. :)

It was on his insistence that we went all the way to the Breach Candy outlet of Chocolateria San Churro, because it is the bigger, better outlet. Sundeep had been raving about San Churro and how I MUST go there to drink the 'real hot chocolate'. How could the Chocosopher not go and check out one of the few authentic chocolaterias in Mumbai? San Churro is a chain of chocolaterias in India, with outlets in Mumbai, Delhi and Surat. The brand believes only in Spanish Couverture (the finest, most authentic chocolate in the Spanish tradition) and their very informative website explains it all very well.

The Breach Candy San Churro cafe is a huge affair on the first floor of building. Elegantly done up, the cafe has paintings on the walls trying to bring alive the Spanish ethos. A pastry showcase displays inviting chocolates and pastries at the order counter and cozy-looking chairs and tables are spread across the floor. After I walked around taking photos like a tourist from a village (much to my friend's embarrassment), I settled down with their menu. So much chocolate!!!

We ordered, on Sundeep's suggestion of course, an Azteca - a chilli-infused hot Spanish chocolate, a plate of churros and a raspberry chocolate shake.

San Churro Azteca - a spicy hot chocolate drink
The large-ish cup of Azteca - a spicy hot chocolate drink arrived in a bit and I think my jaw dropped just looking that that thick, rich concoction. I was finally looking at a cup of the real thing; not those lameass excuses for hot chocolate that most places serve. It smelt as divine as it looked with the delectable aromas of dark chocolate, chilli and cinnamon. The drink tasted diviner with just the right balance of sugar and spice. The hot chocolate was so thick, it could almost be pure molten chocolate. Creamy, smooth and perfectly spiced, this drink is a must try. It is, however, extremely heavy and it takes quite an effort to down a cupful.


Churros with milk chocolate dip

The sinful churros came next. Churros are basically deep fried batter things, sprinkled with frosted sugar and served with a milk chocolate dip. Since deep fried and chocolate CANNOT go wrong, the churros are amazing. Crisp churros dipped in creamy chocolate will melt even the hardest of hearts and add to the girth of the slimmest of waists. But you have to have it at least once to know what this is all about. Mmm...


Raspberry chocolate shake
The Raspberry Chocolate Shake was the third thing on our list - a cold shake just to clog up our arteries some more. But hey, one doesn't go to San Churro everyday. I was expecting a pink-coloured drink when we ordered it, as most places are wont to as soon as the word berry comes into the equation. But this lovely thick chocolaty shake made its way on our table. I was rather eager to try this one because few places, if any, combine fruit and chocolate in their beverages. The blend was just right - just the right amount of fruity flavour and the richness of chocolate. But this is for those who like to experiment with their food. Purists may not enjoy this unusual concoction. But, I like!

RATING: 3.5/5

While their quality is fabulous, stuff at San Churro is quite expensive and it is more a place for occasional indulgences than your everyday cuppa joy. Go.

Cupcake love @OOTB with BlackForest Chocolates!

Hola, chocolate lovers! There's a fun cupcake activity happening tomorrow at Out of the Blue, Powai. Baker-chocolatier, Shilpi Chawla will be helping cupcake aficionados design their own cupcake! They will provide pre-baked cupcakes, icing options, sprinkler options and once you've designed your own toppings, you get to take it home in an attractive bag! Go?

Friday, July 12, 2013

4700 BC Gourmet Popcorn introduces chocolate popcorn

Biscotti Milk Choco-All-Ate

Nutty Tuxedo Choco-All-Ate.j
Peanut Butter Dark Choco-All-Ate
This post is pretty much like begaane ki shaadi mein Abdulla deewana. I was *THIS* thrilled to see the following press note in my inbox, because my hopes from the Indian chocolate industry are very bleak. So each time, someone comes up with something innovative or luxurious, I do a little happy dance in my head. :)

4700BC Popcorn (funky name, eh?) has introduced a line of gourmet chocolate-coated popcorn and boy, do they look divine! Can't wait to get my claws into one of these buckets. Sadly, though, they're only available in Delhi right now. Mumbaiyyas and the rest of India are waiting, waiting...

Check out the press note below:

Find more reasons to enjoy the melting richness of chocolate with 4700BC Popcorn. Bring extra joy to your leisure time by munching your favorite chocolate flavored popcorn in a healthier and lighter way. 4700BC has a range of popcorn, dipped in the goodness of chocolate along with nutty flavors.

Walk on cloud nine with our all time favorite Biscotti Milk Choco-All-Ate adorned with Milk Chocolate and Crunchy French Biscuits. Its wonderfully light and crispy twice cooked kernels, draped into warm buttery caramel and milk chocolate, goes good with a cup of coffee due to its crunch in every munch. Take a few minutes break and enjoy the Black Grape Vanilla Choco-All-Ate made of velvety vanilla aromatic corns infused with chocolate topped with alluring dry black grapes.

This Choco-All-Ate treat just doesn't end here. Cookie Moonlight Choco-All-Ate, Peanut Butter Dark Choco-All-Ate, Jamaican Rum Choco-All-Ate and Nutty Tuxedo Choco-All-Ate are sure to add a tang to your healthy snacky option. Whether you need a wave of energy or bust of calm, sweeten your tongue or enjoy healthy and chocolaty snacks, pop up your taste bites with your loved ones.

The regular packs of the chocolate flavors starts at Rs 125 onward.

Visit their website for more information about their products and offers - http://www.4700bcpopcorn.com

Exclusively available at: DLF Place, Saket, The Great India Place Mall, Noida, DT Cinemas, Delhi & NCR

About 4700 BC Popcorn
Nearly seven millennia before movie nights and microwaves, humans munched on popcorn as discovered in Peru around 4700 BC. Ever since, it has witnessed numerous stages of evolution, however, the essence of its originality is being virtually unaffected. We, at 4700BC Popcorn have maintained the same tradition with utmost care and affection. Our research have led us into territories untouched by man - only to assemble the best of global techniques, ingredients and flavors ever developed since inception of popcorn. We bring to you the old fashioned, handcrafted popcorn from the time they are bred and nurtured by Mother Nature till the time they are hand delivered. 4700 BC Popcorn is a brand of Zea Maize.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

BlackForest Chocolates by Shilpi Chawla

Remember the chocolate exhibition at OOTB, Powai I attended a few days ago? Well, the exhibition was by BlackForest Chocolates by Shilpi Chawla and since her offerings looked and tasted so promising at the exhibition, I brought back some home to taste and review at leisure. I picked up Blueberry milk chocolate, Mava paan dark chocolate, milk chocolate chikki, Oreo Bark and Fresh apple and cinnamon sugarfree chocolate.

Shilpi Chawla

I also brought home some warm impressions of Shilpi's enthusiasm for her chocolate business. I was intrigued and wanted to know some more about her foray into this arena. Our email tête-à-tête follows:

1. When and how did you get into the chocolate making business?
In 2008. During Navratras, ( it's an auspicious time of the year) I fasted and asked the divine to send 'something' meaningful my way. I had quit my corporate career and wanted to indulge in a fulfilling activity that was flexible in every aspect.

I stumbled upon some recipes and started making chocolates. I got a lot of appreciation and my first big order was for Ferns n Petals during Valentine's season. In 2011 I gave it a formal brand and started exploring more flavours, tastes, blends...the journey continues!

2. Where do you make your chocolates? Do you have any help?
I make my chocolates in the BlackForest Kitchen and that would be my home. :)
I do have basic help and I would hire based on size of the project for e.g. weddings, etc.

3. What's your vision for BlackForest Chocolates?
Every time I bake a cupcake or finish a batch of chocolates, I feel happy looking at what I created! Therefore, my vision for BlackForest is to do great flavours, quality products (I recently took a course on Belgium chocolates n cupcakes) and create with love as much as I can!

4. Why the pick this name for your brand?
Two reasons: I am very inspired by the BlackForest cake which has many layers and textures. On a Master Chef episode, I noticed that it wasn't easy to make one. BlackForest also happens to be a mountain range in Germany that provides the special liquor to make the cherries that are used in the BlackForest cake.

5. What are your specialities? Which are your most popular chocolates?
 I do many flavours - Chocolate Chikkis (caramalised roasted Hazelnuts n Strawberries or caramalised roasted Almonds n Blueberry), Indian flavours like Mawa Paan, Supari chocolate and Calcutta Paan, and Coconut Creme. Mawa Paan is a hot seller and amongst cupcakes, eggless chocolate with butter cream icing!

You can get more details on my website www.blackforestchocolates.com (Note that the stickers on the chocolates say BACKforest chocolates, but ignore the misprint!)

Of the assortment, I tried the Blue Berry milk chocolate first and found it rather mild in flavour. I mean, if you didn't know you were eating Blueberry chocolate or didn't pay close attention to it, you would probably miss the flavour entirely. Also, the fact that it is milk chocolate pushes it a notch down on my palate love.

Rating: 2.5/5

The next on the list was the White Chocolate Chikki. Even though it is milk chocolate, I like it for the sheer inventiveness in name. It's not really 'chikki' or Florentine as we understand it. To me, it simply was white chocolate with nuts in it. The edible glitter on the top makes it look appealing, but the taste experience is just so.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Mawa Paan Dark Chocolate is easily one of my favourites. The Mawa Paan flavour comes out strongly, as it is wont to do and the dark chocolate is smooth and balances it well. I think it makes for a great modern-day replacement for paan at Indian weddings, as not too many young people like it these days. And combined with chocolate, the traditional mouth-freshening item doubles up as a dessert as well No wonder it is one of Chawla's popular products.

Rating: 3.5/5

3-in-1 chocolate

The next was the 3-in-1 mixed chocolate bar that looks oh-so-pretty with its swirls of dark, milk and white chocolate. While it looks great in transparent packaging, the taste is quite uniform. You can't really tell the three types of chocolate apart and it scores an average for me on the taste test.

Rating: 3/5

Fresh apple cinnamon sugarfree chocolate

Last but not the least was the Fresh Apple Cinnamon Sugarfree Chocolate. To me, this was definitely the star of the BlackForest Chocolate line. I was immensely impressed by it when I tasted it at the exhibition and was impressed some more when I tried it at home. While it does not look all that great, with its slightly gooey and lumpy texture, it tastes absolutely fabulous. What I loved most about it is that unlike other sugar-free chocolates in the market that rely on artificial sweeteners, Chawla's chocolate uses completely natural fruit and spice sugars. The natural sweetness of the apple and cinnamon lend themselves beautifully to the chewy chocolate and taste absolutely delightful. My only grouse with this one are the small, hard flakes of what seemed like apple skin. With a little refinement and marketing, this product can become a massive hit among diabetic and weight-watching chocolate lovers. 

Rating: 4/5

Visit www.blackforestchocolates.com to know more and place orders.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hokey Pokey Double Chocolate Therapy

Hokey Pokey Double Chocolate Therapy

So it was lust at first sight when a known food blogger Instagrammed a picture of the Double Chocolate Therapy, a signature dessert by an ice cream brand called Hokey Pokey. So when I spotted an outlet at Hiranandani, I had to give it a try because I was intrigued not just by the dessert, but also the company.

 Hokey Pokey is an Indian ice cream brand by DRUMS Food International Pvt. Ltd., established in Mumbai but the brand has quickly grown and they now have 14 company-owned outlets across cities like Pune, New Delhi, and Nasik. It is heartening to see at least one home-grown brand being serious about ice creams. The Amuls, Dinshaws and Kwalitys have only tabled the standard set of flavours over the years. In short, the Indian ice cream scene has been very vanilla. One would head to a Naturals (which, I love) or  Baskin Robbins occasionally when the palate craved some texture and different flavour.

But thanks to Hokey Pokey, ice cream eating seems to be taking a turn for the better.

The frozen stone slab is used to mix ingredients for the Signature Creations

Hokey Pokey serves a set of single flavours yes, but their specialty are the shakes and signature creations. Their Signature Creations are a blend of 2-3 ingredients, which are hand mixed on a frozen stone slab and served in a waffle cup. The Double Chocolate Therapy is one of their signature creations and boy is it sexy!

The Double Chocolate Therapy is a dessert created using Dark Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream, Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Fudge and Nutella!! The presentation is even better with chocolate sauce drizzled on it and a chocolate accent stuck on the top. The result is a fabulously tasty and variously textured dessert. The best part is that it is not overly sweet and one-dimensional like regular ice cream. A single serve (in a waffle cup within a paper cup) costs INR 85, but it is totally worth the money. I cannot wait to go back and try their other Signature Creations. Highly recommended.


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