New Orleans foof experience

Feb 6th, 2010, 11:49 AM
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New Orleans foof experience

Have cursorily referred to recent New Orleans food experiences on this forum, but thought it might be good to provide details. Will generally say that the food was really good (this is not a foodie destination for nothing), and service was top notch (exceptions above or below that level noted).


Had dinner here. Food was not as good as some other spots of this type I experienced, but wasn't as bad as some have suggested. For me, it was really bad when bad and really good when good. The low point by far was the appetizer, oysters Rockefeller. They invented the dish here, but it's not like anybody else's preparation. Most restaurants leave the oyster in the shell, add in cooked spinach, then top with hollandaise sauce or something similar, than bake. Here, one encounters what looks like a pre-prepared lump of shell filling, with the oysters out of the shell and mixed in -- in addition to the shellfish, the filling appears to have spinach or other greens likely with egg, cream, cheese, and other ingredients, all pureed together. There's no sauce on top. The flavor was odd, not something I'd opt for again, and the last two oysters went further into an unpleasant off-putting taste which may have indicated something was past-it. For a main course, had trout almondine. What distinguished this was not so much the preparation as the strict freshness of the ingredients. The fish was lovely, flaky and fresh, with a light batter coating -- the topping was very simple and its main virtue was to not cover the fish flavor, likely just butter, lemon, and slivered almonds. They have lots of wonderful old desserts that restaurants rarely offer anymore (baked alaska, cherries jubilee, peach melba) -- as you need to order all but the last as part of a multi-person table, was forced to opt for the peach melba. This was delicious -- ice cream, candied peaches that far surpassed plain canned, raspberry sauce, and more almonds. In sort, a mixed bag. This is also a huge place, and it's well worth strolling the place's many dining rooms.


Another old-line Cajun/Creole place, and one of the best. Got dinner from their table d'hote menu. Started with shrimp arnaud, essentially their take on shrimp remoulade, which featured a tasty and spicy red sauce. A small salad of mixed greens had an inventive and delicious Cajun balsamic dressing. The main dish was redfish almondine -- again, a scrupulously fresh piece of fish lightly coated and fried, with a lemon butter and almond sauce that had more depth than the one at Antoine's; this included some al dente green beans. Also got a side of souffle potatoes, which were small and puffy finger-sized pieces of potato fried up light and crisp -- they were so addictive, I mostly skipped their accompanying cup of admittedly very good bernaise sauce. Had praline crepes for dessert, thin pancakes wrapped around a cream cheese and pecan filling, topped with a sauce of butter, sugar, and praline liqueur -- and yes, it was every bit as scrumptious as it sounds. This place is worth exploring as well, as there's a nice little Mardi Gras museum upstairs containing costumes worn by the owner's wife over the years during this festival.


The food here was amazingly good in my experience, among the best and most inventive I had in the city. Had two dishes. The starter was a maque choux, a savory soup-like concoction containing corn and shrimp and tomatoes that was ladled over dark seasoned rice -- really richly flavored for this kind of dish, very tasty. For a main course, got blackened grouper in a complex sauce containing shrimp, capers, and sun-dried tomatoes -- really delicious and unusual with just the right amount of assertiveness -- accompanied by well-whipped and creamy mashed potatoes and sauteed mixed veggies (mostly carrots, squash, and peppers). Nice bread basket, too. There wasn't a misstep here despite an ambitious cooking approach. Very highly recommended.

--Mr. B's.

Another winner, big time -- really amazing food. Am thinking there's a good reason this place was consistently crowded whenever I walked by. It's another Cajun/Creole spot, though less old-time atmospheric than many of its neighbors inside. Began with gumbo ya-ya (sausage, chicken, and veggies in a complex and spicy soup base) which was amazing good. This place is known for barbecue shrimp, which is actually a misnomer as the crustaceans are cooked whole and shell-on in a rich, buttery, spicy sauce. It's a real mess to eat (you have to pick the meat out of the shells) -- along with boiled lobster and ribs and fried chicken, definitely not a dish to order if you're eating out as part of a job interview -- but amazingly yummy stuff once you get the meat out and start dipping the shrimp into the sauce. I used up the rest of my bread soaking up the remainder of the sauce. Finished with a great bread pudding with whiskey sauce, delicious indeed. Definitely a must.


With Arnaud's, would say this was at the top of the list for old-line Cajun/Creole places in the French Quarter. The downstairs dining room is bustling and fun -- apparently folks with reservations usually get taken upstairs, but lucked out here. This is one of those places where your server says, "let's just put the menu away. What kind of food do you like?" After you answer, he/she says, "Okay, I'll bring you out this dish." And it's good -- really good, because the waiter/waitress knows their stuff. Began with a wonderful appetizer, half shrimp remoulade, half crabmeat maison; to call this respectively shrimp in cocktail sauce and crabmeat salad would be grossly unfair, as these are the Rolls Royce of both humble dishes, delicious and with nice subtle highlights. Entree was trout with crabmeat Yvonne, a fresh piece of sauteed fish in a marvelously good sauce containing crabmeat, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts. Had sides of asparagus (very al dente, but that's fine by me) and brabant potatoes (a Cadillac upgrade of home fries, really good and surprisingly light for this kind of dish). The dessert, banana bread pudding with sauce, was excellent as well. This approach can admittedly mount up your bill, but it was so worth it. Definitely on the short list of best places here.

--Commander's Palace.

Yes, the hype surrounding this place is justified as far as the food is concerned, for the most part. The service was surprisingly lackluster and forgetful, though -- had the wrong main course brought, niceties like correct silverware for dessert were forgotten, and no one remembered to bring bread to the neighboring table -- and the primary wait-person was not exactly a bastion of friendliness or competence in general. But it did result in a complimentary palate cleanser of bananas foster sorbet being brought by, which was decadently delicious, more than making up for the service lapses. Had their table d'hote dinner, and two items there were truly amazing. Turtle soup with sherry was the best I've ever had anywhere, really smooth and rich with splendidly deep flavors. The dessert was also amazing, a bread pudding souffle which was a sophisticated riff on the standard NOLA classic, with a beautifully caramelized top that was almost meringue-like and featuring a luscious whiskey cream sauce on the side that only made this dish more of a must. The main course was curious, duck in a hot pepper sauce. The duck was lovely, meaty and rich, but the idea to combine this with spicy peppers was not so successful -- an interesting notion that didn't quite work for me. For what it's worth, mistakenly took a taste of the wrong dish they brought, a fish dish, that was not bad but not so much a must. Still, worth going to as far as I'm concerned.


This is Emeril Lagasse's establishment in the French Quarter, and it was arguably the least essential of the big dinner places gone to. A stuffed chicken wing appetizer was unpleasantly heavy and had an odd and somewhat off-putting blend of spices. Dipping them in the accompanying sauce helped some but not a lot, a sauce billed as being hoisin but not really so, more like a version of seasoned soy. Better was an entree of smoked duck with candied pecans, corn stuffing, and green beans, a mostly successful melding of unusual elements. The duck was the best part, with a smoky flavor that was noticeable without being overly assertive. Of all the fine dining places gone to, this was also the noisiest.

More to come.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 6th, 2010, 02:07 PM
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More of my "foof" experiences -- sheesh, darn typos!


This is an Italian/Creole place located up Canal Street from the French Quarter, and an epitome of the "neighborhood place" here. Had two items. Their turtle soup with sherry may not have been at the rarefied level of this dish at Commander's Palace, but was still very good and well worth getting, hearty and delicious. Had a curious dish not encountered before called "daube." It's essentially spaghetti and meat sauce but with brisket instead of meatballs or sausage. It was a very good example of red-sauce Italian cuisine (brisket is a pleasant variant to experience), and the portion was enough to feed three (no, I couldn't come close to finishing it). Well worth going to, and an easy dinner stop after visiting the art museum.

--Acme Oyster House.

A rough-wood, vibrant, and bustling dive -- fun place. Got oysters here, a half dozen raw and a half dozen char-grilled. Both versions were great, the raw ones fresh as can be and big, the char-grilled ones really good, covered in a full flavored butter and romano based sauce.

--Felix's Restaurant and Oyster Bar.

Kind of a cross between a diner and dive on the inside. Had a half-and-half cooked oyster dish here, part oysters Rockefeller, part oysters bienville. The Rockfellers were halfway between those at Antoine's and those you find at most old-fashioned non-NOLA sit-down places. Bienville is a little spicier, probably with butter and veggies as a basis. Both versions were excellent. There's not as much atmosphere here as at Acme, but there's also no line, which one often sees at Acme. I'm not sure there's s significant difference in food quality -- both seemed expert at oyster dishes.


This is a neighborhood style Italian place a little off the beaten track in the French Quarter. Chowhound website regulars unanimously say the duck is to die for here, and they're right. The duck had a raspberry pancetta pecan glaze, a really nice combo that ideally complemented the meaty and perfectly cooked duck. This was served with a dollop of whipped yams and a side of greens, both delicious.


Went here for their much-ballyhooed breakfast, a formal sit-down white tablecloth affair. The best way to go here given their prices is the table d'hote. Got a southern baked apple with double cream (staggeringly rich and delicious), eggs sardou (ditto, consists of poached eggs and creamed spinach on artichoke bottoms covered in hollandaise sauce), and bananas foster for dessert (ditto, they invented this dish here, bananas sauteed in butter and brown sugar and cinnamon and banana liqueur, flambeed with rum and served over ice cream). This was all decadently delicious, and given that one can easily spend over $40 per person here before tax and tip, it had better be. Chowhounds don't much seem to like this spot, but I had no complaints.

--Central Grocery.

Pretty much an Italian grocery with take out, their specialty is the muffuletta, an unusual sandwich consisting of Italian cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad on a large round bun. One half is plenty enough for one person. This was great, an eccentric and delicious take-off on the Italian cold cut subs I've had elsewhere. The meat and cheeses were fresh tasting, and the olive salad was amazingly nice, consisting of several veggies (olives being just the most numerous) in pickled preparation. A must.

--Napoleon House.

An old, dark dive bar that spiffies itself up by welcomingly playing classical music in the background. Tried their version of a muffuletta, unique in NOLA because they serve it hot, not cold. Not bad, and sufficiently different from the cold version at Central Grocery to warrant sampling. A quarter sandwich made a nice light munch on the go.

--Johnny's Po-boys.

A po-boy is NOLA's version of a submarine sandwich, the primary differences here being that they're on the lighter French bread, can have a really wide range of stuffings, and are served "dressed" or "undressed" -- the former adds lettuce or cabbage, tomato, and condiments (usually mayo or mustard, sometimes both). Johnny's does a very good version of this item, arguably the best in the French Quarter. Got a fried oyster po-boy dressed, which was delicious -- and given that the bread is lighter, not as heavy a sandwich as one might expect. Just don't look at the floor, neighboring tables, or other surroundings here, as this place is far from pristine -- and forget the 5-second rule if something falls off your plate.

--Liuzza's by the Track.

Another neighborhood spot open for lunch well up on Esplanade Avenue not far from the art museum, St. Louis #3 Cemetery, and yes, the racetrack. Dive-y but really good. They offered up a thin-broth but tasty gumbo and a delicious half-sized spicy beef po-boy, much enjoyed.

--Deanie's (French Quarter).

This place is trying to be a neighborhood style spot, but is a little new to bring it off -- nice enough digs, though. Tried a barbecue shrimp appetizer and a couple fried soft-shell crabs here. The shrimp were good, but not at Mr. B's level, while the crabs were decent enough. Less essential than other NOLA eateries, though it would likely be a godsend in many cities.


This place is the equivalent to the Union Oyster House in Boston, a spot that appears in guidebooks right and left but dishes up food that doesn't merit much respect. Got a half po-boy, their "Famous Ferdi" which has roast beef, ham, and "debris" (meat bits that fall off in cooking and are added back on the sandwich), dressed. Despite all the ingredients, the sandwich was dry, flavorless, and dull. Can't recommend this spot based on what I ate here.

--Lil' Dizzy's.

Here's another neighborhood place on a gritty stretch of Esplanade Avenue just above the French Quarter, in this case a soul food spot, where they serve various meals -- including breakfast, which is what I had. Got a crab omelette, grits, and biscuit, all of which were tasty and filling. Worth finding, for sure.

--Angelo Brocato's.

Ice cream to die for, among the best I've had anywhere. They offer a wide range of gelato, rich in mouth feel and vibrant in flavor. They also have Italian ice cream specialties one doesn't find much anymore, such as spumoni (which was also yummy). Very close by Mandina's, and easily combined with a dinner here as a dessert stop. A must regardless.

--Coops' Place.

Tried a cup of rabbit and sausage jambalaya at this French Quarter dive bar as a pop-in, which was really delicious -- the dish almost had the sticky consistency of brown rice, which only made the whole thing more enjoyable.

--French Market Restaurant and Bar.

Another dive bar spot in the French Quarter. The draw here was boiled crawfish, which were delicious to pick apart and munch on. If you go here, note that they add the tip on the bill ahead of time, so don't double tip.

--Cafe du Monde.

Yes, this place is a must despite being crowded and overrun by tourists. The very limited menu offers a few coffee drinks, orange juice, beignets, and not much else. Coffee with chicory was excellent. Beignets are small square doughnuts with no holes and drenched in powdered sugar -- and despite tasting a lot like carnival style fried dough, they were indeed really good.

--Cafe Beignet.

No question, this was the worst place I ate in NOLA, and it wasn't especially close. "Cajun home fries" were fried potatoes, onions, peppers, and sausage in spice and were so bad (with a jarring gone-way-past-it taste) that they were returned after the first bite for a refund. Got beignets instead, which were much more doughy and leaden that those at Cafe du Monde. The coffee with chicory was at least okay -- but this is a must-miss as far as I'm concerned.

In addition to Cafe du Monde, there's a thriving coffee house culture here, with several such spots in the French Quarter alone. I stopped in for coffee at all these along the way and liked them: Cafe EnVie, La Boucherie, Royal Blend, Croissant d'Or, and PJ's. There's a reason there are few Starbuck's outlets and no Dunkin' Donuts shops here.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 05:50 AM
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Wow. Do you live in New Orleans? This is an amazingly thoroughly descriptive list, but surely no one should be even allowed to eat at all these places in one trip!

Great report, and I agree with every one of these I've been too (except that I loved my food at Nola, at the Chef's Table).
NeoPatrick is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 07:11 AM
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Very exhaustive (and filling!) list - thanks for the report.

You left out two places I ALWAYS hit when I'm in NO: - Best Gulf shrimp on the planet

and - Best breakfast in NO - the praline bacon is AMAZING!
bardo1 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 08:01 AM
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I don't live in NOLA, but the trip I took here was about a week and a half long -- I posted the "visiting attractions" trip report as an add-on to my initial itinerary inquiry:

I did a lot of prior research to plan how best to eat where I wanted, as well as what dishes I might want to consider. Glad I did, too -- I really felt as if I maximized my food opportunities, and there's no question the food is a major reason to visit here.

Note also that a couple of the po-boy visits were breakfast visits. Not a bad way to start the day, actually.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 09:39 AM
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Great report (we'll be in NOLA for 5 days this spring, so I'm guessing 5 breakfasts and 5 dinners (likely no lunches out because we'll be at JazzFest). This is really helpful.

One question -- what is the "dress' like at the fancier places? (And which are the places where you "have to" dress, and which not?)
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Dress at the fancier places varies. Most say "business casual" but will let you in as long as you're dressed neatly (that includes jeans) and aren't wearing shorts or cut-offs or ragged jeans or baseball caps or some such. That being said, people often do dress pretty nicely at these spots. My nice jeans and sweater worked fine for the most part. Jackets are requested for men at several of these places but don't ban men without them.

A few places are a little more strict. Galatoire's for example requires men to wear a shirt with a collar at all times, as well as a jacket after 5 pm and all day on Sunday -- but they will also loan men a jacket to wear if they otherwise meet the requirements. Broussard's (I didn't go here) does not allow shorts or jeans to be worn by either men or women. Commander's Palace does not allow shorts to be worn by either men or women.

Of the places I went to, would think dressing a little nicer wouldn't be out of place at Antoine's, Arnaud's, Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, K-Paul's, Mr. B's, NOLA, and Brennan's. Anything goes anyplace else I went.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 8th, 2010, 03:59 PM
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Thanks - anyplace that requires a jacket is out of the question - my DH won't do it (and there's no way he'd wear a borrowed jacket just because of a restaurant's dress code, either). He's more of a khakis and button-down shirt kind of guy. We'll just have to choose where we eat accordingly!
sf7307 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2010, 04:16 PM
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We head down there soon so the timing of your report is fantastic. Thanx for sharing!
dcd is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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Just bought the spring break plane tickets. Thanks for your report.
missypie is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 08:59 AM
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Really nice report indeed. Particularly the details. I/we have been going to NO regularly for decades - grew up not that far from there. And am going again next week on business.

Pretty much agree with your assessments. Hard to beat Galatoire's for the old NO classic experience and food. We've also had some average service at Commander's, but never a bad meal. Great atmosphere. We're not fans of Brennan's and haven't been for a long time - average food more often than it should be and often well below average service; think they rely on past reputation. The branch of the family that runs Brennan's in Houston runs a far superior operation for food, service, etc.

One place we love is Pascale's Manale on Napoleon in the Garden District. Great neighborhood spot with excellent seafood.
dfr4848 is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 02:11 PM
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Thanks so much for this great list. I visit NOLA every now and then as I have a friend who lives there. I'll certainly use your descriptions in planning our restaurants for our next trip.
sharona is offline  
Feb 11th, 2010, 07:06 PM
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Thanks bachslunch

This was a wonderful descriptive report on one of my favourite North American cities and I salivated considerably reading your meal and especially some of those dessert descriptions! A reminder that I've barely scraped the iceberg in terms of dining experiences there...and that I must return to the Big Easy, as it's been a few years!

Thanks again, Dan
Daniel_Williams is online now  
Feb 13th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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Excellent report, very descriptive. Thank you backslunch.
bkluvsNola is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 10:23 AM
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I've seen a lot of gripes about Brennan's in online forums, including both here and at Chowhound. This place and Mother's seem to be especially controversial in online NOLA restaurant discussions. My single experience (which may or may not be typical) at Brennan's was extremely good, including the food and service. Given the number of complaints, I'm willing to guess that my positive experience may not be a universal occurrence. But I can only go on what happened during my visit.

Agreed that any complaints about bang-for-your-buck here make sense, of course. $40 per person for table d'hote breakfast before beverage and tax and tip is, well, staggering (and if you go a la carte, it can get much higher). They were going to have to not miss as far I was was concerned at these prices, and am happy to report that they didn't. Would I repeat the experience if I'm ever in NOLA again? Good question. The prices would make me think twice and three times, but not the food or service.

Agreed with the legion of naysayers about Mother's, though. No idea why people think this place is good, given what I ate there. Whoever first said, "don't play poker with someone named Doc and don't eat at a place called Mom's," knew their stuff.
bachslunch is offline  
Feb 13th, 2010, 09:36 PM
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It's been a few years since I've been to The Big Easy, but maybe it's about time to return. You must have been stuffed after all these great meals. It truly is a foodie's city, isn't it? I always try to get to K-Paul's for the inventive spicy cooking and Galatoire's for the old NO experience. We seem to always go back to these and other familiar places, so next time I'll have to try one or two of your favorites too. Too bad we usually go for only 4 days or so, our dining opportunities are so limited.

I haven't returned to Brennan's since I went alone many years ago. The place was completely empty, yet they seated me next to the swinging kitchen door and ignored me for about 15 minutes. I just got up and left. I don't think anyone even noticed. I guess they didn't need customers too badly.
travelgirl2 is offline  
Feb 14th, 2010, 08:23 PM
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My take on Brennan's: I've only been there on the company dime before, and I wasn't paying the bill so I have no clue how expensive the food is there.

However, everything I had there was excellent. I thought that the Banana's Foster there was the best dessert I've ever tasted in my life. At other places, they just can't seem to duplicate the layers of food in that dish (makes sense because they are only imitating).

Because I was with a group of over 20 people, I was able to sample many of their different dishes and they were all good. Our waiter, who was designated especially for our room, was very knowledgable and gave the history of the restaurant and the dishes that each of us ordered. I don't know if this is standard, or just because it was a large party, but it was a wonderful experience. They even mixed up non-standard cocktails I ordered by hand.
bkluvsNola is offline  
Jul 10th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Wow! What an in depth report. Thanks! Are you a professional food critic? I better start a diet now for this trip.

I, like others, found Brennan's to be totally over rated. So I will pass this trip. And Cafe Du Monde is a must return for us. I am pretty sure we hit Johnny's Po Boy. Yes, it's been too long since we were last there.

I'm overwhelmed with all these choices.

I like the sounds of Elizabeth's and Acme Oyster a lot. Not sure how the oyster scene will be in the fall though, with the oil spill.

Could you kindly suggest your favorite 3? I know it's tough, but you seemed to have had a well rounded NOLA food experience. I'm drooling already.
SOCALOC is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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SOCALOC, thanks for the kind words. No question New Orleans is a major food destination.

As far as narrowing things down to three from this list -- that's kind of like asking someone to narrow down only three Beethoven piano sonatas as "musts" from the 32 he wrote. There are so many first-rate possibilities and a good bit of difference between them.

For the NOLA restaurants, it really depends on what kind of dining experience you want (fancy sit-down dinner style, beignets, sandwiches, casual seafood), what cuisine you want (Italian, Cajun/Creole, etc.) and to some extent what the seafood situation is like nowadays. Much as I liked the BBQ shrimp at Mr. B's, there may be issues there as far as shrimp quality at this point.

If you're talking three for Cajun/Creole dinner-sit-down style, I'd go with K-Paul's, Galatoire's, and either Commander's Palace or Mr. B's vying for the third spot, though Arnaud's was no slouch either. For sandwiches, probably Johnny's, Central Grocery, and Liuzza's by the Track. Cafe du Monde definitely for beignets, and Angelo Brocato's for ice cream. I'd happily go back to either Acme or Felix's for oysters, and either Irene's or Mandina's were fine for Italian. The only two I would definitely not go back to from the list above would be Mother's and Cafe Beignet.

Hope this helps.
bachslunch is offline  
Jul 12th, 2010, 07:30 AM
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Excellent Report! Be sure and have breakfast at Elizabeths next time. Awesome food that is not necessary healthy for you but yummy!
southeastern is offline  

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