Monday, August 31, 2009

Closer to home.

There are some weekends that end up so jam-packed that I just don't have time to make it down to the Union Square Greenmarket. It might be work that needs catching up on, or laundry to be done before a trip, or just too many obligations all around. On those weekends, I'd always resigned myself to grocery store sourced produce - but no longer.

One recent weekend, I decided to check out the Greenmarket's Saturday outpost at 82nd and 1st. I was utterly convinced that there would be little on offer that could compare to the Union Square pickings, and I was wrong. Though the selection is notably smaller, the quality of the produce is just as good as what you can find at Union Sqaure.

When I visited, there were piles of eggplant, some lovely peaches, gorgeous peppers, and - of course - mountains of summer squash and zucchini.

The 82nd Street market is tucked behind St. Stephen's, a Franciscan church, and uses the church's parking lot to house its meat, bread and cheese vendors. Ardith Mae had a beautifully spare display - their chalkboard-and-bare-wood aesthetic screamed "CHEESE" to me. (Their website is great, too - check it out for cute pictures of their goats.)

I walked home laden with potatoes, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and onions - not bad for a two-block walk and no subway ride. I might be a convert!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A classic.

When I stepped off the bus in Rhode Island a few weeks back, Aunt Cathi declared that we would do some shopping for dinner, and then visit Al Forno for a pizza and cocktails.

I'd heard of Al Forno, but had never visited before. Legendary in New England for its thin-crust pizzas and n0-reservations policy, Al Forno has been central to Providence's dining scene since the day it opened in 1980. For years I listened to people on eGullet wax eloquent about Al Forno's superlative pizza - and now, finally, here was the chance to try for myself.

Since we arrived about five minutes after the restaurant opened at 5 o'clock, Cathi and I were able to snag a table in the arbor-covered garden, where we ordered a margherita pizza and two cosmopolitans.

The cosmos arrived first. Now, as you all know, I am much more a gin girl than a vodka girl - but these cosmos really were spectactular. They were what cosmos are supposed to be. The sickly, syrupy pink cocktails you saw on Sex And The City were a poor substitute for a good cosmopolitan. A proper cosmo should put you in mind of a slightly pink gimlet (made with fresh lime juice), not a CapriSun.

These were proper cosmos.

Then came the pizza. What can I say? It was delicious. The tomato sauce was rich with deep flavor, the two kinds of cheese (mozzarella and parmesan) contrasted fresh with rich, and the shaved scallions on top lent the pizza a fresh, peppery bite that I loved.

I see what all the fuss is about, and I'll definitely be back.

Friday, August 21, 2009

To market, to Rhode Island.

Before we took our bike ride to lobster roll heaven, Aunt Cathi and I did some shopping for Saturday night's dinner. She had planned a seafood-heavy feast (always music to this landlubber's ears): steamers, angel hair pasta with crab, tomato, wine and herbs and panzanella (bread salad with cucumbers and tomatoes).

Our first stop was the Sakonnet Growers' market in Tiverton, where we picked up cucumbers (the green kind, not the round yellows ones above) and basil for the salad. The market was small (compared to the sometimes overwhelming bustle of the Union Square Greenmarket), but well-stocked. Tiverton's citizens are particularly concerned with preservation, and the market is perched at the top of a rolling, undeveloped meadow ringed by tall trees - an absolutely idyllic setting for browsing the local produce.

I gave in to temptation and bought two jars of locally-made jam (Made from local produce, too!) from Cory's Kitchen at Sweet Berry Farm. My picks were peach-raspberry preserves and hot pepper jam - the former will appear, no doubt, on crumpets chez Queenie in the near future. The latter might end up stirred into salad dressings, spread on crackers, or, possibly, eaten with a spoon.

Our next stop (after a beautiful driving tour of Tiverton) was Coastal Roasters, widely known in the area as the best coffee for miles. Aunt Cathi, primarily a tea drinker, wanted some help picking out a dark, rich coffee for my Uncle Jack. This was a challenge to which I felt equal. The shop roasts most of its own beans, and the selection was fantastic. We ended up choosing a Sumatran blend with cocoa tones to it for Uncle Jack, and ordering a latte (for Cathi) and a café au lait (for me). The coffee was great - rich, round, and strong.

Finally, we stopped at the fish store to collect the crab and steamers. No pictures , sadly, but I can confirm that many times of mollusk were on offer, including the little necks they gave us by mistake (something we only discovered upon opening the bag to clean them just before dinner). Oops.

I have to say, I was seriously impressed with the availability of local, sustainable foods in this little corner of Rhode Island. Everywhere I turned, it seemed, someone was offering me fantastic coffee, delicious ice cream, succulent fish, or fresh fruit - all grown or made within the surrounding 50 miles or so.

Looking for links to all the places we visited, I even found an amazing site called Farm Fresh Rhode Island, a comprehensive guide to buying local and fresh across the (admittedly teeny) state. Pretty nifty, I have to say.

I'm off - again!

Dear readers, it has been a travel-heavy summer for this Manhattanite - and this weekend is no exception! I'm off to Massachusetts and New Hampshire this weekend. I'll be staying in Newburyport, exploring Plum Island, and making a pilgrimage to my old stomping grounds up in Exeter (where I went to high school) and Portsmouth.

Any recommendations for food or fun? Leave 'em in the comments! And, obviously, I'll be back with a full report next week!

Phillips Exeter library photo courtesy of atelier/Ed Brodzinsky. Portsmouth photo courtesy of Philip Case.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The lobster roll at the end (well, middle) of the bike path.

Last weekend, I went up to Bristol, Rhode Island to visit my Aunt Cathi at her new digs smack on the water. My family are a bunch of New Englanders at heart, and it's nice to finally have a member of the parental generation back in the neighborhood (especially when she's as good a cook as Cathi happens to be).

She and my uncle are splitting their time between a fantastic condo in Bristol and a home in Dallas; I haven't seen the latest Dallas place, but I can tell you that the Bristol residence is spectacular. Downtown Bristol (the most patriotic town in American, apparently) is adorable and eminently walkable, and Cathi's condo is part of a complex made entirely of salvaged industrial buildings. The view from the pool gives you an idea of what a gorgeous spot this is:

On Saturday morning, Cathi took me on a tour of her favorite local food shopping destinations (more on those later, I promise). That afternoon, we took a (very warm) bike ride down the East Bay bike path, through Colt State Park, and on to Warren for lunch at Blount's clam shack.

We split the nine-inch lobster roll, which came with a side of fries and coleslaw. The lobster itself was great - tender, flavorful (almost definitely cooked in seawater) and cut into manageably bite-sized pieces. The bun was similarly delicious. The traditional, side-cut New England hot dog bun was toasted all over and lined with a leaf of Bibb lettuce before receiving its precious cargo. The lobster was sparingly dressed with a mild mayo, which was the only thing I would have changed. I like a bit of tang in my lobster roll, and would have killed for a squeeze of lemon or a slightly kickier sauce.

Altogether, though, there's nothing bad about this kind of reward waiting for you at the end of a bike ride - am I right?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Momofuku fried chicken dinner, or: we almost finished the whole thing, except not really.

A few weeks ago, word came down from on high that Momofuku Noodle Bar would be offering a fried chicken dinner for $100 via their online reservations system. Obviously, I signed up immediately. I knew my brother, Jeremy, would be as excited as I was, and he and my sister-in-law Miriam agreed to join me. We still had two spots open in our reservation, so I consulted the Twitterverse. Sure enough, the lovely and freshly-married Kathryn Yu (who also photographed the meal) volunteered to join us, and to bring her husband Dan along for the fun.

Our motley crew met up at Momofuku Noodle at eight o'clock last Thursday. We were the second fried chicken dinner of the night; the restaurant does three (6 PM, 8 PM and 10 PM). The night got off to a serendipitous start when we found out that our waiter was none other than Eric Murdoch, who'd performed as an actor for the first play Jeremy produced here in Manhattan. Eric got us going with a round of the restaurant's justly famous alcoholic slushies (these were watermelon spiked with soju, a Korean rice wine).

Eric told us the chicken would take about 20 minutes to cook, so we decided to kill time by ordering a couple of appetizers. We ordered the pork buns, the heirloom tomato salad with melon and the corn with fingerling potatoes.

All were fantastic, though the tomatoes and pork buns outshone the corn a bit. The pork buns, which are the same ones you find over at Momofuku Ssam Bar, are just flat-out insane. Fluffy and chewy and filled with pork belly and lightly pickled cucumbers, they're just ridiculously good. The tomato salad was really interesting; I was surprised at how well the sweetness of the melon complimented the tomatoes instead of competing with them, and the smoky saltiness of the ham crisp brought the whole thing safely back to porky Momofuku land.

The chef sent out a special treat: seared scallops with corn and chili oil. These were delicious as well; we couldn't quite suss out what seasoning had made its way onto the scallops, but it was something truly yummy. The scallops themselves were large, but still tender and moist. And who doesn't love corn?

And then, finally, the main event. A giant - and I do mean giant - platter of chicken was set down on the table, along with a stack of moo shu pancakes and a bowl of gorgeous herbs and veggies, including radishes, carrots, shisito peppers, opal basil, thai basil, mint, bibb lettuce and shiso leaves. Next came a flight of four sauces: hoisin, jalapeño-garlic, bibim, and ginger-scallion.

There were two kinds of chicken: half of the meat was dipped in buttermilk and seasoned with Old Bay, while the other half was cooked Korean-style, triple-fried and basted with bibim sauce and vinegar.

The idea is that you take a little of everything - the veggies, the herbs, the lettuce and, of course, the chicken, fold it up in a pancake, add some sauce to your liking, and eat the whole thing. After a few minutes of tearing into the chicken with our bare hands, it became clear why the restaurant had covered the table in a sheet of butcher's paper. We left grease stains everywhere, evidence of how thoroughly we enjoyed ourselves.

Overall, our group preferred the Korean chicken to the buttermilk; the meat seemed a bit more tender and well-seasoned, whereas the Old Bay seasoning was confined to the crust of the buttermilk chicken. That said, we enjoyed both offerings and tried to divide our attention as evenly as possible. We didn't want any chicken to feel bad about itself.

We were divided on the topic of the sauces; I was partial to the bibim sauce spiced up with a dash of Sriracha, while Jeremy favored the jalapeño-garlic mixed with the hoisin. Obviously, though, there was something for everyone. The only thing I would do differently? Order a pot of the house pickles to go with everything.

Despite Eric cheering us on, the five of us were not up to the task of eating every last bit. Though I'm sure they were ever-so-slightly disappointed in us, the staff did a crack job of boxing everything up (in three containers) for us to take home and enjoy cold from the fridge.

All of these gorgeous photos were snapped by the very talented Kathryn Yu. You can find more of her work at

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What are you drinking?

Season Three of my current favorite television show premieres tonight. That's right, it's time to re-join Don, Betty, Peggy, Joan, Pete and the rest of the Mad Men crew for another season of debauchery, advertising, overwhelming social change and, of course, cocktails.

As you all know, I love a good cocktail. When I sit down to watch tonight's episode, I will be partaking of a gin gimlet (gin, lime juice, sugar), most likely made with rhubarb simple syrup. Gimlets are Betty Draper's drink, and I feel it might be the right occasion to express solidarity with my fellow Bryn Mawr grad.

So, what will you be drinking tonight? An old fashioned? Scotch, neat? Do tell!

Photo courtesy of

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's up, field-grown tomatoes?

If you live in the northeastern United States, you've probably noticed the lack of field-grown tomatoes at your local market. You may also have heard that this lack is the result of a particularly bad spell of late blight, a strain of the same potato- and tomato-targeting fungus that caused Ireland's famine in the mid-19th century.

Dan Barber (chef & owner at Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns) had a great op-ed piece in Sunday's New York Times explaining the origin of this year's particularly nasty case of late blight. Turns out the summer of 2009 has been a sort of perfect storm of nature, economics, culture, agriculture and good intentions, providing perfect conditions for late blight to flourish like crazy.

First of all, late blight loves cool, wet weather. This summer has been remarkably moderate in temperature and generous with water, so it's no surprise that late blight has made itself at home. Next, you have the economy and current food culture, both of which are encouraging people to grow more of their own food. This is a great trend - food you grow at home is indeed far cheaper, and often better than what you can get in the store.

But since so many people buy their tomato plants from large chains like Home Depot, rather than from small, local nurseries, they're increasing the chance late blight has to hop from plant to plant before making the journey to the home garden. Plants raised in smaller batches can be more closely observed for blight before sale, and have less chance of spreading the disease amongst themselves.

I highly recommend you take a look at Barber's piece, which goes on to suggest some improvements to agricultural training and awareness for professional and amateur farmers alike. In no way does he encourage us to walk back from the current trend for home cultivation, but he does remind us that engaging in agriculture means we should learn a bit about the larger ecosystem in which we're now participating.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wherein I add my voice to the general chorus.

When I read Julie & Julia in 2005, I was underwhelmed by Julie Powell's story. As a food geek (not yet blogger), I was of course struck dumb with jealousy at her success and her chance to appear in the New York Times food section (Nerd alert: Amanda Hesser cameos as herself.). But Powell's book (I did not follow her blog) seemed to me to be a story of struggle against many things in which I myself find pleasure: the unique challenges presented by living in New York, the act of writing, and the small and large tasks involved in cooking a meal.

Don't get me wrong - I thought Amy Adams did a fantastic job bringing Julie Powell to the screen. A lot of people have made much of the fact that Julie is not "likable." Well, she's not. But she is someone to whom many of us can relate. Stuck in a soul-sucking job that makes her feel useless, watching her college friends ascend to great career heights around her, she is feeling that all-too-typical I'm-turning-30-and-don't-feel-like-I-have-anything-sufficient-to-show-for-it malaise. (I know a little something about this.)

In this, she's not so different from Julia Child, who found herself feeling useless and out of place in mid-century Paris. Nora Ephron, whose recent films have struck me as a bit insipid (in contrast to the near-perfection of her screenplay for When Harry Met Sally), does an incredible job of syncing up the stories of these two women, both rhythmically and thematically.

Ephron makes it easy to draw parallels between their lives; for example, all the cooks in the story (including Julia's editor, Judith Jones) are united by the remarkable perfume released when they deglaze a boeuf bourgignon with the titular bottle of burgundy. Sadly, though, Julie's ultimately self-serving goals and view of the kitchen as a battlefield pale in comparison to Julia's goal of bringing French food to Americans and her view of the kitchen as a place of excitement and discovery.

As many reviewers have noted, Julia's Paris (and, briefly, her Germany, Norway and Cambridge) is full of joy, where Julie's New York seems like a place of relentless hardship - to the point where I wanted to scream, "If you hate riding the subway, move to the suburbs!" Both women, though, are blessed with wonderfully supportive husbands and have marriages that are truly partnerships - something that is all too rare in our entertainment, but a phenomenon I see around me daily.

Ephron brought these two relationships to life, and the pitch-perfect portrayals of Simca Beck, Louisette Bertholle, Dorothy McWilliams and Irma Rombauer were similarly spectacular. (All of these folks are described vividly in Julia's memoir My Life In France, on which her half of the movie is based, and which I highly recommend you read as soon as humanly possible.)

But while Meryl Streep's Julia (like the real-life version) is a magnetic whirl of charm and wit (She pulls a cannelloni out of boiling water and declares it to be "as hot as a stiff cock!"), Amy Adams' Julie is not only lost, but seems to face her life with a combination of resignation and selfish, dejected entitlement.

It's fairly well-known that Julia didn't have a terribly high opinion of Julie. Some believe it's because Julia thought Julie was taking advantage of her masterpiece, or trying to grab at little bits of her limelight. I disagree.

I think that Julia's dislike for the Julie/Julia Project arose from Julie's view of cooking as a summit to be reached, come hell or high water, as opposed to an act to be undertaken with pleasure and excitement. Throughout the movie, Julie talks about "having to" cook. "I have to bone a duck," or, "I have to kill a lobster." To me, and, I suspect, to Julia, these are things I get to try, not things I have to plod through. Julie sees cooking as a means to an end, not as a joyful end in and of itself.

Ultimately, though, both women face rejection, and both decide that they must power past it if they are to achieve their goals. This, for me, was where Ephron's true-to-life portrayal of Julie as irritating paid off.

No matter who you are, to get what you want you have to be willing to declare, as Paul Child does, "Fuck them." Screw the haters, screw the doubters: believe in yourself, and the rest will follow. This, as much as how to make a perfect beurre blanc, is what Julia has taught me, and I'm glad Ephron saw it, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Omelets by Nick.

There's an art to the perfect omelet, one I have yet to learn. I'm blessed, therefore, that Nick became obsessed with perfecting said art a couple of years ago. His touch hasn't worn off, so you can imagine my delight upon entering the kitchen one morning last week to discover him cracking eggs into three separate bowls.

Maybe one day he'll agree to give you all a tutorial, hmmm?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Call me a convert and buy me a bottle of bourbon.

Some of you may remember Nick's excellent cocktailing skills from last summer's posts. Well, let me tell you - he outdid himself this time.

On the night I arrived, Nick made us each a bourbon sidecar. Now, you all know what a traditionalist I am when it comes to cocktails - I like gin in my martinis, and a martini without vermouth is just a shot of cold gin. That said, I have been converted completely when it comes to the swap of bourbon for the original cognac in a sidecar.

I like brandy as much as the next girl, but I vastly prefer bourbon's complex smokiness to cognac's smoother flavor. Combined with the sidecar's traditional lemon juice and triple sec (Nick used Cointreau), bourbon becomes the perfect folly for the acid and the sweetness.

And, of course, you can't have a sidecar without a lemon juice and sugarcoated rim. Yum.

Monday, August 3, 2009

L-O-L-A, Lola...

On Thursday night, Nick, Louisa and I piled into Nick's car for the hour-long drive into Cleveland for dinner at one of the city's most beloved restaurants, Michael Symon's Lola. The menu is heavy on the pork and the cured meats, which seemed a good sign.

Lola is on East Fourth Street, an area targeted for revitalization. Walk two blocks in either direction, and you're in a rather dead area of downtown Cleveland - but Fourth Street is alive and bustling, full of people walking, drinking, and eating.

We had reserved three seats at the chef's table, and the hostess seated us graciously (despite our being a few minutes late). The chef's table is an elevated, bar-like spot right next to the open kitchen, with a fantastic view of each and every station - a circumstance which only made it harder to decide what to order. I ordered a gin gimlet and got down to the business of choosing.

For my starter, I ordered the pork belly with coffee, apricot and almonds. While I enjoyed the play of salty and sweet (I do love bacon and fruit together, as you know), I thought the dish could have used a bit more spice (maybe more of the pepper that seemed more of a garnish) and a little more contrast in texture: the pureed apricot sauce was silky and well-made, but didn't do much to offset the soft, fatty texture of the belly.

My main was the far more successful duck with romesco sauce. Romesco is made with nuts (usually almonds or hazelnuts), roasted red pepper and garlic. This version used smoked almonds, which added different twist that went well with the rich duck. Along with haricots verts and a sprinkling of shaved almonds (seemingly a favored garnish at Lola), the duck came with a few charred scallions.

The dish was topped with thinly sliced zucchini that tasted somewhat bland on its own, but worked like alchemy with the duck and sauce to elevate the sauce's garlicky zing. My only complaint here was that there simply wasn't enough of the charred scallion to go with every single bite; I had to ration it out. I ate every last bit of this dish, and it took all my dignity to keep from licking the plate clean.

For dessert, I went for the 6 A.M. special, billed as French toast with maple-bacon ice cream and maple syrup. Quintessentially American in its flavors and playfulness, but still a bit refined, this dish captured the spirit of the restaurant - midwestern ingredients and flavors crossed with techniques imported from the wider world, and all done with a healthy dose of fun.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Banh mi mania.

Once you have terrine and chicken liver pate on your hands, the next logical step is, obviously, to make some banh mi.

If you're one of the unlucky few who has yet to encounter banh mi, let me introduce you to this most delicious of sandwiches. Inspired by the various street sandwiches available in Vietnamese cities, banh mi are a perfect example of the country's fusion of Asian and French flavors. There's no standard, but most banh mi include at least one kind of charcuterie (usually either a rustic pâté or a more spreadable one), some kind of porky filling, fresh herbs, mayonnaise and pickled vegetables - all on a crusty baguette.

We based our homemade version on the recipe from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, and tried to be enterprising with what we already had on hand.

We took our last crock of chicken liver pâté, let it come to room temperature, and mixed in a healthy dose of cinnamon. Next, we sliced some gorgeous Kirby cucumbers, made a quick pickle with daikon and carrot, and followed the cookbook's instructions for a ground pork stir fry for the filling. Finally, we sliced the terrine (one slice each was plenty).

We laid out fresh herbs (mint and cilantro - basil would have been nice, too), dished up some cornichons, and got down to the business of assembling our sandwiches.

Banh mi should be so messy that eating them in front of strangers is a bit embarrassing - and these delivered. Fatty, fragrant, fresh, crunchy, salty, sweet and meaty, they were pretty much the best sandwiches any of the three of us had ever tasted. The sheer act of eating them felt somehow debauched, given all the pork and offal on hand - not to mention the pickles, mayonnaise, and white bread.

And, frankly - we were pretty proud of ourselves for undertaking the effort at all. Banh mi is one of those recipes that require you to make at least three or four other recipes to make the whole thing happen. As Nick pointed out, it was a pretty badass attempt, and a successful one at that.

To drink alongside, we heartily recommend mint juleps - hell, you already have the mint on hand, you know?

The only change I would make next time? The addition of pickled jalapenos. I cannot believe we didn't think of it on the spot. Ah, well - an excuse to do it all over again.

Challenging ourselves usually turns out pretty darn good.

So far, each visit to Nick & Louisa has yielded one culinary challenge. Two years ago, it was brioche. Last year, the pork belly-off. This year, it was terrine.

Louisa bought a terrine ages ago, but hadn't worked up the nerve to tackle the job. Sometimes, though, all you need to get the job done is an extra set of hands. And, as it turns out, terrine is remarkably easy - it just has a few delicate assembly-like tasks mixed in with the cooking.

Terrine comes in many varieties, including seafood, vegetable, and offal. For our first foray, we chose something more traditional and basic, Julia Child's terrine de porc, veau et jambon (pork and veal pate with ham). This recipe looked tackle-able and gave us a chance to try out Louisa's other new and slightly intimidating toy, her Kitchen Aid meat grinder attachment.

Louisa ground the pork and half the veal with the lard (oh, yes, indeed) while I marinated the other half of the veal in a mixture of cognac, allspice, thyme and shallots. That marinade was eventually added to the ground filling, along with some sauteed onion, minced garlic and a port reduction.

While Louisa busied herself with the stuffing, I blanched some bacon, which we needed to line the terrine and seal the pate together. Blanching bacon is just like blanching vegetables: drop the slices into boiling water, cook for a few minutes, then cool in an ice bath to stop the cooking. This is an essential step, since it prevents the bacon from shrinking when you bake the terrine.

Once the bacon was cool, I used it to line the terrine, leaving some overhang to fold over the top. Louisa filled the terrine with alternating layers of the forcemeat, the marinated veal, and some sliced, boiled ham. We placed the lid on, and put the terrine in the oven to bake for about 90 minutes.

Once the terrine was done cooking, it was time to turn it from meatloaf to pâté by compressing it with weight. We cut a piece of carboard to fit snugly into the terrine, then stacked four cans of soup on top. The terrine sat on the counter for the next five hours, squishing itself into the right texture.

Five hours later, we pulled the improvised weights and cardboard away to reveal the juicy exterior of the terrine. Ideally, you would refrigerate the terrine for another few hours, still weighted, to allow the fat in the mixture to firm up a bit and hold things even more closely together - but we had banh mi to make, and couldn't help ourselves. (We did refrigerate the weighted terrine overnight once we'd taken a few slices for dinner.)

The terrine sliced easily, and didn't fall apart, even though it hadn't yet been chilled. Inside the bacon wrappings was a gorgeous interior of tender pork & veal (all the more tender for being home-ground), bits of the marinated veal, the juicy ham, and the slightly boozy and autumnal flavors of the cognac, port and allspice.

The terrine was fantastic on our banh mi (more on those soon), and delicious on its own, served on baguette with a smear of grainy mustard, topped with a cornichon. Well worth the effort, it was more tender and flavorful than any commerical pâté I've tried.

I'd love to try adding some cognac-soaked prunes or some more aggressive seasonings to the mix - one of the cool things about pate is what a great canvas it is for experimentation. After all, the original purpose of charcuterie was to use up scraps of this and that - so why not begin at the beginning and get creative?
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