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Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Beyond Breakfast: Missy’s Arcade Restaurant | Titusville, PA

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“Breakfast is done!” we were told as our server seated us at Missy’s Arcade. That’s always a bummer to hear, but even though we couldn’t make this a breakfast stop, our experience and the atmosphere of Missy’s Arcade Restaurant are still noteworthy.

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We stopped by Missy’s for a full lunch after pre-gaming some donuts at Clark’s Donuts Plus nearby, and before climbing aboard the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad for a ride through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside.

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Missy’s popped up on our radar when we searched for local lunch spots online, and it had all the marks of a retro diner, not the least of which is the old building front and the vertical neon sign. The structure fits with the historic nature of Titusville and nearby towns like Oil City and Franklin, which boomed in the 1860’s with the sinking of the world’s first oil well. The small urban centers surrounded by big mansions speak to the decades of oil wealth and the communities that sprung up around it.

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The interior of Missy’s has been refurbished. It’s honestly hard to tell how old the restaurant really is, but now at least, it reads like a Coca-Cola advertisement. Every available surface is plastered with Coke paraphernalia – some very old and some much newer.

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The Coke kitsch covers everything from walls to shelves to ceiling fan blades.

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Our server fit the vibe of old diner, too. She was certainly friendly, but she got right down to business. She was one of those servers whose territory is very well defined. You’re the customer, yes, but you’re in HER restaurant.

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The meals were simplicity itself; they were just the right type of comfort food you’d expect from an old restaurant like this. Like the cup of French onion soup and a salad.

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Chicken breast sandwich and fries.

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A kid’s of meal of grilled cheese and fries.

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The kid’s burger.

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The turkey reuben.

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And the classic reuben with the corned beef thick-sliced and nicely grilled. All in all, Missy’s is a simple place to fill yourself up. It’s small, comforting, and speaks to the history of the area.

If you want to visit:
Missy’s Arcade Restaurant
116 Diamond St. (map it!)
Titusville, PA 16354
(814) 827-8110

Missy's Arcade Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Clark’s Donuts Plus | Cranberry, PA

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Clark’s Donuts Plus (Facebook / @ClarksNo1Donuts)

7150 U.S. 322 (map it!)
Cranberry, PA 16319
(814) 677-7336
Open Mon-Fri until 3p; Sat until 12p (they open early while donuts are still being made)
Accepts cash & debit/credit

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Over Thanksgiving we were taking the kiddos to ride the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad, a little historic train that rolls you through the beautiful Pennsylvania hills and past the world’s first oil well. But we can’t just go ride the train, especially when we find there are donuts nearby!

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My father-in-law knows the area well, and had seen cars lining up outside Clark’s Donuts many times, so we joined the throngs to see what all the fuss was about.

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It didn’t take long to find out why. Trays of donuts, that’s why. Trays and trays of fresh donuts.

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Note the “Plus” in the bakery’s name. That’s because Clark’s Donuts Plus is the secondary location of – you guessed it – Clark’s Donuts in nearby Titusville. The Plus store has been open for over 20 years, an employee told us, while the original Clark’s has been around for nearly 75 years.

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Like a true old-school donut shop, they’ve been getting by on the strength of their donuts and not the sophisticated digs or strong social media presence. People know about their donuts because of good old fashioned word of mouth.

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I mean, what’s not to like about seeing trays of donuty goodness? Clark’s was well-stocked, even mid-morning with a steady flow of customers.

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They had a tremendous variety of donuts, too. Cake donuts, fritters, giant bearclaws…

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…longjohns overflowing with creme.

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We boxed up a sample of nearly everything, because, you know… research.

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We didn’t meet a donut we didn’t like, but the longjohns were impressive, not to mention these iced donuts with toasted coconut.

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And these maple-iced beauties that were light and fluffy.

I love knowing that old donut shops like Clark’s are still thriving. The American culinary landscape would be poorer without them. So if you find yourself traveling through the Cranberry area, pick up a box. And grab one for me, too.

Clarks Donuts Plus on Urbanspoon

Lititz Family Cupboard Restaurant & Buffet | Lititz, PA

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Lititz Family Cupboard Restaurant & Buffet
12 W. Newport Rd. (map it!)
Lititiz, PA 17543
(717) 626-9102
Open Mon-Sat, 6a-8p (bfast buffets served Mon-Fri, 6:30-11:30a; Sat, 6-11a)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? N/N/N
Kid-friendly? Y

Date of Visit: Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.

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Anywhere you find yourself in Amish/Pennsylvania Dutch country, you are bound to find the one or more of the large “Dutch-cooking” family restaurants. Across Ohio we have a handful of Der Dutchmen in addition to more stand-alone country cookin’ restaurants. If you’re traveling with a large group (like we were), then these restaurants are a godsend because they have huge seating areas, plenty of food that is restocked constantly, and servers that are accustomed to big families. Seriously, we walked up on a busy Saturday and asked for a table for 15 and the host didn’t even blink.

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One of the bonuses of finding an Amish-cooking restaurant: the donuts. You will generally find them in a restaurant and in a separate bakery space. They are soft, generously frosted, cream-filled delights, most likely because they’re made with lard.

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Prepare yourself for gratuitous breakfast buffet pictures ahead. There’s no easy way to capture the full buffet experience, with its stacks of plates and steaming trays and busy lines. So I snapped pictures of everything. They had all the standards: pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, toast.

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Plus the buffet version of French toast: sticks.

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What’s more interesting are the interesting regional specialties like pan pudding, cornmeal cakes, and chipped beef.

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What did draw our attention were the nutty cinnamon rolls. This is one of those rare moments when a buffet’s consistent heating of the food really pays off. The constant warmth keep the rolls soft and sticky, and the blend of cinnamon, sugar, and walnuts really hit the nail on the head.

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And if you’re in eastern PA then you need to have some scrapple. I was pleasantly surprised by the buffet scrapple. It was fried crispy without getting soggy, and it was seasoned well. Of course, if the scrapple is going to be good anywhere, it had better be in eastern Pennsylvania, buffet or not.

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Yessssssss! There were those donuts at the buffet, too! Worth the price of admission alone.

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Plate #1. Covering the basics, plus some cornmeal cakes and chipped beef gravy.

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Plate #2. French toast sticks, regular French toast, scrapple, and a cinnamon roll.

The Lititz Family Cupboard doesn’t stand out too much from similar restaurants, but it served our purpose and had a few bright spots. The servers were super on-the-spot, the buffet was stocked quickly, and it served up plenty of comfort food. It would be a great start to a day exploring Lititz, just named Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Town in America!

Lititz Family Cupboard Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Penn State Berkey Creamery

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What goes best with a little BBQ while you’re on the road in spring break? Ice cream! And if you happen to be on the road anywhere near central Pennsylvania, your best bet for ice cream has to be Penn State University’s Berkey Creamery.

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I know I know I know… I’m a blogger from Ohio, I teach at THE Ohio State University, Penn State is supposed to be a sworn enemy, blah blah blah. Columbus does ice cream well – we do it very well – but ice cream has been proven to transcend cultural, geographic, national, and yes, sometimes religious boundaries. So while we have lots of ice cream to be proud of in central Ohio, we’ve got to acknowledge the excellence of Penn State’s ice cream program. After all, our very own Jeni of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams attended Berkey Creamery.

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At the Berkey Creamery, it’s not just all ice cream. There’s sherbet, there’s cheese, and there are sticky buns from the local diner.

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In recent years the Creamery moved to a new space in the new Food Science Building. From what I barely remember of the old space (I only peaked in once), this is spot is bigger and more open. One corner of it is run like a good old fashioned convenience store, but a majority of the space is dedicated to the ice cream.

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Like any established ice cream shop, the Berkey Creamery has its share of famous flavors, like Peachy Paterno, Coconut Chip, and Mint Nittany. One of the more well known – and my personal favorite – is the Death By Chocolate.

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Death By Chocolate isn’t a really complex flavor, it’s just really, really great chocolate ice cream. It’s rich, it’s not over-the-top sweet, and it’s served in a generous heaping cup.

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We also “sampled” the cookies & cream and the peanut butter swirl.

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I’ve always had a soft spot for cookies and cream. It’s one of my go-tos at any ice cream parlor. The chunkier, the better.

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This would be a great way to go.

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Aside from eating ice cream on premises, we also visited with the purpose of loading up a cooler with half gallons. The creamery features an entire wall of freezers loaded top to bottom with ice cream, and they’ll pack it on dry ice for you.

For ice cream lovers or for casual travelers, the Berkery Creamery is a must-stop in central Pennsylvania. And don’t be intimidated by the campus location: it’s easy to access and a nearby parking garage has half hour spots dedicated to Creamery visitors.

If you want to visit:
Berkey Creamery
119 Food Science Building (map it!)
University Park, PA 16802
creamery.psu.edu
See also on Facebook and @PSUCreamery

Berkey Creamery on Urbanspoon

Beyond Breakfast: Gio’s BBQ

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Spring break yielded some culinary adventures for us, as we trekked across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What about a little bit of road food?

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The best road food shows up in the most unexpected places. In this case it was a barbecue joint… inside a gas station… a little ways outside State College, PA at the intersection of routes 970 and 322. If you’re traveling to or from Penn State on the western side, chances are you’ll pass by this gas station. And when you do, you can stop for lunch.

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The building itself is half gas station convenience store and half restaurant. Dead center is the counter with hand-written menus on bright orange cardstock. The moral here is not to let the simple exterior fool you: this food goes far beyond the typical gas station Slim Jims and overcooked hotdogs. The wafting smell of smoky barbecue and the small army of cooks in the kitchen tell you that locals and travelers alike keep this place busy, and for a reason.

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Case in point: the beef brisket sandwich. Smoky and flavorful, sliced thin and piled on a bun with cole slaw and a Carolina-style sauce.

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The pulled pork sandwich smothered in sauteed veggies.

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The half rack of ribs with a generous mound of pulled pork hidden below.

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The ribs were a tad on the dry side but smoked appropriately. They pulled apart easily and were sauced without being drowned. In other words, the meat was given a chance to shine, rather than having its flaws hidden by slopping on the condiments.

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A small beef brisket platter. All of the sides were done well, but the side of sauce with each dish really stood out to me. It was rich, tomatoey (that’s a word, right?), and surprisingly tangy. Made for excellent dipping of said sliced brisket.

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We caught the restaurant before a big lunch rush, but even so there were always 2-3 people at the counter, getting BBQ in-house or to-go.

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Gio’s sells their sauce, too. A big sign above the display boasts of the awards they’ve won. Side note: maybe I don’t know BBQ well enough, but sometimes awards for BBQ seem like Grammy’s. So many people are awarded so many different prizes that I don’t know if it really counts for something. Not that I’m holding this against Gio’s in particular. Just making an observation.

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Overall, a worthy stop if you’re trekking up and around the foothills of central Pennsylvania. Gio’s knows their audience well, with specific signage to address Penn State aficionados.

If you want to visit:
Gio’s BBQ
2829 Woodland Bigler Highway (map it!)
Woodland, PA 16881
(814) 857-714
giosbbq.com

Gio's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Photos: The Cuisine of Eastern Pennsylvania

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Over my recent spring break we headed east to visit Mrs. Bfast w/Nick’s family. Most of her family hails from Pennsylvania, with one whole contingent from the southeast corner of the state in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania Dutch territory. This region, like every region with a good identity, sports some very unique eating. First up: pickled beet eggs. My wife’s grammie has always made them, and I never knew or loved them until I had hers. The beets and eggs (hard-boiled) are pickled together in the beet juice, vinegar, and sugar. They’re a little sweet and they stain your fingers.

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At a family dinner we also had a dish called corn pie.

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This is a very basic mixture of corn, hard-boiled eggs, milk, and butter in a pie crust, flavored with salt and pepper. It’s simple, easy-to-like comfort food.

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Pizza is pizza, but it always tastes better when it’s a little sentimental. This is a slice of the meat lovers from P&J Pizza in Womelsdorf. P&J was my wife’s grandfathers favorite pizza place; the family that owned the place always called him “Charlie,” even though that’s not his name. When Pop passed away a couple years ago, we actually had to make the call to P&J to let them know that Charlie had passed, and they were genuinely disappointed to lose a friend.

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We spent a morning in the adorable and vibrant small town of Lititz, including breakfast at a home-cooking buffet (blog post coming soon!). Lititz was just voted Coolest Small Town in America by Budget Travel, and from what I’ve seen that’s a worthy title. Storefronts are not only occupied by small businesses, but they’re busy, too. There’s a healthy mix of history and some modern invention, and the town overall is very well-kept. We visited two food-related places that are steeped in history.

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The first stop was the Julius Sturgis pretzel factory, first pretzel bakery in the U.S. The small stone building still houses the old equipment and ovens, although they only make soft pretzels on site. The twice-baked pretzels are made at a larger factory nearby.

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On the tour you learn to roll and twist your own pretzel.

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And then there’s the obligatory sampling of the fresh soft pretzels.IMG_3236

Around the corner from Julius Sturgis is Wilbur Chocolate Company, still making chocolate in their original production space. The lower level is a shop and museum, but on the floors above you can hear the equipment thumping away.

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Part of the gift shop serves as a small museum, with displays of old packaging, equipment, and photos.

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Out of sheer curiosity, I picked up a bag of Wilbur’s coffee. The package noted that the beans are dusted with cocoa, and they seriously weren’t kidding.

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If you’re eating in eastern Pennsylvania, you’ve got to have some scrapple! Scrapple is made from the butcher’s meat scraps, mixed with cornmeal and seasonings, then sliced and fried. When it’s done well, it’s good. When it’s not done well… it’s hard to forget what goes into it. This was the version served at our buffet breakfast in Lititz, and it was quite good. Crispy and well-seasoned.

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We finished the weekend with breakfast at a local diner called Risser’s Family Restaurant. You have to love small town diners and their placemats with local advertising.

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At Risser’s I tried their eggs benedict with a couple hash brown patties. All very good – the hollandaise was a little on the thick side – but all in all it was a fitting end to a weekend of comfort food.

Beyond Breakfast: Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant | Bethel, PA

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Okay, one more post related to October’s NYC trip. On our way back from the city, my wife and I swung through eastern Pennsylvania to visit her Grammie. She lives in a very rural area, close to Reading, and nearly every time we visit, we go to Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant. Kauffman’s (sometimes just referred to as “the chicken place”) is near and dear to our hearts because it serves straight-up comfort food, but even more so because it makes us think of Pop-Pop. He passed away a couple years ago, and this was one of his favorite spots. I still remember the first time we ever went, about six years ago. He was very dedicated to showing us the process of ordering, what to order, and how to maximize your bowl at the salad bar (hint: don’t put too much lettuce in it).

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So needless to say that, while Kauffman’s isn’t fancy by any means, it’s still a very special experience when we visit. The building itself sits on a winding country road, a few towns away from where Grammie lives. That part of eastern Pennsylvania, Berks County, is a series of small, old towns with German names. Driving through that country, you come over a hill outside Bethel and suddenly there’s Kauffman’s, with its long, low building aside a wide parking lot, miniature golf course (I’m not kidding), and a big fiberglass chicken out front.

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I mentioned that we also know Kauffman’s as “the chicken place,” right? Well, before you even get to the menu, you’re treated to a view of racks upon racks of roasting chickens. They turn slowly under the heat, dripping their juices down onto each other and the rows of skewered potatoes lined up underneath.

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On our last visit, Grammie told us that Pop loved seeing these because he once used this same equipment years ago when he ran a poultry shop in Philadelphia.

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Kauffman’s is run cafeteria style. A wall-sized menu hangs on one side of the large entry room.

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Then you step through a small door into a long, thin hallway. You grab a tray and order pretty much directly from the kitchen. Although Kauffman’s serves steaks and fish and sandwiches, the real feature is the chicken. You can order a 1/4 or 1/2 chicken. The platters come with a potato, rolls & butter, plus a run at the salad bar.

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Once you order, you’re given the proper cup for your drink (depending whether you ordered soda or just water), you get your roll and butter plus your bowl for the salad bar, and then you take a number for your meal and find a seat in the expansive dining rooms.

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Soon enough, they call your number and your chicken is ready.

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Look at this beautiful plate of comfort food! Roasted chicken! Fresh rolls! Macaroni salad! Potato filling (aka mashed potatoes and gravy)!

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On this visit, I decided to mix things up and order the chicken croquettes, which are shredded, breaded, fried, and covered in gravy. Again, nothing’s fancy, but the food and – more importantly – the company is the ultimate in comfort.

If you’re in the area and you want to visit:

Kauffman’s BBQ Restaurant (Facebook)
33 Gravel Pit Rd. (map it!)
Bethel, PA 19507
(717) 933-8415
Open Wed-Fri, 4-9p; Sat & Sun, 11a-9p
kauffmansbbqrestaurant.com

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