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 Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue

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mr chips

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Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/3/13 11:15 PM (permalink)
Those are marvelous pictures. my wonderful austin trip featured a  stop at kreutz's that was one of the most marvelous meals I have ever eaten. The bats flying under a bridges a wonderful life sight and the pie sand signage at the texas pie company a marvelous taste and visual treat. Thanks for bringing back memories of my marvelous texas trip and for sharing  your photos. your photos bring a marvelous trip alive.

    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 08/5/13 1:30 PM (permalink)
    Ralph Melton

    For what it's worth, I meant the haluski remark as a crack against me instead of haluski.

    I like haluski - I consistently love the haluski at Pierogies Plus or Josza's Corner.
    But mediocre haluski is very mediocre. For example, at a church fish fry that serves mediocre fish, the haluski is likely to be tasteless and boring.
    And that's not an indictment of haluski; I don't think any of us would say that a food should be judged by its mediocre examples.

    But here's the way I am a little bit irrational about haluski: if I go to a mediocre fish fry - even one where I've had tasteless haluski before - I will look at the menu, say "ooh, haluski!", order it, and be disappointed. Despite the fact that I have enough counterexamples that I should know better, I persist in behaving as if I'll love every haluski.

    This is probably not the most irrational thing I do; this is just one of the ways that I know that I'm irrational.
    This is very interesting to me.  I find that I can eat haluski just about anywhere, with varying degrees of quality and still be satisfied.  My version of your haluski is sauerbraten.  In it's ideal state, there is nothing I enjoy eating more.  So, I order it in almost every German restaurant I visit.  Yet, I am disappointed 90% of the time. 

      Ralph Melton

      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 08/5/13 10:01 PM (permalink)
      I'm exactly the same way with sauerbraten. I order sauerbraten avidly, expecting splendid things - but what I get doesn't match my expectations. I can't even remember the last wonderful sauerbraten I've eaten.

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        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 08/5/13 10:01 PM (permalink)
        I would just like to be upfront about something. I am the one who was most reluctant to do the bat cruise. While I do advocate going in a covered boat like we did, the bats were far away enough that even a scaredy cat like me was happy. :-) I think your experience would be much more up-close and personal standing on the bridge.
        The cruise was lovely, it was nice to be on the water at sunset. 
          The Travelin Man

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          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Mon, 08/5/13 11:42 PM (permalink)
          Now that you have seen what happens, would you be more inclined to try to view next time from the bridge, or do you feel like the boat is still the best viewing option for you?
            Ralph Melton

            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/10/13 4:07 PM (permalink)
            Our dinner plans for Monday were something of a loose thread in my plans. I had originally planned that we would eat dinner at Micklethwait Craft Meats. But I had checked their hours and discovered that they had shifted from evening hours to lunch hours. So I had rescheduled them for Saturday's lunch, but never filled the hole in Monday evening.

            We realized that we'd given somewhat short shrift to the Mexican side of Austin's offerings; all we had eaten with Chris and Amy was a breakfast taco and the migas at Threadgill's buffet. So we called Adam for Tex-Mex suggestions, and he suggested Vivo, with a particular recommendation to check out the restrooms.

            I commented on the drive over that I have trouble knowing what to order at Mexican restaurants. I did most of my Tex-Mex eating as a child, where I almost always got tacos. Pittsburgh has been devoid of good Mexican restaurants until the past few years, and Lori tends to be wary of spice, so I haven't eaten a lot of Tex-Mex food as an adult.

            Chris offered to order for the group, and pointed out that his mother was Mexican, and he had often visited relatives in San Antonio.
            This made me realize that I had taken a very proprietary attitude toward this trip, as if I this was particularly my state that I was showing off - and that attitude was hardly justified in Austin because I had grown up two hundred miles away. I tried to double-check all the things I'd said on this trip to to check whether I had crossed the line from proprietary to patronizing. I didn't identify any examples, and I dearly hope there were none.

            Our outdoor table was very sharply lit, such that the table was in an island of light but it was hard to see the other people at the table.

            The salsa was very good, but the chips were even better; they tasted like they were straight from the fryer.

            The trio of dips we had ordered as an appetizer (queso, bean dip, guacamole) were each very tasty.

            I confess that the enchilada has passed out of my memory, as has the chalupa and the puffy taco plate:

            We ordered the chicken quesadilla out of consideration for Lori’s spice tolerance. But I think this was the star of the entrees; it had a really sumptuous flavor. I’ll admit, though, that it probably doesn’t need the drama of the sharp shadows, like a brooding Batman posing as a quesadilla.

            For dessert, we had a plate of sopaipillas that may have interbred with beignets.

            The other particularly noteworthy thing about Vivo ws the exaggerated sexual dimorphism of the restrooms. (Adam had recommended that we be sure to see the restrooms.) The walls of the mens’ room were coveredwith graffiti and graffiti art in a Latino style, but Lori and Amy reported that the women’s room had velvet-upholstered lounges and a crystal chandelier.

            After Vivo, we went to Donn’s Depot. Adam had recommended Donn’s Depot second after the Broken Spoke when I asked him for honky-tonk recommendations. He said that the particular distinguishing virtue of Donn’s was that often when he went, he would be the youngest person there. I had included it in our schedule because I wanted to do some honky-tonking while Chris and Amy were with us. 

            Adam had also mentioned the women’s restroom here as worth a view. The report from Lori and Amy was less enthusiastic; it was built into a caboose, but otherwise not outstanding.

            Unfortunately, this was the wrong night for Donn’s Depot. Instead of the usual entertainment, there was a cheesy piano bar entertainer, and the music just wasn’t good at all. This is probably why there was only one other table occupied. We had a token drink and left as soon as we felt we could politely do so.
            <message edited by Ralph Melton on Sat, 08/10/13 5:20 PM>

              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 08/11/13 10:34 AM (permalink)
              In best Batman voice, "I am Quesadilla!"
              Ralph, getting quality photos is yet another reason I don't like eating outdoors.  Those are really good photos considering.  And you are right, those sopaipillas look much more like beignets.
              Can't wait to see where you go next!

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                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sun, 08/11/13 10:23 PM (permalink)
                Excellent report.
                  Ralph Melton

                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 9:52 AM (permalink)
                  We had meant to be packed up and ready to go for Tuesday, our last day with Chris and Amy. But we had always found things to do that were more pleasant and more interesting than packing up. So Tuesday morning came with a bit of a scramble, and we weren’t quite all ready. So in a tradeoff, we left Lori to finish packing while we went to get donuts, with a promise to return with donuts to her.

                  Our destination was another Roadfood-listed donut shop: Round Rock Donuts.

                  It’s rare for me to be be really impressed one way or another by a donut, and these donuts were no exception. We bought a variety, but we ended up giving most of them away. The most distinctive quality of these donuts was the glaze, which had a distinct yellow tinge (though I didn’t notice a distinctive taste).

                  We bought one token kolache, because we had missed two previous plans for Austin-area kolaches. I sample kolaches everywhere I find them, but I haven’t yet found a kolache I’ve really loved. Even so, I don’t think this was among the better kolaches I’ve had.

                    Ralph Melton

                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 9:53 AM (permalink)
                    On the way south to pick up Lori, we dropped off Amy to stand in line at Franklin Barbecue, one of the most lauded barbecue places in Texas. When we returned with Amy, she told us that the wait was two and a half hours. I was surprised; I’d exchanged email with the staff of Franklin Barbecue, and they’d said that the wait wasn’t nearly as bad on a Tuesday as on the weekend. (Since we were there, Franklin Barbecue has been named as “Best Barbecue in Texas” by Texas Monthly, and I believe the wait has gotten much longer.)

                    Amy magnanimously offered to wait in line at Franklin while we went to visit Louie Mueller Barbecue, on one condition: we were to rent her one of the lawn chairs from the guy across the street from Franklin. It was a fair requirement, so we left her with the chair and the leftover donuts and headed up again to Taylor. 

                    I hadn’t managed to arrange a meeting with Wayne Mueller at Louie Mueller, but we got lucky: as we walked across the parking lot, he was just walking to his car. He recognized us, and we had a pleasant chat for a few minutes. We got to commiserate over the fire that had consumed their smokers.

                    Louie Mueller’s really looks the part of an old Texas barbecue joint. The walls are bare brick, blackened from years of smoke, decorated with barbecue awards. The tables are mismatched picnic benches and school tables, and they do not look like they were carefully chosen for artistic effect.

                    A corkboard on one wall shows geologic strata of business cards progressively dyed by smoke. I don’t know whether it takes a month or a year or more to turn a white business card brown, but the effect was one of palpable age, like being at a family reunion and seeing children’s faces echoing those of their grandparents.

                    A panoramic picture of the interior:

                    We rejoined Amy at a park in east Austin, each bearing our packages of meat to share.

                    The barbecue from Franklin Barbecue was exceptionally… well, I would try to make it sound better with a word like ‘moist’ or ‘unctuous’, but the real word for it is greasy. (But in a good way!) The grease soaked through the pink butcher paper in a way that no other barbecue on this trip had done, and it left a sheen of grease on the picnic table.

                    My picture of the brisket makes it look like sort of a mess. But it tasted and smelled great.

                    So here’s the sixty-four dollar question: is this barbecue so outstanding that it is worth waiting in line for hours? My expectation going in was that I would not find it so outstanding - I don’t have a very subtle or discriminating palate, and I had found all the barbecue on this trip delicious. But I allowed a chance that I would really find Franklin Barbecue qualitatively better. But the reality didn’t quite fit into either of those buckets. Here’s what I remember:

                    - Franklin’s brisket was qualitatively different, and that is noteworthy. I would have a very hard time distinguishing the briskets from the other five places we ate, but I think that I could single out Franklin’s in a blind taste test. The difference was this: all the briskets had a surge of flavor when first tasted, but Franklin’s brisket released a second wave of flavor after a second or two of chewing.
                    - the brisket was tender and moist and had a very rich, complex flavor.
                    - As well as being very greasy, Franklin’s was very peppery, and peppery in the same way that it was oily; fat peppercorn fragments clung to my fingers in defiance of napkins. (The stack of napkins we had with us seemed like more than enough before we started eating, but turned out to be wholly inadequate. I have fewer pictures than I might otherwise have had, because once we started eating, every picture required a struggle to clean the worst of the oil and pepper off my fingers.)
                    In this picture of bark from Franklin Barbecue, ogle how dark the smoke ring is and how peppery the crust is.

                    It certainly is great barbecue, but I have little patience for waiting for hours in hot shadeless sun. I think that with lines like Franklin’s, I could be just as happy going to Micklethwait a few blocks away.

                    We then turned our attention to the brisket from Louie Mueller. Wayne might say that the smokers still needed a few decades of seasoning, but this was just as delectable as what we remembered from the Roadfood festival. It’s so close to the center of good Texas barbecue that it’s hard to find really distinctive qualities to describe, but we couldn’t identify a clear winner between the two meats on the table.
                    (I think this is the brisket from Louie Mueller, but I’m not quite sure. Ordinarily, I would check this by checking the timestamps on the photos or the GPS tags - but we ate the meat from Louie Mueller at the same time and in the same place as that from Franklin. My clue here is that Franklin’s served on pink paper, but this is on a bed of white paper.)

                    We sampled normal and chipotle sausages from Louie Mueller, and both were smoky and intensely flavored.

                    Amy had brought a bourbon banana tart sold at Franklin’s, but it paled compared to the glory of the meat.

                    The peach cobbler we had brought from Louie Mueller was similarly ordinary, with a texture more like a bread pudding than like the biscuit-topped cobbler I love.

                    This was the last great meal of our Austin plans, and it certainly was a glorious finale.

                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:05 AM (permalink)
                      Ralph, those are outstanding photos and descriptions.  We have been patiently waiting for the report from Franklin Barbecue and it was well worth it.  And kudos to Amy for being such a trooper!

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                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:10 AM (permalink)
                        Ralph Melton

                        It certainly is great barbecue, but I have little patience for waiting for hours in hot shadeless sun.
                        I can't remember if I read it here or on another board, but supposedly the trick with Franklin's is to call in a carryout order and therefore bypass the line and the wait.
                        Both briskets look delicious but I have to agree about waiting for hours under less than ideal conditions.  It appears that a lawn chair with a small umbrella would be almost mandatory.
                        Nice report, Ralph!

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                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:31 AM (permalink)
                          An enterprising young man has purchased a bunch of folding chairs (with umbrellas) that one can rent for five bucks and keep the chair as long as you are in line. (Austin American Statesman). Still, I don't know as I would spend hours, literally, in line for anything. Not at my age.

                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:43 AM (permalink)
                            As Roadfooders, I loved the fact that everyone was willing to sacrifice for the greater good, i.e. having all the available BBQ and eating it, too.  But I feel that Amy & I can cross Franklin's off our list as "done that."  I don't have to go back again, if it means waiting for more than 30 minutes.  It's the same reasoning that I had regarding Bianco in Phoenix a few years ago.  We waited for 1.5 hours for their pizza; however, the staff put us in the bistro/bar next door for appetizers and drinks while we waited, so the wait wasn't that bad.  Franklin's wait was bad, and Amy was the champ that day for waiting for us while we drove over to Louie Mueller's and back.  So was Bianco the best pizza I've ever had?  No, but it was very, very good.  To wit, was Franklin's the best brisket?  No -- actually, it was pretty fatty, or at least the pieces that we bought were fatty.  Delicious, yes, but too fatty.  Mueller's won that day, hands down.  It all depends on your personal taste, but I feel quite privileged to have done Austin with Lori & Ralph.  It was an amazing trip, and there was no possible way that we could've gotten around to all these places without them.  I was in awe of Ralph and his expert agenda planning: every stop was thought through, timed perfectly, and the schedule was loose enough to allow a little ad-libbing here and there, which worked out beautifully.  We can't wait to do a redux tour with them!
                            And Ralph, I hope that I myself didn't come across as Mr. Mexican Expert just because it's in my genes.  I am certainly NOT a Mexican food expert, but I do know what I like.  And I guarantee that when you come to my parents' house, you will eat the best Mexican food in the world...but I am just a little biased!    Chris

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                              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 3:00 PM (permalink)
                              Great trip reports and photos.San Antonio by the way,also does a bat watch deal.I forgot what they call it,  but they do have one where you can watch the bats fly around. If you drive up IH35 and get off at the Schertz exit,and drive around the area of Garden Ridge north of me,you can see the bats coming from the Bracken Bat Cave.You can search for the cave on line,and I think you can actually go out to the largest colony of Mexican Free Tail Bats in the world.

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                                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 3:58 PM (permalink)
                                I enjoyed the whole trip immensely, both for the food and the company. I loved how flavorful Franklin's brisket was, but I'd agree it was fatty. I love Wayne Mueller's brisket beyond all reason, and it might be my pick for the best brisket of the trip. Might...because it would be really hard to actually pick! 

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                                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 5:28 PM (permalink)
                                  Ralph - I hate to go off topic here but after scrolling through this thread and seeing your picture, I have to ask a question. Were you at Keaton's BBQ last Saturday (August 17) around lunchtime? My wife and I were there and I thought there was someone there who looked familiar but I could not place him (you I think). Now I think this might have been a missed opportunity to meet you.

                                  By the way, our chicken was very good though we were very disappointed in the sides.
                                    Ralph Melton

                                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 6:45 PM (permalink)
                                    We did eat lunch at Keaton's on Saturday, August 17. I'm sorry we missed the chance to meet!
                                    I thought that Keaton's chicken was delicious; I would rank it as one of my favorites.

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                                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 6:46 PM (permalink)
                                      Oh wow -- that was us! Wish we had known you were there :-)
                                      That was about my reaction to Keaton's too. The chicken was great, everything else was fine but nothing special. I wish they hadn't been out of mac & cheese!
                                      Hope we connect next time 
                                        Ralph Melton

                                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:08 PM (permalink)
                                        I might use the word "sumptuous" instead of "fatty", but Franklin's barbecue certainly was more greasy than any napkin could contain.
                                        Chris, you certainly didn't present yourself as an expert on Mexican food - at least, not in any unpleasant way. I just had to rearrange my preconceptions a little, and I was glad for you to take the lead there.
                                          Ralph Melton

                                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 10:18 PM (permalink)
                                          We had time for just one more stop before we went to the airport, but our taste for barbecue was sated. So we asked Yelp to find us an ice cream parlor, and Yelp gave us the suggestion of Nau's Enfield Drug. It was a good suggestion: Nau's is a classic drugstore and soda fountain.

                                          We shared a banana split. The ice cream was Blue Bell, which is good but not extraordinary - but they had the classic banana split dish, and it felt like a double date from a movie set in the 1950s.

                                            Ralph Melton

                                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Thu, 08/22/13 11:22 PM (permalink)
                                            When we went to turn in the rental car, the Hertz guy said, "Are you flying American?" When we said yes, he told us that all American flights were canceled due to a computer glitch, and suggested that we not turn in the car until we had verified that our flight would leave. (Chris and Amy had the good luck not to be flying American, and they got to leave on schedule.)

                                            I waited with the car while Lori went to talk with the American desk. She quickly confirmed that our flight was canceled. She was given an 800 number to call to reschedule the flight, but getting American to get us a hotel for the night would require waiting in a line as long as the line for Franklin Barbecue.

                                            I still don't know whether we did the right thing that afternoon. We could have afforded a hotel on our own, and gone off to do one of the things that we hadn't managed to squeeze into our itinerary. And in fact we were conscious at the time that this was an option.

                                            But: I was so furious about American screwing this up that I could not (and still cannot) imagine being happy with something else that afternoon. I would have felt like a sucker. So, if the real choices are between waiting in line for hours of frustration or grinding my teeth at being taken for a sucker... well, it's no easy choice, but waiting in line is at least cheaper by the cost of a hotel room.

                                            And so Lori waited in line until her legs hurt, and I waited in the cell phone lot without running the air conditioning, trapped there by my own fury and frustration and knowing that was what was trapping us there.

                                              Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Fri, 08/23/13 1:28 PM (permalink)
                                              That's terrible, Ralph. I'm sorry to read this capstone to a perfect RF weekend!    Chris
                                                mr chips

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                                                Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Fri, 08/23/13 1:34 PM (permalink)

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                                                  Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Fri, 08/23/13 2:03 PM (permalink)
                                                  It wasn't all bad. Waiting in line was pretty miserable, but that evening we got to have dinner with Ralph's cousin at a truly funky, fun place. An added bonus was that they were showing "The Princess Bride" on a big screen outside as we ate (also outside). I believe this was Shady Grove, but wait for Ralph's actual report to find out! 
                                                  (I guess I could check the trip notes, but life should include little mysteries from time to time, right?)

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                                                    Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Fri, 08/23/13 4:21 PM (permalink)
                                                    Oh no the travel gremlins rears it ugly head at the last moment. 
                                                    At least it waited to the very last day of the trip.
                                                    I have loved your report and the photos not of only the food but of the beauty surrounding the the trip.

                                                      Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Fri, 08/23/13 5:05 PM (permalink)

                                                      That's terrible, Ralph. I'm sorry to read this capstone to a perfect RF weekend!    Chris

                                                      Ayersian:  Congrats on the recent very big step. 
                                                      Sounds like Texas was OK for the two of you.
                                                      Paul E. Smith
                                                      Knoxville, TN

                                                        ann peeples

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                                                        Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/24/13 7:41 AM (permalink)
                                                        Ralph-you seem to have some bad luck with Airlines!
                                                          Ralph Melton

                                                          Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/24/13 10:33 AM (permalink)
                                                          We definitely have a bad record with airlines. 
                                                          At one time, I had counted that seven of fifteen trips by air had had some sort of significant problem. I've since stopped keeping count, but it's been a particularly bad year; I'm sure that if I added recent trips, it would be over 50% problems.
                                                          Since Christmas, we've taken four trips, and the only one that had all the flights at the right time was the one where we had to pay rescheduling twice.
                                                          Part of the problem is that we tend to fly late in the day, so problems earlier in the day pile up, and there are fewer planes afterward to untangle problems. But I'm not sure how we might do things differently. I work fairly normal hours Monday-Friday. If we're going away for a week, I will try to fly on Friday evening and return on Sunday evening, to maximize our time in the place we're visiting. Even if the risk of a flight problem is high, it doesn't seem like a worthwhile tradeoff to cut short our time in our destination to try to make the flight smoother.
                                                          But normally I can take these things in stride. What made this particularly galling was that there was no external reason for the delay. It was a bright cloudless day, so there were no weather problems. And other airlines were able to fly just fine. It was just that American Airlines had dropped the ball all across the country.

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                                                            Re:Bluebonnets, Bats, and Beaucoup Barbecue Sat, 08/24/13 3:21 PM (permalink)
                                                            Flight issues as an exception, this has all the makings of a dream trip in my book!  Texas BBQ "royalty," pies, ice cream, donuts!! and a sprinkling of regional/ethnic cuisines--you hit it all, and got some history, art, and nature walks in there, too.  Awesome trip.   Thanks so much for sharing it with us!
                                                            <message edited by love2bake on Sat, 08/24/13 3:23 PM>
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