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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mighty Quinn's

When I noticed Mighty Quinn's on a cab ride down to the East Village, I immediately recognized it as the place that had the long lines at Smorgasburg the previous weekend.  Then the brain really started working as I remembered a write up in NY Mag and again as I recalled a two-star review in the New York Times.  In his review, critic Pete Wells notes "The pulled pork is the only one in town that doesn't make you embarrassed for New York. It is staggeringly good."  I agree.  Though NYC BBQ is what I would define as "fine," this is the first time I had pulled pork that tasted like I picked it up from one of my favorite spots back home in Savannah.

And the brisket - oh! the brisket!  That's usually Texas territory.  In my part of the Southeast, we are entirely pulled pork-centric so brisket's not usually my thing.  But this brisket is different.  Better.  Such a nice crust - arf arf - that's some good bark they've cultivated on the outside of the meat that's still so tender.  The sausage was also good - just spicy enough to be cooled down by the complimentary pickled cucumbers (barely kissed with the brine) and - but not a standout like the other two dishes.  

The taste isn't the only thing that reminded me of home.  The price point was pretty small town, too.  A half pound of pulled pork will cost you only $7.75 and can come with or without a bun - you wouldn't pay any less for a sandwich of the same size in the South.  Only the side dishes are New York-y.  I've never seen grilled ratatouille or edamame and pea salad at any BBQ place back home and don't really care to see it here, but I suppose they need to put their Yankee stamp somewhere.  For me, I'd rather pick up mac and cheese from nearby S'mac as my side dish.  A very small inconvenience that doesn't bother me when the BBQ is this good.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pizza Rolls

Book club starts at 7:30 and as luck would have it, I was scheduled to host during one of my busiest work weeks.  I got off the subway at 7:10 and still hadn't picked up any ingredients.  By 7:25 I was in my apartment after running through the grocery store to pick up the four items needed to make the easiest thing I could think of: pizza rolls.  I had never made them before but have seen plenty of variations on Pinterest so I just went with it.  Luckily, it worked and every pizza roll was eaten by the end of the evening...not bad for a 5 minute dish!

I'm sure when you read pizza rolls, you're thinking Totino's from the freezer aisle.  That's not these.  But don't knock those frozen babies - that was the drunk food of choice for my apartment senior year.  It's amazing how quickly a group of four girls can tear through a large bag (90 count) of those after a night at the bars. Anyway, this is a different take that's just as easy to make:  Fill Pillsbury crescent rolls with shredded mozzarella and pepperoni.  Bake according to package directions.  Heat up marinara sauce in the microwave.  Serve.  It may not be fancy, but it's good.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: South of Broad

Oh Pat Conroy, you've done it again.  This is why you are my favorite author.  Please move to New York and tell me stories every day.

In his latest novel, Conroy once again gives the Lowcountry a dreamlike quality.  You can feel the breeze blowing through the Spanish moss as you read.  South of Broad is set in Charleston, SC and begins as 9 friends enter their senior year of high school.  The group is not one that would come together naturally as they are separated by class and upbringing; but after being thrown together, they are inseparable.

Our narrator, Leo, found his brother dead from suicide at age ten.  The ordeal tore him apart and he is just now getting his life together after spending time in a mental hospital and on probation for drug possession.  He has never had a friend before but that changes when his mother sends him on a string of errands one summer day that leads him to his lifelong friends.  The Whiteheads, backwoods orphans, are desperate for positive attention.  Next up are the Poe twins, who have a flair for the dramatic.  Leo then meets Ike, the first boy to integrate his school and football team.  Finally, he meets the Rutlage/Huger clan, members of Charleston's aristocracy.  Bonds are formed and suddenly we speed forward several decades where the group has come together to find Trevor Poe, who is dying of AIDS.  Their link to each other is as tight as it was in high school - so much so that you don't even feel the need to know what happened in the years between high school and now.

Class distinction and AIDS affected the entire country, but racism and Hurricane Hugo (which I distinctly remember as a 4 year old, sleeping in the stairwell) feel a tad more Southern.  Conroy uses these events as landmarks, reminding us what life was like then so we can better understand how far we have come.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, July 26, 2013

Cornelia Street Cafe

This weekend was sweaty.  The heat in NYC was BRUTAL and it didn't take more than five minutes of walking outside before my shirt was stuck to my back.  But it takes more than heat to stop my Mom and I from hoofing it all around the city.  We walked around the humid mess of the city until we couldn't stand it anymore, at which point we ducked into a store or restaurant...usually a restaurant.

On Saturday, that restaurant happened to be Cornelia Street Cafe in the heart of Greenwich Village.  We were dripping and so thankful the bartender was happy to keep filling up our water glasses for an hour while we ordered zero alcohol and waited for the rest of our party to arrive.  New Yorkers became pretty considerate in this scorching heat.  It was nice to see, but I'm sure they'll go back to their rude Yankee ways once it cools down.  For the area of town, the prices were far more reasonable than I anticipated.  My BLT was fabulous (yummy aioli, soft toasted challah bread) and cost $12.  The huevos rancheros I saw walk by was huge and only $11.  Pretty good for a restaurant in an area of town where only the fanciest of people live.  My Mom saw there were wine flights of three small glasses for only $15 and she was sold.  Not a typical Marcy Konter brunch move, but when that lady goes on vacay I guess she just becomes a wild woman!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

3 on Thursday

I had such a great time while my Mom was here - we just walked and walked for three days.  Exploring quaint West Village streets and uncovering restaurants in my own neighborhood.  It's easy to feel sad once she's gone, but thankfully my life has been so busy I almost don't notice.
I used to live one short block away from JG Melon's which could explain why it's my favorite burger in New York.  When you find your first love, you fall and you fall hard.  That's what happened to me with Melon's.  Because I lived so close, I discovered it on day one in the city and then made a habit of going about twice a month for their bacon cheeseburger and cottage fries.  When I went to JG Melon's for supper last week I surveyed the scene and realized I don't just love it because it was my first New York burger that happened to be super convenient.  I love it because it's goooood.  The bun soaks up the juice and squishes down as I go in for a bite.  The pickles' brine is well suited for the burger and the...well, it all just makes for a good, meaty bite.  I also love the atmosphere.  It's a tiny place and everyone has been working there for about 30 years.  Dark wood and hunter green abound with some form of melon artwork in every nook and cranny.  All the preppy folks of the UES - my people - congregate here in their button down, khaki, and docksider glory.  If you know me and you know my own outfit choices, this alone is heaven.

Although I left work after 8:30 last week, I was still able to get to the park to catch the Philharmonic as the soothing sounds played through the Great Lawn.  We were a little too far away to hear every note played but it was just loud enough to provide beautiful background music for our picnic.  It's free - definitely something everyone should check out!

Albert came through with another great cookbook - this one even better than the last!  I fell in love with Deb Perelman's blog, Smitten Kitchen after falling down an internet recipe rabbit hole.  The photography is gorgeous and the recipes inventive.  But it's her story that truly resonates with me.  There's no hook to her cooking, such as "five ingredients or less" or "4 meals in 40 minutes".  Like me, she cooks just because it's something she likes to do when she comes home each night.  Also just like me, she cooks in a tiny Manhattan kitchen.  Can I be her when I grow up?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taproom No. 307

I discovered Taproom No. 307 on a run and made a mental note to check it out.  Apparently, my mental notes can't be trusted because it took me months to actually remember to go.  (Note: when I say I remembered, what I really mean is I didn't remember at all - Albert actually suggested it.)  For craft beer lovers, this place is a dream.  They have 40 of them on tap and most are $7-$8.  I tried the Dogfish Head Festina Peche and it was packed with zing - almost like a beer cocktail.

Though the beer is a draw, they serve much more than typical bar snacks.  It's a true restaurant with an amazing beer selection rather than being a bar that serves food.  My Mom got a large salad packed with goat cheese, corn, pumpkin seeds, and craisins that only cost $10.  (Only $3 more will get you a protein like chicken on top.)  Albert and I split the Carnivore pizza, which is topped with pepperoni, chorizo, and slab bacon.  It was delicious and covered in toppings - a true meat lovers pizza.  We all split an order of the roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and truffle salt.  Our only disappointment was that we only ordered one serving of them.

If this is the kind of place I discover while running, I found my incentive to strap on the tennis shoes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


My Mom thought the bartender at Vanguard was joking when he said the ovens were shut off on Friday so we couldn't order any of the cooked items on the menu.  Except it wasn't a joke.  That's just what happened when NYC experienced a heat wave and the act of using an oven became too much to bear.  Thankfully, there were a couple uncooked appetizers on the menu for us to choose from so we were able to snack while we sipped our wine.

We ordered the olives because Albert is obsessed with olives.  Only two varieties on the plate but they were two goodies, made even better by the olive oil they had been soaking in, which was infused with rosemary and thyme.  We also ordered the pimento cheese because that one is my obsession.  I still think mine is better, but they did a great job on theirs and served it in a cute jar.  It was weird to have this Southern dish on a predominantly French menu, but I never complain when pimento cheese is on the menu.

With dark wooden benches and white marble table tops, the decor is rustic meets classy.  The lighting is kept low and served up by chandeliers and sconces, but it still feels casual.  For a wine bar, it's not a massive wine list.  You won't get a giant book of glasses to choose from, but the list has been cultivated so there is a good glass at around $10 to suit any taste.  It's not a place to get rowdy but is instead a calm way to begin the evening - exactly the kind of place Murray Hill needs.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Maison Keyser

Maison Keyser is a Parisian bakery that's gone global.  The contents of the case are exactly like what you would expect from a traditional French patisserie.  I had to get a tarte because that's my favorite and while in France I attempted to try every variety my local patisserie had to offer, which meant I ate about 30 tartes over the course of three months.  This time, I went with the pear and chocolate one because it's not as common here in the US but it should be.  Though I don't usually like crispies, they were used sparingly in this case so I thought they actually added something in the way of texture vs. getting in the way of the decadent chocolate and juicy pear.  I also got an eclair because I was so intrigued that it was yuzu flavored.  The Japanese citrus is not typical for French pastries but it was bright (not how I would usually describe an eclaire) and more my style than the regular chocolate and cream version.

It could be my imagination but it seems like lots of French bakeries have been popping up lately.  Not opposed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Prosciutto, Brie, and Apple Sandwiches

I had a nice bottle of champagne on hand and was determined to use it for mimosas on the roof this past weekend so I invited Beth over for a Saturday brunch.  I couldn't just serve mimosas - that's just not the kind of hostess I am - so I prepared two summer salads.  The first was tomato, basil, and mozzarella.  I used a mix of yellow, orange, purple, and red cherry tomatoes - the colors take no extra time to slice but make it much more visually appealing.  The second was a super quick potato salad.  I boiled off potatoes and mixed them with store-bought pesto (any variety works; I used spinach pesto).  A little extra parm and pine nuts finished it off.

The third dish was ham, brie, and apple on baguette.  One baguette was enough for three full sandwiches.  Then you'll need about 1/2 lb of ham, a big chunk of brie (spread on each side of the split baguette), and one granny smith apple.  I meant to get regular smoked ham and accidentally purchased fancy pants jamon iberico instead.  At first I was a little upset about spending more money but then I tasted how much better it made the sandwich.  You don't need to use jamon iberico, but I think even a domestic prosciutto would make this sandwich tastier and more European than regular ham.

This is just like the sandwiches you pick up at a small cafe on a side street in France.  I'm not using my imagination for that statement.  I have, in fact, picked up a sandwich just like this at a small cafe when I was living in France and eating on my roof took me right back there.  Instead of the Eiffel Tower, I was looking at the Empire State Building.  Not a bad trade-off.  This sandwich takes just moments to put together and even when I used the expensive jamon, it came out to only about $6.80 per sandwich - cheaper than anything I could have purchased.  Use a cheaper version of ham or prosciutto and you can get it down to under $5 per sammy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

3 on Thursday

I am so excited for my Mom to arrive in the city tomorrow!  Her idea of a good day in Manahattan is EXACTLY like mine so I imagine there will be plenty of exploring, meandering, and eating going on.
've always wanted to go to a movie screening in a park, but after six years in NYC I only just made it.  It sounds like something you could just pop by last minute, but it actually takes some planning.  The park fills up hours in advance and since no movie would be complete without snacks, forethought is necessary.  Albert and I went to one of the HBO Summer Film Fest screenings in Bryant Park and even though the park was too full for us to use the blanket I toted along, we got seats at one of the small tables around the park.  We could still see everything and were actually able to beat the crowds when it came time to leave.  The movie of the night was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 70s one with Gene Wilder - a personal fave).  The audience clapped and cheered when Charlie found his golden ticket and when the Oompa Loompas watched Veruca Salt go down the chute with the other bad eggs.  I also loved that they played a Looney Tune to start off the evening and the old school HBO movie intro just before the feature.  One of the coolest things I've done in the city.
One of the best parts about bubble tea is puncturing the plastic film with that fat straw.

For my birthday this year my parents offered to get me the tablet of my choice to replace my laptop.  They helped me research the options and about 2 weeks ago I went to pick up my shiny new iPad.  I absolutely love it!  It was such a generous gift so I am definitely putting it to good use by writing up a storm and watching HBO Go in bed.  It's so much fun having a new toy and even better when that toy can improve your daily productivity thanks to some handy dandy apps.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Greek Yogurt Pasta with Mint and Thyme

I love lemon cream pasta.  Carbonara is pretty good, too.  Basically pasta with cream sauce is decadent comfort food.  Have I told you anything you didn't already know?  If you're like me and you love creamy pasta, read on.  I followed this recipe and couldn't believe how amazing it tasted.  You don't feel like you're sacrificing anything so go ahead and gorge without guilt.  One note: because it's not actually made with cream, you need to serve and eat immediately so the yogurt doesn't get clumpy.  But why would you want to wait anyway?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Avocado, Edamame, and Grapefruit Salad

Avocado goes great with citrus and anyone who's eaten at a sushi restaurant knows that avocado and edamame work well together.  Just a hunch, but that means grapefruit and edamame could work together with avocado doing the back end work of bringing them together.

I just told you the three main ingredients for this salad.  Put them on top of arugula, squeeze a lemon on top, drizzle some olive oil over it, sprinkle on some sea salt.  Done.  I very rarely like salads without cheese, but this was amazing.  None of the flavors are too powerful so it can go with any main course.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Yes, Chef

We've seen tons of chef memoirs recently - even I've gotten sick of them.  But it's hard not to be intrigued by Marcus Samuelsson's story.  Samuelsson was not even three years old when his mother walked him and his sister to the nearest town in Ethiopia in search of care for their tuberculosis affliction.  His mother succumbed to the disease and he and his sister were soon adopted and raised in Sweden.  

The Ethiopian boy raised in an all white world is a great hook, but I was most interested in the fact that he grew up in Sweden - regardless of his race.  My knowledge of Sweden goes about as far as Swedish fish so I loved learning about their unique culture and cuisine.  I also enjoyed reading a memoir about chef life that didn't revolve around crazy drug use in the kitchen.  Samuelsson went out to prove how hard work and good values are the basics for building a successful career.  You can tell he is inquisitive of and in love with food.  

He is also in love with Harlem.  Everyone should love their neighborhood the way Samuelsson loves Harlem.  He has been at the center of Harlem's second renaissance and I don't think the area would be where it's at now if it wasn't for his passion.  

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Spicy Shrimp Breakfast Tacos

Years ago my family took our boat out for a weekend camping trip.  On the last morning I was put in charge of making breakfast out of whatever we had leftover.  I ended up making breakfast burritos out of shrimp we caught straight off the side of the boat and some cajun seasoning we had used on steak the night before.  I basically just threw stuff together, but everyone loved it.  Looking back, that's probably when I realized how happy cooking and feeding others makes me.

I decided to re-create that first cooking experiment for brunch the other weekend.  After scrambling some eggs I threw some grape tomatoes in the pan to start blistering.  I coated shrimp with cayenne, paprika, chile powder, and garlic powder (really get em good with that spice mix) and cooked them alongside the tomatoes.  It only takes a few minutes (about 2/side).  There's not much to assemble: tortillas, arugula, eggs, shredded cheese (barely any - the shrimp have tons of flavor), shrimp, and tomatoes.

It may have been simple enough for me to quickly whip up in my early cooking days, but that didn't make it any less delicious now.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

3 on Thursday

Getting this week's 3 on Thursday in with just 30 minutes to spare. That should be an indication if how crazy work has been. Can't tell you how ready I am for the weekend. I'll be kicking it off with a Yankees game and 6 pm on Friday can't come soon enough!
Albert received this book through work but gifted it to me knowing it would go to much better use in my kitchen.  I've flipped through it and can already tell it's basically a bible for grilling.  Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, even veggies - they all get a large section devoted to their specific grilling needs.  Most recipes actually seem simple enough (as it should be - let the grill do most of the work) but full of flavor. Can't wait to try it out!
Before and after my first 5k, The Color Run. Though it's not a long distance for most, I had to train for it and felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I finished. It was the perfect 5k to start with because it's pure fun. You wear all white and get doused with color at several checkpoints throughout the run. I don't think I'll be doing further distances, but brjng on more 5ks!  P.S.: the best part of doing a run is the post run brunch. 
Maple goodies are big in Canada and a friend from work just brought these back from a recent trip to Montreal. So super sweet and unlike anything we have in the US. It's like a cookie pancake!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Defonte's of Brooklyn

Defonte's is a Brooklyn institution.  It's an old school Italian sandwich shop where you shouldn't dare ask for substitutions on these large sandwiches that look like they could feed the whole firehouse.  These are manly sandwiches at girly prices (nothing over $11).  The Manhattan branch may be a little shinier but from what I hear, the food is just as good as the original.  It's a no-frills place and the sandwiches thrive on the simplicity of good ingredients and classic Italian combinations.  I went with the Hot Roast Beef.  The meat was sliced paper thin and piled onto a soft roll with a thin layer of fried eggplant and fresh mozzarella.  I split my sandwich up into two meals partly because it was so large and partly because I wanted to have the experience of eating it twice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Anassa Taverna

For years a boring brasserie had been on the corner of 60th and 3rd that only received my business if I needed a quick bite before seeing a movie next door.  Thankfully, it has been replaced by Anassa Taverna, a Greek restaurant that doesn't take any arm twisting for a pre-movie meal.  Raychel and I rushed through our meal because we didn't want to miss any of "The Bling Ring" (love Sophia Coppola).

We may have eaten quickly, but not so fast that I missed how good the food was.  We split the anassa chips, fried zucchini and eggplant slices served with super thick tzaziki.  This dish is dependent on good tzaziki (done) and a kitchen that knows not to over-batter the chips (done).  Raych and I both got appetizers as our main course and after splitting the chips and munching on the complimentary bread and hummus it was the perfect size.  Raychel ordered the crab cake that had so little filler it fell apart at just a little pressure by her fork.  For some reason I was super in the mood for a salad, which is a good thing because I would have overlooked the romaine salad otherwise.  It doesn't sound like much, but this salad of shredded romaine with scallions, dill, olive oil, lemon, and shredded feta was great.  It was like the Greek version of a caesar and much larger than I expected.

Congrats, Anassa, you are a major step up from your predecessor.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: The Dinner

The tension is high when two brothers and their wives meet for dinner at a trendy, overpriced restaurant.  One is a snob who's focused only on showing off his wine skills while the other is negative, overly analytical, and finds something to criticize in even the smallest of gestures.  What seems to be a parody of sibling rivalry turns dark when the main course arrives.

As the meal progresses, the narrating brother, Paul, becomes more than mega critical.  He is erratic, unreliable, and his negativity is actually a deep anger that could combust at any moment.  Could this behavior have contributed to the horrifying behavior this quartet has met to discuss?

Why do they go through several courses before even discussing the violent act between their sons that brought them together?  What's more, why are they having this sit-down in such a public place at all?  Does anyone in this book have a moral compass?!  Great social commentary by Herman Koch.

4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pasta with Brie

I had seen some sort of pasta made with brie on Pinterest but never got around to trying it.  I'll put cheese in anything, especially pasta, but brie seemed like the one cheese that wouldn't work.  I kept putting it off until I found myself leaving work late and needing something I could whip up quickly.  The recipes I saw claimed this didn't need any cream or sauce so that meant one less ingredient and at least two fewer steps.  I figured even if it was bad, it would do the bare minimum of getting me fed, which was pretty much all I cared about at that point.

I was right on one part: it was so easy to prepare.  I was wrong when I thought it wouldn't taste that good without a sauce.  The brie becomes the sauce.  While the pasta boiled away (I recommend using bowties or some short pasta), I sauteed cremini mushrooms and zucchini with thyme.  Everything finished cooking at about the same time so I threw it in a bowl and then added brie that I had sliced into small squares in the hopes that it would start melting.  It did.  It melted into cheesy velvet.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

3 on Thursday

Happy 4th of July, bloggies! Fingers crossed that the weather holds up so I can spend the day by the pool. If not, I'm still going to enjoy the time off work!

Bite is the best Canadian import's the best Canadian import. The beauty company just set up a small shop in Manhattan where you can design your own lipstick. The whole process takes about ten minutes and costs $30. I consider that a steal when I realize my Chanel lipstick cost nearly that much and I didn't get to blend colors, add fragrance or choose glossiness. I had the specialist help me design a color that was deep but still summer appropriate with a berry base. It took her about two seconds to nail it. 
Johnny Harris is an old Savannah restaurant with plenty of history. My grandparents went there as children just like I did. That might sound sentimental but if you had their barbecue sauce you'd know there's reason behind this dreamy mentality. I was so happy to come home and find that my Mom had shipped me three bottles since you can't buy it up here.  
My first trip to Baton Rouge was a major success thanks to Patricia's eye for a good party. She always knew how to throw down in college and her wedding was the most extreme of any party she's ever thrown. Louisiana has a wedding style all their own, right down to the music. Everyone should experience at least one wedding on the bayou in their lifetime.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Our seafood supper was just light enough for us to reserve room for either another drink or dessert.  Usually I go for the drink but it was a hot day and ice cream just sounded so perfect.  We happened to be right by Karina's favorite ice cream parlor, Cones, so we walked right in.  Karina was dead set on getting the corn.  I don't usually like to order the same thing as anyone else so I was going to get one of the many other available flavors.  Just to satisfy my curiosity, however, I asked for a taste test of the corn before moving on to my own flavor.  Nope, that was it.  No moving on.  I was getting the corn.  They sprinkle it with cinnamon and it makes all the difference.  The tiny bits of corn give it just a bit of texture and it's just...delicious.  I mean, it kinda changed my life.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Designing custom lipsticks can work up an appetite so after creating some custom shades, Karina and I headed to Fish for some supper.  I've walked by this West Village seafood spot plenty of times but never walked inside.  Why not?  Because seafood, particularly shellfish, is expensive when you're not in a place like Savannah.  All I had to do, however, was walk inside and see their daily special written on the board.  It would have been enough to hook me (that's a fishing reference, fyi).  For $8, you get 6 oysters or 6 clams and a glass of house wine or PBR.  A glass of wine alone would cost $8, as would 6 oysters.  This is a STEAL in the seafood world. 

We each started with the special and then shared an entrĂ©e for a perfectly sized meal.  We went with the fish and chips.  The cod was nice and flaky, piping hot, and perfectly battered.  And they were kind enough to split it for us before even bringing it to the table - points for service.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: The Last Girlfriend on Earth

Simon Rich's collection of short stories is a little off the wall.  Sure, it's about love (meeting, getting, and subsequently losing the girl), but these love stories are nontraditional, to say the least.  Take, for instance, a man who is lucky enough to get set up by his friends...with an actual troll.  Or when Sherlock Holmes just can't deduce that his girlfriend is a triflin ho.  Or the opening story that follows an entire relationship from the perspective of a condom.

The entire collection will take you a day to read, and I'll be surprised if most of them don't elicit at least a giggle.  If you're the kind of person who likes SNL digital shorts, you'll probably enjoy this.

3 out of 5 stars.


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