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Best Restaurant: The Inn at Erlowest.

Photo: Leif Zurmuhlen

Best Restaurant

The Inn at Erlowest

3178 Lake Shore Drive, Lake George

Dale Miller pursues perfection as only an artist can, and his culinary artistry extends well beyond the perfection he puts on a plate. The servingware, the dining room, the inn itself—all reflect his excellent taste. And the meal itself is a journey through ingredients and flavors that becomes in itself an exotic vacation.

Best New Restaurant

Max London’s

466 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Home-grown chef Max London brings a Mediterranean sensibility to his long-overdue restaurant, where you enjoy a tapas approach to dining in relaxed but elegant surroundings. Enjoy anything from a small plate of white anchovies to a personal pizza to a hanger steak, inside or at a patio table on Saratoga’s Broadway.

Best American

New World Home Cooking Co.

1411 Route 212, Saugerties

We’ve yet to figure out what, exactly, American food is, but we’re confident that New World Home Cooking Co. continues to define it. And the influences extend beyond our borders as chef-owner Ric Orlando zings his dishes with exotic peppers and fruits. Great place for vegan and vegetarian items, too.

Best Steakhouse

The Bears’ Steakhouse

Route 7, Duanesburg

Make a reservation. More than 40 years of serving the area’s best steaks without ever buying an ad means that the Payne family has it nailed. It’s about excellent meat, cooked right—and served in you’re-part-of-the-family surroundings. You’ll leave with leftovers because you’re going to save room for dessert.

Best Continental

Beekman Street Bistro

62 Beekman St., Saratoga Springs

Chef-owner Tim Meaney’s farm-to-table approach guarantees the best flavors; his cooking approach takes the traditional—like a pork chop or chicken breast or eggplant slice—and brings out unexpected aspects of its flavor, all of it handsomely presented in an artistically appointed dining room.

Best French

Chez Sophie

Saratoga Hotel, 534 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Subscribe to the restaurant’s e-mailed newsletter and you’ll get a weekly temptation like no other as owners Cheryl Clark and (chef) Paul Parker describe what’s in store for the coming week, inspired by fresh (and as local as possible) ingredients and an old-world culinary flair reimagined for contemporary palates.

Best International: Avenue A.

Photo:Alicia Solsman

Best International

Avenue A

544 Delaware Ave., Albany

Chef Un-Hui Filomeno has a passion for bold flavors, and her restaurant runs the geographical gamut, serving Japanese miso soup alongside Portuguese caldo verde, New Orleans jambalaya and Barcelonan paella, Franco-American steak au poivre and a killer Korean chap chae.

Best Tasting Menu

The Basement Bistro

774 Route 45, Earlton

Want to be a culinary guinea pig? If you can even get a reservation this summer, you’ll enjoy chef Damon Baehrel’s creative excellence as course after he’ll-choose-it-for-you course arrives, small bites of flavor that add up to a richly satisfying meal. Boasting fresh garden ingredients and locally sourced meats, the meal is a daily inspiration.

Best Bistro

Cella Bistro

2015 Rosa Road, Schenectady

If you think of a bistro as a small restaurant with simple fare, you rule out many so-named restaurants. Here, chef Michael Cella offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu for a party with friends, intimate dining or tapas at the bar, with an excellent wine list to complement your pleasure.

Best Wine Bar

The Wine Bar and Bistro

200 Lark St., Albany

It’s like being in the wine cellar itself, with snug, sort-of- underground rooms in which to tope, and an innovative tapas menu for gustatory accompaniment. There even are some outdoor tables if you seek the open air. The selection is extensive, with many specials, and the servers are happy to help you choose.

Best Restaurant when Someone Else Is Paying

Angelo’s 677 Prime

677 Broadway, Albany

Prime at Saratoga National

458 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs

These high-end steakhouses invite you to dine in elegant surroundings as you enjoy prime cuts of rib-eye, sirloin, tenderloin and, if you’re truly dining à deux, a 40-ounce porterhouse for not quite a hundred bucks. The Albany restaurant offers Japanese Kobe beef for $15 per ounce; both restaurants will start you off with imported caviar and fresh raw bar selections.

Best Restaurant Worth a Drive

Church & Main

Church and Main streets, Canajoharie

Rose & Kettle

4 Lancaster St., Cherry Valley

A forgotten city, an artistic town. Canajoharie’s Church and Main and Cherry Valley’s Rose & Kettle are both run by husband-and-wife teams who take advantage of the rural surroundings to offer the freshest food. And each dining experience is enhanced by historic old buildings that house these restaurants, well worth the travel time—and worth exploring the surroundings once you’re there.

Best Chinese


10 Wolf Road, Colonie

Our longtime favorite dominates a rapidly dwindling field. The ambiance is so-so, but the food ventures far beyond the usual chop-suey-house fare and includes one of the best vegetarian menus in the area. And the prices have remained at an unusually sensible rate.

Best Thai

Capital Thai

997 Central Ave., Albany

You’re dining in a strip-mall site that offers the ambiance of a fast-food joint—and then your bowl of khao soi arrives and you’re transported. Along with such mainstays as pad Thai and an array of colorful curries are sushi and other pan-Asian dishes, prepared with commendable skill and attractively presented.

Best Vietnamese

Van’s Vietnamese Restaurant

307 Central Ave, Albany, NY

Van’s creates Vietnamese cuisine the way it should be: subtle. Without overwhelming spices or décor (it resembles more of a strip mall than Asian paradise), Van’s delivers elegant flavors with fresh ingredients. Try the Pho (noodle soup with various protein options), or the three-meat-delight: perfectly seasoned grilled shrimp, fried summer rolls, and sliced pork on a mountain of vermicelli, with ginger and peanuts.

Best Pan-Asian

Plum Blossom

685 Hoosick Road, Brunswick

We’ve witnessed many years of Steve Chang’s architectural work-in-progress that has become a garden retreat in the midst of East Troy. In addition to a Chinese menu that includes the area’s best hot-and-sour soup are dishes from Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Thailand and other Asian countries, and you can even enjoy a faux-Polynesian pu pu platter here.

Best Japanese

Saso’s Japanese Noodle House

218 Central Ave., Albany

We find an oasis here. When life proves oppressive, we refresh ourselves with a bowl of nabeyaki udon, a glorious noodle soup bursting with chicken and vegetables and shrimp tempura. All the traditional dishes—teriyaki preparations, rice compotes, yakisoba and more—are carefully crafted. And there’s terrific sushi, of course, assembled by Saso himself.

Best Japanese Steakhouse


260 Wolf Road, Colonie

Japanese steakhouses have exploded around us, with their attendant displays of spatula tossing and onion-ring volcanoes. Koto places it in the context of an elegant series of dining rooms, with a reliable menu of other Japanese fare, including some of the handsomest bento boxes around.

Best Sushi

Mari’s Japanese Cuisine

2049 Van Vranken Ave., Schenectady

Last year’s winner for Best Japanese is now this year’s winner for Best Sushi. Twenty-three years of artistry by the assured (should be insured) hands of sushi chef Jiro Omiya add up to exactly what it’s meant to be—simple, fresh and consistent. Rolls, sushi and sashimi are traditional, and the presentation is tastefully minimal, letting the banquet before you speak for itself. Try a Dragon Roll, a Union, or a refreshing Salad Roll, just to name a few. If it’s pieces you’re into, the Hamachi (yellowtail) is always buttery and on point. And if you’re lucky enough to visit the friendly family and staff on days when they happen to have Shiro Maguro (white tuna) or Bonito (a seasonal—early fall—small tuna seared and accompanied with a touch of ginger and scallion), you can consider yourself on cloud nine.

Best Italian (Northern)

Café Capriccio

49 Grand St., Albany

Owner Jim Rua presides in the upstairs banquet room; his son Franco is the chef downstairs. Together they carry on a quarter-century tradition of offering the area’s best Tuscan-inspired fare, served with a personality unique to this restaurant.

Best Italian (Southern)


853 4th Ave., Troy

Talk about institutions! You know Testo’s from the restaurant’s locally marketed sauce. At the restaurant, John and Chuck Testo run a 32-year-old family business that assures you of the friendliest, most family-oriented dinners—at great prices, too. The ziti Alfredo with broccoli will cure any ill.

Best Pizza

DeFazio’s Pizzeria

266 4th St., Troy

A perennial winner, and for good reason. They make their own sauce (and sell it next door). They make a killer crust (they’ve been perfecting it for well over half a century). And they bake it in a wood-fired oven that gives the pizza an unmistakeably excellent flavor.


Fireside Pizzeria

1631 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady

One of the institutions that make life in Schenectady bearable, the Fireside couldn’t be more accommodating. Old-school pizza, but some exotica (like ham, mesquite chicken, Genoa salami) has crept in. Large dining rooms upstairs and down and a full menu besides.



569 Route 20, New Lebanon

“When in doubt, order pizza,” suggests a sign on the wall, and as you watch the thin-crust pies fly in and out of the wood-fired oven, you’ll have no trouble deciding that that’s the way to go. A white pizza with barbecued chicken is one of the best, and don’t overlook the calzones and stromboli.


Smith’s Tavern

112 Maple Ave., Voorheesville

Thick, delicious crust piled with hearty toppings and fresh cheese, this pizza is like a Tolstoy novel: dense, complex, and profoundly fulfilling (but easier to wash down with Budweiser). It’s a pizza that separates the men from the boys.

Best German

Spa Brauhaus

200 E. High St., Ballston Spa

It’s not just a trip back in time, although you’ll swear Ike is still in office when you walk through the door. It’s one of the few places where you can start with an order of superb potato pancakes, then go on to a knockwurst plate, or enjoy the schlacht, schnitzel, spätzle and more.

Best Greek

A Taste of Greece

193 Lark St., Albany

A perennial winner, A Taste of Greece has established itself as a Lark Street institution. This comfortable, friendly restaurant has always been known for top-shelf service, and Greek cuisine that includes all the classics including spanakopita, souvlaki and moussaka as well as gyros, delicious salads, dips and appetizers. You must try the grilled octopus, one of our favorites. Opa!

Best Mexican: Casa Oaxaca.

Photo:Joe Putrock

Best Mexican

Casa Oaxaca

54 Philip St., Albany

Intimate is the watchword here. Casual. Owner James Santaski and chef Francisco Vazquez, himself Oaxacan, offer a small but authentic menu of south-of-the-border specialties, the best of which is the superb mole, a labor-intensive puree of nuts and peppers finished with native chocolate.

Best Indian


9B Johnson Road, Latham; 47 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs; 2788 Hamburg St., Schenectady

The Karavalli empire has spread, thank goodness, and the varied menu that’s offered ranges throughout the regions of India. The ubiquitous lunch buffet is given classier touches, and the place is justly famous for its rice-and-lentil dosai.

Best Middle Eastern

Al Baraki

184 River St., Troy; 185 Lark St., Albany

This hole-in-the-wall Lebanese Troy mainstay now has an Albany hole in the wall on Lark St., and it’s got the best hummus, excellent falafel, and array of native salads and stews and an amazing garlic paste to enjoy on crisped pita wafers.

Best Mediterranean

Ali Baba

2243 15th St., Troy

Yes, the prices have crept up—whose haven’t?—but Ali Baba’s delightful Turkish menu includes wonderful kebabs, authentic gyros (known here as a durum wrap), and a big puffy bread called lavash to enjoy with a garlic-yoghurt dip. Also try the curried chicken pizza!

Best Afghan

Afghan Grill

952 Troy Schenectady Road, Latham

Okra, cauliflower and eggplant have never tasted as good as they do here in their respective entrees, and that doesn’t begin to cover the grilled kebabs, the rice palows, the Afghan pasta dishes. A friendly place unexpectedly located in a Latham mall, Afghan Grill also does a lunch buffet with a selection of favorite items.

Best Saratoga Caribbean


7 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs

Will Yund’s honeymoon trip to Barbados was a culinary eye-opener, and inspired a menu of Caribbean-themed cookery that includes jerk chicken and pork, chicken Barbados (served with a banana, coconut and curaçao orange sauce) and even coconut mashed potatoes.

Best Caribbean Caribbean

First Choice Caribbean

451 Fulton St., Troy

Get to know the cuisine—and addictive versions of jerk or curried chicken—at the bargain-priced lunch buffet. Then try the oxtail, the tripe and beans, the curried shrimp or the many other creations of Jamaican native Ricardo Brown, whose friendly restaurant also has one of the liveliest soundtracks in town.

Best Fusion

The Hidden Café

Delaware Plaza, Delaware Ave., Delmar

It used to be merely Middle Eastern (and superbly so), but chef-owner Joseph Soliman has synthesized into his menu dishes inspired by the cuisines of Italy, Greece, France and regional America, served in ever more elegant surroundings. Once you find the place.

Best Vegetarian


1028 Route 146, Clifton Park

Once you start assembling your pizza, you’ll be a mildly aware that you’re not piling meat on top of it, and you’ll barely miss the meat as you turn to the other menu items. It’s not really a vegetarian restaurant: It’s an Italian restaurant that left out the meat. Great wine selection, too.

Best-Kept Secret

Garlic Lover’s Corner

235 North Greenbush Road, North Greenbush

Don’t let the name intimidate you. The hummus is garlicky, yes, but that’s as it should be. Beyond that is a Mediterranean menu with Italian touches that chef-owner Bill Assad prepares with palate-pleasing dexterity. Don’t forget an order of GLC chips: potato chips with lemon and feta.

Best Barbecue

Capital Q Smokehouse

329 Ontario St., Albany

Sean Custer is a French-trained chef who went to the other side of the tracks, so to speak, and now serves up the region’s best pulled pork, beef brisket and more in what used to be Emil Meister’s market. And grab yourself some sweet potatoes and collards greens as well.

Best Late-Night Dining


301 Lark St., Albany

We like Justin’s for lunch. And dinner. The weekend brunch is pretty awesome too. But Justin’s simply has no peer between the hours of 11 PM and 1 AM, when its café menu offers a varied selection that pleases showgoers and late-shifters looking for something more interesting than pub fare. Sure, there are burgers, sandwiches and salads, but also corn fritters, crab cakes, tempura shrimp, baked goat cheese with greens, and the ultimate comfort combo, meatloaf and mac and cheese. And we’ve never known the kitchen to close early, so this is food you can count on at an hour when your choices are otherwise slim.

Best Way-Late-Night Dining

Café 217

217 Delaware Ave, Albany, NY

Lark Street has been waiting for a place like Café 217 for ages: a place with tasty food, on the cheap, at very late hours. If it’s 5:30 a.m., you want something more than a coffee and donut, head to Café 217, with hours starting around dinner and ending after the breakfast crowd. Between vegetarian eggs benedict, chipotle sweet potato hash, BLTs with turkey bacon, even meat loaf, Café 217 serves up tasty comfort food for late-shifters.

Best Wine List

Village Pizzeria & Ristorante

2727 Route 29, East Galway

They’ve just been tapped for a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, which you don’t expect at a pizza joint. But there’s much more than just pizza here. A full-fledged Italian-themed menu is accompanied by a wine list that features nearly 300 well-chosen vintages, many available by the glass, classified by area and/or by grape.

Best Brew Pub: Brown’s Brewing Co.

Photo:Shannon DeCelle

Best Brew Pub

Brown’s Brewing Co.

417 River St., Troy

A pleasant and tipsy world traveler told us that from his decades of restless wandering he has found that Brown’s Extra Special Bitter is the hands-down the best ESB anywhere. And we can tell you that come Sunday afternoon, you’ll find fellow world-weary travelers lounging on the back deck, well-fed and two beers in, with a huge grins on their faces.

Best Pub Food

The Ale House

680 River St., Troy

To offer the best pub food, it’s got to be a great pub. The Ale House does this unselfconsciously and with gusto, with a classic bar in front and the dining room lurking almost as an afterthought beyond. Chicken wings, ribs, burgers and daily specials are featured along with a changing menu of specials. Also live music and lots of good beer.

Best Power Lunch

Angelo’s 677 Prime

677 Broadway

Where else can you tuck into a juicy steak (and habit-forming fries) and a generous pour, while rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, or at least expense-accounted, glitterati of the Capital District? On any given afternoon, you’re likely to see Sen. Bruno, Mayor Jennings, or any number of pinstriped legal eagles, lobbyists and association execs. Chef Jamie Ortiz masterfully handles the menu, which, while not exactly innovative, delivers just what you want to serve alongside your powerbroking, namely, expertly-cooked choice cuts of red meat, crisp salads and. . . . Did we mention the stellar wine list?

Best Lunch

The Iron Gate

182 Washington Ave., Albany

Behind an iron gate and down the walk to front door set well back from busy Washington Avenue, you’ll find top-quality freshly made soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and creative specials, with plenty of vegetarian options. The food is great, the prices are reasonable, and to top it off, the staff work so efficiently that even when there’s a long line ahead of you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get served.

Best Diner

Blue Ribbon Diner

1801 State St., Schenectady

Long the favorite source of cheesecake in Schenectady, the Blue Ribbon also has one of those you-can-order-anything menus that promises no-frills food that’s efficiently prepared and served with no budget breaking involved. Welcoming and reliable with an unusual emphasis on service.

Best Burger

Oliver’s Cafe

181 Freeman’s Bridge Road, Glenville

No premixed, portion-controlled, frozen ingredients is the motto here, and it’s reflected no better than in the hand-hewn burgers, whether dressed up as daily specials (Cajun, blue cheese) or redirected into meat loaf. This will remind you why a burger and fries used to taste so good.

Best Deli

Gershon’s Deli & Caterers

1600 Union Ave., Schenectady

Arrive at lunchtime and you’re swept into a line, your order is determined and your sandwich is assembled in record time—all while the folks behind the counter are clearly enjoying themselves. A Brooklyn-born friend of ours swears the hot pastrami here is even better than in Brooklyn.

Best Gourmet Takeout

Mezzo Marketplace & Eatery

34 Hamilton St., Albany

A repeat winner, this cozy little joint tucked away on quiet Hamilton Street does have a few tables and a lovely patio for eating on the premises, but it’s also a great place to grab a delicious gourmet meal to go. Get there early for the gourmet sandwiches on ciabatta bread, and check out the sumptuous array of prepared foods—grilled salmon, crab cakes, salads, eggplant lasagne, pasta pesto, roasted vegetables, and so on. Or start your day with a good strong pressure-brewed coffee and an egg-and-cheese sandwich on a croissant—there’s none better in the region.

Best Subs: Andy & Sons Importing Co.

Photo:Joe Putrock

Best Subs

Andy & Sons Importing Co.

256 Delaware Ave., Albany

If you order a sub from Andy’s, you better be prepared. A generous (almost to a fault) portion of top-level meats and veggies, with the fixings and dressings of your choice, on a delicious homemade roll. Plenty of specialty subs, too. A lunch or dinner fit for a lumberjack—or a very hungry state worker.

Best Little Hot Dogs

Famous Lunch

111 Congress St., Troy

Troy may be famous for those delicious little hot dogs, but they don’t get any more famous than at Famous Lunch. The greasy hole-in-the-wall has 75 years of wee-dog-making experience to its name—these puppies have even been shipped around the world. Top the dogs (and burgers and fries) with a ladle of zippy sauce, and finish it off with a cup of famous rice pudding. Not to mention, you’ll feel like you’re eating lunch with a throng of your grandpa’s cantankerous buddies—and all for under five bucks.

Best Breakfast

Peter Pause Restaurant

535 Nott St., Schenectady

We’ve long resisted sharing this place, but it’s a secret too good to keep. Peter Pause puts out a traditional breakfast each weekday from 6 to 11 (lunch from 11 to 2) that includes a $5 three-egg special (sausage, home fries, toast). Pancakes are excellent, and you can get French toast made with their homemade Italian bread.

Best Brunch

Café Madison

1108 Madison Ave., Albany

The weekday breakfast menu is tasty enough, but on weekends it expands to embrace such tempting creations as pesto benedict with grilled tomatoes and zucchini, berry- and pecan-stuffed French toast, and plenty more. Through fires, ownership changes and renovations, the quality, consistency and overall scrumptiousness of the Café Madison brunch has remained a constant. And while you’re here, check out the dinner menu.

Best Brunch Buffet

Tosca Grille

200 Broadway, Troy

If you start at the omelet station, you might miss the Belgian waffle station, especially if you took advantage of the fresh bread and Danish display. And then there’s the chef’s carving station to consider, the bounty of fresh fruit, cold meat, vegetables, cheese. Which doesn’t even take into account the eggs Benedict, the blintzes, the seafood, the beef . . .

Best Bagels

Uncommon Grounds

1225 Western Ave., Albany; 402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

Just because they’re round, it doesn’t make them bagels. When we count out the supermarket offerings, it gets down to boiled versus steamed. Uncommon Grounds bagels are steamed. Not as crispy, perhaps, but they’re huge, moist, and when they label it a garlic bagel, be assured you’re going to find plenty of garlic. Or onions. Or sesame seeds. Or . . . everything.

Best Coffeehouse

Uncommon Grounds

402 Broadway, Saratoga Springs

The mighty Starbucks starts folding its tents; Uncommon Grounds lives on. That’s because real people serve real, freshly roasted coffee in a space that begs you to settle in and start that conversation. Or finish that novel. We like the expanded Saratoga store with the added lounge space, but the Albany branch also maintains its charm.

Best Desserts

Mrs. London’s

464 Broadway, Saratoga Spring

Nothing we tell you here can adequately prepare you for the experience of that first mouthful of a Mrs. London’s dessert. Sure, it looks great behind the counter, whether it’s a lemon meringue tartlette, cherry clafoutis, eclair, napoleon, savarins or any of the many other freshly crafted confections that beckon. Pastries and the world’s best bread also are available, and you can enjoy them in the store’s café.

Best Cheesecake

Cheesecake Machismo

293 Hamilton St., Albany

If you love downtown Albany, cheesecake, and kitsch, you can’t do better than this small establishment in Robinson Square. Their hours are generous, and for $5 you can enjoy a piece of cheesecake and a beverage at one of two small tables. You can choose from enumerable flavors such as Purple Nurple, Frankencake, and Chocolate Stout. Often there are off-menu choices listed on the chalkboard or you can order a 10-inch cake of your own concoction. Yum!

Best Edible Art Gallery

Crisan Bakery

197 Lark St., Albany

In this sunny, recently renovated bakery, there’s artwork on the walls—and in the display cases. Among the selection of sugary confections—from puff pastries with nuts and cheeses to lusciously layered cakes and torts—are edible artworks such as yellow-fondat chicks created by artist-baker Claudia Crisan. There also are 13 flavors of homemade gelato, and at a dollar per scoop, you can taste-test to your sweet tooth’s delight.

Best Ice Cream


1344 Spring Ave., Wynantskill

For true gourmandizers of hard ice cream, there is no better destination than Moxie’s. Try their fabled Blue Moon ice cream and venture a guess at the secret ingredients. The red-and-white landmark has been a summer destination for generations of Capital Region dessert hounds, and Moxie’s takes great pride in its homemade scoops and homespun atmosphere. As a testament to how seriously they take their ice cream: Moxie’s has five different types of vanilla, differentiated by the bean’s geographical origin. You can try all of the vanilla varieties in an “around the world” flight, which is tastefully served up with a dollop of blue moon and a bottle of water—to “cleanse your palate.” Nice.

Best Soft Ice Cream

The Ice Cream Man

417 Route 29, Easton

Rare is the representation of real frozen custard, and the Ice Cream Man makes a custard that is pure tongue velvet. The chocolate is dreamy, and the vanilla is a tonic that will slap your cynicism into submission. Both flavors seem to drip thicker as they luxuriously melt than soft ice creams made from mixes. The Ice Cream Man, which knows its way around hard ice cream, too, serves up nonfat custard as well, but skipping on fat when it comes to ice cream is akin to not inhaling.

Best Gelato

Aromi D’Italia

2050 Western Ave., Guilderland

You would not expect, tucked away in a suburban shopping plaza, a small, tastefully decorated restaurant with an eclectic menu to also boast the best gelato around. But it’s true. Served with tiny shovel-like spoons, the gelato at the front of Aromi D’Italia stops diners in their tracks—and luckily reminds them to save room for dessert. Try the Romeo and Juliet: vanilla gelato with tiny flecks of chocolate.

Best Smoothies

Shake Shake Mamas

258 Broadway, Troy

How lucky are we? The smoothies are a cool, healthy, luscious afternoon respite, and the Mamas make us weak in the knees.

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