Tuesday, May 02, 2017

JetBlue Flight 534, SFO-BOS, Mint

Original Reviews - 2016

I finally flew JetBlue Mint.  And with that ... I'm pretty much ruined.  Even for transcon travel.  Doh.
October 2016 Feast!
I'll get to all the details next, but, the short version is that I flew the SFO-BOS route twice in Mint, and had a great experience both times.  The the food is actually interesting, you get to create your own tasting menu from small plates, and they have ice cream.  Quality ice cream.

On both flights, the FAs were ridiculously friendly.  They asked each passenger if it was their first time in Mint, and provided an introduction to the seat if so, pointing out little storage areas, where to plug things in, etc.  I haven't even had such a thoughtful welcoming experience in international first class!  Even the gate agent greeted me by name.
December 2016 Feast!
My first experience, in October, was so good, that I choose to repeat it when I flew home for the holidays, in December.  I've consolidated both reviews here, since it was the same route, just two months apart.

The Seat & Amenities

The cabin holds 16 people, in 6 pairs of 2 and 4 single "suites".  All seats are the same price, and are available first-come, first-serve.  Unfortunately, the singles were already taken when I booked my first Mint flight, and I wasn't flying with a companion, so I was seated next to a random stranger.  On my second flight, I was able to score a coveted single suite, and it was ridiculous.  The thought that kept going through my head was simply, "How is this real on a transcon flight?"
Foot Cubby, Entertainment Screen.
The seat transforms into a fully flat bed, with a very spacious foot well where it converts.  Seriously, you could hide a second passenger in there.  On my first flight, I was told that I could not use that space during takeoff for a bag, so, there was actually no where at all for a bag during takeoff.  The FAs collected all bags as we were headed to runway, and handed them back once underway.  A bit annoying, and really, that area seemed more secure than many other seats I've been in where under footrest storage was allowed ...  On my next two Mint flights, they had no problem with me using this space though, so, not really sure what the official policy is.

Above the foot area is a large screen tv (touch screen, or controlled by remote), under which is a small compartment to stuff a couple smaller items (I used it for my magazine, gum, and little things I wanted access to during the flight).

The entertainment center features SiriusXM satellite radio, DirectTV (huge lineup, way better than Virgin America), and a handful of movies.  The touch screen worked well, and the remote was very easy to use.

Headphones were provided once we got underway.  They weren't particularly nice, the only negative I have to say about the flight.
Seat Controls, Remote for Entertainment Center.
Next to me was a shared armrest with a control panel for the seat and a remote to use with the entertainment center.  The tray table also came out of this area.

When put into "Relax" mode, the seat wasn't really comfortable for me.  At least, not for sitting up and using a laptop.  Maybe it was better for watching tv?  I could easily adjust it though, and was able to find a fairly comfortable position.  The storage space around the foot part was a bit annoying though - even when just mildly reclining with foot rest extended, there was no longer space for my laptop bag in front, although then there was space under.  So I had to move my bag back and forth, remembering to move it before using the control and having it get stuck.  Minor design flaw.

We were also provided with a blanket, pillow, and eye mask, since I guess you could sleep (although that made no sense given my afternoon flight times).  The pillow was nice behind my back in the seat.  The blankets were needed though, as it got FREEZING immediately after takeoff on my first flight (not a problem the next time).  The FAs walked around reassuring everyone that it would warm up, explaining that it was just due to the "design of the aircraft".  It was really ridiculously cold for a few minutes!
Power, Water, Light, Phone Holder.
Next to my seat was a water bottle holder, which came stocked with a bottle of water.  I appreciated having water available from the start of the flight.

Power options included both USB and regular US power, in an easy to reach spot.

I loved the little phone holder located here.  It had a net so it could fit a variety of phone sizes.  Super convenient.
BirchBox, Women's.
Once underway, the FA came through distributing BirchBoxes, different versions for men and women.  BirchBox is a subscription service, where you pay a monhtly fee and get a box of 5 assorted beauty related samples delivered to you.  A bit random to get on our flight, as none were really travel related (aka, not hand lotion, lip blam, etc), but, a nice perk.
BirchBox, Women's: Contents.
Sadly, the BirchBox partnership ended in November.  On my subsequent flights, I was provided a Hayward amenity kit.

Food & Drinks - October 2016


As I settled into my seat, the FA stopped by to introduce me to my seat, explain the features, hand me a menu, and offer a pre-departure drink.  Rather than the standard water, orange juice, or champagne, she offered up their signature drink, the RefreshMint, available both with and without vodka.  I opted for with.
"Honey infused limeade with vodka and mint, garnished with a mint leaf."

Soon after, my drink was delivered, in a plastic cup, but a stylish one.  It really was refreshing and quite delicious, although honestly it tasted a bit watered down.  Probably not a bad thing.

Between the seats was a small space to set drinks, but they could not go side-by-side, which created some awkwardness with my neighbor, as he kept forgetting which was his and which was mine.

No welcome snack came with the drink.


Food Menu.
The menu was available online (on JetBlue's own site) before my flight, so I was able to check out my options in advance.  I really appreciated this.  

The lefthand side of the menu explained the dining philosophy, the partnership with Saxon + Parole (New York City restaurant), and the wine partner, Jon Bonné.  On the right was the meal options, with a single starter, choice of 3 (out of 5) small plates (2 cold, 3 hot), and fruit and ice cream.

The full menu:

Welcome Taste
It’s app-y hour!
Eggplant mousse: With pickled onion & eggplant relish, served with taro chips

Delish Dishes
Step up to the plate(s) & choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled. 
  • Baby gem Caesar salad: With haricots verts, parmesan cheese, chives, sourdough
  • breadcrumbs & yuzu dressing
  • Mediterranean roasted cauliflower: With pickled red onion, cilantro & pistachios
  • Braised chicken & Swiss chard: With parmesan polenta, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, quince chutney & crispy chestnuts
  • Pan-fried halibut: With fingerling gratin, sautéed white asparagus, red pepper sauce
  • & beet chips
  • Ribeye & horseradish mashed potatoes: With broccolini, roasted carrots, shallot & bordelaise sauce
Sweet Bites
Don’t desert dessert—enjoy both options, along with a hot espresso drink.
  • Seasonal fruit salad
  • Organic ice cream: Blue Marble Ice Cream, Brooklyn, New York
  • Cappuccino & espresso: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brooklyn, New York
When You Re-Treat
An edible parting gift – worth the wait!Freshly made confections: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery | A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York

I also could have pre-selected a special menu (again, all details available online!), in addition to the standard vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, kosher, etc menus, they also have a "Plane Eats" menu for those who want ... simpler food.  For my flight, that was mac and cheese, a cheeseburger slider on brioche, and veggies with hummus for the small plates, and a cherry tomato, mozzarella, and basil skewer for the appetizer.  I wished I could pick just the mac and cheese from that menu!  I don't really understand why they don't mix all the options onto one menu?

Anyway.  Once we took off, our orders were taken at our seats.  I went for the two veggie options and the chicken, which I know sounds strange since I hate chicken, but I liked the sound of the sides that came with it (cheesy polenta, roasted mushrooms, chestnuts ... all great things!).  If I intended to actually eat the main protein, I probably would have gone with the halibut, since I love halibut, but I assumed it would be dried out and fishy on the flight.  And while I didn't want the ribeye, horseradish mashed potatoes and a shallot bordelaise sauce sounded pretty great.
Drink Menu.
For drinks, in addition to standard soft drinks, coffee (Dunkin' Donuts), espresso drinks (Brooklyn Roasting Company), and tea (Teapigs, no roobios), we also had a single champagne, two white wines, and two red wines, several beers (including a cider (!) and a seasonal OctoberFest beer), and standard liquors.  I was impressed with the quality of the options, particularly the coffee and tea.

I had my share of sparkling water and Sprite Zero throughout.
Calera Chardonnay, 2014, Central Coast.
Josh Jensen’s Chardonnay is a study in balance and pleasure, ripe and complex. Made from a selection of top California vineyards, from Santa Clara to Santa Barbara, it’s redolent of ripe citrus fruit, with an aromatic lift -- think lemon verbena and warm winter spices.

I had no idea which wine to pick, so I just asked my FA for a recommendation.  She said the reds run out all the time and are big hits, but, she prefers the chardonnay.  That seemed like it would go better with my meal, so, I opted for it.

It was ... fine.  A bit harsh, not really as buttery as I'd like, but, fine.  A generous pour.

Welcome Taste: It’s app-y hour!

The "Welcome Taste" was delivered with our drinks.  No option here, besides if you wanted it or not.

I was in the last row (row 5), and our cabin was full, so service took a while.  The entire economy cabin received their drinks and snacks before I got anything.  Given our substantial delay, I was pretty much starving at this point.
Eggplant mousse with pickled onion & eggplant relish, served with taro chips.
I love, love, love taro chips, so I was pretty delighted to (finally!) get the starter.  The taro chips were as expected, pretty good, crunchy, slightly salty.  I devoured my little bag (how cute) in about 2 seconds flat.

The first one I dipped generously in the dip.  The dip ... I did not like, although it was very nicely presented.   Creamy eggplant mousse in the bottom that was too tart for me, with the pickled onion and eggplant relish that was even more tart and too acidic as well, plus some tiny little tomatoes.  The flavor profile and acidity was just all off on this.

I quickly discarded the dip, but really did love the taro chips.

Delish Dishes

Dinner service is designed as small plates.  The menu had 5 options: 2 cold, 3 hot, and I could pick up to 3.  Which of course, I did.  All were served together.

I liked that I had so much flexibility in my meal selection, and the options were fairly extensive: 2 veggie, 1 chicken, 1 fish, 1 meat, all with interesting sides.  Everything I had was well prepared and clearly a thought out dish.
After our starters were cleared, our tables were set with paper placemats before the trays were set down containing our selections.
Meal Tray.
Meal trays arrived with all three selections, plus salt and pepper shakers, a roll, and olive oil.
Bread and Olive Oil.
The roll was not warm, it was kinda hard, and very lackluster.

I didn't try the olive oil, but it was a cute little packet of oil that at least looked really fancy.
Baby gem Caesar salad with haricots verts, parmesan cheese, chives, sourdough breadcrumbs & yuzu dressing.
The first dish I went for was a  play on a caesar salad.  It was quite good.

The baby gems were fresh and crisp, and a nice change from standard romaine.  The green beans, er, haricot verts, were nice and snappy.  I really liked them at first, but near the end of the salad I was a bit sick of them.  I think there were just slightly too many beans compared to baby gems.  Still, an interesting addition to a ceasar.

I don't like sourdough, but I didn't detect any sourdough in the bread crumbs.  They added an interesting texture, quite different from croutons.  Since we had crunch from the beans, a crunchy crouton wasn't needed, so this was pretty interesting.

I really liked the huge shreds of parmesan, nutty and rich.

I didn't taste the yuzu in the dressing, but, the dressing was quite good, creamy, flavorful.

Overall, a very nice salad.  Fresh crispy veggies, flavorful cheese, perfectly dressed.  One of the best salads I've ever had on a flight, and really a nice spin on a classic.
Mediterranean roasted cauliflower with pickled red onion, cilantro & pistachios.
My next selection was the other chilled veggie dish, roasted cauliflower.

It was large chunks of roasted (orange?) cauliflower, over a paste I think made from pistachios, with pickled red onion wedges on the side, garnished with more pistachios and cilantro.

Unfortunately, I didn't like the spicing on the cauliflower, "mediterranean" spices.  The cauliflower was nicely cooked though, not mushy, and the portion substantial.  I think the spice blend just wasn't for me.

Everything else on the plate was tasty, I really liked the pistachio (?) paste under the cauliflower and the super tart and flavorful pickled red onions.  I added the red onions to my salad, which really amped up the flavor.
Braised chicken & swiss chard with parmesan polenta, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, quince chutney & crispy chestnuts.
And finally, my hot selection, the chicken.  It arrived piping hot, and stayed hot while I ate my cold dishes first.

This was more mixed together than I anticipated, but, I was still easily able to avoid the chicken, although, I'll admit, the chicken looked like it was probably pretty good if you like chicken, large chunks of mostly white meat.

On either end of the dish was braised swiss chard, which I really, really liked.  It was nicely cooked and seasoned, and I liked the slight bitterness.

Under the chicken, forming the base of the dish, was cheesy parmesan polenta.  I loved this.  Warm, creamy, cheesy, comforting.  Really the perfect thing to have on a flight.

Mixed in with the chicken was chunks of chanterelle mushroom, assorted sizes and parts of the mushroom.  These were only ok, a bit slimy, a bit too chewy.  There were also slices of chestnut, not quite what I was expecting (I'm used to chunks of chestnut, not sure why).  The chestnut wasn't "crispy" as advertised, but, it was fine.  I didn't taste much chestnut flavor though given the thin slices.

On top was the quince chutney that I didn't really like (I'm just not one for the spices that often go into chutney), and a fresh garnish of some kind of herb.

Overall, while I didn't actually want the chicken, there were some excellent components of this dish and I'm glad I selected it.

Sweet Bites

And finally, dessert, offered as our main trays were cleared.  I loved that the default option is to have both items, a fruit salad and ice cream, rather than picking one.  Unfortunately, the fruit salad contained watermelon, so I had to avoid due to my allergy.

Espresso drinks are also offered, shocking for a domestic flight.  They only had regular though, so I opted for decaf coffee, which was freshly brewed for me.  The espresso comes from Brooklyn Roasting Company, a partnership with a local New York business (their hub?).
Sea Salt Blue Marble Ice Cream.
"This buttery, decadent flavor blends organic caramel with sea salt from Brittany for a fleur-de-sel finish. The embodiment of "less is more", you won't find any corn syrup or artificial flavors here...just the best of Mother Nature."

Dessert was ice cream, from Blue Marble, another Brooklyn company.  I actually give JetBlue big kudos for this.  Why serve mediocre pastries or desserts when you can just have a fantastic ice cream option?  And fantastic this was.

The ice cream came as a individual serving in a cardboard cup.  No fancy plating, no toppings offered.  Minus a few points for that I guess, since other airlines (aka, AA) do make some pretty awesome ice cream sundaes in First Class.  But, the quality of the ice cream was so amazing, no topping were really necessary.

I had no choice of flavor, but they alternate between vanilla, chocolate, sea salt caramel, and seasonal specials.  I clearly lucked out, as we had the sea salt caramel.

It was just fantastic.  Delivered a bit solid, but I let it melt while my coffee was being brewed, and it quickly reached my ideal eating softness.  It was fluffy and melted really nicely.  Clearly premium ice cream.

The flavor was deep and rich.  Sweet, but not too sweet.  I didn't necessarily taste the sea salt, but, it was so good I didn't really care.

I loved this, and stopped just short of begging for a second one.
Decaf Coffee.
I believe the coffee was Dunkin' Donuts, as is served in economy, except it was freshly brewed, and served in a real mug.

It was fine, no decaf funk, but it did seem a bit watered down.

I asked for sweetener, and was offered my pick of Sweet 'N Low, Splenda, or Equal.  So many options!  The sweetener came in its own little dish.

Overall, the coffee was fine, although not great, and a nice pairing with my ice cream.  If I was stuck with only vanilla ice cream, it would make for a fine affogado.

When You Re-Treat

An edible parting gift – worth the wait! Freshly made confections.

This was listed as the final item in my menu.  A bit vague, but, I knew to expect a little box with some baked goods in it, sometime close to landing.  Ours came after the captain turned on the seatbelt sign and told us to start getting ready for landing.

Like the ice cream and coffee, this was another New York local business that JetBlue partners with to provide goodies on the flight, Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery, listed as "A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York".

I was of course a bit skeptical of packaged baked goods, but, basically as soon as I arrived at my hotel, I broke into my box of goodies.  And ... good they were!

A little aside: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery started as a wholesale bakery, a favorite of Tom Colicchio and uh, Oprah.  In addition to providing 'Wichcraft, Tom Colicchio's casual restaurant, and JetBlue, with treats, they now have a storefront (as of Fall 2016).  They produce a wide variety of baked goods, like pies, tarts, and cheesecake, plus bars of all kids (including a signature Mah-Ze-Dahr Bar with a oatmeal brown sugar cookie base, pecans, chocolate chunks, and brown butter salted caramel!), a large range of cookies, scones, breads, coffee cake, doughnuts, granola, even confections like marshmallows, toffee, and brittle.

Sadly I knew a brown butter pecan tart wouldn't possibly be hiding in my little box, but it sounds like an improvement on a favorite of mine, pecan pie.  I sorta hoped for the marshmallows, or a chocolate choux, or even the blueberry coffee cake so I could have it in the morning as a breakfast treat.  Alas, my box contained the more expected offerings of a cookie and a bar, but, both were far more exciting than the basic chocolate chip cookie and brownie I thought might be waiting for me.
Butter Pecan Shortbread. Brown Butter Blondie.
My box contained a bar (brown butter blondie) and a cookie (butter pecan shortbread), each individually wrapped, and a little card for a free pastry at the newly opened shop in NYC.  Given that my flight was to Boston, not NY, this was a little strange, but a nice gesture.

Brown Butter Blondie:
"Whoever said blondes have more fun must have been talking about our blondies. Butter browned to toasty, nutty perfection is mixed with brown sugar to create a chewy, decadent bar.  Unadorned in its perfection."

I am not generally one for bars, particularly brownies, but blondies do hold a special place in my heart.  I see them as an improvement on both bars and brownies, as they are more doughy, and usually more like a huge, under-baked cookie.

This was quite good.  It was soft and very sweet, with a slight bit of crunch from the chocolate chips.  The flavor was fairly complex though, not just sweet, which I guess is the brown butter aspect.  I think it would be amazing warm with some vanilla ice cream ... which certainly gives me an idea if I'm ever flying Mint again, and the ice cream is just vanilla.  Perhaps I could ask for my treat at the same time ...

These are sold online also, $18.00 for 6.

Butter Pecan Shortbread:
Butter cookies taken to the next level studded with roasted, buttered pecans. Sweet salty perfection.

These were good.  A nice buttery shortbread base, and I liked the chopped pecans.

Sold online for $15 for a dozen.

Food & Drinks - December 2016

Two months later, when I flew home for the holidays, I saw a Mint seat at a rate that was too good to pass up.  Oh, and I got a single suite.  I told you, I'm ruined.

The food wasn't as good on this flight though.


As before, I was offered the signature RefreshMint as I settled into my seat.  Since I loved it so much the first time, it was a no brainer to order it.  "With alcohol", my FA asked?   I smiled, and said, "of course!"

Honey infused limeade with vodka and mint, garnished with a mint leaf.

The RefreshMint was again great.  It really is refreshing, a bit sweet, a bit tart, and goes down quite easily.  I relaxed me into the travel experience nicely.

This one was a little less full than my previous one, but, not really a problem, I assure you.  I really like this signature drink.


Eastbound Lunch/Dinner Menu.
The menu format was the same as my previous flights: a starter, choice of 3 small plates from a list of 5 (2 cold, 3 hot), fruit and ice cream.  And as before, it was available online in advance, so I knew what I could pick from.

The options were decent, although I did almost decide to get the Plane Eats special menu, as it again had mac and cheese and a burger!  Instead, I did stick with the regular December Eastbound menu, as follows:

Welcome Taste
It’s app-y hour!
Goat cheese croquette With quince marmalade & watercress.

Delish Dishes
Step up to the plate(s) & choose three. Please note: The first two dishes listed below are chilled. 
  • Kale & sweet potato salad With dried cranberries, toasted walnuts & tahini dressing
  • Wheatberry & smoked almond couscous With feta cheese, golden raisins, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mint & parsley
  • Buttermilk fried chicken With a green cabbage & celeriac slaw
  • Spicy zucchini arancini With roasted garlic sauce, basil oil & parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • Butter poached lobster With poblano chili basmati rice & pickled pepper rings
Sweet Bites
Don’t desert dessert—enjoy both options, along with a hot espresso drink.
  • Seasonal fruit salad
  • Organic ice cream: Blue Marble Ice Cream, Brooklyn, New York
  • Cappuccino & espresso: Brooklyn Roasting Company, Brooklyn, New York
When You Re-Treat
An edible parting gift – worth the wait!Freshly made confections: Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery | A Colicchio Discovery, New York, New York

Once underway, our food and drink orders were taken.  I easily picked the two chilled salads, but had no idea what to do for my third choice.  All sounded equally meh.  In the end, I settled for the chicken, even though I don't like chicken, so I could have the slaw that came with it.

Welcome Taste: It’s app-y hour!

The "Welcome Taste" was delivered with our first round of drinks.  Again, no option here, besides if you wanted it or not.
Goat cheese croquette With quince marmalade & watercress.
I opted to get the welcome taste, even though it is goat cheese which I don't like, so Ojan could have it (and so I'd get a photo!).  I didn't try the goat cheese, but I did try the sauce.  It was quince marmalade, which reminded me of a mix between mango and tamarind chutneys (sweet and spicy).  I loved it, and I think it would go great with the fried cheese ball ... if I liked goat cheese.  I didn't see the watercress?

While this was a cute bite, I do prefer something to munch on, like snack mix, nuts, or the usual chips and dips that JetBlue has for Mint.
For my drink, in addition to my sparkling water and Sprite Zero (which I mix together into my favorite concoction), I also opted for a glass of wine.  I love that my FA brought me both full cans and a glass for mixing, once I told her what I was up to.

On this flight, since I had one of the single suites, I had more than enough space to pile my drinks, so it was no problem to have a ridiculous collection of beverages lined up.
Brea Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013, Paso Robles.
"Winemaker Chris Brockway relies on one of the Central Coast’s most special sites for Cabernet, an old, limestone-rich ranch at 1,000 feet elevation, cooled by maritime breezes. The result is sublime, full of hearty dark fruit but with a savory side — black mustard seed and bay laurel."
Since the wine list was the same as my October and November flights, and I tried the chardonnay and the pinot noir then, this time I went for the other red wine, a cab.

It was ... fine.  A bit too tannic and big for me.  But still not a bad wine.

Delish Dishes

As before, my main order came with the 3 dishes I selected, plus bread and a packet of oil.
Kale & sweet potato salad With dried cranberries, toasted walnuts & tahini dressing.
The salad had mixed greens at the base, plus chunks of kale.  The greens were all very fresh and crisp.  I don't love dried cranberries/raisins/etc, but they did provide a sweetness, tartness, and chew that I liked.  The walnuts were a nice crunch.

The dressing wasn't quite what I was expecting.  I thought it would be thick, and that I'd taste tahini.  But ... it was a thin vinaigrette that I really didn't taste much.

The sweet potato chunks were interesting, in that they were inconsistently cooked, but in a way that worked.  Some soft, some crisp, which just added some interest to it.

Overall, my favorite of my small plates.
Wheatberry & smoked almond couscous With feta cheese, golden raisins, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, mint & parsley.
They took some liberty with the term "couscous" here.  They just meant a grain salad ...

The wheatberries were well prepared, slightly crisp.  However, I'm not the biggest fan of feta, and that flavor overwhelmed.  I did like the sweet juicy golden raisins, and was impressed by the very fresh parsley and mint garnish.
Buttermilk fried chicken With a green cabbage & celeriac slaw.
This I ordered for the slaw.  I did try the fried chicken coating, but otherwise, gave it to Ojan.  The coating was ok, crispier than I'd expect on a flight, but, it didn't have any seasoning or real flavor.  And no sauce to dip the chicken in.

The slaw was kinda funny, served in a little plastic container on the side.  Given the nice plating of the other elements, it was a bit strange.  It was fine, fresh enough, crispy enough, not overdressed, but again, not very flavorful.

Sweet Bites

Dessert was offered after the meal, fruit salad and ice cream as always.  Since I have a melon allergy, no fruit for me.
Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream.
"Smooth caramel and French fleur-de-sel infused grass-fed dairy for this simply decadent treat."

I was hoping to get to try a new flavor of ice cream, but it was sea salt again.  I'm not really complaining though, because the sea salt was great last time.
With my own toppings!
And ... because I'm crazy, I brought my own toppings - sprinkles and chocolate pearls to add on top.  My FAs loved this.

The ice cream was again great, but needed significant time to get melty how I like it.  But it did melt nicely, and I just love the sweet butterscotchy flavor to this ice cream.

When You Re-Treat

An edible parting gift – worth the wait! Freshly made confections.

My parting gifts were also exactly the same as my previous flight.


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