Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Month: September 2016 Page 1 of 4

Wild Sweets


I was invited to a media event hosted by the lovely writer behind “Pork Ninjas”, food blogger and Instagram food personality. She had arranged a meet and greet between a few local bloggers and food photographers with the owners of “Wild Sweets”: Dominique and Cindy, highly acclaimed and well awarded chocolatiers.

“Wild Sweets” are already well known for their artisan chocolate bars, and they just expanded to desserts in a jars last year. And today, this year, they are bringing their own line of cakes to the dessert and entertaining market. We would soon get to try this entire collection, all within their newly expanded store and back of house operations. This is where their chocolates go from bean to bar, and where we would be learning about that very process.

As a disclaimer, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue. No one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.


Their commercial store was what you walked in to. Shelves lined the room, well stocked with their offerings and chocolates on every single one. Chocolate popcorn, chocolate marshmallows; and chocolate, candy, and fruit spreads. Chocolate truffles, chocolate coating various nuts. Boxes of chocolates themed and packaged in gift boxes.

They also offered and highlighted their cookbooks beside their refrigerator full of cakes in jars. Chocolate mousses, fruit tarts, and ice cream verrine. Each with three different flavours to pick through. Shame I wasn’t planning on heading home after, and they wouldn’t keep riding around in my car.

We followed the stencils of coffee beans that line the walk ways and creeped up the walls, to their backroom. There we meant the owners and were given a tour of the place. They wanted a room that would allow them to entertain and welcome guests like us in. For those they entertained to be able to taste the chocolate and appreciate it in its entirety.


This new space allowed them to do just that, while showcasing their work. Additional empty walls allowed them to collage their achievements and put it on display. There was an impressive amount of awards and glowing articles that they had accumulated. It had me feeling bad that I didn’t know who they were before this point.


Below their wall of fame were large white bins of coco beans. They were separated by origin with a place card and some information on its flavour notes. Beans from Peru, Mexico, and Venezuela. In a dish were the actual beans that you are encourage to smell and touch. There was a strong and diverse scent coming each, and you could tell the difference between them, if not where each one originated from.


Around the corner was their bean grinding operation. This is exactly where the bean to bar process came full circle. However we would not be able to see this process in action. But at least we could read about and imagine it with their numbered diagram. Sorting, roasting, winnowing, shearing, conching, aging, tempering, wounding, packaging, researching, testing. There were 11 steps in the process, 7 more than I believed there to be.


They had set up two tables and presented all the competed and photogenic cakes we would be tasting on it. I am not going to lie, I wish they did an introduction and then brought the cakes out after. As a foodie, you immediately swarm and want to take the best photo of each one, and often that is multiple clicks of your camera, from multiple angles. He encouraged us to take photos as he spoke, and it distracted me from taking the most out of our chocolate tour, especially given our host’s notoriety. But we were later able to taste the quality and care ourselves within each piece of cake and torte we had.

Admittedly I am not a fan of chocolate, so considering that my preference in desserts is without it, I may not be the best judge for this event. And even though we tasted each one of their cakes I don’t have a good recall of them all. One after another, and a few bites of each while standing, you truly don’t get to appreciate each cake in its entire beauty. That is why I will only offer flavours and photos, but won’t be able to go into as much detail as I normally do. Though I wish the toppings and the way the cake was decorated was more related to their ingredients. It would make ordering and the writing of this easier.


Our sampling began with the warm up of some chocolate flavoured tea. This would soon be a new feature and a new way to enjoy their chocolates. They used coco nibs and the husks for the brewing of the tea. And the one we had was furthered flavoured with lemon grass and lemon zest.


We started into the cakes with the “Cherry dark chocolate creme burlee gateau”. I found its cross section especially striking with its glittery pink layer, but you didn’t get much cherry from it. Instead it was very chocolatey with a bitter after note, and I personally wanted it sweeter.


The “Apricot with milk chocolate creme burlee gateau” was a chewy cake with a creamy topping and a crispy base. You got some caramel from the shell, but not much of the apricot.


The “Raspberry dark chocolate creme brûlée sabayon” had lots going on. It had a few crispy and creamy layers that got tart towards the bottom. But it was the top white, jelly-like layer that was my favourite for its texture.


The “Passion fruit milk chocolate creme burlee sabayon” was so tart that it over powered, even with all the varying layers. Otherwise it was similar to the above texturally.


“Apricot milk chocolate creme burlee Chantilly”. I liked the cake portion, but could have done with less cream. The flavour of the fruit was mild.


“Cherry dark chocolate creme burlee Chantilly”. Similar story as its sister cake above, but denser and less sweet with the dark chocolate used.


The “Venezuela Ocumare Intensely chocolate terrine” was the most stunning, and the most chocolatey.


Chocolate tarte macaron banana macadamia.


Chocolate tarte macaron chestnut pear.


Dark chocolate and passion cream cake.


Dark chocolate and raspberry cream cake.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
It is a little out of the way, but for chocolate lovers looking for something a little special, they are a great destination to trek to. I myself would like to try their desserts in jar, especially the ones featuring ice cream. Don’t deny your cravings.


Unit 2145 – 12191 Hammersmith Way, Richmond BC, V7A 5H2
Wild Sweets Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Peaches in Concert


Peaches Concert at the Commodore Ballroom

When my friend invited me out to a “Peaches” concert I didn’t know what to expect. I just figured a nice concert in a venue I have never visited would be a new experience. When I was younger I remembered watching a few “Peaches” provocative videos on YouTube, but never thought any more of it. I never imagined that fast forward, almost 20 years later, I would be watching her preform live in concert and loving it. I became an instant fan of the performer on this night.

When I told coworkers and friends that I was going to a “Peaches” concert and the name didn’t register, I described the artist as a more sexual “Lady Gaga”, before there was even a “Lady Gaga”. And she also did not disappoint in my description, in fact she one up-ed it.

Hailing from Toronto “Peaches” is a Canadian performer of electro-punk. “Her songs are noted for disregarding traditional gender norms, and for their use of sexually explicit lyrics.” (As taken off Wikipedia) A few of her more salacious single titles include “Diddle my skittle”, “Vaginoplasty”, “Tent in your pants”, “Slippery dick”, and “Stuff me up”.


We had plans before and made it to the venue just as the headliner was starting. We grabbed a drink to ease ourselves in. I didn’t know a single title to any of her songs, nor did I know any lyrics to sing along to, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to get excited by nostalgia. But I went in with an open mind and it did not disappoint. There were plenty of quick costume changes to keep your eyes glued on her. Though realistically you wanted your eyes on her to be able to take in each and every one of her provocative actions.

A body suit of purple shag, a shrug of dangling blond hair, a breast plate made of literal breasts with matching uniboob panties, a jacket of metallic boobs and sparkling nipples, and a pair of beige undergarment with rhinestone pubes. But what the crowd loved most was when she stripped down to her nude panties and showcase her bare breast, with flesh tone pasties covering the nipple.


Her performing like this was a lesson in self love and one’s own body appreciation. She let every inch of herself bubble and buckle without fear of judgement. Impressive for any one, but especially for a 48 year old women who looked like anyone of us. At one point she stood stooped, with boobs hanging she spun a gold chain around her neck letting it hoola hoop around and around, for a good chorus of her song. She has accepted herself fully and we in turn couldn’t only do the same. Who doesn’t respect a women who is so sure of herself. This was also the point I started respecting her and believing in the message that she stood for. It is her body and she will do as she likes with it. It is her mind and she can express it as she will. In this case with brazen lyrics coupled with taboo topics and images. As a male concert goer described it, “I felt embarrassed for her”. As a female, I was like “Yass Queen!”

And the imagery didn’t stop there, her background dancers and props were just as vivid and sensual. Her dancers were one man and one women. They dressed up as Vagina monsters wearing the sex organ as a mask over their heads. They gyrated in S&M gear with belts over their faces, chained to one another. And they acted out sex acts on each other and on “Peaches” as she bellowed. Cunnilingus and dry humps were common occurrences. My favourite part was when they were equipped with hair dryers and proceeded to lick the shaft of the blower like a cock, then use it to blow all over the face of “Peaches”, who by the way loved it.


As for the highlight of the concert, for me it was our headliner’s brazenness to crowd walk. She shouted for everyone to put their phones away and beckoned her front row fans to support her as she threaded on the palms of their hands. She was being held up and supported by her adoring fans as she stood erect and posed on her side.


Then there was the inflatable plastic balloon dick. A giant balloon that poked the crowd and everyone reached out to stroke. “Peaches” would later crawl into this inflated shaft and continue her performance within, supported by the hands of her fans once again. She concluded this song and segment with us, the crowd chanting, “dick, dick, dick”. Which just a happens to be an integral part of her song “Dick and Balls”.

What got the rest of the crowd most riled up was when she came on stage with nothing more than a hand towel shielding her nipple pasties. She would later use the towel to wipe herself down in the most vivid way possible. She dabbed herself under her boobs with it, she unzipped her high waisted shorts and used the towel to dry between her crack. She even dug deep between her legs to wipe away the moisture collected there. The towel then went flying into the crowd. Hands rose in the air to receive a portion of her bodily fluids. This would repeat another time, for another lucky concert goer to get a one of a kind keep sake of their time with “Peaches”. I would not reach for it. I was not interested in this kind of memorabilia, just like how I wasn’t interested in getting champagne “jizzed” on when she shook a bottle into the crowd, and again when she took a gulp and spat it out over the first few rows.


What I appreciated about her performance was the ability for fans and first time concert goers like myself, to both enjoy her concert together. She was a performer first and foremost, and it was a bonus that she had the vocals to fill an intimate setting like the Commodore Ballroom. She engaged the audience and had them participate. She gave two encores, the last of which performed in the dark of a strobing light. And even if you didn’t know all her songs you were able to sing along to a few. Some had choruses that were more like chants. Once you knew the words you too could feel like you belonged: “Dick and balls” and “Fuck the pain away”.


The only down side to the night had to do with the venue and the audience. One of the bartenders tried to short change me by deciding his own tip. He gave me $2 less than expected and didn’t think I would notice. I did and decided to let him have his ill gotten tip. I would later regret this when I took a sip of our watered down gin and tonics, and tasted just water and flatten soda. And worse still, this was suppose to be a double that I paid $10 each for. We would have been better off with a 5% bottle of beer. Needless to say I wasn’t the least bit tipsy, which would have only helped me cope with the scene below.

And then there where the ticket holders who didn’t know the concept of personal space. Who pushed and shoved their way in front of you, and the would lean back on you for physical support, they would spill your drink, and dance not considering the limited space everyone had. Then again, I can’t expect much given that the concert wasn’t a seated event and its first come first serve, and everyone had the right to be where they wanted. Even if it meant stepping on my toes to do so. A mini fight broke out, and “Peaches” stopped with show to address it. She told those arguing to stop it and move away from those who don’t like you.

This was one of the most entertaining concerts I have ever been too. And it was a pleasure to write about on my transit ride home. I will definitely love to see her in concert again, if I get the chance. This was truly one of a kind spectacle from start to finish. It ended only after an hour or so, but she doesn’t have a lot of material, so all things considering this was amazing. She is still very spry for a 48 year old women, teaching everyone to love themselves as she was so open and honest with her own body. She definitely has no limits and you never know what she is going to do. So if you get a chance, I suggest catching her Friday show. If you can get tickets, it is well worth the $40. Thank you David P. for reintroducing her to me.



Cardero’s Restaurant


The sun had set on our Coal Harbour Cocktails on the Patio crawl, but we weren’t ready to turn in for the night. So “Picky Diner” and I were in search of a patio that would keep us warm. Walking past, we saw the glow of one such patio belong to “Cadero’s”. And lucky us, there was a queue to dine in, but they were more than happy to serve us right away on their now darkened patio.


Given the darkness and the limited visibility of the water and surrounding buildings, past the barrage of boats at bay; we were happier by the warmth of the hearth, than by the cold of the railing. So we claimed a romantic table right by their stone fireplace and used its glow to illuminate our scene.


And there was no more a fitting cocktail for our perch than the “Summer sunset” made with Alize, citron vodka, prosecco, strawberry purée, and lemonade concentrate. It was impressive to learn that they press all their juices fresh everyday and that you could taste the quality of it in their cocktails. Our “summer sunset” was like drinking a fruity cake with plenty of fine, sweet citrus notes.


And the “Grapefruit bourbon sour” was a nice compliment to it. Made with Jim bean bourbon, grapefruit liqueur, Cointreau, grapefruit juice, and lemon juice. It was on the sweeter side as well, but you definitely got some after notes of the sourness from bourbon as well.


We were started off with some complimentary bread and butter. Still warm, the butter melted on contact. This got us hungry, and at this point we were tired of grazing.


So we decided to share an entree between us. The “Cajun lingcod with the citrus ginger butter”. It was served split into two servings without us asking for it. As a food blogger this was a shame for us, we wanted the full experience: the plate as it was intended for our photos. But from a customer service standpoint, with a more practical approach, their gesture went over and beyond to make our dining with them enjoyable. And the one plate divided into two gave each person a full serving of side vegetables and rice. So that was nice. The fish was very well seasoned with a delicious rub. Just a hint of spice paired with some classic and simple flavours. The “wok fried rice” was similar to a Chinese fried rice, but without egg and with less oil. This was a non flashy plate of well prepared comfort food.



Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Another restaurant that I need to revisit and try more at, in order to better evaluate it. I would also like to return during the day to take in the sights of their patio, or to dine in surrounded by their well decorated dining area with cohesive nautical theme and fully open kitchen with bar seating. Don’t deny your cravings.


1583 Coal Harbour Quay, Vancouver, BC
Cardero's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lift Bar and Grill


“Picky Diner” and I were jumping from location to location and this would be the second destination for our third round of drinks, on our impromptu Coal Harbour Cocktails on the Patio Crawl. “The Lift” is a restaurant that is known for its view, with the name that promises and delivers on a boost, to make you one of the best. It is located at the further most point of the Seawall walk, and at this end, it gave you a look back and the distance you travelled to get here.


Located on the second floor we travelled past their dining room surrounded by windows, a glowing blue fish tank, and two large pears by the staircase. I felt the latter was out of place, but still worth capturing in photo given their novelty size.


The stairs lead up to the patio. A rectangular fireplace greets you at the top of your climb. It’s flames dance between glass. Above, a few sheets straightened and suspended blocks out and limits the sun’s rays. Although majority of it gets you in the eyes.


But through tinted glasses you are able to take in a brushing of colours in the opposite direction. A pastel gradient that transitions from a hot orange to a fluorescent pink, with shades of purple to blue mingling in between. And in the distance, the moon, a small sphere of light, climbing its way up the city’s skyline. This was the backdrop to our third round of cocktails, so we choose some bold colourful drinks to match.


The “Cypress mountain” was described to us as a Pimm’s cup with a twist. Tanquerary, pimm’s cucumber, and mint; topped with ginger beer. It was refreshing with a faint flavour of cucumber.


The “Blue bumble bee” was a Van Gogh blueberry vodka with limoncello, bremner’s blueberry juice, and honey. I imagined it being grape based on its colour, but it was more like juice, light for a martini, and easy to drink with the honey.


With it we paired a plate of their “Lamb cheeks” with celeriac purée, caramelized onion, and mushroom to snack one. We were surprised how fast the dish came and fragrant is was. The lamb was so buttery, and evenly coated in its light jus. I just wish that there was more of it. But we had another stop to make and couldn’t afford to indulge in more with the sun’s setting approaching fast.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The restaurant is a little out of my way, but worth the trek for the view. I would however have to explore the menu some more before I could give a more definitive review. Don’t deny your cravings.


333 Menchions Mews, Vancouver BC, V6G 3H5
Lift Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Seawall Bar & Grill


Sangria Challenge at the Westin Bayshore.


You know you have made the right choice in friends when they are the judge to a sangria contest, and they bring you as their plus one!

Joking aside, I was dining with “Picky Diner” today as he held this very important role of helping to judge this year’s Vancouver Foodster’s Sangria challenge. It is where a few restaurants and bars all over the city are invited to enter in their most creative sangria cocktails, to be judged and named the winner over them all. This friendly competition ran from September 1-25, 2016, and was open for anyone to stop by any restaurant to try.

This year there were seven creations brought up to the docket, and you as the diner would vote on your favourite, to win the “people’s choice” sangria. To do so you were asked to consider original versus the traditional and reflect on who had taken a new and unique twist that worked.

Once again, I was lucky to be dining with one of Vancouver’s most acclaimed food bloggers, and one of this year’s judges: “Picky Diner”. He had chosen the “campfire” sangria at the “Westin Bayshore” for our date and I made sure to dress for the occasion.

Our destination was located within the “Westin Bayshore Hotel”. Walking through it I expected grandiose features of a 4.2 star hotel. I didn’t get any of it to the extent I was expecting, but it did deliver on the promise its name spelled out: a view by the bay.


You wouldn’t necessarily think to visit their restaurant if you weren’t staying here. There weren’t any signs or advertisements inviting you to stop by, but we were well received when we walked in. We traveled down a hall with retails shops and a Starbucks on either side, we didn’t even know the restaurant’s name until it stared us back in the face: “Seawall Bar & Grill”. Then the stand up banners lining the entry way, with high definition food photography, helped to entice us the rest of the way there.

The space was text book hotel: simple, clean, linear, and you could date the place based on its carpet. The foyer opened up to a neutral dining area in brown and grey. But we were ushered past the tiled floor of the bar. A few men were lined up by it, watching a sporting match on their single television screen.


We further travelled passed the speckled carpet, white walls, and a lack of art or anything ornate, of the dining room. Although the glass walls that surrounded it offered more than enough in greenery and blue waters further back.


We were seated on the patio, and it was declared the best seat in the house, only the best for the judge. (This is probably the closest I am going to ever feel like a celebrity: by association) our table had a clear view of the pedestrian walkway and bike lane, trees transitioning their leaves from green to orange, and the water’s edge with boats at dock. The sun was out and this was the perfect place to enjoy our refreshing sangria at.


The “campfire” sangria was created by Jon Dewsbury using Synchromesh Riesling, Sons of Vancouver Amaretto No.82, Sons of Vancouver chili vodka, Jaral de berrio mezcal, herradura reposado, house made orange bitters, soda water, blackberries, raspberries, a sprig of mint, and a lemon twist.

I appreciated the visual of it. With the clear liquid, ice, and glossy fruit, it looked like a drink of crystals in a glass. It also looked to refreshing to associated with fire, but you got its name from the slight after burn tickling you at the back of your throat. The sensation was reminiscent of the warmth of a campfire. The drink was also more smokey thanks to the use of tequila, and less sweet with minor Riesling. For that extra sugar, you could muddle the fruit up some more.


With the drink we were also gifted their fish of the day in the form of flour tortilla tacos. This was off the menu and made especially for us. The pan fried, golden brown halibut was topped with house made pico de gallo, roasted corn, guacamole, and a jalapeño lime dressing. It was a well balanced, refreshing taco that was complimentary to our drink and our outdoor conditions. Pretty standard.

We were enjoying ourselves, the space, and the friendly staff enough, that we decided to stay a little longer: with a couple more drinks and a another share plate on our own dime.


“Mooney’s Bramble” with long table cucumber gin, chambord, honey, and lemon. The cocktail reminded me of a spiked sno-cone with all the crushed ice that topped it. It’s a drink you have to down fast, in order to not have the melted ice dilute it. Not the type of drink I would order again, as you don’t feel like you have drank much of it, yet you are quickly left with a cup full of ice.


We went for the “Rose will pear apart” because our server claimed we weren’t going to find anything like it anywhere else. This was a combination of pear infused Bacardi, lime, raspberry purée, cloudy apple juice, and rose water. Visually I had hope for some rose petals to garnish the drink, and more of a rose flavouring in the actual drink, after all you were able to smell it wafting from the glass. The strawberry slices was pretty, but out of place considering it was raspberry and apple fruit that made it into the glass. You get plenty of the vodka, but none of the pear.


We tried their “poached prawns”, being entranced over the idea of their “Sons of Vancouver chilli vodka compressed pineapple” that came with the prawns, whipped smooth avocado, and refreshing cucumber salsa. The plate was simple like the dish’s flavours. The prawn was slightly overcooked, but still tasty. Together with the sides it was like a deconstructed ceviche. But they had built the pineapple up so much, that when we found it no different then thinly sliced of the fruit, we were heavily disappointed.

Of note, as is the case with most hotel restaurants, their washroom is a trek, located in the hotel’s lobby.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
The restaurant was nice enough and the area was plenty pretty. But I don’t normally visit a hotel’s restaurant for food, unless it is something special, and has something unique luring me in. To be honest, if it weren’t for the sangria challenge, I couldn’t ever seen myself visiting. But if in the area again, I would not be against a drink on their patio, on a warm summer’s day again. It was the view that makes them stand out, and it is their scenery that made everything tonight come together and pop. Don’t deny your cravings.


The Westin Bayshore
1601 Bayshore Drive, Vancouver BC, V6G 2V4
Seawall Bar & Grill - Westin Bayshore Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Benkei Ramen


I was tired. I cancelled on exercise, in exchange for a dinner date instead. The weather was chilly, I was in flannel, I just wanted to sit still and be warm. Looking for ramen, but out of downtown this is what pinged. We were a little worried about their overall three star “Yelp” review, but after reading a few four star ones, and visiting their online presence, we were convinced to give them a try.

This was a smaller shop on Broadway, but they seemed like a popular destination with a good rotation of people already seating and coming in and out around us. The interior was a maze of wooden seats, with nooks and crannies, and tables set practically side by side. We were originally seated at a cramped two top separated from another, by a few parallel bamboo rods with gaps in between, it felt like we were caged in. We later moved over to their u-shaped booth. I preferred this seating arrangement for its authenticity. It reminded me of the set up at one the Japanese fast food places in visited in Tokyo. The u-shape counter allowed servers to easily take orders and deliver dishes without needing to walk more than a straight shot back and forth from kitchen pass to dining area. And when catching up with a girl friend, I much rather sit side by side, instead of face to face anyways. It makes the exchange more comfortable. So this booth was optimal seating for me.


Between each of the seats was a self serve container of wrapped chopsticks and napkins. And beside it, a tray with a couple of seasoning shakers and toothpicks. I appreciated the ease of everything before you, and that in between diners, the servers took the time to wipe down everything, even emptying the caddy and tray and giving them a once over.


The fully coloured and photograph-full menu was easy to navigate. If the list of ingredients were hard to decode, the photos made it clear. And if you wanted a little more you can pick and choose extra toppings at an extra cost, or get a little more of what was already in the bowl. We of course had to add on a boiled egg half for 60 cents, it surprisingly didn’t already come with our bowl of noodles. I was tempted by the advertised option of having Parmesan cheese grated over my noodles, but I didn’t need the extra decadence.


My guest wanted something light, so went for the “Tori-Shio Ramen”. It is chicken broth ramen with spinach, bamboo shoots, nori, green onion and grilled chicken. And to it she added on egg and some sweet corn kernels. This clear soup was a little oily, but it did the job of warming you to the core.


I went for something more rich with the “Akaoni Ramen” and our server’s recommendation. This was her favourite, and not as spicy as the deluxe version I was actually leaning towards. This was a thicker broth than above, with noodles, pan-fried minced pork, green onion, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, and their special roasted garlic oil and roasted sesame mixture. It was a flavourful bowl and I have no complaints.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Everything was good, I wouldn’t be apposed to coming back for more, and to try their curry noodles and their curry beef on rice. But there just wasn’t anything to have what we had stand out, or for me to see them as a destination. Though they do make a great ramen stop out of downtown Vancouver. Don’t deny your cravings.


545 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V5Z 0B4
Benkei Ramen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Camping 2.0


Camping at Lake Callaghan
My partner traded in his truck for an SUV, and we were excited to break it in with today’s camping trip. A drive on bumpy roads that my family sedan can’t take. Now new paths and trails for exploration were open to us. Like when you play a video game and you don’t have the right equipment to access additional rooms or dungeons in the early stages, but you come back later at a higher level to replay it. This was us now. This was Vancouver wilderness unlocked.


We have travelled to Whistler many times, stopping at the Olympic high jump area several of those times, always to search for black bears. Today we would go further down this route to meet Callaghan Lake.


This trip required a drive down a long and winding road. Unpaved, there were many pot holes to avoid as you zig and zag on and off the only available, dusty path. 10km of bouncing up and down because the shocks on the SUV was out. I get motion sickness, so concentrating on our end destination helped. Looking forward to an expansive mountain range, crystal blue waters, volcanic rocks, and ever green pines helped.


The nausea was worth it. The scenery belong on a “Welcome to Canada” postcard. It is the backdrop to those photos Instagram stars take. You know the ones where you stand looking forward at the scene unfold around you, and someone takes a photo of you from behind. You look small and insignificant compared to the vast waters and the towering mountains. We took a few of those. How can you not considering how little traffic goes through these parts? How little people take the effort to make the trip and to stay the night. It made us feel fortunate.


Aside from the one of a kind view and the ability to reconnect with nature, the outdoor activities are also what brings us out here.

Today we borrowed a paddle board and paddle and would try our hand at it. It was a nice activity, but not necessarily for either of us. Nor was the sport’s equipment something we would invest in ourselves. So today was a great opportunity to check one off the “tried it” bucket list.


I naturally have bad balance so standing up on the board was a test in itself. And we made the mistake of thinking two could ride the board at once. I grabbed a seat at the helm with my partner rowing. My presence rocked the boat and the water that splashed on us was a chilling cold. This made the fear of falling in all the more scarier. I can swim, but just wading in the water made by feet numb, so I could only imagine falling face first.


We decided this was definitely a one person sport. I managed to get a few shallow laps around. But there was a point in my paddle where I feared not being able to turn myself around, and going to too far out, to only end up being stranded. But I survived.

My partner was a little more adventurous, and was rewarded with some spectacular views for his bravery.


I on the other hand, more enjoyed the company of the wildlife. Especially in the companionship of a black fuzzy caterpillar crawling on my hand and some oversized mushrooms.


We ended our session for lunch. My partner bought a grill and marinaded some chicken to cook over it. This was a nice surprise and an upgrade from our usual just hot dog and bun. And it was easy to prepare with the tongs we brought from home.


He grilled the chicken, hot dog wieners, and buns to a slightly blackened crisp. It was hard to perfect the grill time and position. But this time around he also got a new cooler and in it he packed ketchup and relish, which help to mask any of the acrid burn taste. Food is better cooked over a fire and eaten out in the open like this.


After, we utilized what daylight we had left to gather some more firewood for our evening’s campfire. We scoured the entire campground in search of fallen branches and dry logs, anything we could use to start a flame. We had the lighter and used toilet paper as kindling, but wood to burn was hard to find. Luckily my partner came prepared with an ax, and we lucked out on being able to claim some wood logs that previous campers had left behind. But this would not be enough. A drive and a walk through brush offered little. So we made do with a couple hour’s worth of fire.


We roasted cheese filled hot dogs over our flame and broiled marshmallow for dessert, all while enjoying a couple of beers.


The fire kept us warm, but we needed the moon only for light. It was especially bright out. There was enough moonlight to light up the camp ground and give you visibility. While we were enjoying it, we chatted up a photographer who said that he was here yesterday and with the extra light from the moon tonight, he was unable to capture the milk way using his camera, like he did the day before. Shame, I would have loved to see the glow of the Milky Way, something we do at home, given all the bright lights of the city.

When we ran out of beer and wood, we turned in to the most uncomfortable night’s sleep either of us ever had.


This is only my second time camping. We do it for only one overnight at a time. I don’t think either of us could last any more than the one night. Especially since this time around, we forgot our pillows and blankets. I can sleep without the former, but my partner already struggles with falling asleep, so he needs both, and without it, this would be one of his worse sleeping attempts to date.

We brought our tent and intended to do as before, but without blankets, there would be no way we could last shivering in a plastic bag. Instead we rolled our mattress out into the back seat of our SUV, at this point I really started liking our new vehicle trade. We remove the mattress pad off our bed and bring it with us when we plan on camping. It allows us the comfort of home, away from home. Cause if you know me, I don’t do well in nature as it is, anyway to ease me in I will take it

So it was comfortable, but the cold made it unbearable. We dawned on all our layers and used a towel and scarf as a makeshift blanket. I wore two pairs of pants and four layers over my torso, but that was not enough. We ended up turning on our SUV and letting the engine run and the heater blow. Preheating the vehicle before we crawled in gave us a bubble of warmth to fall asleep too. But we would later wake up and have to repeat this cycle a few times over. This was hands down our worst night of sleep ever. I didn’t realize until today that blankets were such a necessity.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it. Having to once again urinate outdoors takes the cake. This was an actual camp site, so there was a shared gender out house. But attempting a visit, I deemed it better to pee into nature, as our human ancestors once did, how cerebral. Luckily we brought the toilet paper I would need. We bought a couple of rolls with our beers, as we knew there would be a night of heavy drinking ahead. And that is why I like camping, the ability to drink and get drunk in a new and exciting setting.

But back to public urinating. After my first camping overnight, I pretty much got the hang of it, using our head lamp light to help guide my way. What I wasn’t prepared for was stepping into human excrement in flip flops. I save going for the last possible moment and often that mean rushing to pull my pants down and squatting to get the job done. This time my eagerness had me not looking where I was threading. I happened on a ditch that everyone seemed to be using. You could tell with the collection of soggy and decomposing white toilet paper. Needless to say, I finished quick and bee-lined it to the water’s edge to wash my feet and shoes, and later found myself a new spot. That is a first for me.


I never fully understood the allure of camping. The need to be one with nature and to strip yourself of all your modern comforts. We work so hard and beat ourselves up trying to earn enough money for a big home and a good car, only to trade those conveniences for a weekend slumming it. It seems counter productive, especially when you have to buy supplies like a tent, ax, and chairs; like we did. But I guess that is how you show that you live a comfortable life. That when you cast away all that comfort it is an enjoyable change of pace for you. So how bourgeoisie of us to be here, right now, in this moment, enjoying ourselves. But after watching the sun set and it rise again over the mountains, you forget all of that, and are just thankful to have the opportunity to be out her and to see Mother Nature on her day to day.


When we look back and relive it through photo, we regain a glimmer of what you did and what we saw, and look forward to being able to go camping again, next year when the weather once again warms up. But for now, it is fall and we have put all our gear in storage.

Amato Gelato Cafe


We heard rumours of a Viagra flavoured gelato and we came here to see and try it for ourselves.

During summer this cafe is a hot spot for creamy gelato and smooth sorbettos when in the Olympic Village, but during the cooler months they operate more popularly as a coffee shop with various hot beverages and pre-made sandwiches and pastries.

On this warm day everyone was here for a cooking treat. All the doors were propped open and you got a good look into their shop. The same metal tables and chairs outside also found their way indoors. There was ample seating, but most found it just as easy to take their cold treat on the road. Just like your ability to take one of their many branded pints to go, or one of their ice cream cakes for any occasion. All available in one of their help-yourself grocery store refrigerators.


You pay first before tasting or trying. We both decided on double scoops. In case the Viagra wasn’t as good as we had hope, we would have another flavour to fall back on.

There were three showcases full of gelato and the opportunity to taste a few of them. It was hard to narrow the tastes down let alone the flavour you wanted. Orange creamsicle, maple with water buffalo milk, white chocolate pomegranate, and raspberry champagne; to name a few of the more interesting ones that caught my eye.


In the end I went for the Viagra sorbetto and durian gelato in a red sprinkle topped, chocolate sugar cone. The Viagra had the same hue as the famous little blue pill. I have never tried the medicine, but it’s sorbetto was tangy with a fake citrus-like finish; medicinal taste that I could imagine as the flavour of the pill. Not abrasive, but nothing you need to revisit

Apparently the story is that the owner takes the pill himself and thought it would be interesting to make the flavour into an ice cream. It worked, as it was the main reason why we were down here. It was an interesting taste, but quite the commitment to finish. Sadly, one that I couldn’t complete. Like the a pill you don’t mind the taste, but really can’t have more than a few licks of it. And unlike real Viagra, you don’t want its taste (effects) to last.

The durian flavour was accurate to a tee. It was as pungent as the fruit, and needed to be covered with a plastic shield to ward its scent from affecting the other flavours. This needs to be a taste that you love. For me, it was definitely the better of the two. Sweet and creamy like the real fruit, and just as rich. I found myself burping the flavour of durian hours to come.

The cone was definitely a highlight. This is one of the longest and most perfectly straightened cones I have ever seen. It was also crispy with a great accenting crunch. The perfect pairing with any of their gelatos. I wish it was better advertised. If I didn’t notice the colour tucked away on the shelf, I could have missed out on this delight.


My guest too got the Viagra sorbetto, but paired it with their Cappuccino gelato instead, and in a cup. The latter was a vanilla based ice cream with the flavour of espresso and the crunch of cookie throughout. Once again, the back up ice cream proved a good idea, as it was the better tasting of the two.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
Not a destination for ice cream, or my first choice. If it weren’t for the Viagra, I don’t think I would have found myself here today. However when in the neighbourhood, they make a perfectly great pit stop for the cold stuff. Don’t deny your cravings.


78 East 1st Avenue, Vancouver BC, V5T 1A1
Amato Gelato Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bao Down Gastropub & Raw Bar


I have been meaning to try this one of a while now, so to walk in, wade past the plumes of smoke, and to hear that they had a problem with their kitchen; had me setting myself for a deep disappointment. The smokey air was due to a poor ventilation issue, but it would soon be resolved.

This is their newest and second location, in Olympic Village. It comes a lot more space covered in a lot of varnished wood. A lengthy family style table centred the room between booths on either ends. Above them all were wood blocks holding bulb after protruding bulb, with several more strung together by black cable. Yet somehow the room was still fairly dim in an orange tint.


But what really catches your attention is their mural of a bull and an elephant painted in several swatches. Each mammals was endowed with colourful mounds of sinew and muscles, and on it homages to their restaurant and the community that supported them.

The bar was to its right, and this was what I was eyeing. We stayed and started our meal with drinks, to give the kitchen time to recoup. We were super excited to try their homemade Thai ice tea, but sadly it had gone sour. The bar manager took the time to walk to our table to tell us this, grievously.


Instead I went for their “Coconut C.R.E.A.M.” cocktail instead. It is prepared with coconut ciroc, coconut water, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and an egg white foam. This was a nice tropical drink, similar to a watered down piña colada. It had a lovely sweeter finish, thanks to the foam that topped it.

Their food menu was fairly diverse, they offered all sorts of delicious sounding Pan Asian dishes. (This is definitely my type of food.) All your favourite dishes from in and around Asia was represented between these pages. Their take on Halo Halo from the Philippines, a green papaya salad and pad Thai from Thailand, they represented Vietnamese cuisine with their style of crispy chicken and the use of fish sauce and banh mi, the nod to Hawai came with their poke and their “luau” crispy pork belly, the kimchi flavoured fries were for Korea, and the use of nori (seaweed) and the tuna tataki dish were for Japan.


I appreciated their use of puns, like “fly rice”, it played tribute to their love of 90’s hip hop; along with the many classics playing over ahead, and the menu’s unique cover. Not many restaurants play hip hop, and as one of my preferred genres, I take note. Snoop Dogg, N.W.A., Biggie, and Jay-Z; to name a few. The 90’s themed also carried on to the movie posters that were plastered along the hall, enroute to the washroom. As a 90’s baby I too appreciated this.

Oysters were on special and heavily captured on their social media, as part of their “raw bar”. However, I wouldn’t necessarily think to order them here, especially given how many of the fully cooked dishes that were worth trying. It was hard for us to narrow down our choices.


The “Fly Hawaiian poke” gave you your choice of ahi tuna, albacore tuna, salmon, or tofu as the main protein. You also got to choose your sauce between Sesame-shoyu, gochu jang-miso, or coconut ceviche. We ordered based on our honest server’s recommendations. Ahi in a sauce made from the combination of the first two. We wouldn’t even though that was a possibility, had we not asked her. Although we did lean towards the coconut option out of curiosity, but it felt like a specific flavour to have to commit to. What we had instead was a well seasoned, perfectly salted poke with pops of tang. Tender fish meets melt in your mouth avocado for a creamy and citrusy finish. I wanted to, but couldn’t taste the compressed pineapple mentioned in the line up. The oily sheets of flimsy nori and the airy rice cakes were meant as base, but I didn’t find that they added anything to the already tasty poke, besides texture. It was hard to scoop fish and avocado on to seaweed, and the rice puffs reminded me of the sensation of gnawing on dry styrofoam.


My guest had never tried bone marrow before, so we decided to try their marrow with an herb, butter, and shrimp topping. Bone marrow, gulf prawns, garlic scrape butter, panko herb crumb, and banh mi. I always thought that “banh mi” meant “sandwich”, when in reality it refers to the “bread”. It was an oily and tough segment of French bread. Though, I didn’t mind the extra lubricant, as you didn’t get any of the natural oil from the bone marrow. It was more a burnt cheese and shrimp dip served in a hollowed out bone boat. Disappointing for me and a sad first try of bone marrow for my guest.


The many descriptives and the long winded name for their chicken wings hid them on the menu. “Locally sourced, local, organic, free range, free run, antibiotic free, hormone free, unvaccinated, and socially adapted chicken wings”. To me they were just honey garlic flavoured wings with a thick crispy breading. Good, but not worth all its titles.


They are named after, and better known for their white flour baos. So we went for their most popular, the “Bao chicka Bao Bao”. Garlic and lemon grass fried chicken, daikon, carrot, crisp garlic, fish sauce glaze, and garlic mayo. All the flavours meshed well together, but there was not enough meat for all the dough, and too much pickled tang from the vegetable and mayo without more of it. Luckily our chicken wings above were useful for an easy fix here. They also tasted better with the accompaniments.


Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The food was more fun than memorable. The ideas were well conceived and I wanted them to tickle my tastebuds more. However like their plates, their descriptions were bigger than they needed to be. Although I was slightly let down, they still served well as a lively place to share a few appies at. And a comfortable place to sit and chill with a mixed drink, a few snacks, and the golden age of hip hop. Don’t deny your cravings.


115 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver BC,
Bao Down Gastropub & Raw Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Update: September 25, 2016

Dispite not responding to any of the outrage or outcry on their Facebook event page, and removing the ability to make comments and rate the event, Bacon-Con organizers have made attempts to make reparations to the fans of bacon who are feeling wronged.

Still feeling disappointment from the day before, I came back down to the PNE, on their second day, to see about getting my money back. There, I found out that they were not only refunding drivers for event parking, but also all event goers who came in with their tickets were getting their money back. The event now has no admission cost, and if you are going, you will be doing so to support the vendors. You will still need to pay for your sample sizes portions, but at least the money goes to those who have been caught up in the middle of it all.

My tickets were purchased as a gift, ones that I had paid my benefactor back for as I had originally suggested the event and was feeling bad that it was my fault that we came down in the first place. Luckily they had no issue in refunding me my money on to any payment card.

My question is, had I not come down and ask for my money back, would they have reached out to me and given me what I was owed? Would there be an apology and explanation issued? Or would the money just show up, back on to the credit card that was used, that isn’t mine, without any notification to let me know?

So in short, if you have tickets and were planning to go, you should still. It is now free admission and you pay for what you want, without the need to wait in line, as most have been scared away by the negative press.

-don’t deny your cravings~


Vancouver’s first ever bacon convention.


I was looking forward to this event. As soon as I heard of it, I knew I wanted to attend. When else do you get to be surrounded by like minds craving the chewy and salty goodness that is bacon? I imagined bacon in strip, bits, and pieces. Bacon wrapped around other meats and maybe even with vegetables? Bacon candied for desserts and bacon used to flavoured everything else imaginable. But what is suppose to be a happy review here, is now an angry open letter to the organizers of this event. Myself, like many others who attended, are demanding that we get our money back. We want a full refund for this poorly planned, ran, and executed con (and that is not short for convention).


This is the first year that the city is hosting its own Bacon Convention, at the PNE Forum. We bought our $25 per ticket online. I found them costly, but their website advertised that the fee came with a free collector’s mug and two tokens per person, so I figured it would even out. I imagined a nice beer stein and the ability to try four different items between two. What we got was two plastic shot glasses and four vouchers, when most things needed 3-4.

The cost of items was not mention on their website, or explained to us when we entered. And we didn’t know this was the case when we got in and joined the line to collect our free tickets, and buy 5 more. We bought 5 more tickets at a dollar each, thinking that we could now try 9 items between us two. But we only ended up being able to afford 3 small bite size tasters. Another point not mention on the site was the portion sizes. So we essentially paid $55 plus tax, for two for samples.

As a comparison, at “Eat! Vancouver”, Vancouver’s popular food convention, tickets are $15 per person and with it you get a bunch of samples and numerous freebies. Your admission has plenty of value, you leave feeling like you actually got your money’s worth. I know the size of one to the other hardly compares, but if such an impressive convention is asking for $15 for general admission, a convention wanting $25 should be giving you more, no?


Walking to the entrance and having to line up, then walking into the threshold to join another line, we already knew that this wasn’t going to be what we expected. There were no decorations, no posters, no fun. It hardly felt like they were excited about bacon, let alone that this was a whole convention dedicated to it.

The convention’s shop booth greeted you by the door. It was a tent selling a bunch of black tees, with different quotes declaring one’s love for bacon. They were nice enough sayings, but none of it worth wearing, let alone paying for. We didn’t even bother filling out a ballot to enter the contest to win one. They could have put more effort into their shirts, to make it a worthy keepsake. Even their event logo would have made a better shirt graphic than what was offered. And as the only booth selling anything, this was disappointing.

The whole convention was basically just standing in lines. We left hungry and angry. And weren’t willing to spend any more money on average samples, and the need to wait for them. We were better off cutting our losses and leaving.


We walked the arena. It was a series of tables set at angles, surrounded by cloaked partitions that created half walls and attempted to cut the open space into various quadrants. However many tables were left empty. A few had a vendor’s name attached, but nothing to say they were on a break or would even be attending.

The website that sold the tickets and the link to their homepage grossly exaggerated the event. And without any photos or any thing like it in the past, we all took their description on good faith. They described the pitiful scene before us as a “pancetta-paradise (with) over 100 booths featuring bacon-covered and/or inspired food, drink, and products.” It was more like 7 to 8 active booths, each with a lengthy line to approach. The lines only lengthen as more patrons came, because as diners didn’t have any other options.


The site also mentioned, and we didn’t see any of the “Bacon-filled contests, events, door prizes, activities, raffles, and more!” There was an unmanned and empty recreational area with an N64 system and “Goldeye” plugged in and being projected. And beside it there was a beer pong table set up, with no beer and no one to play either. Considering that, we didn’t understand why this was a 19 plus event, especially when only two stands offered beers. Beers that you got a taste of by using the novelty plastic cups you got at the door. Not surprising, these lines were the longest.


Their site also mentioned that, “Our many vendors will be competing to offer our guests the most mouthwatering bacon dishes so make sure to join in the sampling and vote for your favorite.” Once again 7 isn’t enough to be considered “many” in this instance. The food was not “mouthwatering”, nor did all of them contain bacon. And there was no mention of this supposed contest to find the best dish of the convention. I guess that there isn’t enough vendors to vote, and therefore they didn’t designate a place to cast your vote.

Sadly the event made all those participating look bad. The vendors paid a fee and did their best to serve and service. But with so little participants and so many ticket holders, they were ill prepared for the traffic ahead. Therefore with the need for speed, dishes were poorly prepared. And when you are kept waiting 10-20 minutes for a slider or a doughnut, your expectations of both are higher.


After a disappointed look around we decided to basically toss our tickets. We choose the the stall with the shortest line and paid 6 tickets for a dry pulled pork bun and a decent Dixie cup of chilli.


Most of the food is pre-made and kept warm in heated trays. It is then assembled in mass production, often between the two personnel attending each booth.

The flavour of the pork in our bun was good, but it needed something else, a nice crunchy slaw, or even just some mayo. The chilli was actually tasty and if I was given a bowl of it with their sweet corn bread, I would have been happy. But between the two, where was the bacon? This was a bacon convention, and the requirement was bacon, which they didn’t have.


The next stand we went for would at least meet the minimum bacon requirement. It was also the only stall that would take our remaining 3 tickets. The only 3 ticket stall that wasn’t the one with the line that stretched out the door. At this point we wanted to recoup what little we could and just leave. We didn’t want to spend anymore time in this disappointing hall.


But our wait would not be quick. Here it was one girl skewering three mini doughnuts to a stick, drizzling maple syrup over it, then attempting to sprinkle bacon bits on it and have them stay. Luckily they placed each completed skewer in to a cute branded take out box, this at least gave you a place to collect all your lost bacon bits, as they immediately dropped to the bottom. They would have had better success making a doughnut bacon poutine. With chopped up doughnut pieces, a maple syrup gravy, and bacon bits in place of the cheese curd. This was just cold mini doughnuts dressed up unnecessarily. Ironically, I actually would have liked this better without the bacon. But at least the packaging was cute.


The food offered in general wasn’t anything special. If there was bacon in it, it was in between the very typical sandwich or safe hamburger bun. There was no creativity, nothing worth visiting their actual restaurant, catering company, and/or food truck for. And that is sad considering many of these vendors paid to be here. They use conventions like this as an opportunity to get their brand and company out there. But today, here, at this venue, it was is a hard place for them to shine at. And unfortunately, they got lumped together with the failure of the entire event.

If the ticket cost was $10 we would be less annoyed. But from the start we were disappointed and continued to hold our grievances. The door gifts were lack lustre, many vendors were not set up two hours into the event, food choices were reduced to who was open, and lines grew unreasonably long. We ended up dumping our tickets quick as we valued our time and our remaining money more. Like many others who attended, we were left fuming. Angry enough to also posted our displeasure with the event on their Facebook page. And we too are demanding our money back.


Below are quotes taken from my guest and a friends who attended and was as disappointed enough to post her grievances. We were at least lucky that we came later, by 4:30pm the event was already underway. A friend of mine came right at 2pm at the event’s advertised start, and had this to say.

“This event was horrible!! It was supposed to start at 2. Doors didn’t open until 2:40. Had to pay $25 to get in and then you are expected to buy food tickets. There is nothing to do once your in accept wait in line to buy food with your tickets. (No booths even selling stuff)There were only like 8 food palaces to line up at and then when you got the food it was less then mediocre. And that’s if the food table even had food ready.

Once you ran out of food tickets you couldn’t buy more because they had to try to get through the line of people waiting to get in. So now with no tickets there is literally nothing to do.

If you are thinking of going tomorrow don’t. I’m going to see about a refund it was that bad!”
-Amber W.


“Bacon con is a bust. We have been here 30 min and leaving. There are maybe 8 vendors here and it sucks.”
-Missy B.


And finally, this was from my guest. Needless to say, he was as upset as I was.

“Just awful. I bought tickets for my friends birthday and was expecting something fun and exciting instead I wasted $55 to get into this event and was able to buy 3 items… 3 super salty and stale items. I hope everyone who was behind this event realizes the scam they just pulled. If your thinking of going Sunday don’t. Take that $25 for a ticket and go get a few Baconator. You’ll get more bacon on one of those then at this garbage con.”
-Travis S.


Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
My trust in conventions has been shot. This was an utter waste of time and money. There is no way I will attend anything like this again, and no way I would ever recommend this rip off to anyone. I am so embarrassed to have bragged about attending this show and for asking my guest to go with me. I am posting this to get my money back and to dissuade others thinking of visiting them on their second day. Please deny your cravings here.



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