Farmers’ Market, Ferry Plaza – To Market, To Market To Buy a Fat Pig

saturday farmers' market on ferry plaza, san francisco, ca
LAX to SFO, no. 6

There is Ferry Plaza.

There is the Ferry Building.

There is the Ferry Building Marketplace.

There is the Farmers’ Market on Ferry Plaza.

Ferry ferry ferry ferry! They are all different. They’re in the same place, but they are different.

The Ferry Building is the physical building, which sits on, and is surrounded by, Ferry Plaza. The Ferry Building Marketplace is a permanent fixture inside the Ferry Building. The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market is the outdoor farmers’ market on Ferry Plaza that takes place a few days out of the week. None of the above should be confused with either Ferry Corsten the DJ, or with the tooth fairy. (Does saying “ferry” out loud sound weird now to anyone else other than me?)

So, now that all of that is squared away in your notes, let’s talk about the Muni. (Naturally!)

We got a wee bit of a late start the morning after bouncing around Ruby Skye for longer than necessary, then bouncing around the streets surrounding Union Square, looking for our hotel. In fact, we can’t really call it the “morning after” since it was long past lunchtime when we actually rolled ourselves out of bed. We were dehydrated, achy, sore, but with, you know, that “afterglow.” :)

Our day’s destination was the Ferry Building, but we had several transportation options from which to choose. Given that our feet had been through the techno wringer already, and that the Ferry Building is more than 10 blocks, i.e. 698 miles, from Union Square, we ditched the idea of walking. We could have hopped into a cab, or even taken BART. I am BART savvy; it’s not like I went to Stanford, you know. *points to head* In the end, we decided to brave the Muni. The Muni is San Francisco’s bus system.

“Brave” is the term I use, not because the Muni has freaky weird people on it and “braving” it is the way one “braves” LA’s Metro Rapid. I say “brave” because though I know BART, I have only used the Muni once before in my life, and at that time, I was given highly detailed instructions on what to do – what side of the street to be on, where to stand, what color, number and letter to look for, the travel time give or take 30 seconds, the name, address and SSN of the driver. When we asked the Concierge how to get to the Ferry Buidling, he said, “Muni. F Line.” Right. Then I asked again, how? He looked at me as if I had just stepped out of the rice paddy in my highwaters and Chinaman straw cone hat. “Eff liii-n.” Ah. Ten q berry motch.
san francisco muni - f line
Our adorable orange antique Muni bus/trolley was illegal refugee-ly packed. Luckily, our ride was short. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the fifteen minutes pressed up against a 13-year-old anorexic runaway trembling from lack of *ahem* medication on one side, an overweight German tourist couple on the other side, and fearing for the lives of two toddlers playing an aggressive game of “tail” with the seeing eye dog across the walkway. I was just excited to get the hell out of there. Oops, I meant “to see the Ferry Building.” Almost half the riders were disembarking at the Ferry Building stop, which is across the street. I clutched my bag to my body and kept my hand gripped onto my camera in my pocket as my body just naturally flowed out with the wave of people and eventually plopped out onto the sidewalk.
ferry building, san francisco, ca
The sight of the Ferry Building surrounded by the Bay took my breath away. It’s not like I haven’t seen the Ferry building or the Bay before. Though I didn’t live in the City, I saw the Bay from the City-side at least twice a week while I was at Cal. But the sight of the clock tower against a bright blue sky as someone who only gets to see it once in a while makes it special. Everyone else clamored to get across the street while the red hand was still flashing, but I had to stop. I just stared.

*sigh* I miss the Bay area.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - globe artichokes
The Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market takes place four days a week. Tuesday and Saturday morning are year-round; Thursday evening and Sunday morning take place seasonally. We decided to stroll through the farmers’ market and enjoy the outdoors before heading inside the building.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - sicilian artichoke
Saturday mornings seem to be the busiest (we did go back the next day and it wasn’t as crowded). We scurried around the side of the Ferry building to see everything out back. Like all farmers’ markets, there are a several vendors that offer cooked food to eat and enjoy while shopping (not that I didn’t enjoy all the samples of citrus, tomatoes, and cheese while shopping!). I was tickled to see that Rose Pistola was still there, and I paused for a moment to remember a long-ago dinner in the restaurant sitting at the bar, flipping through the cookbook at home, marking pages, and promising to myself that someday I would make the shaved baby artichoke salad.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - ferry plaza farmers' market
We picked our way through the produce stalls, and though the offerings weren’t as abundant nor as vibrant in late spring as it is during the high season of summer, the fruits and vegetables were still sexy in every way to me.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - ferry plaza farmers market- lemons!
It took every ounce of discipline to not buy them up left and right, without an idea in my head of what to make, only the faith that the freshness and quality alone would serve as inspiration in the kitchen later. As I always do, I grabbed a handful of lumpy, bumpy fava beans and hissed “a nice chianti.” It’s so si
lly, but I can’t help it. Lemons laughed out loud in sunshine yellow, tomatoes screamed every shade of fire, and I fondled Italian zucchini and tiny white eggpplants in the most obscene way possible.
ferry building, san francisco, ca
I just about fell over when we ran into the table for the Fatted Calf. I looked the at the man behind the table straight in the eye and whispered “This is the Fatted Calf.” He replied in the most serious tone he could muster for someone who just stated the painfully obvious, “Yes, yes it is.” He must have thought I was on an outing from the local insanity ward. I couldn’t help it. The Fatted Calf! The one about which fellow food bloggers from the Bay Area write and the one about which I read all the time. Standing there in front of the table covered with perfect red and white gingham check, admiring the sausages, the little jars of pretty salt, the vacuum packed meats secured away on a small table in the back, I had a feeling that is difficult to describe. It’s like… IMing and emailing and txting with your friends about some totally rad guy that everyone has a omg! maaaaajor crush on, and he ends up walking into the pizza place where you work.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - ferry plaza farmers market - hayes street grill
While the eye shopping was fun, though the slightest bit disappointing with back to back to back realizations that I couldn’t buy anything to take home and cook, the real exhilaration came when we decided to eat something for lunch on the Plaza. Yes, of course there would be a world of tasty tidbits inside the Ferry Buidling, but we wanted to buy something, sit on the benches facing the Bay, and enjoy the moment. Rose Pistola rolled off my tongue first because that is what memory and familiarity do to you, but we ended up at Hayes Street Grill.
ferry building, san francisco, ca - ferry plaza farmers market - bay bridge
It was a $9 crabcake sandwich. It was on a simple white bread that had been grilled and generously smeared with nothing more than tartar sauce. We were sitting on a dirty, stained bench surrounded by germ-infested squawking seagulls. Any other day, I would have noticed, but after strolling through the farmers’ market and now gazing upon the Bay Bridge, I only noticed that there sure were a lot of sailboats out there.

Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market
One Ferry Building (on the Plaza)
San Francisco, CA 94111
Saturday 8AM – 2PM

** a year ago today, asian kitchen is a misnomer **

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  • Lindsay

    i was up in SFO this past weekend, and went to the Ferry building for the first time. broke my heart that i was unable to buy any of those amazing foodie things (cheese! fruit! veggies! oils! jams! argh!!!) because i’d have no where to keep things in my hotel room, and no room in my bags for the flight home. looking forward to reading your take on the experience!

  • KT

    Oh heart is breaking … I miss the Ferry Building! Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, and the Italian market/deli and *sigh* the Village Market, whose other location used to be my regular market.

    I miss SF! Need to win lottery …

  • Anonymous

    Lovely tomato! I can’t wait to start eating those heirlooms..
    and the chocolate at the ferry building….yumm….did you try some of those (not the schaffenburger place, the other one with all the unique flavors)

  • Anonymous

    Lovely tomato! I can’t wait to start eating those heirlooms..
    and the chocolate at the ferry building….yumm….did you try some of those (not the schaffenburger place, the other one with all the unique flavors)

  • LACheesemonger

    Record rains for central/nor cal in Mar/Apr. mean reduced crops of stone fruit, Honeycrisp Farms is having a disastorous year (last year’s seasonal record rainfal was not quite as bad)…more on that later, but Art Lange did tell me @Sun. BH frm’s mkt, that he wasn’t planning on going to SF this year, and will not even have enough fruit to go to the big Santa Monica mkt…BH & Encino only…more later :0.

    Looks like early season Brandywine toms (early for April when DS went to SF). Notice in the forefront tom, lefthand side. Flatened impression and worse, split skin. The break in the skin means that you’ll not likely be able to ripen that tom more than a week, if that. Always try to get unbroken skin, as that allows you to keep them for a week or more until they are so soft they almost rot.

    Ah yes, Sarah; you MUST watch the final episode(s) of “Which Star Are You From” on LA18TV tonight at 9:55PM-10:55PM…absolutely addictive, hilarious main character “Bok-Shil” (now I still don’t understand pronounciation of Korean names, every time they say her name it sounds much more like Bok-silla or Bok-sil-ah…Sarah ask you parents wass up with this pronounciation thingy), kind of reminds me of Sarah (DS :rolls eyes:…no, no DS, I’m not laughing at you: seriously, the main female character is an emotional roller coaster of fun).

    See much as she wants to deny her genetics, American named, pasty white Sarah is really Korean down underneath it all ;). Like she’s got the crying genes down pat ;).

    “hyena” ‘s post at the bottom of this page says it all (which tells us that hyena is, she’s so American, doesn’t understand the Korean female psyche, lol).

    hyena said: The girl (I’ve got to learn her name!) did a decent job last night (although, I’m sorry!, I do wish she’d stop crying everytime she talks to him!).

    Huh, Bok-silla’s constant mood swings, regular tearing up; it’s just like Sarah…it’s great, she’s great, what personality, what heart, the facial expressions on her face just crack me up…though for some reason all of these female posters seem to get all hot and bothered about the male lead (pic’s of the stars further up the page ;), what’s the big deal, I look almost just like him…in my dreams at least ;) ). And just like DS, Bok-silla is a tomboy, country farmgirl, with a wicked temper. The male lead always teases her calling her a “dork” (anyone know the phonetic spelling for Korean slang for ‘dork’?), which infuriates her, and she calls him an arrogant “jerk” (kind of like Sarah & me going at it…see, we’re hopelessly drawn to each other…it’s in the stars ;) ). Now why is it that in this particular K-drama (which is apparently already on DVD, even though most of these have only recently been broadcast in Korean a mere few weeks ago) they seem to always be in situations where they are eating, and eating, and eating ;) ? Every other show, someone is getting drunk for the misery of it all on either shots of typical 20% Korean spirits, or the hard stuff?

    Discussing CJK 中日韓 Dramas Available in California

    Ok, that’s part of the reason I’ve been MIA for a while now from DL, but that’s not the only reason I’ve been trying to keep from going off the bandwagon again…it’s a 12 step process, that I’m not doing so well at ;).


  • Sam

    I hope you werent there the weekend before last because if you were you missed me and my blogging gfs including fatemeh drinking rather a lot of champagne at the wine merchants. we were hanging out for five whole hours.

  • onetomato

    oh i too miss the bay! luckily, my bf is from there so i have an excuse to visit up there, since we go to see his folks at least twice a year. but i haven’t been in more than a year. lucky you sarah! and those artichokes!
    but i do remember the last time i went, the city seemed, well, more grungy and unsightly since i was going to college, at least when the sun goes down. then the zombies come out from underneath the sewers i think.

  • nosh

    Sarah, I hope the post isn’t completely finished, as I am intrigued by the last photo (as of now) that shows jars labelled “Fatted Calf.” When I was growing up in St. Louis, there was a small chain of superb burger places called The Fatted Calf. One remains, and I visited with my Dad earlier this month on a trip home. Thick char-grilled burgers, charred on the outside and still very pink inside, and topped with a small scoop of soft cheese — I like the cheddar, Dad the bleu. Less than $6.

    So do tell about the “Fatted Calf Charcuterie.” Hope they treated you very kindly, else we may be initiating a trademark infringement suit!

  • sarah

    sassy: i hear you. o, how i hear you! i mean, i drove and all, but i knew there wouldn’t be room for everything i wanted to buy. well, unless we threw out all our luggage. dammit. should have thought of that while i was there!

    kt: you said it, girl. cowgirl creamery. but it doesn’t take the lottery to get up there! pile your friends in a car and get going!

    lori: the chocolates are recchiuti, and i did not get to try them!

    lac: how many times do i have to tell you i don’t watch tv? lol! and esepcially not that fob korean crap!

    sam: i was there more than a couple of weeks ago. and trust me, if i saw a table full of gorgeous ladies enjoying Champagne i’d have…joined in! lol ;)

    onetomato: hm, it didn’t seem grungier. i would say that it was a lot more crowded, and thus the natural effect of a growing population…summer is a great time go! it’s cold! lol!

    nosh: the guy there was very sweet! and i doubt it’s the same place as the fatted calf in st. louis, though your description of the burger sounds AWESOME!

  • Anonymous

    oooh, great memories of a lovely day! JP

  • Gloria

    I LOVE the Ferry Building and the farmers’ market there. It’s one of my most favourite places in San Francisco. All the lovely produce/other food-related wares just beg for pictures to be taken.

  • sarah

    jp: do you even remember anything?!?! lol! then again, guess it’s a good thing i blog, huh?

    gloria: oh, the pictures…i really do wish i had taken better pictures! it just isn’t fair to them the absolute horror i do by taking such awful pictures with my little point-n-shoot!

  • abraxis

    some comments:

    First, MUNI is gross. Very gross. And being on the F (tourist) Line, you actually got to ride a “clean” line.

    The Ferry Building Farmer’s Market has vendors that also are at the UN Plaza Farmer’s Market during the week. Same produce. 1/3 cheaper!

    OTW, glad to see you made it back up here. Did you wind up hitting Top Dog? Mmmmm, hot link!

  • sarah

    stacey: october! what a perfect time! it’ll actually be…warm! LOL!

    abraxis: well, if i actually lived in SF, i would visit the un plaza market to buy produce. *sigh* too bad hotel roms don’t have woks.

    and of course i went to top dog. and made a last stop at zachary’s for lunch and two half-baked pizzas to take home to LA :)

    look for the stories later….

  • l.a. cheesemonger

    Long rant

    Hmm, some time ago when DS did an entry on the Hollywood Sun. Farmer’s mkt, I was going to do a detailed examination (rant) about the state of local farmers mkts, the ‘fad’ of the ‘eat local’ concept so popular in SF area. Then 2 weeks ago, May 24th, the LA Times came out with a retrospect/history article of the whole farmer’s mkt concept.

    A Bit of history lesson tells you, while Alice Waters has always had that mission to seek the finest local products (and support local small high quality purveyors of the best and unique varieties of food sources) she relied heavily on Chino Farms in northern San Diego Cty. Which is not the Chino Farms, IIRC there is any same named farm found locally to the LA area) Sona’s David Meyers is referred to having used.

    Professor Salts entry on Chino Farms (Rancho Santa Fe…Ritzy ‘hood burbs of San Diego ;) ).

    professor salt

    KQED SF blog on Chino Farms

    bay area bites

    The problem with Chino Farms is the same with most ‘local’ purveyors; they pick too soon, before fruits are at optimum ripeness, resulting in tart and insipid flavored over-priced product. Whenever possible, always taste before you buy…this should be your mantra at all of the stands. Be insistent and pass up stands that will not let you taste. For a time, I went to Chino Farms maybe 1/2 dozen times in the early 1990’s on my way to a San Diego wine shop. But I was shocked at how bland Charentais melons, strawberries, tomatoes and other items were, when I got home and ate them. Shameful the under-ripened produce Chino Farms sells at high prices. It’s no ‘temple’ in my mind. Sorry Alice Waters, as they sell directly off their farm Chino Farms has not excuse for picking less then optimally ripe produce, that would be damaged in packing & shipment to a local farmer’s mkt.

    Boysenberries, done right (ripened on the vine to perfection)


    Sierra Blanca white peaches from Honeycrisp Farms summer ’05

    white peaches

    Unfortunately, Honeycrisp’s 72 Sierra Blanca trees have no fruit at all this year, result of the Mar/Apr rains.

    Terrinelli Farms, which usually has stands at a variety of So. Cal FM, is located in the Little Rock area, and has yet to show up. I suspect, given that So. Cal. Had far less rain in Mar/Apr, they should have a more normal crop of peaches and other stone fruit this year.

    Now why doesn’t Sarah get her chauffeur to drive her back down to LA from SF via the 101, stop by Andy’s and see if they have any decent peaches or stone fruit to sell? From reading what Andy’s saying, it is possible they don’t harvest under=-ripened fruit, they wait until maximum flavor is obtained, even for a firmer flesh variety like the commercial crop of O’Henry peaches (which every last So. Cal. FM purveyor last year harvested rock hard with zero flavor not matter how many days you tried to keep them at home)

    Andy’s Orchard

    “O’HENRY – AUGUST 10-25
    ‘O’Henry’ is a modern commercial peach with lots of red color and very firm texture. It is sold in many chain stores; however, few consumers have had the chance to try a tree-ripened O’Henry peach. When truly ripe, they are of excellent quality with a rich flavor and juicy texture.”

    o fruit varieties

    Feedback to May 24th article, May 31st

    l.a. times

    Unfortunately the feedback letter from a woman who spent part of her childhood in Belgium is of little value, she being a child was naïve and ignorant to what is or is not a high quality experience. I was talking to the French owner of L’Artisan du Chocolat at the Culver City FM last week, there on the table was a 2004 LA Times article written, IIRC, by S. Irene Virbilla extolling the greatness of their chocolates. Price in 2004 was $35/lb, now they are so popular with those who don’t know better, that the price is a staggering $60/lb for chocolates that are no better (if that) than the $37lb real deal Belgian imported chocolates you can buy at Chocolatt…From Belgium store @
    12008 Wilshire Blvd.
    West Los Angeles, CA 90025

    (888) 808-8548
    (310) 442-2245

    l’artisan du chocolat


    Wine tasting faux pas, bad vintage comparisons. Useless comparison when you’re looking at an era in French Bordeaux winemaking that had hit bottom of the commercial barrel of excessive yields, bad wine making. At least they could have made a comparison with an outstanding vintage if they wanted it to be fair (we all know that Bordeaux vintage conditions are more variable than No. Cal’s Napa Valley. You’ll notice they don’t ask Michael Broadbent of Jancis Robinson for a comparison of ’61 or ’82 Bordeaux against a similar outstanding vintage of California Cabernet or Bordeaux blended style wines ;-).

    l.a. times

    Royal Raspberry my arse, not ready for prime time.
    l.a. times

    Hey, Tomas Keller’s (Per)Pray Se (pray you can afford they hype and $75 corkage charge BS) have all the Pudwill berries they like, but other than appearance, those berries have nothing going for them as far as ripeness/flavor levels…sorry to burst the LATimes naïve bubble. Harry’s Berries had some riper looking raspberries at the Sunday BH Farmer’s mkt, but for really outstanding flavor (something you are unlikely to find in commercial realm, the berries need to be picked just a few days short of falling off the growing plant, when they are so delicate they can easily fall apart in the hands of the picker.

    The Idea that shook the world (haha, can we say hyperbole?)
    l.a. times

    I remember going to the smaller farmer’s mkt in Palo Alto, Calif near Stanford Univ. in the late 1990’s, they had super tiny Rainer cherries, smaller than any I’d seen in the So. Cal. FM’s. Mostly seed, yet they were selling for a paltry, lol, $/6lb! I tasted them, and there was nothing special about them. Don’t waste your money on the hype of fresh, local produce.

    Problem with many if not all of these farmer’s mkt purveyors of fresh produce, is that they never let the product get to full ripeness, because the produce is then to fragile to manhandle, it actually needs to be consumed with in days in many cases. Too many times I get the hype from they guy that sells melons & beef from a cooler, “you’ll fall in love with this melon”… My response, a week later, “Sir you said I’d fall in love, but this melon you said was ripe was too bland, had less flavor then I’ve tasted before from these varieties”. To which there is the usual implied look from them…’oh well, I can always hope to sell to all the other suckers who read the LA Times’.

    Same with the guy at the Hollywood FM, from Little Rock hill country in
    So. Cal. He had but one week from the small number of elephant heart plums to sell, unfortunately they picked them hard, and predictably they had zero flavor…I already knew it would be a waste of time to try to let them soften at home for a week. I could have bought just as good from Whole Foods or Marina Farms commercial retail establishments.

    The whole concept of supporting locally grown smaller farmers is fine, but only when they deliver decent quality product, and in so many cases they clearly fail big time!

    Now lets talk about the paragon

    Cheesemonger on wheels
    l.a. times on cheese monger

    Now really, are you going to trust a guy from France that tells you how well a stout beer goes with a cheese??? Cheese and wine are the symbiotic pairing of choice in France…sheeesh.
    Culver City farmer’s mkt.

    Best Heirloom toms I have seen in the past 2 weeks, are from @ Hlly FM. Many other stands have them now, but at a price premium…and well, then aren’t really that ripe yet. You need to keep them for a week…if only they would take them off the vine when they were so soft that handing them would result in damage, they way they get at the end of the season, then you get maximum…should I say, decent or “true” flavor that they are capable of achieving?

    Purple Cherokee, avoid split skin (look in back for more boxes ;) ) as they will start to mold in the split and rot 1st, before they are fully soft/ripened at home.

    Gloria’s Chandler strawberries not as sweet/ripe as 1st harvest of February. Her toms are usually highest quality, though not ripe enough for maximum flavor, workers toss toms from one box to another; couldn’t do that if they were ripe!

    Nakamura Farms had the best, nearly rotting (real flavor, red ripe insides) Chandler strawberries at both the Sat SM Arizona FM, and last Sun. Beverly Hills FM (they are too lazy to put up their sign, but they are at the far east end of the mk).

    June 3, Saturday SM Arizona FM’s market, Flora Bella Farms told me the Blenheim (Royal_) Apricot orchard crop was ruined by March/April rains, just the same that happened to Honeycrisp Farms near Fresno, Calif, in the Central Valley. They had Russian mulberries @ $8/tray, I tasted the purple variety, and it was lousy to put it politely. They had one tray only which had a few white mulberries included, some fool bought the eye-candy when I passed by the stand before leaving the market.

    I believe Sea Canyon Farms, located near San Luis Obispo only sells at the SM Arizona Wednesday FM. Last year they had Royal apricots for 3 weeks I believe, the last week I bought 20lbs, and I saw Spago’s (get there before 8:30AM opening if you want the best selection) pastry Chef Sherry Yard with one or two cases of hand selected Royal’s she was buying…I did not bother to ask her why she was choosing the smaller size apricots, to my tastes they are the same large or small. This year Sea Canyon may only have Royals for one week, if they have enough to sell here at all.

    Pauma Valley Citrus, LLC (N. San Diego Cty, near Mount Palomar Observatory) is the stand which has had the best Persian mulberries, they anticipate harvesting in a ‘few weeks’, limited supply, they sell out early @ SM. Sat. Arizona FM, But I would by on the 2nd or 3rd picking when the berries are usually a bit riper, considering how tart they are to begin with even at full ripeness. Someone should buy Sarah a few trays of these for 621 ;-)

    Copper River Salmon, the Chinook (King) variety is known as the Rolls Royce of salmon, 2weeks ago the 1st arrival of the less desirable Sockeye CR salmon appeared at Ralph’s for only $19/lb. Last week they had dropped the price to a more palatable $13/bl for filets and $10/lb for steaks. It’s not ‘local’, but who cares, it’s a once a year opportunity to indulge in the best wild salmon commercially available.

    One last thing, while I was getting my hair cut by a young woman from Korea (there seem to be a lot of them at the place I get my hair cut at ;) ), I was asking her about the odd pronunciation of Bokshil in the K-drama; which btw. is not yet over on LA18TV Mon-Tues 9:50-10:50PM, was ROFL last night’s episode, the facial expressions, all the crying the lead actress does, highly entertaining ;); it was explained to me that when people in Korean are more acquainted with each other they use a more familiar type of address. Bokshila is familiar, while Bokshil is less (most formal is using the surname of course). Like with my hairstylist, her acquaintances would call her something that sounds like Soo ya, rather than her name Soo. But her full 1st name is Soo Jung, and her mother sometimes calls her Junga. Man, Koreans are a confusing kind of Asian ;).

    Probably something I left out, forgot to insert hot links, lol /end rant

    June 6th, 4:50PM PST

  • Nykemartyn

    Market tours will include fruit and vegetable, flower, live animal, and crafts markets. Farm tours will include a visit to a traditional small farm growing endangered heritage food crops.

    ferry to france

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