Sunday 30 June 2013

Jamie Oliver's Diner, London

Jamie Oliver's Diner, London
Love him or hate him, Jamie Oliver is a man with plans. From changing school meal legislation to creating a massive dinosaur for a restaurant stairway, the guy never sits still. 

When I was 23 we went to Jamie's Fifteen restaurant in London, and I became a lifelong fan of his work. Barbecoa (his venture with Adam Perry Lang) is another of my favourite restaurants ever. Granted, I've heard mixed reviews of Jamie's Italian, but I have never been myself. 

I'm a fan. He got a generation of young folk cooking from scratch, which can only be a good thing. My friends Mrs Petticoat and FoodGeekUK and I were all influenced by his cookery shows and books, and now we regularly visit his restaurants. 

I couldn't resist trying Jamie Oliver's Diner. Apparently it's a short term pop up, but a hell of a lot of effort has gone into the decor for something that will only be there a few months. There are two sides to the restaurant; a downstairs takeaway (complete with Vegas style glitz) and the restaurant which is upstairs. 
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London
The dining room is decked out in dinosaur paraphernalia, and has great views of Piccadilly Circus from the comfortable booth seating areas.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London
The menu is packed with barbecue favourites, such as meat from the grill, hotdogs and burgers. My sort of establishment really! They make their own burgers, dry age all the steaks by hand and even compost leftovers. They even make their own dandelion and burdock - although it arrived looking pink rather than the deep brown I am used to.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Menu
Since we had only eaten breakfast three hours before, we decided to share a starter. We picked the sticky chilli chicken wings in barbecue sauce. These were huge! No skinny cuts of chicken here. They were some big birds.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Wings
The pulled pork at Barbecoa is the best I have ever tasted, so when I spied it on the menu here, I was on it. I ordered the house beef burger, but then 'pimped my ride' with pulled pork and cheddar cheese.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Burger
I love a sloppy burger. I pride myself on (generally) being able to eat them without wearing their contents and love that they are different everywhere you go. This was a fine example of a burger! It came with wonderfully crisp shoestring fries, pickles and coleslaw.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Burger
Paddy was more sensible. We were going to Patty & Bun later that day, and thought two burgers in one day was excessive...  Anyway, moving swiftly on... He had the meatballs. Again, massive! The meat was juicy and well seasoned, and there was a perfect ratio of pasta to sauce.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Meatballs
Full to bursting, I knew I had to man up so I could try the Meyer lemon meringue pie. The key lime pie at Barbecoa was one of my favourite desserts ever, so I was hoping this would be of a similar ilk. Correct. I could have eaten a bowl full of that meringue topping.
Jamie Oliver's Diner, London - Pie
I've read the review which everyone tells me about. I've seen the pictures and whilst Jamie has made a name for himself telling kids to eat better, I am going to add my own perspective. This is not fact, just my opinion. Yes, children need to eat a healthy balanced diet, however I suggest that he does not intend for the nation's children to eat at his diner every day. As with adults, establishments like Jamie Oliver's Diner are intended to be a treat. What goes into the food is of good quality, and there wasn't a turkey twizzler in sight.

In terms of the quality of the food? I really could not complain. Perhaps the food wasn't great when they first opened, but I would hope that the critics would want their feedback to be taken on board, and mistakes rectified. I saw nothing to complain about, in fact we had a really nice time and enjoyed all the food. Is it groundbreaking? No. Would I go back? Definitely, although this depends on wether it really is a pop up or not...
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Friday 28 June 2013

47 King Street West, Manchester

47 King Street West, Manchester
This week I was invited by Manchester Confidential to sample the menu at 47 King Street West. My husband couldn't make it, so I invited my friend Emma to give me a hand with all that food. Ever the warrior, she accepted, and off we trot. 

It was lashing it down. We arrived looking like a pair of spaniels, hair curly and make up slightly skew-whiff - testament to our trek from the safety of Northern Quarter in search for 47 King Street West. There was a slight incident where we had successfully found Cath Kidston on King Street, but then realised we were actually looking for a restaurant...

47 King Street West is nestled just behind House of Fraser, opposite San Carlo. We were welcomed in from the rain, and coats, brollies and other useless waterproof paraphernalia were removed from the theatre of conflict. Inside is a little old fashioned but clean and well finished, and window seats offer a great people watching spot. They market themselves as 'fine dining', but I think 'smart casual' is more appropriate. 
47 King Street West, Manchester
Our waitress arrived and enthusiastically started talking us through their evening menu. Once again, I recited my piece about my lifelong hatred of wine, but explained I was happy to try a recommendation after recent success at Albert Square Chop House...

She suggested the Semillon Chardonnay; medium dry with fruity flavours and not too much oakiness. Apparently this is a house wine at Buckingham Palace! It was lovely. This is clearly what old age has done to me; it has decided I need more alcohol. Emma (a bit of a wine pro) opted for the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo; she was thrilled that they had warmed the wine slightly - apparently this is a good sign...

For starters I picked the soup of the day, which was honey roasted parsnip, and Emma had the Mediterranean risotto with parmesan. In the interest of the review, we both stole a bot of each others'. The risotto was perfectly cooked and had a generous amount of vegetables. The soup was a good thick texture and I enjoyed the taste, but I fear some would find this too sweet. Parsnips are sweet enough without lots of honey. Saying that, we both loved it. My only criticism of this course was the Chorton artisan bread. It was a little stale and came with packaged butter - only a minor thing but worth noting.
47 King Street West, Manchester - Starters
We both fancied the fillet steak medallions, but had them in slightly different ways. I originally ordered the spatchcocked poussin because the pepper sauce was calling, but then when Emma was offered a choice of peppercorn or sunblushed tomato jus, I couldn't resist swapping. They even let me have fat chips with mine rather than pomme puree. I'm done with pomme puree. And micro herbs. And pea foam. Rant over.

We really could not fault these dishes. My steak was rare as requested whilst Emma's was served medium, the sauces were gorgeous and the fat chips were perfectly crispy, just as I had hoped. A very enjoyable main.
47 King Street West, Manchester - Mains
As I checked in on Foursquare, someone had recommended the Eton Mess. Couldn't resist. This was a rich pile of ice cream, cream, berries, meringue and coulis. Brilliant. Emma had the Chef's Hot Chocolate Indulgence Pudding with ice cream. This arrived bubbling away! Very rich but equally satisfying.
47 King Street West, Manchester - Desserts
In summary, 47 King Street West seems to have divided opinion amongst the other bloggers I have spoken to. Yes there are elements which appear a little dated but the execution of our food was good. It's a little expensive (we worked out that our meal would have cost the best part of £100) but I believe there is a cracking deal on at the moment via Manchester Confidential's site - three courses plus Prosecco for £25. Keep an eye open for these.

An enjoyable evening with chatty staff, a great friend and good food. Oh, but they definitely need a bigger coat stand.

Disclaimer: I was invited to review 47 King Street West by Manchester Confidential. I was not paid for the post but received a free meal for two. All views are my own (plus a few of Emma's...)

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Square Meal

Giveaway: Clark's Maple Celebrate Canada Day

Canada DayCanada DayClark's Maple
When I think of Canada, two things come to mind; maple syrup and Bret 'The Hitman' Hart. I was a huge wrestling fan growing up, and had a fair to middling obsession with Shawn Michaels - but that's another story. I adore maple syrup; perfect in porridge, on pancakes or drizzled over warm cakes. Not as sweet as golden syrup and not as harsh as honey, this is the perfect natural answer to sort those sugar cravings.

My pals at Abra-ca-Debora and Clark's Maple have joined forces once more to create a killer snack time tag team. You don't even have to make the pancakes yourselves. Simply use thee Rafflecopter widget below to enter my giveaway - you can win all the goodies shown below!
Clarks Maple Giveaway

Ever the geek, I enjoyed learning a little more about our Canadian friends. Here's the top ten facts given to me by the studious folk at Clark's...
  1. Canada got its name by mistake. When Jaques Cartier, a French explorer, came to the new world, he met with local Natives who invited them to their ‘kanata’ (the word for ‘village’). The party mistakenly thought the name of the country was “Kanata” or Canada 
  2. Canada is approximately 3,855,103 square miles in size and comprises of six time zones. About a third of Canada's land lies within the Arctic Circle 
  3. Canada produces approximately 27 million litres of maple syrup per year. 75% of the world's maple syrup comes from Quebec. Clarks is the UK’s best selling maple syrup 
  4. Canada has the longest coastline of any country in the world at 151,600 miles 
  5. The CN Tower in Toronto was the world's tallest free-standing structure until it was eclipsed by the Burj Khalifa, Dubai in 2009 
  6. Canada has almost a million lakes. There is a lake in Manitoba called Lake Pekwachnamaykoskwaskwaypinwanik which translates in English to ‘where the wild trout are caught by fishing with hooks’
  7. Hockey and Lacrosse are Canada’s national sports 
  8. Ryan Gosling, Mike Myers, Pamela Anderson, James Cameron and Michael J Fox were all born in Canada 
  9. The maple leaf is a Canadian symbol and features prominently on the national flag. Adopted in 1965 to replace the Union Flag, it is the first ever specified by statute law for use as the country's national flag 
  10. Maple Syrup was originally a sweet drink, discovered by the Algonquin Indians who collected sap from Canadian sugar maple trees and then boiled to produce delicious beverage

How to Enter

  • Simply follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter widget below. 
  • To be in with a chance of winning you must complete ALL the mandatory fields, and then can move onto the additional entries if you want to increase your chances of winning. 
  • All entries will be checked and verified before a winner is announced.
  • You can increase your chances of winning by Tweeting on a daily basis.
  • Rafflecopter will pick a random winner.
  • The competition runs from 28th June 2013 to 5th July 2013.
  • Please see the Terms and Conditions on the Rafflecopter widget for the rules and more information.

Thanks once again to Clark's, and of course to the lovely people at Abra-ca-Debora for this great prize. Please feel free to pop over to both their Facebook and Twitter pages to say hello!

Please feel free to share this giveaway.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Higgidy Summer Quiches

Higgedy Pies
It's always nice to be asked your opinion, but it's even better when there is food involved. Now I'm partial to a pie at any time of the year, but those clever folk at Higgidy have come up with a lovely summer range, ideal for picnics and dinner in the garden (please note - they work just as well sat on the sofa, looking at the blizzard outside in the middle of June).

Not one to be a total greed-o-guts (shhh!), I decided to share my pies with my tame tribe of guinea pigs at work. Their brief was to take a pie home and share it with their beloved, then report back. They did, and this is what they had to say...

Higgedy Pies - Balsamic Onion and Mature Cheddar Quiche
First up was the Balsamic Onion and Mature Cheddar Quiche...
  • Tangy with a good mature cheddar taste
  • Not too much egg
  • Crisp pastry
  • Good texture
  • Nice colour on top of the quiche
  • This would be my own personal favourite
  • Both really enjoyed this
Higgedy Pies - Spinach, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche
Next was the Spinach, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche - this was tested by a friend who is a vegetarian...
  • Good, strong flavours
  • The pastry had a good texture and wasn't too thick
  • The feta was quite strong, but still enjoyable
  • Generously filled
  • Perfect with a salad
  • Appealing to the eye
  • Would definitely buy again
Higgedy Pies - Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Cheese Quiche

Finally, my meat loving mates tried the Smoked Bacon and Cheddar Quiche...
  • Filling was full of bacon and cheese - not bulked up
  • Pastry lovely - just thick enough to hold everything together
  • Good flavour
  • Particularly liked the herby content
  • Bacon was a little salty, but not a problem

The guinea pigs were big fans of the Higgidy quiches, and all agreed that they would buy them again. They are not the cheapest in the supermarket, but they certainly looked the most appealing.

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Disclaimer: I was not paid for this post, but I did receive some delicious pies to test. I views are our own - my tribe of guinea pigs do not tell fibs. 

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Little Social, London

Little Social, London
When I heard Little Social was opening I was as giddy as the proverbial kipper on birthday eve. Jason Atherton's first Pollen Street venture, Pollen Street Social divides opinion amongst bloggers, but it was one of the best meals I have ever had. Humble yet refined, and possibly my favourite dessert ever.

I had high hopes for the laid back Little Social, and it didn't disappoint. We arrived fresh from the train, starving and feeling a little chilly. Once inside you are transported to a dimly lit hideaway; the walls decorated with 'aged' anaglypta and old Michelin road maps of France. 
Little Social, London
Warm sourdough appears and drinks are swiftly summoned. I like to think that this is where Harry Potter would eat if he was partial to a bit of fine dining. 
Little Social, London - Bread
To start I had the watercress soup with slow-cooked egg, parmesan, braised morels and croutons. This emerald green creation was thick but fresh, and the perfect antidote to a chilly Dolly. 
Little Social, London - Watercress Soup
Paddy had read great things about the steak tartare, so was delighted to see it on the specials menu. It came with toast, a quail's egg yolk and salad leaves. Unreal. The meat was perfectly seasoned with a sharp edge. The stand out dish of the day.
Little Social, London - Steak Tartare
Moving onto mains, Paddy had the braised Irish ox cheeks with roast marrow bone, sourdough crumb, carrot and horseradish mash. He was very quiet whilst eating this, owing mainly to the fact it was delicious. I stole a bit for the sake of 'sampling'.
Little Social, London - Slow cooked beef
I had been coveting the aged Scottish beef burger with bacon and cheese, caramelised onions, pickles and French fries from the first time I saw the menu. At £17 this is one pricy patty, but gee whizz it was worth every penny.
Little Social, London - Burger
We were both a little intrigued by the brown sugar tart with crème fraiche sorbet and black sesame crumble. This was utter heaven. Mr Atherton, I salute you. This chap is concocting some of the best desserts out there. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Little Social, London - Brown sugar tart
The pink peppercorn meringue filled with lemon and lime curd and passion fruit is a bit like a tidy tropical Eton mess. The pink peppercorns make the meringue quite spicy, but then the sorbet cools everything right back down. Very summery.
Little Social, London - Peppercorn meringue
Little Social was just brilliant; it was everything I expected it to be. We loved Maze under Jason Atherton's control, had a fantastic meal at Pollen Street Social, an now this little darling is the icing on the cake. Next stop? Social Eating House.

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Tuesday 25 June 2013

Patty & Bun, London

Patty & Bun, London
We first heard about Patty & Bun after reading the Critical Couple's review a few months ago. It made me want to go... really badly... so much so we booked our train tickets to London that night! That's dedication.

We went on a boiling hot day after already having breakfast, lunch and cake. By rights we should not have been hungry - this is where my greed knows no boundaries. There was already a small queue outside, and inside was quite frankly rammed with people stuffing their faces with burgers and fries. We were advised of a twenty minute wait and offered a seat outside.
Patty & Bun, London
Their concept is simple; six burgers and four sides. It reminds me a bit of Roam Burger in San Francisco, only smaller and with less room to manoeuvre! Your food comes fast food style, wrapped in waxed paper and with sides in small plastic cups.
Patty & Bun, London - Menu
I had the ARI Gold burger and Paddy had the same, but plain with bacon (he's not a fan of burger 'slop'). We also ordered fries and a portion of the 'winger winger chicken dinner' wings. 
Patty & Bun, London - Platter
The ARI Gold burger is your typical American style, with a brioche bun, salad, ketchup, P&B mayo and pickles. It was absolutely amazing. I loved it. I cannot fault a single thing about it. That good. Chargrilled on the outside, pink on the inside and the very real threat of wearing its contents if you didn't have a firm grip.
Patty & Bun, London - Burger
The chips were simple but to the point; crisp outsides with the skins still on and no hint of oiliness. We didn't end up eating most of our wings as we were too full! Pigs of the week strike again. I took one for the team so I could report back, and can confirm they have a crisp outside and a rich sauce. No complaints.
Patty & Bun, London - Close Ups
We loved Patty & Bun. I'm not usually a fan of the 'no reservations' type of gaff, but you'll never have to wait long here. People are coming and going all the time and they serve food quickly. A resounding thumbs up from us and a huge thank you to the Critical Couple for writing such an enticing review!

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Monday 24 June 2013

Hypnotize Champagne Bundt

Hypnotize Champagne Bundt
This month's Clandestine Cake Club theme was 'I got 99 problems but a cake ain't one', and was all about hip hop inspired cakes. The first song that popped into my head was Notorious BIG's 'Hypnotize'; memories of eating my tea in front of the telly after school whilst watching Select MTV, waiting for a rare glimpse of No Doubt or Marilyn Manson. Hypnotize was on constantly, and continues to be a bit of an ear worm to this day.

I used my favourite tin (christened Matilda) and drizzled icing to make a swirly, hypnotic effect. I couldn't resist a bit of bling too in the form of chocolate coins, glitter and a few gold bars! Biggie said it best... 'mo money, mo problems'... so we ate it. 

I really enjoyed the bundt I made with prosecco and apple juice on Valentine's day, so decided to use good old rapper's delight, Champagne. A bit extravagant perhaps, but it was for a special cake (supermarkets sell mini bottles). You can't actually taste the champagne, but it gives the cake a moist texture and a flavour not dissimilar to a good iced finger... I tend to use a bit of fruit juice to give it a boost.
Hypnotize Champagne Bundt
Here's how to make my 'Hypnotize Bundt'...

  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 110g vegetable fat like Trex or Cookeen
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 460g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 200ml Champagne or Cava
  • 50ml good quality mango juice

  1. Grease and flour a regular sized bundt tin (2.4l, 10 cup, 10 inch). I used my Heritage tin.
  2. Soften the butter and vegetable fat together, then cream in the sugar in stages.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time on a slow setting so it doesn't curdle.
  4. Mix in the vanilla.
  5. Add all the remaining dry ingredients to a large bowl.
  6. Measure the bubbly and mango juice in a jug. 
  7. Sift in 1/3 of the dry ingredients, followed by 1/2 of the liquid. Repeat until all the flour and liquid is used up. Fold it in gently... It's going to look a little curdled. 
  8. Give the whole thing a quick mix for about 10 seconds or until well combined. It no longer looks curdled! Magic.
  9. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin.
  10. Bake at gas 3/160 C for about an hour and 30 minutes. 
  11. This one doesn't shrink that much, but a skewer should come out clean when it's done. 
  12. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.
  13. Once cool, either dredge with icing sugar or cover in glace icing with a bit of glitter!

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Meal Planning Monday - Chicken Lickin'...

Meal Planning Monday
When I'm on a diet or 'healthy eating regime' (whatever - it just means I can't eat as much cake), my inner demons are tempting me from every angle. I'm really greedy too. I just can't help myself... Well, my husband is the opposite. He really doesn't see the point of cheating, and lacks the sweet tooth I am a slave to.

He's been caning the gym recently, so we're fusing Slimming World with the high protein meals he wants too. That means chicken. Lots of chicken. Chicken here, chicken there, chicken effing everywhere. So, I'm trying to dress paltry poultry up into something a bit different each night.

The Schwartz 'Perfect Shake' seasonings are really good; I already have the cajun and Italian ones, but today I also invested in the tandoori and peri peri ones. They're syn free and liven up either meat or potatoes. Just spritz with Fry Light first then brush on the seasoning, or scatter over your chips before baking. You can also add them to fat free yoghurt for a tasty marinade. And no, this isn't a sponsored post, I just really like them!
Schwartz 'Perfect Shake'
So our week is a little like this...

Monday: Piri piri chicken with mini jackets, steamed veg and low fat coleslaw (5 syns)
Tuesday: Tandoori chicken (yogurt marinade) with chips and steamed veg (Free)
Wednesday: Roasted chicken (made with Oxo chicken seasoning) with jersey royals and roasted veg (1/2 syn)
Thursday: I'm out for tea with my friend Emma.
Friday: Big do at Solita...
Saturday: Some sort of recovery meal... Not decided yet. Maybe a chilli?
Sunday: Out with friends for some American thing at Port Street. This can only end badly.

On the up-side, I'm still lighter than I was last week and that includes living through cake club, Sunday lunch at Grenache and a trip to Solita. Not bad!

I never promised to be perfect...

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Sunday 23 June 2013

Grenache, Worsley

Grenache, Worsley
Grenache has been on 'the list' for some time. Our friends raved about the steak and kidney pie and then  Solita's very own Franco went last week and said it was the bee's knees. Ever the nosy Parker, I also heard the chap on the table next to us saying he was there because he saw Franco's tweets. The power of social media folks...

My husband has been working like a trojan this week, so I treated him to Sunday lunch at Grenache. I wasn't sure what to expect if I'm being honest. I knew the food would be good, but to fall in love with a place I have to like the atmosphere too.
Grenache, Worsley
So the weather was pretty pants, and we arrived looking a little dishevelled (husband also looking slightly ashamed of my flowery cagoule). Within minutes we had met the utterly charming Huss; their front of house maestro who loves a chat and a few laughs with his customers. We liked him a lot!

A young chap called Cameron introduced himself whilst delivering some freshly baked bread, which was soon followed by an appetiser of deep fried smoked salmon fishcakes. We already loved the place. 

For starters Paddy ordered the scallops and I had the roasted tomato and red pepper soup. Despite Huss' jokes about the scallops being terrible, they were perfect. We knew you could only ever jest about such things if you were confident as hell that they were bob on. My soup was beautifully light and perfect for summer. 
Grenache, Worsley - Starters
Cards were on the table. Huss bet us that if our beef wasn't absolutely perfect, he would give it to us for free. His money was never in danger, was it? It was delectable. Soft and easy to cut with a crispy edge and a medium rare centre. This was a beautiful example of a roast dinner.

The sides didn't let it down either. A proud Yorkshire pudding sat on top of the best mash ever, and was surrounded by cauliflower cheese, roasties, cabbage, carrot mash and drizzled in rich gravy. I strategically had to leave a bit in order to fit in the dessert I had been eyeing up. This has to be one of the best value meals in the North West, at just £10.95 for the roast.
Grenache, Worsley - Roast
You've got to love extra desserts. Well, I do. Ever the greed-o-guts I was thrilled to see a mini tiramisu appear! Beautiful.
Grenache, Worsley - Pre-Dessert
Now then. Dessert. I had spied a vanilla cheesecake served with peppered strawberries and strawberry sorbet. I'd tried peppered meringue at Little Social last week - I was intrigued. This dessert sky-rocketed onto my all time favourites list. I ate every scrap despite being full to bursting! I cannot fault a single thing.

The strawberries were sweet and juicy with a warmth from the pepper, the cheesecake was smooth and the base just firm enough. The star of the show had to be the sorbet; tangy but densely flavoured with my favourite fruit.
Grenache, Worsley - Dessert
We adored Grenache; the atmosphere, the food and the people running it. It has an air of old fashioned glamour; a bygone time where every town had its best restaurant - the place where everyone wanted to go. Although it's sat in a quiet side street in Worsley, I get the feeling that most of its patrons now travel to get a piece of the action.

To put it in perspective, we went to Northcote for Sunday lunch a few weeks ago, and spent twice the amount we did today. The meals were comparable in terms of courses and presentation, but I have to say Grenache is considerably more comfortable. You don't have to get dressed up, and no-one is on best behaviour! Don't get me wrong, the Michelin starred establishments have their place in my heart, but Grenache are bridging the gap - excellent food which is affordable.

We're definitely going back to Grenache. The people sell it as much as the food does. Their head chef Mike is clearly a talented chap with a passion for his craft, and Huss was born to run front of house. Backing them up is a strong team of professional young people who do them proud.


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