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&Company Resto Bar

Posted on May 2, 2013 by in Mississauga

3 Stars

- We were invited last week to attend a new menu tasting event at &Company Resto Bar in Mississauga.

First impressions were that this restaurant is HUGE. It’s a good spot if you are looking to throw a large-group party or corporate event dinner. They definitely have room to accommodate large groups for dinner and drinks.

The menu is set up with shareable appetizers as well as traditional entrees. We tried a variety of starters, all which ranged from $13.50 to $16.50.

First, we tried the Louisiana Shrimp Po’Boys. This sharable serving came with three Po’boy sliders, along with a helping of fries. The shrimp were lightly spiced instead of battered like a traditional po’boy sandwich, and were served with creole tartar sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. The buns were a bit oversized for the shrimp in the sandwiches. Something tells me they are better suited for the hamburger sliders also on the menu.

Next up for appetizers is the Charcuterie Flatbread. This was a great value! The flatbread that came to our table was the size of a small pizza. Each of us had a few pieces, which is a great size for an appetizer. As a big fan of a traditional charcuterie board I was interested in trying this out, and was pleasantly surprised. The meat was not overpowered by the cheese, tomato and sauce base on the flatbread. Would highly recommend this one!

Traditional entrees were next… I tried the Surf n Turf, a new menu item, which was $29. I really liked the unique presentation, which each item set up on a long board instead of a traditional steak and potatoes plate. The steak was cooked exactly as I requested. The lobster tail was a generous size, and the lemon-garlic butter sauce wasn’t overpowering at all. It was cooked perfectly too and was very meaty. Unfortunately, the double cheese baked potato was very dry. It seems like they are premade and had cheese, asparagus, and shallots added and reheated. A simply baked potato would have been a better choice for this one. The attempt at an added flair didn’t add much to this dish.

Under recommendation from our waitress, we also tried the Penne Jambalaya. This huge helping of pasta came with big chunks of chorizo, chicken breast and shrimp, in a Sambucca Cajun cream sauce. The sauce tasted a lot like vodka sauce, for those who have never tried Sambucca before. The portion size was impressive, and the pasta had a good kick of spice to it too. Definitely a win, and at $19 it was well worth it.

Once 10pm hit, the music was turned up to a deafening level, and other tables of guests began to arrive, including a few party groups with bottle service for the night. We decided it was time to ask for dessert so we could head on our way. The Brownie Cookie Stack arrived at our table with fanfare. A huge firework candle drew the attention from the tables around us as it arrived. It would be great for a birthday party or function, but as a regular dessert accompaniment it was a little over the top. Again, we were pleasantly surprised by the portion size, a stack of 4 huge, thick brownie and chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream and raspberry drizzle, all for $10. Although the presentation was amazing, the ice cream and sauce just couldn’t bring out enough from the cookies, which were warm but weren’t very moist or chewy.

Overall, the food is comparable to a lot of nightclub-restaurants on King Street in Toronto but at a more affordable price range, and without the 60-minute wait for a table. The service was great, from the manager to the hostesses we felt very welcomed at the restaurant. &Company would be an awesome spot to celebrate your birthday, family function or company party but if you are looking for an intimate dinner party or a romantic evening, this might not be the best choice.

- Karin

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3030

Posted on April 26, 2013 by in The Junction

3 Stars

3030 has young-professional written all over it. Craft beers, slightly pretentious menu and crowd, its Junction location (sigh, I remember the days when they avoided this area). And although I spend quite a bit of time in the neighbourhood, I only managed to getting around to checking it out a few days ago. That’s mostly because it’s a difficult place to notice, with an unassuming, simple ’3030′ stenciled on the front door, and not much else to identify it.

3030 is huge inside… seriously huge; especially for a place in The Junction. Stuffed full of small table settings and 2 full bars, it seems more like you’re in a concert hall than a neighbourhood restaurant, and that’s with good intention. 3030 is built to be a live music venue that doubles as a food-venue, and in my opinion, not the other way around (although that’s what they go for in the off hours).

One thing’s for sure, they put a lot of thought into their draft selection. The back bar has taps full of local-ish craft brews, including Wellington, Beaus, and even some other, more difficult one’s to find, like the Junction Craft Brewing’s IPA (which was fantastic), a Sawdust City stout, and a Broadhead White. Clearly, they take their beer selection very seriously. The unfortunate thing about the bars though is that with no stools to sit on, you get the distinct that they don’t want you hanging out there.

Much like you’d expect from a place aimed at young-pros in The Junction (sigh), the atmosphere sets it up as a pretty cool place to hang out, with shelves full of board games and walls lined with old-school pinball machines and plenty of interesting art. With the retro pinball machines all lit up in the evening, it gives the perfect backdrop to a night out.

But with just a little ’5 dollar snack menu’ card on each table, you wonder what about those of us that were there for more than snacks. Our server haphazardly and unconfidently rattled off the items they serve (there was only 4 of them at the time) but not before having to go back to the kitchen a couple of times before she could get it right. I asked if the items changed daily, hence no menus and the difficulty remembering them, but nope, these items had been here for a while she said. While it’s cool to try items out to see what works, I hope that eventually they’ll put together a more permanent and more expansive menu, or at least one that changes seasonally.

Because none of their mains sounded appealing to us, we instead opted for the items on the snack menu. The Butter Chicken Wings, while mostly tasty with the typical strong flavours you’d expect, arrived lukewarm. The Potato Wedges on the other hand, were indescribably and inedibly  hot, which turned out to be ok because they were bland and tasteless anyways. Overall, we just didn’t find any of the items on the snack menu impressive at all.

If you’re in the neighbourhood, 3030 may be worth checking out, but I’d say solely for their draft selection; and although the fact that there isn’t much like it in the neighbourhood makes it the kind of place you want to check out, I’d wait until there is a concert or show you want to see before making the trek. In my opinion, it just isn’t worth going out of your way for.

With a Gabby’s now opened next door, I remember feeling a little upset for them having competition so close from some evil, corporate chain, but really, it’s of little consequence. It’s obvious right away that they’ll both be attracting very different types of people.

- Andre

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Momofuku Daisho

Posted on April 25, 2013 by in Downtown, Financial District

3 Stars

- Torontonians have welcomed Momofuku with open arms and with satisfied stomachs. Last month, David Chang, founder of Momofuku and internationally renowned chef, was in Toronto to play host in an unexpected arena: The TIFF Food on Film series. He joined a sold-out theatre of fellow foodies (including us) to watch his favourite culinary film, Ang Lee’s “Eat Drink Man Woman”, and then engaged the audience in an informal Q&A session that spanned topics ranging from film to the trappings of celebrity chef-hood.

Three hours of salivating over delectable Chinese food on the screen left us craving more than popcorn, so we decided to check out Chang’s Momofuku Daisho shortly after…

Momofuku Daisho’s ambience is definitely the highlight of the experience. It’s open concept and top to bottom glass gives it a simplistic, modern feel. After a successful debut in NYC & Sydney, Chang was lured to Toronto by what he says was a ‘perfect and unique’ opportunity presented by the Shangrila Hotel: to house three, different takes on his cooking in 1, single building.

With the accessible Noodle Bar already a favourite of ours and a recent lacklustre (and wallet-busting) venture to the top-rated Shoto, we were eager to try our hand at Momofuku Daisho a mid-level offering that centers the menu around pre-ordered, ‘family-style’ dishes.

As you can probably imagine, it can be challenging enough to pick options in the moment, let alone coordinate an order for our group of 7 a week in advance (of which we were), but eager to get the full experience, we pre-ordered the much hyped about fried chicken and beef short ribs. The waitress kindly cautioned us to tread lightly when considering the rest of our order, on account of the deluge of food on the way. (Warning: Consider your wallet and alternative menu opportunities prior to committing to the pre-order. On a do-over, we would have banked one family style dish and ordered the rest off the menu.

First we enjoyed two dishes of lightly pickled, chilli-infused cucumbers. If these cucumbers are the Asian take on ‘bread and butter’ the West is in more trouble than economists predict!

Next came the Spicy Sausage and Rice Cake dish, inspired by Chinese Szechuan cuisine: these melt-in-your-mouth rice cakes punctuated by spiced sausage and Asian greens are a quintessential menu creation, packing flavour of Momofukian proportions!

We then indulged in a Momofuku classic: a pork-style bun, this time of the deboned chicken wing variety, coupled with dill, a glazey hot sauce and crudité; a real crowd pleaser for our group of 7.

And then, the massive plate of fried chicken arrived in all of its glory. Included with vegetables, scallion pancakes (oily and delicious) and a fancy soya type sauce.

Lastly, we tried the beef ribeye shortribs flanked by white Kimchi, bean sprouts and some sticky white rice. In our not-so-humble opinion, the ribs were a tad on the fatty side,

We decided to end the night right and order the chocolate – five different textures of it. A healthy spectrum of liquid to solidity; an interesting experience, but we’d suggest the more intimate smaller size, even for a larger group like ours.

All in all, we were blissfully overfed at Momofuku Daisho. It was lovely dining with David Chang in town and we luckily caught him at the restaurant to snap a pic. Good friends and good food – what could be better?

IMG-20130403-00035

- Marissa and Moez

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Sugar Tooth Fairy Cupcakes

Posted on April 5, 2013 by in Events

5 Stars -

When Tania from The Sugar Tooth Fairy Customized Cupcakes reached out to us to sample her famous cupcakes, we couldn’t say no!

The Sugar Tooth Fairy is a cupcake baking and delivery service. They specialize in customizable cupcake recipes that look amazing and taste great too.

You can check out their website for more information about pricing and deliveries. They specialize in large orders for corporate events, birthday parties and weddings.

The Sugar Tooth Fairy will be selling a variety of cupcakes at this month’s Toronto Underground Market. Make sure to check them out for dessert!

A few stand out flavours we tried were as follows…

  • Amore Red Velvet - I’m a huge red velvet fan and with the mini donut on top, this was the first one I tried. This cupcake is topped with cream cheese frosting. The icing was not too sugary which is what I prefer, and the cake was really moist.
  • Cinnamon Bun - This cinnamon swirl cupcake was piled high with cinnamon icing and a mini cinnamon bun. Extra points for the presentation on this one!
  • All Hail Cookie Dough - This cupcake is a top seller for The Sugar Tooth Fairy, and I can tell why! A cookie dough flavored cupcake topped with extra sweet cookie dough icing and a mini chocolate chip cookie. And inside was a sweet surprise – a ball of gooey cookie dough.

Overall the cupcakes from The Sugar Tooth Fairy tasted amazing and looked great. A lot of customized baking services don’t do a lot of variety with flavors or they sacrifice taste for presentation and these guys definitely don’t do that.

We also loved the personal delivery from Tania and her taking the time to speak to us directly, which she does with every, single order!

- Karin

Playa Cabana Cantina – The Junction

Posted on April 1, 2013 by in The Junction, The Junction Triangle

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4 Stars

Playa Cabana Cantina is the latest restaurant to open in Toronto to fuel our newfound taco addiction in the city. It’s located in The Junction at 2883 Dundas St. West (at Keele).

Playa Cabana Cantina is the second location for Playa Cabana – with it’s first location on Dupont (at Davenport). The Junction has accepted it well, considering there were absolutely no reservations available for the whole weekend – but they assured me that they keep the bar open for walk ins.

So we walked in. Right away I was impressed by the decor, there’s plenty of neon-lit signs including a shout out to JUNCTION – WEST TORONTO, and an “Keep and Enforce Prohibition” sign at the bar – perhaps a little tongue in cheek reference to The Junction’s past as a dry neighbourhood until 2000.

The menu here is set up a little differently than other taco favourites like Grand Electric or La Carnita. Instead of ordering tapas style – one taco at a time, Playa Cantina’s menu includes everything from tacos and tostados to burritos and enchiladas along with a side of rice and black or pinto beans.

We started off the meal with guacamole and chips. The chips arrived warm to the table and were extra crispy and fresh. The guacamole was smooth and not too spicy for our tastes. The bartender replenished the chips free of charge too, which is a great touch.

Playa Cabana Cantina has a fresh oyster bar set up, and at $2 a shuck, we couldn’t resist them. They were huge, no skimping here, and were served with horseradish and hot sauce. Then, we each ordered a set of tacos with a side of rice and black beans, after starting off with Amber Agave Margaritas.

The Ancho Braised Shortrib-Brisket Crispy Tacos were served on a corn tortilla with melted cheese, sour cream and pico de gallo. They came to the table piping hot, and the mix of brisket and cheese was perfect along with the extra crispy tortilla. They were reasonably priced at $14 for an entree.

Next up was the Tacos de Pescado (Baja-Style fish tacos) for $13 . They were a little underwhelming in comparison. The breaded tilapia didn’t have the substance to stand up to the guacamole and shredded cabbage filling. Usually I’m a big fan of a good fish taco but this wasn’t the best I’ve had lately.

Personally, I prefer picking and choosing different tacos to try instead of ordering them as a personal entree. The sides of yellow rice and beans were fresh and a great addition, but it would have been great to try a few different kinds of tacos instead of three of one kind.

With another round of drinks coming, we felt the need for some dessert… Unsure of what to get, the bartender recommended the Mexican Flan, so we gave it a shot. After waiting a little longer than necessary (I think the kitchen forgot about us), our bartender arrived with the flan, which was actually 2 mini flan served with whipped cream. He apologized for the delay and said the dessert was on the house.

Overall the personal service at the bar was great, the bartender gave us a lot of recommendations on what to order and was more than helpful. The atmosphere was comfortable and casual, it didn’t have that ‘too cool’ vibe that many new restaurants are picking up on now.

We definitely will be returning to try out the burritos and other menu items along with the amazing guacamole again too. The tacos were flavourful, with fresh, house made ingredients but not the best of what the city has to offer right now.

- Karin

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Event: Toronto Underground Market

Posted on March 18, 2013 by in Events

From Toronto restaurants like Milagro, to catering companies, to one-or-two man chef teams, vendors show off their latest creations for awaiting foodies at the Toronto Underground Market.

This weekend was the second of many planned for 2013. This monthly social food market is held at the Evergreen Brickworks, from 5-10pm. Entry tickets are $25.

Although the Brickworks was armed and ready with portable heaters and attendees were warned to dress warm, it seemed like the vendors were fighting to keep their food warm. A few items our party ordered tasted great but were cold almost instantly.

Overall, the event had a great vibe. The food was decently priced (most items were $5 flat) which was appreciated as the entry tickets were a little steep. We’ll definitely be going back but might wait a couple of months for warmer weather and warmer food!

Standout items included:

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543195177/ - Bacon Onigiri from Abokichi Rice Cafe. These were all hand-made by “rice baller” Jess Mantell. It was a unique twist on a traditional dish, and one that we don’t see a lot of in Toronto.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543196037/ Liko’s Hawaiian BBQ won the battle of pulled pork at TUM this month. Pulled pork was being served at nearly every booth! Their sandwiches had a sweet barbeque sauce with a pineapple salsa. They also had barbecued chicken and pork skewers with the sweet barbeque sauce too.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543194489/ Margo Pinton, a catering company, brought simple but amazing ‘Tequenos’. Queso fresca cheese with a variety of dips included like mild green pepper and raw sugar cane. Who doesn’t enjoy gooey cheese breaded right?
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8543194675/ For dessert, we tried meringue tarts from Jack & Lil’s. They brought unique flavours like Turkish Delight and Dulce de Leche, with sweet fluffy meringue with gooey sauce filling. These were great but super sweet!
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/93991113@N08/8544292140/ ‘How ‘Bout Those Meatballs’ meatball sandwiches were authentically Italian – with pork, chicken and turkey, and other varieties. The sauce was so fresh. This was also the liveliest booth with bell ringing, dancing and more from the kitchen team.

- Karin

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October 2012 Poll: Which Neighbourhood has the Best New Restaurants Right Now?

Posted on September 30, 2012 by in Monthly Polls

In Toronto, it isn’t easy deciding where to go out to eat; we have so many choices available to us. So when you’re heading out to eat and you want to try something new, where do you usually go first?

Chococrepe

Posted on August 4, 2012 by in Trinity Bellwoods

chococrepe

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4 Stars

Crepes aren’t just for dessert folks.  That’s what Dewey Truong, owner of Chococrepe wants you to know.  Yes, they are paper thin, but they aren’t as one dimensional when it comes to their meal potential.  Walking into the Queen West restaurant on a hot summer day, the last thing that I wanted to eat for lunch was a Nutella and chocolate smeared crepe, so it’s a good thing there was so much more on the menu. 

Don’t let the name fool you.  At Chococrepe, the menu is divided into savoury and sweet options.  So yes, they do offer the obligatory Nutella crepe along with a slew of other sinfully sweet creations, but they also have an impressive selection of crepes with fillings usually associated with sandwiches or wraps.

To start off we had the Pesto ($9.25) which came with egg, mozzarella , pesto and arugula served on a buckwheat crepe.  Now I’m not an eggs anytime of the day person as I lump them into the breakfast only category, so this probably wouldn’t be my go to crepe, but it was tasty nevertheless.  The egg was fluffy, the pesto made its presence known without stealing the show, and arugula is never a bad idea. 

All of the savoury menu items come served on buckwheat crepes which are a bit similar to whole wheat wraps in their texture and consistency.  Despite the name though, it’s interesting to note that buckwheat is gluten free, so while I can’t speak for the filling, the crepe itself is a good option for those who are at least sensitive to gluten.

To round out our savoury options we tried the Country and the Chipotle Chicken (both $9.25).  The Country comes stuffed with cheddar and punctuated with wood-smoked bacon and caramelized pear.  I’m not even a huge fan of bacon (I know…sorry) but I loved this crepe.  The saltiness of the cheddar, the smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the pear blended so nicely into a ménage a trois of flavour. (What?  It’s French…like crepes…)

The Chipotle Chicken though, with a generous amount of tender chicken breast, mozzarella, arugula, and chipotle mayo, might have been the winner, but I like anything that comes served with a side of heat.

At this point it’s fair to say we were beyond full, and I was convinced that yes, crepes could be lunch, but it wouldn’t be fair of us to ignore the dessert crepes completely.  So we tried two.  The Berry Banana ($8.75) is the Platonic ideal of a dessert crepe.  Covered with sliced strawberries and bananas, then drizzled with dark and white chocolate, it looks like art (think Jackson Pollock).  This crepe had a nice balance of tart, thanks to the strawberries, and sweet, thanks to everything else. 

Our last crepe of the day came in the form of Crunchy Pear ($8.50), also beautiful in design with sliced Bosch pears, a generous sprinkling of crushed almonds, and painted with milk chocolate, it was a bit sweeter than the Berry Banana due in part to the milk chocolate, but won in the texture category.

All of the dessert crepes here are made with the typical sweetened wheat flour and served open-face which gives diners the artistic license to fold, roll, or just dive in as is.  And it just looks prettier.

 Oh, and I should mention that all of the crepes are huge, taking up plates that are larger than your average plate.  My suggestion is to bring a friend, or two, and sample multiple crepes like we did.

Did I forget to mention the hot chocolate?  Oh yes, we sampled a couple.  They take their hot chocolate seriously here at Chococrepe.  All flavours are made with melted Valhrona chocolate and you can have your choice of having it made with dark or milk chocolate (and in some cases, white) and with cream or milk. We really wanted to try the popular Fleur de Sel Dulce de Leche made with dark chocolate, but sadly it was unavailable, so we went with the Pumpkin and the Coconut.  The Pumpkin ($5.95) was made with milk chocolate, so as not to overpower the spice and milk instead of its heavier counterpart.  It was tasty, but I would liken it more to a chai latte than a hot chocolate.

The Coconut (also $5.95) however, made with white chocolate and cream was something else.  It was rich without being cloyingly sweet and the coconut flavour came through nicely.  I can definitely see myself going back for one of these once the temperature starts to drop, but if you’re craving one now, Truong just installed a brand new air-conditioning system that he’s very proud of. 

I would also be remiss not to comment on the excellent service at Chococrepe.  Truong himself is a living doll, and he goes out of his way to make your experience at Chococrepe a memorable one.  He obviously loves what he is doing, and says that he wants eating at his restaurant to be a comfortable and social experience, not to mention a delicious one.  Check, check, and check.

Footnote:  Why doesn’t the saying go “as flat as a crepe”?  Let’s face it, in comparison, the crepes pancake cousin from the West has a bit of a weight problem.

- Rebecca

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August 2012 Poll: What 2012 Toronto food trends do you hope are here to stay?

Posted on August 2, 2012 by in Monthly Polls

Nota Bene

Posted on July 27, 2012 by in Entertainment District

Nota Bene

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5 stars

- Beautifully modern and discerning, Nota Bene provides the perfect setting for special occasions and casual dining alike. What makes the experience at Nota Bene so incredible is the total lack of pretense in a restaurant that could easily come across as pompous, and still attract a devoted clientele.

You might find yourself dining with a local politician or celebrity, and a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, all in the same place. The price is accessible, the quality of the food impeccable, and the service instant without being overwhelming.

We started the evening with Chef David’s lobster tacos and the margarita fiesta specials. The lobster tacos were served in a lettuce shell, with a chipotle cream, veggies and cilantro ($8). They tasted like something you would find in a great coastal city, and not at all heavy. The lobster special is a great way to settle in to a long evening of wonderful food.  The margaritas were phenomenal, served on the rocks with Avion tequila. We tried a couple of the cocktails and loved “Chef David’s” traditional margarita with smoked sea salt. The blueberry and pine tips margarita sounds like a bit of an odd marriage, but worked so wonderfully together that we ordered another.

For appetizers we started with the Hamachi ceviche, which is a yellowtail Pacific fish, infused with coriander, lime, avocado, and jalapeño ($16). This dish came highly recommended by our server, and was absolutely worth the hype. The jalapeños offered a very spicy take on the dish, tempered by the avocado and lime.

Next we tried the cavatelli pasta, with a truffle-scented mushroom Bolognese ($16). This dish was surprisingly soft and creamy without any cheese in it, and the truffle mushrooms were divine. We also had the crisp duck salad with sumac green papaya slaw and cashews ($15), and although I am self-admittedly duck averse, I am told it was perfectly crispy and flavourful, and ending up being the favourite appetizer of the evening for my companion.

For our mains we ordered two Nota Bene favourites. I went with the wild Digby sea scallops with avocado purée, Thai curry paste, mango, papaya and peanut salad ($28). For such a tropical sounding dish, the scallops actually had a very Canadian East coast feel to them, the avocado puree adding a creamy compliment to the scallops. Nota Bene specializes in preparing excellent seafood, and I would absolutely come back for this dish again.

We also tried the braised beef short rib with corn truffle, pickled red onions, queso añejo and coriander ($29). The short ribs were tender, succulent and combined with the sharp taste of the queso añejo and the acidity of the pickled red onion, they were layered with flavour and flat out delicious.

With dinner, we ordered a glass of Ontario Pinot Noir and an Argentinean Malbec. The wine list at Nota Bene is extensive, with the full spectrum of bottles, ranging from the $70 to several hundred.

For dessert we sampled sticky toffee pudding ($12) and S’More ice cream ($10). Needless to say, the sampling turned into finishing. Both desserts were exploding with flavour, the pudding a great combination of traditional pecan praline and spotted dick ice cream, taken with a strong espresso; this is dessert to die for. The S’More ice cream was a fun take on the campfire favourite, with a chocolate and graham cracker crumble.

Go try Nota Bene, twice.  Once to become familiar with all that this brilliantly conceived restaurant has to offer and then a second time to cement the relationship in your black book of regular haunts. Service, quality and ambience are all top rate, yet you still feel the passion Nota Bene has for creating a wonderful experience and forming personal relationships with its guests.

See you there…

- Janine

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