Churn & Burn

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Churn & Burn is probably the best ice cream shop that you’ve never heard of or tried before. That could be for several reasons: their location, which is not really in the best part of town, and it’s not a chain. If you’ve never been though, it’s definitely worth checking out for several reasons: they have a really cool coffee and ice cream concept, they make their own ice cream (which is actually pretty good), they do cool stuff with liquid nitrogen that’s really fun to watch, and they have vintage arcade game tables.

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My friend Jeri kept posting about it on Facebook so we finally just had to check it out. Plus, we really had no reason not to. Churn & Burn is technically on our side of town.

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They have lots of delicious flavors. Their ice cream kind of reminds me of the ice cream that Marble Slab (in Bradley Fair) serves.

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This is that thing they do with liquid nitrogen.

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Brian getting ready to play some games.

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Incidentally, Jay and Becca actually know the owner. They saw our Facebook post while we were there and decided to pop in since they were in the neighborhood. They used the opportunity to say hello to the owner and visit with me and Brian also. It was great catching up with Jay and Becca. We hadn’t seen these two jet setters in a while.

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Anyway, don’t mind the tacky plastic sign. They were on the other end and just recently moved to this end of the strip. Don’t judge a book by its cover, remember? We just learned this. Also, don’t judge a book by its location. This part of town may not be great but this place definitely is, so come check it out.

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13th Anniversary Dinner at Luciano’s

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Here are some pictures from our low key anniversary dinner at Luciano’s, a restaurant that we’ve heard so much about but have never been to until now.

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This is Brian’s interpretation of Kilroy.

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Our delicious starter, which consisted of two different types of mozzarella cheese, prosciutto (from Parma, Italy), kalamata olives, olive oil, and salt.

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I liked the cozy ambiance of the restaurant. It’s quiet enough for a nice, intimate conversation also. Brian and I agreed that it’s a great place for a date.

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Brian had the baked lasagna.

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I had the pasta carbonara.

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And, we each got dessert. Tiramisu for me.

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Creme brûlée for Brian.

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Brian and I really enjoyed our dinner at Luciano’s. Even though they did card us and I didn’t have my purse with me. At least our server used good judgement and realized that if I’m married to an old man like Brian then I must be equally old. LOL.

I’m really glad they let me drink otherwise I would have missed out on the delicious sangria. It was so good that I had two glasses of it. Even Brian liked it. The only downside is that you could only order it by the glass. A carafe to share with Brian would have been nice.

Anyway, great dinner overall. I highly recommend Luciano’s. Brian and I will definitely be back, with or without a special occasion to celebrate.

The Hill Bar and Grill — New Favorite

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We tried the Hill for the first time recently and now it’s our new favorite place to eat. Brian and I are addicted to the chicharrones.

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As you can see, we can’t get enough of it.

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Brian says their onion rings are really good too. We love that they provide a variety of dipping sauces. They’re all very good but we think that the one we like the most is called chipotle aioli. It goes great with the chicharon.

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Some folks at work tried the Hill and said it was really good. My friend/coworker Tammie likes it because they have lots of options for vegetarians. They have several gluten free items on the menu as well.

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Here are some pictures of food from the Hill.

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My favorite thing to get is the carnitas tacos. Admittedly, I haven’t really tried much of anything else. Brian and I have been to the Hill twice now. The first time was when we had lunch with Jan, Connie, and Isaac. The second time was last Thursday when we wanted to grab a quick bite before going to Chamber Music at the Barn.

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I tried to order something different on our last trip there but, after much deliberation, I still ordered the carnitas tacos. Sometimes you just have to stick with what you know.

Brian had the pulled pork sandwich the first time and chicken tacos the second time. The chicken tacos looked good but I don’t think that they were nearly as good as my carnitas tacos. Just sayin’.

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We didn’t have time for the donuts on our first trip because it was during my lunch hour and I had to get back to work. The menu says to allow 10 minutes for the donuts so I recommend ordering it only if you have some time to spare.

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Since we missed out the first time, we made sure to get it on our second trip. The donuts are really donut holes covered in cinnamon and sugar. They kind of remind me of the sopapillas we get at Felipe’s Jr for dessert, except they’re a lot smaller than the regular sopapillas and bigger than the bite-sized ones. They came with three different dipping sauces: raspberry, chocolate, and caramel.

I thought they were good but not as good as sopapillas. If I could have the mini sopapillas from Felipe’s with these dipping sauces that would be the perfect combination. Still, I really liked the Hill. The location is great for meeting up with our West side friends who don’t want to drive all the way out to the East side and there’s bound to be something on the menu that everyone will enjoy.

Brian and I both liked the Hill so much that we’re already looking forward to our next trip. I just hope that I can talk myself out of ordering the same thing again next time.

Dempsey’s Burger Pub

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Brian and I finally had a chance to try Dempsey’s a couple of weeks ago. When you enter the restaurant, you’ll notice they have an upstairs and downstairs section. Brian and I opted to go to the basement because it seemed like there was more energy down there and we wanted to be where the action was.

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Here’s a picture of the upstairs. If you want to talk, it might be best to stay upstairs. Not sure if it’s that way all the time but it was pretty loud downstairs when we went.

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I had the buffalo wings because I’m not really a burger person. I know. Right. Why go to a burger pub? LOL. Brian and I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about mostly.

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The truffle fries were decent. They’re not as good as the ones they serve at the Anchor or Flying Stove, though.

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Brian had their egg burger. It’s one of those burgers that looks so ugly that you expect it to be really good. Much like the truffle fries, it was just okay.

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Overall Dempsey’s was pretty underwhelming. I’m not sure if we ordered the wrong things (although, we’ve been to restaurants before where everything’s fantastic so it didn’t matter what you ordered) or if everyone has been talking it up so much that we had unrealistic expectations. Either that, or we waited too long to check them out and they’re now in their mediocre phase. You know how that goes. Sometimes restaurants are amazing in the first couple of months but then they just kind of flatten out after a while.

On the plus side, our server was super nice and friendly. That’s not much of a differentiator, though. Maybe we’re just lucky but we get great service at most places. You really have to have great food. When we left Brian was like, “I really don’t care if we go back.” That pretty much sums the whole experience up.

Dempsey’s was just okay so Ziggy’s still rules Clifton Square as far as we’re concerned.

Efes Restaurant

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Darcy and I ended up at Efes on our first night in New Jersey because we didn’t want to be too far from the train station. We walked up and down the street and didn’t really find anything that appealed to us. Efes looked quaint and promising.

The naan and the sauces were good. Service was super slow, though. I was really thirsty and I think she only refilled my water once. I had to ask for a water refill and had to wait a really long time.

The hummus and falafel were good but neither Darcy nor I liked our entree, which was a bummer because it was one of the house specialties and came highly recommend by our server. We should have known she was clueless.

The description made it sound yummy and the server’s recommendation sold us. We both got the chicken dish, which Darcy describes sweet and sour chicken without the sweetness. It had a very pronounced sourness to it. Maybe we just don’t know our Turkish foods.

I wish that I would have ordered the salmon dish instead. It was that or the chicken dish. However, the chicken dish was a house specialty and our server told us it was her favorite and very popular. Usually, the house specialties are a good bet. Oh, well.

Maybe we just ordered the wrong thing because the restaurant is rated pretty well on Zagat. So disappointing.

The poor service didn’t help matters any. Our server never came unless we tried to get her attention. And, I really, really needed some water to tone down the sour flavor of the sauce. Darcy recommended just having more bread. I wanted my water, darn it!

The best part was the upside down “wash your hands” flyer in the restroom. The person who posted it couldn’t be bothered to make sure it was right side up. Seriously. You had one job! I had to take a picture.

Maybe this restaurant was good at one point but I’m guessing it’s been a long time since anyone who works there really cared.

Family Style Italian Lunch

I’m about to tell you about the best thing to happen to dining in Old Town. Gianni Bacci’s is pioneering a family style spaghetti lunch. You can find out more about it on their web site but Brian and I got to try out first hand last Saturday.

The lunch seatings are available on Fridays at noon and Saturdays and noon and 2 pm. We arrived at exactly noon so several people were already seated at the tables. There are two long tables that seat 14 each. I liked the amount of space between place settings because it didn’t feel like we were on top of each other, yet close enough to encourage conversation. Brian and I decided to sit across from each other for a change so I had strangers on either side of me. However, they didn’t feel like strangers at all.

Our meal started with an antipasti platter with prosciutto, salami, cheese, and grapes. Salad followed. It was good but I’m not much of a salad eater so I can’t comment too much on it. The main dishes were a garlic shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta and a beef penne pasta. They were both delicious. We also had some really good Italian sausage. There was plenty of food and garlic bread for everyone at the table. Several of us had seconds. I also liked that the bowls were lightweight so they were easy to pass around. For dessert we had lemon sponge cake with strawberry and whipped cream. It was so good that Brian ate it even though it wasn’t made of chocolate.

Brian tried two different beers: Sam Adam’s seasonal and the 90 Shillings IPA. He said that, of the two beer choices, he liked the 90 Shillings best. I kept it simple and just had a glass of moscato with my meal.

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The service was fantastic. Steven talked to the group a little bit and the chefs even came out and were introduced. Everyone was super friendly. Not only was the food delicious, it was a great experience overall. I’m thinking that we’ll probably be back at the end of the month. We’d go back this weekend but it’s Father’s Day and my in-laws are in town.

Since seatings are limited to 28 people, I highly recommend making reservations. Just call Steven Bacci at 316-613-3350, email steven@giannibaccis.com, or reserve your spot on their web site. This is the part where I tell you how to save money on your meal. Make your reservation by emailing Steven and — this next part is very important so I’m putting it in bold type — mention that Ching sent you. By mentioning that I sent you everyone in your party gets $2 off their meal. Then use the money you saved towards wine or beer and enjoy a fabulous meal!

Because We Absolutely Love Food

Cy's Place (Hoof & Horn Supper Club, etc) on Urbanspoon

Because we love food, here are some more food pictures for you. These pictures are from our dinner with Jim and Karen (aka our favorite neighbors) last Saturday at Cy’s Hoof & Horn in Sedgwick.

Brian had the chicken fried steak. It was big enough for three people to share and it was fantastic. The breading had excellent flavor and texture. This was easily the best chicken fried steak I’d ever had.

I’m totally getting it on our next trip there.

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Jim had the prime rib, which is on special every Saturday. I hear that it is amazing.

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Karen and I both had the filet.

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I’m not much of a steak eater but my filet was perfect. I asked for it medium well because I don’t like any pink in my steak. My steak was pretty darn good. I didn’t even need any steak sauce.

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For dessert we got to try their lemon merengue and chocolate pies. Both were very good.

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Cy’s Hoof & Horn is known by many names. I’ve heard it referred to as Cy’s Place or just Hoof & Horn. The sign out front reads The Hoof & Horn Supper Club.

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That’s also the name listed on the menu.

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We arrived a little after five thirty, which seemed to be the perfect time. More diners arrived shortly after and the place started to get pretty busy.

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Here’s a picture of Brian with our neighbors Jim and Karen.

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This is only the second time we’ve been out to dinner with Jim and Karen but we really enjoy their company. We had good conversation and the food was great. I’m really glad they recommended Cy’s Place or Hoof & Horn – whatever you want to call it.

The food is so good that we can’t wait to return. We are definitely taking Brian’s parents there on their next trip to Wichita. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend going. It may take 30-45 minutes to get there depending on where you live in Wichita, but it is totally worth the drive.

Meddys

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Meddys opened a few months ago at the old Jimmy’s Egg location on Harry and Rock Road. However, we didn’t learn about it until after Lights on the Lake. We were super impressed with food at the event that we had to track down the caterer. That’s how we found out about Meddys.

We try not to eat out too often but we’ve been really lazy about cooking at home the last few months and it’s hard to resist a good hummus. LOL. Plus, it’s located in our section of town so we couldn’t not check it out.

Here are some pictures of the restaurant:

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What I like most about Meddys is the simplicity of their menu.

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You don’t have to spend a half an hour trying to decide what to have. Also, the sides are all $1.99 which beats any super value menu at any fast food restaurant.

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Brian got the creamy tomato soup, which he had a chance to try and liked at the fundraising event.

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He also got a chicken shawarma wrap and a side of shoe string fries.

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I love skinny fries so they already got me. Brian prefers the fat, steak fries.

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For dinner I had the beef shawarma bowl. I had to fish out the onions, which I don’t like, but it was great other than that. I’m not really that hard to please. You give me some meat and some rice, and I’m good to go.

Brian, on the other hand, wasn’t easily impressed. He felt that the quality of the food fell short of the restaurant’s promise. I would have to agree with Brian. Meddys is great but, if you have the opportunity to try their catering, it is way better. I wonder if different cooks prepare the catering food than the ones that cook at the restaurant on a regular basis. I still think it’s good either way, but Brian was really disappointed because he expected the food to be just as good (if not better) than the food at Lights on the Lake.

For me, if you have good food and good prices, you’re already winning. For instance, a couple of people can share the $1.99 hummus and call it good. They give you lots of pita. More than enough to share. Maybe that’s just me because I find hummus really filling.

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If you want something more substantial, you can get the shawarma and hummus plate for $7.99. It’s enough to feed two hungry people. Where else can you eat well for that cheap (without resorting to ordering from a super value menu)? Nowhere.

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Thank you, Meddys, for giving me another reason not to cook.

The Effortless Experience

Here’s my key take away from the 2014 ICMI Contact Center Expo & Conference.

Matthew Dixon was one of our keynote speakers at the ICMI Contact Center Expo & Conference. The video above is nearly identical to his keynote speech witout the Bill Rancic jokes. The speech covers the key ideas of their book, The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.

It is by far the best book I’ve read this year. Seriously. It articulates a lot of the things that I’ve been feeling but haven’t been able to articulate. I always tell my friend Darcy that I have all of these opinions and gut feelings but have no way to prove them. I’ll usually make some kind of statement or claim. Sometimes Darcy agrees or disagrees but, since she’s the keeper of our call center statistics, she’s the one who actually crunches the data to either prove or disprove my claim. Besides that, Darcy is really good at running reports and gathering information. But I digress… The authors and their colleagues have actually done the research and their research proves what we have all probably known for a long time: a strategy of delight doesn’t pay, customer satisfaction is not a predictor of loyalty, customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty (no matter what you do), and the key to mitigating customer disloyalty is by reducing customer effort.

Customer service providers just need to accept that customers don’t want to have to deal with us. They want to take care of their business as quickly and as effortless as possible and be on their merry way.

The book talks about the concept of next issue avoidance, which is something that I’ve been working on for a few years now. Ever since we started collecting data on our repeat calls, this has been a topic of interest for me. I’m so glad that here’s a school of thought now that focuses on next issue avoidance because it’s actually easier for me to wrap my head around that than first contact resolution.

For years I’ve been trying to get at first contact resolution and can’t quite seem to get a metric that makes sense so I started attacking it from the repeat calls perspective. After reading this book I feel somewhat validated. LOL.

Anyway, if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. It’s an easy read. I read most of it on the flight home from San Diego. The examples provided are timely and relevant, and it’s just an enjoyable read over all. Kudos to the authors and their colleagues who helped with the research and contributed to the book. I haven’t been this excited about learning something new in a long time. Thank you.

Metro Grill II

I’d been wanting to try Metro Grill II since they opened the restaurant but we hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. Brian and I hadn’t been eating out for one and, secondly, when we do eat out we end up using convenience as a key deciding factor. So we end up eating where we work, play, or are going to be rather than going out of our way for a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong. We have done that, but that’s not what usually happens.

Anyway, we fully intended to make something to eat at home yesterday but the stars just lined up for us to try Metro Grill. When we went to see grandma yesterday at Victoria Falls, we drove by the restaurant. It’s located just North of Kellogg in one of the commercial strips along Andover Road. So that’s where they’re located!

At that very moment it seemed as though a lightbulb materialized out of thin air over my head. “Why don’t we just have dinner there tonight?” I asked Brian. “I’d been wanting to try it.”

We arrive a little bit before six o’clock and there were no other customers yet. I think we were their first diners of the evening.

Here are some pictures that I took of their dessert display.

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Even though the desserts looked fantastic, I was worried at first. “How good can this place be if there’s no one here at dinner service?” I wondered. However, three people showed up as we were mulling over the menu and other groups of diners trickled in as we were waiting for our food and while we were eating. We were just early I guess, but we are a couple of old farts and we prefer to eat dinner before seven. LOL.

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By the time we left they actually had a decent dinner crowd. We didn’t linger. We just stayed long enough to eat our meals and then we bounced because we still had to move furniture around for my World Party Party and then we had to head over to the Candle Club to watch The Fabulous Fleshtones perform.

Here are some pictures of our dinner.

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Brian had the Cuban, which he said is good but not as good as other Cuban sandwiches he’s had. He said they use dill pickles instead of sweet pickles, which gives the sandwich a slightly different flavor. Another thing that’s different about the Cuban at Metro Grill is the shoestring potatoes that you see sprinkled on top of the sandwich. Those are also inside.

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I had the fontina chicken with mushrooms and asparagus. All of that served on top of white rice. I’m a rice eater (lover?) so that helped me decide what to have for dinner. They have a wide selection of menu items and when I checked FourSquare for recommendations it seemed like everything was good. If it weren’t for rice, I’d probably still be trying to decide what to have. LOL.

The flavors were delicious but the presentation of this dish was a little lacking. Everything seemed like it was just piled on top of one another. The plate they used to serve the dish is also quite small. After the pile of food and the bread on the side there’s barely any room to maneuver. I would recommend serving this dish on a bigger plate. I would probably leave the bread off too because I usually eat bread or I eat rice. It’s either or and not both. For me, anyways. Other people probably feel differently and it’s good to have options, I guess.

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I’d been craving fruit salad since I ate the last of what was left of mom’s fruit salad so I ordered their fruit salad for dessert. It was good but it just seemed like a bunch of fruit mixed together. And, again, the presentation was blah. There really isn’t much there. With the beautiful desserts that were on display, I really hoped that this would come out prettier. You can’t even see the coconut shreds, which they put at the bottom of the bowl. I would have sprinkled that on top of the fruit salad.

Metro Grill II on Urbanspoon

I’m not sure how much thought went into deciding what fruits to use but, even though it looked like a bunch of fruit mixed together with no rhyme or reason, they were able to create a good cornucopia of flavors in my mouth. I specially liked that it had bits of mango. I mean, who doesn’t like mango?

Despite my critique of the presentation, I did eat every bit of the fruit salad. Brian didn’t want anything to do with it, and I thought it tasted good. I still prefer my mom’s fruit salad though.

The verdict? Metro Grill II is not bad. Definitely worth checking out if you’ve never been. I have mixed feelings about the value, though. I thought my dinner was priced appropriately, but I thought Brian’s sandwich was on the expensive side because it didn’t even come with any kind of side dish. They could have put a few leaves next to it to increase the perceived value. Brian probably wouldn’t have eaten it, but it would have appeared more complete.

The quality of the food you get for the price is decent, but the place isn’t exactly a “cheap” place to eat dinner. It’s kind of in between fast food and nice. So perfect if you want somewhere casual to eat but want something better than fast food.

Oh, and one last thing, though I’m not even sure if it’s worth mentioning because it’s kind of a given for any restaurant with an open kitchen. Don’t be surprised if you smell like your dinner when you leave.

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