Vegan in Prague: Manna Pizzeria

Manna Pizzeria

Pizza is probably one of the most popular meals amongst the other inhabitants of my apartment building.  How do I know that?  Because my neighbours like to leave their empty pizza boxes (and bags of household rubbish) festering in the communal halls for a few days before taking them out to the bins.  At first, I thought maybe this was normal in the Czech Republic.  Maybe I was a highly strung Brit.  But conversations with my students and friends have revealed that this is not the case:  I just happen to share a building with complete slobs.  Fortunately, this has not enraged me to the point that I’m no longer able to eat the good stuff – when it gets to that stage, I’m going to fly into a murderous rage (by which I mean, write a passive aggressive note to the offenders).

Every city needs a great place for vegan pizza, and this is Prague’s.  It also serves meaty and vegetarian pizzas, so it’s great when you’re in a group with various diets:  nobody will be complaining.

It’s far away from the main tourist drag, but within easy walking distance of Krizikova stop on the yellow Metro line and well worth the trip.  Vegans are given our own menu and two choices of sauce:  one tomato-based, the other creamy.  This is topped with Wilmersburger cheese, and five from a list of vegetable toppings.  I usually keep things simple with olives, garlic and mushrooms, but there are more vegetable choices too (nothing fake meaty, though).

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The pizza is great, and the cheese really elevates it – it’s definitely the best vegan cheese I’ve had on a pizza.  It’s also a nice little restaurant – we sat outside in the summer, and were cosy and warm inside during the winter (alas, smoking is permitted inside, though there is a non-smoking section too).

I believe it also does takeaway.  Please dispose of the boxes responsibly.

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan MoFo

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Vegan MoFo may be over, but I’ve still got one more post in me!  In November while I was doing the rounds and checking out all the exciting vegan blogs participating, I decided to try out some of the recipes I came across.  I usually cook more from cookbooks than from blogs, so it was nice to have a change.  Unsurprisingly, there were a lot of great recipes to try and I think I made a respectable number of them.  Have a look!

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These breakfast potato nests from Tartes and Recreation were such a little treat!  The original recipe calls for a spiraliser, but I just used my rather savage julienne peeler and got some nice little matchsticks.  The nests formed beautifully, and were good and crisp.  I used little cherry tomatoes rather than normal sized ones, because I was worried about tomato juice making the nests a bit too soggy.  I also just scattered on the nutty topping (I made almond parmesan rather than walnut, because that’s what I had in) at the end.  They were delicious!  Not that much effort in the morning, and definite wow factor when you serve them – I hadn’t told Dr HH what I was making, and his face just lit up when he saw them!

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From Walks, Talks and Eats I made this easy potato-carrot soup.  It was everything I expected:  hearty, filling and, of course, easy.  I partially blitzed the soup at the end to make the broth a bit thicker, but I kept most of the good chunks of veg too.  It was a good simple soup!

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I also used the spinach dhal recipe from the same blog.  Doesn’t it look so healthy and inviting?  Unsurprisingly, it was delicious.  And best of all, it calls for frozen spinach – good news for me, as we have just added fresh spinach to the list of things that are unavailable at my local supermarket.  I’ll definitely make this again.

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From Green Gourmet Giraffe I tried this vegan avgolemo, a Greek rice and lemon soup.  I cooked the rice separately, to avoid it soaking up all the broth from the soup.  It was unlike any soup I’ve had before, and it was delicious!  The miso/tahini combination is one of my all time favourites.  This was filling and wonderful.

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One Raw Bite is one of my favourite blogs, so I had to feature one of Jennifer’s recipes.  I made this corn chowder, and I loved it!  I’ve made a lot of corn chowders, and this one managed to stand out.  The sweet potatoes were a really great touch.

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This cream of cauliflower soup was from Plant Based Living and I made it into more of a cauliflower cheese soup by adding loads of nooch.  I also increased the quantities, because I wanted two days’ worth of packed lunches, not just one hearty mug.  I think my tinkering with the quantities wasn’t quite right, because it was a bit thinner than I would have liked, but it was creamy and nice.  It looks a bit green in this photo, but rest assured, it was lovely and cream-coloured in real life.

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From justbloggs vegan I made the easy, storecupboard version of tomato soup (there are two options linked here).  I added some oregano, and it was absolute perfection.  I’ve made a lot of tomato soups, but never thought to chuck in a handful of red lentils – this was definitely a winning idea!

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I also made the Bonfire night vegan chilli from the same blog.  It was delicious!  I rarely buy mince, but it was a good indulgence and it gave a really nice texture to the chilli.  The real highlight was the mushroom, though – of course!

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The easy red curry from Neat & Nutritious just called for red curry paste, and fortunately I still had some in, so I thought why not?  I used onion, carrot and cauliflower for my veg, and added some tofu as well to get a bit more protein.  The ingredients lists cashew butter, but the recipe instructions call for raw cashews – I stuck with the butter, which gave it a really nice creaminess.  The dish was as I expected:  simple and delicious.

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I’ve recently fallen madly in love with mac’n’cheese, so I was keen to try out some recipes from the vegan community.  This recipe from Vegful Life has a cauliflower twist and it’s a good ‘un!  (Apologies for the rubbish picture.)  The cheese sauce was creamy and flavoursome from the cashews and cauliflower, and it was nice and easy to make.  I think it probably needs a little something to make it sing – like the spicy chickpeas from Vegan Bowl Attack – but that’s a minor quibble.

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I also made the macaroni with chickpea sauce from Afrovegan.  I added quite a bit more nooch to make it taste more like cheese and less like chickpeas.  It made a good thick sauce, and was really easy to throw together on a worknight.  We served it with a few chilli flakes and basil leaves.

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And, yes, another one!  This was the baked guacamole mac’n’cheese from Lisa’s Project: Vegan.  It’s a combination I had never heard of, but, unsurprisingly, it worked beautifully!  It even looked a little festive, with the green tinge and red tomato slices.  I had some almond parmesan leftover from another dish, so I scattered it on top, and thought it a very good addition.  Dr HH doesn’t really care for big slices of tomato, but even he loved this.

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I was amazed by this vegetable pot pie with biscuits over at I Love Vegan, so I had to give it a go as well.  Mine doesn’t look as attractive as the original, but it was delicious!  The recipe for calls for tempeh bacon, but I just sliced up a packet of smoked tempeh and I think it did the trick nicely.  I also added a little more stock to help the potato to cook.  My scones weren’t evenly sized because, for shame, I don’t have any round cutters here.  And I didn’t brush them with melted spread because I was too hungry, dammit!  Still, everything was so hearty and flavoursome.  We both really enjoyed eating this.

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I didn’t really know what a Philly cheesesteak was, but nevertheless I decided to attempt Ichiban Vegan‘s chipotle portabella cheesesteak burritos.  Portobello mushrooms are a precious commodity here (or at least, my local supermarket doesn’t sell them), so I used regular mushrooms and supplemented them with some seitan to get that steaky vibe.  I thought there was no way the sweet potato cheesy sauce would be as vibrant as in the original post, but I was pleasantly surprised!  I’m glad I stuck with the mushrooms, as they added great earthiness and contrasted nicely with the sweet potato cheese (which was amazing, by the way).  It made a really delicious dish.

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It’s a hearty, protein-rich veggie stew from Go Vegga, using Linda McCartney mince instead of TVP because I had it in, but otherwise following the recipe.  I was wary of including the whole cherry tomatoes, or as Dr HH usually describes them:  little pockets of napalm.  I added them, and they were indeed very hot – but a fun addition.  We both really enjoyed this stew.

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I also made this quick and easy curry from Flicking the V’s.  Joey’s Vegan MoFo recipes were aimed at students:  fast, cheap, filling food.  This curry ticked all the boxes!  The beans were a really good addition, as I rarely add beans to a curry.  This was good and healthy.

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Kimmy from Rock My Vegan Socks posted this roasted Brussels sprouts, chickpeas and rice dish to fit the prompt about a food she used to hate but now loves.  I share her feelings about Brussels sprouts, once the scourge of my Christmas dinner but now something really delicious.  This was a really easy dish, and despite my worries that it was a bit too simple (no spices, just oil, garlic, salt and pepper for seasoning), it worked beautifully.  Cooking the rice in stock really helped to add flavour too, so don’t skip that!

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And a couple of sweet things:  these chocolate almond dates seemed like a good simple snack from The Secret Formula.  I hadn’t expected them to be quite so delicious, though:  they were really moreish.  I’m sure you can imagine how the gooey date elevates this from a simple fruit and nut combo.

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And finally, a quick and easy dessert from Little Vegan Bear (quick if you don’t include time to set).  This raw chocolate avocado mousse was creamy and delicious.  It was really thick, possibly more of a pudding than a mousse.  I did not put as much effort into my presentation as LVB did, but it was just as delicious, I’m sure!

Thank you to all of my fellow Vegan MoFo’ers for sharing recipes and products and posts galore in the last month.  As nice as it is to have more free time again, I’m really going to miss your daily updates.  Let’s do it again next year!

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Vegan MoFo 2016: Vegan in York

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Growing up in the north east, York was probably my most-visited place on school trips and family days out.  As such, there probably isn’t a museum in York that I haven’t visited.  As a child, I loved the Jorvik with all of its sights and smells, but also the Castle Museum, mostly for all the old toys amassed there.  The Railway Museum is fantastic whatever your age:  it’s impossible not to climb aboard a gigantic train and pretend to pull the whistle!  And I have been to York Minster a million times, though never in recent years because, I was outraged to find, it now costs about £8 to enter.  At the risk of showing my age:  it wasn’t like that in my day!

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Far better, and cheaper, is a walk along the historic walls.  If you’re anything like us, you can hum the Game of Thrones theme as you march along and look out for wildlings.  It’s a great way to see a bit of the city and to understand how ancient it is.

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And where to eat?  As a vegetarian, I joined most visitors to York in the queue for Betty’s Tearoom.  But now I avoid waiting in the rain and breeze straight into Goji, a lovely little vegetarian restaurant.  I’ve written about it before because I love it so.  The menu had a good balance of vegan and vegetarian dishes, but the daily specials are usually the highlights.  When I was there last December the specials board had a decidedly festive twist, and I couldn’t resist the nut loaf burger.  Yes, a slice of cashew nut loaf with cranberry sauce in a bread bun.  Of course, it was delicious.  The roasties were a nice change from burger and chips, but the salad was a little out of place.  Still, how exciting, to have a festive burger!

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Goji is a tremendous place to go for cake.  The window display no doubt lures hundreds of people in (likewise the deli counter, it would be a great place to pick up a picnic in summer months), and the majority of the cakes are vegan.  I’ve never disliked a cake from them.  This time, though, I went for the sticky toffee pudding from the menu.  The sponge wasn’t actually sticky, but it had all the flavours and the sauce was perfect.  There’s nothing quite like ice cream melting into a warm sauce!

York is one of my all-time favourite places, and any visitor to the UK simply has to go there.  The city has so much charm – and so many vegan cakes in Goji!

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Vegan MoFo 2016: Vegan in Dresden

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Dresden is divided into the Altstadt and Neustadt, on opposite sides of the river.  Most of the sights are in the Altstadt, but most of the vegan eateries are on the other side.  Of course, it’s worth crossing over just for the good food (like these burgers), but it’s nice to find a sight worth seeing there as well.

The two sides are pretty different, from the grandeur of the dramatic buildings in the Altstadt to the eateries and art of the Neustadt.  And nestled in the Neustadt on Goerlitzer Strasse is the Kunsthofpassage, a network of little alleys full of colourful buildings and interesting little shops and cafes.  This blue house with the water trickling down was my favourite, but there were some other impressive ones as well.

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Animal lovers rejoice!

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And lots of pretty mosaics.

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Goerlitzer Strasse seamlessly transitions into Rothenburger Strasse, home to Cafe V Cake, a lovely all-vegan cafe.  There was some nice mismatched furniture and a selection of board games, so it looked like a nice place to sit and eat, but we actually picked up some food to take away and eat on the train home to Prague.  This pasta salad was cheap and cheerful:  farfalle, chickpeas, slices of spicy sausage and vegetables in a mayonnaise dressing reminiscent of coleslaw.  It was creamy and really satisfying.  The pots were nice and easy to transport as well, making it the perfect takeaway food.

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If an establishment has the word “cake” in the title, it would be rude not to get a slice.  There was a fantastic selection, and we got this slice of chocolate speculoos cake to share.  It was delicious!  Sometimes I find vegan chocolate sponge a bit too dry, but this was perfect.  The icing was nice and not too sweet, and the sprinkling of speculoos crumbs on the top were delightful.

It just goes to show: you should always trust a place with “cake” in the title.

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Vegan MoFo 2016: Vegan in Tarragona

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Tarragona was another of our day trips from Barcelona.  It promised to be another old walled city, this time with the added bonus of the sea!  It’s a lovely train ride between the two cities, hugging the coast line and looking out at the dazzling turquoise water.

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This time we were looking for something a bit different from the usual cathedral/castle:  we were going to see the Roman amphitheatre.  It was €3.40 to enter, so we thought we might as well.  You don’t need a lot of time to explore it, but it’s fun to climb the ancient seats and roam around the grounds talking like Russel Crowe in Gladiator.

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And progressing from the amphitheatre to the old town and cathedral will take you right past Tarragona’s only 100% vegan restaurant, right on the main thoroughfare:  El Vergel.  It’s a perfect location and, I have to say, a perfect place.

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We’d made a reservation for opening time at 1pm, and were shown straight to our little table by the window.  The whole restaurant was so charming:  really light and spacious, with pretty floor tiles and artwork.  All of the dishes are translated into English on the menu, and service was very friendly and relaxed – we weren’t rushed at all.  By the time we left it was absolutely packed, so I’d recommend booking if you’re heading this way.

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There were about four choices for each course, and we both chose the same starter.  We try to avoid that, but what choice do you have when there’s arancini on the menu?!  They were so good and crispy on the outside, and full of delicious rice and spinach.  The accompanying tomato chutney was good too.  This was a huge portion, more like a main than starter. But who’s complaining when it’s this good?

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For the mains, Dr HH chose the pflammkuchen:  a kind of pizza with an extremely thin and crispy base, topped with a creamy concoction and a bit of cheese, and generously distributed bacon soy chunks.  He gobbled it up and said it was very good and salty.

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I got the leek, apple and cream cheese puff pastry parcel.  I love pastry so much, there was no way this could be bad.  The pastry was good and flaky, the filling was creamy and delicious, even the salad leaves were well-seasoned.  I was very happy indeed.

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Dr HH opted for the cherry pie for dessert.  As amazing as it looks, he described it merely as:  “pretty good.”  He declared the pastry base excellent, particularly the crust, but said the pistachio praline cream on top was a bit too sweet.  There was a nice flavour from the cherries though.

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I got the very fancy-sounding savarin with red berries.  Alas, is was basically a fruit muffin.  It was a good fruit muffin, but I probably wouldn’t have chosen it had I not been lured in by a fancy word.  The white chocolate cream on top really elevated it though.

It was €13.50 each for three courses, a little bread basket and a refillable conical flask of water (free tap water remains quite the treat in Europe).  We were enjoying ourselves so much we even stayed for a brew at the end.

This was one of the nicest restaurants and best meals not just of the holiday in Spain, but of this year so far.  If you’re in Barcelona, get yourself to Tarragona and don’t forget to book your table!

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Vegan MoFo 2016: Vegan in Gdansk

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When I wrote about Gdansk after our Easter holiday I mostly noted that we ate at some omni places and we encountered some racist people.  We did in fact enjoy the pretty town centre though, and even visited an all-vegan restaurant, Avocado.  Surprisingly, it was not the best meal we had there though.

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It’s quite far away from the city centre, so I assume it’s intended more for locals than tourists.  But as it was the only 100% vegan place I found, we decided it was worth the trek out there.  We went at about 5pm for an early meal, and found that it was absolutely packed.  We managed to find two seats, but got bashed by everyone queuing up at the counter.  Due to some quick scurrying, we managed to snaffle a corner table instead, but throughout the meal lots of people waiting for their takeaway orders were lurking right by us, which puts me on edge.  The perils of visiting a popular place!

Despite how busy it was, service was still fast and friendly.  There was quite a small menu, which is usually an encouraging sign:  some cutlets (of course), falafel, a burger, and cannelloni.  I was on cutlet overload already, and hadn’t had cannelloni since going vegan, so decided to give it a try.  I think cannelloni sounds much fancier than other pasta dishes, so I was expecting it to be pretty special.  Perhaps my expectations were too high:  it was nice, but it was just pasta, in the end.  The two salad sides were nice and fresh, and the three rolls were stuffed with spinach and in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, which was nice.  “Nice” is the perfect word for it.  I wish the cheese on top had melted.

There was a very tempting cake counter, which might well be where things would have shifted up to “spectacular”, but lurkers were waiting for seats, so we decided not to bother.  Avocado is in a very vegan-friendly little part of town – there’s a place called Hummusland nearby, and it’s a few doors down from Fukafe, a 100% vegan cafe with some beautiful looking cakes.  I’d be interested to see if those two were better options that Avocado.

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Back in the tourist hub, our main activity weas walking from the Golden Gate

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…to the Green Gate (please note, it does not take so long to walk that day turns to night – it’s a casual ten minute saunter).  The gates themselves are pretty…

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…and you can admire this in between.  It’s the quintessential European street and square:  tall town houses in nice pastel shades, cobbled streets, grand places of worship.  Not too shabby at all!

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Vegan MoFo 2016: Vegan in Birmingham

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During the summer, Dr HH took me for a quick trip to Birmingham, which is in his neck of the woods.  I asked him what interesting place we should visit, and he immediately suggested the new library.  I love libraries, so I was definitely in favour of this, and I was immediately impressed by the building from the outside.  Isn’t it pretty?

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Inside it was also nice.  We worked our way up to the third floor, where there was a temporary Shakespeare exhibition on.  I loved the posters for Shakespeare performances from different countries around the world – there was some really fantastic artwork.  Up on the ninth floor there was also a special room dedicated to the big man.  The room was an original 17th century room, rebuilt various times in various buildings.  It held a collection of old Shakespeare books, and was generally a very beautiful place to be.

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Back down on the seventh floor, we somehow found our way into the Secret Garden.  This is a secret worth sharing.  It’s a lovely outdoor terrace with seating, flowers and an excellent view.  It wasn’t very busy, but there were a few people strolling and posing for selfies, a couple of readers, and some people quietly having their lunch.  A lovely place to be.

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We didn’t stay for our lunch though.  Instead, we took a ten minute walk over to 3 Three’s Coffee Lounge.  I’d seen it mentioned a few times on Instagram and was intrigued by their cake selection.  It turned out to be very good indeed!  It is listed as a vegetarian cafe, but every food item I saw was labelled as suitable for vegans too – perhaps it’s only the milk options that prevent it being all vegan.  It’s a nice big space with two fridges for sandwiches, soups and savoury snacks like falafel, then a cake counter.  It’s in a similar vein to places like Pret and Eat, but also has some hot food from the kitchen (hot dogs, for example).

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I had the chicken and mozzarella panino.  It was good, but not quite as good as I’d hoped – chicken chunks would have been amazing, but the slices were ok.  This chorizo and mozzarella one that Dr HH ordered was much better!  It had chunks of meat, and was really flavoursome.

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While I love a good cake counter, it does make choosing more difficult.  But I eventually settled on the caramel shortbread, because it’s not something I often get to try.  The caramel layer wasn’t as thick and gooey as I would have liked, but it was delicious, and the thick chocolate more or less made up for it.

It’s hard to believe there’s no 100% vegan eatery in Birmingham, but this one does come very close and is an absolute delight!

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