CHATIME, MUSCAT. Curiosi-TEA KIND OF LOVE

Location: Near City Cinema, Shatti Al Qurum

After having driven passed Chatime a couple of times, my bestie and I finally made it to this new Tea joint in town. Today, I completely understand how my non-food adventure seeking Hubster feels when I push, pull, tug and drag him for a food experiment. This feeling of being completely unaware of what I  got myself into engulfed me. First off, my brain refused to accept the concept of cold milk tea (I am Indian, I drink piping hot tea ONLY), secondly, exotic (borderline scary) sounding ingredients that I have never heard of, third they had no FOOD in this joint (no food, really?). But before I make you think this is going to be a negative review, let me tell you that I enjoyed this curiosiTEA filled experience at the newest Taiwanese Tea place in town.

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Chatime has a unique Tea concept dedicated to make Tea a healthier, refreshing and fun alternative to Coffee. This trendsetter from Taiwan has close to 1000 outlets in 80 cities across four continents.(info courtesy a quick google search)

funky flavours

For a change, it was my girlfriend who asked about the food and not me. But the concept of this tea place is such that each drink is a mini snack in itself. You can pick your choice of tea, hot / cold or smoothie and add to it the toppings of your choice. By toppings I mean really bizarre but delicious stuff. If you are anything like me, you will be curiously confused at first. But I have done the homework for you. Look at the menu at the counter. They have marked it out. Look for the yellow stars, which are the best sellers (that’s how I decided what I wanted). The ‘Cold Drinks’, ‘Stronger Tea’ and ‘Upcoming Drinks’ are also marked out.

Chatime-menu

They also have non-tea based juices and smoothies and those are really good. I think the guy behind the counter sensed my curious and confused expression and gave me a shot of their grape apple smoothie. We raised a smoothie toast, post which, I was confident enough to place my order.

a toast

I called for a Pearl Milk Tea Smoothie. The pearls are squishy, black tapioca balls and I also asked for an extra topping of Coconut Jelly. (RO 2.3).  I loved the squishy balls and the coconut jelly [though its called toppings, it sinks to the bottom 😉 ]. I did not however get the distinct tea taste. But I enjoyed the drink.

drinks

My friend, who has this fetish for flower based tea, and for some crazy reasons pays a bomb for it every time, stuck to her strategy and ordered ‘Chrysantemum Pu Erh Tea’ (yeah you find it hard to read, just think how hard it was to type) from Chatime’s Oriental Pop Tea Section (RO 2.4). She loved it and said it’s the perfect drink for summer. And she is right. Chatime is the perfect way to beat the onslaught of this heat wave that’s so stubbornly embracing us here in Muscat.

No offence to my favourite Mocha Hazelnut Frappuccino at Starbucks, but this place has some really healthier yet tasty options. You get to control the amount of sugar that goes into your drink and there are plenty of non-milk based drinks as well.

Do give it a try and let me know what you think. (my brother thinks that I only write about the positives, so help me prove him wrong)

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Deccan Darbar, Muscat, Can’t wait to share kind of love

Just got back from lunch and so excited to write about my date with yumminess. So let me dive right into it… coz ‘SHARING IS CARING’ 😉

Location: Deccan Darbar is located just off Ruwi high street. The lane opposite Raymonds showroom. (Thanks Fazal for the directions.)into picapproach

us
Our Thursday Lunch Group – We have rules: 1] we don’t share our food, 2] we don’t talk while we eat, 3] we think highly of food pairing… ALAS! we forget about all the rules as soon as we see food.

Word of Caution: Not a glitzy place, but you won’t regret a second.

What to Have: If you are going there for the first time then these are the must try dishes.

Mutton Fry: (RO 2) Heard of cooked to perfection, falling off the bone, melt in your mouth etc? Well the Mutton Fry at Deccan Darbar is all that and more. We always order an extra plate because we know one is not going to be enough.The mutton pieces are cooked perfectly, which makes it so much easy to eat. Its a bit spicy for me as I do not have a high tolerance level for green chilli. Paratha:(100 baiza 1.no) Perfect accompaniment with the Mutton Fry.

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Chicken Hyderabadi: (RO1.6) For some of us, an Indian meal is not complete without curry. This is the best one to try. Cooked in true Hyderabadi style with a smoke infused flavour this rich chicken gravy is sensational.

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Biryani: Tender chicken and the hidden boiled egg with perfectly dum cooked rice makes this biryani a must try.

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Try it! and let me know what you think.

Contact: 24831451 / 99600291 / 95374827

Celebrating Our Sultan’s Return – A sense of belonging kind of love.

The Sultanate of Oman has given me so much. When I came to this country 3 years ago I didn’t know what to expect. My mind was blank but this beautiful country has managed to turn a blank  canvas into a colorful collage and Oman is Oman because of our Sultan, the visionary and compassionate leader His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. This post is a tribute to him, a celebration of his safe return. He is back in the country after an absence of eight months (as he was under medical care in Germany)

This morning (at work) we walked into a celebration. the nation is celebrating our Sultan’s return in many different ways and we joined the festivities with songs, speeches and of course food.

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For a change food was not the hero… His Majesty Sultan Qaboos was and rightfully so. No marketing campaign, no 360 degree activation, no PR brigade… We salute the ‘father of modern Oman’, whose 45 years of reign is a living testimony to what leadership should be; what a leader should truly be!

2 States, 2 Weddings & Endless Food – A whirlwind kind of love

Trying to think of excuses as I type… Why haven’t I blogged since January?

  • I was squashed under pre-vacation work load.
  • I was busy traveling to and in India.
  • I did not always have good internet connectivity… or
  • I was so engulfed by family and extended family drama and stress, that I couldn’t even think of EATING. The last reason will and can never fly… because no matter how stressed I am, I EAT.  I eat when I am happy, I eat when I am sad and I eat because that’s what I do.

So no excuses and given the number of people who read my blog, I am sure an explanation is not due. What have I been up to? I was on a whirlwind of a vacation to India. Hopping between states and cultures in the land of diversity. Travelled from the laidback Southern part of India to the loud and colourful North. I spent a week in Kerala; devouring my mom’s yummy treats, prepared specially for me and only me (I can safely claim that as I was the only one in the house), walking down memory lane in my ancestral home, exploring my uncle’s vegetable garden and spending time with cousins at Kentucky Fried Chicken – clear sign of how easy it is for food to break cultural barriers. And not to mention attended the coming together of a beautiful bride and the most compatible groom at a family wedding and feasted on the true Kerala feast – Sadhya. mom's yummy treats

Early morning veggie hunt at my Uncle's Backyard
Early morning veggie hunt at my Uncle’s Backyard

KFC wedding south I knew I was heading to the northern part of India, when Mr. Hubster came with ‘Idlis in a Cup’. Yeah heard of Cup Noodles… well now its Cup Idlis. Tasted pretty good though for airport food. idli in a cup

Landed in Chandigarh. Was amazed at how polite and well-spoken the taxi drivers there are. And not to anyone’s surprise, while Mr. Hubster enquired about the great French architect, the mastermind behind the planned city Chandigarh, I cut in with the most pertinent question “WHATS THE BEST PLACE TO GO FOR AUTHENTIC PUNJABI FOOD”. He asked us to go to Pal Dhaba. He said, “It doesn’t have the glitz n glam of a shiny five star restaurant but the food is the best in the land”. Exactly my kind of place.

Paal Dhaba

It was just the two of us, so we ordered half butter chicken, a dish which can most definitely be called the brand ambassador of Punjab or even India. Wasn’t prepared for what arrived. The portion sizes in this land matches the heart of its people. The half portion was equivalent to two full portions elsewhere. The taste – can never have butter chicken outside Punjab again. I am ruined! And the tandoori roti, just reminiscing about it right now makes me crave for it. BUTTER CHICKEN In Punjab, and how can I say no to dessert. Headed to Gopal Sweets for Moong dal Halwa and Gulab Jammun. After quiet literally supping up all the richness of Chandigarh we went into snooze mode. DESSERT I wrapped up my trip at a big, fat Punjabi wedding. My bestie was tying the knot, post which she will be relocating from Muscat. I was welling up with the sheer thought of having to part with her and my sole solace was the juicy tangadi kebab (tandoori chicken drumstick) and the endless mouth-watering dishes on display. My friends and I without a doubt devoured every bite wedding food

The North Indian Wedding
The North Indian Wedding

Semsom Restaurant, Muscat – Expect the Unexpected Kind of Love

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Semsom is the newest addition to the Sultanate’s restaurant scene with a promise of delivering “Lebanese Cuisine with a Twist”. So I visited this restaurant to explore the offerings; And… did it live up to its promise? A HUNDRED PERCENT!

Don’t you just love it when restaurants can walk the talk… the promised twist, was not only delivered but it was done in excitingly unexpected ways. The magic of Semsom lies in its ability to surprise your senses like never before! It is about doing a hundred little things right. Its about truly taking us on a culinary voyage.

Semsom Interiors

The Hummus Trio

When the notoriously famous pink hummus (RO 2.1) was placed in front of me; my eyes instantaneously started feasting; followed shortly by my taste buds that went on a merry discovery ride. The tanginess from the sumac powder (tart red berries) and the freshness from the zaatar (thyme) blended in perfect unison with the creamy chickpeas. Drizzle some Olive oil (imported from Lebanon) over the hummus if you find the dip a bit too tart. (please note: I have been told tart n tangy are the predominant flavours in Lebanese cuisine)

Hummus Trio

 The olive & sesame hummus (RO 2.1) was another personal favourite. Do sample this one and enjoy the delicate flavour profiles. It Is a must try.

Next on the menu was the hot appetizer chicken liver. I honestly liked this dish. It was hearty, tasty, packed with flavour and a richness, which I was not expecting at all. It’s not a dish you would find everywhere and it definitely is not a dish that everyone can get right. But Semsom does. They Nailed It!

Chicken Liver

Moving on… the Lamb Bread (Lahm b’Ajine RO 2.3)… I ate not one, not two but three slices… Do I need to say more???? The pastry was soft, the meat succulent and packed with oodles of fresh-burst in your mouth flavours.

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The next dish is one of the Semsom favourites Fish Kebbeh (RO 2.9) – Apt for fish lovers and the not so enthusiastic seafood diners. Put your cutlery down, scoop up the mini parcels, bite into it and sup up the oozing sensationally juicy caramelized onions. For a second you might think there is nothing fishy about this dish, you are not hit by the clichéd ‘taste of the sea’. The flavours are masked and you unlayer it as you work your way through the crust, which is a dough made with fish and burgol mixture. Expected? Nah…totally Unexpected!

Fish Pockets

Now comes the big daddy of grills. Mixed Grills (RO 6.5) This was a true treat, a peek-a-boo kind of dish, as the succulent chicken grills were kept hidden by the colourful and tempting bread. Once the veil of bread was lifted, our curiosity was rendered speechless with the sheer sight of lined rows of grilled meat and chicken. Needless to say, I broke into an invisible happy dance. Grilled to Perfection.

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It’s Dessert Time!

I generally brace myself as desserts are really hard for any restaurant. You either get it right or you don’t. There is no midway here. Just look at the pictures below, I am sure it speaks for itself. If it doesn’t speak to you, then read the captions.

Lebanese Pannacotta – Mhallabieh

Only legends can come up with something as yummy as this. This dish is special, as it is the owner’s grandma’s recipe. Cannot get more authentic than that. Do you know what orange blossom water tastes like? If not you don’t know what you are missing! And now you know where to find it.

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Strawberry Pannacotta – Mhallabieh (R0 2.2)
dessert 2
Apricot Pannacotta – Mhallabieh Apricot (RO2.2)

Desserts are incomplete without a whiff of chocolate for some, hence this version of chocolate ice-cream with crispy flavoured vermicelli will truly leave you in a choco trance.

chocolate-dessert

dessert tray

I nearly forgot, and that would have been a crime! Jelab – try this drink, it is a must, must must… (did I mention MUST) try… I think this could possibly  be the drink of the Lebanese Gods! The floating pistachio and pine nuts make for excellent munchies after you slurp up the sweet, rose water flavoured ambrosia.

jelab
Jelab

 

My verdict: A must try, leave all  food prejudices aside and surrender yourself to the Semsom kitchen. The passionate owner Christine has made sure that you will be taken care of just as if you were a guest in her own home.

As they say in Lebanon 1000 Sahtein!

Semsom Restaurant, Location: Level 1, Muscat Grand Mall, Website, Facebook

collage semson

Foodventurists, meet at Golden Oryx, Muscat

“Golden Oryx Chinese food is quiet something!”

“Golden Orxy has a Mongolian Grill, how exciting”

“We went to Golden Orxy for a business lunch and it was a munch fest”…

…These are some of the tempting statements Muscateers have said about one of the oldest restaurants in Muscat. Somehow our paths never crossed up until last week, when I was invited for a food blogger event at the restaurant.

The ‘food-adventurist’s meet’ coincided with the restaurant’s new Japanese Menu launch, which added to the excitement of being around a bunch of food lovers, who have explored the depths of Oman’s food scene.

As the conversations flooded the table, so did the food. The dishes from the new Japanese menu kept flowing. Yay! We go to taste it before anyone else in Muscat, the sushis, sashimis, California rolls, tempura and what not.

I am familiar with sushi; I worship Global Fusion the coolest sushi joint in Mumbai; but do not qualify as an expert (even though I am a major ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ fan). 

Image licensed under Creative Commons courtesy

Image licensed under Creative Commons courtesy <Movies in LA>

There are some dishes on the Golden Oryx Japanese Menu that I absolutely loved, some I couldn’t comprehend, a couple that I disliked, some familiar and some completely new.

I got introduced to EDAMAME – young green soybeans that were steamed.  An absolute must have!

EDAMAME_Japanese spices

Vegetarians will find this menu enthralling as some of my favourites during this exploration were Mushroom dim sum, Negima roll (Negi = green scallions), Three Seasons roll.

Mushroom dim sum
Mushroom dim sum
Negima roll
Negima Roll
Three Seasons Roll
Three Seasons Roll

I also loved the California roll and the Cocktail Roll (latter a combination of two types of sushi, with fish roe, adding an interesting flavour and texture to the sticky rice)

california roll

I am an understudy to Japanese cuisine, if you are the same then here’s a break up for you.

Sashimi Platter: Comprises of fresh slices of fish that is served raw, often with daikon (raddish) or gari (pickled ginger)

Sashimi Platter

I liked: Tamagoyaki (a slightly sweet, Japanese omelette made on the grill, by layering cooked sheets of egg), the sliced salmon was fresh and creamy, crabsticks…well were crabsticks, I always like them, tuna – not so much, octopus – not so much either.

Nigiri Platter: slices of fresh raw fish served over pressed rice.

Nigiri Platter
I liked: Salmon, Crabstick, Tamagoyaki.

So, after my visit to Golden Oryx, I have got a status upgrade, from being an amateur to being a Japanese cuisine understudy. Can’t wait to act like a ‘food snob’ with the newly acquired set of vocabulary.

All in all, I think, if you are familiar with authentic Japanese food, it may be hard to satiate all your senses. (I say this not because I doubt the chef’s calibre – He is driving this new Japanese menu based on his in-depth understanding and hands on experience with Taj New Delhi – one of India’s premium hospitality brand. But I say so because some of the produce (prawn in particular) used weren’t fresh enough)

Nevertheless, there are some winning dishes on the menu and the novice in me would like to go back and sample it after the official launch.

Merry Christmas with Buffalo Wings and Rings, Muscat

HO HO HO said a happy me after a merry meal at the cathedral for chicken wings in Muscat – Buffalo Wings and Rings is a must must must try.

Location: Al Saruj, opposite Fat Burger or Al Masa Mall. Facebook Page For Reservation contact: +968 9393 1931

Bufallo Wings and Rings Menu

I love places that have wacky, word play and colourful interiors… and if the quality of the food matches with the word play then nothing like it… This eating joint has got it right.

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We ordered the traditional wings in sweet barbecue sauce and another order of the same in mid-hot sauce. To my palate mild, wasn’t spicy at all, I enjoyed it though… so the spice adventurists out there… totally accept the restaurant’s ‘atomic sauce’ dare.

ACCORDING TO THE RESTAURANT “Table Manners are strongly discouraged” SO JUST DIVE IN!

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Traditional Wings barbecue sauce
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Traditional Wings Mild Hot Sauce
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Hand Breaded Onion Rings

Great food served by great people makes the experience thoroughly enjoyably. The staff is friendly and very well trained.

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Do respect the tradition called buffalo wings… Do not expect an Indian fiesta, Omani hearty dinner or Italian glitz as Buffalo wings is about sitting down and devouring saucy pieces of fried, crunchy, juicy  and bite-size goodness.

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The restaurants ‘CROWD CONTROL’ offering is perfect for large groups of (6-10, 12-16, 18-24). But only concern is their drink ratio doesn’t match. We went in for the 6-10 option but got only 4 glasses of coal. Probably something the restaurant should look into. Or probably I got my math wrong because of the wingy trance I was in.

Image stolen from BWR Menu
Image stolen from BWR Menu

The restaurant’s menu does boast of some other hits such as the Nachos Supreme – a dish packed with melted cheddar cheese, a spalsh of sour cream and stuffed with tex-mex chili olives and what not.

Nachos Supreme
Nachos Supreme
Veggie Quesadilla
Veggie Quesadilla
happy pics
Photo Courtesy: Food wingman and Happy trooper Fazal Mohammed Ajmal

Bon Appetit and let me know what you think!

Omanis love their BBQ & I love them for that!

I simply adore the outdoors and with places like Wadi Al Arabieen, Oman has casts a hypnotic spell on me… Fine… I confess, it is hypnotic because good food is part of every experience here.

Nothing in Oman is complete without food and that’s just the way I like it.

During the most recent long weekend, my friends and I decided to go back to the basics. We went camping to this place called Wadi Al Arabieen to enjoy the sights and devour the meat(z). I love going camping with my local friends as they are so adept with the ways of enjoying and making the most out of the outdoors and available resources.

Step 1: Preparing for the trip, which meant shopping for supplies (charcoal, lighting fuel, grills, skewers and of course an arsenal full of meat, veggies and more food)

barbequeinoman_shopping

Step 2: Stopping for Ice (food has to be kept fresh no matter what)

ice-stor-eoman

They... hard at work!
They… hard at work!

Step 3: Getting to Wadi Al Arabieen

On the way to Sur,  take the right turn where the road sign says Wadi Al Arabieen. For more details and visual treats of the location visit the Oman Tripper website, For tummy treats continue reading.

Step 4: Scan the scene and take in the vistas

Step 5: Now comes the fun part. Start the food prep.

I guess you are wondering, where the hell are the food pics… I want to insert them right away… please do wait a bit more.

First we dig the hole place the coal and collect from dried grass and then start the fire!
First we dig the hole, then place the coal and collect dried grass and then start the fire! – Only if it was as simple as that!

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corn and onion
corn and onion

Last Step: Sit together and enjoy the meat, flavored with a dash of fresh air and a sprinkle of nature. Look at the food shots below, don’t they look restaurant quality and believe me, the bbq chicken tastes so much better than what we get served at some of the restaurants.

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AND I HAVE TO MENTION THIS. LOVE FOOD BUT RESPECT NATURE. 

Cleaning up.. helps burn off the extra calories as well
Cleaning up.. helps burn off the extra calories as well

Please do not forget to clean up before leaving. There is something magical about unspoiled beauty.  Let the explorers and food nerds after you enjoy the space as much as you did.

List of inspiring must watch movies for food lovers

This space – ‘foodishlyinlove’, that I call my own, is probably the first step that I have taken on a journey towards an unclear yet exciting destination 😉

Successful people… correction, Happy People, generally tell us that the secret lies in following your heart and doing what you love. I understand that but the question is how do you know what is it that you love? And when you do know, how do you turn your love into a successful action?

Does the answer lie in finding the INSPIRATION? 

So this is what I have been up to the past 2 days of my 4 day, ‘Oman National Day Long Weekend’.

I believe these are the must watch movies for food lovers.
These movies are compelling enough to silence the critical thinker in you and wake up the doer. I have watched some of them earlier, but just like an interesting book, some scenes, some dialogues, some exchanges resonates more now than ever before.

Eat. Pray. Love

Takeaway from the movie:

Simplicity might sound simple but sometimes comes packed in a box of complications.

eatpraylove
Image licensed under creative commons Fab738

I love this movie because it is real, transitional and does not show the protagonist as the symbol of perfection. We all make mistakes but the society is hellbent on professing perfection, which according to me is a major detriment for those who are like me – Reactive yet clueless. When great minds Director Rayn Murphy, Producer Brad Pitt et al. collaborate with great artists Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem we get sometime like Eat. Pray. Love.

Julie and Julia 

Takeaway from the movie:

Find your inspiration yourself.

Julie and Julia
Image licensed under creative commons Kaleb Fulgham

We all need to find out inspiration to be happy in life. I have met so many achievers growing up. Most of them were self driven, I for one never found my drive. So for people like me, we have to consciously go around looking for the one thing that inspires us enough to get off our asses and do something.

Next on the list:

Chocolat

Chef – Director Jon Favreu, Actor – Robert Downery Jr.

The Lunchbox (An India movie)

Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown Iran (not a movie, but reality)

Oman’s love affair with Karak Chai

Many a times I have driven past these hole-in-the-wall eating joints with ‘Karak Chai’ written in bold, never to be missed font size. From past experience, I know for a fact that these places tend to be a treasure trove of flavours.

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Another Tea joint in Al Khuwair, Muscat, Oman
Another Tea joint in Al Khuwair, Muscat, Oman

I always start my weekends with a hot cup of tea, true Indian style. Not doing so depresses me to the core.

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My friends and I stayed over at my Omani friends place on one of the weekend and I was craving for my morning cup of chai. That’s when they introduced to me the world of Karak Chai.

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A hole-in-the-wall store that serves more than 10 different types of tea, made with tea leaves and flavouring of our choice. Saffron tea, mint tea, ginger tea, cardamom tea so on and so forth.

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‘Karak chai’ is derived from the Indian chai called ‘Kadak Chai’. The latter is very different from the English tea and tastes splendid and has an international fan following. It came to Oman from India and is yet another example of the historic camaraderie between the two nations. Omanis, fondly rechristened it as Karak.

Enough of the history. Next time you visit Oman, or if you live here and drive past this joint. Stop and enjoy the tea of your choice. You also get a tasty snack here that goes by the Omani name Rakhel and is a crepe like snack. It also resembles the south Indian delight Dosa.

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with honey & cheeese

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with egg and cheese
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with Oman Potato Chips & Cheese

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