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Trac

Tequila & Mezcal: Your New Fun Friends

The popularity of tequilas and mezcals in San Francisco is amazing right now. With hot restaurants like Loló and La Urbana focusing their bar program on Mexico’s agave plants, it doesn’t seem to look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. For the novice though, mezcals and tequilas seem like the same spirit. This is true in that they are both made from the agave plant, but their production method and their varieties of agave are very different.

So, what are the differences between tequilas and mezcals? There are three major differences:

  1. Regionality: Tequila has to be made in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Tampaulipas, with the majority of tequila production happening in Jalisco. Mezcal can be produced in most Mexican states, with Oaxaca being the main production center.
  2. Agave: Tequila can only be made with Agave Tequilana Weber, aka Blue Agave. Mezcal, however, can be made from over 30 different varieties, including Espadin and Blue Agave. Because of this, mezcals vary in flavor much more than tequilas do.
  3. Process: The agaves used in tequila are baked in steam ovens, or what is essentially an industrial pressure cooker. With mezcal, the agaves are roasted in an underground pit filled with wood and volcanic rocks, which gives mescal its distinct smoky flavor.

Because summer is synonymous with porch sitting and park picnic-ing, we asked our resident bartender, Kitty Galisia, to create two seasonal cocktails to celebrate these special spirits.  A seasoned bar veteran and mixologist, Kitty learned the art of mixology at the hands of local cocktail legends like Thad Vogler, Erik Adkins, and the team at NOPA (where Kitty tended bar for nearly a decade). Kitty’s cocktail philosophy is to make each drink its own, so that every sip takes you to a special time and place. Visit our recipes page to keep your summer weekend vibes rolling with these two agave-inspired cocktails, and picture yourself out with your friends,  sipping these fun, flirty drinks.

Bit of a bartender yourself? Check out our favorite tequilas and mezcals in the Markets:

MezcalVagoEnsamble*Mezcal Vago Ensamble en Barro Bi-Rite | $99.99*
Our first-ever exclusive mezcal made for us by Mezcal Vago in limited quantity! This is one-of-a-kind ensemblage (blend) made with three agave sub-varieties. They are roasted, fermented and distilled together in Olla de Barro (clay pots) to produce a wonderfully complex mezcal.

Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal | $74.99
One of the top villages in Oaxaca, Chichicapa shows beatutiful vegetal notes with flavors of green citrus rinds, pepper, and smoke.

Cimarón Reposado Tequila | $21.99
Single estate agave from one of Jalisco’s largest and renowned farmers means the best value in traditional tequila. Three to six months in white oak barrels takes the purity of blanco and splashes it with the nuance of age.

Tequila Ocho Blanco | $54.99
Tequila Ocho are vintage designated tequilas that come from a single estate with its own micro-climate, making these the most terroir-driven tequilas in the market. Pair this with Combier Triple Sec for a top shelf margarita.

 

 


Trac

The Prodigal Zin Returns!

Summer is here, which means it’s time to dust off the grill and get ready for some backyard bbqing (even with all this fog). Along with rosés, no other wine complements baby back ribs, hot dogs, or steaks better than Zinfandels. However, Zinfandels are not known to be food friendly, because many of them are huge and monstrously powerful wines. The blast of rich, sometimes pruney fruit can be overbearing, and the hammer blow of the alcohol can be unpleasant. Zinfandels now commonly reach past 15% alcohol, often conveying an impression of sweetness that, combined with a thick texture, tends to blot out food. Sometimes they are actually sweet.

So why would we recommend Zinfandels with food then? Well, it is a uniquely American wine and nothing is more American than backyard bbqs. We want to feature the producers who we believe are making a more restrained style of Zins, lighter in body and lower in alcohol. This is often called the claret style, and we are celebrating these producers who are bringing Zinfandels back into the spotlight.

While you’re grabbing provisions for your summer grilling, check out these Zins to warm up those foggy grilling nights:BrocZin

Broc Cellars “Vine Starr” Zinfandel  Sonoma County, CA 2014 | $29.99
Chris Brockway has redefined what’s possible with Sonoma Zin. The Vine Starr shows the fresh and elegant side of Zin, with flavors of raspberry, pink peppercorns, and thyme. A Zinfandel that’s more like a fresh summer market than opening a jar of jam.

DasheZinDashe Les Enfants Terrible “Heart Arrow Ranch” Zinfandel Mendocino, CA 2015 | $24.99

Mike and Anne Dashe use organically grown grapes for their les Enfants Terribles series. This Zin is from a single-vineyard in Mendocino and complements its inherent fruitiness with rocks and wild herbs. Excellent with grilled meats.NalleZin

Nalle Zinfandel Dry Creek, CA 2014 | $39.99
This wine is a step back in California time with dusty Dry Creek roads, candied violets, and potpourri on the nose, followed by cherry pie, molasses, and orange rind on the palate.


Trac

Say Yes to Riesling!

Americans love sweet things – from Frappuccino to Coca Cola, we can’t get enough of them. But when it comes to wine, we turn our noses up at it, always wanting something “dry.” And that’s too bad, because anyone who dismisses Riesling is missing out on what just might be the most versatile and complex white wine in the world. This grape can be made completely dry with racy acidity or with rich, full bodied nectar that can stand up to steak, which is why it’s an incredibly easy wine to pair with any cuisine, whether it’s Sichuan or delicate seafood.

Finding the right Riesling for your taste can be tricky because Riesling labels can be hard to read, especially the German labels with ripeness level classifications like Kabinett (light and fresh) to Auslese (high in sugar, usually for dessert), which can take months to study.

We’re here to help! If you want a dry Riesling, look for the work trocken on German bottles or pick up an Alsatian or Austrian Riesling, as most are generally dry. Look for alcohol percentage on the bottle: if it’s 12.5% or higher, 99% of the time it will be a dry wine.  Don’t hesitate to ask folks on our wine team, who’re on a mission to make Riesling more widely quaffed.

Here are some of our favorites you can shop at the Markets:

Domaine Ostertag Riesling “Vignoble d’E” Alsace, France 2013
Made by revolutionary Alsatian producer, André Ostertag, this cuvée is made to express the essence of Riesling in Alsace instead of terroir. It’s delicate with notes of white flowers and peach, and delicious with shellfish and fish.

Tatomer Riesling Vandenberg Santa Barbara, CA 2014
Winemaker Graham Tatomer shows us that Rieslings can shine in California. Having studied at one of the best wineries in Austria, Tatomer’s Vandenberg Riesling has rich fruits with pure mineral notes.

Von Hövel “Hutte Oberemmel” Spatlese Riesling Saar, Germany 2014
A family-owned estate now operated by seventh-generation winemaker, Max von Kunow, has some of the best vineyards in the Saar region of Germany. This classic Spatlese has typical Saar notes of savory herbs like mint and tarragon with a long and juicy apricot finish. Try this with a Peking duck – stunning!


Trac

Live Vivaciously, Drink Herbaceously

GinHeaderIf you’ve been to any of the new hot spots in San Francisco, you’ll notice there’s a revival of sorts for gins and gin cocktails. Places like White Chapel and Aatxe are committed to gins as the centerpiece of their bar program, and we can’t get enough of it. We can understand gin’s rising popularity – today’s gins are better than ever, with a growing group of artisanal distillers putting their own spin on the classics. Each craft gin now has its own distinct flavor, with a fascinating story behind each gin as well. People are realizing that while there isn’t a great deal of variation in tastes between different types of vodka, with gin you get huge flavor distinctions and nuance.

With all the different types of gins being made now, we’re very spoiled with the fact that there are so many wonderful cocktails to accompany them. At Bi-Rite, we carry over five different brands of tonic water and syrups alone, that you can use to experiment with the diverse gins we’re featuring. Mix and match the tonics and gins to find out your favorites.

Check out these great new gins next time you come in – try out our pairing suggestions or concoct your own!

Rutte Dry Gin Celery Dordrechet, Netherlands | $32.99CoralGablesPhotowTagline

The celery gin was inspired by one of Rutte’s original recipes dating back to the 1800s for their highly regarded genever which uses celery as one of itsbotanicals. It’s great in a Bloody Mary.
Pro Tip: See Coral Gables Cocktail recipe

Far North Spirits ”Solveig” Hallock, Minnesota | $49.99
Far North is a farm-to-bottle spirit company. The Solvieg is made from AC Hazlet Winter Rye planted and harvest by the Swanson family, and every step of production is done by hand.
Pro Tip: Pair with Fentiman’s Tonic Water

Sipsmith London Dry London, England | $39.99
Produced in a workshop previously used by the late, great whiskey writer, Michael Jackson, this super small-batch gin is flavored with 10 botanicals carefully selected for a drier balance than a classic London Dry Gin.
Pro Tip: Pair with Bitter Milk No. 2 Tom Collins mix

Caledonia Spirits “Barr Hill” Reserve Tom Cat Barrel Aged Gin Hardwick, Vermont | $34.99 Aged in new, charred American white oak, Tom Cat is a completely unique gin with whiskey-like notes of oak, spice, juniper, and raw honey. This is a HarvestMoonPhotowTaglinemodern day adaption of 18th century England’s most revered spirit, Old Tom gin.
Pro Tip: Pair with Jack Rudy’s Tonic Syrup

Rutte “Old Simon” Genever Dordrecht, Netherlands | $44.99

Named after Simon Antonius Rutte, who founded the distillery where this genever is still made based upon his original recipe from 1872, which included 13 herbs and spices. This gin is popular with cola and a squeeze of lemon or lime in the Netherlands.
Pro Tip: See Harvest Moon Cocktail recipe


Trac

Spring Wine Blitz is Back – come taste it!

Our annual Spring Wine Blitz is just around the corner! To tempt the taste buds, we’re throwing a preview tasting at 18 Reasons starting at 6pm on April 21. We’ll be pouring over 25 of our favorite wines to give our guests a taste of our diverse selections. Wine Blitz starts on Monday, April 25th through Sunday, May 1st, and we offer 20% off when you buy 12 bottles or more.

Our expert wine team will be on hand at Thursday’s Preview Tasting to help customize a case (or two!) for you. It’s a fantastic opportunity to pick their brains about their favorites this season, and there are still a few tickets left for purchase!

Check out some of the wines we’ll be pouring Thursday night:

Grossot Chablis Burgundy, France 2012

A stellar Chardonnay from Chablis, this is an incredible value from a great vintage in the region. Oysters would be a tasty decadence with this wine. Reg: $24.99 Blitz Price: $19.99

Skylark “Pink Belly” Mendocino, CA 2015

A Bi-Rite favorite, this Rosé is made by local San Francisco sommeliers Robert Perkins and John Lancaster of Boulevard. It’s dry, crisp, and ready for a picnic. Reg: $19.99 Blitz Price: $15.99

Baker Lane Syrah Sonoma Coast, CA 2012

A beautiful Syrah sourced from Stephen Singer’s impeccable vineyards. Black fruits with a spicy savory finish, this is great with burgers and grilled meat. Reg: $24.99 Blitz Price: $19.99

Fredi Torres Priorat “Classic” Catalan, Spain 2014
Fredi Torres is a rising star in Catalan and this Priorat is the reason why. Elegant, complex, and food-friendly are three descriptors Priorat was not previously known for. Reg: $24.99 Blitz price: $19.99


Trac

Saison’s in Season

The term “farmhouse ale” can invoke romantic visions of a beautiful countryside, animals grazing along a country road, or rustic wooden tables where you sit drinking your beer with a hearty stew and crusty bread. Romantic, yes, but that’s pretty much where saisons got their start.

logsdon-farmhouse-ales-533x400Farmhouse ales have their roots in the farmland once known as Flanders, a region that currently stretches right along the border of Belgium and France. Before the Industrial Revolution, agriculture in the area attracted many seasonal workers, better known as saisonniers. Although the crops being harvested were intended for sale, the ales brewed at the farmhouse were not. Farmer-brewers made these beers to be consumed by the laborers, not unlike the ‘family meal’ modern day restaurant owners provide for their staff. In fact, a certain allotment of daily beer was often part of the saisonniers’ entitled pay.

Nowadays, seasonal beers can feel like a marketing ploy, but before refrigeration they were a necessity: brewing conditions and temperatures were only optimal for a short period of time when temperatures were cool enough to prevent spoilage. Beers brewed in cooler months were stored for drinking the rest of the year; they had to be robust enough to last through months of storage (even in hot weather), yet still bright and refreshing enough to quench the thirst of tired farm workers.

These farmhouse ales are also known as saisons, which is French for “seasons.” Classic saisons tend to have distinct hop flavors with bright, fruity aromas, a smack of tartness, and a crisp dry finish. Saisons are very similar to wine in that they manage to be complex and full-flavored, yet delicate and refreshing, which means they are some of the best food partners in the world of beer. The herbal hop flavors, the bready malt, and the fruity, tart qualities created during fermentation each latch onto food and make your meal taste better.

While not located in remote farmhouse settings, many American craft brewers have also taken up the style, and are experimenting with riffs that include funky Brettanomyces and new flavor additions. Savor the season and try some saisons this spring:

DupontleForetBrasserie Dupont Le Forêt | $11.99/750mL
Saison Dupont might be the saison gold standard but we love the Forêt, the brewery’s organic, slightly stronger version. Aromas of blood orange and cinnamon with flavors of vanilla malt, black plumbs and lemon tang. This brewery is credited with saving the saison style when it was near extinction and makes us extremely thankful for that.

PigeonelleBrasseriede la  Pigeonnelle Loirette | $9.99/750mL
The Harddouin brothers started off as beer distributors in Paris, and after years of working with the likes of Cantillon and Dupont, they decided to start making it on their own. They moved into a family property in Touraine and developed a deep love of the beers of Belgium, from the heavily sour styles to the lighter farmhouse ales. They only work with organic ingredients and Loirette is their first beer.  It’s refreshing, creamy, with flavors of bread and white pepper.

PerennailPerennial Artisan Ales Saison de Lis | $10.99/750mL
One of our favorite domestic breweries, Perennial Artisan Ales focuses on using local, seasonal, and organic ingredients in making their ales. Located in St. Louis, their beers are influenced by Belgian farmhouse ales.  Their Saison de Lis is brewed with local chamomile flowers and fermented with a traditional saison yeast strain that imparts fruity and spicy notes. The chamomile adds a tea-like quality that finishes dry, tart, and refreshing.


Trac

Rosé City, Population: You.

RoseCity_webNow the rains have subsided and clearer skies are up ahead, we can finally talk about the 2015 Rosé that is starting to arrive at the Markets. The combination of hot weather and the ongoing drought last year has finally reached our California vineyards.  Last year’s yields were really low, thus, winemakers didn’t have a lot of grapes to work with. The majority of the yields went to making red wine production and what little they had left went to making Rosé. The smaller crop results in a limited quantity of Rosé from some of our favorite producers like Arnot-Roberts, A Tribute to Grace, and Unti.

RoseCityThe good news, however, is that we have the opportunity to offer new producers that we love when some of our old favorites sell out, so keep an eye throughout the spring and summer for exciting new Rosé producers from Oregon, France, Italy, and Spain. Also, despite the small crop, the quality of the grapes was excellent and the Rosé we’ve tasted have all been stellar! Our motto this year? Savor (and stock up on) your favorites, and make room in your cellar for someone new. Here are a few we’re currently sipping:

Tatomer Rosé Edna Valley, CA 2015 | $29.99
Graham Tatomer is known for making amazing Gruner Veltliner and Riesling down in Santa Barbara, but has recently gotten hold of some amazing Pinot Noir grapes and produced stunning red from it. However, his Pinot Noir Rosé should not be overlooked. Picked for Rosé and pressed off the skins, the Tatomer Rosé is fresh and lively with floral aromas and watermelon fruit notes. Completely dry, this is one Rosé I can drink all day. Get this soon as we have a limited supply of it.

Upwell California Rosé Lodi, CA 2015 | $16.99
Upwell is a side project of Sam Sheehan, the winemaker for Poe Wines, one of our favorite wineries. While she does make a Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier blend under her own label, Upwell is an exclusive Rosé she made exclusively for us in California. Made from old vine Grenache, this lovely wine has aromas of flowers and spices with a dry, mineral finish.

Arnot-Roberts Rosé Clear Lake, CA 2015 | $27.99
We got a tiny, tiny amount of this sought-after Rosé from Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts. While we would love to pop this wine open right now and drink it, Arnot-Roberts Rosé actually shows best a year later. Made from Touriga Nacional, the principal grape of Port, this wine displays aromas of melon and blood orange with brisk acidity and freshness.


Trac

An Amaro Love Affair

amaro_webherbs

“Amaro,” the word for “bitter” in Italian, is also a broad and loosely defined category of bittersweet, Italian-born, herbal spirits flavored through maceration. While consistently enjoyed in Western Europe for hundreds of years, only recently has American interest and excitement in amari (plural for amaro) been renewed. In San Francisco, one can visit places like Locanda and Trick Dog just to taste the range of amari available in the U.S. today.

One of amaro’s unique traits is that it epitomizes a true sense of terroir; the flavors of these liqueurs are defined by either the botanicals that grow in the region in which they are produced, or by ingredients heralded centuries ago for their medicinal benefits. The bitterness of amari is one of the reasons they are so versatile in cocktails. It balances quite well with sweeter spirits like rum and bourbon.

We’re excited to offer a fantastic selection of Italian amari so you can explore the terroir and history of Italian spirits. Which is your favorite? Be sure to try our new amaro cocktail recipes, created for us by Josh Harris of The Bon Vivants and Trick Dog, and experiment on your own!  Tweet us your favorite amaro cocktail!

AmaroMelettiMeletti Amaro | Marche, Italy | $19.99
Meletti is a bit astringent for an amaro; its somewhat hot and bright entry is tamed quickly by sweetness. The initial flavors are of orange zest, chocolate, and licorice. Subsequent sips show cardamom and cinnamon. In 1870, Silvio Meletti began producing a popular anise-flavored liqueur bearing his name. Years later, he added an amaro to the line. Meletti is unique in a few ways, principal among them is the addition of saffron—quite an expensive ingredient indeed.

AmaroLucanoLucano Amaro | Basilicata,  Italy | $26.99
Silky like a liqueur, both bitter and sweet in varying degrees, aromatically complex, and quite simply delicious and fascinating. A sophisticated exploration of over 30 herbs, including Roman absinthe, wormwood, clary sage, orange peel, elderberry, and aloe. Amaro Lucano’s roots go back to 1894 in the tiny village of Pisticci, of the Lucania region in the province of Matera, where Pasquale Vena created a special recipe in the backroom of his famous cookie bakery, which is still a well-kept secret today.

amaroMonetnegroMontenegro Amaro | Bologna, Italy | $29.99
This bitter is flavored with licorice root, saffron, and orange peel. Despite its light rust color, this Amaro from Bologna has rich herbal aromas that segue to deep, slightly sweet flavors and a citrusy finish. Amaro Montenegro, “The liqueur of the virtues,” was created in 1885 by distiller and herbalist, Stanislao Cobianchi. The name Montenegro is a homage to the second queen of Italy, Princess Elena Petrović-Njegoš of Montenegro, on occasion of her marriage in 1896 to Victor Emmanuel III, the Itlian sovereign at the time.

AmaroVarnelliVarnelli Sibilla Amaro | Marche, Italy | $54.99
Named after the impressive mountain range in the Southwestern corner of the Marche, this spirit is a must-try for amaro fans. The flavor profile definitely leans toward the drier, more herbaceous end of the spectrum and will seem quite bitter if you are used to Averna or Montenegro. The botanicals are wood smoked before maceration which adds a degree of complexity seldom found in Amari. Mountain honey is used sparingly to balance the bitter flavors. I have found Sibillia to be a delicious digestive, but also quite delightful at the shore when mixed with tonic and an orange rind.

AmaroFernetContratto Fernet | Piedmonte, Italy | $44.99
Based on the original 1920s family recipe this traditional Fernet puts a heavy emphasis on anise, licorice, saffron, clover, and chamomile. The grappa base complements the complex floral aromas well and the layers of flavor don’t come across as too bitter or too sweet. There are so many wonderful ways to drink this old-school liqueur.

AmaroAmaraAmara Amaro d’Arancia | Sicily, Italy | $34.99
Made in Sicily from blood oranges grown near the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, it’s a citrus-dominated liqueur with only a slight bitterness that marries well with hints of baking spice. The finish is like the purest expression of citrus peel I’ve ever tasted in a spirit, giving the Amara a versatility that is simply off the charts. You can sip it after dinner as a digestivo, add soda water to make a spritz, mix it into a Negroni, or simply pour it over ice.


Trac

Que Sera Syrah?

que_sera_syrah_banner

Five years ago, there was an inside joke in the wine world: “What’s the difference between a case of Syrah and the flu? You can get rid of the flu.” That’s how sad the state of Syrah was. Consumers were confused about Syrah, from the rich, fruity, Australian Shiraz style to the savory, mineral-driven wines of the Northern Rhone. California Syrah winemakers were confused about which style to emulate, as they attempted to create wines that would score points with critics.

Luckily, much has changed in five years: California winemakers are more confident and are sourcing the grape from sites that are better-suited for Syrah. They look towards the Rhone Valley for inspiration, from elegant, floral Crozes-Hermitage to savory and powerful Côte-Rôtie. With this renewed, unified focus on Syrah, this is the best time to start exploring this beautiful grape from California to the Rhone Valley.

Visit the Markets and speak to our wine specialists, and start exploring the nuanced world of Syrah with a few of our favorites:

TousEnsemble

 

Copain “Tous Ensemble” Syrah | $19.99
With savory character and notes of black olives, this Syrah shows restraint instead of anything over top. Winemaker Wells Guthrie looks toward Northern Rhone with his elegant Syrah; the Tous Ensemble comes from three vineyards in Mendocino County.

MiseenBouche

 

Emmanuel Darnaud “Mise en Bouche” Crozes-Hermitage | $24.99
Bistro friendly and easy to quaff, this entry-level cuvée is made from a selection of younger vines with the trademark aromas of black fruits, violets, and olives. Emmanuel Darnaud is a rising star in Crozes-Hermitage and anyone who has tasted his remarkable Syrah understands.

Clusel-Roch

 

Clusel-Roch “Classique” Côte Rôtie | $61.99
Aromas of violets and blackberry with savory flavors of bacon and olives, this is a stunning wine from one of the best producers in Côte-Rôtie. Named after its owners, Gilbert Clusel and Brigitte Roch, Clusel-Roch is a biodynamic producer in the Northern Rhone – this is textbook Syrah from one of the best appellations for it.


Trac

Drink Strong

Strong_beer_ webWest Coast beer drinkers love strong beer, as evidenced by popular breweries in California known for their IPAs.  Breweries including Lagunitas, Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point, and Bear Republic are all well-known for their expertise with India Pale Ales. However, it was brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing who took it to the next level when he created Pliny the Elder, the first Imperial IPA (or Double IPA, as it is more commonly known). The double refers to the two letter I’s in the Imperial IPA (IIPA) and not double the strength or hops. Imperial IPAs  have a lengthier brewing process and higher alcohol content, roughly 10% ABV versus IPAs at 7.5% ABV.

Though Pliny the Elder was the first of its kind and the most popular (we sell out in one day at our Mission location), there are plenty of other California breweries that are putting their own twist on this style and making wonderful Imperial IPAs that should be celebrated. Easier to acquire than Pliny, they’re uniquely delicious and drinkable in their own right.  Next time you’re in the Markets, “Drink Strong” and choose a new Imperial IPA.

BallastPoint

 

Ballast Point “Dorado” 22 oz | $8.99
Dorado Imperial IPA immediately hooks you with massive hops that never stop. Mash hopping, kettle hopping, and dry hopping make this beer a serious hop-lover’s prize catch. It’s an amazingly drinkable, award-winning beer that’s as beautifully balanced as it is big.

FirestoneWalkerFirestone Walker “Double Jack” 22 oz | $7.99
Aggressively hopped and flawlessly balanced, the Double Jack opens up with bright grapefruit and tangerine hop aromas, with notes of stone fruit and pine.

HopStoopid

 

Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid” 22 oz | $4.99
Big in flavor, aroma, and hops! This Imperial IPA has a well-balanced malty backbone and pine/citrus forward hop character. Crisp, refreshing, and easy drinking.

Mongo

 

Port Brewing Co. “Mongo” 22 oz | $7.99
Named in honor of the brewery’s cat, this Imperial IPA has aromas of orange and mango with a citrus and piney bitterness.

Shop our entire selection of Imperial IPAs in our Markets or through our online Market for convenient delivery within an hour!