Monthly Archives: August 2012

Drink of the Week

 Piña Colada

  • 2 oz White Rum
  • 1 oz Coconut Cream
  • 1 oz Heavy Cream
  • 6 oz Pineapple Juice

Garnish: Pineapple Wedge

Blend ingredients in a blender or shake with crushed ice, until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass.

Tip: Using soy or almond milk as a substitute for the heavy cream is also an option, it will have a slightly different taste to the original but will mean those with lactose issues can still enjoy it.

Since i’m on a roll with putting up ‘favorite drinks for family members,’ it seems appropriate to put up my Mums drink of choice too, seeing as today is her birthday!

The piña colada is a sweet, rum-based drink made with coconut cream, and pineapple juice and can be served blended (I love) or shaken with ice.  The name itself is Spanish and means “Strained Pineapple” (piña=pineapple and colada= strained)

I personally love this drink, it makes me think of Tiki nights, palm trees, white sandy beaches and hammocks. It is sweet, tropical and creamy.  It is the official beverage of Puerto Rico and has been since 1978, it also (apparently) has more calories than a Big Mac! Sorry mum, deliciousness comes at a price. 😦

First off, there are many recipes for the piña colada with varying proportions and ratios, some do and do not include heavy cream for example.  From what I have been able to find out, the piña colada was created at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero on August 16, 1954.  The date is so specific because this is the first time the drink was officially sold there with this name.

According to Monchito, the Hilton management had expressly requested him (as Head barman at the time) to come up with a new signature drink that would delight their celebrity clientele. He supposedly took the task very seriously and spent the next three months blending, shaking and experimenting, until he finally produced the first piña colada.  The above recipe is the original version he created for the Beachcomber Bar.

According to Frommers destination guide:

When actress Joan Crawford tasted the piña colada…she claimed it was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.”

I have to say i’m not sure how accurate that quote is, but if it is what Joan said, I think it’s pretty great!

Anyway, when you’re next on vacation somewhere sunny I highly suggest you order yourself this delicious cocktail and if like my mum you’re stuck somewhere grey (like England) why not make yourself a pina colada to brighten up the day!

Happy Birthday Mum!!! xxx

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Crafted to perfection

Craft
10100 Constellation Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
90067
310.279.4180 
 

Monday date night last week led us to a restaurant just minutes from our house, yet neither my boyfriend (FG) or I had been there before.  The list of drinks and food on offer all looked appealing and appetizing, and the decor of the bar area was inviting and warm when we entered. We decided to sit at the CraftBar which is separate from the restaurant itself and has a different food menu, but we decided to mix and match and got a few bar menu items and then our entree from the regular restaurant menu.

FG informed me that the “Craft” team pay a purveyor a lot of money just to travel the country in search of the best produce for all three of their locations. Only the best, organic, fresh and seasonal products are used so the menu changes constantly with what is and isn’t available.

Front Porch: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Peach, Lemon and Iced Tea $11

I started the night off with the ‘Front porch’ drink after our bartender (Scott) pointed out that peaches were at their best right now. It was wonderful, like a deliciously peachy ice tea with bourbon! It was sweet, strong and fruity.

FG had the ‘Here today… gone amaro’ which was just as tasty as the name was imaginative!  FG best described it as a Manhattan with a subtle sweet bitterness at the end. Rabarbaro Zuca is an amaro made with Rhubarb, which I have only seen on a menu once before, ironically in my boyfriends drink ‘Maguey after Amaro’. I like it when places use unusual ingredients though.

Here Today…Gone Amaro: Old Overholt Rye, Chai Tea infused Carpano Antica Vermouth, Cio Ciaro and Rabarbaro $14

FG was intrigued by the number of Amari they had on the back bar, including the Cio Ciaro (he’d never heard of) which he sampled and described as having a burnt caramel flavor with a slow bitter finish.  Craft also makes a home made velvet falernum which was delicious, sweet and zesty.

Negroni Mio: Aviation Gin, Campari, Americano, Cocchi Vermouth di Tornio, Prosecco & Strawberry. $13

FG’s second drink was the Negroni Mio, this was a good drink, but not great. It sounded amazing on paper (they barrel aged the Negroni then bottle age it with strawberries), but the flavors really came through as simply a Negroni with aperol.

Many of the food options looked interesting but we started with the cheddar hush puppies that came with a smoked maple syrup to dip in. Delicious maple flavor from the sauce altho the puppies had little spicy kick to them.  The cheese didn’t come through for me but still the dish was very tasty.

Cheddar Hushpuppies & Smoked Maple Syrup $6

The risotto balls were also on the spicy side with a marinara type sauce named romesco, the crispy thin layer on the outside of each ball made them not too rich and another good starter dish.

Risotto Fritters & Romesco $6

They also brought a bread basket out with delicious breads in.  The dark loaf was incredibly different and hearty. In fact Scott gave us an extra loaf to take home, as he informed me it is the perfect bread to make french toast with the next day.  I loved the wooden box the bread came in too, the presentation of all the dishes was exquisite and although this was a slightly more expensive place than we’d usually go just for monday date night, it became clear very quickly why they deserved to charge so much.

For our main course we agreed on a steak (like always!) and decided to share the dry aged sirloin. When it arrived I realized just how incredibly large 22 ounces of meat is and worried we’d way over ordered!

We also chose some sides, the sugar snap peas (which i’m really in to recently, so sweet and crunchy) and the yukon puree.  I had wanted a potato but couldn’t decide what kind, Scott had said these were “deliciously decadent.”  Of course, alarm bells should go off when you hear a server/bartender describe something as decadent…it usually means, extremely fatty and high in calories.  We didn’t care though, it was an indulgent night.  

The potato was certainly nothing less than decadent! Creamy, rich and full of flavor.  It was like a very soft buttery mash but still had a lightness to it, I couldn’t eat too much but it paired beautifully with the earthy flavor of the steak.  I’m not sure i’d had dry aged beef before but it gave the meat a much stronger fuller flavor.  The meat came with a bone marrow on the side, which greg emptied out on to a piece of remaining bread.

I think bone marrow is definitely an acquired taste, it reminded me of chicken dripping my mum would keep to put on sandwiches after a roast dinner. Not that it tasted like chicken, it just had a very greasy and fatty texture that reminded me of that.  I didn’t like it at all, Greg devoured the whole bone full.

Roasted dry aged sirloin 22oz $56

Sugar snap peas $11

Yukon Gold Puree $10

To finish we saw the wonderful dessert list but felt too full to get anything (believe it or not, we had at this point eaten the entire steak and sides!!!). Scott brought us some little bites from the pastry chef which included some caramel popcorn and little nectarine upside down cakes.  They were the perfect touch of sweetness to end the evening.

Before we left Scott gave us a little pack of complimentary Craft Granola for the next day. FGs parents went the following week and were given some complimentary Craft muffins, it changes daily what you’ll get but I think it’s such a cute and unique idea to give something like that for breakfast. When we ate the granola the next morning (which was great) it had us remembering our wonderful evening the night previous. Very smart marketing move!

Drinks here get my rating of 4 out of 5 Clover Clubs.

My peach cocktail was fantastic, and FG certainly enjoyed his two drinks also.  Scott was professional and informative behind the bar, and the look of the place was welcoming and attractive.  The only negative of the drinks was the Negroni Mio that wasn’t as flavorful as the ingredients suggested, overall it was a close to excellent bar program. They also had an extensive wine list, for those not as excited by cocktails!

My Food Rating here is 5 out of 5 Platters

Overall this place had it all, relaxing music, a nice chill vibe and excellent professional service.  The food was fantastic, it was different and adventurous without being too overwhelming for a fussy person like myself.  The only negative, which i’m not even sure is fair to give, was the high prices of this place.  I hadn’t expected it to be on the higher end, having said that it really was worth the extra expense. The service really was amazing, and my boyfriends parents decided to go a few days later and had the exact same reaction. For that reason, this is the first place i’m giving 5 out of 5. Watch out Bottega Louie (our most popular location), Craft may soon take over as our favorite place to go for dinner in LA!

All in all, Craft (and Craft Bar) are an excellent night out.  I highly recommend anyone looking for a romantic, quality restaurant in Los Angeles to head there.

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Drink of the Week

Negroni

  • 1oz Gin
  • 1oz Italian Sweet Vermouth
  • 1oz Campari

Garnish: Orange peel

Shake and strain over ice.

Today is my boyfriend FutureGregs (FG) birthday, so it only seemed fitting that I put up one of his all time favorite drinks.  The Negroni cocktail is made of equal parts gin, vermouth (Italian, semi-sweet), and bitters, traditionally Campari. It is considered an apéritif and has a bitter sweet flavor profile.

I admit, this is not a personal favorite of mine, in fact it’s quite the contrary!  This is a very strong and particularly bitter drink, one that I feel you really have to become acustomed to.  FG loves the bitterness of any amaro (after dinner digestif) in a drink, so this is a great option for him. He often chooses to use Cynar (an Italian bitter apéritif liqueur made from herbs, plants and artichoke) instead of the traditional Campari, which I believe makes it taste even more bitter!

The Negroni has, like many cocktails, an often disputed history.  The most common belief is that it was created and named after Count Cammillo Negroni in 1919 when he ordered an Americano with gin at Cafe Casoni in Florence, Italy.  When discussing this with FG he did point out that there are other accounts that suggest this was already another drink, however Count Negroni was the one who made it famous and therefore has his name attached to it.

Whatever it’s origins, this is a good option before or after a meal as the bitters have medicinal qualities that will help settle your stomach.

PARTY PEOPLE

By the way, for those of you who know and love my boyfriend, we will be celebrating tonight (23rd August) at Bagatelle in Hollywood.  The theme is ‘Black and White’, so make sure you come in those colors and dress to impress!  There will be a punch bowl, a Dj, many beautiful women, lots of handsome men and a special priced drinks list for those prepared to celebrate with us.  Come on down at 9pm. We’ll be there til 2am…or until Greg passes out!

Ps. For those of you who don’t know my boyfriend, please note he is actually a very attractive and intelligent man…not the dumbfounded gormless creature I have portrayed him as on this invite. I simply chose this photo because it is so damn funny! Happy Birthday my darling! xxx

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The cost of creation

I recently watched the video above (courtesy of Liquor.com) and it got me thinking about a few things, in particular, the cost factor of going out and doing what I do.

All the restaurants and bars that my boyfriend and I visit produce some of the finest food and drinks you can get, this doesn’t always mean the menu is expensive, but often times it can be.

Many of my friends and family don’t quite understand the point of spending a huge portion of our paychecks on food and alcohol, but people often forget that it’s the overall experience you’re paying for not just the products. I may be fussy and certainly not rich, but I honestly have no problem spending my money on a good restaurant/bar. If I enjoy the atmosphere of a place, the friendliness of the service and the quality of what i’m putting in my mouth..I will happily spend a small fortune in one night!

I have recently heard many more people complaining about the ridiculous cost of cocktails at Mixology bars. Many customers think it’s a ‘rip off’ that a drink can cost anything from $12 to $20, and they always want the bartender to ‘hook them up’ by giving drinks away for free or adding extra alcohol, but as the video explains there is so much more to a quality drink than just mixing. Not to mention, adding ‘more alcohol’ often upsets the ratio and balance so the customer probably wouldn’t enjoy the end result anyway.

If you are the kind of person who would rather have a cheap vodka soda or a bottled beer that’s fine too,  just understand that a Mixology bar is not the place to get it!

“Mixology bars are like fine dining for drinks”

Having worked behind a bar myself, I have first hand experience of the horror of hand juicing boxes of limes only to yield a little over a quart of juice. You’d think managers would just buy their staff a juicer…this isn’t always the case.

My boyfriend is a Beverage Director so I witness daily, the time and effort that goes in to creating a new menu, inventing tinctures and working on infusions/barrel aged cocktails. This is also a factor to think about. The recipes on menus at these places aren’t thrown together in a blind frenzy, a substantial amount of time and money will have been spent on testing brands, factoring cost of products and experimenting with different recipes and ratios. At the end of the day, all the customer gets is a delicious drink in front of them but often doesn’t know the effort and preparation that went in to it’s creation.

The economy is bad, yes, but if you’re going to go to a nice place…understand what it is you’re paying for, and thank your lucky stars you’re not in Europe where the price is (no joke) double!

That’s all I have to say about that 🙂

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Drink of the Week

Guavamiele

  • 2 oz Rum
  • 1 oz Guava juice
  • 3/4 oz Lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz Honey
  • Top with dash of Angostura bitters

I am pleased to report that today is officially ‘National Rum Day’, which just so happens to be my favorite genre of alcohol!  Who knew?!

The above recipe is a wonderfully refreshing and summery concoction created by Greg Bryson and currently available for your tasting pleasure on the summer menu at Hostaria Del Piccolo in Santa Monica.

If you don’t live within reach of Hostaria then I highly suggest buying the ingredients and making this drink at home.  I personally prefer Matusalem Rum in this drink, and that’s what they use at Hostaria. It is a tropical, sweet and really easy to make tiki style drink.

Have a Happy Rum Day Everyone!!!

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Drink of the Week

Olson’s Revenge

  • 1 oz Grand Marinier
  • 3/4 oz Mezcal
  • 3/4 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz Honey Syrup
  • 3 dashes house made serrano bitters
  • Sage leaf

Shake and strain in to a glass.

Garnish: A sage leaf

This is the drink that I enjoyed most at the Bar Room Brawl event in New Orleans for TOTC.  It was created by Alex Bookless (although named by the wonderful Derek Brown) and served by the bartenders of The Passenger/Columbia Room from Washington DC.

The drink itself is beautifully balanced and hits almost every taste element.  It is a little sweet, a little spicy, has a touch of sourness and a smoky after-taste.  I found it so easy to drink, I had at least 4 at the event!  I admit i’m not sure how one could re-create this at home without the serrano bitters, but perhaps a little serrano chili would give the same effect.  You don’t want it to be too spicy, but the slight heat certainly adds to the enjoyment of this cocktail.

Enjoy!

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My Tale of Tales 2012

I can’t quite believe that it’s already been nearly two weeks since I returned from the sticky summer heat of New Orleans!…So much for blogging as I went along!?

I could use the excuse that there was just no time to blog, but lets be honest, I was more often than not far too intoxicated busy to document correctly!  What can I say though, this was the 10 year anniversary of Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC)!

Many of my blogging companions have long since posted there highlights from the trip, but one of the reasons I have taken so long to write this post is because I am almost overwhelmed with where to begin.  There were many more parties, tastings and seminars than I have space to cover here so I am going to give a very brief break down of the events that interested, excited or inspired myself and my darling mixologist boyfriend FutureGreg (FG) in particular. This isn’t to say that there weren’t many more during the week that were great, these are just the ones that stood out and made it to MY tale of Tales.

Lets begin at the beginning…

On the shuttle from Louis Armstrong airport to our hotel in French Quarter we found ourselves stuck in a fair bit of traffic due to the arrival of President Obama, who was visiting for the day. Ok, so this isn’t really all that relevant to TOTC, but come on, what a cool start to have the President wave at some of the World’s best bartenders!

An Absolut Welcome

Event: Absolut Welcome Party       Location: Contemporary Arts Center

First stop was the Absolut Welcome party.  For those of you who read my posts regularly, you might recall I reported on the Absolut Stuga event last month for Tasting Panel Magazine.  In that piece I noted how Absolut had managed to bring Sweden to Hollywood with the placement of small swedish cottages and snowy white trees around the room…fast forward to Wednesday night and I found myself again standing in Sweden, only this time I was in New Orleans.

The Absolut team had done a great job transforming the Contemporary Art Museum in to a Swedish landscape, complete with falling snow. I must mention, the snow was a beautiful touch but proved to be extremely impractical. I think I must have choked on at least 12 bubbly flakes blowing in the air and had many more land in my drinks, which was somewhat annoying and impossible to avoid.

Takafumi Yamada pours the Absolut

The event itself was nicely done though.  Blue lights made the room appear cold and wintery, which was a pleasant change from the humidity outside.  There were drink stations set up representing different areas of the World too. My favorites were Absolut Japan and Absolut Italia.

Hidetsugu Ueno had created the Absolut Diamond Tea drink that used local Japanese Honey and Japanese Tea a long with regular Absolut vodka.  The tea was a prominent flavor, but the drink itself was balanced and had a nice sweetness to it from the honey.  It was served over an ice ball that was skillfully carved in front of us using a Japanese ceramic knife.

Over at Absolut Italia I enjoyed a very different kind of drink, the Coppa Di Fiori.  This was made with Absolut Citron, Cynar, Lemon juice, Mint, Simple syrup and Tonic water. It was certainly bitter, but still very enjoyable….even for my sweet tooth!

Later in the evening Simon Ford, Gary Reagan, Nick Strangeway and Lynnette Marrero performed the song ‘Take a chance” by ABBA which was both hilarious and slightly disturbing! haha

   

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TOTC

Event: William Grant & Sons     Location: New Orleans Museum of Art

Buses courtesy of TOTC shuttled us off to the 10 year Birthday Bash put on by William Grant & Sons.  On the ride we indulged in Hendricks flavored ice creams before arriving at an even grander Art Museum with giant candles lining the drive.

There was so much to see at this party I can only touch on a few of my favorite areas.  The Hendricks Gin spectacle was very peculiar, the bartenders would make drinks at the top of the roof and pour them down to the glasses below.

Inside there were delicious appetizers, desserts and drink selections provided by Glenfiddich and Belvenie.  Outside there was a ‘Slap and tickle village’ (which had bartenders shaking drinks whilst jumping on trampolines), a giant birthday card to sign and burlesque dancers.

There were photo booths, clowns, a fireworks display and plenty of cocktails to be had in amongst the artwork. As fellow blogger Dave Stolte pointed out…

“A Henry Moore statue can also double as an impromptu drinks stand in New Orleans!”

Japanese Whisky, fill me up!

Seminar: Non-Stop to Kyoto     Presented by: Neyah White & Gardner Dunn

The seminar that really stood out to myself and FG on this trip was ‘Non-Stop to Kyoto’ which was put together by Neyah White and Gardner Dunn.  This was a really relaxing experience and a great escape from the craziness of Tales.

The room had been transformed in to a little Japanese hut, with a great selection of some of the best Japanese Whiskies available, ranging from Hibiki 30 year to 1984 Yamazaki Single Malt. We each sat down at our own little table and were given a blending kit with a selection of whiskies in test tubes. Neyah explained that there was no right or wrong way to put together our own drink, it was simply a teaching aid to help understand how master blenders come up with combinations.  I actually really enjoyed my creation, it was a little smoky, a little sweetness and not too hot.

I tried the Yamizaki 1984 and really liked it, it was very smooth with no dramatic heat despite being 96 proof.  It had a slight cinnamon nose which I am told could come from the Japanese Oak it’s aged in. It is named after the year 1984 which was the first time they felt their product was good enough to serve as a single malt, before that date Suntory had only ever produced blended whisky.

Small bites, which included a delicious ‘Scrambled egg on vanilla brioche with bacon caramel’, ‘Banana Mochi’ and ‘Spicy caramel popcorn’ was provided by World famous Chef Michael Mina, as you can imagine the dishes were incredible and I wish there had been more.  The spicy sweet popcorn brought out interesting flavors in the whisky too.

Ooh how that pig packs a punch!

Event: Bon Vivants Pig & Punch    Location: Washington Sq Park

The Pig and Punch party had us drinking a variety of creations out of trash cans, yes you heard correctly, trash cans.  Obviously they were clean and filled to the brim with alcohol and fruits, but it was quite an experience to say the least. The highlight of the event was when 4 men carried the cooked beast in and placed it on a fire pit while a classic New Orleans brass band played bouncy songs as if it were a Jazz funeral.

There was plenty of food on offer.  I had sausages with Templeton rye that were awesome and some incredible sorbets and gelatos created by Luxardo and La Divina Gelateria. My favorite flavor was the peach amaretto sorbet, which was like eating liquid marzipan. Just delicious!

Crawl to the Brawl

Event: Bar Room Brawl   Location: Generations Hall

I have to say, this was a little bit of a cluster f!@k to get in to.  There were long lines and too many people on the guest lists, but once inside it was well worth the wait.  For those who don’t know, the idea behind Bar room brawl is to find the best bar in the US, voted in by the industry.

This year saw no Los Angeles bars nominated so FG and I decided to cheer for The Passenger/Columbia Room of DC.  My review of Washington DC is coming soon, but even if we’d never been or met the incredibly talented Derek Brown we still LOVED all the drinks that this bar produced that night.

Beretta from San Francisco won the title of best bar, and Bar Manager Ryan Fitzgerald collected the trophy.

We weren’t by any means disappointed with this win, it was nice to have a Californian bar take the title even if it wasn’t LA. Having been to Beretta ourselves just this past January, I can attest to the fact that the restaurant and bar program there is truly fantastic.

It was at Beretta that I finally found out I liked brussel sprouts (after Ryan forced me to try them)…it was one of the first times I had been convinced to try something ugly and green! That particular experience was one of the reasons I started the FussyOne blog a month later, to be able to tell others like myself, “it’s ok to try scary green vegetables!”

Tastings

There were several tasting rooms and vans that popped up during the week, below are just a few of the drinks and products I enjoyed the most.

Giovanni Martinez representing Chivas Regal gave me a cocktail named ‘The Green Room’ which had Carpano Antica Formulae, Clear Creek Pear Liqueur, Miracle Mile Toasted Pecan Bitters, and Chivas 12 yr.  The entire cocktail was aged in glass with oak staves that had originally stored barley wine. The drink itself was served straight up and was really strong, but full of interesting flavors.

  

Ben Davidson, The National Spirits Ambassador for Pernod Ricard Australia had prepared two other cocktails that included Chivas and were barrel-aged. These were also very strong, and tasty.  I find that the new craze of barrel-aging cocktails is a great one, it gives complexity to certain drinks and softens other. I look forward to seeing more barrel-aged cocktails coming to bars in Los Angeles soon.

I tasted the White Montanya Rum for the first time and was pretty impressed by the product as a whole.  It had a slight nuttiness to it and wasn’t at all harsh like most white rums.  I am generally a dark rum drinker but the rep. explained that they age this rum in oak then filter it through coconut husk charcoal so it retains the flavor, but removes the color.  Nice little product.

Nick Strangeway introduced us to his new Absolut Craft line at the Flavor Innovation Workshop, which was held at the creepy historical Pharmacy Museum.  He gave a really interesting talk on how he came up with and created the three new flavors he’s produced with the Absolut vodka brand.  The three flavors he’s created are Smokey Tea, Herbaceous Lemon and Bitter Cherry. 

The Herbaceous Lemon was very interesting, because although it had a strong citric flavor Nick explained it had no actual lemon or citrus in it. He wanted to create a citrus vodka with no citrus, just using citrus flavored herbs.  He certainly achieved this because it tasted like fresh lemon zest was incorporated, but instead he had chosen to use Lemon Mertyl, Lemongrass and Lemon Thyme to create the strong lemon flavor.  It was very original and an interesting concept.

The Bitter Cherry, was indeed bitter and not really my favorite but The Smokey Tea was a really fantastic product.  It had a really nice smokiness to it which we later enjoyed in a pineapple-tini style drink that was probably one of the best drinks we had the entire trip!

All good things must come to an end…

Like I said at the start, this post can only touch on a few of my favorite parts of the trip.  Juniperlooza, The Rum & Reggae pool party, The Macallan Ice Ball plunge and The Pink Pigeon Spirited dinner were all noteworthy events also, but I could go on and on so I have to stop somewhere.

Below I have thrown in a bunch of photos that can touch on the mayhem that I simply don’t have room to write about…

                         

Please note, there were a number of Bars and Restaurants that FG and I visited separate from the Tales debauchery, including Commanders Palace, Cure, Arnauds and The Carousel Bar.  I will be writing a separate post about these soon so be sure to look out for that in coming weeks.

There’s really nothing left to say now, except…

Here’s to another 10 years of Tales! 😀

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