Wild Horse a Satisfying Ride for Beverly Restaurant Goers

Posted: August 16th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: American, Beverly, Casual/Pub Food, Drinks, Wild Horse Cafe | Tags: , , | No Comments »

We’ve been eager to check out the new Wild Horse Café, since we were great fans of new owners Matt Blanchard and Sam Hunt when they were at 15 Walnut in Hamilton. (Blanchard and Hunt took over the restaurant from Brendan Crocker several months ago.) The renovated space and updated menu were overall a hit, with a couple of minor quibbles.

The interior is lighter and brighter, but still quite cozy. The sound levels are very good, with the upholstered furniture doing its job, and the décor is quirky without being over the top. The bar in the dining room is gone (the separate bar area remains), but the cocktails are in full force. We loved the generous-sized raspberry lime rickey, an adult version of the ones we used to splurge on at Brigham’s ($11) and the hot & dirty martini, which had just the right spice level ($10).

We started with a meze plate, choosing grilled asparagus, cheese of the day, and olives from a list of potential meze ingredients ($12). The cheese was outstanding, and the asparagus was wonderfully smoky. We asked about the preparation and were told it’s from a wood-fueled grill. We couldn’t resist the Thai poutine, which featured decadent fries coated in Thai spices and laced with peanut sauce ($8). Sounds weird, tasted great.

The menu is well thought out, with salads, small plates, and sandwiches along with standard apps and entrees. The specials include a daily cheese, salad, taco, flatbread, and pasta, keeping things interesting and fresh.

The meat dishes we tried were terrific, including steak frites ($24), meltingly tender short ribs with mashed potatoes and the smoky asparagus ($26), and the good-sized lamb chop small plate, also deliciously smoky ($14). We didn’t love the pesto accompanying the lamb, which was bitter, and the swordfish in the taco plate ($17) was on the rubbery side. But the tortillas were grilled, and the salsa and coleslaw were flavorful and made for a wonderful combination with the fish. Given the ingredients, it will surprise no one that the pork dinner was the group favorite, featuring slow-cooked pork shoulder with Moxie barbeque sauce, confit belly, and kale braised with bacon ($19).

We suspect Blanchard and Hunt are still refining the menu, looking to make a mark in the area while giving customers what they want. We’d hope to see service levels bumped up a bit—our waitress was more harried than friendly on a moderately busy night.

We certainly did not need dessert, but we splurged anyway. We enjoyed the bananas foster (although the bananas could have been caramelized a bit more, $7), and the chocolate therapy cake ($8) was served too cold but was wonderfully decadent once it warmed up.

Wild Horse Café
393 Cabot St, Beverly
(978) 922-6868
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Wild-Horse-Cafe/121842167848800

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Dish Scoop: A First Look at Barrel House American Bar

Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Barrel House American Bar, Beverly, Bistro, Drinks | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Beverly restaurant scene is shifting rapidly, and we were thrilled to get a sneak peek at the new restaurant going into the space held by Mandrake. We were quite fond of Mandrake, but having seen the interior and the menu for Barrel House American Bar, we’re even more excited by the newcomer.

A barrel house is a room for aging whisky, and American Bar refers to the American bartenders who set up shop in Europe during prohibition. Thus, the new spot is an American bistro with a neighborhood feel and an emphasis on classic and craft cocktails. It’s owned by Nik Paras and Anesti Lazarides (of Soma and Wrapture) and Sean Maher (shown at left), formerly bar manager at Tryst and now managing partner. We loved Sean’s work and are excited to have him back on the local scene after a stint at Eastern Standard. The chef is Patrick Shea (of the Tom Shea family), also recently of Eastern Standard.

We saw the space under construction, but with the windows cleared of curtains, a new tin ceiling, and a beautiful 20-seat cast-pewter bar, it looks cozy yet hip. When you belly up to the bar, you’ll have local beers and interesting wines to choose from, along with the aforementioned cocktails made with craft spirits, fresh purees and juices and the appropriate ice (think crushed or unique cubes).

You may also want to partake of the raw bar, the house-cured charcuterie, a few chef-selected cheeses, or bar snacks like truffled parmesan popcorn and foie gras stuffed cherries marinated in sweet whisky.

At the nearby banquettes and the 22′ family table made from reclaimed boards (from the First Baptist church recently moved in Salem) you can sample small plates or go right for comforting entrees like mac & cheese, baked haddock, steak frites, or mustard seed encrusted Scottish salmon. Entrée prices run from $18 to $32.

With a strong restaurant pedigree and an intriguing menu that’s not special-occasion priced, we have high hopes for this Beverly entry, which will open in late November. Look for us in the bar…

Barrel House American Bar
252 Cabot Street, Beverly
978-998-4627 (active soon)
www.facebook.com/BarrelHouseAmericanBar

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Wine and Cheese—and More Wine

Posted: October 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, Marblehead, North Andover, Salem, Shubie's Market Place, Wine Connextion | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Wine lovers, it’s time to grab a jacket and get out to one or more of the fantastic wine festivals coming up in the next three weeks. And yes, there will be cheese.

First up is Shubie’s Annual Wine & Food Festival, this Saturday (Oct 20) from 1:00 to 5:00 in Marblehead. Always a great time, this year’s event features more than 20 artisan cheeses and 50 wines to taste (free). We’re happy to add that a portion of the proceeds will go to the Sue DeVries Cancer Foundation.

Take the week to recover, then head over to Wine ConneXtion in North Andover on Saturday the 27th from 12:00 to 5:00 for their Third Annual Fall Grand Tasting. Taste a wide selection of new wines, peruse more than 50 hand-selected bottles from all over the world, and enjoy culinary treats from Chama Grill (free).

Finally, you won’t want to miss Salem Wine Imports’ annual Grand Tasting Event at the Hawthorne Hotel on Friday November 2 from 6:00 to 9:00. Advance tickets are $25 for members of Historic New England, Historic Salem, Inc, and the Salem Athenaeum, $35 for nonmembers (all tickets are $35 on the day of the event). Enjoy wines from dozens of vendors, light refreshments, and live entertainment; all proceeds support Historic New England, Historic Salem, Inc, the Salem Athenaeum, and Hamilton Hall. Contact Salem Wine Imports at (978) 741-9463 for tickets.

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Food, Friends, Wine, Repeat

Posted: September 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bakery, Cafe, Casual/Pub Food, Christopher's Table, Drinks, Ipswich | Tags: , , | No Comments »

There’s something very hard to resist about a glass of good wine and food that pairs perfectly with it. That’s the idea behind the newly launched wine bar at Christopher’s Table in Ipswich. By day, the space is a bakery café featuring gourmet sandwiches like turkey with caramelized onions, bacon, tomato, and fresh greens and a treats like cupcakes, brownies, cinnamon rolls, and apple turnovers.

At night, white tablecloths and thoughtful lighting transform this spot into an intimate wine bar. Diminutive sofas, red and gray décor to bring out the space’s tin ceiling, and comfortable bar stools are part of the charm created by North Shore designer Lisa Kawski of LMK Interiors. Behind the bar is an idea we love: a chalkboard encouraging friends to buy drinks for each other.

The drink special the night we visited was a peach bellini, but we went with the flavorful pinot noir ($10). The crispy fried chickpeas are just about the perfect bar snack ($6), and the arancini were a lusciously cheesy ($10). We didn’t try the cheese or charcutrie plates, but we saw them nearby, and they looked delicious. Chef/owner Christopher DeStefano says he is planning to add comfort food items to the bar menu for fall.

Chef Christopher is also looking to tap into foodies interested in classes. Upcoming events include a four-course dinner of local foods paired with four wines (Oct 15). His next class is on cooking with fall ingredients like pumpkin, apples, dried fruits, sage, and squash (Oct 24). Check the website for more information, and let us know what you think about the wine bar if you stop in.

Christopher’s Table
5 Depot Square Ipswich
www.christopherstable.com
(978) 356-6166

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From Luaus to Beerfests, September Is Rockin’

Posted: September 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

There are some fantastic food events coming up in September and October, but we’re thinking drink, especially beer, takes center stage! We’ll stick to September for the moment and fill you in on October as it gets closer. In the meantime, check our calendar to see what’s coming up.

First up is a Tiki Festival on Saturday (9/8) from 1:00 to 5:00 at the China Blossom in North Andover. It’s a free event with music from 92.5 The River and complimentary samples of Big Wave Golden Ale from Kona Brewing Company. Luau-style food will be served, including a whole pig roast, beef teriyaki skewers, shrimp skewers, corn on the cob, and pork fried rice ($1 per serving). Tropical slush and exotic sorbet will also be available for purchase along with assorted juices, non-alcoholic pina coladas, and beer and wine served from an outdoor cash bar. Click the link above to RSVP and for more information.

Also on Saturday is the Clown Shoes Olympics and Brewfest from 4:00 to 8:00 at the Backstage Bistro in Beverly. Tickets are $35 online and $40 at the door, with proceeds to benefits Pints for Prostate. There will be beer sampling, jugglers, human statues, live music, and beer poetry readings, plus gifts for guests wearing togas.

Next weekend kicks off with a History & Hops Craft Beer Tasting at the Lynn Museum from 7:00 to 10:00 on Friday (9/14) featuring live music, craft beers, and food.

Farther north, the Wenham Tea House is hosting their first Mayflower Brewery Beer Dinner at 7:00. Chef Peter Capalbo will be creatively pairing dishes with five different offerings from Mayflower. this five-course dinner is $75 per person and reservations can be made by calling 978-468-1398.

On Saturday (9/15) from 12:00 to 6:00, you can attend the Ipswich Ale Harvest Fest at the Spencer Pierce-Little Farm in Newbury for beer, BBQ, and vintage baseball. The Orville Giddings band will play, and admission is free.

Then you can head over to Oktoberfest to Benefit the Salem Y from 5:00 to 9:00. Join Pamplemousse, Cafe Polonia, the YMCA, and Ilsa the Angry German Beer Wench for laughter, beer, traditional German and Polish food, beer, live music, beer, wenches, contests and more. Tickets are $20 and include kazoo, mug, German Alpine hat, and an imaginary passport to Munich (first 300 guests). Beer sampling is included; full pours are $2 to $3. Affordable menu prices from Cafe Polonia, Polonus Deli, and The Lobster Shanty.

Or head north to the Gloucester Block Party from 6:00 to 11:00 in downtown Gloucester, a free event. Main Street will be a promenade of entertainment, al fresco dining, dancing and children’s games.

On Sunday (9/16), switch over to cocktails and head to Newburyport for the Annual Newburyport Cocktail Competition from 4:00 to 8:00. For $20 ($30 at the door), you can participate in this upscale cocktail crawl with samples of signature cocktails and food pairings at multiple downtown restaurants. Participants include Ten Center, The Rockfish, Michael’s Harborside, Ceia, and more. Check at the deck at Michael’s Harborside at 4:00. At 7:00, the wrap-up party at Michael’s will feature live music and the last signature cocktail for your tasting.

Next up is Cider Hill Farm’s End of Summer Farm-to-Table Dinner on Tuesday (9/18) from 6:00 to 9:00. Sample spirits from Cody Brewing and Jewell Towne Vineyard along with appetizers, then enjoy a three-course meal from Amesbury’s Phat Cat’s Bistro. Tickets are $50 and must be purchased in advance.

On Saturday the 22nd from 12:00 to 8:00, it’s the 6th Annual Brewfest at Amesbury Sports Park. Entrance is $12, with more than 100 beers, OGO ball, summer tubing, and BBQ on offer.

The 22nd is also the start of the 3rd Annual North Shore Beer Week. While Sean and Ian (The infamous 2 Beer Guys) haven’t posted the full schedule yet, keep an eye out. They’ve done a terrific job the past two years scheduling tastings and events, and we’re sure this will be no exception.

Happy September!

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A Savory Evening at Maggie’s Farm in Middleton

Posted: August 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: American, Drinks, Maggie's Farm, Middleton, Seafood | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

We recently headed out Rt. 114 to Middleton to check out the newest member of Mark McDonough and Jeff Cala’s Serenitee Restaurant Group. Maggie’s Farm (named after the Dylan song) took over the space next to Sol Bean Café most recently occupied by Rock’s Tavern and opened in May.

Things were hopping on a Saturday night, and we had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations after 7:00, so unless you head over early, you may find yourself in the same boat, though spending time at the large, pleasant bar isn’t a problem.

The celebrity-populated mural on the rear wall is fun, making it seem as though Jerry Garcia and Pee Wee Herman are jockeying with you for a seat at the bar. Other than that, the obviously music- and farm-inspired décor is a bit more sparse than some of Serenitee’s other establishments and features more TV screens than we like while dining.

The brews on tap include several local offerings, including Cody Sunshine Daydream, a Belgian gold ale brewed specially for Serenitee. Perusing the cocktail menu, we decided to try the Blood Orange Margarita, made with Sauza Gold Tequila, Cointreau, fresh sour mix, and a blood orange puree ($10). It was nicely tart and refreshing, with a decent pour of tequila.

The menu, as expected, features a mix of seafood, grilled entrees, and Serenitee’s trademark sushi. It also includes vegan and gluten-free offerings, which are clearly marked. Speaking of gluten free, once seated at our table, we decided to try the tater tots ($9) for a starter. Not the pre-fab frozen nuggets you’ve come to expect, these were a decadent surprise. Creamy, cheesy, slightly chunky mashed potatoes that had been deep fried and were served with a chive bacon sour cream sauce, they quickly disappeared.

The entrees we sampled were large and hearty. The meatloaf, made from both beef and pork, came as thick tender slabs served with cheddar mashed potatoes, garlic broccoli, and copious mushroom gravy ($19). The lamb shank really exceeded expectations. Savory, garlicky, and falling off the bone, it was served with a tasty summer veggie ratatouille on a bed of creamy polenta ($20).

One member of our party did go for the sushi, which was super fresh. The spicy roll ($10) is offered with a choice of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, or crab, and indecision led us to ask if the order could be made up of some of each. Our server checked with the sushi bar and happily reported it wasn’t a problem.

There was no way we had room for dessert, so that will have to await further investigation. The flow of the dining space space is slightly awkward and parking limited, but the attentive service and enjoyable meal definitely warrant a return trip.

Maggie’s Farm
119 South Main Street, Middleton
(978) 539-8583
maggiesfarmmiddleton.com

Maggie's Farm on Urbanspoon

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Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of (Local) Rum

Posted: May 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, Ipswich, Turkey Shore Distilleries | Tags: , , | No Comments »

As New Englanders, we love a good story. We also love local products—especially the kind you can make cocktails with. So it was with great pleasure that we attended a party to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Turkey Shore Distilleries and the launch of their Greenhead Spiced Rum last weekend.

The company was formed by Mat Perry and Evan Parker, who grew up as neighbors and friends on Turkey Shore Road in Ipswich. It turns out that barrels of molasses from the West Indies were unloaded at a wharf in Mat’s backyard along the Ipswich River on their way to John Heard’s local distillery from 1770 to 1836. In fact, rum making was a major New England industry in colonial times. Today, Perry and Parker use table-grade molasses to create artisanal rum using a 250-gallon copper pot still built in Kentucky.

We took a tour of the small operation, taking in the gorgeous still, the fermenting tanks, and the tiny bottling operation. Mat told us that the company’s barrels are unusual in that they are smaller than most and built for them from white oak. Most rum these days is aged in barrels already used to age scotch, but the colonials used new barrels, so Turkey Shore does as well.

Along with Old Ipswich White Cap Rum (which we tasted in a fantastic adult version of lemonade) and Old Ipswich Tavern Style Rum (bolder than White Cap and truest to the original New England rums), Turkey Shore is now offering Greenhead Spiced Rum. Delicious and unusual, it has notes of lemongrass, spearmint, and green tea.

We enjoyed meeting the Turkey Shore team, sipping their terrific rum, and learning about their operation. We’ll definitely be seeking out their product, which is available at Kappy’s in Danvers and Peabody, Main St Liquors in Beverly, Cape Ann Liquors in Gloucester, Marcorelles Liquors in Ipswich, Haley’s in Marblehead, Port Wine and Spirits in Newburyport, and Quality Liquors in Salem. It’s also at some of our favorite restaurants, including Hale Street in Beverly, The Farm in Essex, 15 Walnut in Hamilton, and Choate Bridge Pub in Ipswich. For a full list of stores and restaurants, please visit the their website.

If you’d like to see the distillery for yourself, you don’t have to wait until their next anniversary to check out Turkey Shore. Tours are available between 12pm and 5pm Monday through Friday and also by appointment. You can see more photos from the anniversary event on our Facebook page.

Turkey Shore Distilleries
23 Hayward Street #8, Ipswich
(978) 356-0048
www.turkeyshoredistilleries.com

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Red Lulu Rolls Out the Red Carpet

Posted: October 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Mexican, Red Lulu, Salem | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

When a friend messaged me and asked if I wanted to attend the pre-opening party at Red Lulu Cocina and Tequila Bar in Salem, how could I refuse? The subject of much gossip, Red Lulu is the sibling of Boston hot-spot Lolita, both of which are spin-offs of restaurants of the same names in Connecticut. North Shore natives Chris Jamison, Josh Jamison, and Mark Malatesta are running the Boston versions.

Does Salem need a fourth Mexican restaurant? Will it alienate the local crowd by catering to the young hipster crowd? Is there enough parking in the neighborhood? All of these questions have been raised by Salemites as they watched the former Strega space change hands. Others got their backs up over job ads that specified “stylish hostesses and captivating bartenders” and required a “dress-to-impress” interview.

Last night Red Lulu opened its doors for an invitation-only preview party, and the place was quickly packed. We recognized local business owners and press but didn’t catch any politicians on hand.  It was nice to see they had invited other restaurateurs; Dee Wolfe from the Lobster Shanty, John Andrews from Victoria Station, and several managers from Finz were spotted. The beats were loud and throbbing, and the décor was what my companion accurately described as Edward Gorey Whorehouse. (I wonder if they told the interviewing female bar staff that their idea of stylish was super-tight, barely-there short shorts.)

Grabbing a seat at the bar, we decided to try some signature cocktails. Their nod to autumn was the Spiced Apple margarita, which, unlike so many too-sweet apple martinis popping up this fall, was tart and refreshing with green apple and lime. The cinnamon-sugar rim seemed superfluous. Next up was the Broken Heart featuring Gran Centenario Rosangel, (hibiscus infused tequila), St. Germain, Patron Citronge, white grapes, and fresh raspberries. It was fun, with raspberry ending up the main flavor, and it wasn’t cloying.  We also tried the Lolita, a more standard margarita that was very smooth and drinkable with Sauza 100 Anos Azul Reposado, Patron Citronge, fresh lime, cane syrup, and grapefruit.

Bite-sized tastes of menu items were being passed by the waitstaff, and they were varied and tasty. There was a corn bisque that was rich and savory, a cast-iron pan corn bread with roasted garlic sauce that was delicious but much too large for the “single serving” spoons, and the chips with guacamole were quite respectable. The  pork taco was my least favorite; the meat was well-spiced and tender but lacked interest. My favorite was the Ahi tostado: pepita-crusted ahi tuna on crisp corn tortilla with avocado, watercress, and chipotle aioli. Complex but balanced with nice heat.

Quality tequilas, interesting food, and funky décor are all great ingredients, but I’m not sold yet. The verdict is still out until we sample a few meals. The menu will be pricier than neighbors Howling Wolf and Comida, but it’s an entirely different experience and, likely, different audiences.

Red Lulu opens to the public tomorrow night. (10/28).

Red Lulu
94 Lafayette Street, Salem
www.redlulusalem.com

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One Week in August

Posted: August 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Drinks, Event, News | Tags: | No Comments »

We’re excited about this weekend, which marks the start of the first annual North Shore Wine Week. The kickoff party is Saturday at Wine ConneXtion; information on the event is here. Andover’s Brasserie 28 will be serving up food samples that day, and Chef Matt Morello is the culinary chair of the entire event.

Morello said he’s slightly surprised by how well the concept has been received. “We have more than 30 restaurants, which is a great showing for the first year. I think when you offer a good product, it’s exciting to be able to partner with others who feel the same way.”

Morello said the theme behind his offerings at the kickoff party is smoke. One non-traditional element of each dish will be lightly smoked, including bourbon and tomatoes. At the restaurant, which Morello owns with his wife, there will be four flights of wine from its Napa wine station, which keeps wine temperature controlled and under pressure with argon gas, rather than in bottles. “This lets us offer amazing wines that most people can only buy by the bottle. It’s the freshest glass of wine—like opening a new bottle every time,” said Morello.

The Serenitee Restaurant Group is varying its Wine Week offerings by restaurant. At Alchemy in Gloucester, Sommelier Matt Rose has created a tapas pairing menu and is offering wines by the glass from the cellar list that are only available by the bottle during the rest of the year. At Latitude 43, you’ll find a raw bar pairing menu featuring oysters and sushi. And at Hamilton’s 15 Walnut just before the event (Thursday night), there’s a $50 five-course farm dinner with half glass wine and beer pairings for every course for $3 each.

At 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar (which will also be serving up samples on Saturday), Chef Tony Bettencourt is focusing on the relationship between food and wine. “Old world wines, or European wines, tend to pair better with food, but I wanted heighten the awareness of the lesser known varietals that people may not see as often,” said Bettencourt. “By pairing the dishes with these wines, diners can experience firsthand how pairing the right wine with food can make each better.”

The complete schedule of events is here, and if you make it to the kickoff party on Saturday, please make it a point to say hello–we love to meet readers and talk about our favorite restaurants.

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Without Restraint: North Shore Wine Week

Posted: August 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: 62 Restaurant & Winebar, Drinks, Event, Grand Trunk Imports, Turbine Wine Bar, Wine Connextion | Tags: , | 1 Comment »

“Pour out the wine without restraint or stay
pour not by cups, but by the bellyful
pour out to all that wull.”

So said Edumund Spenser in Epithalamion, and that’s precisely what’s happening during the fourth week of August on the North Shore.

The first annual North Shore Wine Week is taking place from August 21 to 27, and we’re excited to be part of the event. The kickoff party is being held on August 20 from 12:00 to 5:00 at Wine ConnecXtion in North Andover. It’s a free event, but you need to email vip@northshorewineweek.com to request an electronic ticket. There will be wine tastings all afternoon, paired with food from Brasserie 28, Oregano, 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar, Tuscan Kitchen, and Burtons Grill.

During the week, there are wine tastings and wine specials at restaurants and wine vendors all over the North Shore. For example, on Sunday from 5:00 to 9:00, you can sample a flight of four summer whites and sultry reds for $12 at 62 Restaurant and Wine Bar in Salem. On Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00, Urban Wine Project is hosting wine and jazz night at Turbine Wine Bar in Lynn featuring the project’s 2009 Central Square Chardonnay and 2009 Oxford Street Pinot Noir. Everyone who purchases a glass of either wine will receive a complimentary appetizer with their first glass. Friday afternoon at Grand Trunk in Newburyport, there will be a free tasting of Spanish wines and 15% off all bottles during the tasting.

A schedule of events is here, and more are being added daily. We’ll post again with further details about events as the date nears.

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