Thursday, January 28, 2010

cracker hack

The very addicting cracker candy that my wife made for Christmas was supposed to last until our son went back to school. The plan was for him to take some to share with his roommates. Yeah, right. Instead, my wife and I made another batch to send him as a care package along with the necktie he left at home.

Normally, cracker candy is made with Saltines. Because we like chocolate-covered pretzels, we substituted Flipsides and used dark chocolate chips. Upgrade! Here's the recipe for those of you playing along at home.
  • Preheat oven to 425°
  • Arrange crackers in a bricklayer design on a cookie sheet covered with parchment. (We used two disposable aluminum pans.)
  • Melt two sticks of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add ¾ cup sugar and stir constantly. Bring mixture to a boil for three minutes.
  • Pour hot mixture over crackers and spread evenly with spoon. Bake at 425° for five minutes.
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips over toffee. As they melt spread chocolate evenly with a spoon
  • Top with chopped pecans or almonds (I used broken pretzel pieces!)
  • Cover with foil and chill until hardened. Break into bite-size pieces, dropping the pan on the floor if you have to. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and mail them to college as fast as possible before they "accidentally" get eaten at home.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

candy planned

The candy spotted by my friend Keith made no sense for late December. He emailed me on the Second Day of Christmas to report that the Kroger on S. Northshore Drive was selling Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. When I saw him at church the next morning, I asked if he thought they were left over from last Easter. No, a clerk told Keith that the eggs had just arrived.

My family and I stopped at a Sheetz convenience store on New Year's Day. In addition to the Reese's eggs, they had a whole assortment of Easter candy including Almond Joy Eggs, Easter Dots, Jolly Rancher Jelly Beans, Cadbury Creme Eggs and Cadbury Caramel Eggs.

The item that caught my eye and pried 99¢ plus tax from my wallet will be obvious to most readers of this blog. In fact, I had recently mentioned that I was anxious to try a chocolate-covered Marshmallow Peep. In my excitement, I hastily purchase a Peep covered with milk chocolate, momentarily forgetting that I had intended to hold out for the dark chocolate variety.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

just say November

Never let it be said that I rush straight from Halloween into Christmas. Each year I write several blog posts about Thanksgiving. It bugs me to see stores displaying Christmas decorations in October. However, I did go online today and order my tickets for the Living Christmas Tree.

I went to the show at Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time last year and enjoyed it tremendously. Three of this year's shows conflict with the Knoxville Symphony's Clayton Holiday Concerts. I picked one of the two that do not, since my wife will be singing at all four Clayton shows.

Another Christmas reminder popped up in my email today. Dave & Melanie, the couple who operate the seasonal See's Candies kiosk at West Town Mall, wrote to tell me that they will reopen for business on November 12. They were kind enough to include some fun photos from their summer Workamping adventures.

On top of all that, the radio industry news had a few reports of stations flipping to an all-Christmas format over the weekend, including one in St. Louis and two in Kansas City. Despite being on the verge of a Christmas avalanche. I found two reasons to be hopeful for Thanksgiving.

On our way home from Missouri this summer, my wife and I stopped at Broadbent's in Cadiz, Kentucky. The Christmas-themed gift shop was across a parking lot from a radio station with a drive-through window. (Huh?) Amidst all the Christmas items in the store was a small display of three Thanksgiving (and one Halloween) decorations.

Perhaps most encouraging was the decent selection of Thanksgiving cards at Dollar General Market. My cell phone battery died just as I thought about taking a picture of the display. Instead I spent 50¢ to take home the card that reminded me of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009


A few lists of the best and worst Halloween candies came across my web browser yesterday. Hershey's national survey listed the top ten treats for adults and the top ten for kids. I was surprised to see some Mars and Nestlé products on the Hershey's list.

SF Weekly chose five candies kids love even though they don't taste great. I can agree with their dislike of wax lips and Pixy Stix but not candy corn. The tasty tricolor treats are addictive in their super-sweetness. I don't like Smarties but I will give them a free pass because my kids like them. The fifth choice was Ring Pops. Eh.

It was snooty Bon Appetit that got me riled up. They did get a couple of items right on their best and worst lists. For example, they like Whoppers and Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins. The worst list includes Necco Wafers and Milk Duds. They foolishly put candy corn on both lists. But how dare they impugn one of my all time favorites, Circus Peanuts. Screenwriter and candy-lover Paul Rudnick also dissed the Peanut on his list. Back in my heavier days, I would often eat Circus Peanuts on airplane flights. The last one in the package tasted just as good as the first.

The trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood will have to wait until I get home from work and my wife gets home from church before they can access our goodies. She bought an assortment of Mars products including Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix and Skittles. My wife likes to serve them from a bowl with a ceramic hand reaching up from the bottom. To give this photo an appropriately blood-red tint, I held my finger over the flash. Oooh, very scary!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

eight days a week

The eggs that my wife and I colored on Saturday will last us for the entire Octave of Easter, assuming that we each eat one a day. I picked out a dozen and arranged them on the egg plate that I gave her as a birthday gift a few years ago. Before you ask, I bought it at Cracker Barrel. Since our son is away at college, my wife took it upon herself to replicate his annual Earth egg.

There was an Easter surprise in our basket this morning. My wife found some of the elusive Peeps Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies that I wanted. She also got me some Sunsweet Chocolate Plum Sweets. I guess they're like Raisinets, except these would be Prunettes.

The same friends who gave me homemade marshmallows for Christmas have done it again. In addition to the marshmallows, Kathy made some chocolate peanut butter eggs and peanut brittle. She has a true gift for candy making. Maybe she could turn it into a business someday.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

the emptiness inside

One of my wife's friends gave her an unusual gift at church on Sunday. The friend's husband makes Easter Bunnies out of balloons, yarn and starch. It looks like there's some glitter thrown in for good measure. I tried looking on the Internet to see how he does it but only found instructions for simpler items like eggs or nests.

The starch-soaked yarn solidifies around the balloons, creating a hollow center. The same basic idea is used when making Resurrection Rolls. A listener e-mailed me the recipe, which I had never heard of before. Instead of a balloon, a melted marshmallow leaves the empty space, which represents the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. I wonder if it would work with a Marshmallow Peep instead of a standard marshmallow.

While we're on the topic of putting candy inside things, Chef Walter made a leftover Easter candy cake on Tuesday. He mixed two cups of chopped up chocolate candies into a standard cake batter. I enjoyed watching it even though he said that he hates Peeps. Sacrilege!

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

orange you glad

Almost every candy season, the Marshmallow Peeps folks (the Marshmallow Peeps peeps?) introduce something new. For this Easter, it's Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies and regular Peeps in orange. Collectors of all things Peep can now buy Lenox China versions of the sugary treats.

Six years ago, the Marshmallow Peeps Fun Bus came through Knoxville. I arranged for it to make a stop outside Patrick Sullivan's during an Einstein Simplified performance. To celebrate their 50th anniversary, they had produced a limited run of Peeps chicks in all the colors used for other shapes throughout the year. At the time, it was unusual to see Peeps chicks in Halloween orange and Valentine red. I told the Fun Bus staff that orange Peeps would be particularly popular here in Tennessee Volunteer country. They had the home office overnight a case of orange chicks to them in time for an appearance at Walmart the next day.

I've been looking for the Chocolate Mousse Flavored Marshmallow Bunnies without success. My son and I saw other Peeps on display at a Walmart in Florida earlier this month. The Peeps and several other candies were grouped by color including pink, yellow and blue chocolate rabbits (yuck) from Russell Stover. My wife and I saw a similar display in Knoxville yesterday, except they featured the orange items instead of the blue.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

brownies and cookies and cakes, oh my

Shopping at Sam's Club can be especially challenging during Lent. They usually offer free samples of meats I can't eat on Fridays and they always have plenty of delicious sweets that I have given up for the season. Today's Lenten Friday Forbidden Treat is a Sam's Club three-fer. Take a look at some brownies that look like cakes, some cakes that come surrounded with cupcakes and some gourmet candy cookies made with Heath Bars, Reese's Pieces and Ghirardelli Chocolate.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

on an open fire!

Even Michael Phelps would have trouble burning off all the calories in my Christmas stocking and under our tree. I have been schlepping to the indoor pool at the fitness center at least three days a week all through the holiday season to help assuage the guilt.

Just in time for the holiday eating season, I found a blog called Back to the Fridge by Charlie Hills. I thought about adding it to the blogroll on the right of my page, but the BTTF design doesn't lend itself to easy scrolling and browsing. Instead I view his posts via Google Reader. On Friday, Charlie wrote: "Although the new year is now officially underway, let’s face it: our diets don’t start until Monday." My thoughts exactly! Charlie's tastes agree with mine in two other important areas: TV women and Chex Mix. A lot of guys wisely choose Mary Ann over Ginger but not everyone picks Bailey over Jennifer.

I always get some sweet treats for Christmas. This year I seemed to be especially blessed. I've already mentioned the marshmallows I got from friends and alluded to the gingerbread cookies my kids made. Perhaps my professed affection for See's Candies inspired some family members to load me up with gourmet chocolates.

Today we tried to slice and share some truffles from Joseph Schmidt, Master Chocolatier. One of the truffles in the package of three was supposed to be pomegranate flavor. The others were "all dark" and "extra dark." We couldn't tell by looking at them. The outer shells were a bit hard and broke when we tried to cut them in half. The excellent taste was not affected. Unfortunately the French truffles from Bissinger's were not quite as good. My wife chose the espresso and mint flavors. I took the raspberry. We split the double chocolate and the hazelnut. They were okay, just not as delicious as I had hoped.

The Chocolate Filled Candy Canes we got from Elegant Gourmet didn't do it for me either. After tasting a piece of my wife's, I gave mine away. There was too much candy cane and not enough chocolate for my taste.

On the other hand, a small box of assorted Krause's Chocolates was a very nice surprise for our family to share. They were chosen for us by our daughter's boyfriend who had visited the shop in Saugerties, New York. The chocolates came with a page that identified the flavors by the color of the paper cup and the shape of the candy. For example, the raisin cluster was in a red cup and had a bumpy surface. The butter cream comes in a white cup with a smooth top. Another candy-related gift I received from the same benefactor was a "Star Trek" set of Pez dispensers. As you can see, they're all straight but Sulu.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

fa ra ra ra ra

Are you thinking about Valentine's Day? Let me explain. Dave and Melanie, the full-time RVing married couple who work at the See's Candies kiosk in West Town Mall, told me something interesting yesterday. They will work here until the day after Christmas, then they will hop in their RV and head to Florida for January. The big news is that they will be back in Knoxville in time to reopen the kiosk and sell you some Valentine's chocolates for your sweetheart. In past years, the kiosk was only open for the month prior to Christmas.

I also went to Dollar General Market yesterday to get some River Ranch Garden Salad. At $1.25 a pound, it costs less than the so-called gourmet salad at Sam's Club. Last week, it was on sale for only $1 a pound, which is cheaper than even the bland, shredded lettuce I've been buying at Sam's. As I was leaving, I passed a guy delivering several cases of Valentine's Day cards from American Greetings. I will have to go back and find out if they put the cards on display before or after Christmas.

In other food store news, today was opening day for a new Asian supermarket on Kingston Pike. The first thing I saw as I walked in the door at the Sunrise Supermarket was a refrigerator case with fully cooked whole ducks, not far from some stacks of preserved duck eggs.

As I passed through the produce section I noticed that they had three kinds of apples: red, green and Fuji. They also had a sign warning "Caution Spiny Fruit" for something called frozen Durian. It's known for its foul odor, which must be why they keep it frozen.


Beyond the produce, I saw plenty of various pork parts. They had ears, feet, kidneys, livers, tongues and stomachs. I also saw large containers of pork blood, trays of beef honeycomb, fresh goat meat and individual chicken feet on ice. Over in the seafood section they had many fresh and frozen varieties of fish. I was fascinated by the things that were still alive. They had live blue crabs, lobsters, Dungeness crabs, catfish and Tilapia.

On my way out, I spied a stack of books in a rack near the door. Who knew there was such a thing as the Chinese Yellow Pages for the Southeast U.S.A?

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

see's the moment

The smell of chocolate would often fill my nostrils as I got out of the car and walked into the building at KLOS. The studios were just up the street from a See's Candies plant on La Cienega Boulevard.

See's has stores in most California shopping malls and kiosks at many of the gates at LAX and other airports. For the past few years they've also put kiosks in malls all over the country prior to Christmas. The kiosks sell prepackaged candy only. If you want to get a custom assortment, with extra Scotchmallows for example, you have to order it. We get the See's catalogs in the mail several times a year and I still like to read them cover to cover.

Dave, the guy working at the West Town Mall kiosk, has a slight resemblance to my old friend Loo Katz. He told me that he and his wife used to live in Glendale, California. They moved to Maine before becoming full-time RVers. Now they travel the country, usually staying at campgrounds where they do some work in lieu of paying a site fee. At one of these sites they met a guy from See's who suggested that they had the right personality to work for the company too.

Just the other day I talked with an evolutionary evangelist who also travels the country rather than keep a permanent home. I do want to get to all 50 states but I'm not sure that I'm willing to give up the comforts of home for a life on the road. Besides, I wouldn't want to end up like the characters in "Lost in America."

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

pour some sugar on medulla

The most interesting Halloween candy I spotted this year had to be the marshmallow brains on the shelf at Walgreens. They come in a plastic skull that is reminiscent of the Dia de los Muertos decorations that are especially popular in California. I didn't buy any since I already have a realistic plastic skull in my home office.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

when Hamptons wasn't cool

The Penny Candy Shop has gone out of business, reports my sister. She was visiting one of my favorite places on Earth, the east end of Long Island and saw the sign in the window. According to the real estate listings, the former Penny Candy Shop is for sale. The price? 200 million pennies.

The P.C.S. now joins Kathleen's Bakeshop on my list of former favorites in the Hamptons. Kathleen's sold the famous Crutchley's Cruller hearts (doughnut holes), which you would drop into a bag of powdered sugar and shake. Like the original Crutchley's Bakery, Kathleen's is closed now, as we discovered when we were in the area last summer. I saw online that Kathleen lost the rights to her own name. She has a new business called Tate's Bake Shop but there's no mention of whether she still sells the hearts.

One of my parents' favorite restaurants in the Hamptons was Herb McCarthy's. It closed in the '80s. The microbrewery now in that location named a beer after Old Herb. It was the least they could do.

As far as I can tell, the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton and Sip 'n Soda in Southampton are still open and doing fine, even after the recent death of one of Sip 'n Soda's owners. And so is our local choice for pizza, La Parmigiana in Southampton.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

for peeps' sake

The amount of publicity that Marshmallow Peeps receive every Easter is mind boggling. Most of it seems to be fan-generated rather than coming from the company's press releases. As a lifelong Peeps lover myself, I can honestly say that I was a big fan before it was cool. For example, I once brought a package of purple Peeps to a glacier near Mt. McKinley in Alaska.

The Peeps will be featured tomorrow on CBS News Sunday Morning. Rita Braver's report will include a film I told you about in April 2007 and an artist that I told you about in March of last year.

Mary Constantine of the Knoxville News Sentinel posted a video showing how to use Peeps and chocolate chips to decorate a Peeps Sunflower Cake.

Meanwhile in Washington, the WMATA is using Peeps to get baseball fans to ride the Metro to the new Nationals Park.

Speaking of DC, the Washington Post got some tremendous entries in their second annual diorama contest. Out in Washington State, the readers of the Seattle Times created some great Peeps art.

When I showed my wife a cute picture of a Peeps costume for toddlers, she honestly asked if it came in my size.

When my daughter celebrates Easter tomorrow, she'll have a care package that my wife mailed to her. It contain some of the brand new Peeps Tulips.

A New Jersey columnist writes that he can't eat just one Peep. Can't say that I blame him.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

unflattering imitation

Like Jimmy Durante used to say, "everybody wants to get into the act." Since Marshmallow Peeps are the top selling non-chocolate Easter candy, it makes sense that other companies want to compete. I'll cover the copycats today and save the real deal for tomorrow.

A while back I wrote about a similar Christmas candy called Marshmallow Pals. They are also made in an Easter version. I saw more sugar coated marshmallow things at Wal-Mart this week. Palmer now makes a Marshmallow Baby Binks in addition to their chocolate bunny with the same name.

Nestled among the Peeps, I spotted some animal-shaped marshmallows made by Barton's Candy. Their Barn Yard Buddies looked more like Barn Yard Blobbies to me.The creatures pictured below are supposed to be cows, pigs and frogs.

The odd shapes reminded me of an old Bob & Ray bit about a warehouse that stored its chocolate Easter rabbits too close to some steam pipes. My radio idols did a fake commercial for Chocolate Wobblies. Each one was guaranteed to have a ribbon hidden somewhere inside it.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

yuck boo yum

Supermarket shelves are currently stocked with a variety of Easter candy, including a couple of items that I hadn't seen before. Sam's Club had a big stack of Edible Easter Grass made by Galerie au Chocolat. If you've ever ended up with plastic grass stuck to your jelly bean, edible grass seems like a fine idea. However if it's made of white chocolate, it could end up as a melted mess in the bottom of your basket. Yuck.

Milk chocolate fans usually want their bunny, whether hollow or solid. The package for Palmer's Too Tall Bunny amused me while I was at Food City the other day. You see, his ears are so big, they don't fit in the box. My enthusiasm quickly waned when I saw some guy with annoying sound effects prove on YouTube that the bunny is not too tall at all. The box has a false bottom. Boo!

I'm more of a dark chocolate and marshmallow fan. The folks at Candy Blog have described a Lindor Truffle Egg that sounds pretty good. I couldn't find any of them but I did see a different holiday treat at the Food City on Morrell Road. Until now, I had always thought that people who keep Kosher were denied the pleasure of eating marshmallows. That includes Marshmallow Peeps which are not Kosher
even if they are "always in season" nowadays. It's because marshmallows are made with gelatin and gelatin is made from animal bones and connective tissues, hence the non-Kosherness. Anyway, this store has a pretty big selection of Passover products. Wedged in among the Manischewitz were packages of Granny's Toasted Marshmallows by Rokeach. So how does a bag of marshmallows get a Pareve insignia on the label? Turns out that these coconut-covered treats are made from "kosher fish gelatine." Yum?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

call Dr. Nick for a refill

After seeing a movie at the Regal Riviera the other day, we took a walk over to the Mast General Store. In hindsight, we probably could have done it the other way around and picked up a piece of classic candy to eat during the film. They had an unusual set of Pez dispensers on display featuring the King of Rock 'N Roll. It made me proud papa when my son was the first among us to deliver the descriptive pun: Elvis Pez-ley.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

straight and twisted

Twizzlers or Red Vines? Your answer probably reveals whether you grew up near the East Coast or the West Coast. My favorite reward in the children's summer reading program at the Crestwood Library was a pack of Twizzlers. When I moved to Burbank, I acquired a taste for Red Vines. To me, they weren't as sweet as Twizzlers but enjoyable nonetheless. The Vines have devoted fans. There was a former KROQ program director who moved to New York to take a job at MTV. Every couple of months he had someone ship him a big tub of Red Vines from Smart & Final. If Easterners like Twizzlers and Westerners like Red Vines, what about people from the middle of the country? When we were in St. Louis, I noticed a supermarket display of a red licorice I had never heard of. Are Midwesterners just as loyal to Switzer's Licorice?

At the other side of Dierbergs Market, I saw a fairly impressive display of chocolate covered pretzels made by Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company. The pretzels were topped with bits of Butterfinger, Heath Bar, Reese's Pieces and other confections.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

best little candy in Texas?

The Mast General Store opened in downtown Knoxville several weeks ago. My son and I finally stopped by on a recent Saturday afternoon. I was amused by the balloon powered toy boats and toy cars and puzzled by the "Forest Faces."

They had 500 types of old-fashioned candy displayed in barrels, including ginger, clove, anise and
Horehound. I had never heard of Horehound candy before. You can make your own jokes.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

fluffy puffy time

Do a Google search for the word "marshmallowaholic" and it will lead you to my website. It's probably because the word is one that I made up, but that's beside the point right now. Thanks to my recent weight loss, I guess you could say that I'm a marshmallowaholic in recovery. It's been tough these past few days.

On Friday I told you about the Marshmallow Fluff festival in Somerville, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe and Boston Herald both had articles about it yesterday. I also found a blog with some good photos of the festival. The same blogger photographs a tub of Fluff in front of landmarks around the world. What a great idea! Other bloggers posted video of the Fluff Volcano Cake, photos of the Flufferettes, the Fluff Science Fair trophy and more photos of the Flufferettes.

As I was looking for all the online Fluff stuff, I found a site called Candy Blog that has a marshmallow category. While visiting the Mast General Store over the weekend,
I saw many of the candies featured on the website including Goo Goo Clusters, MalloCups and something called Valomilk. I resisted the urge to buy any of them. I don't know that I would have been able to keep from buying either of the limited edition products I read about. According to Candy Blog, two appealing products were spotted at a 7-Eleven in Hollywood. Has anybody seen Marshmallow Take 5 or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with Marshmallow in Tennessee?

Before walking across the street to the Mast General Store, my son and I went to the Hola! Knoxville Hispanic Heritage Festival at Market Square. At a booth selling Bimbo and Marinela products I saw some Sponch! marshmallow cookies.

Sponch! wasn't as tempting as something I had seen a day earlier. I went to Wal-Mart to buy some double fiber wheat bread and other healthy foods. As I walked through the store, I was drawn as if by a magnetic force to a display of bright yellow boxes that I remembered from childhood. I immediately reached for the phone and called my sponsor (and by sponsor I mean my wife). She barely had time to say hello before I started repeating, "They have Mallomars! They have Mallomars!" My wife talked me down and kept me from buying any but not before I snapped some pictures with my camera phone.

The Mallomars sighting means that Fall is in the air. I may still go back to Wal-Mart to buy a box but tonight I ate a S'mores bar from LA Weight Loss instead.

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