Archives for category: Seasonal Favorites

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See all my past favorites here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. I don’t mean to be solely food-focused, but that seems to happen sometimes…

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Clockwise from top left: Cinnamon rolls made with Breaderick; cherry juice; room in Crowne Plaza Borjomi; Panthenol gel; quesadilla from El Maridaje (half-eaten, sorry); quail and rice

S is back: Those who’ve been with this blog since the early days might remember my old travel buddy/roommate/partner in crime “S:. Well, she’s been gone a while working on her PhD, but this summer her research brought her back to Georgia, and we got to hang out! Of course she’s on her way back to the US to finish up her degree right as this post goes live, but it made spring and summer fun to have her around!

El MaridajeTbilisi finally has a Mexican restaurant! The chef is from Sonora, so the cuisine isn’t TexMex or Baja, but as someone with family in Tucson, this hits the spot! My favorite so far is Nachos El Maridaje, but they have expanded the menu since last time I visited.

Cherry juice: Good for my joints, delicious, and one of the few sugar-free options readily available, cherry and cherry-pomegranate juices make me happy.

Upscale Borjomi: This summer I attended a conference in Borjomi, which led to seeing a different side of the town. This side was also great! The conference was held in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which was a real 5 star hotel. The swimming pool was beautiful, the buffet was good, and my room was fit for a princess. We also had a wine tasting at The Drinking Spot, and it was some of the best wine I’ve had anywhere; varieties I had never heard of served with delicious cheese and honey.

Frozen quail: Lately, the supply of normal chicken to the grocery store around the corner has been disrupted, so while I was searching in vain one day I noticed a package of frozen quail, and I turned my chicken and rice into quail and rice. Delicious, fancy, and possibly even easier than with chicken!

Mama Terra: Unfortunately, Begemot closed (Woland’s remains), but as consolation it was replaced with Mama Terra which is another great place. Mexican, Asian, and Georgian vegetarian options. Everything I’ve had has been delicious, and it’s nice to be able to go out to eat for fun and convenience, without sacrificing healthy tasty food like what I make at home. The drink menu is also awesome–free tap water, lots of fresh juices, smoothies, a tasty masala chai latte, and delicious ginger kombucha.

Lisi Lake walking path: I hadn’t been to Lisi Lake in a while, and boy does it look different now! They’ve made a path around the lake (and also added a lot of “attractions” and cafes to the city side). It’s a 3-kilometer loop, and a very pleasant walk. Clearly it’s popular, as the place is packed with walkers, joggers, and kids on bikes and scooters every day at almost all hours.

Georgian pharmacies: I posted years ago about my first time using my Georgian health insurance, and I remain really pleased with my insurance coverage and my family doctor. This summer I had a series of minor maladies (Tbilisi tummy, ear infection, a series of burns, bumps, and scrapes), and while I did see my doctor a few times to patch me up, it was the pharmacists who really got me through the summer. While there are of course some pharmacists who aren’t particularly interested in helping, on average I’ve gotten great advice and assistance from them–looking up the equivalent of the American thing I have in Georgia, comparing prices, recommending different products, etc. My greatest find this summer was something called Panthenol, recommended by a pharmacist for my tide-battered, scraped, rashy and sunburned legs (Why yes, I was a total mess). I had asked for something to use like Neosporin, which I had left at home, and she said “No, no, you don’t need an antibiotic yet. You just need something to toughen it up. Try this.” I tried it, and that’s exactly what it did–it made the scab form quickly, and the skin heal faster in general (and I don’t see any scars).

Breaderick, my sourdough starter: When I visited my parents at Christmas, Mom told me about her new adventures in sourdough, and I got to try their sourdough pancakes. It seemed like a brilliant idea to start my own, so now I have my own gluten pet named Breaderick. It’s a fun but not too time-consuming hobby, and I make yummy pancakes, flatbread and regular bread somewhat regularly now. I’ve also experimented with banana bread and cinnamon rolls, with fairly good results. (If anyone in Tbilisi needs a piece, just let me know!)

Dishonorable Mention: Lari depreciation…and I had meant to convert my savings to USD right before, and didn’t get around to it. Poor me. (Literally).

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

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Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See all my past favorites here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. I don’t mean to be solely food-focused, but that seems to happen sometimes…

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Top: Falafel and hummus from Different Taste. Row 2 L to R: Nutella khachapuri from Sakhachapure No1, Cubano from Begemot, bread from Kakhelebi. Row 3: Chreli Abano, latte and Oreo cheesecake from Coffee LAB, Herbia spinach

Begemot/Woland’s  A cute little bookshop with tasty food and its sister speakeasy, which serves up delicious cocktails in a calm environment. Amazing bar snacks and free tap water!

Chreli Abano Renovations: If you’ve been to Tbilisi and visited Abanotubani, you’ve probably seen that gorgeous blue building that was blocked off and closed. Maybe you thought it as a mosque (lots of people do–the mosque is one street up the hill, FYI). This is Chreli Abano, or the Blue Bath or the Pushkin Bath. And it’s open again, and it is a wonderful simple luxury. They’ve done a great job with the renovations, and the place looks beautiful and feels clean. The staff speak English, and they have a menu of extras available–if you forgot your slippers or shampoo they’ll help you out, and they also brew some delicious herbal teas to help you feel warm and healthy during your bath.

CoffeeLab: Great coffee, and fresh affordable food in a lovely building nestled in a park. Their coffee is confirmed to have turned non-coffee drinkers into coffee snobs!

Different Taste Falafel: I first noticed this cheap little hole in the wall lunch place a few months ago, and thought I would stop by sometime when I was in the neighborhood and didn’t pack my lunch. Recently I walked past and spotted a little hand-written sign that read “New Falafel and Hummus from Israel”. The first time I stopped in I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I overheard the staff discussing a trip to Israel I became optimistic. The hummus and falafel were delicious, and a steal. A good-sized portion of hummus and falafel with a side of bread and a cup of tea is only 7.50 GEL. Unfortunately, they don’t have pita bread, but the garlicky toast that comes with the hummus and falafel is pretty good. It’s the only thing I’ve tried here, but their Facebook reviews suggest that the baked goods are tasty, too.

Herbia Spinach: I never knew I liked spinach so much until I learned how hard it was to find spinach regularly in Georgia. Herbia has changed that with greenhouse-grown packaged spinach regularly available at your local grocery store. Always fresh and clean and delicious, I have been happily eating spinach nearly once a week now. (Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for spinach and chickpeas is a favorite!)

Kakhelebi bread: This restaurant gets frequent reviews as one of the best places to try farm-fresh innovative Georgian food. Those reviews are well-deserved. What I don’t understand is why it took so long for anyone to tell me they also have a bakery! Multiple kinds of delicious, freshly baked artisan breads are available. Don’t get me wrong; I love Georgian tonis puri, but it usually isn’t a good shape for slicing for toast or sandwiches. Kakhelebi’s bread solves this problem! It’s also a good distance from my house for a morning walk. Beware, they close unusually early for a Tbilisi restaurant.

Nutella Khachapuri at Sakhachapure N1 : I can’t believe it took someone so long to invent this! It’s the perfect comfort dessert; an adjaruli bread boat made of puff pastry, filled with a load of nutella and topped with some fruit. The perfect indulgent dessert!

 

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See all my past favorites here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. I don’t mean to be solely food-focused, but that seems to happen sometimes…

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Clockwise from top left: Wearing a dress from DeFacto and modelling Siakhle Cola; a pistachio ice cream cone; Krik Brewing Company, probably the best microbrewery, and Georgian olive oil

Georgian Olive OilGeorgian olive oil (produced near Sighnaghi, if I’m not mistaken) hit the shelves at the beginning of this summer, and it was the perfect accompaniment to all the fresh tomatoes! It’s the highest quality olive oil I’ve found on shelves here, but the price is mid-market. Good enough to dip tonis puri into, with no other seasonings.

Craft beer: The craft beer revolution made it to Georgia!   Krik Brewing Company makes some really delicious beers (and I don’t even really like beer). One was orange-y and one was chocolate-y and tasting them was quite fun. Black Dog Bar and Burgio are also both in on the game,and recommended for a casual night out.

Pistachio Ice Cream: I’ve been begging for pistachio ice cream (one of my favorites) every since I visited Turkey and saw all the options there. (I have a strong memory of eating pistachio ice cream in front of the Hagia Sophia on my trip to Istanbul, even). Angelato and Luca Polare ice cream shops stock it sometimes, and you can pick up some Tolia at the grocery store.

Rafting: We had a work team-building event at the Georgian Rafting Federation’s base near Borjomi, and  it was AMAZING. There are also supposed to be options along the road to Kazbegi and in mountainous Ajara. The experience outside Borjomi was fantastic–highly recommended! (I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication or not, but our fee didn’t include transportation back to the base where we had left all our stuff. It was a bit of a long walk, and some of our co-workers were sopping wet, so we wound up “making memories” with some slightly sketchy hitchhiking).

Siakhle Cola: I’m not sure if this is new or regional (the label said “Made in Zestaponi”),  but I bought it from a nice old man along the side of the road through mountainous Ajara, and it’s the best non-Coca Cola cola I’ve ever had. Pleasantly cinnamon-y and all-around refreshing.

DeFacto clothing company and other Turkish clothing brands: Usually I import my clothes from the US, but I have gotten some great bargains on decent-quality stuff at De Facto lately. In fact(o), I loved the dress I bought so much, I went back and bought it in all the other colors they had in stock in my size. I did, however, find that I wore drastically different sizes in dresses and t-shirts, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to try things on.

Dishonorable mention: Forest fires, yikes!

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See all my past favorites here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. I don’t mean to be solely food-focused, but that seems to happen sometimes…

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Clockwise: Lovely chocolate cherry birthday cake from Mada, Kula lemonade, plate from Barbarestan, Rera pelmeni, Barambo desert’i chocolates, place setting from Khasheria (Culinarium)

New (/Old) Georgian Cuisine: Khasheria and Barbarestan are the darlings of this genre in the Western press at the moment, and I can say the food at both is definitely something special. I’ve gone to Khasheria twice, and got the chicken both times, so that’s highly recommended!  I also really enjoyed two different warm salads. Barbarestan isn’t exactly “new” cuisine (all their recipes are based on those from Barbare Jorjadze, who lived in the 19th Century), but it’s definitely not the same as every other restaurant in Tbilisi. I’d heard so many rave reviews that I wasn’t at all surprised that the food was delicious–what really impressed me at Barbarestan were the little things–crackly flatbread, amazing homemade tarragon lemonade, pretty mismatched plates and tiled sink.  I’ve also tasted food at the lesser-known Sirajkhana and Cafe-Theatre that I would put into the same category (though I attended special events at both of these places, so I don’t know if the usual menu is exactly the same). I crashed a wine-tasting at Sirajkhana that was way too cool for the likes of me, and was smitten with the fluffy pita bread and neon green dip. The khachapuri was also seriously good. The dishes are influenced by the Persian parts of Georgia’s past, making the menu unique. I discovered Cafe-Theatre when I was invited to a social event there, and got to taste a bite or two of many different dishes. The mushrooms fried with bazhe (ბაჟე=Georgian walnut sauce) (I still haven’t figured out quite how they did that) and topped with an herb dressing were my favorite. The cafe gets its name from the small stage in the back of the space where they host performances.  Word on the street suggests that Ezo also fits into this category, though I haven’t visited them yet myself. It’s nice to see the already-delicious Georgian cuisine growing up a bit!

Agrohub: This is a new supermarket with a difference: highlighting Georgian and “organic” products while also stocking a wide variety of other hard-to-find items (and everyday stuff, too). If you’re looking for octopus or starfruit, this is the place to check, but you’ll have to pay a pretty penny for those sorts of things. Prices are generally a bit higher than at Carrefour, but to me it’s worth it for the unique and specialty products. The first time I visited, village eggs were on a special sale and incredibly cheap. The bakery has very tasty products, and the Rachan ham has been a huge hit. I got an assortment of unique Georgian cheeses here for a party I hosted and got a lot of compliments (the Imeruli with coffee and honey was a great surprise, though it didn’t really taste of any of its components). I’ve been coming here roughly once a month for specialty items, while my weekly grocery shopping remains at Carrefour, street markets, and local shops. Thanks for the recommendation, Jenni!

Madart “Mada” Confectionary: I have to be honest–I’m usually not a big fan of the cake in Georgia. The cake itself is too dry and the topping (definitely NOT frosting) is generally cloyingly sweet–made with whipped cream or sweetened condensed milk, and then there’s the random fruit inside (I love fruit in cake, but it should be part of the whole, not thrown in last minute based on what’s cheapest). A colleague of mine brought in a cake from Mada, and I was so happy when I tasted it. Proper chocolate FROSTING with cohesive fruit choices. The business has been around for a while, but they just opened a branch near our office, and I have since discovered them and used them for all my recent cake needs. I highly recommend the dark chocolate frosting (it’s just like Mom’s!), the milk chocolate frosting is not bad, either. They also bake khachapuri and other savory pies. The house-special meat pie is really good–flaky crust, well seasoned ground meat, rice, mushrooms and a bit of cheese.

Kula Lemonade: This is actually lemonade! Not limonati, which everyone calls lemonade, but is actually soda-pop. It’s also not too sweet (unlike everything else made by Kula, and every other “lemonade” I’ve tried in Georgia). Very refreshing!

Rera Prepared Pelmeni I admit, these were initially purchased because the package was so much better-designed than any of the other brands of pelmeni (пельмени Siberian dumplings: not Georgian, but very popular here). Pelmeni are a favorite last-minute dinner at my house. I like them best served with some sour cream and dill, which I think of as “the Russian way” (not sure if that’s accurate), though Georgians often pile on the black pepper as if they were khinkali. I thought I liked the old brand I was buying until I tried these–going back was hard; these are much tastier! I’ll keep buying them from now on.

New flavors (and packaging) of Barambo chocolates The new “დესერტი” (desert’i dessert) line seems to be mostly repackaging existing flavors, but the new bar with dried strawberries and raspberries in it is amazing!

Dishonorable mention: Rosemary closing

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

 Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See my post of fall favorites here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. 

Winter was off to a terrible start, but things have been less terrible in some dimensions lately. Nonetheless, I had some good discoveries.

Clockwise from top left: ქართული წინდა, Ambrosiano, Chikori chocolate-covered dried apricots, Big Smoke BBQ

Ambrosiano: I wasn’t expecting much from a pizza place outside the fancy neighborhoods (I was mostly hoping the tomato sauce wouldn’t be ketchup), and I was blown away by how good the pizza was here. Real gooey melty mozzarella, authentic Italian charcuterie, and delicious truffle sauce all atop a serviceable crust. And the staff were really nice! This tiny place near the hospitals is a real gem.

Big Smoke BBQ: There are lots of nice restaurants on Beliashvili Street, but one of those things is not like the others. Amidst all the Georgian party restaurants is an American BBQ joint. Everything was good, but the pulled pork sandwich, mozzarella sticks, and berry lemonade were big hits. I’ll be back for them soon!

Chikori Chocolate-covered dried apricots This company has narrowly missed the favorites list a few times in the past–their prunes are the best I’ve ever tasted, and the dried watermelon is fascinating; good in a very odd way. The chocolate-covered apricots, though, are out of this world! Dried apricots are my favorite ჩირი (chiri=dried fruit) to start with (well, it’s a toss-up with dried persimmons), so adding some chocolate to them was bound to be a win. Add some cute packaging and a local company working to improve food safety and employ women in the regions, and I’m sold! Chikori products are available in most grocery stores, but not all of them carry the chocolate-covered apricots specifically. In my experience, the “2 Nabiji” chain most reliably stocks them.

ქართული წინდა (qartuli tsinda–Georgian socks): thought they’re not as cute as AlterSocks (a summer favorite) they come in a wider range of sizes, and are lovely and soft. They also have a line that is infused with silver and claim that it will cure what ails you (it should keep the smells down, at least). Widely available at pharmacies and supermarkets.

my oven: Though my move was in fall, I’ve only recently been getting back into using the oven again. Cookies (of course!), muffins, roasted veggies and baked potatoes are all back in the rotation!

finding people from home: in the past month, I’ve met two people from my area–one a fellow alumna of my (small town) high school, and JenniGoesGlobal, from a neighboring town. The world is small!

Dishonorable mention(s): too many to mention; it was a long winter

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. See my first post of favorites from this summer here. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. 

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Storefronts of “Rosemary” and “Kiwi Cafe”

It’s been a rough few months, but there have been a few bright spots. Here they are:

Rosemary: I wrote a whole review of this restaurant here, and it has continued to be a comfy and tasty place. My friends and I held our Thanksgiving dinner there, and it was great! (And I didn’t have to/get to cook and clean).

City Mall Gldani: There’s a Carrefour near work, and only a short bus ride from home! This is particularly good, as the shops near my apartment are poorly-stocked and overpriced. I did have some trouble here with rude staff, but they were surprisingly receptive and apologetic when I filed a customer service complaint, so they’re still in my good books. The mall also has a Holland&Barrett where I can get my favorite licorice tea, a good-sized branch of Biblus bookstore, and some reasonable clothing shop options (I’ve had good luck with LC Waikiki lately).

The return of Kiwi Cafe: I’m so glad Kiwi has found a new location! This place doesn’t have the same funky vibe, but it has gorgeous high ceilings and much more space. The falafel wrap is as delicious as ever, and the bookshelf has grown!

Taxify: Though I entered the 21st century last year with my first smartphone, it didn’t support any of the quick-multiplying taxi apps. Now that I have a new hand-me-down smartphone that supports more apps, I’ve given Taxify a try and been very pleased with the service. I try not to take taxis very often, so I don’t have vast experience with Taxify yet, but so far is has been pleasantly boring–a rarity for Tbilisi taxis!

Dishonorable mention(s): the US elections, record low of GEL against USD

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

Inspired by my friend Chloe’s monthly food favorites, I’m going to start profiling my favorite new things in Georgia each season. I’ll try to focus on things, people, places, and organizations that are brand new, but it’s possible that I’ll be late to the party on something, or there’s something that’s just new-to-me and so amazing that I’ll still choose to include it. There have been lots of new Georgian food products hitting stores this year, and there are constantly new restaurants and cafes opening in Tbilisi, so there’s a bit of a food theme (this time, at least), though I am willing to branch out.

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Clockwise from top left: Bubble Tea, Frixx Caucasus Chips: Tarragon Flavor, AlterSocks assortment, Chirifruit Carrots in Chocolate

Barambo Export Fig Ice Cream Barambo has been my favorite ice cream brand since my first summer in Georgia, but this year they really upped their game. The fig flavor is simply marvelous. I don’t know how to describe it other than delicious. (Widely available)

Chirifruit Carrots in Chocolate “chiri” means dried fruit, and this company is taking traditional Georgian dried fruit (which you can buy pretty much anywhere) to another level. They sell prettily arranged gift packs of dried fruit, and have some chocolate-dipped versions, a tasty innovation that I haven’t seen anyone at the bazaar selling. I spotted the label “Carrots in Chocolate”, and I had to try them. I’m very glad I did! It’s some sweet, dried, carroty-mush on a stick, dipped in chocolate. Maybe it doesn’t sound so good, but it tastes great! They’ve got the texture just right, and it’s sweet but not too. I haven’t seen this brand many places, but there’s usually a wide variety of their offerings at the Smart on Rustaveli (that’s where I got the carrots).

Frixx Caucasus Chips: Tarragon Flavor this brand entered the market last year, but this summer they introduced a tarragon flavor, and it’s my favorite! Crispy and salty chips with a bit of sweet and sour tarragon flavor–the combination works perfectly! (They’re also supporting local agriculture, so that’s a win, too.) (Widely available)

RealThai brand products (including noodles, sauces, and coconut milk) have been showing up regularly at my local supermarket, and I’ve even spotted their products at other little marketi in my not-so-posh neighborhood. They’re surprisingly widely available! It’s been a really nice way to expand my cooking repertoire this summer with Thai-style curries and oatmeal soaked in coconut milk.

Bubble Tea Tbilisi  I fell in love with bubble tea as a college student in the Boston area, and haven’t had any since I moved away, so I was delighted when I heard a bubble tea place was opening in Tbilisi. It might not satisfy those from Taiwan, but the tea I ordered hit the spot for me. The menu is extensive (though I stuck to the basics), and the boba was neither too slimy nor too tough. I’ve always loved the chunky, colorful straws that they give you to slurp up the bubbles–they make me smile. Definitely a nice change of pace. (7 Chavchavadze Avenue, Vake; next to the big Biblus)

AlterSocks Georgian-made fun socks! When I heard about these, I immediately went on a quest to find them. I failed finding the Tbilisi Mall location the first time (it’s behind the escalator in the atrium area), so I made a trek to Vake to pick some up in the Pixel Building. They have both Georgian and international designs, but the Georgian ones appealed to me most–khachapuri, khinkali, and a chokha! (And you thought those J. Crew taco socks were cool…) The fabric fells nice and soft, and the size that was supposed to fit me did.  Friends and family back in the US, don’t be surprised if Santa brings you some of these this year. (kiosks at 3 major shopping centers: Tbilisi Mall, Pixel Building Vake, and the shopping center with the Saburtalo Goodwill)

Batumi Dolphinarium  I went for the first time this summer, and the show was just amazing. It made me want to quit my job and become a dolphin trainer. Tickets sell out fast, so you need to buy them the day before, if not earlier. You can give the neighboring aquarium a miss, though. My friend described it, quite accurately, as “some dude’s dirty fish tank collection”. (51 Rustaveli Street, Batumi)

If you have any suggestions for something new and great in Georgia, let me know–I’ll try to check it out, and perhaps it will make a future favorites list.

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