The New Multicultural American Kitchen – 3 flavor trends for 2017

ABC Family's "The Fosters" - Season Three

The make up of the American household today is quite different than it was just thirty years ago.  In one generation, we have gone from the nuclear family with it’s one mom, one dad and two kids all of the same race to a country of single parent and multi-cultural rentals.  The American dream of owning your own home in the suburbs has fallen to the wayside with the recession of 2008 and a millennial generation that’s more concerned with their phone plan than their life plan.

We currently have more single households in the United States than ever in history with a whopping 34% of children’s today living with an unmarried parent, this is up from just 9% in 1960, and 19% in 1980.  This combined with a fast growing Hispanic population and increasing bi-cultural households has made for quite the change over the last thirty years.  Hispanics made up a minuscule 6.5% of total US households in 1980 and now make up almost 18%.

Not only are we seeing a dramatic change in the overall make up of the household, but the US household is now a multicultural melting pot of Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Russian and anything and anyone.  Gone are the days of the traditional one man, one woman same race household, today we see no boundaries and no barriers to what makes up an American home.  Even American popular culture has figured it out with shows like The Foster’s which features a multi-ethnic family mix of foster and biological teenaged kids being raised by two moms that recently completed it’s fourth season on FreeForm.

I know this is a lot of data to take in, but it says one clear thing to me, the times they are a changin and so are our palettes.  Today’s kitchen is dramatically different than it was fifty, twenty, even ten years ago and will continue to evolve as cultures mash up and consumers bring their cultures and culinary heritages together in the kitchen.

With this changing dynamic of the American household comes a revolution in the kitchen. With the meshing of these different ethnic backgrounds comes a fusion of authentic flavor profiles and mixed cooking styles.  The millennial generation has not only brought an openness and multicultural influence to the kitchen, but also an appreciation of authenticity and a palette for exploration of new spices, flavor combination and cooking techniques.  The increasing pace of life and access to data through technology has also created a need for new portable formats and requirement of healthy functionality that can be consumed anywhere and anytime.  Day part barriers have been demolished and three squares a day now only refers to the number of bars you have left on your battery life.

As this generation continues to grow older and establish families, they will also be merging their culinary styles that they grew up with.  As acculturation takes hold and this generation becomes Americanized, they will refuse to lose sight of their roots, but blend it into their lifestyles and culinary creations.  They are striving for authentic recipes, flavors, and dishes but are also willing to merge with their counterparts and create an entirely new platform of cooking and flavor.  Hispanic-Asian, Korean-Mexican, Cuban-Vietnamese, Peruvian-Japanese, Italian Indian.  Each of these cooking styles offering its own spectrum of flavor and spice, but being merged with one another to create a fantastic fusion of flavor and form.

As the millennial generation will continue to lead this quest for fantastical fusion flavors the sky is the limit.  I see many combinations coming to fruition in the near future, but here is where I see the next wave of flavor heading.

1) Latino-Indian – as Americans we continue to be scared of curry and Indian spices, but the palette is starting to open and the Mexican platform seems to be a good way for these two formats to merge.  They share similar handheld formats and spices like cumin and cilantro that seem to make an easier connection.  Samosas have a strange resemblance to an empanada, so I could expect to see a yellow curry and potato empanada or a green chili and chicken samosa in the Trader Joe’ frozen aisle in the near future.

samosa

2) Mexican merging with Vietnamese cuisine – both formats have similar hand held varieties that seem to work well together.  Tortas and bánh mi will fuse together as these two formats continue to make headway with consumers.  You may see a carne asada bánh mi on a food truck near you soon.

banh-mi

3) Japanese Italian – this format is been running through the streets of Brazil for many years, but this will finally start to take hold in the near future as Japanese street food and Italian profiles become mainstream.  Think about how delicious a pizza filled steamed bun would taste.  It’s the upscale Hipster hot pocket.

steam-bun-2

The Ultimate Halloween Candy Beer and Wine Pairing Guide


Alright the weekend is upon us and you are probably wondering how you are going to survive another weekend of candy crazed kids.  In addition, Are you wondering what to do with all that leftover Halloween candy?

Well luckily I have your answer in this post.  Since everything these days is called a “craft” something, I thought it be appropriate that we learn how to pair our craft beers and wine with our kids Halloween candy.  

As I saw many plastic cups in parents hands while walking their kids through the labyrinth of the neighborhood candy maze, I thought it be appropriate to provide these survival guides to get you through the weekend and be ready for next year’s adventure.

I am a believer that just about anything can be paired with beer and wine and as you will clearly see others do share my opinion on this topic as well.  So my recommendation this evening is after the kids have gone to bed or while you are checking their final stash of candy for razor blades and needle, you pull out the candy bars, the sour patch kids, and all of the other goodies you love and finish your evening off right. I could even see a candy pairing party for this weekend so keep your calendars open and enjoy.

Beer Pairing Link: https://beerandbrewing.com/EcUoq4GNMGMMIksOK02as/article/halloween-candy-and-beer-pairings


Wine Paring Link: https://www.vivino.com/wine-news/the-candy-and-wine-matchmaker

To Meat or Not to Meat, That is the Question…


I was once extremely skeptical of the of the terms, “vegeatarian chicken strips”or “vegan tuna”, but I can say that I might have been converted after visiting the vegan butcher in Toronto.  Yes, I put the word vegan + butcher in the same sentence.  That sounds almost as wrong as coconut bacon, doesn’t it?  Well, my recent trip to Yam Chops was an eye opener to how closely a non-meat product can look, taste and feel like the real thing.

It is estimated that global sales of meat substitutes will reach $4B in 2016, a 42% rise since 2010.  That’s a lot of money, right?  Well if you combine this with the 3.5% of the US population or around 7.5M that classify themselves as vegan plus an additional 23M who are vegetarian, you now have a category worth taking about.

In addition, we see a growing base of individuals that are calling themselves Flexitarian.  This loyal group made up mostly of Millennials and GenZ’s has built a meat-free movement that developers are finally starting to realize.  The problem continues to be however, the need for these products to not taste like cardboard or feel like you are knawing on tree bark.   The good news for this industry is from what I tasted, there is hope.

Now I am not saying that the items I sampled had the bloody and delicious texture that we all have grown accustomed to from meat, but for a vegan option it was damn good.  It cut like meat, it looked like meat and believe it or not it tasted like it.

Specifically, the black pepper beef was amazing.  Not only did  it have the look, feel and texture of beef, but it actually had an amazing sautéed beef profile with sweet seared notes and a bit of char.  Keep in mind this products was made from a base of soy, pea protein and wheat, so from those standards it was incredibly close to a real meat experience.  Stringy texture with a bite that if you closed your eyes would be very similar to real beef strips.  Impressive.

I moved onto the Miso Sesame Chick’n and Korean BBQ Chick’n and once again my taste buds were tricked, no mesmerized, by just how close this product was to a real chicken strip- farm raised, butchered and delivered right to my door.  A nice firm texture and an abundance of sauce and flavor helped to take these two dishes over the top.


Feeling like I was a carnivour, I moved onto my third option, Chick’n Shawarma.  Now this was quite a challenge being gluten free and vegan and as it did have a slight resemblance to meat, it overall was what you would expect, disgusting.  In fact, it was like eating a piece of rubber.  Spongy, tasteless and just flat out weird.  This one actually lived out to what you would think vegan meat products taste like.

Finally, there was the vegan, coconut bacon.  Not this just feels flat out immoral in my book personally, but being an open minded guy, I figured I would give it a shot.  I must say as a religious bacon connosiur, I was offended by the mere fact they even used the term bacon in the same sentence.  It was smokey coconut and nothing more.  Listen up Yam Chops, there is only one bacon on this planet and we all know what it is.  That salty, fatty piece of love that should not be downgraded by any vegan.  Sorry to all my vegan and vegetarian friends, but if you don’t indulge, don’t act like you know what this experience is about as bacon lovers may find it offensive.

The final chapter was the vegan tuna.  Once again, chickpeas are not tuna and don’t pretend they are.  This makes the Pescatarians a little unsettled.  They also don’t like anyone messing with their fishy world.  Chickpeas with a touch of Nori doesn’t make something taste like its from the sea.  While I greatly enjoyed the dish I was a bit taken back by the name tuna.

Overall, I was very impressed and would go back and eat there again. I actually try to live a bit more flextarian these days and avoid meat during some meals, especially red meat.  A little less death, a bit healthier, and a lot better for the earth isn’t a bad reason to think twice next time you are ordering.  If it is flavored and prepared right, you will never know the difference anyway.

According to #meatlessmonday for every burger skipped, you can save enough water to drink for the next three years.  Give #meatlesmonday a try, you may enjoy the challenge of preparing recipes and experiencing new spices and culinary adventures.

There are a number of excellent cookbooks out there to help on this journey, but a personal favorite is Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a f*ck by Matt Holloway, Michelle David and Thug Kitchen, LLC.  They take vegetarian cooking to a whole new fuc%ing level with amazingly flavorful combinations that take you on a delicious journey between cuisine types and flavor exploration.

Here is one of my favorite recipes to get you started via Thug Kitchen:

thug-kitchen_recipe1

Cold Mango Soba Noodle Salad

Makes enough for 4-6

15 ounces soba or other thin, long noodle

Dressing:

½ cup chopped mango

¼ cup rice vinegar

¼ cup toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

1 tablespoon grape seed or other flavorless oil

1 tablespoon chili garlic paste

1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger

2 cups mango sliced into matchsticks

1 ½ cups radishes sliced into matchsticks*

1 ½ cups cucumbers sliced into matchsticks

½ cup torn mint leaves

½ cup torn basil leaves

½ cup torn cilantro

1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions then run them under cold water to cool them down when they’re done cooking. While the noodles are boiling, make the dressing. Throw the ½ cup mango, vinegar, sesame oil, lime juice, tamari, grape seed oil, chili garlic paste, and ginger into a food processor or blender and run that shit until it’s smooth and looks like a motherfucking dressing.

2. In a large bowl toss together the cooked, cooled noodles, sliced mango, radishes, and cucumbers. Pour over the dressing and then fold in the herbs. Keep tossing until all that shit is good and mixed and the dressing has coated everything. Serve right away or let is chill in the fridge for a couple hours.

*We used watermelon radishes because those bitches are beautiful but regular radishes are fine too. Fucking hate radishes? Use a bell pepper or more cucumbers instead

The Amazon Dash Button – The Future of Ultra-Convenience


The future is here.  Anything you need at the push of a button.  No thinking, no long lines, rude cashiers or wasted time.  The dash button is the next big technology break through that will revolutionize the way that consumers shop, think, order and buy their groceries.  This device takes ultra-simplicity to the next level by not only reminding you with the brand logo attached to your washing machine or cookie jar, but with one simple push of a button, your products are magically delivered to your door within two days.

Amazon offers over 500 products across 100 different brand buttons ranging from Huggies and Tide to Doritos and Red Bull with new buttons getting added daily.  ConAgra just added four buttons supporting their Hunt’s and Slim Jim brands.  Amazon hasn’t been vocal about their sales, but did report that Dash sales have grown 75% in the past three months and they have shipped from 300,000-500,000 buttons since last October.

Amazon has done a great job of taking the traditional club store format and putting it on-line and on-demand.  Who would have imagined that people would pay a premium to order something on-line?  Well, Bezos has again created another way to make our lives easier and gain a few bucks in the process with his Amazon Prime platform.  He has beautifully crafted a way for the consumer to enjoy premium services and benefits for doing something that they were already planning to do, shop.  Since I haven’t seen the statistics I cannot say that this model is making money, but we do know that the membership model at Costco and Sam’s Club is a main source of income for these retailers and since the net worth of Jeff Bezos was recently valued at over $50 billion by Forbes magazine I would say his e-commerce platform is doing something right.

What’s next?  Since we already have wearable technology that tells us to exercise and keeps track of our steps and calories, our heart rate and other vital statistics the sky is the limit.  Soon, this data will be communicated openly and freely to our insurance companies to determine our premiums or our doctors to determine our treatment plans.  With convenience comes freedom and with freedom comes access to your personal data.  

This is the future, this is the new reality, this is the new convenience, but it will be customized specifically for you, so breath easy and shop away.  I plan to start tomorrow with my first button for Charmin, because you never want to run out of toilet paper and just use your imagination where that button will be stuck.  

The Continual Disappointment with Airport Food

Airport food

I still to this day cannot understand why airport food continues to be so poor.  Come on.  Is there any reason why you need to subject us to such torture? It shouldn’t be that hard to satisfy air travelers? We are usually tired, frustrated that our flight was delayed again and our expectations are really not set that high. We are a captive audience. You have us at your will as we are running between flights. We actually expect to pay too much for a really bad meal. I don’t believe it has to be that way and despite recent efforts to lift the quality and ambiance, I still give airports a C+ grade.

I have seen some impressive showings over the past few years, specifically in Chicago at Frontera, Rick Bayless taco shop and in Atlanta in the Intetnational terminal.  I’m not quite sure of the location name, but an impressive meal with some real flavor and creativity.   They used fresh ingredients and had an impressive wine list. I ordered a hand tossed, Margharita pizza and dined at the piano bar, so they are at least trying to step up their game in some locations.

We have even seen entire terminals transformed into interactive cafes to accommodate travelers needs for recharging, refueling and instant gratification.  The new Delta terminal in LaGuardia is very impressive with touch screens at every chair, charging stations and small tables instead of uncomfortable chairs spread throughout the entire terminal.  It feels much like a small cafe, but despite putting a pretty bow on the package, the food still was disappointing.  You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig.  Specifically, my meal at Crust was terrible.  A Fritatta so dry, a saltine would have tasted like an ocean and it only cost me $13.  What a deal.

It’s just frustrating that millions of dollars and endless hours are spent on these types of improvements and the thing that should shine the most, the food, continues to disappoint.  The norm continues to revolve around bad chain accounts and frozen ingredients. Way too many times am I disappointed with poor execution and cooking and the trend of bad food, continues.

Delta Laguardia1 image

Let’s take another example of my recent meal at Tony Roma’s in the Newark airport.  After a full day of meetings and no lunch I found myself very hungry and utterly emaciated, so I ordered the filet medallions and half rack of ribs. A little treat since this had been my only meal today. Keep I mind, my expectations are extremely low at this point as I am very hungry and desperate for anything that resembles a meal. It’s like when you haven’t eaten in three days, even a slice of Bologna is the star of the charcuterie plate.

The steaks were done well, cooked medium as requested, tender with good flavor. My loaded mashed potatoes came with cardboard as an added bonus. The broccoli was at least fresh, not frozen and the ribs were decent. Small, very little meat, but tender and flavorful despite being drowned in sauce.

Here’s my biggest problem, I paid $26.99 for this meal. I couldn’t imagine the meal I could get for that price at a white table cloth establishment or fast casual restaurant. A lot better than here I am sure. Price to value is my issue with not only airport food, but chains in general. I had an $18 meal at Applebee’s a few year back that was so bad I pledged never to go back, and I haven’t.

Since Tony Roma’s is known for their ribs I figured that is what I should order. In additon to this staple menu item they offer five different sauces for the ribs for which they are so well known.

Let’s review these sauces.
1) TR’s Original – not too bad. Tangy, ketchup based and slightly sweet.

2) Carolina Honey’s- so peppery and terrible I have nothing good to say. No vinegar or flavor whatsoever.

3) Blue Ridge Smokey’s – not too bad, slightly smokey, sweet and fairly balanced. Partial bitterness at end, but not too bad overall.

4) Maker’s Mark Bourbon- if I was Makers Mark I would be embarrassed. No bourbon and I would pull my name from this chunky mess immediately if I was them.

5) TR’a Red Hot- heat is the only thing I get, no flavor. No balance, no respect.

At least the mix of 80’s and 90’s alternative music made me happy as a Gen X’er and my meal partially worth it.

So here’ so the deal.  As air travelers, most of the time on corporate accounts, we are a captive audience willing to and expecting to pay a lot for food.  We are simply looking for and desiring a good meal composed of real food.  Why is it so hard to satisfy this simple request?

We will continue to wait, please don’t continue to disappoint.

12 Things To Do With All Of Those Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Photo Credit: Wholefoods.com

It’s that time of the year again.  Cold mornings, apple cider, haunted houses, hay rides and the best of all, carving pumpkins.  I love to sit down with the family and try to avoid cutting off a finger each year.  Designing, creating and carving is always a tradition that I look forward to, but the best part of carving process is collecting the seeds.

My youngest daughter Cate loves Halloween.  It’s her favorite holiday and we typically try to cram as much into the month as possible.  We soak up every opportunity to dress up, decorate the house with spooky stuff and get scared.  We eat everything pumpkin from pancakes to cookies and I personally try to sample as many pumpkin beers as possible.  However, as most of you are probably aware, the amount of pumpkin flavored products has gotten out of control.  There is pumpkin flavored everything.  I have seen everything this season from pumpkin vodka and lasagna to toothpaste and breath fresheners. Nothing says clean and fresh like pumpkin.  As you would figure this has led to many products hitting the marketplace that just simply taste bad.  It is proof that some things should just not include a pumpkin flavor and I ask one thing, please stop.

Now I can get back to the purpose of this blog post, pumpkin seeds.  The rewarding thing about eating these delicious treasures is not just the nutritional benefits,  but the hard work you have to put into getting them ready.  First,  you need to scoop out the guts, then separate, then wash, then dry, then bake, then season and finally you get to eat them.  This process is not only time consuming, but annoying and disgusting to most.  I have one daughter, Ava, who hates to dig out the guts and one that loves to dig them out.  Each participate in the process, but they both share the love and appreciation of all that hard work while they’re eating them.

It’s our family tradition and a Halloween ritual like most Americans to carve pumpkins together, make the seeds and enjoy them during those cold fall evenings with a hot cup of tea, coffee, cider or chocolate.  Being a foodie family and getting bored with the traditional salt & pepper seasoning, we have over the past few years gotten creative in how we flavor them.  Last year was Madras curry, spicy cilantro-lime and cinnamon and sugar.  This year was adjusting the recipe and using coconut and avocado oil instead of olive oil.  Whatever your palette desires, I wanted to take it to the next level this year and provide a number of other ways to prepare pumpkin seeds that went beyond simply baking.  Take a look at these sweet and savory ideas and enjoy them this season, like we plan to do.

Happy Haunting.

Sweet Treats

pumpkin brittlepumpkin seed granola

  1. Pumpkin seed brittle from Bon Appetit – http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pumpkin-seed-brittle
  2. Caramelized pumpkin seeds from the Foodnetwork – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/caramelized-pumpkin-seeds-recipe.html
  3. Nut-free, grain-free pumpkin seed granola via Detoxinista – http://detoxinista.com/2012/09/pumpkin-seed-granola-nut-free-grain-free/
  4. Apple-pumpkin seed oatmeal breakfast pie from Yummly – http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Baked-Apple-Pumpkin-Oatmeal-Breakfast-Pie-_Gluten-Free_-565969?columns=1&position=31%2F59
  5. Pumpkin brittle from Martha Stewart – http://www.marthastewart.com/340197/pumpkin-seed-brittle#No%20%28Pumpkin%29%20Guts%2C%20No%20Glory%3A%2012%20Snackable%20Pumpkin%20Seed%20Recipes%7C/274532/pumpkin-seed-recipes/@center/1006802/halloween-pumpkins%7C340197

Savory Eats

pumpkin seedspumpkin seed spinach

  1. Mexican macaroni and grilled corn with pumpkin seeds from Rachel Ray – http://www.rachaelray.com/recipes/mexican-macaroni-and-grilled-corn
  2. Vegan gluten-free pumpkin seed spinach crackers via Yummly – http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Raw-Pumpkin-Seed-Crackers-With-Spinach-_Vegan_-Raw_-Gluten-Free_-1275455?columns=1&position=3%2F59
  3. Baked pumpkin seeds done five different ways from Foodnetwork – http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/reinvented-pumpkin-seeds-5-ways.html

The Dish on Springtime

Photo credit: Trattoria632.com

As winter begins to fade into the warm mist of spring and trees awaken from their long sleep, so do our taste buds.  The cold season forces our physical being to retreat into a deliberate hibernation for which our tongues are included.  We succumb to and embrace the earthy, subtle tastes of root vegetables and slow cooked casseroles subconsciously accepting the reduction of color and brightness to our palate.  There is a culinary beauty during this time of year and the dishes that it provides, but there is nothing like the smell of a ripe tomato that the summertime brings.

The sun is beginning to poke out of the clouds and the ice is melting off the lake. It’s a time of awakening. We are again reminded of colors, aromas and flavors that only the spring and summer can bring. We are again hopeful and inspired by the greening of grass, the smell of honeysuckle and lilac and the blooming tulips.

Our lives revolve around the changing of the seasons.  We rely on these changes to refresh our bodies and recharge our souls.  Rich, decadent flavors of the holiday’s slowly evolve into winter staples like a warm bowl of chili or a nice chocolate stout.  All of these dark flavors mirroring the short sunny hours and grayness of the year.

Then, right when we hit a level of depression that makes us want to scream, we start to hear the chirping of the birds again and we finally spot the fat red breasted Robin sitting in the thick green branches of the pines in the yard.  Spring has come!  At last, a new hope has blossomed and a new day has risen from behind the snow banks, giving us hope once again that flowers will bloom, fruits will mature and aromas will fill the air.

Don’t get me wrong, I love winter and all the beauty it brings, but nothing beats the hope that a warm spring morning can hold.  It inspires creativity and awakens the taste buds to realize that they will once again, feel alive.  Farmer’s markets will soon be a normal Saturday visit and be abuzz with all the earth has to offer.

These delicious gems include early spring fruits and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors.  Bright greens of asparagus, artichokes and peas will be complimented by rich, vibrant reds of rhubarb and radishes. Flowers will peak up from their long winter nap and we will once again be reminded of the joyful flavors that spring and summer bring.

As the days begin to get longer and the smells stronger, don’t forget to stop and take a deep breath. Pause and take it in. Because before you know it, another summer will have flown by and harvest completed. Take advantage of what every season has to offer. Each provides its own reminder of what it is like to be alive and kicking.

In case you are wondering what to prepare in these first days of spring, just think about all of the excitement that spring brings to the table.  I have attached a couple yummy looking recipes that help you take advantage of the spring harvest.  Below is a delicious pea and bacon risotto recipe compliments of Food and Wine Magazine, contributed by James Tracey.

For all you gluten free folks out there I have also attached a rustic rhubarb tart recipe that looks glorious from the picture compliments of the Bojon Gourmet.  I plan to make it once I see my first rhubarb sprout.

Enjoy.

 

GLUTEN FREE Rustic Rhubarb, Almond and Honey Tart

image

http://www.bojongourmet.com/2014/05/rustic-rhubarb-almond-and-honey-tart.html?m=1

 

Pea-and-Bacon Risotto

pea-bacon-risotto1

TOTAL TIME:50 MIN

SERVINGS:6

  • 6 ounces lean bacon, diced
  • 2 cups frozen baby peas, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 7 cups simmering chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups small pea shoots
  1. In a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels; reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
  2. In a food processor, puree half of the peas with 1 cup of water.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the rice is evenly coated with the oil. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, 3 minutes.
  4. Add enough hot stock to just cover the rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed. Add more stock to cover the rice. Continue cooking and stirring, adding more stock as it is absorbed, until the rice is al dente and suspended in a creamy sauce, 25 minutes. Add the pea puree, the remaining peas and the bacon and cook, stirring, until hot. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the butter, reserved bacon fat, cheese and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the pea shoots and serve.
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