Fortnum & Mason Almond Topped Mince Pies

The final review of 2017 now, hopefully everyone has had a lovely Christmas so far, we do still have a few days to go and of course, New Year’s Eve is coming up for a final blow out before the next 4 or 5 days of trying to stick to a diet before the next weekend comes along and you go for a takeaway and a beer.

Anyway…I picked these up shortly before Christmas in the St Pancras store but didn’t get around to eating them until a couple of days ago, so let’s crack on.

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Packaging
Pretty much re-visiting everything I said about the traditional Fortnum and Mason Mince Pies here, the only difference being that the packaging here is gold rather than red. Both colours are gorgeously shiny and reflective, which is a nightmare for photos, but I do actually prefer this colour over the red. The pattern on the front is similar too, but with more purples than green this time.

The box is just as heavy at 500g (and the price just as heavy at £12.95).

8/10 – Basically, same thing different colour to the traditional variety.

Presentation
Sliding out the tray, what do we see…

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The tray itself is this lovely gold cardboard creation, and it’s very nice. Much nicer than the plastic trays you see everywhere else. It’s deep too…

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Interestingly though, the pies themselves are decorated quite differently to the traditional variety. Before, we saw the F&M logo on top with a very light covering of granulated sugar, now we have something a whole lot messier. Is it icing sugar? Almond dust? Don’t know, but it looks quite snowy and therefore Christmassy…so it works for me.

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9/10 – Lovely presentation generally, but missing a decoration of some kind.

Filling
So, the filling…

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I had high hopes here, especially after the previous F&M pies were so SOOO good.

But, you know what, there is something missing here.

The lid on these pies sits on top despite appearances and is a bit of a dome inside. The pie is about half full of mince. And worse, they taste a little bit bland. The mincemeat is quite wet, has a little kick of brandy if you give it time to appear…but overall, disappointing.

5/10 – A bit bland and not as much as there should be

Taste Test
Ok, so the mince itself is bland, but what about the pie overall. After all, we’ve got some premium pastry and premium almond topping here right.

So, my first tasting went badly…the top of the pie is quite crunchy and solid, being embedded with the almonds. The rest of the pie though, especially with the wet filling, is very soft. This resulted in my fat hands squashing the pie and the lid hitting the kitchen floor, creating a dusty mess (and expensive dusty mess at that).

Take two then…and the pastry itself is the good stuff from the traditional mince pies, but this time the filling really is doing it no favours, the wetness is too much and you end up folding it into your mouth, leaving the lid behind on the plate. The almond lid is nice, very crunchy and almondy, and I liked that, but it was just physically tricky to eat it all together.

So, i’m torn for a taste test…in the end, the filling is killing it!

10/20 – Two of the three core elements here are good, but the bad one hurts everything!

Overall
Shocker then…

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They look the part, everyone thinks you are distinctly middle class at dinner parties if you’ve got a plate full of them…but just don’t let anyone eat them…because real middle class people have cleaners and you’ll be picking up the pieces yourself with these.

32/50 

Christmas 2017 Playlist

There’s a whole week to go, present wrapping to do, food to buy, cake to ice…what you really need is some backing tunes.

Here’s my Christmas playlist for 2017, linked on Apple Music (sorry, Spotify users):

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/playlist/christmas-2017/pl.u-GgozBtmjr1V

Here’s the playlist, helpfully copy and pasted in:

TITLE TIME
2:35
4:09
4:27
2:48
2:51
2:37
4:00
3:02
4:01
2:26
3:40
4:17
2:28
1:58
2:40
3:49
2:41
2:06
3:59
3:24
2:03
  2:58
4:52
  2:36
3:38
  4:26
1:52
3:23
2:29
4:02
2:25
4:32
3:30
2:45
4:06
2:40
4:31
2:08
3:01
2:37
3:31
2:11
2:33
2:32
2:02
3:48
2:30
3:33
3:26
3:21
2:20
2:29
4:02
3:20
3:05
3:44
4:21
2:36
4:19
2:41
4:00
2:09
4:12

Top 10 TV Shows for Christmas 2017

I’ve looked hard, I’ve done the work so you don’t have to, there is not a lot on this Christmas that’s in the don’t miss category, but still, there is enough for a top 10…

And, just a point, this is stuff I like…which means no Doctor Who, or Call the Midwife, or Strictly…so, consider this an alternative to the usual Christmas highlights list. I do appreciate there are a lot of folk who like the Doctor (hasn’t been good since David Tennant left, sorry, but it’s true) and Strictly is fine light entertainment, but not my bag. Call The Midwife, Victoria and all of those other period dramas I can’t bare either, frankly I always like a bit of comedy this time of year so that’s what I’ve gone for in the main.

Honourable mentions that missed out are Michael McIntyre on BBC One Christmas Eve, League of their Own on Sky One at various times (if you can stand that), more football than you can shake a stick at on Sky Sports and if you’re a 90’s child (as in a 90’s teenager) like me don’t miss Oasis: Supersonic on BBC Two on the 27th (10pm).

Anyway, on with the list:

10. The Great Christmas Bake Off

Christmas Day – Channel 4 – 19:40 – 21:00
New Year’s Day – Channel 4 – 19:40 – 21:00

Well this looks like fun. The usual mob of Paul ‘The Tan’ Hollywood, Prue ‘Glasses’ Leith, Sandi ‘QI’ Toksvig and Noel ‘Better than you thought he’d be’ Fielding are back. They’re getting 8 previous bakers back in the tent for a bit of Christmas baking. Honestly, just sounds perfect with a glass of wine and a mince pie to me.


9. The Price is Right

Saturday 30th December – Channel 4 – 20:00 – 21:00

No, they’ve not revived Leslie Crowther to give a bit of the old “Come on down” magic…this is a new Alan Carr ‘comedy’ vehicle. It’ll probably end up as good and successful as last year’s David Walliams’ catastrophic Blankety Blank, but have a drink and settle in for what will surely have a giggle or two at least.


8. Vic and Bob’s Big Night Out

Friday 29th December – BBC 2 – 21:00 – 21:30

Such a shame this is only half an hour. I used to love watching the old Big Night Out on Channel back in the 90s, if this is even close to that, it’ll be top drawer fun. No doubt it’ll be utter lunacy too…but that’s half the fun.


7. Celebrity Juice – Christmas Special

Thursday 21st December – ITV 2 – 22:00 – 23:00

Now I get this is rude and all that, and that Keith Lemon is a real acquired taste…but as many people who know me will know, I like a tipple or two. And if I’ve had a tipple or two, if I’m right at the sweet spot, I’ll argue till I’m blue in the face, that this is the funniest thing on TV. Outside of that meanwhile…I totally agree it’s smutty garbage that’s not as funny as it used to be…but it’s Christmas, I’ll record this and watch it when I’m prime drunk, I suggest you do the same!


6. Crystal Maze – Christmas Special

Thursday 14th December – Channel 4 – 20:00 – 21:00

Against all expectations, the new Crystal Maze was rather brilliant. It was helped along by the fact that some of the contestants were ridiculously dense and Richard Ayoade nailed every moment perfectly with that awkward comedy he does so well. This is a celebrity edition, so it might not be quite the same fun, but the format remains great so get it watched. Oh, and yes I know it was on last night, but it’s repeated on 7Seven over Christmas, it’s also on Channel 4 on New Year’ Eve and you can find it all over OnDemand..so get it watched!


5. Miranda Does Christmas

Wednesday 27th December – Channel 4 – 21:00 – 22:00

It’s pretty clear by now that Channel 4 have won Christmas on the TV, so kudos to them. I like Miranda, always good for a giggle. This show is a one-off and it’s not the sitcom thing from BBC One either, this is Miranda out and about talking to folk and getting people have fun at Christmas. You know, I don’t make it sound particularly great there…but she’s generally good value so I reckon this will be pretty decent.


4. Trollied – Christmas Special

Christmas Eve – Sky One – 21:30 – 22:30

This came out of the blue really, I’ve browsed around it’s a genuinely brand new episode too. Now, Trollied, it is pretty rubbish and yet, it’s also chock full of some really well known faces of British comedy. These days, finding even a half decent sitcom is a challenge so this is a welcome relief. If you like Trollied, you’ll like this, if not I’m sure it won’t convince you.


3. 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown – Christmas Special

Friday 29th December – Channel 4 – 21:00 – 22:00

It’s been ages since this was last on the telly it seems to me, and it’s been really missed. Jimmy, Sean and Jon are back in this one, which is nice as the last series Sean and Jon were apart all too often. It’ll be the same old fun, with idiocy from Joe Wilkinson, genius from Rachel and Susie…an hour of genuine comedy you can play along with too.


2. Taskmaster – Champion of Champions

Wednesday 13th December – Dave – 21:00 – 22:00
Wednesday 20th December – Dave – 21:00 – 22:00

Taskmaster is easily one of the most under the radar, best shows on TV. The premise is five comedians, over eight weeks, are set a series of tasks ranging from silly to clever to creative. There have now been five series of this, and that means there is a champion of champions edition and here it is. Only two episodes, and it’s repeated loads (and all over OnDemand)…it’s worthy of your time, I promise.


1. Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2017

Boxing Day – Channel 4 – 21:00 – 23:10

The annual show, quite literally the funniest thing on TV every year, this year along with Jimmy Carr presenting, we’ve got Richard Ayoade, Noel Fielding, David Mitchell, Roisin Conaty, Katherine Ryan and somebody called Big Narstie…and showing my age I guess, I have no clue who that is.

An absolute must watch and I guarantee, I’ll be there on Boxing Day, feet up on the pouffe, slippers on, still vaguely full after dinner at the in-laws after all the football is done, chilling with the wife, a few drinks, cheese and crackers and laughing away!


 

So there we have it, feel free to add anything I’ve not mentioned in the comments.

Christmas Radio Times and other TV Guides

It’s funny really, two years running I’ve slowed down a lot on the blog from the end of November and through December. Not sure why, maybe all of the build up is done early, seeing what new cakes and treats, adverts and things are coming…but by the time we get to December, we’re literally just consuming it all and there is less to write about.

That said, one of the highlights of the whole Christmas period is picking up the Christmas Radio Times…which I’ve bought every year for the last 30 years (for real). This year, like Santa and his list with a naughty boy, I’ve checked it twice and I can’t bring myself to buy it.

You see…it might be 292 pages long, it might have a cute cover:

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It might also come with a free Paddington book…but it costs £4.50.

That’s £4.50 for a LOT of adverts and a TV Guide. Oh, and a radio guide…although amusingly I read earlier that some of the regional variations of the Radio Times are actually getting the wrong region included of local radio listings…and all for £4.50.

Now…one of the strengths of the Radio Times has always been the articles, but, and I appreciate I’m judging from last year, I found the articles pretty much identical to the other magazines with a lot of reviews of films that have been repeated hundreds of times and not quite enough opinion pieces and comment, just a lot of fluff from the show PR machines.

In other words…I’ve not bothered.

I have bought this one though:

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Total TV Guide, which cost £2.90, has 212 pages, less adverts, the same TV Guide and many of the same articles. It HAS got a slightly disturbing cover of Santa Claus held hostage in a snow globe though!

I did like the editor’s quote too:

“…the almost but not quite legendary Total TV Guide bumper Christmas extravaganza.”

Nice subtle dig at the Radio Times and it’s over-inflated opinion of itself!

I did look at Satellite and TV Week too, which is a magazine I used to subscribe to a few years ago…again, this looks like a nice traditional cover and I have got Sky so actually the layout in this one is really quite good…but even this is £3.50.

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I am still tempted to pick this one up though and give the Total TV Guide to my mum.

What I won’t do though, is pick up that most evil of TV Guide, What’s On TV. Why? Well just look at the front cover:

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No words really can describe how that makes me feel!

Moving on…all that remains is to actually look through the TV Guide and see what’s on…and just from glancing through I can see I might be having a good whinge!

Sainsbury’s Classic Italian Panettone

I know I’ve been a bit quiet just recently on here…kind of been struggling for interesting Christmas stuff to talk about…still, only a week or two until the TV guides come out and I’ve got some things planned for the next couple of weeks too…so keep stopping by, there will be plenty of interest.

On that note, I thought I’d try something I’ve never had before. Panettone.

So, I said to the wife, I’ve bought some Panettone, you know, Italian fruit cake.

“Bread” she said.

“No cake” I said.

“No, it’s bread…with fruit in it.”

“No, it’s cake”.

Well…I was wrong…but it looks like cake…it does!

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So this is a big version…unusually, let’s take a look at the nutritional information:

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I can’t let it go. It’s cake. It says it.

And here it is (no it doesn’t come pre-sliced, I did that myself).

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Now, my initial thought here was disappointment, I’ll be honest. It looks under-baked to me and lacking in fruity bits.

And it does look quite a lot like fruity bread.

What does it taste like? Well, even though it’s very airy and light, it’s very stodgy and, well, like fruity bread. It’s not overly sweet and it’s quite nice all in, but I fail to understand why anyone would have this instead of a proper Christmas cake or even just a proper fruit cake.

All in all, an expensive mistake. This thing cost £5.50, which is a lot of money for a lump of sweet fruit bread.

Ah well…lesson learned!

Love Actually Day

 

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That’s right…5 weeks to Christmas, better known as LOVE ACTUALLY DAY.

No messing now folks…get your movies started, your shopping cracking on…

Oh yeah, it’s Black Friday week too…let the madness commence!

Top 10 Christmas Movies That Are Actually About Christmas

Christmas movies are a category all to themselves. It’s tempting to say Christmas movies are family movies, but that’s not the case. Bad Santa most definitely isn’t a family movie. And then of course, there’s the debate about what actually is a Christmas movie, is it a movie about Christmas or is it a movie set at Christmas.

If we say it’s only movies about Christmas, then Die Hard is out along with one or two others. If we’re saying it’s just movies set at Christmas, then you can even include movies like Jurassic World (yeah, you forgot that I’m betting).

So, for the sake of this argument, this is a top 10 list of movies about Christmas. And this list doesn’t include things like The Snowman…as that’s not a movie (although it is amazing of course). Feel free to debate or destroy this list in the comments!

Here we go then, starting from the tenth position of course:

10. Home Alone

Homealone

A genuine Christmas classic this. Released all the way back in 1990, these parents are 100% going to jail now. But look beyond that, it’s a pure slapstick comedy with a real heart. Macaulay Culkin with a career defining role as Kevin is literally perfect.

Never ever fails to raise a smile.


9. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Nightmare

What’s this? Tim Burton goes full on here with some fantastic stop-motion stuff, and the music by Danny Elfman is just brilliant.

The first sequence where Jack finds Christmas world is one of the best animated sequences of any animated movie ever. This should be remade into a stage music if you ask me too.


8. The Holiday

HolidayA real change of pace now, this is a surprisingly excellent romantic comedy with a really stellar cast. The normally really irritating Cameron Diaz is also great here.

This is relatively controversial given the set at or about Christmas debate, but I figure since the name is about the season, and the continual references, it gets a pass.


7. Love Actually

Love Actually.jpg

Another romantic comedy, this is pure Richard Curtis class. With loads of different stories, all playing out seperately in a way others have tried in the past and not been anywhere close to as effective at (New Years Day I’m looking at you).

The scene with Kiera Knightly and Andrew Lincoln with the cue cards never fails to make the heart melt.


6. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

ChristmasVacation

I love the Vacation movies. Chevy Chase back in the 80s really did some great work and for my money, this is the best of them. So many quotable scenes, so many funny moments.

The best for me is the bit with the sledging, but from beginning to end it’s a work of genius.


5. Bad Santa

Bad.Santa

Now, here we have the deviation from the family fare. This is a dark comedy, with characters you want to hate but you just want to go along for the ride.

There are lots of versions of this film, I think the Director’s Cut is the best personally, but if you’ve not seen it, you really should. I’ve not seen the sequel yet, that’s on my to-do list.


4. Christmas with the Kranks

Kranks

Now, if you just look at the reviews or if you listen to people who tell you they know all about movies, this is terrible. It’s not, it’s really not.

It’s a movie about thinking of others before yourself. It’s a movie about community and family. And it’s a movie about having fun. I love this, completely. And the scene with the botox is one of those “I can’t breathe I’m laughing too much” type scenes for me.


3. The Santa Clause

SantaClause

Another Tim Allen classic, this film has a real place in my heart as I’ll always remember Christmas Eve about 8 years ago watching this with my daughter, one of the first full length movies we sat and watched together.

As a movie, it’s pure, total saccharine but the comedy of the transformation to Santa Claus is brilliant.


2. A Christmas Story

ChristmasStory

Now, I only watched this for the first time a couple of years ago. Considering it’s almost 40 years old now, it’s pretty bad I only just got around to seeing it.

Well, what have I missed. It’s great, a real throwback to Christmas for kids from before we were all obsessed with smart phones and games consoles.


1. It’s a Wonderful Life

Wonderful Life

A classic. Don’t watch the colourised version either, that’s a genuine mistake. The black and white version is great, it has tragedy, it has heart and yes, it’s dated quite badly in many ways, but take it as a movie of it’s time and you may fall in love with it.

If this doesn’t get watched in our house, Christmas never happened.