REVIEW: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All-Butter Mince Pies (2018)

Welcome to the first mince pie review of 2018.

In September.

Yep, I’m going to some serious lengths this year to give you all the info you need about where to go and what pies to buy. So, no messing about, let’s tuck in…

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 1

Packaging

The packaging is almost identical to last year with a couple of subtle differences. The imagery of the mince pies has changed and last year, the pies were “infused with brandy’ whereas this year, they are “laced with brandy”. I’d much rather something laced with it, than infused by it…so this is a positive.

As before, I maintain that they don’t feel THAT Christmassy, but the gold colour is nice enough. The window to the pies demonstrates confidence in the quality of the baking and the box does look particularly classy.

There is a big label at the top shouting about their NEW RECIPE. Which, frankly in the world of mince pie reviewing, is exciting!

It’s worth having a little peak at the nutritional information versus last year on that basis:

This year’s pie is on the right of the two. So, we’re 26 calories less, a smidge less salt, less sugar, fat…less pie? I reckon so, because per 100g there is 396calories versus last year’s 389 calories.

Yup, you got it, last year was 370g for the box, and this year 325g. And still £2.00. Bargain!

7/10 – Probably should stay consistent with the 2017 packaging. It’s not bad at all though.

Presentation

I do think, genuinely, that these look wonderful.

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The tray is a nice matching colour, doesn’t feel cheap and the star design on top with the snow flake design is genuinely lovely. It’s well defined and these pies are buried in a mountain of sugar either.

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There are a couple of minor issues, the filling on a couple of them is pouring out, they look maybe over full? And the one at the top left of the above picture is slightly mis-aligned. Quality control issues perhaps? Or am I a bit fussy here?

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To compare against last year by the way, these are significantly improved.

9/10 – Top quality presentation, only let down by a little lid mis-alignment and filling overflow.

Filling

Now then…really a mince pie has two factors we are bothered about. The pastry and the filling. And I’m just going to focus on the filling in this cunningly titled “Filling” section of this review.

Wow.

Seriously flavoursome, fruity and very boozy. There is such a whiff of brandy when you open the pack, it’s like an “Am I drunk already?” moment!

There is a generous helping of the filling in each, but don’t let the overflow on the images fool you, they are about half full which is about the only disappointment here.

9/10 – I’m hugely impressed by the filling on these. If you like a boozy pie, this is that!

Taste Test

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 7This is slightly confusing to me really. Biting into these pies, and especially if you remember last years, will be a bit of a shock. The pastry last year was quite heavy, very buttery and had a very slight stick to the roof of your mouth feeling. This year, the pastry has a touch of the Mr Kipling about it. It’s quite thin and doesn’t have anything in the way of a crunch or a bite, it’s very insubstantial. You can see where the weight decrease has come in the pack this year, 370g down to 325g is quite a lot split between six mince pies and this is definitely where the loss is.

So, how about the rest of it…how do the pastry and the filling work together? Well, it’s honestly decent. The filling is really good, it really is nice and boozy, has good lumps of fruit and I’m fairly impressed. There is no soggy bottom either, so that’s quite a good trick by Sainsbury’s for such thin pastry (might be a different story in November when these have sat on shelves for 2 months).

14/20 – Filling tastes great, pastry not so much. Together, no more than decent.

Overall

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 10These are pretty good, they aren’t disappointing for a premium mince pie but if they’d added a smidge more to the pastry mixture these could have been outstanding.

39/50 – Bizarrely, considering it’s a whole new recipe, it’s the same score as last year!

Recap Top 5 UK Christmas Adverts 2017

To kick off this season of posts, I thought I’d write a little recap of the top 5 Christmas adverts from 2017. When I say top 5, I actually mean my favourites, there are literally no statistics here…

So, with no further delay:

John Lewis

For me, this is not quite vintage John Lewis Christmas advert level, but it’s definitely grown on me since I last watched it. Maybe I’m a bit softer than I was.

Sainsbury’s

It’s quite simple, yet the song is catchy and upbeat. For me, sometimes simple is effective and you don’t need to go for full arty or movie style production values. This works because it’s pretty fun.

Asda

Genuinely thought Asda knocked it out of the park last year. This homage to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just perfect, amusing without being silly, cute without making you want to puke…nailed for me as perhaps the best of the year.

Marks and Spencer

Proof that a mega-budget advert, with movie production values doesn’t always equal pure gold. This for me is over-rated, but it is very Christmassy and I’ve had a Paddington bear for 40 years so it’s a bit sentimental for me.

Very

Seriously cute…high production values too. Not a lot to say here, but it’s a very very good advert.

Welcome to 2018

Another year is almost in the can…welcome to The Mince Pie Christmas Blog for 2018.

The blog is just kicking off for the year, looking forward to the big day and the big holiday. We’ll start publishing plenty of reviews and new blog posts, as well as re-visiting some older ones, over the next few weeks!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @the_mince_pie  where we’ll be busy busy too.

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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!