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!

The Mince Pie – League Table Update

You can always get the Mince Pie League Table by clicking the link at the top, but here’s the latest update. We’ve now reviewed 13 different mince pies, I have a couple more to go and that will probably cover it for this year. December starts very soon and next weekend it’s time for the Christmas Radio Times.

Just so it’s clear, the ratings are: Packaging, Presentation, Filling, Taste Test and then Overall Score. The first 3 are out of 10, taste test is out of 20 (it’s the most important right) and that makes overall score out of 50. Simple as that!

No. Name Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Tesco Finest All Butter 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 6 10 8 17 41
3 Aldi Specially Selected 4 9 8 19 40
4 Iceland Luxury 6 6 9 19 40
5 Coop Irresistable Luxury 8 7 7 16 38
6 M&S Christmas All Butter 6 5 8 17 36
7 Greggs Sweet 6 6 7 17 36
8 Spar Luxury All Butter 8 8 7 12 35
9 Tesco Mince Pies 9 2 4 17 32
10 Waitrose All Butter 5 5 7 14 31
11 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 5 1 4 10 20
12 Coop Puff Pastry 6 6 1 5 18
13 Heston Spiced with Lemon 3 9 3 1 16

Honestly, any of the top 4 will make you happy I think and based on price, quality and taste, right now I’m planning on stocking up with Iceland Luxury Mince Pies for my Christmas this year.

One test I haven’t done yet, is warmed up with custard…and I won’t do that till the evening of December 25th after my cheese and crackers with a big movie.

Thorntons Christmas Catalogue

Dropped through the door today.

Best couple of pages here:

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Not sure about this year’s advent calendars to be honest. Will have to go and check them out in person.

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And here’s some quite fun and interesting stuff.

Think I’ll pop to Thorntons over the next week or two and pick up some trees for Christmas.

Worth remembering, Thorntons do some decent offers for Black Friday normally, half price on the big boxes of stuff etc. Let’s see what the next week brings.

M&S Christmas Biscuits

Can’t really review biscuits…but I figured I’d draw these out. It’s the middle of November after all and this is the inevitable lull before Black Friday and the madness of December really kicks off.

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So this lot then, as my daughter said, is this really Christmassy? Well, it’s a good question, but I can see the word Santa, Mistletoe etc so they’ve had a go.

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There is a good selection here, but it’s not much different to the Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and the rest doing their Christmas biscuits. Same weight to, but these set me back £5.25 and some of the others can be picked up for £3 so value isn’t really here.

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There are 3 wrapped ones though. I always use the amount of wrapped ones as a barometer of quality. 3 is a high bar.

They’re very tasty.

Honestly, you know when you set out to review something and halfway through you realise, you’ve got nothing to say.

These are nice, don’t get me wrong, but stick to the supermarket own-brand versions of the same thing and save your money.

Or better still, buy a box of McVities Victoria biscuits and have something that is really a once a year treat.

 

Quality Street…in a tin!

Yes for real. Found in various places for £7 right now, this is a 1.3Kg tin (actual tin, not plastic tub) of Quality Street.

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This is hugely better value than the £5 tubs of the same sweets that weigh 725g so if you’re thinking of Christmas sweets, there aren’t really any better deals.

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The tin is pretty full as you’d expect and you get all of the regular Quality Street favourites. It’s a little bit of a shame they couldn’t have chucked in the Toffee Deluxe in this one, that’d be an even bigger incentive to buy the big tin.

Still, this is pretty good value, so get involved people!

Co-op Irresistible Cookie Collection

Featuring triple chocolate, white chocolate and cranberry and stem ginger cookies, this is a tidy little package of premium biscuits.

The packaging is the fairly standard new style branding for the co-op and, I know some have said it’s not particular Christmassy, but I think it’s pretty classy overall.

It’s all quite predictable on opening too.


This isn’t a bad thing, and they are pretty well packaged. This is how the came out of the box too, and I’d juggled them around like a bad circus act before opening.


Inside they really do look the business.


So, what about the flavours. Let’s kick off with the triple chocolate.


Well I found it a little sickly to be honest, it was nice and buttery, not too hard but not as soft as a freshly cooked warm one from the staff canteen. You’d think it’d go great with a brew, but the serious sweetness here just kills the tea flavour. I’ll be leaving the rest of these for the kids.

Onto the white chocolate and cranberry then and now we’re improving.


These are much less sweet, still really buttery, but in a good way that doesn’t coat your palette like a gooey sludge. The cranberry is light too, just a hint. It’s just a taste but it’s good.

Finally, the daddy of the box, stem ginger.


Seriously nicely flavoured this biscuit, it’s again super buttery but has that hint of ginger without being over-powering. It’s crumbly, not to hard, not to soft. Massive winner and I’d buy the box just for these.

All in then, not bad. And if you can tolerate the triple chocolate sugar overload, all the better.

Advertising Celebrations

Well, seeing as I did a little rundown of Quality Street, it’s only fair. I’ve had a trawl through Youtube to save you bothering, here’s the best of the adverts for Celebrations. Slim pickings I’m afraid, not even close to the personality of Quality Street.

That said, this effort from 2015 is actually very very good:

Unlike this one from 2007, which not only uses a god-awful cover version of the classic Blues Brothers song, barely shows any of the chocolates (maybe that’s the point??):

No idea when this next one is from, and it might even be from the US, but at first I thought the actor was a very young Michael McIntyre:

Here’s a marginally amusing effort somebody put together, clearly inspired at least a little bit by the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special (and if you’ve not seen that episode, it’s the official start of Christmas TV for me that one, always gets watched same day as the tree goes up) :

And this, to finish, is simply great, but isn’t actually an advert:

Punish the Halloween kids with Celebrations

We all know Celebrations are basically the poor kid who sweeps chimneys of the Christmas chocolate and sweets tub world right? Even more so than the particularly peasant-like Haribo tubs if you ask me.

I’ve been pretty critical on this blog about Cadbury Roses and their ridiculous packaging change and I’ve been fairly complimentary about Quality Street too. I thought it was time to see what’s happened this year with the other two, and what better time to do so than to play my own evil trick on the trick or treaters using a big tub of Celebrations.

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Now look, I appreciate there are some people out there who like Celebrations. There are also people out there who eat the cores of apples and the green bits on strawberries, in other words, weird folk. My Dad is one of them weird folk, but I’ll let him off because he hasn’t had taste buds for 40 years and only otherwise eats potatoes.

So, Celebrations then, what exactly do we have:

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A selection of Mars, Twix, Snickers, Galaxy, Galaxy Caramel, Maltesers, Milky Way and Bounty.

It’s 1987, you walk to the local video shop, you pick Predator off the shelf and the dodgy bloke gives you a copy in a library case, you open it, it’s not rewound, but whatever. It’s Sunday night movie night, that means chocolate. You look at the most likely out of date chocolate on the shelf, you go for the only reasonable choice in 1987, a king size Mars Bar for you and Dad with a king size Marathon for Mum.

Whatever happened to King Size chocolate bars…

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And if you think back, that Mars bar back then tasted great. But, try one now…they are sickly, really small and completely unsatisfying. The nougat sticks in your mouth and the thin chocolate coating just tastes of sweetener and nothingness.

So a perfect inclusion in this tub of hate.

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Now, in all fairness, opening the tub I got a real blast of chocolate smell, not entirely unpleasant. Also, check it out, the tub looks pretty packed full (compare that to the ridiculous Roses tub) and, despite previously talking about flow wrapping on Celebrations, these are actually a kind of weird hybrid of twist and flow.

There is no menu, but the very heavy branding and recognisable wrappers really means it’s not needed.

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The Maltesers Teaser isn’t a Malteser though, it should stop pretending. I quite like a bag of Maltesers, and these just taste flat out strange in comparison. Much heavier, I’d prefer if they actually put the real things in here.

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I think the real problem is…who really wants this?

These things are basically what you can buy a bar of on the shelf and be infinitely more satisfied. Surely a tub of Christmas sweets should be special, something different, these are all so boring and normal.

If you like a Galaxy, great, then go and buy one. Why do you want a single chunk of Galaxy from a tub of Celebrations that contains a ton of other sweets you don’t like or can take or leave?

There used to be Topics in here. Nobody likes Topics, that’s why they removed them I assume. So, really need someone to explain to me why they still sell Topic bars. Someone must buy them.

Apart from Topics, the only other things that Mars sell that aren’t in this tub are Tracker bars, M&Ms, Revels and Flyte. None of them would work here, and the theme of the tub is ‘all of the same stuff you can buy in a proper size’. Unless Mars confectionary come up with a new chocolate bar, there is never going to be a surprise and that really is the crux of it.

I think they should mix it up, drop in an Applause one year:

Make these tubs the only way you can get a taste of the retro chocolate bar you just can’t buy anymore.

Cadbury should do that too, they have a much better back-catalogue. They should call it the Cadbury Retro tub and include mini-versions of Fuse, Dream, Timeout, Aztec, Spira etc. That’d be sure to be a hit, there’s a real retro market out there if you ask me.

Anyway…back to Celebrations, truthfully they’re not really that bad.

But they’re just boring, and in the crowded confectionery market at this time of year, that’s just not good enough. Try harder Mars, 3rd place behind Heroes and Quality Street is now very much up for grabs following the catastrophic fall of Cadbury Roses and next week, I’ll check out Heroes to see how far the step is to 2nd place out of the big 4.

 

Cadburys Roses and the case of the severely impaired judgement!

Welcome to my Cadburys Roses rant! And this will be a rant, as actually I’m very irritated by this. How can a company, especially a clever one like Cadburys, completely misjudge their customers so badly.

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Now, I’ve always had this vision of Roses as the more premium of the two big dogs in town for Christmas. It’s always been Quality Street versus Roses. Someone always brings in the Quality Street tin at work, and all you really wanted was a Roses one. That was a good few years ago though.

Now, the clever one brings in the Heroes for a change, or the Quality Street for the Christmas feel. ‘Some’ still bring in the Celebrations though…and they need to be dealt with eventually…but nobody really brings the Roses in anymore.

And that’s because Roses now are basically falling off their pedestal, onto the hard floor below, alongside Celebrations, and proceeding to get trampled by Heroes and Quality Street.

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What’s the problem you ask?

Well, in all fairness, the tub looks ok. It’s always been a little more classy and restrained than the others and that’s good. They’ve kept that part, that’ll be the next collapse into oblivion I’m sure.

Let’s open the tub, the first problem, the new problem this year and the show stopper for me that has meant that the tub has remained unconsumed after two weeks of being open, is obvious immediately.

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What. On. Earth. Is. That?

It looks like Celebrations and Roses mated, and the kids got the looks from the Celebrations side.

Awful.

Whoever thought that flow wrapping (as in, Quality Street you twist to unwrap, these, you tear) was a good idea needs sacking. Now. This is utterly vile. The packaging fills tons of space with absolutely nothing but paper to rip. You know how irritating the packaging is in Celebrations, think that, but with even more ugly branding.4-1

Oh yeah, the branding. We GET they are Roses folks, we’ve opened a bloody big tub of them. You don’t need to spell out that they are Roses in quite such big font on each and every sweet.

Something else with them being wrapped this way, you know when you open Quality Street for the first time and drown in the chocolate smell that just means you want to consume the lot. Yeah, no smell here.

Notice too, that apart from the colour..EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME!

There’s no menu either. Nothing on the side of the tub, bottom or inside (or on the inside of the lid). Oh no, wait. There is. Except it’s buried at the bottom, below all of the sweets. That’s right, someone at Cadbury thinks it’s a good idea when packing these, as a process, to put the MENU IN FIRST and cover with sweets. You utterly galactically stupid imbecile!

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So what’s wrong next.

Well, just look at the sweets. The smooth curves, the size of them. That’s right. Cadbury have basically said, reduce the size of the sweets and let’s tell all of the customers it’s so it “fits the shape of your mouth better”. Really. They said that. I’m not joking here.

If there IS a consolation…Roses do still taste of Cadburys chocolate so if that is your thing, I’m sure you’ll overlook the rest of it.

Sadly though, that pretty little tray of chocolates that my mum puts out from Christmas Eve till New Year, will never again have Cadburys Roses on it and will now be full of Quality Street and Heroes. Game over Cadbury.

Review: Coop Irresistable Cherry Brandy Liqueurs

Bought by my good friend @sheandthecity these little bad boys look a very interesting prospect. Of course, they aren’t Mince pies and you could argue, a liqueur isn’t strictly that Christmassy but I’d disagree. Any and all decadent chocolates and especially alcohol connected chocolate, is a total Christmas must.


So what have we got here then.

The packaging is lovely. It’s quite a lightweight box, but classy colours suggest a fairly premium product from the Coop.

It opens like it’s a box of teabags though…and that’s less premium…but there’s more…


Once inside the premium feel is gone, replaced with that box of clotted cream fudge innards from your grandparents latest holiday in their static van in Weymouth.


What a let down that was.

Smells quite potent in fairness now it’s been opened.

Maybe the taste will make up for the box innards…


Individually, they look ok really, let’s dig in…


Well, it turns out dark chocolate is hard to photo in bad light, but this gives you the idea. It’s quite small. It’s smooth. It smells pretty damn good. I’m going in…


What’s hard to see here is the liqueur itself dribbling out of the sweet. There is a lot of it, this is a single chuck it in your mouth type chocolate. Not like my mum, she insists that you should treasure sweets like they’re an eighth wonder of the world and takes 3 bites per sweet. This would be a fun surprise for her.

Anyway, these do actually taste great. The flavour is good, I always worry with a liqueur that it’ll be over powering like a cheap gin, but this was smooth and just enough of a brandy hit to make it worthwhile.  The cherry flavour is again well judged. The chocolate isn’t bitter either, so it’s generally well flavoured and substantial.

I doubt you want more than a couple though.

I imagine these would work a treat with a nice black coffee from your new Nespresso machine on Boxing Day afternoon, after the left over turkey casserole, while sat on the sofa, belt undone, watching your recorded from yesterday Strictly Come Dancing special.

Overall then, recommended if you like a liqueur, won’t change your mind if you don’t.

Quality Street and the case of the Honeycomb Crunch

This weekend, as promised, I’ve been and bought some Christmas chocolates, for testing purposes only. I got a tub of Roses and a tub of Quality Street. Although I intended to focus on the new Roses wrapping, I actually went for the Quality Street first to have a good go at the new Honeycomb Crunch flavour and see what was missing.


Firstly, my goodness are the tubs small these days. If you can find it, you can get 1.3Kg tubs of Quality Street, but this is the 725g tub and boy can you tell.

The tub though is pretty full, which is nice to see. The wrapping of the sweets is still the classic twist wrap and the colours are lovely with minimal branding. It’s old fashioned and better for it.


The new sweet is the Honeycomb Crunch flavour and one of the toffee ones has made way. This isn’t a bad thing, my Dad is always saying he can’t have Quality Street as it’ll pull all his teeth out, so this is improving the overall product selection here.

The new sweet tastes good, much as you’d expect. It’s not very crunchy though, but it’s got a nice Honeycomb flavour and you’d say it’s middle of the road for the tub and a worthwhile addition.


One big drop I noticed, there is no menu card this year. The menu is around the sides of the tub. I’m sure this saves Nestle a good few grand and if it means they keep the price and weights for another year, that’s good. But it’s still disappointing, but not enough that it ruins anything.

Cadbury have a lot to do here, as right now the definitive Christmas chocolates are Quality Street.