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:

christmas-issue-699942c

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!

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.

Christmas Adverts 2017 – Part 4

Well, I’ve gone to town on rounding up the Christmas adverts this year…here’s another bundle of ads for you to check out…

First up, it’s Waitrose:

This is actually really quite good, I’m not sure being in black and white quite works, for me when the lights come on at the end if the advert went into full colour then, that would have been a little more dramatic.

A comment on Youtube amused me for once though (never read them, just don’t do it), where the horrified looks at the end are because they’ve gone all cannibal…made me smile anyway.

Boots now…

I have no opinion on this…none at all. Which is weird, utterly unmemorable.

Now TK Max meanwhile, they’ve had a good go here:

I quite enjoyed that, creepy voiceover and everything!

And, now Debenhams, this might say Part 2 but this is the full version, you don’t need Part 1 as that’s already included in this…

Boy oh boy, is this romantic or what! Very very sweet advert this.

Debenhams winning Christmas, alongside Sky Cinema for me!

 

Christmas Adverts 2017 – PART 3

So, here we go then with another round up of Christmas adverts, the over budgeted influencers for 2017…

Let’s kick off with John Lewis…

Transparently trying to play at heart strings…fails miserably. For me anyway.

Next we have House of Fraser:

I’ve met sisters before…getting on this well…naaaaah, not buying it at all!

Next, we have a pair of Morrisons adverts:

I really love the Free From one, just really very sweet. The other one, a bit meh but pleasant enough. Good effort from Morrisons.

Now for Tesco…and I like this a lot:

The bloke at the end “Oh, go on then”…that’s just like me on Christmas evening…

And Talk Talk…nailed it:

Christmas Adverts 2017 – Continued

We already started our roundup of Christmas adverts for this year with this post: https://themincepie.co.uk/2017/11/04/christmas-adverts-2017-its-started/

That one featured Very.co.uk, Argos, Asda and Vodafone…this time, we’re kicking off with one of the biggest hitters, going in two-footed on the rest:

This advert is pretty good, light and fluffy despite it being all about a burglar. My only problem with this advert is the “Oh F**k you little bear” at the end. Pretty sure M&S need to re-edit the sound here, because WOW! I’m not the only one to hear this too, it’s all over the comments. Oh M&S, what did you do!

Next up, it’s Matalan:

I can’t help it, I like it. Maybe the music needed to be something Christmassy, but it’s everything Christmas wrapped up in an advert otherwise.

Not really much of an advertiser normally, here’s Amazon’s distinctly unChristmassy effort:

And for this update I’m going to finish on Sky Cinema…because it’s perfect (I really mean that too, for parents out there everywhere, it 100% nails it)…

REVIEW: Coop All Butter Luxury Mince Pies (2017)

This review is going to refer back to the 2016 version of these pies quite a bit, the review for those is here: https://themincepie.co.uk/2016/10/08/mince-pie-review-coop-irresistible-all-butter-luxury-mince-pies/ and it’s worth a read to remind you how I’ve always been a fan of these pies.

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Packaging
So, this looks just like last year’s box…but let’s do a side by side:

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On the left is 2017 and on the right is 2016. When I bought these, I genuinely thought they were the same. Check out the layout of the pies on the box, it’s almost the same. It’s very clever, but I can’t think really why they’ve done it like this.

Notable differences though on the calories, 2017 are 246 calories and 2016 are 254. The composition is different too, and you’ll note that last year the salt count was orange and this year it’s green. The weight is the same though, so really it just suggests a different recipe. The blurb at the top makes mention cherries too, which it didn’t last year.

Notable too the absence this year of the crimped edges, and the less defined spring of holly on the pastry design.

Pretty much though, my comments from last year still stand. It feels fairly premium as far as these things go, but not very Christmassy.

8/10

Presentation
So, last year, we had some fairly nice things to say about these, being quite pretty to look at. I also noted the bucket of sugar chucked at it too.

Guess what…

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Well, personally, I think these look really quite untidy for a start. They look really quite uneven, not exactly consistently circular. The sprig of holly is no so indistinct, suddenly they really not so pretty. The removal of the crimping around the edges from last year also really takes away from the overall impression.

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Worse though, they’re no longer chucking a bucket of granulated sugar over these. Instead, they’ve poured two buckets of icing sugar all over them. That’s right, they’ve binned off the granulated sugar, replaced with icing sugar. Horses for courses to a degree, but it’s just massively over done.

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So, all in all…a massive fall from grace for these from last year.

3/10

Filling
Now, we’ve had a fall from grace on the presentation front…what next..

This:

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That’s a whole lot of air in there!

So, you can see the mincemeat is quite fruity and chunky, but the very fact that it’s not even half full is a disgrace. No wonder these are less calories!

It’s not an isolated problem either, although this is marginally better:

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Overall, the filling is also quite “wet”, which means it’s a surprise that there is no soggy bottoms here (unlike Aldi).

It really needs to taste good though given the limited quantity of it.

5/10

Taste Test
So, how do these taste then? Well, the answer isn’t totally straightforward.

When you munch in, the pastry is very buttery, but very dry. This results in the pastry immediately applying itself to the roof of your mouth. 100% requires a cup of tea to wash these down. Now, I remember, that is quite similar to last year, but with the lack of filling here, there is less of something to mix with the dry pastry.

For what it’s worth, the taste of the filling is really excellent. It’s fairly fruity and has a good kick of brandy in there, definitely a boozy type of pie.

All in though, you eat these and you feel that you’re having to work hard eating not great pastry with little reward. Really really disappointing.

They’re not awful though, the filling is fine, and if they added a bit more of it they might not be so bad. They could be decent warm with custard, at least that would help with the dryness.

10/20

Overall Score
A real disappointing outcome here after the middle of the road outcome last year. This is a huge fall from grace as a couple of years ago, I swore by these pies as the best around.

26/50

Christmas Adverts 2017 – It’s Started!

Every year, it’s fun to see the Christmas adverts rolling out. It’s big business these days, we’re long past the day of Woolies sticking their prices on a song and dance on stage…now we have elaborate animations and productions, multi-million pound adverts purely focused on brand building rather than products. Christmas adverts are becoming a whole cottage industry, and keeping websites like this going with content for weeks on end.

So on that note…first for 2017 is:

Very.co.uk

Now, Very do seem to like these animation styled adverts at the minute, and it’s quite pleasant. But maybe I’m feeling jaded, it’s not exactly iconic is it.

Next up we have Asda…

This is obviously inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s very good. I’m not convinced the music is the right choice, but it is fun and bouncy and I wanted it to go on longer.

Now for Argos…

Feels inspired by Arthur Christmas in the set up, but it’s a good advert.

Next it’s Vodafone, with their “A Christmas Love Story” and starring Martin Freeman. This is a series of 6 adverts, not all of which appear to be on Youtube yet, so go here to watch them as a single film:

http://www.campaignlive.com/article/vodafone-a-christmas-love-story-ogilvy-mather/1448884

In all honesty, I really am not a fan of this. It’s only vaguely Christmassy, it’s incredibly cheesy and although the first one is really sweet, the rest of them are just properly meh.

And that’s all for this post…more to come over the next couple of weeks.

 

Mince Pie Reviews – November League Table Update

Figured it was worth updating the league table and because some people do miss it (it’s linked seperately either in the hamburger menu on a phone or up top on desktop).

Miles away at the top is the Fortnum & Mason pies, but it’s looking like a strong list.

For reference, the columns in order are “Year of Review, Packaging, Presentation, Filling, Taste Test and Overall Score”. The table is ordered by Overall Score, with Taste Test as a tie breaker (then Presentation then Filling and finally Packaging if all of those are equal).

No. Name YR Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Fortnum & Mason Traditional 2017 8 9 9 20 46
2 Tesco Finest All Butter 2016 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 2016 6 10 8 17 41
4 Aldi Specially Selected 2016 4 9 8 19 40
5 Iceland Luxury 2016 6 6 9 19 40
6 Aldi Sloe Gin Mince Tarts 2017 6 7 7 19 39
7 Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All Butter 2017 7 8 8 16 39
8 Aldi Specially Selected 2017 4 9 6 19 38
9 Iceland Luxury 2017 6 6 9 17 38
10 Coop Irresistable Luxury 2016 8 7 7 16 38
11 Lime Tree Pantry Mince Pies 2017 4 9 8 16 37
12 M&S Christmas All Butter 2016 6 5 8 17 36
13 Greggs Sweet 2016 6 6 7 17 36
14 Spar Luxury All Butter 2016 8 8 7 12 35
15 Sainsbury’s Mini Ecclefechan and Mincemeat Tarts 2017 6 9 8 10 33
16 Tesco Mince Pies 2016 9 2 4 17 32
17 Waitrose All Butter 2016 5 5 7 14 31
18 Sainsbury’s Iced Topped 2017 9 5 4 12 30
19 Sainsbury’s Deep Filled 2017 9 4 5 10 28
20 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 2016 5 1 4 10 20
21 Coop Puff Pastry 2016 6 6 1 5 18
22 Heston Spiced with Lemon 2016 3 9 3 1 16

 

REVIEW: Aldi Sloe Gin Mince Tarts

Well, this is new…and also, I realise I said I’m taking a mince pie reviewing break but, these were seen and must be had.

Let’s get on with the show.

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Packaging
Very much like the other Aldi mince pies these, similar styling of box and branding. It’s classy enough, but doesn’t shout Christmas to me quite enough. There is a nice window to the pies and these are unusual looking pies.

Worth noting, the box is quite slim, so these are going to be flatter pies than usual.

The note to serve warm or cold is interesting me…I shall give them a warm go over the weekend, but as all of these pies are reviewed cold that’ll be merely a footnote.

6/10 – Nothing wrong here, window is good but just not Christmassy enough

Presentation
Worth remembering, these mince ‘tarts’ (not pies apparently) are retailing for £2.29 a box of six. That’s 38p a pie, sorry tart, ish. Now, put in context, everything else at Aldi seems to cost 99p according to my Mum, so this is some optimistic fayre here (fayre isn’t apparently in the dictionary on my Mac and it’s underlined in red, vaguely irritating. In fact, so irritating I diverted for 15 minutes or so looking it up. It’s in the dictionary, it seemed to irritate a Telegraph journalist a couple of years ago, it’s old fashioned, only used in Britain, if any Americans read this, apart from having a real hard time with sweet mincemeat generally, this word will throw them a bit more…).

I digress…

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Anyway…they’re plastic bagged. That’s because the window in the box is an actual opening to the box. This means, to keep these things fresh for a few days and to stop them falling out while walking with your arms doing windmills holding the box, don’t lose this bag!

Once out of the bag…

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So, I’m not sure what to say here…are they messed up or is this what is supposed to happen with fancy tarts from budget supermarkets?

The almonds are liberally chucked on with nay a care in the world, but most concerning, what’s happened to the pattern on the middle row? Weirdly, I can’t tell if it’s deliberate variance considering both of the middle ones look like this and the end ones are kind of consistent in the hatching they have on top. And is it me…do they look a bit like Yorkshire puddings?

The hatching on the ones on the left looks very good and neat, the right side much less so.

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There are no trays to be seen here, so you’ll need a plate unless you are rebellious like me. It’s a very even bake all of the way around, but the slight leakage on the right here is not ideal.

All in though…I kind of like the look, they are appealing to me and that’s really important.

7/10 – Probably way too high considering the problems…but I like them even so!

Filling
So, as I said before, these pies tarts are quite large, but flat. This is never a good sign for including lots of filling. Let’s take a look:

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Is that a lot?

I tell you what, it’s got plenty of fruity chunks within and all of the way around the pie tart it goes right to the edge on this level.

All in, I’m willing to bet there’s at least as much here, if not more so, than the regular supermarket pies around.

It’s got a lovely smell too, the sloe gin aroma in the filling really comes through.

7/10 – It’s actually good and more than it might appear considering the flat nature of these.

Taste Test
As usual, it’s all down to taste really.

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Let’s break it down a bit.

The pastry is good. It’s very much in the “cakey” nature of the Fortnum & Mason pies really, and worthy of the ‘tart’ title over pie. It’s very solid and holds together well without the tray. When approaching the first bite, it’s hard to know if there is going to be some crunch or it’s soft and it’s surprising therefore, that it is lovely and soft yet solid enough to not fall apart. This is some skilled bake work.

The almonds really add a nice little flavour extra, but aren’t strictly needed in my view.

When you get into the filling, it first hits you with the aroma and then the sweet fruity flavour of sloe gin is distinctly there. It’s got a marginal gin-like sensation as you eat, and the fruity flavour really makes it work. The spices and come across really well and it makes the overall taste here massively satisfying. These are top drawer pies tarts and are a great secondary mince-based treat alongside whatever regular pies you go for.

19/20 – Outstanding, just maybe could do with a bigger gin type hit!

Overall
No getting away from it, I really like these pies and are the best so far to come out of Aldi. There are a few issues though, and the presentation could probably use a bit of work, but I’m massively impressed.

39/40

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Josh Groban: Noel

If you like a bit of Christmas music, like a bit of Josh Groban (someone must), here’s a bit of a treat.

His whole new Christmas album featuring versions of songs not as good as the originals is on Spotify for the many subscribers out there:

McVitie’s Family Circle Biscuits

Time for something a bit different, taking a break from eating mince pies for a little while now and looking at some other things.

First up, it’s the classic, the favourite of 80s children everywhere, the McVitie’s Family Circle biscuits, formally a tin, then a tub and now, disappointingly, a box. So, let’s start there shall we…

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So, this is now a box, last year and for quite a few years before that too, it’s been a plastic tub. Before that it was a tin, but I’ve given up on that as a mainstream option these days.

As a value proposition, a disposable box is not the same as a plastic resealable tub and that is disappointing. Worse, last year, the tub weighed 700g and this year the box weighs in at 670g.

All for the same price (this was £3.00 from Sainsbury’s but I reckon they’ll be £2.50 here and there).

Let’s take a look at last year:

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Wait a minute…”Crawfords”?

But mine are McVitie’s…

Don’t panic, they are all the same and it seems it might even depend where you get them from. Family Circle are by United Biscuits, of which both Crawfords and McVities are a part of the brand. Who knew…

Anyway, last year’s tub shows you, it’s a good quality tub and we do still have the 10 varieties included, so maybe, just maybe, the 30g loss is the removal of the tub to reduce the costs enough to keep the biscuits the same. Maybe.

But I also found this from probably a few years back:

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900g here…and 11 varieties…well, that does upset me, what’s missing? A brain I think for whoever made the box, because there are only 10 varieties shown!!!!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just counted them, I’m right, there are 10 shown despite a claim of 11. The ones shown are pretty much identical to the ones we currently have, apart from the change to the smiley faced freaky looking thing on the new box.

While I’m here, let’s pause and remember some old tins:

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These tins have plainly been used for Mum’s sewing kit, but my oh my do these like like real event treats. Understandably, there are some differences in the biscuit selection (this would have been the 80s remember for these tins) but there is a big issue to raise now.

PINK WAFERS

Where have they gone? I realise they were the ones always left to the end, but that was the magic, you’d always have a biscuit left in the tin for when you were desperate on December 30th!

I think we should consider a campaign to bring them back, and while we’re at it, McVities (or Crawfords or whoever) should go big next year on a Family Circle tin, go for something like 1.2kg, add the pink wafers back in, charge a fiver, advertise it on telly, they’ll fly off the shelves. Make it a special edition, people like me will buy them and take photos too!

So, what’s in the box?

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Well, it’s a tidy selection that, and the jammy dodgers will be first to go in my box guaranteed.

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Opening the box, there are two trays, both individually wrapped in this quite fancy looking wrapping. No clear plastic bags here, interesting words though:

Once opened, store in an airtight container

Well, I would do, but you only gave me the box…now, if it was a TUB…

Anyway…

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It’s underwhelming right?

Doesn’t help that the chocolate chip cookies are upside down and the chocolate on the chocolate digestive couldn’t have been spread thinner if they’d tried. Do I need to mention the lack of sugar sprinkles on the shorties? Or that the fingers look a bit sad? And…WHERE IS THE JAM ON THE SMILEY FACE!

So there you have it…I’m not going to go through and taste these, you know if you like them…custard creams, bourbons, jammy dodgers, shortcakes etc. They’re all classics and each of these is at least as good as the Tesco value variety you can buy for 30p.

For three quid, it’s worth it, just for Christmas!

Snow in October, 9 years ago today!

Remember this?

9 years ago today…I must admit, I can’t actually remember this as any sort of snow event, and I’ve not got any pictures myself of anything that occurred. Maybe it was a flash of sleet for us…but there are some paper and news references too:

Snow in October! Before Halloween? Whatever next? A cold snap this early is something of a rarity – even more so considering the globe is supposed to be warming. But perhaps it’s not anything new…The last time Surrey had lying snow was 1887.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2008/10/30/october_snow_feature.shtml

This is a great page from the Met Office on the event:

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/28_30october2008

and The Guardian reporting on it too:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/oct/29/weather-london

And finally for the more geeky weather types, here’s the 500hPa chart for the day:

And alongside that map here is Brian Gaze’s rather excellent write up on The Weather Outlook website of this event from a technical perspective:

https://www.theweatheroutlook.com/twoother/twocontent.aspx?type=bg&id=168

 

REVIEW: Fortnum and Mason Traditional Mince Pies

So…I ummed and I arrred and eventually, decided to go for it. What am I talking about? Well, buying these bad boys is what…bought from the Fortnum and Mason shop at St Pancras Station as I passed by on my travels…the price, a cool £10.95.

That’s £1.83 per pie!

I mean, there’s premium.

There’s luxury.

There’s posh.

And then…there is this:

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The single most frustrating packaging to photograph ever….look, you can see my hands taking the photo…anyway…let’s get on with the review.

Packaging
The box is heavy, super heavy, 500g. For comparison, the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference pies come in at 370g and the regular Sainsbury’s pies at 355g so there is some real extra here with these.

The packaging is red, reflective and really shiny, hence my hands on the photo above.

There is a lovely looking window, with the branding nicely displayed, showing off the pies, it’s a really attractive presentation of the pies.

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The rest of the packaging has a colourful green pattern design, not sure what it is, but it kind of looks Christmassy. It’s maybe a bit of holly and horns and things. Who knows, I think it could do with being a bit more obviously Christmassy and maybe then it’d be perfect.

8/10 – Pretty lovely generally, but just not that Christmassy!

Presentation
So, you open the packaging and slide out the tray. And it’s not just any tray.

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First thing you see is more of the reflective stuff, this time it’s gold coloured.

And then…it’s made of cardboard, none of that plastic tray action here. I figured I’d get a different angle on it.

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It honestly feels really special and looks different too. It’s much more interesting than any other box of pies I’ve had for a long time.

On the pies themselves, they are emblazoned with an “F&M” logo. It’s a little bit self-aggrandising I guess, but it’s still quite attractive. I’ve said before, the lack of “christmassyness” does seem to increase alongside the price. The cheaper the pie, the more of the normal Christmas thing you get.

The quality of the bake here is outstanding though as you can see. Extremely even and well presented. Look closely and you can see copious amounts of sugar on top here and just look how deep that pie is. You can see where the extra weight in the box comes from, there is a lot more here than regular pies.

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9/10 – Not getting 10 simply because of the me me me thing of adding their logo to the top.

Filling
So, getting to the real meat of the matter now, what’s the filling like.

Well, the ingredients list is something to behold and it’s all on show when you get into this monster.

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It might not look chock full, but it is a bit mis-leading on this picture. This is very high quality stuff here, massive chunks of fruit, but it’s not the look, it’s not the amount, it’s all about the smell. It smells like sweet apples, brandy, and cinnamon. Genuinely astonishing!

But you know what, if there is a complaint, there could be a smidgen more, although when you taste these, you probably won’t think so.

9/10 – Almost perfect, just needed a tiny bit extra to fill that air gap!

Taste Test
Well so far, this review could really have been any more complimentary could it? What is the taste test going to bring…

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Let’s just say, these are the single greatest mince pie I’ve ever had. Full stop, hands down they are incredible.

The F&M website describes them like this:

There is nothing quite like a traditional mince pie, warm from the oven and eaten on a crisp, winter’s afternoon. To make ours especially good, we put quite a lot of butter in the pastry, and we make each pie extra-deep, to hold generous helpings of mincemeat. And, of course, we use our own mincemeat, made with plenty of brandy. Serve warm with a spoonful of Fortnum’s Cognac Brandy Butter or Rum Butter eased gently under the lid.

Everything about that paragraph is entirely accurate.

Let’s start with the smell. When you slide them out of the box it hits you, as described above, that sweet alcoholic flavour. It’s an amazing smell that engages your taste buds before you even taste them.

Then you bite into the pastry and it’s genuinely unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s buttery, flakey and very slightly “cakey”. It’s also very sweet, all of that sugar is right there, available to taste.

Then you tuck into the filling and the warmth of the brandy really comes through, there is cider, brandy and cognac in here, with fruits and spices. Oh my, it’s wonderful.

So, where does that leave us?

Perfection is where!

20/20 – Does not get better than this.

Overall
Right, so these are clearly not for everyone. The cost is pretty eye-watering when you consider some of the alternatives. Even Harrods are only asking £8.95 for their mince pies, so these are genuinely decadent.

Luckily, I don’t actually consider the price in these reviews, if I did there would probably be a negative multiplier in there. They are by far the nicest mince pies I’ve ever had.

Should you buy them?

If you can afford to go down the pub and spend eleven quid on a pint of ale and a white wine for the wife, and you think that’s worth it, then why can’t these be worth it too?

It’s Christmas, treat yourself!

46/50 – I will be buying more in December for certain.

Elvis Lives!

Well, no, but it sure seems like it.

This new Elvis Christmas offering released last week is 100% going on loop in our house. Buy it now, or if you’re on Spotify or Apple Music you can get involved in streaming too.

If you’ve tried the previous Elvis albums with the Philharmonic, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Outstanding production values, lovely sound and perfect for the season.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/christmas-with-elvis-and-the-royal-philharmonic-orchestra/id1280846986