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 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!

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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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.

Quality Street through the ages!

Christmas isn’t Christmas without stupid indulgence of chocolates in front of the TV, wearing something loose fitting with an elasticated waist because for some reason, your jeans are a bit tight today.

For many years, the battle was Quality Street versus Roses. As I was growing up, and Quality Street was made by Rowntree, it always seemed a battle to make the biggest tin. Nowadays, we’re down to sub-1kg tubs in the main and we have Celebrations and Heroes in the battle too, although these two are mere pretenders to the throne.

So, in the first in a series of one, I’ve felt all nostalgic and trawled YouTube for the various Quality Street adverts through the ages…there are some real, ahem, Magic Moments, among them.

So, let’s begin with this one from somewhere in the mid-80s. What I like about this advert is how it demonstrates how stupid Cadburys are for changing how they wrap their sweets this year (more on that in another post later). It’s a selling point for Quality Street on this advert. Oh, and how full is that tin!

Whatever next…how about one where the tin is almost literally as big as the child..

Genius this one from 1994, couldn’t help but smile:

The advert from 2015, possibly fresh in your memory (not in mine, must have missed it). I quite like this advert, stylish stuff. Notice though, the use of the tub instead of the tin, notice how it was half full (which is actually how full it really is) and finally, Cadburys take note, the twist to open….

Finally, I tried to keep it till last, the classic Neil Innes. This one is probably my favourite of what was quite a long running series of adverts over a few years in the 80s.

Turns out there are loads and loads of Quality Street adverts on Youtube. Definitely worth a trawl.