Sunday, December 24, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Infinity Foods

Surprise #MincePieFest2023 update!

It's not Christmas without an Infinity Foods mince pie!

Firm but not crunchy pastry, with a lovely hint of sweetness, and a very rich, almost umami, tasty filling full of fruit and maybe a little twist of booze? #Vegan too, if that matters to you. I'm going to minus 1 because you need a small mortgage to get them, but I'll add 1 because I was early enough to catch them right out of the oven.

Delicious. 4 out of 5. #MincePieADay

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: The Bastard Kipling

Oh, look who finally turned up, the Bastard Kipling himself.

These are big, chunky pies, with a nice firm pastry. Alas that same pastry is chalky and dry, and tastes mainly of nothing. The filling too is oddly tasteless, like it's made of teeny packing peanuts. The edible sort, obviously, that are basically unflavoured Wotsits. Don't try to eat the other ones, because they will do your insides no good whatsoever.

Anyway. 1.5 out of 5. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay #mincetagram

Friday, December 15, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: The Results!

I was going to do the final #MincePieFest2023 rankings today but then my good friend Casey reminded me that I hadn't done The Bastard Kipling yet BUT THEN I went out today and couldn't find The Bastard Kipling anywhere so we are back to the original plan.

So then, my top three mince pies of 2023 are:

#3 - Aldi Holly Lane and Asda Yummy, both good pies with 3.5 out of 5. Good effort and neither is super expensive.

#2 - Morrisons "The Best" and M&S Classic. Excellent pies at 4 out of 5, a whole 0.5 better for M&S since last year!

#1 - The best nationally available (probably) mince pie of 2023 is...

COOP! Beautiful 4.5 out of 5 pies, much better than a shop bought mince pie should be. Well done COOP that's the best three years in a row!

So, in fact, it was a top five then.

Thank you everyone for your comments and suggestions and well wishes and even the handful of indications of concern. I do this for you as much as for me. Honest.

If anyone wants to bung me a quid or two at feel free, but let's be honest, I would have bought and eaten them anyway! #GetInMyBelly

#mincetagram #MincePieADay

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: M&S Collection

These ARE the fancy ones, a pound more expensive, and... not as good.

The pastry is firm but a bit bland, and while there's plenty of tasty, hearty filling, it doesn't "zing". Well, no, it does in fact zing because the citrus overpowers everything else. Apparently these have Cognac in them, but I can't taste it past the overwhelming clementines.

(Great name for a band that. Probably early 90s grunge.)

Anyway... 2.5 out of 5. #MincePieADay #MincePieFest2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: M&S Classic

These pies look a bit dry and anaemic, but this is clearly just clever misdirection as they are quite lovely! The pastry is a bit bland but has a good texture, just the right side of soft.

That filling though, my gosh. Rich, fruity, and packed full of (non boozy) flavour, all balanced, never overwhelming, and there's plenty of it. What a lovely surprise. 4 out of 5 and these aren't even the fancy ones! #MincePieADay #MincePieFest2023

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Morrisons the "Best"

I like the look of these pies.

They have a rough, home made, look to them and I'm fond of the semi-open star design. But how do they taste, I hear you type?

(I can't hear you type.)

Pretty ruddy good! The firmish pastry is just the right level of not-too-sweet, and while the filling starts off fruity but maybe a bit bland, in comes a big boozy wave of brandy and cider. It's only a slightly sickly aftertaste that detracts from what are lovely mince pies.

Not "the best" but not far off. 4 out of 5. #MincePieADay #MincePieFest2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Morrisons

In terms of texture, the disintegrating pastry on these is similar to that of the Waitrose Essential pies, although unlike those it does have a pleasant, understated, sweet taste.

Which is good because the "rich and fruity" filling is so anonymous that I only confirmed it existed at all when I took the third picture. Highly dubious pies, these. 2 out of 5, and that feels a little generous. #MincePieADay #MincePieFest2023

Monday, December 11, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Lidl Deluxe

Lidl Deluxe!

These have a firm (but not too firm!) pastry that's sweet (but not too sweet!) and a bit buttery (but not too buttery!). The filling has a strong citrus flavour but any potential bitterness is offset by a robust (but not too robust!) brandy hit. Not quite to my tastes, but not bad at all. 3 out of 5. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Favorina (Lidl)

Favorina, or Lidl in Disguise. That's a lot of sugar!

Another too soft pie, with almost a fluffy consistency, and far too sweet. There are plenty of strong flavours in the filling, but they tend towards the tangy citrus, giving the whole pie a bit of a sickly taste. The two combine to make a gummy and stodgy pie. Not great. 2 out of 5. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Waitrose

It's a double posh day today!

The pastry is very firm, to the point of being crunchy, like a hard biscuit or a dense shortbread. It also has a strong buttery taste -- again like shortbread -- which is not to my liking, but I suspect I may be in the minority there. And to be fair, it does say "all butter" on the box.

You can see how firm it is by the sharp edges on the patterns in the topping. You could have your eye out on those!

On the other hand, the filling is rich and fruity and very tasty. It's a simple mix of flavours for a mince pie towards the luxury end of the spectrum -- there's no booze, and minimum spice -- but it's done well.

I am not at all a fan of the casing on these pies, so they get 3 out of 5 from me, but feel free to slap another point on if you're a shortbread fan. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Mince Pie Fest 2023: Waitrose Essential

Waitrose! Let's see how the poshos get on.

I like a soft pastry for my mince pies but this is far too soft, even for me. The pie falls apart as it's being eaten and there's a chalky, powdery texture that is a bit... icky. These are pies that may be better left out for a day or two to go a bit stale and firm up.

Given the dodgy pastry it's a bit of a surprise then that the filling is quite flavourful, although it is a little bitter, and the quantity is on the stingy side.

Not quite so Essential after all. 2 out of 5. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Friday, December 08, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: "Holly Lane" (Aldi)

Holly Lane! Which doesn't exist, because it's Aldi.

The pastry has a lovely soft crumble with a pleasant sweetness, but is a little undermined by too much crunchy granulated sugar on the top, and a tendency to get a bit claggy. You'll want a cup of tea -- or local alternative -- with this one. The filling is chunky and tasty, full of fruity flavours and a satisfying wave of spice. There are no alcoholic tastes in this pie, but it's no worse off for it.

These are cheap pies -- about 55p per box -- but they punch well above their price point. It's only the slight disappointments of the pastry that let them down. An admirable 3.5 out of 5. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Thursday, December 07, 2023

Not Shit

There's yet another kind review of my work from John Arendt here, this time of the recent(ish) Winnie-the-Shit.

You can buy the book in print from the EU shop here, the US shop here, or in pdf form here.

If you are unfortunate enough to be in the shattered remains of the UK and you order from the EU shop, you will get free postage up to the 10th of December 2023. That's on all books, I believe, not just my ones. It may even be on t-shirts and other stuff. I have no idea to be honest.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Mince Pie Fest 2023: COOP Irresistible

I must admit, I was a bit worried about trying these. They were the clear winners in 2021 and 2022, but everything seems worse this year, and what if my favourites also followed that trend?

Worry not, my mincing mates!

The pastry is a perfect balance between firm and soft, with a nice crumble that stops well short of an unpleasant crunch. It is sweet without being overly sugary, and has a lovely lightness that complements the tasty filling.

There's plenty of that tasty filling, and it is chunky and fruity -- although maaaayyyyyybeeee a little heavy on the electrons currants/raisins/sultanas -- and has a hearty boozy punch, but not an overwhelming one.

What a relief that these remain excellent pies even in this dark time! Only a slight imbalance in the filling prevents a perfect score, but 4.5 out of 5 is not too bad, I think you'll concur.

There are plenty of mince pies still in the testing pile, but if you need to buy some RIGHT NOW -- understandable -- then these are a very strong frontrunner. #MincePieFest2023 #MincePieADay

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Imperial Phase

I have the new Epic 2023 box and although I haven't played it yet -- ye gods, teeny tiny multi-part miniatures! How am I supposed to put those together at my age?! -- I have impressions of the first variety.
  • In terms of rules, it is pretty much second edition Space Marine/Titan Legions, which is good, as Space Marine 2 is the best wargame Games Workshop ever made. Fact.
  • Titans are simplified. I won't miss the aiming minigame, but the old location-based damage charts were fun. You can't blow their arms or legs off any more. (sad face)
  • Titans do still have huge reactor meltdowns when they die, and that's ace.
  • The terrain rules are new and very weird. They are a mixture of excessive detail (every inch of the board is one of about five different terrain types, which you have to track and have their own rules and modifiers) and odd abstractness (you may be able to draw clear and unobstructed line of sight to a model but if it's "within" certain terrain your models can't see it). There's also what looks like an orphaned reference to roads giving a movement boost, but no associated rules, which may be a case of earlydraughtitis, or just ambiguous writing; who knows?
  • Speaking of inches, everything is measured in them. This will make Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Brexiteers happy, and is better than that strange Pentagon-Circle-Triangle-Square thing GW did in Kill Team, but anything other than centimetres for Epic is abhorrent.
  • I'm not sure the Space Wombles can legally field all their models in the box, unless I've misunderstood the army building rules, which is very possible.
  • The rulebook could have been 100 pages thinner with the exact same content, but I think that's a battle we lost a long time ago.
  • The order counters are terrible. They are thin, cheap, and nasty, with none of the hefty girth of the 2e counters. Expect to see a swathe of variants on Etsy within days.
That all may seem overwhelmingly negative, but the core rules of the game are solid, and the miniatures are great, and I am keen to give it a try... as soon as I get someone younger and more nimble to construct the models. More on that if/when it happens.

OH! And drop pods are rubbish now. Back in the 1990s, you would literally drop the markers on to the table and hope for the best. Now they are relegated to a deployment special rule. Cowards.