Posts from 2017

12
Dec 17

My Pop Year: AUSTRA – “We Were Alive”

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Austra’s Future Politics was one of the first 2017 albums I heard, somewhere in the weeks of dread, defiance and hand-wringing around the Trump inauguration. It’s coloured how I hear it ever since. The title announces it as a ‘political’ album, the sleeve signals that the contents are likely to be cryptic. Austra’s Katy Stelmaris embraces our time of heightened nerves, this mode of being – which many lived in well before Trump – where ‘politics’ can exhaustingly infect every gesture. But she also rejects it, insists on ambiguity and a realm of private meaning.

11
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 10: The Snow Globe

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snow globe The centrepiece of Sainsbury’s Christmas range this year is “The Snow Globe”. This boldly rejects all traditional packaging and is sold in a sealed plastic dome, which fanciness probably adds 50p to the cost of the not-all-that-large sandwich. Unless Sainsbury’s are taking a Blue Monday 12″ style profit hit, which I very much doubt.

What is it? “Christmas dinner in a brioche bun” or in plainer terms a turkey and bacon roll. The brioche bun has tiny stars on, nicely captured in this image I nicked off Twitter, and is very pleasant and fluffy, but (surely to nobody’s surprise) the whole thing suffers from over-ambition and ultimately disappoints.

The problem is the bold decision to have both a layer of cranberry and a layer of “sprout slaw”. High marks on paper for seeing the christmas dinner concept through and including sprouts, but in practice both layers are a bit too gloopy. Which combined with the softness of the bread gives the Snow Globe a slightly sloppy and pre-chewed feel. A bit less of the cranberry, and (sad to say) a more robust bread, and the bitterness of the slaw would have balanced the sweetness very nicely. As it is, the Snow Globe is… no great shakes.

9
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 9: Boots Parsnip Fritter and Butternut Squash

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My first ever taste of a Boots sanger was in Sheffield nearly twenty years ago. I was still learning which shops sold lunch goods convenient to my work, and seem to recall being mildly surprised you could get sandwiches from Boots, although I don’t know why. I suppose I was still noticing the differences between Wisconsin equivalents as I’d only recently been installed permanently in the UK, and I couldn’t think of any pharmacies in Wisconsin that also sold lunchtime meal deals.

38035199655_9283a98b2b_zI was particularly grateful for an option that wasn’t the usual cheese or egg based offer, the Mexican bean wrap. I think this may be the first time I’d ever seen Mexican-stuff-in-a-tortilla called a wrap rather than a burrito (or used as sandwich bread: whoa), but I was happy to sample something new. I was sadly disappointed – it was cold and bland. Nonetheless, I was grateful that it existed when I was lacking in lunchtime veg options. Upon reflection, the thought of a cold burrito makes me want to gag, so it’s really no wonder I didn’t dig the bean wrap and still don’t.

The fact that there are no less than eight vegan xmas sandwiches sampled for the calendar makes me very happy indeed, although I haven’t had the chance to try them all (yet). I haven’t had cause to settle for half frozen disappointment-flavoured lunch in a long time, so I’m very surprised to find that the Boots offering is my favourite so far.

It’s sweet but not overly so, the shredded parsnip matching well with the butternut squash. There’s chutney – just enough, not too gloopy, and a pretty decent granary bread to rival Pret’s. It also helps that it’s £2.75 or £3.39 in the meal deal. I had some of those baked crisps and juice which would have been £2.30 more – huzzah, the meal deal pays off!

Ewan also rates this highly, commenting on the competing textures and flavours. However the curse of the too cold Boots fridge struck Kat, who missed out on the full sanger potential, noting that it was ENCASED IN ICE.

8
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 8: Waka Nikkei Navidad Sushi Set

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Recently I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of meat I consume. The aim is to reduce my carbon footprint and think harder about the provenance of the meat I do eat (in practice this is stuff lovingly cooked by trusted chums), which ideally would be from a sustainable source that treats its workers and the environment well. It might be a drop in the ocean but I’m trying to use what little consumer power I have to encourage restaurants and sandwich shops to provide a decent range of vegetarian options. As a result, for the last few months I’ve only bought/ordered vegetarian things when out and about.

That grand plan all went t!ts up yesterday lunchtime when I ventured to Japanese-Peruvian chain Waka, on the promise of some Christmas Sushi. Sorry, planet!

7
Dec 17

My Pop Year: SERGE BEYNAUD – “Akrakabo”

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Serge Beynaud’s Accelerate LP is a danceable feast, showing how Cote D’Ivoire’s coupe-decale is one of those musics which can absorb almost anything, from pop-reggae to trap-style vocal exclamation. It’s potentially exhausting to take on in full, but the quality is consistent – put it on shuffle for a few tracks and ride Beynaud’s ebullience until you start to tire, then repeat next time you’re in the mood.

Lead single and first track “Akrakabo” is always a good place to start. Here the music that’s pulled into the whirl is some sweet West African guitar pop, which breaks through like a grin after two pummeling, bouncing minutes of rhythm. It’s a wonderful moment. If the pace of the rest feels crazed, check the video to see Beynaud and his formation dancers handle it with aplomb (plus the fakest sheikh this side of News International.)

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 7: M&S Ham Hock & Golden Beetroot Piccalilli

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Picked up at Paddington on my way to the South West for work, the Marks & Spencer Ham Hock and Golden Beetroot Piccalilli sandwich from their extensive range certainly wins the prize for the most over-packaged sandwich. A huge cardboard box and a massive wodge of plastic to separate the two halves. Whilst somewhat of a deviation from turkey, it’s hard to deny that a nice hunk of ham isn’t a Christmas staple, although possibly not quite in this form. I have to say my dear old gran would find it rather hilarious that “ham hock” is in any way posh, it being pretty much the cheapest cut of gammon, only really good for broth making (mind you, she made a cracking broth!), certainly not suitable for a Christmas table or any sort of sandwich making.
ham hock
Unlike the promotional pic, my sandwich was somewhat lacking in any greenery, with just a couple of stray fronds of spiky lettuce of some kind. There were decent sized chunks of ham hock though, although it was a bit flavourless. The Piccalilli is quite zingy, but again, why it’s made from golden beetroot somewhat mystifies me.

The bread was fine, decent bloomer, if a bit crispy at the cut edges, but then, if you pick up a sandwich at half five, you take what you get.

I have to say it went rather well with the Ilkley Oatmeal Stout I picked up at the same time.

The sandwich was put in the shade somewhat, by the classic turkey and stuffing combo served up to me in the college canteen today though. Really good soft white bread, good solid chunks of well-seasoned turkey, clearly left over from the in-house, student-staffed restaurant’s last service (and all good turkey sandwiches are made from leftovers), stuffing mixed nicely with enough mayo to lubricate it properly and at £4.20 with bag of crisps and bottle of pop, you can’t really complain.

6
Dec 17

My Pop Year: JANA RUSH – “??? ??”

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The titles of Jana Rush’s tracks on her Pariah LP have an enjoyable bluntness. “Beat Maze.” “Chill Mode”. “Frenetic Snare.” She’s been DJing and making records for over 20 years, since she was 15. This is her debut full-length. So I suspect there’s a healthy unwillingness to piss about, or to dress up her music with unnecessary atmospherics. As another of the tracks puts it, “No Fuks Given”. It is what it is.

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 6: the CO-OP and the Strange Problem of the Pigs and their Blankets (Relative Location of)

WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDAR6 comments • 123 views

co op pigs under blanketsI like the co op. I like the idea of the Co-operative movement, I like how much better as a bank the Co-op has been than my previous high street experience, I like how when everything went pear-shaped for it financially it was caused by a vicar with crisps on his nips aka the Crystal Methodist snorting ket & coke off of a hooker’s arse (subs/lawyers please check). Actually this last thing was probably bad and also very extremely unrelated. But I do like the co-op-that-is-a-chainstore’s xmas fare.

5
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 5: Tesco Finest Bubble and Squeak

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Tesco Bubble and Squeak It’s now that I find myself guiding FT towards the little-charted territory of the Wobs sanger vegetarian option, traditionally an unloved corner of the refrigerated unit filled with miserable cranberry and brie combinations (of which I suspect we’ll be seeing more in future weeks). It’s usually been even bleaker for the vegans, who might count themselves lucky with some dry falafel wrap, but this year have literally more than one option, thanks to many of the chains redoubling their efforts to capture this small but vocal market.

It’s in this context that we once again find ourselves surprised to be standing in a Tesco Express, confronted by this particular excessively-boxed nonsense. Open it up and out falls an extra (and very determinedly sealed, requiring some use of teeth in my case) sachet of paprika-spiced coconut flakes (“bacon-flavoured” the box says, but w/ev). Overall it breaks a number of the traditional wobs sanger rules. For a start, it takes the non-standard roll form, though more interestingly for the vegans it uses potato instead of falafel for a change. It should by rights be dry and stale-tasting, but it turns out it’s very tasty, with a soft bun (almost brioche-like in consistency) and spiced red cabbage for some texture and moisture.

Kerry has also tried it: “This was surprisingly compelling even for a not-usually-vegan. ‘That looks like a BANGER of a sandwich,’ one office mate marvelled, with particular admiration given to the amount of red on the nutrition boxes. The bread was also pleasingly fluffy and resilient, holding up well under the demands of the vegan mayo.”

Moreover, a certain trumpet/drum-playing correspondent of FT’s acquaintance has reported this as being the best vegan one in general circulation. I feel like I’ve tried pretty much all of them, and she’s not far wrong, though I’m still holding out for one made with cranberry sauce and Tofurky.

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 4: Tesco Finest Turkey Feast

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turkeyfeast For all that it’s still the most popular supermarket in Britain, Tesco seems a bit nonplussed at Christmas time. Its adverts have long been upstaged by the posh end of the market – and this year it got the unwelcome attention of racist idiots too – and nobody makes much fuss about its sandwiches compared to the PR juggernauts of Pret or even Greggs. The store does its bit over Christmas, sells everything you’d expect, and I suspect makes most of its money by being open later than anyone else on the 24th – by which time its sandwiches are the last thing on anyone’s mind.