Posts from December 2017

15
Dec 17

TFTACOXS – December 13: Vegan Christmas Wrap

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Leon Christmas Wrap At some point when you’re opening the doors of this particular FT advent calendar, you inevitably have to ask, “is that really a sandwich”? Well, pending the intrusion of Wobs Dob Dee into this discussion, I’m not convinced this does count. Not because a wrap isn’t a sandwich (it is), but more because if you can’t pick it up from a refrigerated unit and have a glance through the plastic window into the dark heart of cranberry within, then it doesn’t really feel like a proper high street sanger. Still, I’m going to blog this one anyway.

Leon doesn’t have any food in chillers at all. It has a menu, in front of which you um and ah, but not too long because (aside from the “pigs in a blanket muffin”) there are two Christmas choices: one of them is vegan and one isn’t. And for that privilege, you do end up paying a little bit more.

However, the content isn’t necessarily greater for that money: the Leon wrap is if anything somewhat thin and lightly padded. However, it feels virtuous (sort of the selling point for the company), and more enticingly, there’s definite flavour there. The menu talks up its sweet potato falafel and toasted pine nuts (expect a bunch of them down the bottom of the wrapper), but the good work is done by the sage and onion mayo in this concoction (sure, there’s cranberry, but it feels a little less heavy-handed than with some other Xmas veggie options).

If you’re feeling flush, it could be worth the effort.

14
Dec 17

The 18th Freaky Trigger Annual Between Christmas And New Year Pub Crawl: The Fleet Street Up Index Finger

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FTBCANYPB17

The Pub Crawl turns 18 – old enough to see a Tarantino film legally if it should so desire.

Every year, on the 29th December* between Christmas and New Year I run a pub crawl in a geographical location and this year it is time to follow the old dame of the presses, Fleet Street. The hot metal may have now cooled, but there are still tales to tell… And of course pubs of architectural interest. Truth be told there are twice as many pubs on this route, so if any are closed (a pub crawl tradition) we will have somewhere to go.

So we start at the Black Friar, next to Blackfriars Tube/Train/Bridge, then wend on and off Fleet Street to end at the Edgar Wallace. Here’s the route in full below the cut:

12
Dec 17

TFTACOXS* – December 12: M&S Chestnut Roast Wrap

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If buying sandwiches from a pharmacy seemed alien to me, I wonder what I would have thought about department stores selling them. I learned what Marks and Sparks was on the same tram journey back from Meadowhall that I learned what aubergine was (it was being used to describe a pair of unpurchased trousers, rejected for their colour). I had already learned that pants meant undies, and trousers indeed pants. Piece of cake, this English.

Nowadays, I solely consider M&S Simply Food, indeed. Thanks to their taunting adverts and fancy scran, I tend to think of their lunches as a tiny treat yo’self indulgence. Their first vegan wobs offering is a wrap – red pepper tortilla filled with carrots, spinach and chestnut/mixed grains, with grape & cranberry chutney to glue it all together.

Ewan wasn’t overly impressed with the textured tortilla, and found the contents unevenly distributed with many too-carroty bites, overall rating it disappointing. That wasn’t a problem with my wrap, but it was pretty small and not very filling. I did like the use of chestnuts – very xmassy – but I found it a bit too virtuous and not quite within the spirit of the xmas sanger.

TFTACOXS* – December 11: Pret Ham Hock, Stuffing And Apple

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ham hock *The Freaky Trigger Advent Calendar Of Xmas Sandwiches OF COURSE

Pret’s Christmas sandwich line may be the one to beat, but it is not without flaws. One particular recurrent problem gives anger to the Sandwich Gods: Pret continually use very crumbly ingredients. Crumbliness is a Bad Thing in sandwich terms particularly if – as is surely the case with Pret! – a sizeable chunk of your customers will be eating them at their desks. Keyboards and jumpers beware – there is no controlling the crispy onions in the Christmas Feast.

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.