FT

15
Dec 17

TFTACOXS: Dec 14: Boots Festive Triple

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Earlier in the year I either had a single hallucinogenic episode brought on by the cramped refrigerated conditions of the Boots ‘chiller’, OR – and this seems far less likely – Boots brought out a “tuna mojito” sandwich. I have photographic evidence but in the world of fake news what if FKA Twigs put it in there as REVENGE for my lack of comfort with her own delight in her explicit sexuality???*

Nonetheless I choose to believe both my memory and my solid evidence and believe in the tuna mojito existence. Because if it DID exist, then the world as we know it has changed beyond belief – at least in the realm of sandwiches! We can have a bloody mary sandwich (tomato bread! peppery filling! celery – ok no – the worst). A martini wrap which you have to shake or stir yourself? Olives could be involved! A mixed “Smarties” brand toastie could be added to the deserts section (would it make the bread rainbow coloured? I am desperate to know this and if you know the answer please respond with evidence in the comments thx). And then when it comes around to CHRISTMAS SEASON – wow – what could they POSSIBLY come up with!

Which is why I am a little DISAPPOINTED this xmas season that the Boots festive range is as Steady as it is. It is plentiful, but nothing completely mad in there. I believe the maddest is probably the M&S “Christmas Pudding Smoothie” – but how can it be left to M&S to out-crack the rest of the seasonal lunch offerings huh??
NONETHELESS because I am a brave little soldier it still seems worthwhile to try the biggest firepower offering, the FESTIVE TRIPLE: Turkey and Stuffing, Ham Hock and Plum Chutney, Cheddar and Red Onion Chutney. On with the review, even though it doesn’t contain any gingerbread sherbert, or Baileys infused mayonnaise, or cheese made from Orangina…

ITEM: BIG POINTS for Boots in their curse breaking efforts by omitting the dread CRANBERRY from this sandwich. Instead of cranberry there is “plum chutney”, and “red onion chutney”. Neither of these chutneys are particularly distinguishable to me and might as well be called “mild scraping of sugar goo”. If you must have anything which isn’t butter (or Vitalite – word to my vegans!) on your sandwich, and it has to be sweet (and for some reason isn’t tomato ketchup) then “mild scraping of sugar goo” is the best you can get. And it’s not CRANBERRY! The MSOSG is fine whether it’s matched with HAM HOCK or with CHEDDAR.

ITEM: it’s cheddar, not BRIE! Thank you Boots!! I love brie, but other cheeses remain available, despite the season! And an extra special shoutout goes to the sterling avoidance of the particular cheese based christmas horror which is “cheese with fruit bits in”. Especially CRANBERRIES – shudder. Not that any festive sandwich has yet dared take this step – if they did it would be war – but a pivot to cheddar is to be APPLAUDED in these challenging times. Tick!

ITEM: let’s talk about ham hock. Very popular in festive sandwiches this year. Why? Is it because gammon is somehow considered festive, despite the fact that NO-ONE eats it? READER(s)! If you eat gammon at Christmas please raise your hands in the comments and we can do a head count. Im guessing ham hock is an easier sell than just shoving a slice of gammon between two pieces of holly-flavoured bread (U&K QUESTION: what does holly taste like anyway? Is it poisonous? Can it be the chia seed fo 2018? Just wondering). And if you call it gammon then you MUST serve it with an egg (or pineapple if you are a BEAST) and ham hock veers away from this telling choice. Anyway, it’s just lumpy crumbly ham? It tastes fine.

ITEM: turkey and stuffing. UH OH! On checking my reference photo of the ingredients I note that the turkey one DOES contain a tiny bit of cranberry sauce. 2.5%, to be precise. Is this small enough to be negligible? I couldn’t identify it in particular, unlike the sopping drenched berry-festival from Pret. So cranberry haters can be relatively fine with this.

ITEM: BREAD. Malted bread. Sure! Sturdy enough, not that strange “fake toasted” that the “club sandwich” brigade tend to thiink is even a thing.

ITEM: it’s a triple sandwich. I like the symmetry of a the triple for a christmas sandwich. Eve, Day and Boxing. If I had to pick an order it would be: HAM, TURKEY, CHEESE. For full journalistic integrity I must report I ate them in the order given (an incorrect order) of TURKEY, HAM, CHEESE.

FINAL ITEM: temperature of sandwich. This is not a common review point to all sandwiches but it MUST be mentioned for Boots in particular. If you refer to the mojito wrap, you can see that it’s got so much condensation in it that I’m tempted to dob them in to Trading Standards for not including it as an ingredient. This sandwich, like all Boots sandwiches, was VERY COLD – but this worked for it! The cheddar can withstand a robust chilling, as can the turkey – the ham hock felt a little dried out, but given no-one really knows what ham hock is anyway, I think it gets away with it.

CONLUSION: who knew – the Boots triple sandwich is actually PRETTY GOOD! Combine it with the meal deal and you can even get an Orangina to go with it. I’ll be keeping a FIRM EYE on Boots in 2018 to assess the insanity/cocktail fusion levels, and perhaps next year we’ll see the eggnog foccaia?

MERRY CONGRATU-CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

*makes me want to put on an extra jumper. it’s my problem, not hers! good for you FKA twigs!

12
Dec 17

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

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59faebb31c327e00013f411f_marks-and-spencer-vegan-plant-basedIf 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.

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.)

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.

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.