Wednesday, January 26

The Holiday Taste Test Challenge: The Chef vs. the Critic | Christmas food and drink


Breakfast

Try Buck’s Difference Fizz Jam
340g, € 1.60, sainsburys.co.uk
Ravinder My late father liked marmalade, like ham and pineapple, it was a relic from his student years in England. I can almost see him scraping the remains of this jar onto his toast now, a dense set with bits of rind, a cheeky smell of alcohol and just as bittersweet as my memories of him. ★★★★
Jay Buck’s fizz is champagne with orange juice. Since a traditional jam is made with oranges, to justify the name of the product it would have to offer a touch of drunkenness. There are none. ★★

breakfast

Asda reindeer buns
6, £ 1, asda.com
Ravinder No cheesy Rudolph-shaped pastry cutter can save this dream of good twisting bread – a flaccid, flavorless texture, like chewing on a flat tire. 0 stars
Jay It’s a well done bun. In the form of a reindeer head. For Christmas. What’s not to like? ★★★★

Marks & Spencer Triple Chocolate Panettone
750g, £ 10, marksandspencer.com
Ravinder A middle finger to years of Italian baking tradition: raisins and candied fruit are ridiculously replaced by a chocolate glaze with saccharin and white chocolate chips. ★
Jay I have a sweet tooth so I wouldn’t say no to this, but it’s not a panettone. The hard dark chocolate frosting, white chocolate tips and liquid chocolate center instead of the shell mean it’s a cake. Couldn’t toast. ★★★

Cookies and cakes

Taste the Difference Sticky Caramel Pudding Shortbread Cookie Rounds
500g, £ 10, sainsburys.co.uk
Ravinder Submersible enough with a fair amount of dates, but proper shortbread leaves a handful of butter crumbs to scoop up with the padded tip of your index finger; these did not leave a speck. Smells like 10 caramel syrup bombs at a well known coffee chain. Harmful to tooth enamel. ★★★
Jay A pretty good cookie, but a few dates and a little caramel don’t make a sticky caramel pudding, nice as the box is. ★★

Heston from Waitrose The Night Before Christmas Mince Pies
6, £ 3.50, waitrose.com
Ravinder An attractive little dough disc that fits nicely in the palm of your hand. Drunk, fruity, spicy with aniseed with delicious pastry, it reminded me of a fig roll. It tastes like a toasted night by the fire. ★★★★★
Jay Excellent, short pastry and a filling filling, but there is too much of the former and not enough of the latter. The spiced sugar for dusting is a nice touch. ★★★

pastry

Specially selected butter sloe mince pies topped with flaked almonds
6, £ 2.49, aldi.co.uk
Ravinder Attractive, golden and buttery pastry. Generous toasted almonds. I can’t taste sloe gin or much alcohol, more like a tart pie baked in flavor, but delicious to eat anyway. ★★★★
Jay Brilliant taste, almost sorbet. Great pastry shop. A really nice mince pie, even if it has nothing to do especially with sloe gin. ★★★★

Appetizers

Co-operative irresistible baked potato hand-cooked fries
150 g, € 1.70, coop.co.uk
Ravinder A great hit of rosemary and the crunchy bits of roasts that every domestic goddess aspires to. A little salty, but reader, I scoffed at these by the handful. ★★★★
Jay French fries made with potatoes that taste like baked potatoes? Well, no. They mostly taste like rosemary, which is fine as much as possible, but not what is promised. ★★

Co-op Irresistible garlic and parsley sharing bread with camembert
290g, £ 4, coop.co.uk
Ravinder Once cooked, it was more camembert soup than seductive, thin, austere, mean snot, none of the things I want for Christmas. The bread was clearly harmless. ★★
Jay I looked suspiciously at this, but in truth, it works and quickly disappeared. A fun and useful addition to the table. ★★★★

Pork pie flooded with blueberries and cooperative irresistible port
440g, £ 4, coop.co.uk
Ravinder My cake expectations are sky high (thanks to Calum Franklin’s insta feed), but this one is pretty good. Great color in the gelatin, conceited and self-indulgent golden star decoration, artisan feel in the robust and flavorful pastry, and the sage-rich pork filling that is generous and as dense as a shot. If you are fond of pigs, this is one to complain about. ★★★★
Jay A nice piece of pork pie, with a cracking hot water puff pastry crust and an excellent balance of sweet gelatin and well seasoned meat. This has been done by someone who knows exactly what they are doing. ★★★★★

bread, etc.

Asda Extra Special 6 Double Chili Pigs in Blankets
216g, € 2.75, asda.com
Ravinder Pigs in blankets are my favorite part of Christmas dinner – pig nuggets of Christmas cheer that distract from an unsuccessful turkey. These spicies aren’t terrible when you lose the weird half jalapeño jacket that is still undercooked after 20 minutes in the oven. ★★★
Jay Of course, you could buy fresh spicy sausage, bacon, and jalapenos yourself and put them together, but they’ve done it for you. If these were hanging around a party, I’d make fun of everyone. ★★★★

Waitrose Breaded Baking Vegan Melts with Red Currant Sauce
£ 4,200g, waitrose.com
Ravinder A good portion of passive-aggressive on a plate for the vegan guest who’s being a nuisance by not eating the Bronze Turkey Cups like everyone else. Coagulated interior and rancid flavor, but a star for the nice, even pané of crisp, golden breadcrumbs. ★
Jay All my experiences with vegan “cheese” let me murmur one word: why? The score is due to my understanding that some people might appreciate this. I am not one of them. ★★

Fishy stuff

suspect

Waitrose No.1 Seafood and Lobster Paté Thermidor
150 g, £ 6, waitrose.com
Ravinder Rich, delicious, and creamy with good-sized chunks of seafood – it was love at first bite. You need little more than thin slices of toast, a squeeze of lemon, and a glass of something uplifting. ★★★★★
Jay It is not a pate. It is a dripping, tasteless liquid, and an insult to the words “lobster” and “thermidor.” File it in “when new product development doesn’t work properly.” 0 stars

Marks & Spencer Scottish Salmon ‘Pastrami’
100g, £ 5.50, marksandspencer.com
Ravinder Adorable and generously thick slices of fatty salmon, but what tastes like trucks full of table salt beats anything else. I had to drink pints of water immediately after eating this. ★★
Jay I was suspicious of this, but since pastrami is smoked and spiced meat, it made sense that salmon could be treated the same way. Excellent texture and good curing. Could have been a bit spicier, but hey. ★★★★

Seasonings

Sainsbury's Pigs in Mayonnaise Flavored Blankets

Sainsbury pigs in blankets May
280ml, 95p, sainsburys.co.uk
Ravinder An appropriate seasoning for the Grinch. Arriving at a bargain dumpster / dump near you. 0 stars
Jay A standard mayonnaise from the swamp that hasn’t even greeted a pig. It’s just puffed up with artificial smoke flavor. ★

cheese

Waitrose Coastal Truffle Cheddar
200g, £ 3, waitrose.com
Ravinder Horrible oily texture and tasted more like minced mushrooms and sour milk than a good time in Alba. Not even a hint of truffle. Like losing ten coins and finding a pound, disappointing. 0 stars
Jay Great cheddar cheese, but there’s only a hint of truffle if you suck it, and who wants to suck on cheese? ★★★

Tesco Finest Port infused aged blue Stilton
250g, £ 3, tesco.com
Ravinder I confess that I am a Stilton dodger so this was never going to be a winner. There’s no sign of the harbor, but it’s a spicy, woolly, creamy number – great if that’s what floats your boat of old. ★★
Jay A quality stilton with a nice sweet drunk kick. A solution for anyone who doesn’t need the stilton round size that you would normally need if you wanted to port feed it. ★★★★

cheese

Marks & Spencer Cheese Pasta Box
775g, £ 25, marksandspencer.com
Ravinder If this cheese board had a personality type, it would please people. Strong cheddar, Leicester red, brie, and veiny blue, plus some juicy dried fruit and sweet nuts, mean no one will be left hungry. Minus one star for the packaging. ★★★
Jay I was suspicious of this, but for a small home it is a great way to have a variety of quality cheeses. ★★★★

Sweets and chocolates

Specially Selected Handmade Pink Gin Marshmallows
100g, £ 1.79, aldi.co.uk
Ravinder It smells like pink strawberry delight from a Quality Street box that makes me dizzy with nostalgia – I could almost hear the rustle of pink cellophane wrap – but it tasted like toilet bowl freshener. The thin layer of milk chocolate was the only saving grace. ★
Jay There is a simple test with many of these products – would you know what it must be like if you hadn’t read the label? In this case, the answer is no. A perfectly acceptable chocolate covered and slightly fruity marshmallow. ★★

Selection of milk, black and white chocolate from the M&S Collection
440g, £ 15, marksandspencer.com
Ravinder Presented as a beautiful box of chocolate paints – decent chocolate and good flavors, aside from the strange raspberry white chocolate that brought me back to my mother, who was medicating me with Calpol when I had been ill. ★★★★
Jay An elegant and beautifully presented collection, made with well tempered chocolate that cracks at room temperature. Great fillings too. I would love to receive this and will mourn his passing. ★★★★★

crashes

Asda Extra Special Sour Cherry Nougat Bar
100 g, £ 2, asda.com
Ravinder It looked shiny and attractive enough, but it was horribly sweet, chewy and sticky and left a gummy residue on my teeth that was impossible to remove. Well, at least my jaw worked. ★
Jay Good nougat and cherry flavor, but if you use the word “bitter”, I want acidity, and there isn’t. ★★

Drinks

Tesco Finest Sparkling Sloe and Pressé Plum
750ml, £ 2, tesco.com
Ravinder Disgusting taste of Parma violets mixed with acetone, like an old woman’s delicate drawer. This went straight to the sink. 0 stars
Jay A burst of sweetness and fruitiness at first, which is quickly replaced by the hit of artificial sweeteners that vibrate the tongue. I know why they are used; that doesn’t make them pleasant. I had to drink water to get rid of the taste. 0 stars

drinks

Tesco Finest Prosecco Valdobbiadene DOCG
75cl, € 10, tesco.com
Ravinder Powder, bitter and too fizzy: it reminds me of the time a bullet-sized malaria pill was shoved down my throat. ★
Jay A useful, semi-dry prosecco. Not too sweet to shake your teeth. ★★★

Asda Extra Special Vintage Champagne Brut
75cl, € 30, asda.com
Ravinder A cool, fruity, easy-to-listen track that’s so charismatic it practically does jazzy hands. ★★★★
Jay If the word “vintage” really matters to you, then this is a reasonably priced option for a delicious sponge cake and fresh champagne. But there are many equally useful and cheaper champagne options. ★★★


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