pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2010

For those new to the club, this page is where you will find the latest mince pie reviews, the thrilling climax that is the Pie-Offs, along with graphic crumbshots and introductory twaddle. Clear? Good.

Bring on the pies!

Check out the final standings in the group stages league table.


The Pie Club Pie-Offs 2010

There were some big names missing from Pie Club this year, with recent semi-finalists Duchy and Walker's shunning their usual stockists in favour of a low profile and 2007 champions Somerfield sadly no more despite their store's continued high street presence. There were newcomers to fill the void, mind, with border raiders from Australia and Iceland debuting alongside regional hopefuls Booth's and Waterfield's with varying degrees of success.

It's crunch time now, though, with the 25 pies from the group stage whittled down to just four.

This is the Pie-Offs.

The draw was made shortly after lunchtime on Tuesday December 21st, with borderline giddy Waterfield's enthusiast Dianne Wright Wright Wright drawing the home pies and resolute pie virgin Paul Sutch the away.

This is what it comes down to

M&S Luxury versus Tesco Finest

M&S Collection versus Waterfield's Luxury

Three is very much the magic number, with ties played out over three bites, before a panel of three judges and on a best-of-three basis. In the unlikely event of a tie, we'll be in all manner of bother.


Semi Final One

M&S Luxury(LUX) v Tesco Finest (TES)

Tuesday 21st December 2010.

Today's panel is made up of JC of Pie Club, Matthew Strong of Newton le Willows and rookie season second opinionator Dan Sutton of West Didsbury.

Finalists in 2008 and an ill-conceived flourish of the pastry cutter shy of making a return to the post season in 2009, M&S Luxury will be out to repeat their Pie Off success of 2004. Standing in their way are one-time also-rans Tesco Finest, who posted a career best effort last year before showing further improvement in this season's group stage. Shrewdies who were on early will be watching from behind the couch.

First Bite:

LUX gets us underway, looking a bit overdone in the harsh glare of the Pie Off spotlight. Pastry is a bit heavy going and the filling barely gets a look-in early doors. TES seizes its chance with a crisp combination of buttery pastry and gently boozy vine fruit chew and suddenly there's a shock on the cards.

LUX 0, TES 1 (1-2)

Second Bite:

Shaken by the early setback LUX tries to rally. The pastry continues to be more hindrance than help but brandy and port finally break through and the subsequent chew is a long and satisfying one. TES launches a pastry-led counter with buttery notes and a sugar-crisp roof but its innards struggle to go the gallop as the pace quickens.

LUX 1, TES 1 (2-1)

Final Bites:

With the contest on a knife edge LUX sends the big, booze-sodden fruits to the front and pastry relaxes its grip to give the cinnamon-tinged citrus tang its head. With its fragile pastry and lightly-spiced marmalade bind, the TES response is a more understated one, festive spirit in particular keeping a lower profile than in the group stages.

LUX 2, TES 1 (3-0)

It was looking nip and tuck there for a while but M&S Luxury overcame a slow start to seal a place in the final. Tesco Finest put up a plucky challenge but, with big name player Courvoisier VS bottling it on the big stage, it just wasn't to be for the boys in blue and white.

Despite going through, Luxury will have to step things up for the final after a performance described by Matt Strong as comfortably reassuring without great thrills.

So will we have our third all-M&S final in as many years? Find out in tomorrow's second semi final.

 

Semi Final Two

M & S Collection (COL) v Waterfield's Luxury (WAT)

Wednesday 22nd December 2010

Once again a panel of three sit, with JC of Pie Club, Michelle Allbright of Bolton and Chris Tighe of Chadderton deciding who will face M&S Luxury in the final.

Connoisseur in all but name, the M&S Collection will be looking to follow an imperious group stage performance by securing what most onlookers will consider to be a Pie Club hat trick. Can Waterfield's Luxury confound anti-biscuit critics to stem the tide?

First Bite:

COL is fast out of the blocks, opening with pastry all crisp on the outside and velvet soft within, and following up quickly with a luxuriously moist, nutty chew and powerful alcohol kick. WAT rocks the most potent Viennese attack since Savicevic at Rapid in the late 90s, but beyond the shortbread lid there's worryingly little going on. Inadvertent inhalation of the caster sugar topping almost sparks respiratory chaos.

COL 1, WAT 0 (3-0)

Second Bite:

Sensing a quick win, COL piles on the pressure, leading with rapid fire brandy and port combinations before throwing in apricot and almond amid an unusually moist filling chock full with yuletide goodies. WAT's thick, buttery biscuit continues to dominate its woefully outnumbered innards. Booze makes a spirited attempt to get in the game but there just isn't enough going on in here to get competitive.

COL 2, WAT 0 (3-0)

Final Bites:

No DeSean Jackson-style showboating for COL, who keeps it honest all the way to the line. Beautifully engineered pastry throws butter shapes right to the end as booze and spice dance a beguiling last dance around an array of plump festive fruits. WAT is reeling, more biscuit now than pie, broken and defeated. A solitary raisin stands in futile defiance of the inevitable denouement. This is brutal.

COL 3, WAT 0 (3-0)

M&S Collection emerges victorious from arguably the most one-sided contest in Pie Off history, as first season challengers Waterfield's blow it by turning out a substandard batch for the biggest day of their career. A paucity of filling and an overreliance on their expensive European import proved their undoing as the Collection called upon years of experience at the highest level to coast home.

So that's that, then. An all Magic and Sparkle final for the third year running, with current incumbents M&S Collection (nee Connoisseur) putting their title on the line against store colleagues M&S Luxury, who need to leave behind an unconvincing semi final performance if they are to be crowned Pie Club champions for the first time since 2004.

 

The Grand Final 2010

M&S Luxury (LUX) v M&S Collection (COL)
Thursday 23nd December 2010

With chronic pastry fatigue and acid indigestion already kicking in ahead of a week of seasonal indulgence, Pie Club comes together for one last big push. Putting the Gaviscon aside for twenty minutes or so are JC of Pie Club, John Lau of Bury and Michelle Allbright of Bolton.

M&S Collection enters the arena all shiny and tall with a flawless qualifying campaign behind him. M&S Luxury follows, slightly squatter but considerably broader at the shoulder. As snow blankets the country, it's like Balboa v Drago in Russia all over again. If he pies, he pies.

First Bite:

LUX gets the final underway with a pastry assault genuinely worthy of the all-butter tag. The innards make a tentative early foray, sending out a warning shot of gently warming brandy alongside confident cinnamon. COL is straight in there playing to his strengths as crisp pastry gives way thrillingly to an alcohol-soaked inner sanctum. There's not much between them at this early juncture.

LUX 0, COL 1 (1-2)

Second Bite:

Pastry remains a real force for LUX but the filling really comes into its own on the second bite. Orange steps up to reinforce the smooth presence of port, and brandy is a gentle influence among the vine fruits rather than their driving force. COL just uncorks the bottle and sits back to enjoy the show, with heady booze overpowering all but fruits big enough to stand their ground.

LUX 1, COL 1 (2-1)

Final Bites:

Down to the final bites, then, and LUX's brittle pastry easily gives up its charms and allows port and orange to tantalize their way unchecked across the tongue. Fruit and nut work tirelessly to reward to chew and citrus peel puts in a zingy appearance at the last knockings. COL has found its stride, too the pastry is a delight and the all-powerful booze looms over the vast fruits and chunky almond shards like Mount Doom over Middle Earth. They've found a formula and they're working it relentlessly, but will it be enough?

It all comes down to this

A good engine remarked Lau, confirming the Group Stage suspicion that he watches too much Top Gear.

The true embodiment of Christmas in a pieit doesn't just rely on its boozy warmth to woo, slurs Allbright from under the table.

A worthy champion, albeit with a serious drink problem, cautions JC.

LUX 1, COL 2 (1-2)


With opinion divided all the way to the finish in as close a contest as we could ever have envisaged, was pushed to its very limits by M&S Luxury, who was just a single vote shy of springing one of the all time great Pie Off surprises. Hats off, though, to our three-in-a-row champion.

An even bigger thank you than usual to Simon Wilson, who has even taken time out from a holiday on the other side of the world to ensure the Pie Club technical department runs smoothly. Thanks, too, to PC, who set us on the road to annual mincemeat poisoning some eleven years ago. Finally, thanks to all the second opinioners who prevent pie rating from becoming an exact science year upon year. You know who you are.

Have a brilliant Christmas and a very happy New Year
Until next time
JC

 

Pie reviews - group stages


With Walker's very much conspicuous by their absence from this year's contest, it falls to Northern food heroes Booth's to close the Group Stage door behind them.
For those who await the Pie Offs with breath very much abated, an inconveniently timed wedding means you'll have to bear with us until early next week. Sorry.
 Booth's Luxury Brandy  Purest Green
Booth's Luxury Brandy Purest Green
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Booth's Luxury Brandy 15th Dec 2010 £2.39 6
Container Style
Almost exactly the same as Booth's red box, except green. It seems a right-angled triangle of snowflakes signifies a step-up in quality for Booth's, who still include the word "luxury" in their description just to be on the safe side.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Exactly the same as Booth's red boxer. Like a massive pastry tiddlywink that's just too big for the cup. With sugar on top. And goo coming seeping from the joints. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Exactly the same as Booth's red boxer. The precarious lid remains a cause for concern but the smooth all-butter finish and pleasing cloy-free crumble remains joyfully intact. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
The well hard Spot the Difference game comes to an abrupt end once the innards are revealed. The fruits remain a bit on the small side but the brandy operates on two levels, applying a warming lift to the citrus and clove combination while, at the same time, drying out some of the gratuitous overjam that blighted its red box twin. A standing ovation for the unusually strong glace cherry showing. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Red Box+(Booze+Cherries)=Luxury 18
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
A frost covered, rustic looking pie wearing a dodgy flat cap. The innards are moist, and cherry and brandy do a Christmas jig but the pastry is a bit overbearing and it's all a bit of an anti-climax. Like checking in to a swanky Bethlehem hotel only to be told your bed's in the barn. 16
Total Marks 85
Any Other Business Sad to see the Luxury Brandy model scoring two points less than the All Butter. Such are the vagaries of the second opinion.
Date Added 17th Dec 2010

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This is Waitrose's red box nominee.


Apologies for cutting to the chase so quickly, but time is very much of the essence.
 M.O.R.  Waitrose Mince Pies
M.O.R. Waitrose Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose 12th Dec 2010 £1 6
Container Style
Standard issue session pie red with Waitrose's fancy big number six once again taking a prominent role. For reasons that are unclear, the crumbshot has the feel of a late-70s Christmas do for posh dentists, who doubtless all cleaned their teeth post-pie before shamelessly snogging their receptionists.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Not a bad looking pie at all, all broad and browned with decent depth and gently fluted edges. The lid motif looks a bit like a fleur-de-lis, though it's taken a bit of a kicking in transit and could have been virtually anything. My guess is a twinkling, twinkling little star. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
Waitrose play it very safe with their red box shortcrust. A no frills, soft and light affair with distant echoes of butter and a side helping of minor cloy. The very definition of middling. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
Sultanas built like planets ensure the currants and raisins keep it clean as they try to get off with apple and apricot to a soundtrack of low key orange and spice. It's more high school disco than Manumission in here, to be honest, but it's alright. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The sort of basic fare you might expect, and to some extent accept, from a more proletariat outlet but, coming from a store that actively shuns riff-raff, this is a major disappointment. 15
Second Opinion - PC, Old Pies Network Marks out of 25
A long overdue box revamp for the underachieving Middle-Englander has managed to engender a totally new ambience. Why they chose to recreate the top table at Strangeways' 1988 Christmas Day lunch is beyond me though. A dirty, colourless table is dressed with empty glasses and a skirting board back-drop.
The pie manages to avoid lid blight - a ghost of Christmas Past for this contender - but suffers from a deeply unpleasant soggy bottom, made worse by having an immeasurably thick foundation. The mouth sensation is more that of a Star Bar (without being shot through with peanuts). Clag and cloy abound, with no discernable spice redemption. Only offer these if part of a cruel Community Service ritual.
11
Total Marks 72
Any Other Business These pies weren't even on display in the shop. A store assistant (or "partner", to use Waitrose parlance) had to nip in the back to get them. "I suppose I should put these out now", he said on his return.

This wasn't in October, this was last Friday.

Bonkers, or what?
Date Added 16th Dec 2010

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Long in the vanguard of the battle against the multinational supermarket conglomerate and family owned for five generations, heartland outposts like Clitheroe, Kendal and the once mighty Poulton-le-Fylde hold their collective breath ahead of Booth's long awaited Pie Club debut.
 Pie of Lancashire  Booth's All Butter
Pie of Lancashire Booth's All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Booth's All Butter 14th Dec 2010 £2.19 6
Container Style
Out on their own in a conformist world of plastic pie windows and graphic crumbshots, Booth's laugh in the face of pie box convention to bring us an image of Bertie Bassett dragging his daughter round the shops.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Nicely sized and generously sugared but it looks like the lids were put on from the other side of the kitchen as part of an impromptu Christmas game. Innards oozing outwards give these fellows the kind of homemade appearance that can only hold them back at the business end. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
The lid requires extra care to avoid losing a pie and gaining a tart, but this chap belies his appearance with a crispness that turns quickly to crumble, and levels of butteryness hitherto unencountered in a red box hopeful. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Sadly more in keeping with first sight than first bite. Small fruits blended with marmalade, with a handful of cloves thrown in to remind everyone what time of year it is. Not a disaster, exactly, but certainly lacking inspiration. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Hotchpotch in appearance with a run-of-the-mill filling that lets its delicious shortcrust casing down quite badly. Disappointing, because I got a bit giddy when I saw the box. 16
Second Opinion - Ron Callow, Winsford Marks out of 25
Light and buttery pastry complemented with a filling of really well balanced flavours. There could have been a little more mincemeat but, overall, this is a minor criticism. A very good mince pie. 22
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business In case any of you are hanging on for those hardy perennials from Walker's, there's every chance they've blown it with some pretty shoddy distribution. Tick tock, jock.
Date Added 14th Dec 2010

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This time last year Netto got all bullish and sent us some freebies over which to run the rule. Sadly, we gave them a bit of a kicking and they appear to have fallen out with us now. Not to worry, though - we try not to hold grudges here at Pie Club and Netto is pretty cheap so we went and bought some anyway.
 There is Nothing Like a Dane  Netto Luxury Brandy
There is Nothing Like a Dane Netto Luxury Brandy
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Netto Deep Filled Luxury Brandy 10th Dec 2010 £1.29 6
Container Style
Ever committed to "living life for less", Netto have shunned electricity to eat Christmas dinner by tealight. Four ashen pies make as merry as circumstance allow as a handful of cherry tomatoes look on, bemused. Black plastic inner, bagged.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A tidy pie in pale gold with a three-berry holly motif and fluted edges. Last year's entrant had alcohol spilling from every pore but this year's model seems to have calmed it down a bit. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Very soft and not especially good in the holding role, so far more Petrov than Muamba. Granted the analogy would stand up better if Petrov were sweet and buttery instead of balding and workshy. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
Blows preconceptions out of the water with its boozy warmth and Christmas tang. Orange tos and fros with brandy to create a lively backdrop to a varied chew put on by fair-sized fruits and plentiful hunks of walnut. The reclusive cherry puts itself on top with a rare public appearance. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Not at all suited to eating on the move unless you've a gob cavernous enough to get the whole thing down in one go. Structural shortcomings aside, though, Netto have put together a decent pie. It just doesn't stay together, that's all. 16
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Lancs Marks out of 25
Ding Dong Merrily on High! Don't get too giddy though, this pie wasn't that exciting. It was however, surprisingly good. Despite looking like it came from The Madame Tussauds for mince pies with its faintly plastic appearance, and ignoring the wavy edging that appeared to have been methodically thumbed by a member of the W.I. wearing surgical gloves for hygiene, this was an otherwise perfectly acceptable pie. And my very superficial objections to the pie might well be why it is the pie of choice for others. When it came to the true test, with my mouth and tongue as judges, this pie performed very well. It is a substantially sized pie with nicely yielding golden-tipped pastry filled with a satisfying and juicy medley of brandy soaked fruits and citrus bits, and a tinkle of festive spice. 16
Total Marks 82
Any Other Business Presumably in order to focus their efforts on bacon production, the Danes flogged Netto to Asda in May this year. With "integration" set for mid-2011, this may well be the last time they grace Pie Club with their presence.
Date Added 13th Dec 2010

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After years of domination in the Home Counties, Waitrose are currently moving north like Panzer divisions into Belgium. Though it remains to be seen if there'll be a market for the well-to-do grocer in the land of flat caps and whippets, more local availability certainly won't do their chances of Pie Club glory any harm. This is Waitrose's all-singing, all-dancing, all butter affair.
 Grim up North  Waitrose All Butter
Grim up North Waitrose All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose All Butter 10th Dec 2010 £2.29 6
Container Style
Last year's all black look has been replaced by a classy pale gold, with a massive but tasteful red number six for them as can't count pies through a plastic window. Unless I'm much mistaken, this is the first sans crumbshot box of the year.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Waitrose persevere with their attractive yet indescribable pie, all flat-topped and plain and bereft of anything whatsoever to talk about save for some tidy symmetrical cogging and a bit of sugar. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
The thick biscuit lid mounts a strong defence but persistence is rewarded with a rich butter crunch. The walls are a bit more forgiving but no less forthcoming with the relentless butter assault. Walker's influenced, if not manufactured, and a touch on the sickly side for my liking. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
There must be something about the sturdier pastry casing that dries the bejesus out of pie innards during the baking process. The fruits aren't nearly so plump as you might expect from a luxury range, the brandy has been reduced almost to the point of vapour, and there isn't nearly enough festively orange goo to bring the whole shebang together. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
One of the drier pies on the market this year, with the combination of short biscuit crust and parched cinnamon centre making liquid accompaniment very much a matter of life and death. 15
Second Opinion - Chris Tighe, Oldham Marks out of 25
Christmas is here! Ive been eating chocolates from behind miniature cardboard doors for 9 days and spent the morning watching a bunch of Santas race around a pond, but this festive beauty did what all those couldnt, it made Christmas 2010 arrive! Almost perfectly evenly shaped, baked so the rim was edged in orange, and the lack of design on the lid completely excused by just the right covering of sugar - the first look made me smile! Then bite number one turned that smile into a grin! Pastry almost crunchy and it crumbled just enough to keep the fun but stayed sturdy, looking after the fruity mince insides. The inside, full and rich, fruity with a boozy feel almost like a hot mulled wine, though, rather than brandy laced, counter-balanced well with the biscuit-like pastry. Enjoying first bite to last, the grin only left my face after picking the last of the pie from my back teeth! 24
Total Marks 88
Any Other Business Chris' second opinion is proof, if any were needed, that Pie Club is a far from exact science. Or he was having a bad day at the office and really needed that brandy.
Date Added 10th Dec 2010

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Partly due to some intensive lobbying by a dogged local, but mostly because our interest was piqued by an impressive performance from their luxury counterpart, today sees us having a crack at Waterfield's Traditional.
 Sweetie Pie  Waterfield's Traditional
Sweetie Pie Waterfield's Traditional
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waterfield's Traditional 7th Dec 2010 £2 6
Container Style
The double decker box augurs ill for Waterfield's - its last competitive outing came in last year's group stage when 1999 winners Greenhalgh's disgraced themselves with a white pepper pastry nightmare. Nice to see them adhering to red box convention, though, and their heart is in the right place, if nothing else.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Two sizeable air holes peer through the veritable epidemic of sugar on an otherwise unadorned lid. Nicely golden, but broad and flat, as if somebody with an especially big arse has sat on them. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
The "dusting" of sugar puts up a crisp front line resistance while the pastry beneath is short and very much to the point. Not unpleasant, but if you're looking for any depth of flavour beyond your common-or-garden sucrose, I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong pie. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
Packed to its admittedly low rafters with small but perfectly formed vine fruits, candied peel and nutty chunks, with the merest suggestion of cinnamon brushed aside by an all-out orange assault. Like drinking cordial without adding water. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
If you feel at home in the dentist's chair or have a particular penchant for food you can eat through a straw, this is the pie for you. Steer clear unless your faith in the tooth fairy remains endearingly undimmed. 14
Second Opinion - Martin Griffin, The Ship Marks out of 25
Not sh*t.


He's a man of few words, our Martin.
18
Total Marks 78
Any Other Business Interestingly, Waterfield's deployed the humble apostrophe on their Traditional box but dispensed with its services when it came to their Luxury livery. Maybe they just weren't sure.
Date Added 8th Dec 2010

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Today sees another Pie Club debutant take its chance at the sharp end. With no defrosting necessary, here is the entry from everybody's favourite frozen food retailer named after a bankrupt Scandinavian country.
 sland Djpur Fylla  Iceland Deep Fill
sland Djpur Fylla Iceland Deep Fill
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Iceland Deep Fill 6th Dec 2010 £1 6
Container Style
While their rivals seek to pull the wool with lovingly arranged, multi-coloured crumbshots bearing little or no resemblance to the actual product, Iceland have gone the other way, bracing us for what appears to be a prune pie on the understanding that anything else is seen as a bonus. Everything about the box suggests Christmas with Gipsy Lee on Blackpool Prom. Red plastic inner, no bag.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Quite a bonny pie considering they're being knocked out at 1.50 for two boxes. Well proportioned with a vague holly threeway on top and an even vaguer anti-clockwise cog at the edge. Golden all round with light bruising to the sides hinting at an oozy, if not boozy, do within. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Unpleasantly granular with a slightly earthy character and an understated sweetness that is all but suffocated by a dusty aftertaste and the cloy of overly doughy perimeter walls. 11
Filling Marks out of 25
Far more varied than the foreboding black slop on the box but, plump vine fruits and a generous sprinkling of candied peel aside, there isn't much going on in here. Festive spice is conspicuous by its absence and apricot's failure to shine hands lemon a rare and, ultimately, unsuccessful turn in the spotlight. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
As though Iceland had a duvet day and decided to do some baking, but couldn't be arsed to nip out for any ingredients that weren't in the cupboard. 11
Second Opinion - Chris Tighe, Oldham Marks out of 25
My first official pie rating of 2010 and what I was presented with was definitely above average size. As sceptical as I can be, this GI-pie felt like it was going to be worth the wait. However, first impressions can be deceiving! On closer inspection I was disappointed to see that the nice golden brown, festively printed lid, was only a quarter sugar-sprinkled. Not great for someone with as sweet a tooth as I have. Needless to say, I began to tuck in taking the sugary bit as my first bite. The pastry was spongy and moist, on the verge of cakey usually good in my books, but in this case it was too much and too savoury. The un-sweet stodge filled the mouth and bite on bite was a battle to get through. I tried to think about my opinion on the filling, and it seemed OK, but that was as far as my analysis could go as I kept being distracted by the pastry war with my jaw. Shame really, from feeling like a kid who came down at Christmas to see he had a present which was bigger than all his brothers and sisters, I ended up feeling like the one whod been given extra sprouts to work through at dinner. 14
Total Marks 66
Any Other Business Someone from the International Criminal Court at The Hague spent the best part of three hours on the site the other day after googling Lyons Mince Pies. To be honest, we weren't breaking our backs to review them this season, but we'll pull out all the stops now we know there's high level European interest.
Date Added 7th Dec 2010

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Those of you who've long since given the "Readers' Pies" page up as a bad job might be surprised to find we've just received our first submission for nigh on two years. Not only that, but it's also the first submission from anyone not involved in, or related to, Pie Club. Check out the excitement now. Or, better still, when you've read this. This is Waterfields Luxury.
 Enough life to fill a space cruiser?  Waterfields Luxury
Enough life to fill a space cruiser? Waterfields Luxury
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waterfields Luxury 3rd Dec 2010 £3 6
Container Style
A retro design in red and gold with a font size you could see from the moon if you were to squint a bit. The swirly number six cleverly mirrors the architecture displayed via the four-pie observation window. Pies are asked to fend for themselves in the absence of a plastic inner of any colour.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Lightly golden, worryingly translucent walls with a swirling lid blanketed by icing sugar. If you get really close to these you can almost see a tauntaun galloping across the icy wastes, muttering unintelligibly about wampas and Mediterranean pasties. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Whilst the walls are undeniably shortcrust, the lid comes on all Viennese shortbread. It's very pleasant, too. Very biscuity with more than a hint of butter and a melt-in-the-mouth quality that goes along way towards countering a thickness that would stifle under normal circumstances. The base could have stood another five minutes in the oven, but it just about gets away without. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Unusually luxurious for a high street bakery, with walloping great fruits, candied peel and a delightfully sharp marmalade tang underpinned by a distinctive apple leitmotif. The brandy and orange goo create enough seasonal liquor between them to carry the fruit and the cinnamon-led spicery is nicely judged. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Looking for pies to court tabloid controversy in light of Selfridge's omission from the competition? Echo Base, this is Rogue Two. I've found them. Repeat, I've found them. 20
Second Opinion - Brighty, ex-Hants Marks out of 25
This pie seems to have waltzed right out of a fairytale. The soft, sugar-powdered surface suggests you are about to enter a fantasy realm rather than scoff a Crimbo treat. The first bite is therefore rather perplexing - what is this? A luxury biscuit? A mince pie? a luxury biscuit AND a mince pie? Or what? And I'm not sure a mince pie is meant to be eligible for the 3-dunk test either. Beneath the snowy peak the moist filling appears to bulge threateningly as though it might burst its icy enclave. The mincemeat, although a little on the sparse side, is rich with exotic vine fruits and luscious brandy. Light overtones of apple cider offset the more dense fruit and alcohol flavours and harmonise meltingly with the buttery Viennese shortbread. My only concern is that it's more cake or biscuit than traditional mince pie. But perhaps this is what elevates it above the rest - a unique pie that will bring a sense of opulence and grandeur to any festive occasion. 24
Total Marks 102
Any Other Business Waterfields is a three generations, family-run bakery with 47 outlets throughout the North West of England. Parochial, you say? Sod off, the South kept Waitrose to itself for years!
Date Added 5th Dec 2010

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Not content with ditching Noemie for Dannii in the adverts, serial high street meddlers M&S have changed the name of their back-to-back Pie Club hero, the Connoisseur. Let's hope the telly downgrading hasn't been mirrored in the bakery. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the M&S Collection.
 That which we call a pie by any other name...  M&S Collection
That which we call a pie by any other name... M&S Collection
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Collection 24th Nov 2010 £2.99 6
Container Style
Plain gold with a two-tier viewing panel that affords each pie an insight into the outside world. A brown seal (of approval, not of Orkney) alongside the gushing description is the sole concession to artifartiness Simple without losing the regal air we've come to associate with these pies.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Smaller than last year, with the one-time trademark anti-clockwise cogging lovingly restored. The shimmer of comprehensive egg wash and minimalist sugar work around a single central air hole completes a look midway between the classic stylings of 2007 and the pork pie majesty of 2009. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Firm to the bite, with a pleasing crispness to the outside and an underlying texture you'd be more inclined to expect in a savoury pie crust were it not so shot through with sweet, buttery goodness. Bloody delicious, actually. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
Sizeable chunks of nut abound amid a myriad of plump, booze-infused fruits, with apricot taking on an unusually prominent but nonetheless welcome role in proceedings. The glistening velvet bind is as easy on the palate as it is on the eye, and the heady cocktail of brandy and port soothes rather than burns. 23
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Milan's reigning European Champions Internazionale are living proof of the perils of unnecessary tinkering. Thankfully, M&S looks to have emerged more Mourinho than Benitez. FORZA! 22
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
The shape and stature of the M&S Collection is not to everyone's taste - it has a presence that promises more prime steak than seasonal spiced mincemeat - but the first bite quickly dispenses with any preconceived prejudice as a crisp buttery hit lingeringly unfurls and echoes pleasurably around the oral cavity. Contact with mincemeat is soon made without recourse to full excavation gear. Even then, it would be worth it, as seasonal warmth emanates from a congregation of vine fruits and a citrus chorus peels out. The brandy and port undertones burn a welcoming path down the oesophagus, whilst the nutmeg and cinnamon notes say 'bring on the party!'. The M&S Collection is a pie to conquer all adversaries in this festive taste-off. 24
Total Marks 110
Any Other Business A bittersweet day for Magic and Sparkle - the Collection's masterclass means there'll be no place in this year's post season for a Pie Club legend, the M&S Classic.
Date Added 3rd Dec 2010

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Not sure what happened at tea time on Saturday, but Pie Club suddenly became the centre of the known universe just after six o clock. Perhaps it was the prospect of a Strictly/X-Factor double header striking fear into the hearts of a nation, or maybe one of those folk who measure their self-worth in Facebook friends inadvertently hit the 'Share' button. We can but speculate.


Anyway, today sees J Sainsbury take his third and final stab at 2010 Pie Club glory with his Organic four piece.
 ...but pie was sad on the inside  Sainsbury's Organic
...but pie was sad on the inside Sainsbury's Organic
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Organic 30th Nov 2010 £1.99 4
Container Style
Same as last year, with a bewildering array of information and boasting to the rear. Despite his sterling efforts getting Christmas presents to just about everyone in the world in a single night, Sainsbury's proclaim this to be "a traditional mince pie that's far too good for Santa". I hope he misses the miserable arroganti out this year.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The Sainsbury's English Dictionary defines organic as "cobbled together with scant regard for aesthetics". With its ill-fitting, three-quarter cogged lid, pallid demeanour and ventilation holes that appear to have been made with the blunt end of a pencil, there's not much danger of this fellow winning Best Turned Out. 12
Pastry Marks out of 25
Thick as fog and striking that unwanted accord between crisp and crumble. Nobody can accuse Sainsbury's of not doing their bit to keep the EU butter mountain down, but their diligence has produced an overly rich, creamy casing that carries more than just a hint of cheese. 11
Filling Marks out of 25
Intrepid lid lifters will recoil in horror at this scene of desiccation. A parched, brown/black landscape akin to leftover tapenade and devoid of all life save for apricot and ginger and the last vestiges of a brandy civilisation too far gone to engender joy. 8
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
The Grinch is back and he's stolen this pie's Christmas. Reminiscent of the fig roll nightmare that was 2008's Taste the Difference, though hearteningly only available in a pack of four. 8
Second Opinion - Brighty, Lancs Marks out of 25
A vacant, hollow-eyed face meets mine as I consider the Sainsbury's Organic pie. A haphazard smattering of sugar collects in clumps like dandruff about the frilled collar. The edge is cracked and broken. Feeling like I am about to make my first foray into cannibalism with the local tramp, I release pasty face from his jacket and defy his warped-eye stare to take my first bite. I'm surprised - the pastry has a bit of crunch and is sweet with a hint of butter. The pie doesn't emit the odour of a tramp, which is disappointing, for a hit of Dutch courage is what I need now I see the worst is yet to come - the contents look like a cross between a scarecrow and bird vomit, and the dry texture doesn't do anything to alleviate my fears. There are flavours of vine fruits, cinnamon and citrus zest, but it's as though they've been through the soup blender. Ultimately, the effect is one of waking up from a nightmare before Christmas in which you had no presents to find that, not only have you no presents, but that Rudolph has seen fit to vomit down your throat whilst you were in torpid slumber. This pie, I fear, is like The Ring - look it in the face at your peril. 5
Total Marks 44
Any Other Business The final word goes to Sainsbury's themselves, whose boxside proclamations were eerily prescient:


"Unlike the turkey, our organic pies won't be around for long".
Date Added 1st Dec 2010

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Apologies for what has been a most unseasonal pie vacuum - hopefully normal service will be resumed from hereon in.


I spied these hopefuls in a Shell garage after running out of petrol during an attempt to leave no stone unturned in my hunt for Spar mince pies. Quite possibly Australia's first foray into the cut and thrust of competitive festive baking, these are Sargents Mince Pies.
 YOU FLAMING GALAH!  Sargents Mince Pies
YOU FLAMING GALAH! Sargents Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sargents 26th Nov 2010 £1.49 6
Container Style
Claret and black halves with a no nonsense "6 mince pies" headline. The words "serving suggestion" appear next to a pie which seems to have been bitten in half and discarded. Why not give that a go if you're cooking Christmas dinner this year?
Appearance Marks out of 25
Neat and tidy while it remains in its silver container, all golden edged and starry. Like it's been hit by a truck by the time you've extracted it from the foil. 13
Pastry Marks out of 25
Low on flavour with all the structural integrity of a custard powder castle. For all their brushes and tweezers, even Tony Robinson's Time Team would struggle to keep this fellow intact. 8
Filling Marks out of 25
A mid-brown mulch punctuated by a single, barely detectable speck of candied peel. Low on spice but ultra sweet, as though thousands of crates of Orange and Apple Tango were employed in the rendering process. 9
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Started badly, had a bit of a wobble in the middle and went to pieces towards the end. Its not just the Ashes that will be staying here this Christmas. 8
Second Opinion - Edd Lodder, Prenton Park Marks out of 25
Since it is the season of goodwill the star on top looks nice, but apart from that this pie is horrible! The pastry tastes like it comes from a savoury pie with what looks like road kill in it. Since the pie is so difficult to get out of its foil tray it will also resemble road kill by the time you actually get it out to eat. Words cannot describe how bad this pie is. 5
Total Marks 43
Any Other Business It's not only the Aussies that take an interest, you know. One of our many visitors from the US apparently found us via the search engine keyword "cllubpiegwuns". Whatever it was you were looking for, I hope you enjoyed your visit and that the hangover isn't too brutal. Man, that Texas moonshine must be bad ass.
Date Added 29th Nov 2010

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Last season was tough to take for Morrisons, collared in the final strides of the group stages by subsequently-banned flash in the pan charlatans Selfridges. Will they see out the trip in 2010, or will they once again prove susceptible to a late lunge in the shadow of the post?
 Pride of Bradford  Morrisons The Best
Pride of Bradford Morrisons The Best
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons The Best 25th Nov 2010 £1.89 6
Container Style
Almost as if the box designers have taken last years template and shaken it up to see what happens. The crumbshot shows four drunken pies larging it on the cheeseboard, with one of their member spilling forth what appears to be some sort of Bolognese sauce. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Nicely browned anti-clockwise cogging around an expansive, ventilation-free dome. Bizarrely, the star motif is more Troy Aikman and Emmet Smith than Baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men, which really should be seen as a bad thing. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
The lid offers crisp resistance to the bite while the soft walls supply low-key butter notes and a residual sweetness. You wouldn't sit in front of the telly eating buckets of it, but then it's not supposed to be enjoyed on its own, is it? An understated, very much utilitarian encasement. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
Not nearly so full or so colourful as the crumbshot might have you believe, though careful inspection reveals glace cherry, candied peel and some pretty heavy duty walnut shrapnel in amongst the plump viners. Ginger plays the field on the palate, forming classic unions first with apple, then with brandy, who drifts in and out of proceedings like the ghost of Christmas parties past. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A solid enough performance, though one can't help but worry they haven't quite done enough to shake off the "nearly pie" tag. 19
Second Opinion - Louise Pearson, Warrington Marks out of 25
The pie crust had nice colour; I liked the little star
With a good dusting of sugar, not too much by far.
Yes the pie was pretty, and pleasing to the eye,
But when the teeth got in there, there was more air than pie.
The pastry tasted pasty; not so buttery too,
And the filling not so fruity; more like syrup goo,
The look of it was lovely, the inside not such heaven,
On a scale of one to ten I think I'd give it seven.
18
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business Many thanks to Louise for what I believe to be our first poetic second opinion. A splendid effort, though one can't help but wonder if she awarded 7 out of 10 in order to facilitate a rhyme with heaven.

A couplet with 18 out of 25 would have been an altogether clumsier affair.
Date Added 26th Nov 2010

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Relaunched in time for the festive season along with the 1,140 other products deemed worthy of the store's flagship tag, Sainsbury's Taste the Difference will today look to emerge triumphantly from an extremely lengthy spell in the doldrums.
 Similar to binary loadlifters  Sainsbury's TTD
Similar to binary loadlifters Sainsbury's TTD
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 23rd Nov 2010 £1.99 6
Container Style
A new plum-coloured box with a pretty pattern design to make Spirograph enthusiasts swoon. We are repeatedly, and somewhat redundantly, informed that these pies are "taste tested by customers", while the footnote "1 pie" makes a contrary appearance in the corner of what is quite clearly a six-pack. Brown plastic inner, bagged.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The Walkers involvement is immediately evident in these stout, broad-shouldered highlanders, who appear to have been hewn almost entirely from shortbread. They're the same as last year, though, which engenders trepidation rather than enthusiasm. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Those intrepid north-of-the-border biscuiteers must really hate the English. First glance may please but first bite ushers in that increasingly familiar, sickly-sweet, sub-butterscotch aftertaste that has blighted a succession of Sainsbury's bids. I don't like it. 13
Filling Marks out of 25
It's desolate in here. Half-filled with an arduous paste of once-proud vine fruits now recognisable only by the harrowing crack of their stalks. Burning ginger provides the closest approximation of seasonal warmth, and you can actually chew the brandy. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I'm as sick of Jamie Oliver as the next avid gastroviewer but it's high time Sainsbury's called on him and his five-a-day to save Christmas. 12
Second Opinion - PC, Ye Olde Pie Clubbe Marks out of 25
Like all Scots, and those born in the East Lancs Road corridor, Walkers' Pie Makers know that glamour isn't everything. These pies, provided to J Sainsbury's in good faith, loom on the plate like an unwashed caravan. Still, a thick bite will offer you a touch of citrus amid the spiceless vine, but then comes the underwhelming aftershock of sour spirit. I can't help but admire Walkers for throwing their energies (and first choice glug) into their own 'mincemeat tarts' rather than selling out to the Sassenach thru'pence. 16
Total Marks 71
Any Other Business Sainsbury's recommend pairing this pie with their Taste the Difference Mulled Wine. We second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth that. In fact, any sort of moisture you can lay your hands on can only help.
Date Added 23rd Nov 2010

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Today sees the return of Marks and Spencer Luxury, who has it all to prove following a disappointing display in 2009. With last year's controversial star hole consigned to the drawer marked "rubbish ideas we'll never use again", this new look mid-ranger will be looking to scale the kind of heights that saw it land the Pie Club title back in 2004.
 Vostizza meaning of zis?  M&S Luxury
Vostizza meaning of zis? M&S Luxury
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Luxury 19th Nov 2010 £2.29 6
Container Style
After four years of silver, M&S Luxury harks back to the glory days with a return to baby blue. There's still plenty of silver about, mind, and somebody is after getting lucky under the mistletoe. Christmas takes a surreal turn as three pie ghosts collar an unlucky Pac-man just a stride or two shy of power-pellet redemption.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Big buggers, with an unsightly dint in the base and an unprecedented pirate ship tiller motif on top. There's an abundance of crystallised sugar and the M&S ventilation experiments continue with three holes in triangle formation. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Deliciously short and so rich with butter as to border on creamy. The best pastry of the competition so far by some considerable distance. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
Magic and Sparkle once again come up trumps with a filling that more than justifies its Luxury status. Smooth port edges it on the palate but warming brandy accompanies you for the duration of this pleasing chew. Gargantuan sultanas, candied peel and a gaggle of the season's must-have Vostizza currants wallow in the binding tang, while cinnamon shows up most prominently in a understated display of festive spicery. I'm not entirely sure what purpose suet serves, but there's some of that, too. Smashing. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I was considering knocking a point or two off for yet another cherry no-show but that would have been churlish. An uncharacteristic pastry crisis derailed the Luxury challenge last year but this early showing suggests they might take some pegging back this time round. 22
Second Opinion - John Lau, Bury Marks out of 25
Well made with a certain Vorsprung durch Technik robustness about it and the smell of the buttery pastry wafting out of the snowflake top got the taste buds going big time. The mincemeat was firm with a soft spring to it making it moist and juicy when bitten into. I wholly enjoyed the experience - always better with a nice cup of tea and good company. Im sure this pie will be fighting strong for one of those Champions League places on offer again. Just like my car, it sounds like a Golf, it feels like a Golf, it drives like a Golf!! Oh, I actually do drive a Golf!!! And if you look carefully you can buy them for less than a Golf!!!!! 22
Total Marks 105
Any Other Business For those of you with an interest in this sort of thing, the Vostizza currant is a highly aromatic currant that is air-dried in the shade around the Gulf of Corinth, a deep inlet of the Ionian Sea that separates the Peloponnese from western mainland Greece.


Off the top of my head, obviously.
Date Added 22nd Nov 2010

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With David of London getting behind them last year and Luke from Preston tipping them up this, there's certainly no shortage of support out there for Tesco's ubiquitous blue and white stripes. After a godawful showing on the pastry front put paid to last year's challenge, the supermarket behemoth looks to bounce back with an apparently improved recipe in 2010. Let's see, eh?
 Cherry not included  Tesco Finest
Cherry not included Tesco Finest
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Finest 18th Nov 2010 £2 6
Container Style
Tesco's new look box is a variation on last year's theme, still rocking the same stylish silver and black colour scheme and three-pie viewing pane, but showing off their new recipe in a particularly vibrant crumbshot. The Courvoisier brand gets name-checked no fewer than seven times. Can I get a rewind?
Appearance Marks out of 25
Slightly squat in stature but broad of shoulder, like Ram Man of He Man fame if he were rendered in butter and flour. Nicely golden and well sugared with evidence of four-pronged forkery and edge work reminiscent of a seaside storefront awning. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
A vast improvement on last years claggy, cardboard horror. It's subtly sweet and delightfully buttery with a slightly crispy lid and a gentle hint as to the boozy warmth within. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
The binding marmalade goo is awash with the usual contingent of vineyard refugees but a healthy smattering of citrus peel and nut fragments do their bit to ensure a varied and rewarding chew. The box's Courvoisier multi-boast shouldnt be treated lightly, though you'd be well advised to take any claims to glace cherry with a pinch of salt. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Packed full of fruit and not shy about getting its round in, this pie may well represent Tesco's best chance of glory since their red boxer flirted with the Pie Offs back in 2007. 19
Second Opinion - Dan Sutton, COMS Marks out of 25
The Tesco Finest mince pie leapt over the first metaphorical hurdle by not crumbling in my hands as I tried to extract it from its foil casing. First bite was greeted by an overall rich buttery taste, swiftly followed by a sweet aftertaste from both the sugar topping and the sweet mince. A not so surprising but welcome aftertaste soon followed, comprising of a rich alcoholic undertone. The consistency of the pastry was just right, not too crumbly but very light. Also there was a good pastry to filling ratio which provided a classic combination. Good fruity filling and recognisable pieces of fruit added to the overall quality. A delight for the epicurean in you! 20
Total Marks 94
Any Other Business Data just in reveals we've recently had visitors from Gays, Illinois and from Hudson in neighbouring Wisconsin. Here's a message for the both of you


F*ck da Bears.
Date Added 21st Nov 2010

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Sainsbury's have relaunched their Taste the Difference brand against a backdrop of Jamie Oliver hyperbole, but is there a suggestion that their mid-range products have suffered as a result? Today we examine their red box pie for signs of neglect.
 Sainsbury's Deep  Here comes the new box, same as the old box...
Sainsbury's Deep Here comes the new box, same as the old box...
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Deep 17th Nov 2010 £1 6
Container Style
Sainsbury's have had the same box for as long as Pie Club has had an internet presence.


There's resting on your laurels, and then there's just plain lazy.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Relatively sturdy at first glance, but closer inspection reveals what looks like quite significant termite damage around the base. The fancypants cogging is uniformly brown, and the holly motif on top looks like a pair of cartoon exclamation marks, which isn't exactly encouraging. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Soft, crumbly and reasonably sweet but far, far, far too much. I got a hint of butter in the split second before cloy hit but once that kicked in I had to focus all my attention on survival.


Soz.
13
Filling Marks out of 25
Packed to the rafters with what appears to be a fairly basic and very brown mincemeat. Currants and small raisins dominate while sultanas have met with more than enough squishery to ensure they blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Festive spices indulge in some unseemly one-upmanship but ginger emerges from the squabbling their undisputed top boy. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
It's a long way short of the standards set by the M&S Classic, but there's enough going on here to suggest Sainsbury's could be a bit of extra pressure on the rolling pin short of putting together a fairly tidy red boxer. 16
Second Opinion - PC, the Old School Marks out of 25
A familiar, but agreeably handsome little fellow, I'm almost unable to bring myself to break the crust. Bite I must, and what a saddening interior greets the eye. The burnished camel slop holds within a number of indistinguishable lumps, lurking like hoodies in a damaged underpass. Unusually, each dried fruit member demands a personal duel with my fillings, and due to a surprising resilience, a chew is on offer. Spicing is enough to evoke a clear, bright December morning, but certainly not an evening full of warmth and character. Pre-panto then, with as much sherry as you can muster. 17
Total Marks 79
Any Other Business Baby malarkey website madeformums.com have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into semi-pro pieing, though their joint winners are frowned-upon mini versions from M&S and Waitrose, and their highest scoring proper tournament pie comes from below-radar London boulangers Le Pain Quotidien. Their 4 out of 10 scoring of Lidl's latest effort offers little to look forward to here at Pie Club HQ.
Date Added 19th Nov 2010

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Today's hopefuls almost didn't make the group stages after initially fobbing me off with pies so out of date they were in last year's box. To be fair to the Co-op, they offered a swift exchange and full refund, no questions asked. But was it all worth it?
 The 'Bring Back Somerfield' campaign starts here  Co-op Deep Filled
The 'Bring Back Somerfield' campaign starts here Co-op Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Deep Filled 13th Nov 2010 £1.19 6
Container Style
Co-op unveil a new box design if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a fresh batch. It's traditional 'red box' red and a bit dull, with six pies intact atop a red tray with some red decorations at the back. Close your eyes and try to imagine something more exciting as you slide out the red plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A bit better looking than last year perhaps, even if the Converse star and sallow complexion have been retained. The ship's biscuit grafted onto sturdy walls reminds me of those episodes of Grand Designs where industrial construction techniques are adopted to save time and money on a build. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Thick, bland and uninspiring with an artificial sweetness and a nasty aftertaste. Like getting off with the least attractive barmaid in the roughest pub in Wakefield at last orders on a Wednesday night. Possibly. 9
Filling Marks out of 25
Cinnamon mugs the unsuspecting at first bite but scarpers long before mastication is complete, while vine fruits and candied peel lurk amid the orangey brown goo doing their best to keep the chew interesting. Its a thankless task, unfortunately. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Arguably the worst pastry in Pie Club history, with an legacy that lingers long after the initial horror has subsided. Full refund aside, I'd have been better of ditching the out of date pies and eating the box they came in. 10
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
This pie boasts a 'rich shortcrust' pastry but its pasty demeanour suggests value-pack shortbread rather than anything quite so grand. Desperate for its contents to console me, I took my first bite with some trepidation. I was confounded. This brown mulch had no discernable character, any vine fruits had been drowned by the sea of goo that bound them. A cinnamon note screamed a desperate SOS as the murk subsided, but was swiftly muffled by the desperate desire to rid myself of an overriding sense of 'ickiness'. I even performed a last minute 'resuscitation' attempt on the pastry in a bid to salvage something, but I found it listless, lifeless and best left to rest in peace - if my churning stomach would only let it. 7
Total Marks 53
Any Other Business The Co-op website tells us they have "adopted a 'best of the best' approach to ensure that previous best-selling Somerfield own-brand lines are now available in The Co-operative brand."


Our 2007 champion evidently failed to make the cut.
Date Added 16th Nov 2010

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Apologies if you've been waiting all weekend for a pie, particularly if you were hoping we'd reconvene with something a little more exciting that the humble Asda red boxer.

It's not all about the Big Four you know.
 Asda  Work had dried up since Thomas the Tank Engine
Asda Work had dried up since Thomas the Tank Engine
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda 10th Nov 2010 £0.92 6
Container Style
Changed from last year it may be, but Asda evidently still have better things to do with their pennies than put them in the meter. The giant fruit spilling forth from the cleaved pie is more than a tad disingenuous, while the spectre of Ringo Starr lurking towards the bottom right corner is disconcerting to say the least. Red plastic inner, bagless
Appearance Marks out of 25
Like they've been knocked together by the kids in the first week of the Christmas holiday. They're small and higgledy-piggledy and there's gunk oozing out from beneath the sunken lid. They're actually quite quaint, if truth be told. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Short, sweet and not unpleasant. If memory serves, I compared it to Shakira last year. Insert your own palatable pint-sized pop princess here. Kylie's the obvious one. Or Rachel Stevens. You get the idea. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
A uniformly brown paste with constituent parts pretty much impossible to discern by sight alone. Taste doesn't help, either - it's too orangey for crows, its just for me and my dawg. 14
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I have to admit to having a soft spot for this pie. I find myself amused by its idiosyncratic appearance and uplifted by its startling orange zip. It's definitely not going to win any prizes but it gets an extra point just for brightening my afternoon. Arbitrary, I know. 15
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Oop North Marks out of 25
This Asda pie may be small but the rather ambitious eight-pointed star adorning its facia suggests 'don't underestimate me.' And perhaps that's what I did, because this little pie packs a fruity punch! There is good combination of tangy vine fruits and zesty citrus flavours, and the cinnamon hit that lingers long after you've taken your last bite elevates this from Five-Alive-in-pastry to something a little merrier. There's no trace of boozy character here, though, so let's not get carried away! The pastry was inoffensive, if lacking a little character, but it balanced well with the mincemeat. A well proportioned little parcel, suitable for elevenses and afternoon brews. 14
Total Marks 72
Any Other Business Our techno-spies have informed us that a user in Canada spent 22 hours of his Sunday perusing the site. We're fearing the worst, to be honest, but it'd be lovely if someone could let us know if he's alright.

Ta.
Date Added 15th Nov 2010

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Whilst Hollies Willoughbooby, Valance and Golightly may trip off the tongue more readily, today sees Aldi's own Holly Lane attempt to force itself into the public consciousness on the run-in to Christmas.

In case anyone is concerned that the low price German grocers have come over all nostalgic for one of their nation's less fondly remembered organisations, rest assured the SS stands for Specially Selected.
 Eine kleine pie  Holly Lane Specially Selected Luxury
Eine kleine pie Holly Lane Specially Selected Luxury
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Aldi Holly Lane SS Luxury 12th Nov 2010 £1.49 6
Container Style
A not-quite-red box, as if Aldi are trying to temper expectations set by their claim to luxury. There's a nice introduction on the back from Master Pastry Chef Pam Ashall, whose "rich indulgent brandy sauce" serving suggestion is roundly ignored by box designers who prefer a sprig of holly and a golden plate. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
This pie doesn't look at all well. The box says shortcrust butter pastry but the pallid complexion and rudimentary construction scream dry stone wall. And the star on top is, quite frankly, rubbish. 11
Pastry Marks out of 25
Hard enough to suggest this batch was fired in a kiln rather than baked in an oven. I contemplate dunking one in my brew to see how it stands up but my professionalism gets the better of me just in time. Earthenware quality aside, though, it's creamy and buttery and miles better than it looks. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
Currants are unusually dominant amid a foreboding ooze that isn't quite a stout or a porter in colour, but is certainly getting on for a dark mild. Plentiful candied peel and occasional walnut shrapnel keep the chew honest, and the brandy may be more house double than high end Cognac, but it clubs together with cinnamon to facilitate a convivial festive warmth. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A brash, rough 'n' ready exterior hides a heart made of something at least shiny, even if it isn't quite gold. If someone could let us know how many dunks they'll withstand I'd be eternally grateful. I'd estimate them to be at least "three dips". 16
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
This Christmassy pie had all the appearance of a snowy trip down a Holly Lane - but for all the wrong reasons. Its anaemic surface snow-dusted with a few obligatory sugar crystals did not beckon me along to explore and the cogged tips that looked so appealingly like shortbread on the box with all its buttery promise looked more scuffed kerbside than snowdrift splendour in closer proximity. With a skewed star sat atop a wonky lid this pie showed all the hallmark signs of having being made during a 7-year-old's cookery class. Feeling contrite I took my first bite, and was curiously pleased. The crust was almost as crunchy as the box had assured, and pleasantly buttery too. The contents were fortunately not the dirty slush I had come to anticipate, but a juicy blend of vine fruits, citrus splash, spices and a gush of festive spirit! Its appearance belies what lies beneath, so don't be too fearful of this unexpectedly affable little pie. 16
Total Marks 75
Any Other Business Presumably to save time at the checkout, the Holly Lane box rocks no fewer than three barcodes. That'll be that ruthless German efficiency folk are always on about.
Date Added 12th Nov 2010

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Since apparently throwing everything into their all-out assault on the 2007 Pie Offs only to miss out by a single point, Tesco Deep Filled have spiralled into a decline completely at odds with the all-conquering resolve displayed by their makers. Will 2010 see the blue and white stripes hit the road to recovery?
 A study in mediocrity  Tesco Deep Filled
A study in mediocrity Tesco Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Deep Filled 8th Oct 2010 £1.19 6
Container Style
Another new-season rehash sees Tesco ditch the quirky 'stitch-on patch' of previous campaigns in favour of a standard red box. The cleaved pie in the foreground appears to be spilling forth all manner of crap, including dates, three quarters of Turkey's annual cherry harvest and a couple of carrots. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Broad and very generously sugared with a MASSIVE STAR on top. It could be a bit deeper, but the brown hue suggests it couldn't have been much more cooked if it had tried. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Nowhere near as short as you'd like, with enough pre-crumble give to spark suspicions of staleness. The flavour isn't so much unpleasant as unpresent, which isn't really a word, I know. Still, you know what I mean. Not very much going on at all. 12
Filling Marks out of 25
Like a black and white version of the multi-coloured innards spilling out of the cover star. If black was brown. And white was brown, too. There's a mild waft of cinnamon, and orange takes a tentative turn on the dancefloor before returning to find the bar has called time while his back was turned. All a bit disappointing, really. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A lazy red box "effort" from the supermarket behemoth, whose excessive sugaring and myriad BOGOF offers do nothing to disguise this pie's shortcomings. 12
Second Opinion - Matthew Strong, Newton le Willows Marks out of 25
As the nights draw in and the temperature drops Tesco have the answer. Spend some time in their bakery with the deep filled pies. Unfortunately a little less seasonal warmth would have saved some gas and a few pennies and not overcooked the pies. The pastry had dry brittle brown edges and was filled deep (marketing speak for properly) with a run-of-the-mill mincemeat. I can only assume the good stuff has been kept for the twice-the-price Finest range. 8
Total Marks 58
Any Other Business Eyes firmly on the prize of global domination, Tesco have recently opened an Express store in a Bournemouth church. It's surely just a matter of time before they run out of room and resort to opening new branches inside existing stores.
Date Added 11th Nov 2010

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Asda haven't tasted Pie Club success since their Laced with Brandy held sway in 2002, but, with this year bringing up the 10th anniversary of their premium Extra Special range, there couldn't be a more fitting time for them to end the drought. Their new chief exec mightn't give them a snowball's chance in hell, but then it's not for him to judge, is it? This is their All Butter offering.
 That's Asda Pies...  Asda Extra Special All Butter
That's Asda Pies... Asda Extra Special All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Extra Special All Butter 1st Nov 2010 £1.65 6
Container Style
Asda retain last term's purple shine and stylish pie window but update their crumbshot to depict squabbling pie halflings. Evidently not so amused by defecating birds as his companion, the bigger half administers a swift but effective headbutt by way of recompense. Shorty goes down. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A lightly sugared, broad-rather-than-tall pie, with a large three-pronged holly adornment and some gentle browning around a tentatively cogged rim. That last bit sounds all wrong, I know. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
Certainly no arguments on the "all butter" front, but that's as far as the plaudits go, I'm afraid. Stalls in the unacceptable hinterland between soft and crumbly and short and biscuity, resulting in a fairly unpleasant cardboard bite. Worse still, the wall's boggling thickness means a fairly comprehensive cloy ensues. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
This is more like it. Juicy sultanas and raisins get together for a right boozy do, with brandy and orange mobbing up in a delectable Grand Marnier-style union. Candied peel mixes the chew up a bit and the season's first glint of glace cherry sparks a disproportionately excited response. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A bitter struggle for supremacy between the two factions. Filling is all flair and high moral ground but pastry puts up powerful resistance and drags the innards down to its own level. It's a shame, too, because there's a decent pie in there somewhere, trying to get out. 17
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
This is a jolly little pie, dome crust fit to burst - I half expected four-and-twenty blackbirds to rush up in my face as I took my first bite! The distinct fragrance of port and brandy teased my taste buds and tickled my festive fancy as I dove in for another. The pastry was a little on the dense side but the glistening goo of currants, glace cherries, zesty mix and not least the heady scents, will ensure that this generous pie is a solid competitor in this Christmas fare category this year. It won't let the side down at the office Christmas party or indeed any yuletide soiree, but you might be letting your hair down after one or two! 16
Total Marks 82
Any Other Business A quick interweb check on the competition reveals www.mincepieclub.co.uk are leaving things late this year. I'd have been struggling for AOB without that snippet, to be honest.
Date Added 10th Nov 2010

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With their master bakers supplying the Pie Off winner in no fewer than five of the last six years there are many who would argue that Pie Club is never truly underway until Marks and Spencer enter the fray. For those people, then, this is where it all begins. A back-to-back winner in the mid-Noughties and plucky finalist in 2009, the M&S Classic is a genuine Pie Club legend.
 Classic Opening Gambit  M&S Classic
Classic Opening Gambit M&S Classic
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Classic 7th Nov 2010 £1.69 6
Container Style
New season, new box for the Magic and Sparkle team. A pie pile-on atop wavy crockery takes centre stage as festive literature attempts to steal focus at every opportunity. With the story of mince pies and an excerpt from The Twelve Days of Christmas to go at, this is a good box to keep handy should Santa neglect to bring you a decent book. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The recent M&S obsession with experimental lid engineering continues with the once unbroken Classic, who this year graduates from the already controversial single air hole to a full blown slit. One can only imagine what the boffins have in store for the Luxury range after shocking the pie world with last year's starry oculus. Needless knifework aside, this pie otherwise retains its golden sheen and classic good looks. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Consistent as ever. Coming over all buttery and short with a crispy top and precision thickness with no hint of cloy. Even the purist-baiting slit in the lid plays its part, fending off the bulbous doming that was asking the impossible of innards this time last year. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
A familiar dark ooze awash with plump vine fruits, shot through with a tangy citrus lift. Candied peel gives variety to the chew and apple dances fleetingly on the palate, but the spicing appears to have been toned down somewhat, with cloves in particular keeping a far lower profile than in previous years. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Quite a revamp for a pie that has remained very much true to itself down the years. The controversial ventilation is actually an improvement, albeit at some aesthetic cost, but shortcomings in the spice department are to the detriment of the legend. For me, no cloves means no Classic, though it remains a very good pie nonetheless. 18
Second Opinion - PC, Old Pie Clubian Marks out of 25
Having finally taken my eyes off the attractive new box design, I slid out a shocking trayful. Can it really be? A pie top that once sat untouched by human hand, and has of late allowed a single hole to break its firm lid, has now turned to a garish slit? Ignoring this painful looking cleave atop, Im happy to say that I enjoyed the pie at every level. Rather like Fernando Torres (as at 8th Nov), it seems slightly wilted from former glories, but nevertheless provides a pleasing gush of fun by sporadically hitting the mark. Great tang within and fine crust without. 20
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business M&S felt the full weight of Tory tabloid fury last week when the Daily Mail decried them for selling Classics with a "best before date" before Bonfire Night. God forbid anyone should think for themselves before buying.
Date Added 9th Nov 2010

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If you've just stumbled across this site via a link on the Facebook page of the second cousin of your best friend's colleague's brother's high school nemesis then you've arrived just in time for the Co-op's lukewarmly anticipated return to competitive action.
 Over the moon?  Co-op All Butter
Over the moon? Co-op All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op All Butter 8th Nov 2010 £1.79 6
Container Style
Co-op stick with last year's black box design, with their familiar three pie viewing panel at the bottom and a thorough cross examination top right. The front side crumbshot of a pie broken by interrogation is chillingly candid. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Office lighting made this pie look a bit hi viz, but closer inspection under less brutal illumination reveals pleasant golden tones. Sugaring is light and the three-leaf holly motif is as extravagant as it is out of place atop such a rudimentary, functional lid. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Vastly improved on last year's cardboard cloggery. Sweet and buttery with a teasingly boozy undercurrent and enough biscuity thickness to get its point across without becoming all shouty and overbearing. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
Almond shards put up a plucky show, raisins and currants are dominated by sultanas, and tag team orange and apple bravely punch above their weight against a subdued brandy and cinammon combination. There's a bit of work to be done redressing the filling-to-cavity shortfall, but this is a pleasing chew nonetheless. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
If memory serves, the Co-op were let down horribly by their pastry last year, but the giant strides they've made in that department have provided a worthy foil for what was already a more than passable fruit and nut filling. 17
Second Opinion - Edd Lodder, Prenton Park Marks out of 25
At first glance an attractive little pie with a holly motif that actually looks like holly. The Luxurious All Butter Pastry does almost live up to the title which is probably a good thing as the Co-op havent gone exactly overboard with the filling - one bite and I was virtually left with just the pastry casing. Overall a midtable workmanlike pie. A little more filling and this pie could have scored higher. 15
Total Marks 80
Any Other Business As well as letting the dog see the rabbit, as it were, the Co-op's viewing pane also serves to complicate the recycling process. Take care to avoid contamination by removing the clear plastic panel prior to disposal.
Date Added 8th Nov 2010

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After going within a whisker of the Pie Offs with their "The Best" range last year, northern favourites Morrisons will be determined to force their way into the post season reckoning 12 months on. Today's red box entrant will be seen by many as a marker for the store's flagship offering.
 Mr Mojo Pieing  Morrisons Deep Filled
Mr Mojo Pieing Morrisons Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons Deep Filled 12th Oct 2010 £1.19 6
Container Style
Moz have ditched the controversial Halloween-themed purple box of recent years in favour of traditional red. As serving suggestions go, though, I'm not sure sticking the pies in an ashtray with a bit of plastic holly is showing them in their best light. Red plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Sturdy, nicely-browned crimped edges with a wavy lid and a rather slapdash Christmas tree motif. Worryingly, the sugar crystals are mobbing up around the edges, as if something smells bad in the middle. Thankfully, logic suggests the phenomenon is more likely a result of the pie's massive cranial ridge. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
Looks like you could stand on it to reach down the Christmas decorations, but one bite is enough to tell you that would be a terrible mistake. Still, when it comes to pies, "soft and light" should always beat "tough and durable". Stopping just the right side of cloying, this is a passable, if ever so slightly bland containment job. 15
Filling Marks out of 25
A varied gathering of juicy fruits and candied peel held together by a nicely spiced orange jam that leaves a festive afterglow not often associated with red box entrants. History suggests there'll be prestige pretenders harbouring far inferior innards to these this yuletide. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Difficult to fault given the kind of budgetary constraints placed on red box alchemists nowadays. Not the biggest, but reasonably good-looking with enough juice and tang to suggest they could be capable of holding their own in the upper-mid order. 16
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Trainee Northerner Marks out of 25
The first face-to-crust encounter was fairly positive. A nicely golden lid with a pretty Christmas tree motif, albeit with a weird tail, but I suspect that this was not intended. Although, the pie had an orb-like quality so maybe Morrisons are going for a freaky outer space theme this year? Fortunately the contents were not alien. Juicy raisins and the usual citrus medley were all present. The dark ooze might have benefited from a cinnamon or nutmeg hit, but there was certainly enough of it considering the cavity it had to fill. A close encounter of the sweet and pleasant kind. 16
Total Marks 80
Any Other Business Morrisons' thoughtful warning to the consumer that the filling may become hot during heating seems a tad unnecessary to us.
Date Added 7th Nov 2010

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With bonfire embers still aglow, the cat behind the couch still aquiver, and PC still steadfast in his semi-exile, Pie Club makes its first appearance of the decade nobody can attach a silly name to. 2010 promises to be an exciting year for pie enthusiasts, with early indications suggesting box revamps and recipe overhauls across the board as manufacturers look to put the crippling austerity of Pie Club 2009 well and truly behind them.


Let us pie.



The honour of opening proceedings this year goes to Mr Kipling's "exceedingly merry" festive offering. If truth be told, it's less to do with honour and more to do with getting them out of the way early doors.
 Mr Kipling takes a long, hard look in the mirror  Exceedlingly Merry, apparently
Mr Kipling takes a long, hard look in the mirror Exceedlingly Merry, apparently
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Mr Kipling 17th Sep 2010 £1.49 6
Container Style
Mr Kipling has fallen in line with pie tradition for 2010, showcasing his wares in a simple red box. A solitary pie makes no attempt to stifle a yawn as he lays bare his rudimentary composition for all to see. The glow from a homely rural cottage and Victorian streetlamp lends a certain warmth, but it's very much a "no frills" affair otherwise. Black plastic inner, bagless.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The Kipling new broom evidently didn't make it past the outside of the box, with last year's heavily crimped walls and oversized roof still very much present, if not necessarily correct. There's a pleasant golden hue about these pies, though, and the Christmas tree motif is at least recognisable this time round. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Blander than rice, with vegetable oil and extract of high summer dust the only detectable flavours save for a futile sprinkling of sugar. A less delicate touch than mine would see the consumer wearing this pie rather than eating it, though that shouldn't necessarily be construed as a bad thing. 11
Filling Marks out of 25
As plentiful as it is uniform, with only the occasional glint of candied peel shining through the dark brown murk of raisins and sultanas. Not nearly so sweet as last year's enamel stripper but reminiscent of Kali nonetheless. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Careful handling leaves a clean tie but no abiding sensory experience. The chew lacks variation and the overwhelming dullness of the walls isn't tempered by the artifical sweetness of the filling. Not awful, but certainly not worthy of the Exceedingly Good tag. A midtable obscurant at best. 13
Second Opinion - Matthew Strong, Newton-le-Willows Marks out of 25
My first pie of Christmas (September!) 2010 and what a disappointment. The appearance was imperfect with small cracks showing signs of the "cheer" within. The pastry was, frankly, well, pastry. It was bland with rare added interest from the odd sugar crystal. The mincemeat was a relief rather than a joy as my tongue craved a little excitement. The filling was fruity yet nothing special with a little citrusness. And as for deep filled, any pie with less content should be marked down on the grounds of a measly festive spirit. Exceedingly ordinary. 10
Total Marks 61
Any Other Business Last year's Second Opinion may have set unrealistic expectations at Kipling HQ. Pie Club is only too happy to set the record straight ahead of the 2011 season.
Date Added 5th Nov 2010

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