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...mince pie mayhem


Pie Club 2012

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 2012

Thanks for joining us at the business end of proceedings. The Pie Offs pit one pie against another in a straight knockout deathmatch, and with only four competitors left, mince pie tasting doesn't get harder than this.

Our semi-final line up is as follows:

Tesco Finest versus Asda Extra Special
M&S Classic versus Sainsbury's Taste The Difference

Each tie is decided by a panel of three tasters, each with a vote, so no tie can be drawn.

Without further ado, let's plough on.

Semi Final One

Tesco Finest (TSF) v Asda Extra Special (AES)

First Bite:
What seemed a decent nutty start from TSF, is quickly nullified by AES's opening deep-tang salvo.

Second Bite:
TSF can't get a foothold in this tie as AES continues to crush subtlety with overpowering fruity booze.

Final Bites:
TSF may have topped the league table, but they haven't performed in this tie, leaving AES to dominate from start to finish. I suppose I should give Pru Leith some credit is she The Special One of mince pie management?

Mercifully, it's over now, and Asda Extra Special will feature in the Pie Club final 2012, crushing the dreams of all at Team Tesco.

Semi Final Two

M&S Classic (MSC) v Sainsbury's Taste the Difference (STTD)
As all Pie Club aficionados will know, this is a rerun of the epic Porkins Memorial 2005 Final which famously went to Extra Pie. Another titanic duel is on the cards then.

First Bite:
Another slow start from a home team, MSC allows STTD to grab this Pie Off by the scruff of the neck. The fumes coming out from STTD's drunken inner all but knockout the teetotal MSC.

Second Bite:
MSC isn't done yet, and rallies with truly decorous spicing that more than matches the heavy handed lacing of a groggy STTD. It seems that we have Noel Coward versus teenage Frankie Boyle.

Final Bites:
Incredibly, the timeless elegance of MSC is able to keep the spirited drunk from Sainsbury's at bay, but can they claw back the deficit from the early bites?

It's easy to remember why this pair went to Extra Pie back in 2005's Final, they are almost inseparable. But separate we must, and it's with regret, as neither of these legends deserve to lose, that we say goodbye to MSC for another year and well done to Sainsbury's Taste The Difference for battling through to face Asda Extra Special in the final.

Grand Final 2012

Asda Extra Special(AES) v Sainsbury's Taste The Difference (STTD)
Can Asda garner its first championship crown since 2002, or can Sainsbury's break their duck after coming so close in 2005?
Panel: PC, Lisa from Youlgrave, Phill from Chez Vegas.

First Bite:
A decent start from both pies, as you might expect at this level. Both pushing out big, bold Christmas pudding essences.

Second Bite:
There's no let up in the strength of delight being dished out from both teams. STTD may be making a bit more noise in the chew arena, but AES are making steady progress towards splendour.

Final Bites:
As the pastry dust settles, the panel start to feel the weight of history on their weary shoulders. Reluctantly, the vote is at last taken. Can't give you full access to the discussion, but we can let on that it all came down to aftertaste.

It is our great pleasure to announce that by a margin of 2 votes to 1, have taken the title of Pie Club winner 2012. Well done to all concerned at Leiths and Leeds, we're sure you've made Walmart proud.

After all that, our only duty is to thank all the participants and tasters for making this yearly event the Premier League of mince pie competition, and thanks to anyone who has given us the gift of their lunchtime, particularly now that there are almost an infinite number of ways to waste time online.

So until next time, it's back to our more meaningful employment, teaching calligraphy to the homeless.

Have a great Christmas and make every attempt to flourish in 2013.

All the best

Pie Club

Pie reviews - group stages

Following a stewards enquiry into Bettys mince pies, they have been disqualified as more tart than pie. Dour Yorkshire tears have been shed, but realistically, other than the strangely alluring corrugated card base, there was little to commend it.
Therefore, today sees the last review in the group stages before we launch into the knockout phase, or Pie Offs, as they have become known. Have we saved the best until last, or after four years of world domination, can we find a chink in the armour of M&Ss flagship pie? What was once the Connoisseur became the Collection, and having tired of two years under that banner, its latest incarnation Ultimate stands before us today. But is it the same beast?
Wheres the foil, man? Pie shaped bath bombs
Wheres the foil, man? Pie shaped bath bombs
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Ultimate mince pie 15th Dec 2012 £2.99 4
Container Style
A clear topped plastic box of the ilk more accustomed to displaying scented candles or gift soaps. The golden card contributes to the ambience of twee squared (twee squared = nane). Sorry, Im lapsing into the grip of chronic reverse snobbery.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Firstly, it seems that foil is not welcome at a gathering of the upper echelon. Absent of foil cases, these festive treats leap straight from the box and into the mouth without the usual fingery delay. Egg wash, conversely, is a preserve of the upper class pies, and is combined with outrageously large sugar crystals atop this shiny fellow. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
Its cracking, but not in the Northern sense. Maybe the lids have been rolled too thin, or perhaps they have been dried in a manner unbecoming of such high-brow fayre, either way it isnt a good look. The cracks betray a problem with crispness that one bite confirms. More of a shatter than a crunch, the buttery biscuit flavours do not make up for the dropping danger inherent in such fragile creatures. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
As youd expect from a chew informed by Armagnac and kirsch infused-cherries, there is a mouth-watering blitz to the inner cheeks. Almonds, nibbed and roasted for your pleasure make their presence felt amid an exquisitely saporous slop, leaving only the lack of girth to bemoan. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
How the other half live! Smothering their mincemeat in expensive spirits, then surrounding them in brittle pastry timebombs, in many ways its a mugs game being posh. Ill leave these to the show-offs and them what claim expenses, not us good honest folk in fuel poverty. 19
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Comptroller Marks out of 25
Here at Pie Club we often have to refute accusations of a strong M&S bias. Its true that they have fared extremely well down the years, but that points to skill and consistency in the bakery; it does not make us label whores. That said, it seems the perennial champs themselves are intent on testing the theory that well dole out top scores to anything theyve had a hand in.

Weve become accustomed to change in the M&S upper echelons, but this was entirely unexpected. Uniformity is eschewed for artisanal handcraft and theres unassuming understatement where weve come to expect power and majesty. The all-butter crunch is reminiscent of the Connoisseur of 2009 but the unhappy ratio of crust to filling means the chew is dry and unsatisfactory despite the (albeit low key) presence of Armagnac and kirsch. Its not a write off by any means, but weve come to expect so much more than mere potential from the eight-time champions.
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business If I wanted to upset the Status Quo, Id just lobby for a surcharge on Just For Men and Levi 501s, but I found myself in the unusual position of being uninspired by M&S aspirational pie line. This may be the worst league placing for a Connoisseur equivalent in living memory, being one place worse than their sixth place finish in 2007. Crazy days.
Date Added 19th Dec 2012

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With only a couple of contestants left before the Pie Offs commence, now would be a good time for someone to strike a blow for the mincemeat underdog. Will it be Morrisons Luxury Mince Pies?
Interestingly, while we have labelled these pies Morrisons Luxury, it seems the purveyors have shied away from the glamourous epithet, opting instead to have two types of deep filled pies this Christmas. Tell your Nan to ask for the boozy ones the staff are usually immeasurably helpful.
Morrisons other Deep Fill Luxury in a Red Box? Treachery!
Morrisons other Deep Fill Luxury in a Red Box? Treachery!
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons (Luxury) Deep Fill 15th Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
At last, the British Racing Green box has been ousted in favour of a homage to festive wrapping paper (red, gold and white) but not the stuff you can see through, retailing at 1 for two rolls, from the outdoor market.
The viewing pane has relegated an intriguing crumbshot to the side panel. Id love to see more of the surrounding area it likely depicts a crumbless future world, or maybe a confectionary vivisectionists.
Appearance Marks out of 25
As star designs go, Id have to rate this one amongst the scariest. It might be the eight points that remind me of all things arachnid, or the creepy inner lines that resemble limbs, but I wouldnt thrust this toward the frailer end of the in-law spectrum. A good size, and generously sugared, if youll allow me to offer a modicum of encouragement. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
Enjoying the sophistication and sweetness of a once-dunked Nice biscuit, I cant help enjoying this lightweight nibble. Well I can now that Ive forgotten that Octo-motif. 21
Filling Marks out of 25
Having suffered significantly from an abundance of emptiness beneath the lid in 2011, there has been a small improvement, with perhaps an extra 10cc thrown in the box overall. All the spices are invited to this bash, with plenty actually turning up, and the Bramley-cooled brandy doesnt ruin the night by claiming too many victims. Ive been impressed by the smoothness of the port/brandy mix in most pies this year, and this is no exception. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Sensible crunch (i.e. not in danger of replicating the Scottish crack), lots going on in the fruit follow up, and a whiff of booze on your breath afterwards; this has put a smile on my face. I suppose thats not the greatest recommendation, giving my propensity for gurning like a constipated Brian Cox. 20
Second Opinion - JC, Pie Club Libero Marks out of 25
I dont know if their colour scheme mischief has messed with my palate as well as my head, but Morrisons have gone very close to passing off their luxury entrant as a common-or-garden red boxer. The pastry is the giveaway, all shortbread crisp and buttery with an underbelly softened by boozy vapours. The insides are a crippling disappointment by comparison, with the advertised brandy and port apparently long gone, leaving a filling almost devoid of variation save for the occasional crack of stalk. After years of knocking, Morrisons have sloped dejectedly back down the path when they should have been kicking the door down. 16
Total Marks 97
Any Other Business You cant help but feel for these battlers from Bradford. They put out a solid team to face me and then theyve let themselves down with their away form in the second opinion. Heartbreakingly, they miss out on the Pie Offs by a couple of points, but as Greg Lake would have us believe, the Christmas we get, we deserve.
Date Added 17th Dec 2012

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