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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

Co-op Luxury are back again. They're the same as last year but we've taken the trouble to write a new review rather than just re-hashing last year's bilge. The difference is negligible, if truth be told.
Same old same old Co-op Luxury All Butter
Same old same old Co-op Luxury All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Luxury All Butter 2nd Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
Same box as last year, with the Co-op's favoured three-pie viewing pane at the bottom and what would appear to be a religious cult's candlelit rite-of-passage ceremony up top. There is sugar absolutely everywhere and I've not even opened the box yet.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The Co-op continues to show a complete disregard for Pie Club opinion, running with the same tired underachiever they've been foisting on folk for years. The lid remains a clumsy, holly-topped affair, though sugaring has been stepped up markedly. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Golden and crisp on the surface but buttery and yielding beneath, shot through with an enticing brandy preview. Something about books and covers might be appropriate here, you know. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Not the biggest spoonful of vine fruit by any stretch, but the variation showcased here is hard to fault, with glace cherry chunks and almond shards holding their own among some hefty usual suspects. Brandy and spicing are lower key than the pastry preview suggested, but there's certainly nothing to fall out with. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Still underachieving, then, but there's a suggestion that the Co-op might not be too far away from mounting a challenge. Better architecture and some minor tweaks within could easily see them rubbing shoulders with the glitterati come Christmas 2013. 18
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
Without an inner plastic bag to contain its excitement, the Co-op Luxury box becomes a Builders Dream, containing six loose teaspoons of sugar, free to swish and spill. Your first bite will be fair reward for the dustpan and brush work needed immediately after an eager opening. Butter and brandy will be your abiding memories of the comfortable chew, which could have put up a bit more resistance for those of us who like our fruit feisty. 18
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business Gallic baking demi-god Eric Lanlard recently reviewed mince pies for the Observer Food Monthly, sensibly aligning himself with Pie Club doctrine pouring scorn on the ludicrously poor Waitrose Hestons. Allez, Eric!
Date Added 13th Dec 2012

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I still have fond memories of my grandparents cajoling me round Booths in Poulton-le-Fylde many years ago, buying me a Peperami and a can of Barbican to stop me grumbling about my tired little legs. But will my sepia-tinged nostalgia alone be enough to fire Booths into Pie Off contention?
The Grape Escape? Booths Luxury All Butter
The Grape Escape? Booths Luxury All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Booths Luxury All Butter 10th Dec 2012 £2.19 6
Container Style
The most austere box of the season so far, all grey and two-tone brown, like a mid-range menswear catalogue from the 1970s. In keeping with the retro theme, Booths have dug out the Spirograph to render an attractive snowflake motif, though the crumbshot serving suggestion is unlikely to appeal to anyone familiar with the little mole who knew it was none of his business. Clear plastic inner, bagged.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Small, pale and very much slapdash, with significant seepage poking its way out from within. Rejects rebranded as luxury goods in the hope they can get away with it on their 'local grocer' ticket. 11
Pastry Marks out of 25
So thick that I almost called off the search for sultanas midway through excavation. The lid is far less arduous but if I didn't know better I'd be questioning whether this was really its first appearance at Pie Club. 13
Filling Marks out of 25
Easy on the eye, with an immediately apparent mixture of festive fruit and nut. Not so easy on the palate, however, with lemon taking an unusually high profile throughout, and fennel throwing in an unexpected appearance mid-chew. Luxury innards need to be all kinds of better than this if they're going to get by without booze. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Too much sweetness and not nearly enough light. After three years of disappointment from the northern food heroes, I'm starting to wonder if my expectations have been set unrealistically high. These pies put the boo in Booths. Convenient, that. 12
Second Opinion - Bram Winship, Swansea Marks out of 25
Not the prettiest pie I've ever seen. The lid was wonky and the filling was spilling out over the sides. I took a bite and found the pastry buttery, but a bit too chunky. The filling was very sweet but I liked the nuts and the tanginess was unusual but not unpleasant. Not bad, but I've had better. 15
Total Marks 63
Any Other Business We may have been a little dismissive in our description of Booths' new colour scheme. However, while conceding that 'lavender, olive and saffron' have a more romantic resonance, visits to Chorley and Preston have only served to reinforce our version of the truth.
Date Added 11th Dec 2012

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