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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

Those of us lucky enough to witness Chris Packham tear a strip off the artist formerly known as Prince for crimes against ornithology will never forget the actual sound of doves crying. Nor would we be tempted to make bold statements without a rudimentary grasp of the subject matter. I can only assume the marketing manager from Spar wasnt at the same Autumnwatch wrap party.
Anyway, according to Spar, its Party Time with their red box mince pies.
Fit for the bin? Or above the chin? Spar BOGOF mince pies
Fit for the bin? Or above the chin? Spar BOGOF mince pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Spar Mince Pies 7th Dec 2012 £1.8 6
Container Style
Functional and clear the large cover crumbshot (without a cleft reveal) certainly hasnt been fussed over. In fact, the whole package appears to be one Friday afternoons work, and the fevered anticipation of a 5pm pint is made manifest by their Party Time splash bubble printed on three sides of the box.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Definitely one of the innies, whereby the lid sits within the raised pastry sides, but this one has a decent swell that pushes up and beyond the surrounding walls. A giant amongst its Value brethren. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Look out for serious fragility on the ramparts, and dont expect much biscuity crunch. This one is very much designed to conceal the contents and do precious little else. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
Theres barely more than a teaspoon, which engenders bafflement as to how that lid was so bulbous. Hang on though; its a mighty mite! The syrup-coloured slop has some magnificent spiced fruit and a genuine twang apparent in the aftertaste. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Way better than the pastry had led me to expect. The filling, however paltry in volume, packs a really joyous punch and instantly drags this pie up the league table. This is a solid session pie, which is just as well given its usually buy one get one free. A couple or three of these would line the stomach nicely during a lost afternoon on Gluwein. 18
Second Opinion - Robert Meakin, sat in a coffee shop near you Marks out of 25
This mince pie aims low but hits the target square. The makers clearly have no illusions. This is a B-feature pie, immediately apparent from the gauche red packaging and the splash that says party time. Those fearful words announce a lack of irony but also a lack of self-consciousness. I had feared the worst as the visual of the pie in person, as it were, do no favours either: The pie has a lid that sits incongruously atop a wonky base. As with snowflakes, each pie is different (here in the way they are each uniquely misshapen). However, to this palette the pie isnt too bad. The pastry is acceptable and while the filling-to-pastry ratio is not in favour of the filling, this is more peccadillo than mince pie malpractice. Within a few chews the filling is able to mix in and be felt and while the mulch quality is a distant dream it is a reasonable experience and avoids over-sweetness. The balance between the elements is acceptable. Not an award winner but also not the disaster one might fear. I thought to award 12.5 stars to reflect the average nature of this pie but then thought to round it up to 13. But since 13 is unlucky I have gone one further. 14
Total Marks 83
Any Other Business Only five days left to Dodecadingdong Day!
Our party is almost ready, just need to finish counting out the jumbo cashews into dozens...
Date Added 7th Dec 2012

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Pru Leith, it turns out, is not just the least profitable insurance branch in the UK, but a polymathic business woman of renown. She used to do some cooking a while back, but now shes more likely to have her fingers in pies than her hands in oven gloves. One such pie she has had her finger in is todays Asda Extra Special. Will we be glad of her digital interference, or suffer by her hand?
No Likey, No Bitey Asda Extra Special
No Likey, No Bitey Asda Extra Special
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Extra Special 1st Dec 2012 £2 6
Container Style
A new minimalistic crumbshot accompanies the viewing pane, which seems a bit belt and braces but the sultry purple theme remains from Christmases past. Much is made of the tie-in with Leiths School of Food & Wine; lets hope its a more successful relationship than Hestons philandering with Waitroses mince pies.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Leiths havent insisted on a new visage for their collaboration, so the returning one big/ three small stars perform upon a glistening sugar stage. Its a good-looking pie, and therefore, credit is due for not tinkering for tinkerings sake. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
A dash of fortified wine has infused this shell with real depth of flavour. It can be accused of sweetness to begin with, but once the crumb is churned, an impressively smooth aftertaste lingers. Structurally sound, given the lack of support from within. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
Peeking under the swollen crown, I might have expected more volume to this luxury filling. However, Alcohol by Volume fills any pleasure chasm created by the meagre dollop. It seems that the almost apologetic band of mini-fruits are packing heat, and assuage the forlorn chewista with a surfeit of top drawer aromas and spiced cocktail impressions. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
I found this cheeky scamp quite moreish, although that may have more to do with my turps-nudging tendencies than its food element. Still, in the absence of Buckfast, this will fit the bill very nicely as a weekend morning eye-opener. 19
Second Opinion - Phill of Chez Vegas Marks out of 25
This was an eye catching, pleasing looking box with festive colours which promised at lot. Did it deliver? Well.. the pie itself also seemed to promise a lot, with the star design and sprinkles of sugar. The pastry was firm and crumbly, but held up well to the first bite. The texture pleasing, the filling sweet and generous, the hint of brandy was nice, but was a little overpowering. Would I actively seek out a Leith School of Food & Wine pie? Probably not, more of a gimmick than an enhancement, but clearly a high quality pie and worthy of a high placement. 21
Total Marks 99
Any Other Business My study of the English language had an abrupt end via a makeshift bonfire after leaving school, so I am unable to answer the many questions you may have regarding the missing apostrophe from Leiths School of Food & Wine.
Date Added 3rd Dec 2012

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