pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2015

It's still a knockout

There's been an awakening, have you felt it? Really? Well, we have. Pie Club is back to guide you through the shelves aching with mincemeat treats and all things pastry-encased ready for Christmas 2015, partly using The Force, but mostly our lunch hour.

The sixteen finalists in our tournament draw have been selected by applying a comprehensive formula, based on variables including but not limited to: historic performance, number of previous appearances, and likely availability.

Look out for misfiring motifs, boozed-up inners, acid indigestion and shattered dreams...Bring on the pies!


Grand Final - Morrisons Signature vs Lidl Luxury
15th Dec 2015
Phew, weve managed it. The Grand Final is upon us again, and all before the first sighting of Lukes 2015 hairdo. What will it be? Crew? Mullet? Cornrows?
Anyway, on with the pies. It has been a fun contest this year, with lots of mesmerising sleeves, confusing spice and more than a hint of stormtrooper.
Special mention goes to the Indian influence over at Asda ES one to watch for 2016, the new red box from M&S Classic well be talking that up all year, and Sainsburys classically brave but futile assault on the senses that mixed brutal outers with flaming ginger inners. The Walkers clansmen may be licking their wounds for some time after such a supreme effort.
The attention now, must turn to our finalists. Morrisons are not giving up their crown without a fight, and Lidl have their tails up, buoyed by the expectation of a decent Which? placing.
 Morrisons Signature, 2014 Champ  Lidl Luxury, 2013 Champ
Morrisons Signature, 2014 Champ Lidl Luxury, 2013 Champ
Morrisons Signature Lidl Luxury
It was their year in 2014, making it all the stranger that they changed their look for this campaign. Playing it safe has got them this far, but can a motif-free lid and a spartan carton carry them to a double? Monochromatic in their public face, rich fruit colours are concealed within a black box and stark white crust. The element of surprise has served them well, but can they find a new ambush for a more wily combatant?
Match Report
A deep breath and off we go.
MozSig begin with their effete pastry dabble, devoid of rigidity but blessed with a creeping sweetness. No such labouring from LidlLux, with a crisp and well-sugared lid spanking the cheek walls into yummy submission. A characteristically pained opening from MozSig, but have they set their own trap for the headlong challenger?
Cake-soft consistency from MozSigs outer combines with their hearty vine mix to prolong a mouthful of buttered apple crumble heaven. LidlLuxs first full swing offers peel on every level, and an absence of apple until the afterglow. This might come down to spiced apple versus peel-squared.
Both competitors roll out the hostess trolley, doling out large measures of brandy, branded or otherwise, to largely the same effect. Im certainly cheered by the booze, and in this happy, end of season stupor, Ill opt for Extra Pies. It is only fair to give these teams the fullest chance to impress


While the votes are counted from various parts of the body, and my rehab team ready the gallon of wheatgrass smoothie, Id like to thank everyone involved in the world of Pie Club, particularly Simon Wilson for running the website so soundly, and my continually supportive wife and family sorry all the lego has ended up greasy!
And if you are someone who is still reading this, thank you for spending the time on these pages. You should treat yourself for being so kind. Bless everyone, and see you in time for the next Disney Star Wars event. May the Force etc.
And the winner is: Never wavering from its festive depth of tang, Morrisons Signature nicks it again, despite an impactful year from Lidl. Yorkshire goes wild, or equivalent

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Semi Final - Sainsburys Taste The Difference vs Lidl Luxury
14th Dec 2015
The honour of meeting the defending champion in the Grand Final, thats whats at stake today. Sainsburys are hoping to go one better than their tragic loss in 2012s Pru Leith dominated final, and Lidl are trying to recreate the magic of their 2013 shock victory. But first, a tough semi stands in their way.
As an aside, the mountain of criticism for my recycling of mince pie images in the previous tie has meant that it shall forever be known as The Lazy Semi. Thanks for that.
So, as the celebs stroll down the red carpet for tonights World Premiere of Episode VII, will they be missing a one-sided invasion of Hoth by the large beasts from the snowy North, or can Lidl use their crafty, chewy, ewok nuts to outclass a heavier foe?
 Sainsburys TTD, Freedom Fighter  Lidl Luxury, whats under that bonnet?
Sainsburys TTD, Freedom Fighter Lidl Luxury, whats under that bonnet?
Sainsburys Taste The Difference Lidl Luxury
Fast becoming known for their bulk and powerful ginger, these golden boxed behemoths bring a wealth of Scottish heritage to their battles. The bloody entrails thrust into their crumbshot speak of anger and the desire to throw off shackles. Or that the art director is unaware how brown it all gets inside these festive treats. Its probably about time the boys at Snowy Lodge had a look at fixing their Christmas badge. Elsewhere around this sleeve, Lidl have worked hard to engender a serious, luxurious feel, but once youve spotted that scattergun, twelve-motif spinner in the top corner, it feel like a childrens party. Albeit a scary one.
Match Report
Crunch! STTD get us underway in the only fashion they know. Crisp, smart edges offering a modicum of tang infused from those well-stocked inners.
LidlLuxs momma didnt raise no fool though, and they bounce straight back with a sweetened pastry hit; softer but not without bite.
An aftertaste of whisky and ginger ale elevates the resistive fruit chew, rewarding the plucky STTD picker. Lidl give up their charms in an altogether simpler manner, allowing access to their many layers of peel delight, with only the slightest mash. An occasional nut spills into the grind though, to keep you on your toes.
Extra Pies are required for the first time this season to separate these giants. When will the decisive blow be landed, and exactly how much cholesterol mush can bring on an alarmingly inelegant gastro-intestinal episode?
And the winner is: Lidl Luxury have stood up to be counted in the face of intense pressure from an intimidating enemy. Pick any scene you like from Star Wars for that one.

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Semi Final - Morrisons Signature vs M&S Classic
10th Dec 2015
For all those fans of omens out there, the first time one of todays semi-finalists won this competition was in the year Revenge of The Sith was released, and rather fittingly went on to build quite an empire in the festive world. 2005s M&S Classic was a gateway pie, allowing M&S to dominate with their more expensive varieties for years to come.
Could their opponent, himself a defending champion, be standing on the threshold of greatness, as he bids to join the hall of fame by winning two on the trot? A lofty institution previously inhabited only by those of the Magic and Sparkle persuasion.
Lets turn back the clock for a re-run of 2014s Grand Final, and see whether it will be Revenge of the Slit, or The Phantom Morries
 Morrisons Signature still safe  M&S Classic still Pac Man
Morrisons Signature still safe M&S Classic still Pac Man
Morrisons Signature M&S Classic
How very confident it was to dispense with the pretty lid motif from 2014 to go au naturel this term. Im not sure Ill miss that gruesome crumbshot when this season is done, though. You may have spotted the photos are re-runs of the Quarter Final shots. Sorry, there was a disturbance in the Force. The red box continues to delight. Recently, my attention has drifted toward the fuzzy bowl of baubles in the background. Out of focus, but not out of my mind; I wager Ill have the Christmas Dinner table split 50/50 with a decoration or ingredient row.
Match Report
With only one split lid between the two as any form of aesthetic interest, these tops are begging for the game to begin.
MozSigs familiar powderpuff edge is soon routed by thick biscuity MSC cogging. Theres no need to debate that round, but bring on the inners!
No reason to stop for Moz big guns, as the heavily-appled spice mush surrounds each Yuletide sense, forcing home the warm brandy finish.
A wider gape than usual atop MSC suggests a call to arms for each branded vine fruit. Vostizza currants organise the chew while the cloven paste attacks the palate. MSC will not give up her GF berth without a fight.
Mouthfuls of MozSig manage to cut through the lasting MSC spice, but each time her elegance returns to combat MozSigs rough charm. This is Paul Nicholas versus Jan Francis from 1983s Just Good Friends crafted into butter pastry romantics.
And the winner is: As in the mid 1980s, the refined beauty has yielded to the charismatic rogue. Morrisons Signature repeat last years trick and outfox a very tasty opposite number.

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Quarter Final - Asda Extra Special vs Sainsburys Taste The Difference
8th Dec 2015
Like The Apprentice, only six competitors remain in the contest. Our twitter feed @PieClubPC has recently twet an image to put this into a very visual context. Hope you spotted it.
Quarter Final three is a tale of two collaborations. Whilst Sainsburys have continued their tradition of farming out the better pies to Walkers, the ubiquitous Scottish biscuit brethren, Asda have broken free of their Pru Leith overlords to produce a spicy curio an act of real rebellion.
Just as an aside, you realise that the Radio Times Christmas edition is out now, dont you? Someone tell Noddy Holder to start on the Tixylix, hell be needed soon.
 Asda ES, Life After Pru  STTD are back and in greater numbers
Asda ES, Life After Pru STTD are back and in greater numbers
Asda Extra Special Sainsburys Taste The Difference
A rare crumbshot adorns this sleeve; one that looks worse than the reality. Whatever the dry, lumpy horror is on the cover, it isnt what lies beneath. The real pie is a joy to behold, and probably displays the boldest motif of all time, involving a five pronged snowflake. Try finding one of those NASA! Ever the optimist, STTD continue with their golden branding, despite a track record absent of recent glory. Walkers distinctive square pocket inner tray houses the fleshed-out lids sporting proud dual leaf motifs. What a mouthful.
Match Report
Side by side, AsdaES is dwarfed by the monster from North of The Wall. They may be wary but their pastry doesnt crumble un der pressure. Well actually it does, but in a good way, offering up a cheeky twinkle of spice as it goes.
STTD snaps off an edge in rigid defiance, barely willing to be bitten. Apple air accompanies the light shortbread influences.
We were all waiting to see if AsdaES could replicate their Indian style from round one, and the answer is yes, but maybe at 75% spice power. Still a prolonged chew though. STTD attempt to capitalise on the slight shift in expectations with their own heavyweight mouthful. The mash eventually gives way to allow STTDs improved gingery finish space to impress.
Undeterred, AsdaES slide out a genuine baked butter bite to open up the contest beyond the spice rack. STTD smother my gullet in another potent crystallised ginger attack.
This is too close to call, but call it I must.
And the winner is: I didnt see this coming. Sainsburys Taste the Difference have ambushed Asda ES with a more powerful ginger kick than anyone had ever imagined. Could it be STTDs year?

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Quarter Final - Morrisons Signature vs Aldi Specially Selected
6th Dec 2015
It seems a long time since Morrisons Signature got us underway at the start of November, vanquishing the eternally misguided Mr Kipling. We were certainly much further away from World War Three. So, here they are again, Bradfords finest, looking to shrug off the thought of inexorable crises to come and continue their strong defence of 2014s crown with what could be another comfortable victory. The upstarts, Aldi Specially Selected are playing their first quarter final, and have a notorious history of under-achieving, even when espoused by the media as the next big thing.
You have to say, it has been a great draw so far for the reigning champions, but can they bring their A game to such an uninspiring tie? Or will they suffer from over-confidence like the lazy executive producers of Tom Hanks' ill-fated sequel/cash-in The Bi-Polar Express?
 Morrisons Signature, safe as houses  Aldi SS, having a big night
Morrisons Signature, safe as houses Aldi SS, having a big night
Morrisons Signature Aldi Specially Selected
The only unblemished pie lid in the competition smacks a little of trying to emulate Barcalonas erstwhile high moral code. The sleeve conforms to this years trend for simple, dark frontages, and joins the ranks of the gratuitous crumbshot lovers. A rainbow of red hues reminds the potential scoffer of the organs to be affected. The broadest motif for Christmas 2015; their gargantuan snowflake covers most of the crust and sets the tone for a distinct edge cogging. Aldis black sleeve is perhaps the least black of its peers, using a chalkboard effect to lighten the mood and a playful stacked crumbshot to create photographic frisson. Is it balanced? Are they glued? Did the inner run down the side? I could go on.
Match Report
A cold and sour start from MozSigs outer wall, up against an altogether sweeter proposition from AldiSS. Advantage to the Germans.
No panic from the Yorkshiremen, simply a smooth, deeply festive fruit, developing into a full mouth burst of candied peel tang. Its AldiSS turn to chill the senses, by issuing a brandy-fuelled, glucose syrup punch. Less Christmas Eve anticipation, more Black Eye Friday anxiety.
Theres no rush to call this one, so the full pies are eaten in turn. Have AldiSS managed to find another gear, perhaps one where the many other constituent parts are given space to see the light of day. Or have they slipped to another embarrassing defeat by being that strange uncle that seems fun as the drinking starts but overshoots the pleasantly merry line by a distance?
And the winner is: Morrisons Signature kept a cool head amidst the spirits with Aldis chances for another year evaporating along with its surplus brandy.

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Quarter Final - Lidl Luxury vs Tesco Finest
3rd Dec 2015
Quarter final two sees the old take on the new. Tesco Finest have a fine, if patchy, tradition in this competition. Theyve never made a final, but have contested the latter rounds on a handful of occasions and topped the old style group stage in 2012 before succumbing to the eventual winners in an oddly one-sided semi.
Lidl Luxurys 2013 win surprised many, but since then theyve gone on to attract attention from some of the more famous, if lightweight, reviewers. Which? fancied them, which was then picked up on by a few of the newspapers and all of a sudden, you find yourself with a bandwagon.
We at Pie Club reserve our bandwagon jumping for trolling reality stars or trashing expensively made franchise prequels.
Lets shut up and find out who will join M&S Classic in the semis
 Lidl Luxury, gurning madman  Tesco Finest, What is thy bidding?
Lidl Luxury, gurning madman Tesco Finest, What is thy bidding?
Lidl Luxury Tesco Finest
Ive had a few local dry-stone wallers on criticising the amateurish stacking of sultanas in that vivid crumbshot on an otherwise blacked out sleeve. Perhaps it was meant to elicit such debate. Well never know. The pie lid has been similarly dumped atop the walls showing an equal lack of care. Solid eight-point star motif though. Tescos busy sleeve relegates their visceral UFO crumbshot to side panels, but still has enough going on up top to please the eye. Both these teams loudly boast Courvoisier VS Cognac to the pie buying public but Tesco take the honours for clearest nod to the crafty tippler, putting their booze credentials in a faux stamp. All products should be so kind to the functioning alcoholic.
Match Report
In a sublime start, LidlLux lead off with a soft but insistent butter crust, matched almost exactly by TescoFin but with an even more traditional oven-baked finish to the afterglow.
The first full bite forces a cherry and citrus peel top note to the fore for LidlLux in combat with a barrage of raisin textures from TescoFin which threaten to spill over into gritty. Worrying times for the Tescoans.
The finish sees LidlLux hand a role to turps amid their fluid apple pie romance, leaving TescoFin a chance to impress with their port laced vine army.
I have to say, that there are small margins here, and on another day the loser could easily overturn the result to come.
And the winner is: The boys from Snowy Lodge Lidl Luxury have pinched this one due to marginally better consistency. Be careful with that cherry in the semi though.

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Quarter Final - Co-op Luxury vs M&S Classic
1st Dec 2015
Happy Advent Calendar Day! Only sixteen more days until the most eagerly awaited and lucrative release since Marys impossibly biblical evacuation. Apologies if my Star Wars references lead to anger etc, but Im currently running at three per minute.
I very much hope to have a winner for you all before the golden writing scrolls off into a galaxy far, far away this year, but my apologies Messrs Abrams and Skywalker, if I overrun. Todays onset of the quarter finals finds the rebellious Co-op Luxury taking on the might of the M&S Empire. Since winning in both 2005 and 2006, MSC have lost in the final five times and have only finished outside the top four once. This isnt just a pie, this is a consistently competitive, battle-hardened, powerhouse of pastry. Can the motley crew from Manchester, find a weakness in Marks thermal exhaust port?
 Co-op Luxury, young man!  M&S Classic, covering for Pac-Man
Co-op Luxury, young man! M&S Classic, covering for Pac-Man
Co-op Luxury M&S Classic
Still enjoying the split crumbshot, with a phantom fork handle, this box will provide a festive puzzle for years to come. It might be time to change the letterbox airhole atop the lid, mind. Probably the only sleeve to trouble MSC in the intrigue stakes, expect to see this image hanging on a Tate Gallery wall in years to come. I interpret the work as tapping into the spirit of procrastination that informs any intention to wrap presents, or address climate change.
Match Report
CoopLux get us underway with a slow burning, but crisp edge. The pleasant aftertaste took a while to arrive and sits astride sweet and savoury. Instant gratification arrives with my small attack of MSCs biscuity walls. Co-op have it all to do if their Truly Irresistible branding isnt going to turn out to be a horribly sarcastic piece of dry wit.
Hello sailor! The Co-op gang heave their spiced apple slip all over my tongue to engender a fine gush of warming emotion. They have a decent depth of character from the odd nut and contrasting viners, but as the bites build, the remaining pie suffers from crumble and loose fruits.
Stoic firmness is evident in MSCs reply. Theres no doubt shes shaken, but using a wealth of experience allows that unsteady moment to pass and re-doubles the effort to provide her unique spicing chance to develop. We are gifted a fine chew involving fewer ingredients than most, leaving everything to the technical flavour play. Cloven spices never disappoint, but will it be enough?
And the winner is: M&S Classic had a smidgen too much for the dandy Co-op Lux to handle, but will have to improve her game to go beyond the semi finals.

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Round 1 - Lidl Luxury vs Co-op Deep Fill
26th Nov 2015
Congratulations, you have picked the best mince pie taste survey this Christmas, as evidenced by those good people at Which? releasing the results of their annual featherweight shambles. Youll no doubt still be reeling from the shock news that Harrods 9 pies outshone the fayre designed for normal humans.
The first real pie on their list, Lidl Luxury, complete the first round ties today in a match up with Co-op Deep Fill, one of the many hard-working and commonplace teams absent from the Which? line up.
God bless you pies of all shapes and sizes, we at Pie Club love you.
 Lidl Luxury, scary good?  Co-op Deep, hunt the star
Lidl Luxury, scary good? Co-op Deep, hunt the star
Lidl Luxury Co-op Deep Fill
Still kitted out in the black and silver livery that, for many years, was the preserve of Tescos Finest brand. They look good in it anyway, and the generous viewing pane is partnered with one of the most tinkered with crumbshots weve ever seen. Each individual vine fruit has been buffed up before slotting into a neat stack beneath the torn crust. A touch Minecraft for me. Wildly mixed fonts, banners, dcor and photography clutter their red box message, but I can safely assume that it wasnt meant to be studied in as much depth as it has been tonight. Sorry. The honesty shown in making that crumbshot is worthy of merit, as most other teams spruce up the inner, rather than leave it so sad looking.
Match Report
I spoke too soon with regard to Co-ops earnest pie snap. The proud pastry star atop the red boxed team fails to materialise in real life, causing no end of mirth from Lidl, who seem to sense an easy kill, I imagine.
A spirited attempt to fend off LidlLuxs crunch, sees CoopDeep present a dainty edge, feint in flavour but extremely short. Some may have called it powdery, but that would be cruel.
Once into full bite, theres no holding back the deluge of fruity waves from LidlLux though, as each mash strengthens the warming cognac notes. CoopDeep has to make do with a basic batch of festive ingredients, having a real go using only apricot-tinged raisin stew and a much stiffer lid than the edge nibble suggested.
As brave as they are, someone should probably throw in the napkin.
And the winner is: A powerful performance from 2013s winner sees Lidl Luxury comfortably through to face Tesco Finest in the Close Shave Quarters™.

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Round 1 - Tesco Finest vs Morrisons Deep
23rd Nov 2015
Just two first round ties left before the Close-Shave Quarters™ begin. Tesco Finest will hope to avoid the ignominy of 2013s early exit to join the list of better-baked heroes that have made it to the final stages in three of the last five seasons. Morrisons Deep already have their big brother lodged in a quarter slot, so they will be performing under very little pressure, keen to take a big name scalp much like their surprise 2013 knockout of the much fancied Aldi SS.
 Tesco Finest, our Alien Overlord  Morrisons Deep near Pony and Trap
Tesco Finest, our Alien Overlord Morrisons Deep near Pony and Trap
Tesco Finest Morrisons Deep
Despite their occasional brilliance of recent years, TescoFin have overhauled their sophisticated leather-look cover, and now bring the geometry into our Yule with a multitude of overlapping golden rings. The chilling crumbshot is consigned to a sidebar/corner position, but given the disturbing content on display, Im not surprised. Polyp and lung are not immediately obvious in the list of ingredients, so I have to assume the inners on display are a form of fruit. No messing about from the Bradford boys, using the same jolly box of a few years standing, and still one of the neatest crumbshots you will find on 2015s shelves. Hard to imagine such a playful pie reining his cleft gizzard in, but he was obviously on best behaviour in the studio.
Match Report
Two lids with particularly clear designs today TescoFin persevere with their scary alien visage, and MozDeep keep their very proud double holly leaf motif, which could take your eye out if you dont beware.
Successive edge nibbles reward with two distinct tones, one sweet, one nearly savoury, each with its own strengths. A good start from both teams.
Gladly, the bigger bite into TescoFin does not reveal anything akin to the scenes from the box, instead a darkly rich paste is interspersed with crunchy nut landmarks. MozDeep offer no such interest in their journey through the chew, with a surplus of pastry clogging the route, muffling what honest endeavour there was to be had from the paltry brown filler.
If anyone needs to get off home before the rush, you are probably safe now.
And the winner is: I dont think Tesco Finest needed the level of variety and top shelf booze to despatch such a poor opponent, but this tie should be a nice warm up for the onslaught to come.

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Round 1 - Asda Extra Special vs Iceland Luxury
19th Nov 2015
To celebrate Icelands first qualification for a major football event since Magnus Magnussons dad came first in Queen Victorias short-lived spot the ball competition, we welcome Iceland Luxury into their inaugural Pie Club. It may be a baptism of fire, as they face 2012s champion and semi-finalist from last year, Asda Extra Special.
A crumb of comfort for the newcomers, perhaps, as it seems that Asda have been abandoned by Pru Leiths flavour magpies and instead can only boast a badge stating expertly created, which my legal team defines as made by people employed in the production of food.
While Im mentioning the legal lads, they asked me to point out that we have a twitter feed, namely @PieClubPC, if anyone understands such nonsense. More/better photos posted there
Back to the game at hand.
 Asda Extra Special  Iceland Luxury pie, model's own pasta
Asda Extra Special Iceland Luxury pie, model's own pasta
Asda Extra Special Iceland Luxury
Only the purple box branding remains from their previously successful challengers. Im nostalgic for the lids with cut out stars, but will settle for their ground-breaking star-on-snowflake motif, atop a gorgeously tanned outer. The crumbshot is reminiscent of a melted smurf, which could bring the odd wry smile out around a mean wizards Christmas banquet. Theres much to love in Icelands boxing methods. Luxury, 1970s style, oozes through each design choice. The silver stamped font, an unfussy cover, the starry blackened crumbshot positioned smartly. Im sure my dad got a posh box of Tony Jacklin golf balls in a carton almost identical to this one. Theres a classic three leaf holly motif to enjoy once inside. Im chuffed to bits for them so far.
Match Report
That tanned hide Asda was sporting, proves to be a touch overdone, allowing what is a particularly devoid Iceland shortcrust to steal the faintest of marches. A nervy start from both then.

Asda dont hang about in their attempt to make up ground and punch deep spicing into my gullet, leaving a lasting mouthfeel thats in keeping with well-made mango chutney. Spotting this unusual style of attack, Iceland counter with their own prolonged assault on the senses, providing a disparate band of distinct but somehow clashing flavours. The cherries are taking everyone on, winning only pyrrhic victories in each skirmish. What a shame.
More lingering Indian sunsets are played out from Asda Extra Special, causing me to wonder if my pies were stored too close to the garam masala et al.
And the winner is: With a little more culture in the mix, Iceland could go on to great things, not this year though. 2015 could be all about Asdas Tikka Mince Pies. Jai ho!

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Round 1 - Marks & Spencer Luxury vs Sainsburys Taste The Difference
18th Nov 2015
Outrage may dog Pie Club 2015, after my previous pronouncement on M&Ss TV spot failed to mention that they have two distinct lines of communication (the Uptown Funk non-food AND a Clean Bandit laced comestibles push). However, in the face of increased pressure from both our complaints management team and our legal department, I am continuing to court controversy by allowing, for the first time since our inception last century, an incomplete lid to appear in this historically unsullied competition.
A move that many will not be able to countenance, and no doubt Sainsburys must be wondering what theyve done to upset me, as they have been drawn against this alien foe, another M&S team from the stable that have knocked them out of this competition every year since 2011.


You thought mince pies couldnt get any more exciting didnt you? Welcome to the mincemeat Thunderdome!
 M&S Luxury: Cover it up boys!  Sainsbury's Taste T Diff: Hat by M&S
M&S Luxury: Cover it up boys! Sainsbury's Taste T Diff: Hat by M&S
Marks & Spencer Luxury Sainsburys Taste The Difference
New for 2015, Sainsburys pie offer has been amended to remove their mid-luxury range and bring in this aspirational The Collection sixer. I understand the artisan four man bake will follow nearer Christmas (too late for us and everyone else who needs to stock up before the advent calendar starts to bore). These are boxed in an unremarkable golden cloak and once out, boast a now famous partial lid made up of two starfish engaged in, what seems to anyone without at least a foundation course in Marine Biology, gentle reproduction. Yum. Following the aforementioned run of bad luck, coming up against M&S at the top of their game, year after year, it is probably only fair that they have stuck with the same box and motif. They havent been broke, so why fix them?
Match Report
Our first, and possibly last, non-foil pie slip of the season has MSLux held in a brown paper bag. Its much easier removed than the hidden foil below STTDs broad and vinegary crust, and bites are underway.
MSLux pings a sweet starter into the fray, versus the beef of STTDs crunch and tang outfit. Not sure that made a mark.
The chew from MSLux on the full bite is much thicker than expected, and the subtle inners are masked by the powdered sugar. Altogether lacklustre.
The Scottish masterminds behind STTD dont know the meaning of the word nuance, and smash my mouth into fruited brandy heaven.
Going into the closing stages, my tastebuds are still waiting for something to happen from the sludgy MSLux and its naughty lid. Im going to keep masticating in the hope they can justify the risk Ive taken
And the winner is: Congratulations to the team at Sainsburys. Theyve stuck by their Taste T Difference, despite the many set-backs and deserve this win, overcoming the Magic & Sparklists at the fifth time of asking.

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Round 1 - Marks & Spencer Classic vs Asda Red Box
15th Nov 2015
Weve stumbled upon a bit of TV rivalry here. Asda versus Marks & Spencer have clearly battled it out for the use of Uptown Funk on their adverts. Asda seemed to have lost out, when left with Fleur Easts upstart of a track which borrows heavily from Ronsons brassy genre, but I think its a closer contest than many at Newsnight would have you believe.
Alright, the Eric and Ernie fade definitely tips the balance in favour of the Magic and Sparkle crew, but given Asdas only cost 800 and 48 bottles of blue WKD to make, you have to ask who got value for money. #pockettap indeed.
 M&S Classic confusion  Asda Red Box
M&S Classic confusion Asda Red Box
Marks & Spencer Classic Asda Red Box
Gone is 2014s out and out glamour, making way for an altogether different beast. I cant give you the full review of this new box today, as theres way too much ground to cover for one lunchtime, but suffice to say its innovative and mysterious. A split crumbshot! Wheres the rest of the fork? Whats that in the middle? Thats Christmas dinner conversation boxed off for this year. Sorted.
The actual pie is the same, by the way.
Not to be outdone by MSCs freakishly interesting cover design, Asda Red have super-sized their crumbshot. If theyve avoided getting sugar on the lens it will be a Christmas miracle.
Nice for the visually impaired, but the result is that you cant help but be slightly disappointed when half a dozen Tiny Tims pop out in a red plastic tray. God bless them though, one and all.
Match Report
AsdaRed must have been hoping for an off day from such a respected contender, but no such nightmare has materialised, and the Asda pastry edges are outmuscled by the sheer butteryness of that unwavering MSC biscuiteer.
Many have fallen at the cloven hand of MSCs perfectly spiced inner, and AsdaRed should not feel ashamed while taking this outrageous beating.
What they perhaps should be ashamed of is the unwelcome liquorice overtones to their shapeless smear of mush within. That IMAX standard crumbshot feels even more misguided now, given the wildly different reality on offer.
And the winner is: Not a contest. Marks and Spencers continue their impressive form of many years now. How refreshing that not everything has to get worse.

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Round 1 - Sainsburys Deep vs Aldi Specially Selected
12th Nov 2015
The third of our first round ties throws up an interesting battle. Both Sainsburys Deep and Aldi Specially Selected went out at this stage in 2014, albeit to pies that reached the semis and beyond, making the place in our quarters an even more sparkling prize for the victor. If that is possible.


This one goes to out to our man Sepp get well soon, sir. God loves a trier.
 Sainsbury's Deep (sleep)  Aldi Specially Selected
Sainsbury's Deep (sleep) Aldi Specially Selected
Sainsburys Deep Aldi Specially Selected
Despite changing their container from last season, their have avoided the temptation of originality and intrigue, instead producing a crushingly dull red box with an achingly average crumbshot. The font and theme are not shared by their Taste the Difference range, leading to a disjointed yuletide attack. The double hedgehog motif remains atop, if less distinct that previously. Aldi may feel they have a point to prove, although that hasnt manifested itself in the packaging - no change from their doomed 2014 challenge. To be fair, the stacked crumbshot should perhaps be given time to establish a following as its a real treat for connoisseurs of graphic inners. There has been a response to the milk bottle pastry criticism though, with heavy browning of cogged edges on display.
Match Report
Weight, flavour and bake are all well pitched from SainsDeeps pastry chefs, showing the AldiSS kraftsmen a clean pair of heels in the edge nibble.
The fuller chomp into SainsDeep affords an educated spicing, if a little looser in fruits than some reviewers prefer. AldiSS counter with a particularly full palate pleaser. Brandy, cherries and a lacing of lemon tang surprise and possibly delight.
SainsDeep continue to serve up plenty of sweet, syrupy tones and textures, but AldiSS find sixth gear towards the end with a rare glimpse of walnut and a mild lick of cranberry.
And the winner is: On this occasion, Aldi Specially Selected has lived up to its billing as the best pie in Aldi. Make of that what you will.

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Round 1 - Co-op Luxury vs Tesco Red Box
8th Nov 2015
Game day two for 2015 Pie Club, or Remembrance Sunday as many people know it. A day strewn with paper poppies and fallen leaves, and the end of a weekend now known as John Lewis last stand.
You can ruin Keanes back catalogue, you can sell us mawkish penguins, but dont make us feel guilty about people having a rubbish Christmas. Frankly, anyone living on the Isle of Man, or the Moon as they would have it, wouldnt want me dropping in on them. Im not good company after a winter ferry ride.


Anyway, back to business. Two staples of this competition today, Co-op Luxury and Tesco Red Box (or deep fill). Co-op outplayed a similar red boxer in 2014s first round only to come unstuck against Tesco Finest in the quarters. Will they take revenge on the Finests little brother?
 Co-op Luxury  Tesco Red Box
Co-op Luxury Tesco Red Box
Co-op Luxury Tesco Red Box
Glad to see that Co-op Luxury have retained their swinging pie on the box front, accompanying the cleft companion holding ribbon mid-knot. Itll never be bettered as a cover, theres more to see each time you visit. The pie itself can only ever be a letdown once unsheathed, and indeed, the anaemic triple leaf motif isnt screaming eat me. Just screaming. New for 2015, those good people in Tescos marketing lab have selected an informal font, not dissimilar to Kiplings current scribble, and a handsome stack crumbshot with fruits loose and adhering to a golden plate. Dont fancy them popping that guilded server in the dishwasher. Use a napkin guys. Come on. A six pointer, the star atop, eschewing everyones expected five.
Match Report
Edges of CoopLux have collected much of the loose sugar that can be heard swishing around inside the camp cardboard container, making the pastry bite akin to a Nice. This effect is soon dampened by the earthy clag of Tescos thick outer.
The gentle finery of CoopLuxs dainty inner provides much to ponder. A tang, a crunch, an earnest chew all without the aid of significant slop. Bring your own Zinfandel to this shindig. Or saliva.
No such differentiation is applied within the monotone bite of Tescos starter pie. Yes, it has apricot notes, but once that surprise tactic fades you are left with pretty basic fayre.

I barely need to finish these pies, but I will, for the sake of the sport.
And the winner is: Once again, CoopLux has seen off a very standard competitor, but can they raise their game rather than just eyebrows in the latter stages?

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Round 1 - Morrisons Signature vs Mr Kipling
6th Nov 2015
The return of Pie Club is always a bittersweet moment in a mince pies year. For some, a fresh start and a chance to right the wrongs of years gone by. For the old guard, it usually marks the start of a long, gruelling campaign with only the crushing pain of defeat in the offing for all but one seasoned veteran.
Dont shed a tear for the fallen though, they are the honoured combatants in an eternal war of stewed fruit giants.
Champions of 2014, Morrisons Signature begin their title defence today against the always gobby Mr Kipling massive.
 Morrisons Signature  Mr Kipling plus doves
Morrisons Signature Mr Kipling plus doves
Morrisons Signature Mr Kipling
A pleasant remix of last years box finds a more generous viewing pane combining with a friendlier crumbshot , keeping it very similar to 2014 canny work from the Yorkshiremen. Their unadorned pie lids are another statement of confidence, although that trick is borrowed heavily from the glory days of Marks and Sparks Classic pies. The two turtle doves return on Kiplings playful red box, which could be a sign of their intent to finally make peace with the world, shelving their boastful ways. They have even printed a helpful suggestion on the box end Why not try one of our other delightful cakes?. Or, why not pop these straight in the bin, and grab an armful of our more reliable fondant fancies?. A double bluff perhaps?
Match Report
MozSig provides an almost powdery pastry start with barely enough sweetness to trouble my mouth ulcers, allowing the Kipling stiffness to impress in a so far flavourless duel.
After drought comes flood, with MozSigs appley push causing a cheek spurt of some strength, threatening to overwhelm the traditional currant tone set by an honest Kipling bake.
Final knockings convince me to curtail my romantic notion of extolling Kiplings 20th Century nostalgia, and raise aloft another creation from Gods own country.
And the winner is: Once inside the rather pedestrian surround, MozSig unleashes a tide of seasonal juice and tang that may give this champion another crack at the crown.

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