...mince pie mayhem
Mince pie tastings are usually conducted professionally, by an uninspired panel, trotting out bone dry statistics that feed the need of opinion factory magazines, and other fettered institutions.
Wouldn't you rather enjoy a rogue one?
Pie Club's return as inexorable as an English football crisis or a paternal Star Wars melodrama, should bring fire to the belly of Christmas scrutineers everywhere.
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.
Someone warn the internet, the maelstrom of mixed fruit starts here!
|Grand Final - Marks & Spencer Classic vs Co-op Luxury - 15th Dec 2016
Pie Club 2016 has been a year of spectacular comebacks with M&S Classic rediscovering their form, Waitrose All Butter doing a Jon Snow by coming back from the dead, and Lego Donald Trump appearing everywhere after overturning the polls, common sense and good judgement. So before we rush off to witness the cinematic return of our favourite bad dad in black (and his moon-sized holiday home), why not pick up a couple of boxes and play along at home. See if you agree with my findings… or whether you find my lack of taste disturbing.
Also, before I get down to business, I’d like to thank Simon Wilson for his timely and expert web work, my long-suffering wife and kids for putting up with this festive distraction and cardio-brinkmanship, the team of eager procurement officers, retweeters everywhere, and the good people of Lucasfilm for inspiring much of the photography. And Merry Christmas to everyone who has landed here and taken the time to wonder what this is all about. God bless you.
|M&S Classic - It's goodbye from us||Co-op Luxury - And it's goodbye from them|
|Marks & Spencer Classic||Co-op Luxury|
|MSC last lifted this crown in 2006, but it feels like they have been in and around the latter stages most years, often losing out to the eventual winners or stepping aside to let their more expensive brethren take the plaudits. They certainly lost their way on the spicing in more recent incarnations, but the double shipment of cloves this year has helped them re-find their mojo.||Co-op’s most memorable achievement to date has been the ludicrously camp box of 2014-2015. How they have gone from sitting a couple of chums in and around a lace swing to the brutality of their 2016 battlefield crumbshot is beyond me. I am absolutely sure, though, that same designer could not be behind both versions. If they go on to win this, expect utter carnage on everyone’s 2017 sleeve.|
Despite my nearly twenty years of competitive pie tasting experience, I still find it hard to settle into big occasions such as these. By the time I stand up again, we will have a new champion. Gulp.
Both teams will be relieved that the pies on show today are without any obvious damage and with precise airholes unquivered by the weight of expectation.
MSC lead us off with their biscuit disguise. A snappy edge with real, almost dunkable, credentials. In contrast, Co-op don’t try to overplay from the start, and their holly motifed lid provides satisfactory groundwork for a distant tang to tease through a neutral sugaring.
The instant MSC gives up a full bite this grand final comes to life. The generous fruit filling begins to award an infusion upon the palate before the jaw snaps shut. In moments, the deeply tart apple pulp washes away ambivalence in a foam of mulling spice and demerara. And the effect stays with you. From mouth to soul.
Co-op’s assault on the inflamed senses is not a merciful one. Bigger orchard cannon smash through the early notes releasing a mouthwatering brandy and almond finish. With a touch of spice thrown in, there is no hiding place from the majesty of Co-op’s mincemeat maelstrom.
Extra Pies was inevitable, but just how many dare I risk?
Bouncing bites back and forth, I continue until the detail is lost and only the feeling remains…
|And the winner is: M&S Classic have edged the best grand final in recent memory. Both these giants of 2016 deserve a place on your Christmas table, but MSC might create 1% more ecstasy.|
|Semi Final - Marks & Spencer Luxury vs Co-op Luxury - 13th Dec 2016
Away in a kitchen tough judgement ahead, the blogging pie jesus lays down his tweet thread. I’ll stop all that stuff now, sorry. I am being swept away with the romance of this startling occasion, wherein a pie from nowhere is facing up to the biggest self-congratulatory line in supermarket history. Can the self-proclaimed 6 Star Kanye smack down the Co-op Craig David? There’s a place in the Grand Final up for grabs and a chance to take on M&S Classic, back in her pomp, somehow.
|M&S Luxury – "not really my scene dear"||Co-op Luxury – it’s ok, he’s with the rebellion|
|Marks & Spencer Luxury||Co-op Luxury|
|Now rarer than hen's teeth around these parts, the precious golden box has been a tradition for the upper echelon of Marks’ pies since their inception. Connoisseur had it, Collection had it, Ultimate had it, and it has now passed to their new 6 Star hope.||They’ve been knocking on the door of the semis for a couple of years with their ‘Truly Irresistible’ offerings. How ironic that the first year they downgrade themselves to merely ‘Irresistible’ they achieve their previously impossible dream and dine at the top table (or thereabouts) of mince pie society.|
Fighters are stripped off (foil versus paper) and ready for the bell.
There is an understated elegance to MSL’s well powdered outer, but the pastry does not function well in its uncooked state meaning Co-op’s firmer bite and mid level of butteriness manages to steal a march on their more rich, doughy rival.
MSL are all about the mouth-feel and perfectly appointed inners. Eschewing crunch from biscuity walls or nutty titbits, MSL focus on a yuletide ooze that can slide you from a chair. It doesn’t pack the punch of the Classic, but spices are delicately controlled while being introduced to a modest boozy fruit combo to form a new breed of mincemeat jazz.
Co-op aren’t out of this tie, by any means, and force immediate gratification from the all powerful cidering on display. A flood of raisins attack the mash sending moist nutty shards of joy to every corner of one’s cake-hole. Irresistible may be the right word. Like a terrifying mugging.
Whisper it, in case my despairing cardiologist is listening, but this is going to Extra Pies…
It will come down to an all to familiar choice, for Arsenal fans at least, dainty or direct – which one would you choose?
|And the winner is: I’ve gone direct! Co-op Luxury have driven out the doubts and put a smile on the faces of fun-fans everywhere. Not Gungans. 'Fans of fun'.|
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