...mince pie mayhem
Never before has the pursuit of pastry distraction felt so important. With little to cheer in a stormy world of bullish nonsense, we can steady the ship and import joy to your desperate dockside (no offence meant).
Join us for the internet equivalent of drawing the curtains, popping on the Bagpuss boxset and settling down with a nice cup of tea. You are in a safe place here. The pies, however, had better watch out, Father Christmas is coming for you!
Sixteen pies start the season with high hopes (see our tournament draw), but only one will prevail. Ready the annals, 2017's dream is about to come true...
|Semi Final - Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger vs Iceland Luxury - 11th Dec 2017
For everyone who tried to swap their sister’s Sindy for an Action Man bazooka every Saturday morning in the late ‘70s, today may have lost its pre-Christmas gloss. But with each saddening Christmas loss the compulsion toward living life to the full must be recognised, even if the sum total of that drive is to provide honest account of supermarket mince pies.
The first semi of 2017 heralds the dawn of a new era. Not only have Iceland finally found their feet as a mainstream provider but their pies have gone to school on the luxury end of Marks’ offerings, dragging themselves into the seasonal mix through sheer persistence. Standing in their way are the coolest new kids in town. Waitrose’s Chocolate and Ginger have all the latest toys, but do they have the best heart?
|Waitrose Choc & Ginger - Who mentioned marmalade?||Iceland Luxury - Wants to be taken seriously|
|Waitrose Chocolate & Ginger||Iceland Luxury|
|This bronze puck may be squat but their charm lies in the ‘hand-raised’ complexion afforded the upper edges and lid. Strategically original in every aspect, will we see a flurry of multicoloured top shots in 2018?||No tricks in play from Iceland’s double star lid. Little one sits on big one, no twists, no curls, job done. Cheeky glimpses of the mincemeat where the star leaves its outer ajar. Teasing in a Victorian ankle sense, not the delayed full frontal of today’s dating shows.|
Undaunted by the occasion Waitrose lead us straight into temptation, shocking a restful tongue with impossibly cocoa-led pastry, only enjoyed previously by the most craven Aztec artisans, or Belgians.
Iceland fight back in a powerfully orthodox butter crumb, and the tie takes on the appearance of Schwarzenegger’s dangerous special forces resisting the unknown Predator in a wintery jungle.
This could go either way (no 30 year old spoilers).
Fascinating granular chews approach the style of brownie mixture, allowing ample time for Waitrose to remind us that they have trapped the essence of ginger and orange deep within. We could see what lay beneath Iceland’s inexhaustive topper early doors, and on its release all hell breaks loose. Stewed fruit darts through the grind, cracking and spitting as its unmissable crack reduces what would otherwise be perfectly judged innard. Well-balanced spices complement the sensible tippling while apple leaks in and out of play.
The variation in attack is incredible, time and again my teeth no sooner settle into a cosseted stroll before being sparked into battle as the entrants alternate.
|And the winner is: Waitrose Chocolate and Ginger got lucky today, going through by virtue of their smoother output. Iceland should feel let down by their pips, at entirely the wrong moment. #pippedatthepost|
|Quarter Final - Iceland Luxury vs Tesco Finest - 7th Dec 2017
Iceland, as traditional underdogs of the baking scene, have suffered from some tough draws through the years. And, they won’t thank us for saying this, backed the wrong horse with Peter Andre getting the nod as spokesman ahead of Craig David. However, they have easily taken the award for 2017’s best Christmas advert with the fabulously creepy ‘Luxury Gilded Turkey’. They even advertise their mince pies in a different version within the game-changing campaign.
Tesco won’t care though. As the biggest producer never to have taken the title, these early rounds are nothing but an inconvenient delay in their quest for yuletide revenge against the posh lads from Marks. How far can their little green men go this year?
|Iceland Luxury – Not Frozen Food||Tesco Finest – Can anything hold them?|
|Iceland Luxury||Tesco Finest|
|Sporting this year’s must have, the star duo motif, Iceland continue the luxury feel by sitting in a golden sleeve within a sophisticated midnight jazz club crumbshot. Confident enough to use ‘Luxury’ as a one word description of their contents, we need to scan the side panels to glean further titbits of info, but even then, little more than a Tweet* awaits.||Having been edged in the semi by M&S Classic, there was no earthly reason to change their look and feel. Now proudly the only entrant to insist that alien faces make great Christmas memories, the sheer terror engendered on their introduction in 2014 has ebbed away to be replaced by a sense of nostalgic relief.|
Getting into the drift of what passes for icing sugar dumped upon Iceland’s starry upper, a well-browned lip provides crisp butter reward.
In response, Tesco’s dull biscuit taint has a comforting yield and the faintest pinch of fruity undertone, but may still need to make up ground from within.
Under Iceland’s dazzling lid is a wonderland of neatly spiked fruit hanging within a jammy landscaped orchard. There is joy to be had here.
Tesco’s own playground for the palate seems paltry in this new light. The investment in Courvoisier was perhaps a gamble, and the welcome addition of nuts presents a solid team, on paper. The punch is sadly absent though, particularly notable as the episodic crunch is navigated carefully, a hiatus in which we could expect to be thrilled by the depth of tang or the rich festive cheer of spiced currants.
Clearly, our expectations of a hiatus with punch have not been met. Not yet anyway, but the wait for a taxi after the Pie Club Christmas party on Black-Eye Friday should see to that.
Anyway, I think the last semi-finalist can be announced.
*By the way...if you want to be alerted the moment our semis appear, follow @PieClubPC on that Twitter
|And the winner is: Iceland Luxury have achieved greatness. A semi-final berth for a frozen food merchant seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. Fairytale stuff.|