Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Taste Test

If you aren't already, you should follow along with LB's great apple taste test ("Operation Eve"), where she side-by-side tastes different varieties of apples. How exciting!

All that excitement, as you can imagine, is making me want to do some taste testing! But I don't know what! (Actually, I was hoping to do sour cream, but it appears LB's friend Amy is already in the process of that.)

I've been involved with a few side-by-side taste tests in my life. One was a riveting study of chocolate conducted with Katie. I can't remember exactly, but I know we compared Dove, Hersheys, and Cadbury - anything else? It's pretty crazy when you put three similar things next to each other, because you notice weird, otherwise unnoticeable characteristics of them. For example, while Hersheys chocolate is awesome - when compared to Dove, it's really grainy! Never had I noticed the graininess before.

Patti and I also, recently did a peanut butter taste test: Smart Balance vs. Smuckers Natural vs. Reduced Fat Peter Pan. Both Smart Balance and Smuckers are unsweetened. The only 2 ingredients in Smuckers are "peanuts" and "salt." Smart Balance has a few more (like, palm oil, for example, to keep it from separating). My favorite of the three was the Smuckers; Patti's favorite (because she liked the classic taste of sweetened peanut butter) was Peter Pan.

Not to get on a soapbox or anything - but have you guys ever looked at the ingredient list for sweetened peanut butters (which, in fact, if you look at the label, are not called "peanut butter" at all, but instead "peanut spread")? "Roasted peanuts, corn syrup solids, soy protein concentrate, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil," etc. EW! And I know that when we were kids, we ate Jiff or Skippy or whatever - so when we think of "peanut butter" in our minds, it's that sweetened version. But gross! I would much rather add some honey or sugar to the 2-ingredient brand than take in corn syrup, genetically modified soy, and trans fat! Just saying.

So back to these taste tests. As you can imagine, I've done a ketchup side-by-side before. I've tried Heinz, Hunts, Walmart brand, and Fancy Catsup (or whatever that really cheap one is, with the wrapper that's blue & white). I've also, at a different time, tried Heinz Organic next to Heinz regular. And at yet another time, regular Heinz next to Reduced-Sugar Heinz.

Oddly enough, since I love ketchup so much, my tastes sort of change. Sometimes I like a sweeter version, sometimes a more vinegary one. Fancy Catsup is by far the sweetest ketchup on the market (and therefore a little more grainy). But otherwise, they're all somewhat similar. Hunts & Walmart brand tend to be more vinegary than Heinz (which, since my preference is towards that of late, Hunts is my current front runner). The reduced-sugar Heinz wasn't very good. And I think Heinz has recently tweaked the organic formula - because when I first tried it awhile ago against regular, it wasn't that good. But last time I was in St. Louis, my mom had the Organic, and it was about equal to normal Heinz. I. Love. Ketchup.

So what should my next taste test be?? I'm sort of interested in trying cupcakes next to each other (one from love-of-my-life GiGi's Cupcakes [which is a chain bakery] and one from Muddy's Bake Shop [which is local and has a huge following of chain-haters]). I've had them independent of each other (where GiGi's smoked Muddy's), but I'd be interested in a side-by-side. It's sort of difficult, though, because I'd have to have the same flavor cupcake from each - and I'm not sure if their menus overlap on any days.

Any other thoughts for taste tests? I love to eat!


LB said...

1st, I'm so grossed out by the peanut butter info. All-natural, what what!

2nd, I think it's clear that you need to a BBQ sauce test.

3rd, Maybe when you guys are in TX we can do a queso test? This would involve a little driving / reheating / immediate binging, but I've been dying to do one so I can remember where all the most delicious places are!

Claire said...

So my mother insists on buying Hunt's ketchup after "Cook's Illustrated" taste tests rated it the winner. I'm a Heinz girl myself. The results, from first to last:

Heinz Organic
Annie’s Organic

Recommended with Reservations:
Del Monte
Muir Glen Organic (like their canned tomatoes!)

Not Recommended:
World’s Best
Westbrae Natural Fruit Sweetened

Happy ketchup-eating!

Jackie said...

oh - i forgot about del monte! definitely too sweet (along the lines of Fancy Catsup) - and with a weird textture.

clearly, though, i am really missing out on organic ketchup options - i'll have to remember next time i'm at whole foods!