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For tasty tomato soup, please pass the Puck

By KATHY SAUNDERS
Published January 19, 2005


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Cans of tomato soup and boxes of saltines have replaced the holiday displays in many groceries. Taster's Choice had the same idea. Our panelists sampled 11 soups, sipping for taste, texture and dinner-table worthiness.

The soups were prepared on the stove, according to directions on the label. If milk or water was required for the condensed soups, we added whole milk.

Wolfgang Puck, chef, television personality and restauranteur, sells a good soup, according to our panelists. The can ($1.79) was purchased at a Publix, in the natural food aisle. Judges liked the sample's chunkiness, tinge of sweetness and flecks of parsley.

"Super duper," one judge said. "This is ideal, and you could pass it off for homemade."

"This has the best eye appeal," another panelist said.

Puck's soup received 64 out of a possible 80 points.

The second-place soup was Albertsons' brand (50 cents). With a bit of milk, the soup was thick and creamy. Some judges disliked the clay color, but others found it appealing. It had a hint of butter flavor, too. Judges gave it 45 points.

Publix (67 cents), placed third with 43 points. Judges liked the smooth texture and familiar, almost pink, color.

"Kids will love this, and so will adults," one panelist said. "This deserves a grilled-cheese sandwich."

Judges complained that some of the deeply red soups tasted like tomato sauce. They also turned up their noses at the thin, orange-colored soups, saying they were more like French dressing.

Most of the soups could pass as a meal with the addition of feta cheese or something else and salad or a sandwich on the side. One familiar soup, Campbell, was sampled twice. First from its condensed can (83 cents) and then in a ready-to-serve container ($2.49). The convenience didn't make much difference.

Judges gave the canned version 22 points and the ready-to-serve 32. Also sampled were soups by Imagine ($3.99), Pacific ($2.19), Progresso ($1.67), Walnut Acres ($1.79), Amy's ($2.79) and Kash n' Karry ($1.09).

Panelists were Marc Easterman, personal chef; Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Extension; Bob Devin Jones, actor, director and playwright; and Jim Yockey, aesthetician, Tierra Verde Salon and Day Spa. All products were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 or e-mail them to krieta@sptimes.com Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line.

RANKINGS

No. 1: Wolfgang Puck.

No. 2: Albertsons.

No. 3: Publix.

[Last modified January 18, 2005, 10:37:07]


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