For taste buds as happy as clams
By KATHY SAUNDERS
Published January 17, 2007
A friend from Rhode Island confessed that even she, a native New Englander and chowder connoisseur, will sometimes open a can of clam chowder for dinner.
Taster's Choice panelists prefer the homemade chowder as well, but they slurped 11 varieties of New England clam chowder to find a soup suitable to serve in a pinch.
We prepared all of the soups according to the package directions. Two of the brands required the addition of milk to the stove-top mixtures.
Judges said their favorite was the fancier version of the familiar Campbell's, the Campbell's Select soup $3.19 for an 18.6-ounce can at Wal-Mart.
Judges gave the Campbell's brand 57 out of a possible 100 points, praising the soup for its bright, white color and creamy texture.
Two of the four judges said they would buy the soup because they liked its large chunks of potatoes, celery and clams. But the other two said the mixture was too fishy for their taste.
Chowder from Publix ($1.79 for an 18.8-ounce can) was the choice right behind Campbell's, receiving 56 points.
"This one is slightly salty, but it has a nice, mild flavor of clams and nice chunky ingredients," said one judge. "It's creamy, white and pretty to look at."
Again, two of the judges said they would buy the Publix brand.
"This is what clam chowder is intended to taste like," said one of the Publix brand fans.
The other two described the store brand as too thick and pastelike.
The regular Campbell's brand is the one my friend from Rhode Island prefers when she's trying to stew a taste of home. The judges made it their third choice, with 52 points. The Campbell's brand ($1.29 for a 10-ounce can at Wal-Mart) was condensed; it was one of the soups that required milk.
Once more, two of the judges said they would buy the brand, favoring its more "watery" texture and sweet flavor.
The others said the milk made the soup a bit too thin for their liking.
"It might work for me if I smashed some of the potatoes," said one panelist.
Also sampled were clam chowders from Hannaford ($1.49 for an 18.5-ounce can from Sweetbay; Progresso Traditional ($2.19 for an 18.8-ounce can from Publix); Snow's ($1.29 for an 18.8-ounce can from Sweetbay); Gordon's Chesapeake ($3.09 for a 15-ounce can from Sweetbay); Healthy Choice ($1.79 for a 15-ounce can from Sweetbay); Albertsons Homestyle ($1.99 for an 18.8-ounce can from Albertsons); Health Valley ($3.49 for a 15-ounce can from Nature's Finest Foods); and Natural Sea Organic ($2.99 for a 15-ounce can from Nature's Finest Foods).
Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620 consumer and mother of two teenagers, Melinda Pletcher; and Jeffrey Fredrickson, executive chef at the Tradewinds Island Resorts on St. Pete Beach. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tasting to Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.
1. Campbell's Select
[Last modified January 16, 2007, 11:59:31]
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