It shows up at nearly every casual party, and it's one of the bowls emptied fastest. It's the onion dip. And it's usually made with sour cream and dried onion soup mix.
Taster's Choice prepared dip from seven brands of the powdery mix and liked one so much that it made the Taster's Choice Hall of Fame, receiving 90 or more out of 100 possible points.
Judges raved about Target's Market Pantry onion soup mix (79 cents for 2 ounces). They gave the final dip 97 points. All five panelists said they would buy the store brand.
The dip was the color of Silly Putty, but it had the taste of real onions.
Most of the panelists mistook the store brand for the familiar Lipton soup mix. "I've had this before," said one. She was wrong.
"It's the perfect gold standard," she said. "Bring on the game!"
Judges said the dip had a nice sweet and salty balance.
"It's not too thick, and it has glistening, tiny onion flecks," said one.
"Assertive and yummy," said another.
The Albertsons store brand ($1.29 for 2 ounces) trailed a distant second in our survey, receiving 65 points. Three of the five judges said they would use it in a party dip.
"This one is very creamy with a lot of real onion flavor," said one judge.
The taste of the Albertsons brand also had a nice sweet/savory balance and a slight yellow color that judges described as pleasant and not pasty.
Wal-Mart's store brand, Great Value (82 cents for 2.5 ounces), was their third choice with 63 points. Again, three said they would buy the mix.
The Great Value soup mix turned out a dip that was more caramel or peach colored than the others and very smooth. It also seemed thinner than the competition.
Also sampled were onion soup/dip mixes from: Lipton ($1.12 for 2 ounces from Wal-Mart, receiving 40 points); Publix (99 cents for 2.5 ounces, 57 points); Goodman's ($2.35 for 2.75 ounces, 46 points); and Hannaford (99 cents for 2 ounces from Sweetbay, 33 points).
Panelists were: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; Times food critic Laura Reiley; and consumer/foodie John Hehn, owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product tastings to Taste, 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 columns, go to www.sptimes.com/food.