Ranch dressing is a staple in the diets of many children. A few carrots and a dish of dressing is a common lunchtime side dish. Homemade versions are worth the effort, but these days, who has time? Instead, Taster's Choice found seven varieties of tiny, portable pouches, cups or tubes of ranch dressings ready for any lunch box salad or on-the-go dip. Many of them did not require refrigeration, although some were found in the produce refrigerators at local grocery stores. Our five judges dipped baby carrots into each sample and found a few they would take to work or school.
Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent
|Product/Score (out of 100)||Hidden Valley/73||Naturally Fresh/69||Heinz/ 61|
|How'd it look?||Tan or slightly gray around the edges with green herb flecks.||Dark-cream colored and watery with tiny herbs.||The color of glue and skimpier on the herbs.|
|Judges' comments||Sweet and "actually very good," said one judge. Another detected a pleasing salty aftertaste. "I think it has a buttermilk taste that is strong, but pleasant," said a panelist who also liked the vinegar flavor she tasted.||Tart and cheesy. Yummy and homemade. Creamier and spicier than the competition. One judge said the dressing tasted fat-free.||Tart and smooth with a nice taste of vinegar. "It tastes better than it looks," said one panelist.|
|Would they buy?||Three said yes. One said maybe.||Three said yes. One said maybe.||Two said yes. One said maybe.|
|Shopping information||Widely available. $3.42 for six 2.5-ounce cups from Wal-Mart.||Widely available. $1 for three 2-ounce cups from Publix.||Widely available. 50 cents for a 2-ounce cup from Wal-Mart.|
Panelists: Ron Heller, Western Civilization teacher at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg; Paula Cheshire, first-grade teacher at Oakhurst Elementary School in Largo; Kim Thomson, fifth-grade teacher at Pasadena Fundamental School in St. Petersburg; Jan Robison, Latin teacher at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg; and Times food editor, Janet K. Keeler. All foods were tasted blind.
Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or e-mail them to email@example.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.