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Looking back at the tastes of 2009

In 2009, Taster's Choice panelists found new twists to old treats. Instead of simply bottled iced tea, we drank green tea. Instead of crackers, we tasted flatbreads, and instead of plain chocolate, we sampled hot fudge sauce and frozen chocolate lava cakes. We have started to revisit some foods for the first time since we launched Taster's Choice in July 2004, in part because many new brands have come on to the market. • Store brands continue to do well in our surveys, and we are still surprised at how many new ways there are to enjoy old favorites and comfort foods. • For Taster's Choice, we shop at Publix, Sweetbay, Walmart (and, occasionally, Sam's Club), Target, Aldi, health food stores and Gordon Food Service Marketplace, a discount bulk food store with locations in Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Because GFS is a source for restaurants, the food is packaged in larger quantities. Nevertheless, their products fare well with judges. • Today we provide a list of more than 40 of the judges' picks for 2009. As you read through it, remember that most major brands are available at multiple grocery stores. Store brands that do not have the same name as the store are noted. Also, we note where we bought some of the lesser-known brands. We try to find at least four brands to compare. In some cases, two brands may receive the same score from our judges, making more than three top picks. — Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

We appreciate tips to improve the column and suggestions about grocery store foods to try. E-mail your thoughts to Kathy Saunders at kathy@ Put SUGGESTIONS in the subject line. Suggestions also may be mailed to Taster's Choice, Newsfeatures, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Frozen cheese ravioli

1. Buitoni

2. Primo Gusto

3. Rosetto

Water crackers

1. Nabisco

2. LU

3. Carr's

Frozen buffalo wings

1. T.G.I. Friday's

2. Market Pantry (Target)

3. Meal Mart Glatt Kosher

String cheese

1. Market Pantry (Target)

2. Crystal Farm

3. Chuck E. Cheese

Butter pecan ice cream

1. Haagen-Dazs

2. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

3. Publix

Cottage cheese

1. Friendship

2. Great Value (Walmart)

3. Lactaid

Frozen pie shells

1. Marie Callender's

2. Mrs. Smith's

3. GFS (Gordon Food Service) Marketplace

Roasted red peppers

1. Mezzetta

2. Mt. Olive

3. B&G

Bottled green tea

1. Tazo

2. Gold Peak

3. Honest Tea

Chocolate chip cookies (100-calorie packs)

1. Keebler Chips Deluxe

2. Great Value (Walmart)

3. Nabisco


1. Pepsi

2. Coke

3. Sam's Club

Ground cinnamon

1. McCormick Saigon

2. Spice Islands Organic

3. Market Pantry (Target)

Pitted prunes

1. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

2. Publix

3. Del Monte

Queso dip

1. Tostitos Salsa Con Queso

2. Fritos Chili Cheese Dip

3. EatSmart Flame Roasted Salsa Con Queso

Mini powdered doughnuts

1. Hostess Sweet Sixteen Powdered Mini Donuts

2. Dolly

3. Mrs. Freshley's

Maraschino cherries

1. Cherry Man

2. Publix

3. Great Value (Walmart)

Skillet meal

1. T.G.I. Friday's Firecracker Sesame Chicken

2. Bertolli Roasted Chicken & Linguine

3. (tie) Gourmet Dining Chicken Stir Fry

Putney Pasta Chicken Alfredo

Chive and onion cream cheese

1. Philadelphia

2. Publix

3. (tie) Hannaford (Sweetbay)

Great Value (Walmart)

Hot dogs

1. Hebrew National Jumbo Beef

2. Nathan's Skinless

3. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

Frozen pepperoni pizza

1. Red Baron Thin & Crispy Tuscan Style

2. Reggio's Chicago Style

3. Uno Deep Dish

Snack mix

1. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

2. Archer Farms (Target)

3. Chex Mix

Steak sauce

1. Emeril's

2. Braswell's of Georgia

3. Heinz

Garlic Texas toast

1. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

2. Publix

3. Pepperidge Farm

Bruschetta spread

1. Phil Stefani Tuscany

2. Hannaford (Sweetbay)

3. Bellino

Freezer pops

1. Fun Pops

2. Market Pantry (Target)

3. Jelly Belly

Sliced turkey breast

1. Castle Wood (Sam's Club)

2. Sara Lee

3. GFS

Frozen pumpkin pie

1. Marie Callender's

2. Publix

3. Chef Jean Pierre (GFS)

Frozen mini pancakes

1. Albertsons

2. Eggo

3. Pillsbury

Iced oatmeal cookies

1. Mercer (Aldi)

2. Publix

3. Smart Option (Sweetbay)

Yellow rice

1. Vigo

2. Mahatma

3. Goya

Bread and butter pickles

1. Great Gherkins

2. Market Pantry (Target)

3. Vlasic

Canned mandarin oranges

1. Publix

2. Del Monte

3. Dole

Frozen chocolate lava cakes

1. Archer Farms (Target)

2. Great Value (Walmart)

3. Taste of Inspirations (Sweetbay)

Rye crisp breads

1. RyKrisp

2. Finn Crisp

3. Kavli

Garlic herb cheese spread

1. Laughing Cow

2. Boursin

3. Philadelphia

Canned beef vegetable soup

1. Winn-Dixie Healthy Select

2. Market Pantry (Target)

3. Campbell's Chunky Beef With Country Vegetables

Canned collard greens

1. Glory

2. Margaret Holmes (Sweetbay)

3. Allens

Black licorice

1. Darrell Lea Liquorice (Sweetbay)

2. Australian Soft (CVS Pharmacy)

3. Black Ace (Sweetbay)

Instant grits

1. Winn-Dixie

2. Dixie Lily

3. Great Value

Pimento cheese spread

1. Great Value (Walmart)

2. Price's (Publix)

3. Mrs. Kinser's (Sweetbay)

Hot fudge sauce

1. Hershey's

2. Smucker's

3. GFS

Macadamia nuts

1. Planters

2. Mauna Loa

3. CVS

Apple desserts

1. Marie Callender's

2. Taste of Inspirations (Sweetbay)

3. Mrs. Smith's

Looking back at the tastes of 2009 01/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 10:35am]
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