For the first time since we launched Taster's Choice in summer 2004, we have started to retry some of the foods we originally sampled. In the past five years, the number of choices in local grocery stores has been growing rapidly. Where we once found only a handful of brands of a particular food, today we can find 10. We also have seen a significant increase in grocery store brands — and those not-as-well-decorated brands have continued to do well with our judges.
For Taster's Choice, we shop at Publix, Sweetbay, Wal-Mart (and, occasionally, Sam's Club), Target, 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 the judges' picks for the year to date. 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 appreciate tips to improve the column and suggestions about grocery store foods to try. E-mail your thoughts to Kathy Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
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
1. Market Pantry (Target) 2. Crystal Farm 3. Chuck E. Cheese
Butter pecan ice cream
1. Haagen-Dazs 2. Hannaford (Sweetbay) 3. Publix
1. Friendship 2. Great Value (Wal-Mart) 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 (Wal-Mart) 3. Nabisco
1. Pepsi 2. Coke 3. Sam's Club
1. McCormick Saigon 2. Spice Islands Organic 3. Market Pantry (Target)
1. Hannaford (Sweetbay) 2. Publix 3. Del Monte
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
1. Cherry Man 2. Publix 3. Great Value (Wal-Mart)
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 (Wal-Mart)
1. Hebrew National Jumbo Beef 2. Nathan's Skinless 3. Hannaford (Sweetbay)
Frozen pepperoni pizzas
1. Red Baron Thin & Crispy Tuscan Style 2. Reggio's Chicago Style 3. Uno Deep Dish
1. Hannaford (Sweetbay) 2. Archer Farms (Target) 3. Chex Mix
1. Emeril's 2. Braswell's of Georgia 3. Heinz
Garlic Texas toast
1. Hannaford (Sweetbay) 2. Publix 3. Pepperidge Farm
1. Phil Stefani Tuscany 2. Hannaford (Sweetbay) 3. Bellino
1. Fun Pops 2. Market Pantry (Target) 3. Jelly Belly