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Taste test: butternut squash soup

On a recent trip to the grocery store I overheard two women discussing their plans for Thanksgiving. One said she was disappointed because she had to go to her daughter-in-law's house for the main meal. But, she allowed, she was looking forward to the butternut squash soup her son's wife serves every year. "That's worth the whole trip," she told her friend. I had never tried butternut squash soup until my daughter's third-grade teacher brought some home from a Trader Joe's store in Atlanta. She used to drive to her hometown a few times a year to get her hair cut by her favorite stylist and to buy the soup. She would bring home enough soup to last until her next trip north. That was before St. Petersburg got its first Trader Joe's in 2015. This week we were able to find butternut squash soup in several local grocery stores, although judges did put Trader Joe's among their top choices.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)
Imagine 69Wolfgang Puck 56Trader Joe's 48
Judges'

comments
Specks of spices in this soup gave it an attractive appearance. Judges also liked the flavor of the slightly sweet, perhaps oniony finish. "I like the nice, pale color," said one panelist. "It's a little sweet and autumnal. A roaring fire and this soup is close to perfection," he added. Another judge liked the nutmeg and spices in the blend. "It's got a vibrant, yet slightly muted orange color and a nice, rich flavor," she said. "The color of this soup isn't quite electric," said one judge. "But, don't be fooled. The taste is quite squashy." She said she would top the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and serve it as a first course at Thanksgiving. Another judge said, "This is a nice, hearty soup that tastes like it was made with a pretty delicious stock. It's very full-bodied with nice flecks of pepper." One panelist described the soup as "pleasantly homey looking." She liked the bright color and the balance of salt to the sweet and spicy flavors. "The squash flavor really shines through," she added.The soup worthy of a 10-hour drive by my daughter's teacher was appreciated by our panelists for its bright orange color and the slight tartness in the flavor. A couple of judges said they detected a pleasing amount of nutmeg in the mixture. All four panelists said they would use the soup as a base and add more ingredients for additional flavor. They suggested fresh herbs, sour cream or creme fraiche. One said she might also add cheese to the soup for a little flavor boost.
Would

they buy?
Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.99 for a 32-ounce carton from Publix.$2.50 for a 14.5-ounce can from Publix.$2.99 for a 32-ounce carton.


Also Sampled: Pacific ($3.99 for a 32-ounce carton from Publix, 45 points); Amy's ($2.70 for a 14.1-ounce can from Winn-Dixie, 37 points); and Sam's Choice ($2.50 for a 15.5-ounce container from Walmart, 8 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director Studio@620; Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg; and Laura Reiley, Times food critic. All soups were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to mstark@tampabay.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

tampabay.com/things-to-do/food/tastetest.

Serving sizeOne cupOne cupOne cup
Calories10017090
Fat/Fiber1.5g / 2g11g / 2g2g / 3g
Sugars/Sodium7g / 460mg8g / 650mg5g / 550mg
Carbs/Protein21g / 1g17g / 1g16g / 2g

Taste test: butternut squash soup 11/18/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2016 2:24pm]
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