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Taste test: kalamata olives

When hosting cocktail or dinner parties on her television show, chef Ina Garten advises viewers to serve a first course of finger foods, including store-bought olives, mixed nuts and maybe prosciutto-wrapped figs. She saves most of her homemade efforts for making entrees. It's good advice. With holiday party season fast approaching, our panelists plan to try Ina's suggestions for easy appetizers, starting with olives. We sampled eight brands of jarred, pitted kalamata olives from local grocery store shelves.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent

Product/Score

(out of 100)
Lindsay 62Mezzetta 61Vigo 53
Judges'

comments
Lindsay's olives were deep purple and very plump. Judges said they looked like they came from a specialty store. "I think they would look great on a Caesar salad," said one panelist. They also were juicy with a pleasant briny flavor. One said they would brighten up some of his favorite Greek-inspired recipes or a French tapenade. "These could definitely stand on their own in a beautiful glass or silver serving dish," said another.A perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors earned these olives a higher score from our panelists. "They have bold, robust flavor and a great chew," said one judge. Another said, "I love that they are plump, briny and firm." The same judge said these would work great alongside a cheese platter "and maybe served with a signature cocktail." Pizza was the food that came to mind when one taster tried these olives. "I want these on my next Italian pie," he said."Rich," "satisfying" and "bold" are the words judges used to describe these olives. "These babies are a little bit chewy but nice and salty too," said one panelist. Another appreciated the uniform darkness and plumpness of the Vigo olives. "These would work well with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese stuffed in a chicken breast," said the judge. "They also would be perfect in a huge Greek salad."
Would

they buy?
All four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.Three of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$3.99 for a 6-ounce jar from Publix.$3.98 for a 9.5-ounce jar from Walmart.$3.52 for a 7-ounce jar from Walmart.


Also Sampled: Peloponnese ($5.99 for an 11.1-ounce jar from the Fresh Market, 26 points); Organic Divina ($5.49 for a 10.2-ounce jar from the Fresh Market, 38 points); Trader Joe's ($2.99 for a 12-ounce jar, 37 points); Pearls ($3.49 for four 1.4-ounce containers from Target, 50 points); and Jeff's Naturals ($6.49 for a 7-ounce jar from the Fresh Market, 37 points).

Panelists: Bob Devin Jones, artistic director Studio@620; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Jeff Jensen, public information officer for the city of Treasure Island; and Kay Hodnett, personal chef. All foods 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 sizeThree olivesFour olivesFour olives
Calories354035
Fat/Fiber3g / 0g4g /0g3g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 300mg0g / 240mg0g / 270mg
Carbs/Protein1g / 0g1g / 0g2g / 0g

Taste test: kalamata olives 11/02/15 [Last modified: Monday, November 2, 2015 4:13pm]
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