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YELLOW RICE

Adding saffron to rice brings out a beautiful yellow color and a distinctive, sometimes bitter taste. Blended with a variety of meats and sauces, the rice can make even the most bland dinner seem festive. Taster's Choice judges shared memories of their favorite yellow-rice-enhanced Mediterranean, Latin and Italian dishes while sampling seven brands of yellow rice from local grocery stores. For our survey, each rice was steamed on the stove, except for one that required microwaving.

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Product/Score (out of 100) Vigo/63 Mahatma/62 Goya/49
How'd it look? Brown, amber colored. Lemon yellow. Golden.
Judges' comments The texture was the subject of reviews for this rice. The judges liked its firmness. One said it seemed like the steamed rice had been sauteed. Even so, the Vigo sample was among the fluffiest of the bunch. Judges described the servings as pillows. They also enjoyed the little flecks of red pimento and the hint of onion flavor. Judges raved about the light color and the airy texture of the Mahatma rice. It was pretty and shimmery. "It's a very nice shade of sun and as smooth as a Luther Vandross ballad," one panelist said. He loved the buttery flavor and smooth chew. Deep color and long, thick grains set this rice apart from the rest. Judges decided this rice would be the best with black beans because of its full-bodied taste. Butter, and salt, definitely influenced the flavor. "It's salty, but good salt," one judge said.
Would they buy? All four judges said yes. Three of the four judges said yes. Two of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information 67 cents for a 5-ounce package at Publix. 89 cents for a 5-ounce package at Publix. $2.15 for an 8-ounce package at Publix.

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Also Sampled: Publix (53 cents for a 5-ounce package, 48 points); La Mas Rica (99 cents for a 10-ounce bag from Aldi, 47 points); Iberia ($1.52 for a 10-ounce bag at Target, 46 points); and Minute ($1.97 for two 4.4-ounce cups at Publix, 38 points).

Panelists: Nan Jensen, registered dietitian with Pinellas County Cooperative Extension; Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of Studio@620; Jim Yockey, aesthetician at Anu You Institute; and Times food critic Laura Reiley. 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 jkeeler@sptimes.com. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to food.tampabay.com.

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