When my good friends Melissa and Kathleen visited in May, I wanted to do something fun and special. The three of us absolutely love the salsa from our favorite Mexican restaurant in Peoria, IL (where we went to college). The restaurant is Carlos O'Kelly's. Yes it's a chain, but their salsa is made in-house (Melissa should know, she worked there!) Our plan was for them to drive from Chicago and stop in Springfield at the Carlos O'Kelly's that's right off the highway to pick up some salsa on their way to St. Louis. Unfortunately, Melissa was informed that the restaurant had suddenly closed! I had no choice but to arrange a Salsa Showdown and make my three favorite salsas for us to taste test!
My all-time favorite salsa for years has been the Black Bean(less) Salsa. If you read my original post about it, you'll know that it was this very salsa that got Kathleen to eat red onions! One day, I saw this Fresh Homemade Salsa on Annie's blog and it looked so delicious. I loved that it closely resembled restaurant-style salsa in appearance. Of course I have room in my life for more than one salsa, right? Especially when they are as different as these two! Wow, this salsa is amazing and I was happy to have a more traditional salsa to serve with enchiladas, quesadillas, and fajitas. Then I did a dumb thing...or a brilliant thing...I saw Pioneer Woman's Restaurant-Style salsa and just HAD to try it. Uh oh, I loved it. Now what was I to do? The Black Bean(less) Salsa is very different and I actually prefer it with just tortilla chips, not on other Mexican food, so it doesn't really count, but these two red salsas are very similar...almost similar enough that I had to choose one, but how? I don't know about you, but I simply cannot make a decision unless I have two things side-by-side. This called for a Salsa Showdown, not unlike my Magic Brownie showdown, Ricotta Pancakes two ways, and my Great Pumpkin Bread-Off. I had wanted to do this, oh, ever since I tried Pioneer Woman's salsa. Finally I had the perfect opportunity and the perfect little guinea pigs (or fruit flies if you know what I do for a living) for my experiment :-)
I made the three salsas in one night and stored them in ambiguously marked containers labeled A, B, and C. Only I knew the identity of the salsas. Now let's get down to the details of the Showdown:
The taste testers: Bob, Melissa, and Kathleen.
The mission: determine the best salsa according to taste, texture, and overall appeal.
The vehicle for said salsas: Tostitos scoops.
Meet the contenders:
In this (left) corner, weighing in at 3 ounces (just kidding!) we have Salsa A from Pioneer Woman.
And in this (right) corner, we have Salsa B from Annie's Eats.
It's pretty obvious, but Salsa C is the Black Bean(less) Salsa in the center.
To be fair, I told the taste testers not to consider this salsa in their vote since it is so different. I really just made it because it's Kathleen's fav and I wanted Melissa to try it out (oh and I love it too!)
A little description of each:
Salsa A: A scrumptious combination of Rotel tomatoes, canned whole tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, and all the usual yummy suspects.
Salsa B: A delectable blend of fresh tomatoes, canned fire-roasted tomatoes (my personal addition), yellow onion, cumin, jalapenos, garlic, and a touch of red wine vinegar.
Salsa C: This salsa combines the sweetness of shoepeg corn, the spiciness of Rotel tomatoes, and the zestiness of red onions. Cumin, fresh lime juice, and cilantro add brightness and freshness.
The verdicts (wow it's even hard for me to type that word after the horrific Anthony trial!):
1) Because Bob has a hard time following directions, he performed his test before they arrived. His immediate answer was "Salsa A" - he thought it had a fresher taste. I thought this was funny because this salsa has no actual fresh tomatoes in it, as opposed to Salsa B which does.
2) Melissa agreed with Bob - Salsa A was the winner for her, though this was a close call. Also citing "fresh tasting" as a reason for her choice.
3) Kathleen also agreed that Salsa A was her preference. Again the "fresh" word came up, and this was close for her too.
4) So maybe you're wondering what I think?? Sorry folks, it's a hung jury - I sort of prefer Salsa B! I think it's because I used fire-roasted tomatoes and I just love that smoky taste they impart. I probably shouldn't have done that for fairness. I feel like I performed an uncontrolled experiment! I love both Salsa A and Salsa B, but I kept going back to Salsa B . . . again . . . and again. This presents a major problem for me because I was hoping Bob and I would agree on a clear winner and I would have my "go to" recipe. No such luck!
Now on the tasters' opinions of the Black Bean(less) Salsa - all 3 agreed that they loved this salsa and that it wasn't fair to compare it to the more traditional salsas. Personally, I could not agree more. It's just wonderful! No, seriously try it!
So there you have it, mostly a win for Pioneer Woman's Restaurant-Style Salsa with one holdout (me!) for Annie's Eats Fresh Homemade Salsa.
Have I finished my salsa quest? Not a chance. I still plan to make an at-home version of one of my favorite restaurant salsas...and no, it's NOT Carlos O'Kelly's ;-)
10 hours ago