The salsa national championships.

How to be the best consumer you can be.
March 15 2005 6:02 PM

The Tangy 12

The salsa national championships.

(Continued from Page 3)

Los Cuatro Finales
SEMIFINALS
Mrs. Renfro's Habanero Salsa Hot
vs.
Desert Pepper Trading Company Corn, Black Bean, Roasted Red Pepper Salsa Medium
Like Maryland vs. Kansas in 2002, the real competition commenced during the semifinals. In the Dean & DeLuca Regional crown face-off, two-thirds of us voted Desert Pepper Trading Company our overall favorite. By the end, many felt betrayed by Mrs. Renfro's spice. As one taster put it, "It's a little punk-ass salsa. It's not that hot at the outset, but then it sneaks up and stabs you in the back." Desert Pepper advanced to the foregone conclusion of a final, 8.33 to 4.97.

Pace Chunky Salsa Medium
vs.
Ortega Homestyle Recipe Salsa Mild
Get a rope! Pace finally knocked "Poor-tega" out of the tournament. For a low-end jarred salsa, Pace held its own; four testers ranked it their third-favorite of all. Pace advanced, 4.67 to 3.69, to serve as cannon fodder for Desert Pepper in the finals.

The 2005 Salsa Championship
Desert Pepper Trading Company Corn, Black Bean, Roasted Red Pepper Salsa Medium
vs.
Pace Chunky Salsa Medium
A dull match, indeed. It's hard to say why Desert Pepper triumphed. In a sea of red slop, was Desert Pepper's unique look and taste simply a respite from the ordinary? Or was it worthy of the title? The telltale sign: At the end of the night, Bowl L, aka Desert Pepper, was the only empty bowl on the table.

Conclusion
Our testing revealed two important facts about mass-produced salsa. First, trust no labels. Despite a roster that included six "mediums," two "hots," and one "spicy," only one of 12 salsas—Mrs. Renfro's Habanero— packed serious heat, rating 8.11 on our scientific Heat Index. (Click here to see a ranking of salsas from mildest to hottest.)

Second, salsa is infinitely more enjoyable when accompanied by a pastime. The act of concentrating on salsa-laden chip after salsa-laden chip—as opposed to absently munching, distracted by the irritating honk of Dick Vitale—turned what I thought would be an enjoyable exercise into a torturous ordeal. My visiting team agreed; an hour into the taste test, most punctuated their evaluations with moans and threats of regurgitation. I still can't get too close to salsa without the odors triggering a painful burning within my stomach. Desert Pepper Trading Company may enjoy its victory, but we brave souls who witnessed its triumph may never enjoy salsa again.

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