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Photography by Kimberly Duffy.

Taste Test Thursday: Salsa Verde

Last summer, the web team tasted salsas rojas. We decided the verdes deserved a moment in the spotlight too. Two jars and three plastic to-go tubs later, we had a clear winner.

THE CONTESTANTS:
A: White Girl Salsa, bought from Whole Foods (admittedly purchased because of the name).
B: Silverleaf Ghost Pepper Salsa Verde, also from Whole Foods.
C: Salsa verde from El Pollo Regio.
D: Salsa verde from Mr. Mesero.
E: Salsa verde from Michoacana Grocery.

THE REVIEWS:
A: White Girl Salsa
“Sweet and lemony…not much of a kick. Has a pleasant texture to it.”
“Very sweet. Nice, but more relishy.”
“Lots of lime, too sweet.”
“Bland, flavorless. Too sweet to use. Terrible.”
“Tastes like relish. Too sweet.”
“Just kind of sour and bland. Meh.”
“Too sweet.”
“Sweet and mild.”
(See a theme here? This is sweet.)

B: Silverleaf Ghost Pepper
“Has some extra veggies in it. Spicy, but not a true green salsa.”
“Funky tasting.”
“Just pickled sugar. Get this out of here.”
“Lots of spice, a little overpowering.”
“There is a delayed kick in this one.”
“You thought C was spicy? This will clear out your sinuses. We were scrambling for tissues after this one.”
“Like a pickled relish, but hot.”
“Spicy, but nice blended flavor.”

Photo by Kimberly Duffy.
Photo by Kimberly Duffy.

C: El Pollo Regio
“Don’t like the smooth texture. Wow-delayed heavy heat.”
“Bitter—it’s just creamy jalapeños.”
“Smooth, avocadoey…goodness. (2 mins later) Holy crap my mouth is on fire. This is the wolf in sheep’s clothing of salsas.”
“Creamy with a kick. I like the balance.”
“Great lingering heat. Similar to Pollo Regio’s. I don’t consider this salsa.” (Way to guess it, Bradford.)
“Nice and creamy, but hot! This would be awesome on tacos.”
“This one looks like it’s got avocados in it. The heat really sneaks up on you!”
“Creamy and spicy. Fools you with smoothness and leaves you with a hot kick.”

D: Mr. Mesero
“Just tastes like grass.”
“Good balance of sweet and spicy.”
“Fresh, more of a blended jalapeño than a salsa.”
“A little sweeter, lacks normal kick. Could use more flavor.”
“Hardly any spice at all…just tasted like a wheat grass shot.”
“Bland, watery.”
“I actually don’t know how to describe this. Nothing stands out.”

E: Michoacana
“Nice heat. Not too much.”
“Tastes like bell peppers, not spicy at all. Takes a second for a tiny spark to ignite in your mouth.”
“Weird acidic flavor to it.”
“Good, restrained heat.”
“Ouch, that was spicy!
“Whoa mama! Very spicy! But great flavor.”
“Liquid tomatillo. Basic, good, classic.”

TALLY:
White Girl: 0
Silverleaf: 0
El Pollo Regio: 5
Mr. Mesero: 1
Michoacana: 2

CONCLUSION:
We tried to get a variety in both texture and heat, and that was a success. White Girl salsa (in medium heat, although mild and hot were available) had a pickled sweetness to it, with just the slightest bit of spice on the back end. None of us cared for it much. Silverleaf Ghost Pepper wasn’t as hot as it sounds, although it induced sniffles in pretty much everyone. This was also vinegary, with tons more diced veggies, so it was enjoyable, but was lacking something fundamental that we expected out of our salsa verde. Maybe it would have worked better as a garnish than as a dipping salsa.
Mr. Mesero’s salsa is nice, but we all had trouble picking out flavors in it. It was a little bland; pleasant, perfectly fine, but unremarkable. Michoacana’s version was more appreciated, as it had a more typical texture and taste. This is the one you want if you’re craving classic tomatillo flavor. Simple, traditional, just right.
But the one that won us over came in a tub from El Pollo Regio. The creamy, smooth texture threw off a couple of tasters who prefer a more seedy, chunky style. The thing we all loved about it is the delayed heat. You finish your chip and you think you’re done, and all you got was some great jalapeño flavor. But then you feel it rising in your sinuses, and you take a drink of water, then dive in for another chipful. This simple blended sauce is addictive. It’s spicy for sure, but excellent on tacos indeed. I think I could put it on pretty much anything and love it.