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Taste Test Thursday: Restaurant Chips and Salsa

It seems everybody has an opinion when it comes to chips and salsa in Dallas, and more often than not, the opinion is a strong one. It’s one of those heated issues that can be uncomfortable to bring up in a room full of people — like religious views, or whether or not David Lynch is a sellout for endorsing a line of women’s athletic wear (I recently had a friend storm out of a cocktail party in a huff over that particular topic). People hold their favorite chips and salsa combos near and dear to their hearts. And truthfully, the quality (or lack thereof) is enough to lead someone to a specific restaurant, or steer them away. Ideally, we would have tasted all of the chips and salsas in town for this week’s blind taste test, but there was simply not enough counter space, or room in our bellies. So I narrowed down the selection to seven. Here’s what happened.

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Taste Test Thursday: French Baguettes

Last week a colleague asked me where he could find a delicious French baguette in downtown Dallas. I sat there for what felt like an hour with my mouth open while my eyes glazed over. I finally answered with a long “uhhhhhhh….” Truth is, I had no idea. Ridden with an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, I hopped on Google and started searching. While I couldn’t find anything in the downtown area, I did come across plenty of information on the usual suspects: Empire Baking Company, eatZi’s, Whole Foods, Village Baking Co. and Central Market. It seems each bakery has its own version of the classic French loaf. But which one is the best? A handful of conscientious D Magazine staffers stuffed their faces with bread for this week’s blind taste test. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Here’s what they thought.

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Taste Test Thursday: Apple Pie

October is National Apple Month. What is National Apple Month, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. But I do know that I like apples. And more than apples, I like pie. I’ve yet to find a flaky, succulent circle of happiness that I wasn’t eager to shovel into my mouth; from rhubarb to arguably the best pie on earth — chicken pot pie. So, for this week’s taste test, D Magazine staffers tried a handful of apple pies from grocery stores in town. I didn’t think it would be fair to include luscious, gourmet pies — I’m talking to you Emporium — in the ranking.  The pies varied in texture, flavor and price (ranging from $3.99 to $14.99) but only one reigned supreme. Here’s what happened.

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Taste Test Thursday: Pumpkin Beer

I grabbed a shopping cart at Spec’s this past weekend and loaded it up with every single gourd-infused brew that I could get my hands on. It was apparent that my enthusiasm for drinking all of the pumpkin beers had taken over when it came time to check out. I had to put some back. With help from a lovely beer aficionado, I narrowed down my selection to ten. Surely, ten was a good number? Wrong. It was still too many.

I made a final cut on the day of the taste test, squeezing it down to six, pumpkiny beers. Yes, Lakewood’s Punkel was axed. But everybody already knows how delicious it is, right? I wanted to feature some lesser-known brews. So, for this week’s installment of Taste Test Thursday D Magazine staffers sipped on (and chugged) a selection of pumpkin libations. Here’s what they thought.

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Taste Test Thursday: Raspberry Jam

There’s nothing I love more than a buttered piece of crispy-on-top toast, covered in jam. Raspberry jam.

That extra, seedy little crunch goes a long way. Just thinking about it makes me hungry.
As many of you may know, this is my last day at D, which means it’s my last taste test. Forever. But don’t shed too many tears for me, Argentina (or Dallas); I’m going to be eating and drinking my way in San Francisco like the pudgeball that I am. Come visit, SideDishers. I’ll miss all of you. Even you, not-nice commenters. I’ll be thinking of you, too.

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Taste Test Thursday: Pimento Cheese

Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese.

I love cheese.

In fact, I’m inhaling it right now. As a hardcore Southern-Asian-American gal, one of my favorite snacks is a tub of pimento cheese with a pile of crackers. Who doesn’t love mayo, cheddar, and veggie bits all smushed up together? One of my favorites in Dallas is made by We Me Dallas, but I didn’t exactly have the time to visit her at the farmers market this weekend. Instead, I went out and got these five other ones.

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Taste Test Thursday: Dallas Delivery Pizza

I once watched a Freaky Eaters episode of a 20-something man addicted to pizza. Bread, cheese, and tomato sauce was all he’d eat. No veggies, no nothing. His health suffered, his personal life went down the drain, and he was throwing up some weird gunk every morning.

I finished watching that episode and wanted to eat pizza immediately.
Here’s the thing: You can’t hate pizza. There are all sorts of pizzas, so it’s impossible to dislike. Hate Cane Rosso’s? Go to Zoli’s. Want to dine in? No. Fine. Do take out. Or better yet, sit on your couch and watch the Mavs lose by one point and drop to the eighth seed, while you order a 16-incher and swallow your woes with gobfuls of cheese.

That’s the way we do it here in the Big D. We order for delivery.

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Taste Test Thursday: Ketchup

Ketchup makes the world go ’round.

I like to squeeze bright red Heinz on my French fries, one by one. Little by little. That’s the only way to eat a guilty stash of McDonald’s, according to anyone who matters.

This week, I bought a bag of Tyson’s chicken nuggets and five bottles of organic ketchup for the sauciest taste test we’ve ever had. Good times, good times.

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Taste Test Thursday: Rotisserie Chicken

There are few American foods my dad loves more than rotisserie chicken.

(Maybe fried chicken, but that’s about it.)

I grew up eating Boston Market’s rotisserie chicken like my life depended on it. Actually, it took a lot of convincing by my co-workers before I decided to remove it from this taste test list. They say it’s crap; I say it’s fantastic. Memories, I’ll admit, can befuddle the mind.

For this tasting, I went to five common places to grab a rotisserie chicken in Dallas. I did this all within 1.5 hours and tried, as best I could, to get them back here to still hot. (They ended up warm.) Kroger made the cut because I’d heard good things. Its chicken came in a little plastic bag, swimming in a pool of savory juices. I’m sure you’re thinking the same thing I was, “Might be good, but how could it compare to Eatzi’s and Central Market?”

In that case, you’ll find the results surprising.

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Taste Test Thursday: Olive Oil

I don’t know how civilization would survive without olive oil.

I know I can’t.

Olive oil, at its very base, gives food a sweet fragrance. You can dip plain pieces of bread in it and call it a day. In fact, that’s how we did this taste test. I brought Tuscan bread, people dipped, and we had ourselves a little afternoon feast.

As part of my olive oil criteria, I only picked olive oils that are good for everyday use. None of these are your fancy, you-can-only-buy-it-online kind. You can most definitely find them at Central Market or Whole Foods.

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Taste Test Thursday: Texas Honey

One of my best friends in college was a guy named Oshri. As the beekeeper of the Duke Gardens, he had it something bad for those pointy little bugs.

During one of his honey-collecting trips, I suited up in a white space suit outfit and helped him bottle raw honey into a hundred plastic containers. Some containers had dead, crystallized ants in them. Others didn’t. I remember taking home a bottle with one of the dead bugs and feeling proud of it.

Raw, unfiltered honey is one of the best things we can enjoy. It helps with allergies, it has changed the economy of Sierra Leone, and it makes our world a better place. All the honeys we taste-tested this week were so different from each other, it’s kind of incredible.

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