What makes good food even better? Condiments, of course. Let's hear a big cheer for ketchup, chutney, gochujang, bacon jam, Alabama white sauce and balsamic caramelized onions. For the first-ever Condiment Smackdown at Allrecipes.com's HQ in downtown Seattle, the invitation to participate went out to the best of the best artisan producers from the most recent Fancy Food Show. Our all-star panel (bios at the end of this post) tasted 14 condiments and the winner was a clear fave, but first, let's take a look at the competition.
The biggest trend is ketchup's comeback, but these are dramatically different from traditional Heinz, mostly sassier. Alongside poached chicken and extra crispy Tater Tots (bake them twice as long as the instruction on the package say), we sampled:
Blackberry Patch's Raspberry Chipotle Ketchup
Bandar Foods' Masala Ketchup
Traina Foods' Sriracha Sun-Dried Tomato Ketchup
White Oak Farm and Table's Marple Hall Spicy Ketchup
The Girl & The Fig's Apricot/Fig Chutney
Firebud Brands' Alabama Salvation Sauce
Terrapin Ridge Farms' Apple Horseradish Jam
Samba Flavor's Jalapeno Chimichurri
Apinya's Coconut Harissa Sauce
Mother In Law's Fermented Chile + Sesame Gochujang
Momofuku's Ssam Sauce (this was submitted separately, by one of my favorite condiment experts at DeLaurenti Foods in Seattle)
Gracious Gourmet Apple Caramelized Onion Spread
Lara's Cuisine's Balsamic Red Onions
The condiments were judged on taste, creativity, condiment-ness and presentation, with each category rated on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the best. Like any group tasting exercise, there were some wildly diverging opinions. While some awarded Mother in Law's Gochujang a perfect "20", other palates were not as impressed. All agreed, though, that there was a whole lot of creativity in the ever-expanding world of condiments. Tasters raved that the Orange Saffron Cardamom Marmalade hit the right balance of savory and sweet, plus bringing in the exotic flavors in a surprising way. "I'd put this on so much," said Julia Wayne, a contributor to Eater Seattle. One panelist declared: "I love this so much, I want to take this home and marry it."
Congrats to the winner, and fist bumps to condiments fans everywhere. There's never been better time to make your meal taste even better than with the addition of one of these superstars.
Our panelists included charcuterie legend and founder of Salumi, Armandino Batali, James Beard Foundation award winning chef Tamara Murphy, Matt Broussard, who works at Tom Douglas's Palace Kitchen and does regular popups as "A Cook Named Matt", Julia Wayne, who also works for Metropolitan Market and Allrecipes.com's editorial team, Leslie Kelly, Vanessa Greaves and Carl Hanson, as well as content marketing manager Sonja Groset. Social media genius Lindsey Otta live-streamed the tasting on Periscope, and Kelly Cline documented the event with beautiful photos.
The next tasting panel will judge ginger beers and potato chips, and will feature high profile bartenders offering advice for holiday cocktails, so stay tuned for more details.