Is gourmet food worth the extra dollar?

By Holly Dove

Our taste team finds some nice surprises in a gourmet versus budget food test

When it comes to “party” food, such as salami or olives, many might like to pay the extra few dollars to get added flavour and better quality. But when it comes to the bare essentials, budget food such as milk might taste just as good, if not better, than its gourmet rival. This week the Weekend Herald put gourmet food to the test against budget counterparts as a group of discerning food-lovers – including a Ponsonby chef – took part in a blind tasting. The seven-strong team tried a combination of essential foods and “party” foods – milk, olives, cheese, chips, salami, bananas and peanut butter. Comparing budget, mid-range and high-end foods the tasters sampled food from each category while blindfolded.

Without the packaging and brand-name hype, they were able to judge food based solely on taste – with no distractions.

The winners

Mainland Tasty Cheese, valued at $7.70 for 250g

Mid-range price.

“More crumbly [than the other contestants] and lots of flavour”, according to Herald’s Bite food editor Jo Elwin.

Ponsonby chef Dean agreed with the top spot, grading it a four out of five and describing it as “vintagey”.

Waitrose Halkidiki

olives valued at $8.99 for 300g.

High-end price.

A unanimous winner here, the Waitrose olives were described by tasters as big, juicy and full of flavour. “Succulent and herby”, said Dean, while fellow taster Lizzie Sullivan said they were “delicious and flavourful.”

Pic’s peanut butter, valued at $8.99 for 380g.

High-end price.

Pic’s peanuts were pre-roasted which gave them “the best taste and texture, by far”, according to journalist Catherine Gaffaney. Taster Gabrielle Feather said the roasted buttery flavour had an “earthy” taste, giving it a five out of five.

Organic fairtrade bananas valued at $4.25 per kilo.

High-end price.

Tasters found it difficult to taste the difference between the bananas, partly due to inconsistent ripeness – but a winner came out on top due to its “fresh and flavourful” taste, said Dean. The ordinary fair-trade mid-range banana came in at a close second, Ms Sullivan commenting that both bananas had “good flavours”.

Homebrand Milk valued at $2.35 a litre.

Budget price.

Most tasters had trouble with distinguishing difference in the milk, with Homebrand winning with 2.57 out of five average score compared to Lewis organic milk’s 2.35. Despite the low average ratings, some tasters enjoyed homebrand milk the most for its creamy texture and what Ms Sullivan described as a “smooth” flavour.

Nosh Bertoc Milano Salami valued at $4.47 for 112g.

Low-end price.

The high-end salami came out on top here described as having a full flavour and less oily than its rivals. Ms Witton gave it a four out of five rating due to its “salty, sharp, peppery” flavour and its good texture.

Heartland chips valued at $2.99 for 150g.

Mid-range price.

These chips had a surprisingly good flavour for plain ol’ salt crisps, but they only just made the grade at 2.85 average with Proper gourmet chips coming in a close second at 2.71.

NZ Herald

(Source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz)

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