Last week’s Salsa Slam, hosted by The Princeton Public Library, brought together a riot of fresh, local ingredients as 10 Princeton eateries and food businesses vied for the title 2013 Salsa Champ of Princeton.
4 judges had the task of choosing the winner. Food Writer and Restaurant Reviewer, Pat Tanner (Dine with Pat), joined me for a second year on the judging panel. Diana Alvarez Forero, who will be working with The Suppers Programs, and Gab Carbone, co-owner of The Bent Spoon, were the 2 other judges charged with finding the best salsa Princeton had to offer. The Bent Spoon was the winner last year with its amazing Salsa Sorbet, so it was great to welcome Gab this year to help select the winner.
The public also got to taste all the salsas and vote for a favorite. Would the judges and the public agree? Or would they go for totally different tastes and textures in their top choices?
There were salsas of every description. Some had finely diced vegetables mixed with herbs and spices. Some were smoother mixtures that would have been perfect as a marinade or even a sauce. Some had a base of roughly chopped tomatoes with other elements added in for crunch and contrast. Different fruits were used (thankfully, not all in the same salsa), such as Asian pears, peaches, dried apricots, watermelon(!) and mango (one of my favorite salsa ingredients). Other tasty additions were tomatillos, capers, olives, honey, corn – lots of corn, Korean chile threads, avocados and even black sesame seeds.
These were the ten entrants –
- First Field (makers of Jersey Ketchup Jersey Ketchup)
- Masala Grill
- Nassau Inn Catering
- Princeton Soup and Sandwich
- Rocky Hill Inn
- Savory Spice Shop
- Terra Momo Restaurant Group
- Yankee Doodle Tap Room
- Zorba Brother’s
Who was triumphant? First, here are the Judges’ choices:
The second runner up was The Terra Momo Restaurant Group with their colorful and very tasty salsa of tomato, scallion, white onion and grilled peppers.
The first runner up was Masala Grill. This delicious sauce-like salsa had tomato, garlic, coriander, cumin, green chilies and fenugreek. Oh, and cinnamon too!
The winner of the 2013 Salsa Slam was…The Savory Spice Shop's Slammin’ Salsa of Asian pears, poblano chiles, red onion, cilantro, those Korean chile threads I mentioned above, Piment d’Espelette and Honey Powder. It was a wonderful blend of interesting ingredients with quite a kick. It was balanced nicely between sweet and savory and it would have been an excellent choice wherever salsa is required - with taco chips, or on top of grilled chicken, meat…OR fish, for that matter.
The public’s choice was close to the judges’. Their top pick was actually our number two – from Masala Grill. It proved that real excellence will always stand out, no matter who is doing the tasting.
Salsas can be many things at once – sauce, garnish, marinade, dip, and they can also be MADE from many things. The common thread is that if they are made from fresh, local ingredients, they usually come out as winners.