Friday, April 23, 2010

The Salsa Connoisseur: Santa Barbara Habanero Lime

I hadn't had a good habanero salsa in a while, so I made finding one a priority when I bought groceries last week. A lot of people only associate habaneros with hotness--and they are hot--but there is a specific flavor to these chilis besides just "hot". There's a fruity tang to them, an almost citrusy flavor, that makes lime a natural complement to habaneros in salsa.

Texture: not bad. A little chunky for my tastes, but still more fluid than solid. Tiny bits of habanero and other vegetables are just fine, but larger diced onions could have stood to be chopped a lot more finely.

Heat: not nearly as hot as I expected (or was hoping for, with "habanero" in the name). The jar describes the salsa as "medium +", which is something it seems like every salsa would like to be known as--"medium +" or "5 out of 8" or "chili-chili-chili-half a chili out of five chili outlines" all suggest the salsa is hot enough to be noticed but not hot enough to burn your mouth. (It's like trumpet makers who all insist that their bores are "medium-large".) Of course, we can't all be slightly above average. This salsa isn't really close--maybe "mild +" or a generous "medium -".

Flavor: Good Lord, Santa Barbara Salsa Company, why are there carrots in my salsa? It's a bizarre choice of ingredient. And you know how when they're in cake, you can't really taste them? Not exactly the case with the salsa--they're very noticeable. Aside from that, the flavor is very good, a citrusy tang that balances the heat (negligible though it may be) of the salsa.

Available at Safeway; a 12-oz jar costs $3.89 (32 cents per ounce). This salsa would be a good choice if you want the flavor of habaneros in your salsa but not their overwhelming heat. It's not a salsa for traditionalists, but if you can look past the carrot oddity, the flavor is interesting and worth tasting.

Currently listening: Sonata 19, Giovanni Gabrieli (via my awesome "Let's Pretend It's 1600" station on Pandora)

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