Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cara Cara Contest

While Az and I were getting our nails done on Tuesday she handed me a "Desert Companion" magazine to read, mistaking the name for "Dessert Companion," a discovery we made later that night. It happened to be the food issue, which is why I paid no attention initially, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In one of the articles I read, local food critic John Curtas recommended the Cara Cara oranges at Costco. I forgot about it until we went to Costco to pick up some vitals the other day and saw the big bags of them in the produce section. Even though we don't go through enough fruit to justify buying any at Costco, I had to buy one. I tried my first after I had the chance to chill in the fridge and was delighted by the taste of this variety of orange I hadn't been exposed to before. The flesh was reddish-pink, juicy and tasted somewhat like papaya. The only downside was the thick membrane and pith that clung to the orange causing the segments get stuck in my throat. We agreed the oranges would best be used for juice, or cut into supremes for a salad, which is a method for cutting away everything but the flesh (see picture below).

Yesterday, while buying scallops for dinner at Whole Foods, I noticed the Cara Cara oranges were available there as well. I thought this would be a good opportunity to test the quality of the same seasonal fruit from a different (and much more expensive) store. I had Ian devise a tasting contest for Az and I after dinner to see if we could tell the difference. He cut supremes from each and placed two segments on each of two sets of identical plates. We shouted out where we thought each segment came from on a count of three, both of us shouting Whole Foods for segment number one on both plates. Well, Ian tricked us and put both segments from Costco on the first set of plates and both from Whole Foods on the second. Obviously, we couldn't tell the difference blindly, but after going back and tasting them with knowledge of where they came from, we found one subtle difference. The Cara Caras from Whole Foods were slightly more tart than those from Costco. Az preferred the Costco oranges whereas I preferred the more sour oranges from Whole Foods. I love sour foods so we came to the conclusion that neither was tastier than the other, they just appealed to different pallets. The deciding factor in choosing the better orange was price, which was double at Whole Foods ($2/pound vs. $7.99 for an 8 pound bag). Unless you just want to try a Cara Cara orange and can't finish a whole bag (they're pretty good so you probably could) you are better off buying them at Costco. No matter where you buy them, I highly recommend you make the purchase!

Today's Orange Rating: 8 (or a 9 if made into juice or cut into supremes)

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