Watching TV one evening, we saw a commercial for salsa we had never heard of before: Santa Fe “Salsa”. The commercial boasted that this unknown salsa was “What all the locals eat”. This sent Karen into a fit of rage; we know salsa, and we never heard of this stuff. We live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Karen commutes daily to work in Santa Fe — if this were really “What all the locals eat,” we would know about it.
To make matters worse, the jar prominently features saguaro cacti, which do not grow in New Mexico. They grow in Arizona and the extreme eastern edge of California, but they just don’t grow here. If you live in New York, like the people who make this salsa, where saguaro grow may not matter much to you. But here in New Mexico, it matters. It’s an identity thing — just like salsa.
Chad did a little research and found that although the address on the label is in Santa Fe, and the outfit responsible is “Santa Fe Packing Company®,” the parent company, LiDestri Foods, Inc, is actually located in New York. John Lidestri runs LiDestri Foods: he bought out his old boss, Ralph Cantisano, whose family founded the Ragu® company. Yes, that Ragu®, the spaghetti sauce people.
But does it taste like spaghetti sauce? We ran over to the grocery store and picked up a jar of Santa Fe “Salsa” and one from the Albuquerque Tortilla Company®, both of the Hot variety. Albuquerque Tortilla Company® is actually located in Albuquerque.
The Albuquerque Tortilla Company® salsa tasted fresh, tangy, and complex, and its texture was more varied than the bland Santa Fe “Salsa”. Its heat level was enough to get a good endorphin high, and make you come back for more.
On the other hand, the texture and color of the Santa Fe “Salsa” was horribly reminiscent of tomato sauce, and the taste was awful. Just an unpleasant bell pepper flavor and the feeling that you should be eating this on pasta instead of chips. Plus, the “Hot” variety we tasted barely registered as hot. Yuck!
What all the locals eat? Maybe the locals in New York, but not here in New Mexico. Santa Fe “Salsa” is neither.
So what is a salsa lover to do? In a pinch, the widely available Tostitos® salsa is passable, but if you really want authenticity, buying online may be your best bet. Here are some of the best salsa brands:
- Albuquerque Tortilla Company® salsa
- Frontera® salsa (available at many organic grocery stores)
- Salpica® salsa (from Frontera®) — may be available in conventional grocery stores
- Pedro’s Salsa®