Photo by Catherine Downes.

Taste Test Thursday: Pumpkin Pie

We dug our forks into arguably one of the most traditional Thanksgiving dishes, pumpkin pie.

Iron your great grandmother’s fall foliage table runner and polish your turkey-shaped candelabras, Thanksgiving is merely a week away. How did it creep up so fast? Good question. Don’t worry if you haven’t had time to dust off your Williams-Sonoma cookbook, though. Area grocery stores are stocked full of ready-made, no fuss options for your holiday banquet. Some of which aren’t too shabby, either.

In honor of the approaching holiday we’ve been tasting store-bought staples. We kicked things off with cranberry sauce and stuffing, and this week we dug our forks into arguably one of the most traditional Thanksgiving dishes, pumpkin pie. So which grocery store makes the best version of the fall dessert according to D Magazine staffers? Let’s find out.

 

The pies:
A. Kroger
B. Whole Foods
C. Sprouts
D. Albertsons
E. Tom Thumb

 

Tasting notes:

Kroger ($8.99)

  • Flavor is OK, but too custardy. Crust is bland.
  • Very allspice-y.
  • Cinnamon-y and texture of whipped cream. Into it. Crust sucks.
  • Flaky, buttery crust — needs salt. But nicely light.
  • This one is too pumpkin-y. I don’t find that it has much depth to its flavors.
  • Good! Too gooey though. Weak crust.
  • This is subtle and not what I expect when I eat this dessert. I ate an entire pumpkin pie once in 6th grade, and 20 years later I’m finally giving it another shot. I’m glad this isn’t like the memory of that over-the-top flavor which caused me to have the chills for hours.

Whole Foods ($10.99)

  • Looks like it was made with a pie replicator gun. Tastes like my parent’s eternal disappointment.
  • Almost has an egg-y soufflé taste to it. Don’t want that in my pumpkin pie.
  • This is like melted gingerbread. Not bad, just not suspected.
  • Kind of unremarkable.
  • This has more of a custard feel to it than the last one, and I like the flavors better. It’s a bit sweeter.
  • Good! Great texture and nice, complex flavors.
  • I just ate this and I’ve forgotten it already.

Sprouts ($2.99)

  • Very squashy but with best crust. Looks the most like a pie, and not a clipart icon of pie.
  • I can definitely taste the winter squash flavor. Farm market fresh.
  • This is the most pumpkin-y of all. I don’t think I like pumpkin. Best crust, though.
  • Salty crust, sweet filling, nice balance.
  • I like the crust on this one, and the custard has a nice texture to it.
  • Good! Not as good, though.
  • This has a yam-like texture. Are they cheating between winter squash and their ornamental flowering plants, here? The nutmeg is amply spread throughout and this pie has a general classiness not apparent in the others.

Albertsons ($7.99)

  • Filling is bland, crust is OK. Good filling constancy, though.
  • Tart.
  • Pretty nondescript. Gummy crust.
  • Bland crust, did I just eat this? Kind of like eating nothing.
  • Good! tastes really fresh, nice flaky crust.
  • This has a nice cinnamon touch to it.
  • This re-acquaintanceship has gone more stress-free than I expected. I never realized how plain pumpkin pie actually is.

Tom Thumb ($3.99)

  • This is worse than the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. Like pumpkin bubblegum.
  • Kinda bland! Where’s the pumpkin spice?
  • Sorry, E. I quit.
  • Ugh — what is this? The back of my palate now tastes like vomit.
  • Tastes fake. There’s too much of something in there I don’t like. Sad I ended on this one. I have to go wash it down with chili.
  • Good! Too much spice. Is that clove?
  • This is either a case of hardcore non-additives, where we’ve forgotten what “real” food tastes like; or this is so heavily dosed with artificial flavoring, it hardly resembles food anymore. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. To paraphrase a great fictional character: “Too much salt or too little, the food is still rubbish.”

 

Tally up:
Kroger 1
Whole Foods 1
Sprouts 4
Albertsons 1
Tom Thumb 0

 

The winner is:

Pie C! Sprouts won our apple pie Taste Test, too. At $2.99 it was the most inexpensive pie of the bunch and also the most delicious. Have a favorite pumpkin pie? Let us know in the comments below.

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