Mashed potatoes in a pinch, wines for less

November 15, 2010

But getting the meal together can be a feat. So could store-bought mashed potatoes possibly fill the bill?

Consumer Reports tested a dozen, including ones from Pillsbury, Hungry Jack, and Betty Crocker. Trained panelists tasted the potatoes not knowing which was which for two weeks to find the best.

There were seven of the dry, instant kind you add ingredients to, as well as three refrigerated ones and even two frozen mashed potatoes.

Several of the dry, instant potatoes were not great. Of those, Whole Foods Original Instant Mashed Potatoes rated the lowest. Testers said they were thin, soupy, and bland, and they even had a slight cardboard-like flavor.

But plenty of the store-bought mashed potatoes were pretty tasty. And testers found the best by far is Bob Evans Original refrigerated mashed potatoes. They were creamy and flavorful and even had a black pepper kick. And all you need to do is heat them and serve.

If you're opting for store-bought mashed potatoes, you probably could use some help with the gravy. Consumer Reports tests of instant gravies found Knorr's Roasted Turkey Gravy Mix is very good, and it just might fool your guests.


Great Holiday Wines For Less

This holiday season, whether you've got a crowd coming or you're the invited guest, a nice wine can complement the meal.

Consumer Reports just evaluated two popular wines that are good for the holidays: chardonnay and pinot noir. Industry experts blind-taste-tested 32 different ones, most costing under $15 a bottle.

Depending upon the stylistic components of chardonnay, you can have it before your meal or you can have it with anything from grilled fish to creamy soups, such as New England clam chowder. And pinot noirs are really versatile with foods.

Among the chardonnays, Consumer Reports top-rated Kendall Jackson's Vintner's Reserve 2008 at $12 a bottle. That wine has heavy wood flavors with butter, vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch flavors all balanced by a crisp acidity and lighter fruit flavors. For a more fruity chardonnay, try Four Vines Naked Santa Barbara 2008 for $12 a bottle. Consumer Reports says you can spend a little less and still get a bottle of chardonnay that's almost as good. Testers recommend 2008 Alice White for just $8 a bottle.

When it comes to pinot noir, you can expect a more subtle wine than other reds, such as cabernets and merlots. It goes with a variety of foods, anything from lamb to grilled salmon and mushroom risotto. Consumer Reports rated two pinot noirs excellent, including the Estancia 2008 Monterey County Pinnacles Ranches. It costs just $15, a very good price for a quality pinot noir. For even less, you can get the 2008 Red Tree for $9. It was rated very good.

Any of those wines are a good choice for a holiday meal, whether you're the guest or the host.

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