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Best of Washington: Making a Great Picnic

Who makes better potato salad—Safeway or Giant? Wolf Trap staffers Mary Lynn Haase, Teresa Weaver, Aniyia Williams, Melanie McCarty, Graham Binder, and Jenn-Claire Kinchen and Wolf Trap head Terre Jones picked our winners. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

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Picnics on the lawn at Wolf Trap are a summer tradition—a chance for friends to enjoy good music and good food under starry skies. Who knows picnic foods better than the employees at Wolf Trap? We asked staffers there to test traditional picnic fare sold at the deli and bakery counters of local supermarkets.

Best Chicken Salad

1. The Harris Teeter chicken salad was the clear winner—praised for big chunks of chicken and a hearty flavor.

2. Tie: The Whole Foods salad tasted homemade, said our panel. Giant Food’s had a good proportion of chicken to mayo and other ingredients.

3. The Wegmans salad was judged “decent but kind of bland.”

4. The soupy consistency of Safeway’s was a turnoff.

Best Potato Salad

1. The Safeway salad scored highest. Our panel wondered about the color—it was the yellowest—but loved the taste.

2. The Whole Foods potato salad was a favorite among onion lovers. Others weren’t impressed.

3. Harris Teeter’s rendition won points for tasting hearty and homemade, with chunks of potato.

4. The Wegmans salad had plenty of potatoes but was too dull to impress our panel.

5. The best said about the Giant offering was that it had “crunch.”

Best Macaroni Salad

1. Giant’s macaroni salad was the favorite. “It tasted sweet, almost like dessert,” one taster said.

2. The Whole Foods salad had “bite” and a very distinct flavor, which pleased some judges and turned off others.

3. Safeway’s was so-so, according to our tasters. “Not too much flavor but not overpowering,” said one.

4. The Harris Teeter salad received what one tester considered the ultimate insult: “It tastes like Miracle Whip.”

Best Brownies

1. The Wegmans treats won universal praise. “The only choice,” one taster said.

2. Harris Teeter’s were a distant runner-up.

3. The Whole Foods brownies were deemed too dry.

4. Brownies from Giant were too gooey, tasters said. “This is what you bring to someone you don’t like if they have a five-year-old,” one panelist said.

This article first appeared in the July 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here.    

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