This past Monday's 86'd was a warmup for Cinco de Mayo. To mark this Mexican holiday, host Ivy Knight gathered together chefs from 6 Toronto area restaurants (plus a burlesque dancer) to present their best take on salsa. Chefs from Rebozos, Sabrosito, L.A.B., Buddha Dog, Niagara Street Café and Bellfountain Inn came to represent.

I made some notes.

Rebozos: Salsa roja (mild & spicy) with refried beans and queso fresco

  • not a very complex flavour, heavily favouring the beans

  • the spicy version was fuller on the flavour scale

Sabrosito: 12 chili, avocado and tomatillo salsa

  • strong lime flavour - yum

  • considering there were that many peppers, it wasn't overwhelmingly spicy

  • a touch heavy on the salt

  • had the most umame

L.A.B. - Smoked tequila salsa with pineapple reduction, jicama and microcilantro

  • cilantro added an incrediby fresh flavour

  • mild and light

  • very mild sweetness level

  • juicy

Buddha Dog: Sweet salsa verde

  • prominent cumin flavour

  • a heat that creeps up on you and spreads, slowly

  • nice acidity

Niagara Street Café: Chorizo and lobster salsa with rice tortilla chips*

  • sweetness of lobster balanced well with the salt of the chorizo

  • rice tortilla was nice and light, allowing the salsa to shine

Bellfountain Inn: Palmito (hearts of palm), avocado & tomato salsa

  • mild flavour, with the fresh avocado taste prominent

  • creamy

  • surprisingly little acidity from the tomatoes

It was actually really difficult for me to pick a favourite, as each salsa had such a wildly different flavour profile than its competitors. In the end, I was swayed by the mouth feel of the L.A.B. salsa, though each had something to offer. The crowd favourite was Bellfountain's palmito salsa from Chef Rossy Earle, so big congrats to her. And to all the chefs, thanks for your creative offerings!

*I took a chance and had a small bite of this, despite my crustacean allergy.

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