Taste-testing celebrity foods

FRESNO, Calif.

Taste testers sampled dozens of tomato sauces, salad dressings, and soups from famous chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, restaurants such as Rao's, and Hollywood stars such as the late Paul Newman.

The catch with celebrity foods is that they can come with a high price tag. They can be two or three times as much as a garden-variety brand.

Because celebrity products are pricier, they can afford to include better ingredients. Of the ones Consumer Reports tested, many do include fresher ingredients, but not all. Emeril's and Newman's Own pasta sauces list as their first ingredient tomato purée, which is water and tomato paste. So does Ragu, which is less expensive!

As for taste, Consumer Reports found that you shouldn't be starstruck. About half of the celebrity products tested were no better than cheaper mainstream brands, although a few rated excellent.

Among soups, Wolfgang Puck's Tomato Basil Bisque is the standout, but it's pricey at $3.50. For pasta sauces, Mario Batali's Marinara and Giada De Laurentiis' Tomato Basil rated excellent. But while his costs a whopping $8, hers is a Best Buy for $3 at Target! But no celebrity salad dressings rated excellent. You could probably make a better and less expensive one yourself at home.

Consumer Reports also rated a celebrity wine excellent. The 2007 Greg Norman Estates Shiraz has rich, full fruit flavors and costs $13.

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