No, this isn't your average Food Fight. Plenty of great restaurants in town have excellent hummus. This is grocery store Food Fight, if you will. This is a pressed-for-time, oh-my-word-people-are-coming-over-in-half-an-hour, what-the-hell-am-I-going-serve-them Food Fight.
And that's where grocery store hummus comes in.
If you're like most of America, you don't have have stuff sitting around in your refrigerator on the off chance that people are coming to visit. You might have some basics, though, that you can supplement in a hurry: crackers, baby carrots, maybe even some white wine.
You can put together a great spread of appetizers in a hurry with just those things and a couple of extras you can pick up in five minutes flat at the grocery store: olives from the olive bar, some tangy feta or goat cheese, a few pears to slice up and maybe even some berries if you want a dessert item. But don't forget the hummus.
Hummus has replaced unhealthier items -- like sour cream and onion or spinach-artichoke dips, which taste delicious but are entirely too heavy and artery-clogging -- as the go-to dip of choice these days. It isn't too unfamiliar for your guests yet still retains that slight tinge of the exotic that makes it fun to eat.
But which brands are the best?
Athenos is the less expensive of the two storebought hummuses (hummusi? what is the plural of hummus?) that we tested this week. Both Athenos and Sabra have exactly the same ingredients, although it's clear that those ingredients are in entirely different proportions.
We could see that the tub of Athenos had a grainy texture from the moment we opened it. Swiping a carrot through the hummus separated it into unappetizing-looking granules. This was not a promising sign. The grittiness carried into the taste as well, where it felt like very roughly ground chickpeas in oil on our tongues. There was no tangy pep to the taste either, which is what we both expect and love in our hummus.
Sabra is more expensive than Athenos, but only by a dollar. And it's worth it. If you're truly interested in being frugal, you'll buy your Sabra in bulk at Costco like we do. Of course, a tub never lasts long and we inevitably never have any when guests decide to randomly drop by.
The texture of the finely pureeed Sabra hummus was airy, soft and light yet thick at the same time. There was a citrusy tang to the hummus that played nicely off the nuttiness of the chickpeas, and topped with a little paprika and olive oil you could happily pass this off as homemade. It's clear a lot more effort goes into making Sabra than Athenos.
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Sabra. Absolutely no contest.
Although it isn't carried at the more mainstream grocery stores, Cedars is our other favorite hummus (but be warned that it comes in a smaller container than the Sabra). You'll be safe and happy with either of these.