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New Times Cat Food Tasting Report

Editor's Note: In light of the recession, the price of gas, food riots breaking out across the globe, the tanked Florida housing market, and the record number of employee layoffs from local newspapers....

and in hopes of getting a jump on what promises to be a new trend in alternative nutrition, New Times Broward-Palm Beach empaneled a group of our expert staff to rate the edibility of six top brands of cat food available in local supermarkets. Here follows Brandon Thorp's report on our findings.

Canned cat food. We never think to eat the stuff until we absolutely have to — when the plane’s gone down over the Andes (and there just happens to be a bunch of canned cat food on board?) or the Social Security check only just covers rent. By then, it’s too late. We’ve got no taste for it. What should be a joyful exploration of an oft-ignored cuisine becomes a gruesome exercise in gastronomic endurance. No good.

But isn’t it sensible to learn to enjoy deprivation? Even to recreationally adopt its trappings? Yes. Yes it is. Which is why a panel of crack gourmands -- foodies Ashley Harrell John Linn, Gail Shepherd, and yours truly — assembled recently in the New Times office to wile away an afternoon feasting on kitty cuisine.

For an aperitif, we began with Sheba’s Premium Cuts: Chicken & Duck in Sauce. “Oh, that’s so gelatinous,” said Linn admiringly, as little filaments of what we were certain was poultry, ensconced in a goo not unlike the “Lobster Sauce” served at Chinese restaurants, was scooped onto our plates. The filaments’ flavor called to mind tofu crab, if there is such a thing (and there should be), though perhaps the execution was too subtle. “This needs salt,” said Shepherd.

The playful little dish called “Wellness Chicken Formula” needed nothing. Harrell, face erupting with joy after her first bite, exclaimed: “This is the stuff that makes me want to eat my pet’s food! Delicious!” She downed her helping and asked for seconds, and suggested that the Formula — which had roughly the texture and some of the smokiness of salmon mousse, wrapped around a flavor that was unmistakably dark-meat chicken — might work well in a lettuce wrap. Linn suggested serving it on water crackers with “pepper, greens, caviar, and truffle oil.”

None of the dishes to follow elicited such overwhelmingly positive reactions. Ms. Shepherd said of one, “At least it tastes like fish,” and was momentarily put off when she learned that the dish in question was Fancy Feast’s “Chicken Florentine In a Delicate Sauce.” But “fish” is a fine flavor, and she was plainly savoring the stuff. Harrell, a great fan of obscure tastes, marveled openly at the earthiness of Pet Guard’s “Beef & Barley Dinner.” “Tastes just like a dirty dog smells!” she said.

There was no discernable difference between the two Friskies dishes under consideration — “Special Diet Ocean Whitefish Dinner” and “Special Diet Beef & Liver Entrée.” As Linn said of both, “These taste like bile!” But this is more a failure of our palates than a failure of the food itself. My cat, a very discriminating tabby named Tasha, can quite handily tell the difference between the two. She adores the whitefish and turns her tail up at the beef, displaying a connoisseur’s sophistication to which we can only pretend.

Next week: Our Cat Tasting Report

- Brandon K. Thorp

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd

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