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SF Chron Brings Together Culinary Experts to Taste Tap Water

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The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir vies for a place in the Taster's Choice Hall of Fame.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Tasters' Choice section, in which the paper's critics and a rotating group of food pros evaluated packaged foods like coconut water, apricot jam, and sour cream and awarded Hall of Fame honors to the best, was put out to pasture in April, after 25 years. (Its demise came as part of the Chron's compression of its standalone food section into a new Food + Home section, which also incorporates design and garden coverage.) But the Taster's Choice tradition has been revived for a special occasion: this weekend, the Chron got together five writers (including wine expert Jon Bonné) to taste an exciting new product...tap water.

Turns out there's a reason: beginning next year, the pristine water from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierras, for which SF is justifiably famous, will start getting blended with a small amount of local groundwater, which has more minerals in it that could impart unusual flavors. For their tasting, Chron writers were given samples of the current water, the forthcoming blend (13.5 percent groundwater), and Arrowhead bottled water to taste. And while most of them threw up their hands when it came to telling the difference between the trio ("I feel like I'm chasing ghosts," said one), wine expert Bonné was able to correctly suss out which was which, and even had positive words for the new blend. "It's more distinctive in a good way...it tastes like what you want spring water to taste like." The real loser in the scenario was actually the bottled Arrowhead, which four of the five writers deemed "flat" and inferior to the competition. We're sure we'll be seeing quotes from the panel in the SFPUC's innumerable pro-tap water ads very shortly—provided the ongoing California drought doesn't dry it all up first.

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