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Linguica taste-off: Fernandes vs. Barcelos


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Linguica taste-off: Fernandes vs. Barcelos

Melanie Wong | | Dec 22, 2009 06:53 PM

Recently I stopped by 9 Islands bakery in Rohnert Park to re-stock on linguiça. My favorite brand has been Fernandes since first tasting it at SF’s Grubstake some years ago. But I’d heard about Barcelos, which uses celery juice powder to cure rather than nitrates and has no added MSG. I was happy to find both here for a taste-off.

Barcelos comes in mild, medium and hot spice levels in one-pound packages for $5.99. I chose “medium”, chunky-style.

For Fernandes I picked the “caseira” or homemade chunky-style made with red wine. Packed in random weights and priced at $4.99 per pound, this has a traditional cure with nitrates and MSG.

Both are fully cooked and produced in Tracy, CA. Here’s what the Fernandes vs. Barcelos packs look like.

Tasting them cold just cutting off a slice, there’s not much difference in taste between the two. But sautéing them in a pan to warm them up amplifies the differences between them.

Fernandes has more substantial chunks lending a chewier, denser mouthfeel. The firm fat is in bigger pieces too. Every flavor component is more pronounced: salty, smoky, savory, paprika, tangy wine notes. A little bit goes a long way.

Barcelos is “chunky” too but has more ground meat in the mix than the Fernandes. The flavor is more considerably more subtle and less salty and smoky. I liked the less fatty mouthfeel and cleaner finish.

Fernandes “Caseira” is still my favorite, especially for frying up with some eggs when you want a lot of flavor punch. That said, I liked the taste of the Barcelos too, and would buy it again when I feel I need to cut back on nitrates and MSG. It worked well in caldo verde (Azores style kale and linguica soup).

I’ve reported on Santi’s and Wolfsen’s linguica in the past, which are also worthwhile products. Santi’s is made with heritage breeds and has less visible fat. A few months ago I had some Neto’s from Santa Clara as well and put it in a distant last place. Here’s how I’d rank them.

1. Sao Jorge Fernandes “Caseira” homemade-style
2. Santi
3. Wolfsen’s “Old World Style” smoked
4. Barcelos “Medium, Chunky-style”
5. Neto’s

9 Island Bakery
1 Padre Pkwy, Rohnert Park, CA 94928