Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soup's On!

There was something in the air last Friday in Stratford. Anywhere you walked, it seemed that our fair city was infused with the smell of... soups!

Soup's On! is an amazing soup-making contest that has been taking place for the past 16 years as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. Professionals and amateurs alike bring-on their finest soup creations and compete for titles such as Best Hearty Soup, Best Creamy Soup, Best Vegetarian Soup, and the coveted People's Choice. 

I was up bright and early on Saturday morning to help out chef Shawn Hartwell (above) in the kitchen of Simple Fish and Chips. His 100% sustainable, Canadian-caught fish and seafood sourcing and general get-'er-done attitude has made him a Slow Food role model in the Perth County community. Slow Food Perth County (to which I am honoured to have recently been named a co-chair) and Perth County Kitchens (a community cooking education initiative founded by my also-recently-named-co-chair Laurie Knechtel) collaborated with Shawn on one of his Soups On! entries. 

Shawn told us he wanted to make a Roasted Garlic and Potato soup just like the one he had served all day to line-ups at the 2010 Stratford Garlic Festival. Perth County Kitchens just happens to be holding a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) information session on Wednesday, February 9 at the Falstaff  centre featuring the organizer of the Garlic Festival, Warren Ham. Farmer Ham (of August's Harvest in Gadshill) is one of the most successful organic garlic growers in the province, and Laurie was able to procure about 15 lbs. of local organic garlic from him for the purpose of soup contest supremacy! 

Soup's On is my kind of scene!

I thought I liked soup... but a lot of the competitors showed an enthusiasm that was above and beyond.

Laurie and I spent a few fun-filled hours helping Shawn serve up the heavenly Roasted Garlic and Potato soup, as well as a second creation Shawn called Harvest Pumpkin soup (resembling a slice of pumpkin pie in its savoury spiced taste) to the over 3,000 people who attended.

At times, I snuck off to sample the competition's offerings. I tried about half of the 34 soups being served up, and was definitely feeling the heat!

The Victorian Order of Nurses warmed up the crowd with a unique Water Buffalo and Barley creation (top left).  Proceeding clockwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the Middle Eastern flavour of the Morroccan Tomato soup being served by the Stratford Country Club; loved the zest of the of the Bean and Jalapeno sample I received from The County Food Co., and appreciated the homestyle heartiness of the Deluxe Bean soup that the folks from Full of Beans were ladelling out.

We were stationed right next to the students from the Stratford's Chefs School, whose Jereusalem Artichoke Soup with a Parsnip Chip (above) featured the most unique ingredients of the contest. 

Having witnessed the enthusiasm for Soups On! communicated by the folks at Alpha Beet Soup & Juice Bar on their street sandwich board on Friday (see pic at top) I had to try both of their entries. On the left in the picture above is their complex Vietnamese Meatball in an Asian style broth, and on the right was one of my personal favourites of the day, the Red Bean Corn Chowder.

In fact, the Red Bean Corn Chowder was awarded that Best Pro Hearty Soup. Shawn's Harvest Pumpkin walked away with the Best Pro Veg title!

But the day belonged to Rob and Candice from Molly Bloom's Irish Pub (above), whose Loaded Baked Potato soup won both Best Creamy Pro and this year's People's Choice award!

If you want to see what it takes to win the title of Stratford's Best Soup (so you can strategize for next year!) go to Molly's and try it out - you'll find it on the menu every day...

I'm already thinking of next year... but I'm also looking forward to the second of Stratford's winter charity cooking competitions: Orr Insurance's Heart and Stroke Foundation fundraiser known as Heartburn Day (Saturday, February 5 at the Rotary Complex). I'll have to stock up on Rolaids: I'm going to be a judge!

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading all about your experience at Soup's On! Glad you enjoyed the Red Chili Corn Chowder!