Thanks to Lee for breaking down the rules of soup as ascertained at the weekend's Soup Sunday. I had never been to the fundraiser for Our Kids, and I second Lee's praise for the festive event, which is a really fun--and filling--family outing on a cold day.
As a soup judge, I tasted about 24 of the recipes--everything from porcini-miso consomme to barbecue chili--that came from 60 generous restaurants.
Lee pretty well summed up what makes a good soup, but, as I learned yesterday, those things aren't necessarily what make a winning soup. Apparently, winning soups--as determined by a panel of Charles Davis, Debbie Arnold, Frank Sutherland, Miss Daisy King, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Chris Sanders, Rudy Kalis and me--are made of cream, cheese and meat.
The award for most creative soup went to the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the American Culinary Federation for Swamp Hog, Mud Bug & Gub-Mint Cheese soup, a rich, cheesy medley of what I can only assume were crawfish and maybe chicken or alligator--which tastes just like chicken. SHMBGM soup was one of those recipes bordering on dip, like a bayou-born cousin of Rotel.
The award for best soup overall went to Aquarium restaurant's Loaded Seafood Chowder, a creamy, spud-studded catchall of mussels, crab, shrimp and other ocean dwellers, which, I like to think, did not actually come from the 200,000-gallon underwater ecosystem at the family-friendly Opry Mills eatery.
The People's Choice award, determined by a secret ballot of attendees, went to Monell's for a strawberry-cream soup, which I did not get to try, but which was a beautiful red color like a melted sorbet.
I would like to extend my own honorable mention to Primm Springs Foods' organic lentil-apricot soup, whose brothy texture, punctuated by finely minced vegetables, stood out among so many over-stuffed concoctions. I found myself returning to this subtle, soothing soup after every few creamy-meaty samples, as if to gird myself against the lacto-carno flood of flavor.
Congratulations to all the winners and to the Our Kids folks for organizing a remarkable party. Despite the soup hangover and the temporary spike in sodium and cholesterol levels, Soup Sunday is an all-around feel-good event.