Does a Kennedy pub have the most locally sourced sammie in Greater Pittsburgh? Either way, it’s got a good story.
Records were broken again this year as 1,600 soup lovers (400 more than last year) swarmed the streets at the 5th Annual South Side Mid-Winter Soup Contest Feb. 21. Many stood in long lines at shops to taste the 22 soups from local restaurants and vote for their favorite.
The contest is of keen interest to South Side chefs who wrack their brains to come up with unusual (possibly prize-winning) concoctions.
Some shops ran out of soup early (each restaurant donates 15 gallons), causing consternation to patrons who had waited in line. Organizers are planning some changes for next year.
Cost of admission to the souper feast was $5 and a canned good for the Brashear Food Pantry, which serves about 400 South Side families. Workers were thrilled to hear that a record $9,600 had been collected this year, along with 2,500 canned goods and cereals boxes piled high on the long tables.
Chaired by WQED's Chris Fennimore, a panel of seven food critics, including myself, met at 1:30 p.m. in the Brashear Association building on Sarah Street to sample the fragrant, sometimes spicy soups, one at a time, and sip water. Judging was rated on points for taste, creativity and appeal.
By 3 p.m. we had finished the tasting (tough work but somebody had to do it), and our ballots were tallied. We sampled the top three point makers again and selected first place and runner-up. Volunteers tallied the People's Choice ballots, and the winners were:
- Judge's Choice: First Place -- Exotic Cream of Mushroom, Chef Matt Helon, Tom's Diner/Folino's Restaurant.
- Runner-up: Sir Alec Guinness's Obi Wan Pierogi, Chef Paul Krawiec, Cafe Du Jour.
- People's Choice: First Place -- Exotic Cream of Mushroom, same as above.
- Runner-up: Lobster Bisque, Chef Luke Collins, Amalfi on Tenth.
Chef Helon graciously shared his recipe, above.
When reading these ingredients, remember, this is soup for a crowd. You could halve or quarter the recipe.
- 2 medium onions, finely diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 stick butter, plus two tablespoons for the roux
- 1 pound each of shiitake, portabello, oyster, crimini and button mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 1 gallon plus 1 quart of 40-percent heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon white truffle paste
Saute onions and garlic in the stick of butter until onions become clear. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add salt and white pepper to taste.
Add all of the cream to the soup. Bring to a simmer.
In a separate pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add the flour, blend well and add the roux to the soup, stirring constantly, until desired thickness. Dissolve white truffle paste into the soup for a creamy, rich finish.
Yield: 1 1/2 gallons.
-- Chef Matt Helon, Tom's Diner/Folino's Restaurant
Nancy Anderson is the former Nibbles columnist who retired in November 2007. She lives in Edgewood. She can be reached at email@example.com .