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Six and Twenty Soups

January 24, 2018

Soup has been on my mind a lot lately. One day my kitchen smells deeply of chicken stock. A couple days later, the beef bones have their turn in the pressure cooker. My refrigerator and freezer are an embarrassment of riches.

My son loves brothy soups. So I told him that any time he gets an hankering, all he needs to do is dilute one of the homemade frozen concentrated stock cubes in some boiling water. He can even do it in the microwave. All he needs to add is salt. It’s like instant soup.

The Instant Pot provided me with an easy winter root soup that’s filled with rutabaga, celery root, and potatoes. They were cooked and pureed into some of that rich chicken stock I had on hand. But nobody else in the household will eat this thick, silky, and comforting soup. That’s okay. More soup for me.

As much as I love soup, Saturday is going to be almost more soup than I can handle. Almost.

This Saturday is the Schenectady Soup Stroll. Last year I was a judge with Steve N, Leo Y, and David C of the Yelp Elite Squad. This year Leo Y returns along with Sam F, Maria T, and Holly Y who will be official judges for the very first time.

As judges, we will have to try all twenty-six of the soups. If you go, you can be more selective.

The way this works is similar to other soup festivals. Each participating restaurant will be selling three ounce samples for a buck. Some places will have longer lines than others. Although the lines tend to dissipate towards the end of the day.

Soup starts flowing at 11am and ends when they run out or 4pm, whatever comes first. Ambition Cafe, which ran out early last year, opted to not participate this time around. Capoccia Wine Lounge also isn’t returning. Slidin’ Dirty tells me that soup isn’t really their thing, and that makes sense.

Participating businesses need to make a lot of soup.

Ultimately, the winner will be determined by the liquid, the solids, the flavor, and the temperature. Soup should be hot. It’s winter, and it’s the promise of interior warmth that brings the crowds to a Schenectady street festival in January.

So I don’t think it hurts to share some of my personal favorites going into the competition. Because when you read the name of a certain soup, any human being is going to have a reaction. As a judge, the important thing is to set aside those preconceived notions when it comes time to evaluate the soup that is in front of you.

That said these are the ones that sound especially appealing, at least on paper.

20 North Broadway is making gumbo!
Returning winner Aperitivo Bistro is making a soup with portabello mushrooms and white truffle.
151 Bar & Restaurant is being strategic by bringing back its winning clam chowder.
Maria’s Cafe in its first outing with the soup stroll is rocking a shrimp bisque.
More Perecca’s under chef Chris is presenting a smoked bacon minestrone.
Pinhead Susan’s loaded chowder sounds like a decadent treat.
Villa Italia is in it for the first year and will make a beef and barley with mushroom soup.
Wolff’s Biergarten will have a beer and cheese soup with bison sausage.

This year there are two different versions of tortilla soup. One is from Bombers and the other from Mexican Radio. It will be interesting to see how those are different from each other, and which is the better of the two.

Then there are the ones which could be delicious, but are potentially treacherous based on the heaviness or saltiness of core ingredients. I love corned beef, but it can be challenging to work into a soup. And cooking with beer is great, but it can also produce a soup that’s far too bitter.

The Horses Lounge will be bringing its soup to Great Flats Brewing and serving corned beef stew infused with beer. It’s a risky proposition, but you have to like their gumption. Go big, or go home.

Last year, one of the big surprises was the tomato bisque at Backstage Pub & Grill. They are making it again this year, so if you are being tactical, maybe that’s a spot you should plan to hit.

Here’s a handy map with all the participants and their soups.

If you do end up coming to the Soup Stroll on Saturday, look for me. I’ll be the big bald guy carrying around a big red bag of Yelp schwag. I’ll also have a clipboard and a judge’s badge. I may not have that much time to talk. The time it takes to walk from soup to soup, eat, and score each sample, turns judging this festival into a physical endurance test.

Great Flats Brewing will be my own personal finish line. And when it’s done, I may need to sit down on their couch and nurse a short pour. If I can find the room. But I would be happy to compare notes with anyone else who sampled some Schenectady soups.

Hope to see you there.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    January 25, 2018 6:43 am

    Where do you get your beef bones for broth?

    • January 25, 2018 10:23 am

      Bella Terra farm at the Schenectady Greenmarket. I wish I took a picture. They were gorgeous. Fat. Meat. Tendon. Marrow. They had it all. And after a nice roast they were even prettier.

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