Sunday, November 4, 2012

Saturday Soup Competition

 My husband, Rick,  graduated from Johnson and Wales. He bakes bread. He roasts coffee beans. He makes ice cream. He brews beer.  He marinates. He grills. He does amazing things with food every week, so when he challenges me to a cook-off, I get busy.

Our most recent challenge: butternut squash soup. I had the best butternut squash soup I have ever had a local cafe called Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux. Tour de France themed, the cafe seats less than thirty folks. Fare features freshly prepared soups, salads, and sandwiches in an eclectic, upscale atmosphere rich with local art. I raved about the soup.

"That was the best soup ever: a perfect savory sweet balance and not too creamy. It's seasonal, but the owner said the chef will make it a few days into November. I need to bring you some of this soup," I gushed in the kitchen still in my Gladiator gear, sweat-dried hair curling out in all directions.

"Hmmm, you haven't had the soup we serve at the Grand. Creamy, the chef garnishes it with Nueske's bacon and roasted pumpkin seeds: incredible," was his reply

"No, I don't think that would be as good. This soup is the essence of butternut squash. It whispers autumn. You..."

"You haven't had my soup. My soup is probably better than that cafe's soup," he asserted.

You can see how it went. Soon enough someone had a hand on the squash in the vegetable bowl and had set the oven to 400. The challenge was on.

We each created a butternut squash soup. His, cream based, came out the color of a Meyer lemon (tasting on the right). Mine, vegetable-broth based, boasts a caramel color (tasting on the left).

Our son and his spend-the-night friend served as judges. The friend is a renown soup-hater. The list of foods he actually enjoys is quite short: bacon, corn dogs, pizza, milk. We figured whichever he disliked least would be the hit. The boys devised some sort of scoring system based on taste and challenge etiquette  Texture, color and depth of flavor did not factor in to their evaluations. Threatening to dash a competitor's soup with vinegar counted as a deduction.

My husband prepared his soup in secret while I was otherwise engaged, so when it was my turn to cook, I had to guard against spying and sabotage. He came to wash the dishes. He came in to inventory the pantry. He needed to check the refrigerator. Empty the dish washer.  The minute I'd crossed the kitchen to chop vegetables for the week's mini-quiches, he had a spoon in my soup stock. The boys took off a point for that and for the vinegar threats.

Once my soup finished we ladled tastes into shallow serving bowls for the boys. Our son dipped right in to my soup. He'd prepared the table with water glasses and two spoons to insure a clean palate for each taste.

Judge #1: our son.
Judge #2: not sold on soup.
We did not anticipate a tie, but, we had a split decision from the judges. One preferred the creamy soup and the other preferred the vege-broth base. My husband declared both delicious.