Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Soup-Off: Oh Yeah, It's On!

Living in Portland there's one thing that becomes evidently clear: Food is no joke. In fact, it's tied to the culture. Not to say that there are foodies running around all over town - though there are quite a few. In this particular instance I'm not referring to restaurants, I'm talking about a bit of a tradition that has been created with a few friends. I think the idea first reared its delicious little head at an Orphan Christmas Dinner (another tasty event), but I can't be certain. All I know is that one cold January night about ten of us found our way with a crock-pot of home-made soup in hand to our friend's house.

The Challenge: Who can make the best soup?

Potato Leek Soup with a little something extra
Oh yeah, it was on. People brought some amazing soups and had some great stories to tell about their creations. One person brought the soup that he always made to impress a girl on a first date...and it had worked. Another person didn't have a fabulous story, but had an interesting method. He used whatever he found in the pantry. Three years later, this is still his practice and there is always a surprising element whether it be texture, flavor, or random ingredient. Of course, there is bound to be some lively debate about what constitutes soup. Is a stew considered a soup? How about chili? Then there's plenty of googl-ing to determine the Internet's stance of the subject. I'm not entirely sure of the ruling, but chili is pretty much out.

I had yet to win a soup-off. I hadn't even made a soup that placed in the top three. Now, soup is not my specialty, but I like a challenge. This year I was bold. I ventured to make a version of potato leek soup. The previous year there were two potato leek soups in the competition and they didn't even place. So who was I to be so daring? Sometimes you gotta go with what you know.

Over the past year, I have been perfecting my version by adding elements other than potato and leek for more depth of flavor and varying the heat and time at which I cooked the soup. I had to bring it. What was the result? The best compliment ever, people could taste "layers of flavor." Yeah, that's right - a saying I like hearing on Top Chef. Although, I didn't win the Soup-Off outright (which is actually kind of good since it was decided that this year's winner had to create an official Soup-Off trophy), I did actually place and came in second. And too that I say a hearty "Woo-Hoo!"

And the winner is...

It's not just a soup it's an entire campaign
But now the question is who came in 1st? Well, in Portland there's no short of creativity and the soup with the biggest display did end up winning. Situated behind the crock pot was a collage complete with lights and even music. It was quite a show and if that's not enough, there were envelopes placed next to the crock pot. My curiosity got the best of me and it wasn't just a thank you note. Nope, it also had a $1 in it like one of those mailers that includes a nickel in hopes that you will sponsor a child... somewhere. Not to worry, this group isn't swayed by the blatant attempt to buy votes. The winner brought his favorite soup - a mexican soup that even had avocados. It was oddly similar to a soup from a local Mexican place and it had nailed that Mexican American flavor with aplomb.

So with all that creativity it only makes sense that the winner should be the one to make the trophy that will be passed on annually. I'm just hoping it's something people will want to show in their homes with pride. Since as happy as I am with second, I wouldn't be upset to come in first.