October 24, 2012

Soup Stock in Toronto

On Sunday, about 40,000 hungry people showed up in Woodbine Park to try soups created by more than 200 local chefs and restaurants for Soup Stock. If it sounds amazing that's because it was. And it was all for a good cause. The one-day culinary festival was held to protest against the "mega-quarry," a proposed construction project that would affect about 2,300 acres of farmland outside of Toronto.

Riding the Queen Street streetcar to the event, I overheard a fellow passenger nicknaming it the "Soup Stock Express" because so many people were geared up with their bowls, blankets and bags. The event was "B.Y.O.B:" Bring Your Own Bowls (and spoons) although there were dishes and merchandise for sale. I loved seeing everyone's soup vessels from mason jars to thermoses to cups.

There were lots of fall-insprired soups with seasonal ingredients, such as squash, beets and carrots. Beet Borsch soup seemed a popular option, as were stews with beans and root vegetables. The ingredients--apparently about 12,000 pounds of them--were all donated by local farmers.

I got a map of the soup stations laid out in the park, but frankly it was overwhelming. There were so many delicious sounding soups from well-known restaurants that I wanted to try. This soup by Taboo Resort based out of Gravenhurst caught my eye frankly for its display and the fact that split pea soup is one of my favourite types of soup.

Next up was Mildred Temple's Kitchen with mulligatawny soup and Irish soda bread. Is it bad that I went straight for the stations that were serving bread along with their soup?

The mulligatawny had beautiful curry flavourings with some toasted curry leaves sprinkled on top. I have never had this type of soup blended and smooth before--the ones I have had previously have all been fairly chunky soups--but this was nice.

Urban Herbivore had sweet potato coconut soup with a squirt of siracha sauce on top. This was another nice blended soup that wasn't too rich or creamy.

They also served it with some crunchy breadsticks. The soup tasted similar to the mulligatawny with a little extra kick from the hot sauce.

The highlight of the event was probably getting soup dolled out by Susur Lee himself from his restaurant Lee & Bent. I'm such a Food Network fan girl. There were some other big names in attendance: Connie DeSousa, Dustin Gallagher, Carl Heinrich, Jamie Kennedy, Rob Rossi (I'm sensing a Food Network theme here) and more. CBC Host George Stroumboulopoulos also got up on stage to speak and introduce some great Canadian music that played while everyone slurped on their soups.

This soup was hot and sour with mushrooms, which I'm guessing is similar to the one he serves at Lee.

There was even dessert soup. I could tell by some reactions from it that the thought of pink soup was a little odd, but Leah's Bakery "dessert soup" of raspberry mousse with an oatcake hit the spot after all of those spicy soups.

Interesting, right? But I had to go back to get seconds of this one.

There were also a few free samples in the mix, like these crostinis from Petite Thuet, and definitely lots of eating, sitting and trying to juggle a bowl, camera, purse and bag while walking around.

The park was fairly spacious, so it wasn't too much of a hassle to navigate the lines and stations. There were a lot of spots to rest and recharge after so much soup eating and mingling.

I heard about last year's event in Woodstock, Ontario called "FoodStock," which saw about 28,000 people attend, so I was pleased to go this year. Foodies lead a strong fight and who doesn't love soup? This year the fundraising efforts went towards the David Suzuki Foundation and Canadian Chef's Congress. It was great once again seeing the local food community come together for a good cause and some good food.

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