Hot soup is the perfect tonic for a chilly winter's day, and at the upcoming South Side Mid-Winter Soup Contest, you can get your soup on up to 23 times.
The fifth annual event, held this Sat., Feb. 21, is a showcase for neighborhood eateries and shops, a fundraiser for the Brashear Food Pantry, and a taste treat for soup enthusiasts.
Each of 23 South Side restaurants prepares a soup of its choice, which is ladled out at 23 partnering retail shops from noon until 3 p.m. For $5, plus the donation of a canned good, participants receive a map to the soup stops and a wrist-band.
Besides filling up your tummy, this is also a chance for aspiring food critics and TV-cooking-show judges to test their mettle; each participant gets a ballot to vote for his favorite soup. An eight-member panel of pro and semi-pro foodies (including CP restaurant reviewers Jason Roth and Angelique Bamberg) will also weigh in on Best Soup.
Last year, the judges awarded the blue ribbon to Folino's chicken Florentine, while the 17th Street Café won the People's Choice with a bacon, bleu cheese, apple and brandy soup. Both eateries will be back this year to defend their titles.
There are no requirements for the soup chefs, explains Jennifer Strang, of the South Side Local Development Corp., which organizes the event. "They are free to be as creative as they like." Varieties already on the board for this year include an exotic cream of mushroom, gumbo, stuffed eggplant, chipotle-pineapple black bean, "fragrant curry on the lam" and the whimsically named "Sir Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan pierogie."
This year's event will be greener, with starch-based bowls and spoons, which are100 percent compostable. Trolleys will also be available, but not only is it greener to walk, with all that rich soup, a little exercise is highly recommended -- both for the digestion and the waistline.
Tickets may be purchased at three registration spots (SouthSideWorks Cinema; WYEP studios, 67 Bedford Square; and The Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah St.) or in advance through the SSLDC Web site. VIP packages are available for $20 (plus a canned item), and include a re-usable shopping bag, recipe booklet and access to the VIP-registration area with coffee and pastries. For more information and advance ticket purchase, see www.southsidepgh.com.