Can you make a statement simply by enjoying a bowl a soup? That was the idea behind Soupstock, an event organised by the chef Michael Stadtländer, the Canadian Chefs' Congress and the David Suzuki Foundation, to protest the proposed limestone mega quarry the Highland Companies would like to build in Melancthon Township.
Just like last year's Foodstock, held at one of the farms near the proposed quarry, hundreds of chefs came together, farmers and producers donated food, and thousands of attendees participated in a culinary protest with the intent of showing that local farmers and their farmland are deeply important to them. Although cities are made of concrete, glass and steel, it's farmers that fuel them.
Foodstock drew about 28,000 people who braved some chilly temperatures, muddy fields and rains to attend. According to organisers, approximately 40,000 made it out to Soupstock at Woodbine park in the city's east end to lend their support for the cause by attending and enjoying a few bowls of soup. Many attendees were well aware of the cause before they arrived. But even those with only a vague understanding of the controversial mega quarry project had the opportunity to learn a bit more about it as organisers and speakers made statements outlining why this cause is dear to them. Attendees could register their support by signing a petition at the event.
Fittingly many of the soups featured local beets, leeks and potatoes, which grow in abundance in the farmland around Melancthon Township. It was a warm autumn day with a touch of crispness in the air as the sun ducked behind the occasional cloud, which meant those potatoes made a terrific hearty base that matched the season perfectly. Below are some of our food highlights which we think captured the spirit of Soupstock.
Panamanian chef Rossy Earle served a Latin American style stew that tasted like liquid chorizo. Rossy's version of Chupe used coconut milk as a base and included smoked tomato, roasted red peppers, chickpeas, corn, annato and butter poached onions, and homemade chorizo. It was finished with cilantro, scallion, a chimichurri sauce and of course, topped off with Rossy's popuplar Diablo's Fuego hot sauce.
Winter Melon and Bacon Soup
At an event like Soupstock with hundreds of top chefs bringing their best it has to be tempting to bring out your bold and punchy falvours. So it's refreshing to taste something the relies more on the quiet conference of elegant flavours to make a statement. Chef Nick Liu, who is previewing some of the food at Gwailo in a series of pop-ups at Senses next month while he's finalising the restaurant, did that crafting a subtle soup with great depth. The chicken stock provided a nice base for the subtly smoky and porky flavour of bacon, while the chunks of winter melon harmonised with a mild sweetness on their own. A touch of mushroom provided an underlying earthiness that tied it all together. It was an interesting play on the classic Cantonese Winter Melon Soup with a western edge and hinted at the type of food Liu will be cooking at Gwailo. If all goes well he hopes to open the Asian brasserie in time for Chinese New Year.
El Gastronomo Vagabondo
Spicy Tom Yum
With a slight hint of autumn chill between bursts of sunshine it was nice to taste a little reminder of the great summer we've experienced in Southern Ontario this year. That's exactly what chef Adam Hynam-Smith of the El Gastronomo Vagabundo food truck captured with his Spicy Tom Yum soup. Beautifully aromatic with hints of lime, cilantro and fish sauce, the broth had enough spicy depth to wake-up taste buds and keep you warm when the breeze came up. Fried shallots provided some great textural contrast while the natural sweetness of halved cherry tomatoes brought a burst of bright summer-like flavour to the bowl.
Oliver & Bonacini
Potato Leek Soup
Looking at the wide variety of soups at Soupstock you may have gotten the sense that potatoes and leeks played a starting role. That was fitting because not only do they provide great autumn flavours, but they're also a major crop in the farmland around Melancthon Township, which the controversial Highland Mega-Quarry project would displace if it's approved. The team at Oliver & Bonacini did a great job highlighting the beauty of those two local ingredients and made a good argument for preserving the farmland that produces them. Potato and leek provided a satisfying and slightly creamy base—not too rich and thick—that was just right for an autumn day. Chunks of tender beef shank, sweetbread and swiss chard brought some earthy heartiness and meaty umami-rich depth. But what really made the soup for me was the subtly sweet undercurrent of pear, which tied it all together and brought out the natural sweetness in the potato and sweetbread.
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.