Week 15: And so we come to the end

There was so much going on at last week’s final Soup and Bread (and Pie) that wrapping it up has proved a challenge. Do I lead with my new hero, Hot Doug Sohn? Doug showed up bright and early as we were still setting up tables. He brought along two large pots,  one bursting with 20-sausage chili, the other brimming with tortilla soup. He brought his own burners. He dished up bowls of deliciousness till the bitter end, then stuck around to clean up. We couldn’t get him to sit down and have a beer! He even helped count the cash. Doug, you win. You really are the nicest guy in Chicago food.

But I don’t mean to shortchange the contributions of the rest of the soup team. Take Allison Stout, over there on the far right. Last Wednesday morning I was fretting, fearful of a looming soup shortage. I Twittered my anxiety to the world, and Allison responded in a flash. “Off today and could bring by some potato soup. Let me know.”  Voila! Another soup, social media-style. Thank you Allison! You also win. As of today, I just heard, she is gainfully employed as the CEO of Hoosier Mama‘s savory quiche and pot pie program. Lucky duck.

Of course, between Doug and Allison, our friends at Swim Cafe (who came through this week with an artichoke and green pea soup), the surprise chili contribution of our neighbor Dan Blue (recipe for “Crazy Dan’s Hot Aged Chili Cooked With Hydrogen” coming soon), and the scheduled soup stylings of the rest of our cooks, there was no actual soup shortage. Christine Garcia, in the bottom-left corner there, produced a pot starring this season’s stealth ingredient, hominy. Specifically a smoky white bean-chipotle-hominy soup whose complex balance of flavors (there’s also a lot of garlic and cumin involved) belies its alleged simplicity. And Josh Hudson stifled his inner carnivore to produce the nutty, vegan “Iranian Enrichment Program” soup, a chickpea, spinach, and sun-dried tomato concoction shot through with … spices. When he gets me the recipe I’ll tell you exactly what spices.

Cheesemonger Brad Bornac paid tribute to the arrival of tiny baby Olive with his Olive Tortellini in Basil-Parmesan Broth, a spin on a family favorite called Ravs in Broth. And Hideout talent booker Jeanine O’Toole honored her Irish heritage with a vegan curried carrot soup she dubbed Carrots O’Toole. Because, you know, the Irish are so famed for their curries. And their vegan cookery. Both Brad and Jeanine have already sent along their recipes (win!) and I should have those up soon.

But — wait — here I am going on and on about soup and neglecting not just bread, but our special guest star, pie! The fantabulous Sheila Sachs, who also produced a light and springlike vegetable-pesto soup last week in honor of cookbook donors the Gills, rounded up a stellar array of bakers to contribute pie. And cookies. And cake. The above photo was taken before half the night’s baked bounty arrived —  but note tasty “free spinach brownies” at bottom right. All our bakers are winners, but Henry and Beckett? Ultrawin.

We also had a overflowing basket of Soup and Bread-themed minibrownies, courtesy of the lovely Liz Tamny.

And the piece de resistance: the Soup and Bread Crock Pot Cake. Courtesy of mad genius baker Celeste Dolan and her partner in crime Devon Bergman. Inside: layer after layer of chocolate cake and chocolate buttercream. Allegedly, one soup-hungry guest tried in vain to take the lid off this crock to see what lay inside. I really wish I had seen that.

I’d also like to take a moment for a heartfelt shout out to Rida Shahin, Clare Kellam, and the rest of the staff at La Farine. They have graciously donated bag after bag of bread to the cause this winter, and if you’re not hooked on their chewy, salty ciabatta by now you really don’t know what you are missing. Stop by the bakery some time (@ 1461 W. Chicago) and find out; they’re the nicest people southeast of Doug, and seriously skillful bakers to boot. Thank you so very much, Rida. You win too!

The weather last week was fantastic, allowing us to spill out onto the patio. A good thing, since a slew of regulars and newcomers, like my buddy Lilli, above, turned out to sample the night’s extensive menu. And, thanks to the generosity of this big and happy crowd, we raised a glorious $526 for Ravenswood Community Services.

And so, we come to the end of this action-packed soup season. But … not really. There are more recipes to come, and another cookbook to write, and plans for summer soups to confirm. And, of course, there’s bingo. Stay tuned for more on bingo, and much more on soup. And thank you so much for sticking around through Soup and Bread 2010. It was pretty awesome, all around.

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