One soup, two soup, pale soup, green soup — it’s safe to say we really know our way around soup after Old York Road Temple-Beth Am’s Souper Bowl Soup Cookoff event Feb. 26.
The fundraiser full of soups, sides and hoagies garnered more than 300 people, all dressed in Eagles garb ahead of a talk by the voice of the Eagles, Merrill Reese (who was introduced by his good friend and Beth Am congregant Larry Kane).
Although originally scheduled to take place on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s clear many fans had no problem rescheduling, including us, who were invited as “celebrity” judges, alongside Philadelphia Inquirer food writer Michael Klein.
We were humbled to taste more than a dozen soups — and some admittedly less than humbling — provided by local restaurants. All of the money raised benefits hurricane relief aid for those still facing the aftermath of the damage in Houston.
Temple Emanuel, specifically, in Houston suffered $3 million worth in damages to its synagogue, and many congregants are still without their homes. It also hosted its own soup cookoff fundraiser, which partially inspired Beth Am’s. As such, Beth Am connected with the synagogue to donate a portion of the funds to their rebuilding efforts.
Unlike other food competitions, this one came equipped with plenty of (typical Jewish) interruptions, ranging from “Do you have enough soup?” to “How are you, honey?”
Basically, this was not your momma’s soup contest — well, technically it was. And with it came memorable scenes from the evening. A special shoutout goes to the older woman who sampled a piece of tortilla that was meant to accompany one competing soup — for us. Instead, she took it off our judges table, took a bite and threw it in the trash. We hope to have the same carefree mentality when we’re her age.
There initially weren’t enough chairs for all; guests were encouraged to sample soups, schmooze and stroll on to the next, to which one woman scoffed, “But where do I sit?!”
Participating restaurants included Argana Tree Restaurant, Barclay Caterers, Ben and Irv’s Deli and Restaurant, Curds ‘N Whey, Drake Tavern, Marzano Ristorante, Steve Stein’s Famous Deli, Grant Plaza II, and Olive Lucy.
While we appreciate all of their efforts, some soups were — let’s just say ones we’d kindly say “no thank you” to.
We chose our winners based on three categories: traditional, creative and international. Unknown to us while judging, Steve Stein’s Famous won both the traditional and creative categories with a flavorful mushroom barley soup and a smoky cabbage borscht soup. Ben and Irv’s won people’s choice for its cabbage borscht as well. Curds ‘N Whey won the international division for its tortilla chowder.
Surprisingly, only one matzah ball soup made an appearance, though we filled up on many other traditional barley variations — lots and lots and lots of barley.
It’s like an extra-Jewish Reading Terminal scene. The evening was the culmination of the quintessential deli experience: It’s loud, it’s crowded, people are cranky and unhappy and hungry and complaining.