Saturday, November 7th – Day 2
So…Whose Ready To Taste Some Great Soup Today?
Saturday’s event was called “The Great Soup Off,” held from 1-4pm at Stone Cliff Winery on another beautiful day along Dubuque’s Mississippi Riverwalk. After an excellent breakfast at Caroline’s Restaurant at the Hotel Julien where we’re staying, we took a quick walk to the local Hartig Drug store for a few supplies and a local paper. We caught a shuttle to the winery (again, only a 5-minute drive from the hotel) and along the way I thought about how I’ve got to tell all my friends about the Main Street Platter we just ate. And since today would feature mainly soup and beer, we had no idea exactly what to expect, but we were very intrigued, for sure.
The shuttle bus driver dropped us off at the front door of Stone Cliff (which used to be the old Dubuque Star Brewing Company) and he not only guided us on where to go, but made a point to tell us how much fun the day would be. And he was right! For once inside, as we found our way to the ‘check-in’ table to get our nifty wrist bands that would allow us to taste until our hearts were content, we could feel the historical significance of the restored Dubuque landmark inside which we now stood. This was sure to be another fascinating adventure.
While an entire section inside of the winery was reserved just for this event, and an additional enclosed, covered tent led us further outdoors, which altogether the space contained upwards of a dozen tables of premiere recipe soups, intermingled with tables of local beers, and another several dozen moderately-priced wines. With an Oktoberfest kind of feel about it, I could tell Jay was feeling rather giddy, as I saw the big smile drawing across his face. There was also an additional room, off the main entrance inside, reserved for “Chef Break-Out Sessions” – set to be presented for ‘infotainment’ throughout the day. And in the big tent outside, there was again more live entertainment (a solo guitarist with electronic fueled accompaniment) performed by Dubuque’s own ‘Andy Wilberding.’ And just like the band the night before, he was doing a really great job getting people in the mood to tickle their taste buds.
And Now, For The Great Soup, And Beer…And More Wine.
We found some space at an occupied tall, glass table and wound up meeting some “veteran” Dubuque food & wine attendees. And while we spent our day sampling all that was offered, it was nice to stand and chat about what we liked and didn’t like with a new group of wine event friends.
There were 10 great soup entrants in all. And to some, the consensus was (from best tasting to least favorite): Lobster Corn Chowder from Copper Kettle, Tomato Basil with Grilled Cheese from East Mill Bakeshop, Tom Kha Gai from The Food Store, Moroccan Chicken from L.May Eatery, Potato Dill Pickle from Pepper Sprout Midwest Cuisine, Hungarian Sour Kraut Soup from Woodfire Grille, Local Delicata Squash with Pear & Parsnip from Brazen Open Kitchen and Lobster Cappuccino from Caroline’s Restaurant. And knowing that Caroline’s and Woodfire Grill both landed near the back of our soup preferences just goes to show that you’ve got to try everything before you can make a final decision!
We all tried as many great soups as we could (and many more than once). Jay and I also had a good chat with the husband and wife team from The Food Store who made the fresh Tom Kha Gai (a Thai coconut) soup – because Tom Kha Kai is one of our personal favorites we regularly order from Thai Homeplace Restaurant in Shawnee, KS. And today, it happened to be my favorite again. Jay, on the other hand, did pick the Lobster Corn Chowder from Copper Kettle. He really liked the complex buttery taste, accenting with the right amount of lobster and potato bites within. And overall, I think we (and everyone we were hanging out with) were more than surprised when the Local Delicata Squash with Pear & Parsnip from Brazen Open Kitchen won the Golden Ladle award, which was presented by Mayor Roy Buol (as shown in our “featured image”). But that’s how tastings go, right?
While he may not have taken many pictures of beer bottles, Jay really got into tasting the beer! And he found three local craft breweries: Potosi, Millstream and Jubeck New World Brewery, making some pretty tasty beers. But it was Millstream’s Schild Brau Amber that he would gladly drink all day (maybe dressed in Lederhosen while doing a traditional ‘Chicken Dance’, I don’t know…). I did not sample as many beers as Jay did, but I really liked the Jubeck Lavender Honey-Wheat.
Enjoying The Sampling Of Some Moderately-Priced Wines
Maybe the best thing about Saturday’s wine tasting was that the price point on the bottles of wine ranged from $8.99 to $24.99 – more in the ballpark of our typical spend. My favorites of the day were the Marietta Old Vine Red Blend ($13.99) and Marietta Christo ($19.99). Both had a great taste, smooth to palette and seemed to pair nicely with what we were tasting; and we all agreed that Marietta was an excellent and sensible choice, with “Christo” as the favorite. And the group giving the sample had no problem offering anyone a hefty pour, which when enjoying a good tasting sample, resembled a real glass of wine. So a big thanks to you two!
Jay also really enjoyed the ‘bottles with the bears’: Haraszthy Bearitage ($13.99) and Haraszthy Zinfandel ($14.99). Again, very tasty, but just a bit more ‘spicy’ and ‘dry’ than the Marietta. And he also got to try 19 Crimes ($13.49) which has been showcased lately at Hyvee Liquor in Kansas City. First the good news, he got to try it before buying. The bad news, he won’t be buying it. That’s not to say some people won’t like it. Just like the squash soup, some people will say it’s the best, and you never know who it will be or how many will agree.
And Of Course We HAD To Try The Desserts!
There were two featured items for dessert that were ‘must haves’ for us: Gelato and mini cupcakes. The chocolate and vanilla Gelato was rich and creamy, and felt very refreshing after all that wine and soup. And the mini cupcakes made me feel like I was eating chocolate, which is always a good thing. There were also some mini cheese bites available to help feed Jay’s cheese addiction, and some other home-style casseroles and cheesecake hors d’oeuvre in case we just hadn’t had enough.
Like the Friday night before, this event felt like it could have gone on for at least another hour (or two). But I’m sure the event makers know that if the event doesn’t end after a few good hours, nobody will ever leave and they’ll need to roll out two hundred sleeping bags.