Soup’s (back) on: Wintersköl warms up with Soupsköl 2.0
If you go...
Friday, Jan. 10, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Aspen Art Museum
SO Café, roof deck
637 E. Hyman Ave.
Sly seasoning on social media whetted appetites last week: Soupsköl — the warming culinary competition that for years served as unofficial kickoff to Wintersköl, Aspen’s longstanding “toast to winter” — is back on after a three-year hiatus.
On Friday, Jan. 10, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association in partnership with the Aspen Art Museum will host Soupsköl 2.0 at SO Café. Trading chilly streets for the roof deck’s cozy confines, the reimagined event will again be a competition, now among just eight to 10 local restaurants. Like AAM’s popular open house exhibit receptions — which typically welcome 300 to 500 visitors over two hours — Soupsköl 2.0 will admit the public for free as space is available. DJ Dylan will spin a soundtrack, and guests can enjoy drink specials by Woody Creek Distillers as well as beer and wine for purchase.
“This year’s Wintersköl slogan is ‘legendary past, visionary future,’” says Jennifer Albright Carney, ACRA’s vice president of special events. “So when the Aspen Art Museum presented the opportunity to do this event with us, 2020 seemed time to bring it back in a new way, in a new location.”
Julia and Allen Domingos, chef-operators of SO Café since the museum opened in August 2014 and owners of Epicure Catering since 2001, note that a chance for them to help revive a beloved community event is bittersweet.
“We were never able to participate due to schedule,” Allen says. “Our next-door neighbor years ago when the event started was Reggie Barbour, chef at Boogie’s for years and the mastermind behind Soupsköl.”
Barbour launched Soupsköl as a friendly competition among fellow chefs and restaurateurs in 2004. ACRA became involved in 2007, a year before Barbour passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 58. At its height in 2012, Soupsköl drew 30 contestants, each asked to present about 4,000 tasting servings. By the final showcase in 2016, an estimated thousand-plus attendees braved glacial temps to stand in long lines for the promise of small sample cups of steaming soup, served from outdoor tents at sundown.
Though details as of press time are slow-flowing, the winner of the coveted Reggie Barbour Memorial Copper Soup Pot will be determined based on a combination score from guest judges — 69th Wintersköl royal honorees Nina Gabianelli of the Aspen Historical Society and Mark Patterson of Paradise Bakery, plus Mary Barbour, Reggie’s wife of 15 years — and public vote, “in the spirit of the old, legendary Soupsköl,” Carney says.
Originally, outgoing 2015-16 Soupsköl repeat champion Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop — sole confirmed participant as of this writing, aside from SO Café — planned to enter its two-time winning recipe for Thai coconut chicken soup.
“When I tried to take that soup off the menu years ago, people would stop me on the street to beg me to put it back,” explains proprietor Wendy Mitchell. She complied after “two weeks of protests from customers.”
Last Sunday night, however, Mitchell switched gears. “Little change of plans,” she wrote via email, “we are going to enter our Korean clam chowder, a new item on the winter dinner menu at Meat & Cheese.”
Considering SO Café’s smaller capacity and ACRA’s late announcement about Soupsköl 2.0, Mitchell wants to ensure that folks who miss the event are still able to try Meat & Cheese’s concoction another time. The Hopkins Avenue eatery serves both the Thai coconut soup and Korean clam chowder currently.
While tight-lipped on SO Café’s entry for Soupsköl 2.0 — other than to say it will be fresh, colorful, and possibly vegetarian to fill that gap since someone should — chef Julia Domingos calls soup “the ideal Aspen dish,” especially during the coldest Colorado months (find a favorite simple recipe, page 7).
“Can you think of anything else that is more soul-satisfying, potentially nutritious, and warmth-inducing?” she asks. (Nope.) “Most cultures seem to have a variation. The tastes, textures and colors are endless. Not to mention the medicinal qualities many believe the elixir contains, as well.”
Which is why Domingos crafts one new soup or stew for each weekly menu of just four of five items at SO Café. International fan-favorites include Asian dashi infused with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, snap peas, and chewy udon noodles; Colorado beef chili with organic pinto beans grown in Delta, topped with crumbled cornbread; chicken tortilla toup with crispy tortilla strips; and vegetarian Moroccan stew with chickpeas, saffron, warm spices, served over couscous with labneh or tzatziki.
Shrimp creole, featured recently, harks to the couple’s hometown of New Orleans, from where they moved to Aspen 25 years ago. House-made Cajun spice, lemon and Worcestershire combine with tender shrimp and scallions over fluffy white rice pilaf.
“Growing up, over the holidays, shrimp creole was always something we had after all the Christmas food,” Allen shares. “(Julia) puts a lot of effort into it. Stocks are all homemade; it’s a very laborious process.”
In a little place guided by the Aspen Idea of mind, body and spirit, Julia Domingos cites meditative associations with the dish as a delicious draw.
“I love to make soup because it is a satisfying study of creating a flavor profile, layering flavors from aromatics into a rich stock, and (practicing) patience for the soup to simmer into something special,” she says.
If recent buzz for Soupsköl 2.0 and 2016 turnout numbers are any indication, Aspen is ready to slurp it up.
Courtesy of chef Julia Domingos, SO Café at AAM
Serves 6 hearty portions
1 pound organic carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 Tbsp. coconut oil or other neutral oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 Tbsp. peeled, chopped ginger
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cups fresh carrot juice
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Optional garnishes: toasted coconut,
cilantro, roasted peanuts
• Place empty sheet pan into oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
• Toss cut carrots with 1 Tbsp. oil and salt and pepper to taste. Remove preheated sheet pan from oven and space carrots evenly on pan. Roast until just tender and caramelized, about 20-30 minutes, stirring halfway through.
• While carrots roast, heat remaining oil in heavy bottomed pot over medium on stovetop. When warm, sauté onion until softened and golden. Add garlic and ginger, sauté one minute. Add spices and cook until fragrant, adding a bit more oil if necessary. Don’t burn spice mixture!
• Add carrots to pot along with brown sugar, carrot juice, coconut milk, and stock of choice. Simmer until carrots are very tender, skimming any impurities that rise to surface, about 30 minutes.
• Adjusting seasoning to taste. Very carefully blend the hot mixture (no more than halfway full and beginning on lowest setting or using an immersion blender) until smooth and silky. Add fresh lime juice, to taste, and garnish according to your imagination. Enjoy!
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