Soups Triumphant


Battle of the Soups

[With Judy Salamancha and Charmaine Coimbra, Mr. Spice reflects on the inaugural Grand Ole Soupabration benefit for the Friends of the Elephant Seal in September 2011.]

Save the date—Soupabration II on September 9, 2012 at Camp Ocean Pines

Soup Love

by Mr. Spice

I love soup. And, I’m no slacker when it comes to throwing together a pot to take the chill off a cool fall day and make you think of Mom. My soups usually come together out of necessity on how to use up what has been hanging out in the refrigerator the longest, mixed in with the key ingredient—a homemade stock. For me, good soups are comfort food made using ingredients on hand.

Why is this man smiling?

However, the soups at Soupabration were of an entirely different breed: they didn’t just comfort and warm but transported you and tangled with your taste buds. Best in Show winner was Lido Restaurant’s summer corn & roasted pasilla soup with creme fresh and lime zest. This soup from Chef Brian Collins absolutely made me want to take off to a Caribbean island, not cuddle in from the cold. People’s Choice winner salmon bisque from Robin’s Restaurant has been a long time local favorite featuring chunks of salmon with tangy vegetable goodness and a serious creaminess that slides across your tongue.

Chef Matt Beckett from Linn’s of Cambria doubled down and gave us two fantastic offerings: a vegan roasted ginger carrot with parsnip carrot ribbons as well as a three squash soup zinged up with Gravenstein apples, toasted pumpkin seeds and vanilla foam. Both soups were fantastic and the squash and apple combo was such a hit, it won the award for Best Seasonal Soup. Other pots filled with delectable goodness were provided by Big Sky Cafe, Et Voilà, and Mee Heng Lo. Next time, I’ll get to the Soupabration earlier so I can try them all, and you should too.

Pacific Wildlife Care & Piedras Blancas Light Station Association

Soupabrationers, Come Prepared to Win!

by Judy Salamacha, event judge

Click to enlarge 2011 poster

I’m not a foodie and can’t tell a spice from a spice, so I was surprised and honored to be invited to judge then awed to be in the expert company of my fellow judges. Not being a celebrity chef or television personality, I suppose I was invited to the judges table to serve as the public’s judge to reflect the non-chef palate in this contest. From my non-foodie perspective, let me tell you that the competing soups at the Grand Ole Soupabration were definitely not your garden variety Crock Pot soups.

Before writing for local newspapers and my Monday column for the SLO Tribune, my former career produced a number of events for the Morro Bay Harbor Festival, the SLO Vintners Association and numerous events in Bakersfield.  So I might not be a soup connoisseur but I do know my events and Soupabration is a keeper. It had all the ingredients for a good time for all with fine wines and excellent food, a wonderful setting and presentation, several educational exhibits, a great group of people and guest-friendly volunteers, a terrific cause on which to spend your money, and room to grow and add to the event’s future activities. As a first time event, there were the usual first time minor issues but I hope the Elephant Seal Foundation will stick with this event and let it grow nicely.

Shanny Covey of Robin’s Restaurant

Event producer Charmaine Coimbra is a wonderful organizer with great ideas. Having famous and credible chefs such as Chef Dakota Weiss of W Restaurant (and season 9 of Top Chef) and Food Network star Chef Rahm Fama to judge was brilliant. Inviting the finest restaurants throughout the county gave exposure for them and wonderful taste opportunities for us. The breads and desserts were yummy, too.

Consuelo Macedo of The Cambrian served as another local judge. I’m sure the local Soupabration judgeships will be rotated around the media—and should be—but I will be back again as a guest. It was a very lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Cayucos for a good cause.

I might send a challenge out to future Soupabration contenders. The winning soup was a seasonal corn chowder prepared by Lido Restaurant. All four judges agreed instantly it was the “overall, Best of Show.”  When tasting and enjoying their seasonal display, I liked the attitude of their server: my friend Ann and I said, “Yum, is this on your menu?” And the server, unsurprised that we loved it, answered, “No, my chef made this special…he came to win.” And that he did. And when you do, we hope you will put it on the menu!

Chef Dakota Weiss, Friends of the Elephant Seal Guide Margo Siler and Chef Rahm Fama

100% Zero Waste Event Raises the Bar

by Charmaine Coimbra, event producer

 An unexpected first happened during the Friends of the Elephant Seal inaugural fundraiser A Grand Ole Soupabration. The event was named as “The first public event in San Luis Obispo County to score 100% Zero Waste.” After about 160 persons tasted soups, bread, wine, cookies and apples, approximately 60 pounds of waste accumulated. The bulk was compostable waste with the rest sent for recycling.

Derek Atkins, Blown Out Spokesman of the Morro Bay Guerilla Gardening Club on the zero waste case

Besides biocompostables for tasting cups, utensils and hot and cold drinks, we

  • lined our display tables in butcher paper adhered with paper tape
  • borrowed tablecloths, wreathes, and decor from members
  • decorated with live plants, fruits and vegetables
  • printed on paper with soy inks every banner that wasn’t constantly used by the nonprofit organization
  • repurposed packing Styrofoam to strengthen posters that we’ll use again
  • deposited all of our food waste into strategically placed worm composting bins
  • offered each person who purchased a wine tasting ticket a glass to use and then take home as a souvenir

This was a community effort that involved local branches of Eco-Rotary, Morro Bay Guerrilla Gardening Club, Newton Cultivation,  Dairy Creek Golf Course and the Morro Bay Harbor Festival.

The Friends of the Elephant Seal thank everyone for participating in the Grand Ole Soupabration. Donations help this worthy non-profit continue its valuable work. Thanks for your support.

WOW: Worms on Wheels

 elephant seal photo by “Mike” Michael L. Baird,

Northern Elephant Seals Fighting

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