Soup’s on for 2010

Soup is the ultimate comfort food; hearty and filling, it warms to the core and seems to cure whatever ails you. Have a case of the sniffles? Here, this bowl of chicken noodle soup will soothe your scratchy throat and stuffy nose. Even if you aren't sick, soup, chilis and stews are the perfect way to warm up after a frigid winter day on the mountain.

Up until now, Gone Bakery has been Whistler's solid go-to spot to get your fill of the good stuff (along with a generous hunk of their delicious bread to sop up the dregs). But now there's a new soup spot set to open up in town, one which may just give the longtime favourite a run for its money.

The Soup Boutique will be opening to the public as soon as all of their paperwork is processed by local agencies. They will be offering a range of fresh, handcrafted, from-scratch soups, sandwiches, baked goods and coffees.

Thomas Piekarski, the former chef at the Edgewater Lodge, launched the new business with two other business partners just a few weeks ago. They've taken over the former home of Esquires, which is conveniently located directly across from Whistler Medals Plaza. They are transforming the former coffeehouse into a vibrant, welcoming place to enjoy a belly-warming, healthy meal during the Games, or long after.

It's the ideal location to sell quality grab-and-go goods like soups and sandwiches, especially with an official venue literally steps from the front door.

"I figured there's going to be concerts and attendance of 5,000 to 6,000 people there every day, and I figured, what concept can you do high-volume and what would people like on a cold day watching the celebrations there?" Piekarski said. "...Why not have a buffet of hot soups and a nice artisan bread, and that warms you up from the inside."

The only catch with the location is that the site doesn't have an operational kitchen, so the food has to be made off site. Enter The Foodlovers.

Jenna Dashney and Maxim Ridorossi run their own business, The Foodlovers Cooking Co. Accomplished chefs and passionate foodies will be creating and delivering fresh soups, stews and baking to The Soup Boutique on a regular basis.

Together, they've created a roster of more than 20 homemade soups and stews, many of which are made with ingredients fresh from Pemberton fields. You see, The Foodlovers also run the café and food side of things up at North Arm Farm, and regularly raid the storage room at the farm for delicious root vegetables to use in their dishes. Since Piekarski wanted to "give Olympic visitors and locals alike a taste of British Columbia," their local approach was a great fit.

"To me, it was also important... that during the Olympics we have the opportunity to promote B.C. in general and I wanted to simply be part of it," Piekarski said. "And what better way than to put food in people's stomach?"

Over the span of just a few weeks, Ridorossi has whipped up an incredible range of soups and stews designed to suit just about any palate, sourcing the bulk of the ingredients from the surrounding region. He's included some universally-appealing classics with a twist, like chili made from Pemberton beef, tomato and rice and turkey orzo with fresh herbs, alongside some "weirder" ones - maple-roasted squash, miso shitake and tofu with radishes and Moroccan-inspired chickpea, carrot and cilantro - for those with more adventurous taste buds. Each day will feature a rotating roster of eight soups, stews and chilis, so repeat customers won't get stuck in a rut.

The Moroccan-inspired dish is smooth and sweet with just a hint of spice - nothing too overwhelming - an homage to an ethnic treat without pretending to be something it isn't. The miso is light and flavourful, with generous chunks of tofu and thin slices of shitake. But my favourite of the bunch, the beef chili, is the one to cap an epic powder day; a wholesome dish loaded with protein from the beef and beans.

Dashney will be baking fresh organic focaccia bread topped with herbs and sea salt to be served with the soups. She's also going to be preparing an assortment of fresh muffins, scones and sweets (many of them gluten-free), like granola bars, cornmeal muffins and Mexican chocolate cookies made with rice flour, for the masses of spectators, athletes and media who will converge on Whistler Medals Plaza during the Games.

"You can't really have a sporting event and totally serve junk!" Dashney said with a laugh.



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