Whether one preferred creamy, brothy or saucy, there was a style of soup to whet the appetite of every connoisseur attending the 4th annual Buffalo Soup-Fest Sunday in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
In fact, more than 100 different varieties – including bisques, chowders and vichyssoises– were consumed by thousands of patrons who, throughout the day, showed up to sample wares offered by more than 30 different restaurants.
“Some of the soups were excellent: the sweet potato kale, the lentil pumpkin chili and sweet chili chicken. Those were incredible,” said Denice Sumlin of Getzville, a first-time patron of the event who attended with her sister, Yvette Veira of Cheektowaga.
A self-confessed soup aficionado who is adept at preparing her own homemade soup, Sumlin said Sunday’s cold and occasionally snowy weather was not enough to keep her from the opportunity to sample so many different styles of soups all in one venue.
“Well, I’m a hardy Buffalonian, so the weather doesn’t affect me very much. As long as the tires are good on the car, you can get around,” Sumlin said.
Clearly, she wasn’t alone, as thousands streamed in and out of the Convention Center over the eight hours of the festival. Perhaps, a few samplings of piping hot soup was just the thing to take off the chill.
“It’s one of those things where you sit there and think:‘How come nobody has thought about this already?’ ” said Soup-Fest organizer Matt Carlucci, whose background in event planning and volunteer work convinced him to give it a go.
Given the success of the abundance of summer food festivals throughout the Buffalo area, Carlucci said it made sense to create one revolving around soups for the winter.
Patrons paid $5 for admission and purchased food tickets for $1 each. Samples were purchased for one, two or three tickets.
“It’s basically like the Taste of Buffalo, or any of those ‘Taste of’ events,” said Peter Herr, who does publicity for the Soup-Fest.
“They give you a small, 6 ounce cup. That’s what a taste is,” he said.
Jonathan Ng, an international student at the University at Buffalo, attended the event with friends and was partial to a Japanese braised pork stew presented by Sato, a modern Japanese restaurant on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.
“It tasted a bit like home, because where I come from there’s quite a bit of Japanese foods that we eat there,” said Ng, who hails from Singapore.
“It’s very sweet and savory at the same time. So it’s a very nice balance. That’s why I like it,” Ng added.
The Byrd House restaurant in Orchard Park presented four different soups: a banana pepper bisque; a sweet chili chicken vegetable soup; a spinach and sausage chowder; and a beef on weck soup, which sold out early.
“It actually almost tastes exactly like a beef-on-weck sandwich. It’s just a little creamier, obviously,” said Seth Weiss, executive chef for the Byrd House.
Late in the day, Weiss offered Tina and Peter Coppins of Youngstown in Niagara County each a free sample of the sweet chili chicken vegetable soup.
“It’s different. It’s good,” said Tina Coppins.
“It’s like a sweetened chili,” Peter Coppins added.
“It’s not chili,” Weiss said. “It’s a sweet chili sauce-infused chicken vegetable soup ... If you were to deconstruct it, it’s like a spring roll almost,” he added.
“Yeah. There you go. That’s exactly what it tastes like,” Peter Coppins agreed.
The Village Inn on Grand Island offered samples of a Mayan chocolate stout chili, prepared by Sarah Mallare who, in addition to adding chocolate, included chili, three different meats – ribeye steak, ground beef and grilled chicken – as well as cannellini beans, black beans and kidney beans.
“And I also used guajillo pepper, which are huge in Mexican cooking, especially for chilis, and I just incorporated different flavors and spices. I wanted a full-bodied, sweet, spicy concoction, but it’s not too spicy,” Mallare said.
Patrons also got to vote by ballot on their favorites, from which 17 different winners were given awarded, based on the types of soup.
Proceeds from the event will be donated to local charitable organizations.
Sponsors of the event were Brooklyn Brewery, Try-It Distributing, Combined Insurance and KR Communications.