According to this New York Times Magazine article, '' Louis XIV began every evening meal with an array of soups, ranging from broths to rich and thick concoctions ... His sister-in-law Princess Palatine wrote that ''very often'' the king ate as much as ''four plates of different soups ..."
And, my dears, this is exactly what I did on Saturday. After a picture perfect afternoon of lesiurely holiday shopping, lunch was had at Russel's Restaurant. This place has an extensive menu and they excell at soup.
As you can see from their menu, they offer eight standing soups and two soups du jour. Although I usually cannot pass up the most excellent Wild Mushroom Soup, I decided to go crazy and order the Sensational Soup Sampler.
What a delightful surprise I had when a large charger was delivered to the table with three 6 oz. cups of soup, three spoons and three cracker/breads. Of the three soups I had chosen, ony one disappointed.
Beef with Wild Rice - this was the broth Soup du Jour, but it was thick and heavy with barley. It had an unexpected aftertaste of spiciness that was thrilling.
Boston Clam Chowder - this one sounded the most enticing and it won my vote for appearance appeal as well, but it was a crashing disappointment. It was a cream-based soup with colorful bits floating about - one could hardly expect to go wrong with potatoes, bacon and dill - but I give it my most devastating descrption: it was bland.
Russel's Crab - my new #1 choice when visiting this establishment in the future. It was plain in appearance and I didnt hold out much hope for it, but Oh, my dears! An exposion of crabbiness in the most delightful way! The look of it was smooth, there was nothing drooping off the bowl of the spoon, but the texture was pure shredded crab in the most subltely flavored light cream sauce.
My companion ordered the Shrimp Bisque Gourmet which was pleasant in appearance - a lovely shade of pinkish/orange that a decorator would call "Shrimp" - and she was quite taken with the heady aroma of tarragon wafting up from the bowl. The Soup Lady managed to be on the recevining end of many sample spoonsful, and it was good, but at the time, I was swooning over the Crab Soup. And so that made Soup #4 - just like Louis used to do it.
The chef happily gave up his recipe (with personal notations) for the Shrimp Bisque - yeild 5 gallons. We'll have to adjust it for home portions and test run it past the Panel of Judges.
If you find yourself in the charming college town of Bloomsburg, Pa., don't miss the opportunity to stop in for lunch or dinner at Russel's. Try the soup.
CAVEAT: as a general rule, the Soup Lady does not recommend attempting the Soup of the Day just anywhere. I suspect it is made from old entrees that did not sell, as an alternative to throwing them out. Even if it ends up tasting good, one can never get over the suspicion that it's only mashed up leftovers heated to the point of bacteriocide. Use your judgement.