Cook-off Raises Money For Charity

STARKVILLE | Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Variations on gumbo, chili, bisque and some might say - every cream and cheese sauce imaginable - were ladled and slurped by more than 200 discriminating Starkville eaters Saturday afternoon during the first Soup-er Bowl, a fundraiser for the Starkville United Way.

By the end of the afternoon after nibbling on delicacies as unique as venison gumbo, purple Peruvian potato pancetta and as boring as creamed out chicken noodle thick enough to stand up a spoon, the ballots were in and first place went to Bin 612 for Chef Ty Thames' roasted sweet potato bisque, creamed with a little goat cheese, and the perfect - if not implausible - garnish, a wheel of fried jalapeno.

Second place went to Harvey's for that restaurant's crawfish chowder, another cream-based soup, though this one exceedingly thick. Old Venice, with its spinach, feta and cream soup was the choice for third place. While Dave's Darkhorse Tavern took home the most playful of awards - Best in Show - given for the most clever display. But then again, how can you go wrong with a suit of armor standing guard over your tureen of what many described dismissively as "pizza sauce." "This is really good," proclaimed computational engineering graduate student Monika Jankun-Kelly, as she finished off her thimble of sweet potato soup, declaring it one of the best so far.

"The sweet potato is one of the most interesting," she added.

Other chefs looked to the wild for inspiration and brought Mississippi's great outdoors to their pots.

"This one has squirrel, venison and duck," said Wasson's Catfish restaurant owner John Wasson Thompson, as he described the Brunswick Stew he'd stirred up.

"It's a great hearty winter stew," he added of the game-filled gumbo-like pot. And since none of the 14 restaurants participating in the event were selling their soup outright - tasters paid $10 a person to enter - restauranteurs like Thompson and Thames could look to wild game. State fish and wildlife hunting regulations prevent the sale of wild game in restaurants.

Other delicacies turned out to be chicken tortilla soup from Front Door in Columbus, red lentil soup from Shaherazad's in Starkville and white bean chicken chili garnished with a sprig of cilantro from City Bagel Cafe.

"With such great responses from everyone, I'm calling it a success," said organizer Jeremiah Dumas. "Good turnout and delicious food."

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