By Kathy Yanchus, REVIEW STAFF
Shortly after the doors to Soupfest 11 opened at the Hamilton Convention Centre earlier this month, people were lined up at the Copetown Woods’ 4th Course Bistro booth with bowls in hand.
The 2nd Concession Road restaurant was, after all, the defending champ, having won the Best Soup title at last year’s fundraiser for Living Rock Ministries.
Guests came back for seconds and thirds and waited in line up to half an hour just to get another ladleful of executive chef Nina Ruelens’ warm, hearty recipe.
“It was pretty phenomenal,” said Rochelle Trask, one of two food and beverage managers for 4th Course Bistro, the other being Nicky Noel, both on hand for Soupfest, along with Ruelens.
The bistro didn’t disappoint, with its roasted tomato with pancetta and mascarpone cheese soup, voted Best Soup and its broccoli au gratin winning the inaugural category of Best Grown Local Soup.
The roasted tomato with roasted red pepper, pancetta and mascarpone cheese soup was served with grilled strips of smoked provolone cheese on sourdough bread.
“It’s a very updated version of the classic comfort, tomato soup and grilled cheese, but it’s got an upscale twist with the pancetta and mascarpone cheese, and then the grilled cheese is not your typical, with the lovely provolone and sourdough bread. It’s more of a sophisticated version of that,” commented Trask.
Ruelens created her roasted tomato soup specifically for Soupfest; last year’s winner was her wild mushroom with double smoked bacon and aged cheddar soup.
Approximately 5,000 people attended Soupfest, with proceeds going to Living Rock Ministries, an organization that helps at-risk and homeless youth.
The next competitive stop for the 4th Course Bistro will be the Hamilton Food and Drink Festival this spring where chef Ruelens will once again be defending the titles of Best Food and Best Overall Experience.
“She hasn’t decided what she’s going to do but we’ll definitely be participating in the Food and Drink Festival,” said Trask.
Anyone wanting to try the award-winning broccoli au gratin soup, which is a regular in-house specialty, is advised the restaurant’s winter hours are Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m.
To re-create Ruelens’ Best Soup, try your hand at the following recipe:
60 oz good quality canned tomatoes (pureed)
20 oz roasted red peppers (pureed)
8 oz pancetta
1/3 cup flour
8 oz white wine
8 oz chicken stock
½ tub mascarpone cheese
Saute the pancetta in a small amount of olive oil.
When the pancetta is slightly crisp, add the flour to absorb the fat.
Cook for two minutes and then slowly add the white wine and chicken stock.
Add pureed tomatoes, roasted red peppers.
Simmer for about 30 minutes.
Add the mascarpone cheese and stir until melted. The cheese will work better if it is at room temperature before adding to the soup.
Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.
TIP: If you find it slightly acidic, add a pinch of sugar.