Sometimes I imagine what hell might be like. Firstly, I imagine it's customised, so that eternal suffering is maximised for each person. In one of my many imagined versions, it's always mid January in Eastern Europe (yes in this version I suppose hell freezes over). And the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld (or a real Nazi, given the location and history dialed to the right year) bellows at me "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" unto all eternity.
It's enough to make me behave. And slurp as much soup as I can as summer winds down in Eastern Europe. I wanted to share with you my most souperb finds. The Berlin film scene has its Golden Bears; I thought I might hand out a few Golden Bowls. If you have nominees to add, I'd love to hear from you!
For Best Ensemble Performance of a Soup Menu, the Golden Bowl goes to Restaurant Zemaiciai in Vilnius, Lithuania. The richness of their soup stock blew me away, be it the very dramatic borscht with pork rib, sorrel soup with smoked meat and quail's egg, or the humble but powerfully executed potato soup. This kind of deep sweetness in a stock you can only get from a lot of lovely bones, and time. Cheating by using MSG tends to leave a hollow after-tinge. Good stock is not hard to make, but many restaurants don't have that kind of patience.
You'll know from my earlier writeup of Zemaiciai that I'm a fan; these soups are just 3 more reasons for my case.
For Best Art Direction, the Golden Bowl goes to organic restaurant AED in Tallinn, Estonia. Kudos for keeping this cute island of summer sprouts so pristine amid a red sea of beetroot.
For Best Performance Featuring a seasonal ingredient, the Golden Bowl goes to the mushroom soup at U Babci Maliny in Krakow, Poland.
Very ballsy with the boletus, and brought out in a giant bread basket to boot!
And now for a few special mentions.
For successfully making me miss every Jewish mother who ever had me at their dinner table while I was a student at Brandeis, the 2 winners are both from Krakow (natch).
CK Dezerter's beef buillion with liver balls; and U Babci Maliny's borscht with dumplings. Special congratulations to the latter for living up to its name -- Babci Maliny means Grandma Raspberry (and she has the colour on all her walls to prove it) Maseltov!
And last but not least, for a very special booby "Surprise Supplies" prize (say that 3 times fast), the Golden Bowl goes to the hot and sour soup by Chinese restaurant CBET BOCTOKA in St Petersburg, Russia.
My heart sank when they brought this bowl below to our table. It sure didn't look hot or sour. And it was a lot larger than the 2 small portions we ordered. Were we going to get charged for an order completely lost in translation?
Turns out, it WAS hot and sour soup, just not the usual gloopy orange Szechuan kind. And very delish at that! Surprise!
And yes, they didn't charge us for 2 portions. They charged us LESS. Babs and I counted the portions we had from the bowl below. We counted 6. Supplies!
The perfect tonic for being caught in the rain earlier in the day. And it made me feel souper smug for ordering our food in Chinese.
But enough with the gawdawful jokes, before it becomes your personal vision of hell. I shall repent by spending this week working on uploading my (soup) stock tips, and recipes for chicken soup, mushroom soup and tom-yum soup for you. Look out for them!
U Babci Maliny
Ul. Szpitlana 38
+48 12 421 4818
(Note: Most guidebooks -- even the restaurants own website -- still show a Slawkowska 17 address, but this location has closed. Thanks to the kindly building security guard who sent me on to the Szpitlana location)
2nd Sovetskaya 12
St Petersburg, Russia
+7 812 717 2511