Soupfest 2016 – Living Rock boils down to community

Soupfest 2016 – Living Rock boils down to community

Hamilton’s Soupfest 2016

Making friends at Soupfest
Written by: Justin Harney

Another year, another cup of soup, but not Mr. Noodles. The hard working folks at Living Rock put on another successful instalment of Soupfest 2016, raising money and awareness for homeless youth. Raising the bar from a successful Soupfest 2015, this year’s soup-off featured the likes of Copetown Woods, Baci Ristorante, Burnt Tongue and an interesting dessert soup by My Thai. Adding some more flavour to the mix were new local hot spots taking a swing at this community event. Some of the new additions include Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go, Detour Cafe, and Butcher and the Vegan. Like any great event in Hamilton, there were a few corporate ghouls looming with their own agenda (particularly Sarcoa, trying to gain signatures for support so they can play music after 11 pm). But this wasn’t the place for petitions or real estate offers – the Living Rock foundation is easy to support. And for that we salute the volunteers and hard working chefs that made Soupfest 2016 possible.


The festival featured some of last year’s judges: Amanda Kinnaird from Inspire Marketing, Alex Bielak from the Hamiltonian, Karen Aquino from Go Cooking at the Hamilton Spectator and Chanry Thach from the Hungry Gnome.

A game of parsnip

If last year’s theme was sweet potatoes (and there were a lot of sweet potato soups), then this year was about the parsnip. Two restaurants laid down the law with Butcher and The Vegan with an Apple Parsnip Soup and Mohawk ChopHouse with Smoked Parsnip and Spruce. As always, there was your standard comfort foods: chicken noodle, a meatball soup, and french onion from Sarcoa. What was new and pushed boundaries were our favourites The Burnt Tongue with a line worthy Cheeseburger soup (with hickory stick fries), My Thai’s coconut dessert soup and the Jalapeño Potato poppers by Fishers Pier Eatery and Sports Lounge. While we couldn’t taste every soup, we did our best. So sorry in advance for missing the Caesar Soup by The Harbour Diner, Taylor’s Tea Room for the Turkey Vegetable, and Rony’s Rotisserie (the Moroccan Lentil sounded good…) and the West Plains Bistro’s Smoked Potato with Crispy Fried Ham. I was really hoping for another appearance of Heritage Place, which served a great leek and mushroom soup last year that made me want to retire early.

This year we rated 16 soups, which sounds like a lot but its really not too much. Maybe next year the festival can offer a full package where you get tickets for all the soups. This would be a best seller for the die hard soupies. Once again, apologies to anyone we missed at Soupfest 2016. We’re sure your soups were good too.

It’s gonna be a soupy one.

4th Course Bistro at Copetown Woods

This Home Style Turkey and Butternut Squash soup didn’t look like a butternut squash soup. Taking a stab at the competition, the former champions delivered a full flavoured soup without anything too risky.

Justin’s rating: 3.4/5
Amanda’s rating: 3.5/5
Aggregate: 6.8/10

Copetown Woods Soup

Baci Ristorante

The Fennel Soup wasn’t on the Parsnip train, but it was pretty close. The roasted apple, cream cheese and spiced caramel sauce didn’t leave a strong impression, leaving this soup somewhere between good and experimental. Sometimes the safe route isn’t the best route. Still one of the most energetic teams out there.

Justin’s rating: 2.5/5
Amanda’s rating: 3.5/5
Aggregate: 6/10

Team Baci

Butcher and The Vegan

How much can I say I love this place? They brought one of our favourite soups off their menu to the festival. They know when something in our city is just too good to mess with, and this soup is a prime example. Delicious and sweet, it’s a Hamilton staple with the right amount of experimentation for flavour. They only lose points for not inventing a unique soup for the festival.

Justin’s rating: 4.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.5/5
Aggregate: 8.5/10

Butcher and the Vegan hot soup
Hot apple soup. It’s SOUPER

Detour Cafe

This Smoked Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper soup was one of the best ones that we tasted. It had all the makings of comfort food with a bit of edge. If you needed a warm pick me up, and another reason to like Detour besides coffee, check out the soup. It’s good.

Justin’s rating: 3.8/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.0/5
Aggregate: 7.8/10

Detour Soupfest 2016
We took a soup detour, no regrets.

Earth Shake

This Massaman Soup was easy to spot— the volunteers at Earth Shake were dressed appropriately for the occasion. Bringing fun and positive vibes to the festival, this was one of the best tasting and healthiest soups at this years event. With some crunchy kale on top, these business hippies gave the corporate competition a run for their money.

Justin’s rating: 4.5/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.2/5
Aggregate: 8.7/10

Earth Shake Soupfest 2016
The Earth Shake crew spreading good vibes

Except for Kenneth

Erin Dunham is one of the hardest working Hamiltonians in the local restaurant scene, and Except for Kenneth was flying the flag for The Other Bird family of restaurants. We expected a bit more from the foodie giants given their reputation in the city, but the Potato Pecorino Truffle Soup was a bit too salty and thin. Still, one of the best soups at Soupfest 2016, but overshadowed by the creativity and grit by the tough competition.

Justin’s rating: 3.5/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.0/5
Aggregate: 7.5/10

The Other Bird Soupfest 2016
The submission from the restaurant leaders in Hamilton, The Other Bird

Fisher’s Pier Eater and Sports Lounge

To be fair, I didn’t expect too much from this place and was completely caught off guard when I unexpectedly tasted the greatest soup I’ve had in the last three years of the festival (the Jalapeno Potato Popper Soup). Love at first spoon, this soup had the perfect edge of flavour and creamy finish. To be fair, this was the first soup I had— but nothing else lived up to its greatness. My pick for this year’s winner.

Justin’s rating: 5.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 5.0/5
Aggregate: 10

Spicy Soup from Soupfest 2016 champions
This is my pick for the winner.

Good Life Deli

The Napa Meatball Soup at Goodlife Deli was a bit of an understatement considering how friendly and joyful the staff were. The soup didn’t stand out of the crowd at Soupfest 2016, but the meatballs were excellent.

Justin’s rating: 2.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 3.0/5
Aggregate: 5.0/10

Goodlife Hamilton Soupfest 2016
Feeling good with the Goodlife team

Montana’s Cookhouse

This corporate chain served up Creamy Chou-Fleur Chorizo Soup for the spice fanatics at the festival. A flavourful burst from a familiar chain didn’t really shout “Hamilton”, but also didn’t disappoint. It was nice to see Montana’s take the initiative and help support the Hamilton community.

Justin’s rating: 3.8/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.0/5
Aggregate: 7.8/10

Montanas Soupfest 2016
Creamy Chou-fleur Chorizo soup.. delicious.

My Thai

The Coconut Dessert soup was a little off-putting for sight. Thankfully they challenged the status quo with an interesting combination of flavours in a rich coconut soup. Nay-sayers might be a little intimidated to try it, but we thought it was the perfect mixture of taste and creativity. One of our favourites this year.

Justin’s rating: 4.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 4.0/5
Aggregate: 8/10

MyThai Soupfest 2016
MyThai showcasing a unique flavour

Nellie James

The Voodoo Corn Chowder definitely takes the prize for the most interesting name at Soupfest 2016. Hard comfort food in a familiar traditional chowder wasn’t what we expected from Nellie James, which usually aims for a contemporary twist. This soup didn’t disappoint and was a surprising contender in the battle of the spoons.

Justin’s rating: 4.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 5.0/5
Aggregate: 9/10

Nellie James Soupfest 2016
The Nellie James crew

Sarcoa Restaurant and Bar

It wasn’t bad for French Onion soup, but typically when someone tries to take a staple soup at soupfest they better have a good twist to make it memorable. This soup had a lot of presentation but didn’t follow through on the taste buds. It’s hard to improve a classic, but it’s dangerous not to take a leap of faith with some interesting flavour.

Justin’s rating: 2.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 3.5/5
Aggregate: 5.5/10

Sarcoa Soupfest 2016
Sarcoa French Onion Soup

Sensational Samosa

The Chana Masala Soup was a delicious addition representing the Hamilton Food Market. Incorporating the taste and spice that has made Sensational Samosa such a hit in the city, this soup was a strong contender for creativity and taste. Also one of the most colourful kiosks at the festival and a very welcoming appeal.

Justin’s rating: 4.0/5
Amanda’s rating: 5.0/5
Aggregate: 9/10

Sensational Samosa Soupfest 2016
A colourful display at Sensational Samosa

The Burnt Tongue

Last year’s favourite (Moroccan Vegetable and Pearl Cous Cous) continued its reputation as one of the edgiest soups featured. Once again the Burnt Tongue delivered another delicious contender, the Cheeseburger Soup. The kiosk was getting so much attention that there was a line through the middle of the convention centre. Only in Hamilton can you line up for liquid hamburgers. Maybe Portland. And yes, it was well worth the hype.

Justin’s rating: 4.5/5
Amanda’s rating: 5.0/5
Aggregate: 9.5/10

Burnt Tongue Soupfest 2016
Cheeseburger.. soup?

What was your favourite soup?

Did you think anyone pushed the creative limits of their craft at Soupfest 2016? This is our third year here, and I’m outta stuff to say. Every year this event just gets better and better. I like soup. Shoutouts in the comments below:

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