UPDATE: THE FESTIVAL ENDED EARLY. IT IS NOW OVER.
by Sybil Kaplan
Photographs by Barry A. Kaplan
Hotel Inbal Soup Festival Bar
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Kashrut - Rabbinut Roshit Yerushalayim
All products are Mehadrin
Three years ago, a head waiter at the Sofia restaurant in the Hotel Inbal suggested to the executive chef, Nir Elkayam, that they create a soup bar.
"I wanted it to be affordable and that people could eat as much as they wanted," explains Chef
Elkayam. "And I wanted to see what would add value to build a meal around the soup."
From November to just before Passover, patrons can come for lunch, dinner or after an event and have unlimited visits to a soup bar with their choice of soups, bread and spreads, and accompaniments--all for NIS65.
"It's more of a success than we thought," says Elkayam, "and we get 70 people a day."
Onion soup and minestrone are always ton the blackboard. Every two days, the chefs look in the refrigerator and see what they have and make another three soups. Among these are: fennel, leek, pea, zucchini, lentils, Jerusalem artichokes, mushroom and orange (pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots).
Accompaniments include: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, soup nuts, and croutons with garlic.
Dips include: green and black olive tapenade, pesto, dried tomatoes with cumin, dried tomatoes a little spicy, and garlic paste.
Three or four different breads are there such as French bread, dried tomato with nuts and olive breads; there is Parmesan cheese to grate yourself and cut-up cooked spaghetti.
On the evening we visited and were hosted by Chef Elkayam, there were Jerusalem artichoke. fennel, onion, minestrone and mushroom soups.
My companion went for the Jerusalem artichoke soup first, pureed, to which he added soup nuts. Jerusalem artichokes do not come from Jerusalem, but they are native to North America and a species of sunflowers. The tubers, called sunchokes in America, look like ginger root, and they do have a distinct artichoke taste. I buy them, cook them and freeze them to use when they are not in season when I want to add an artichoke taste to something such as a cheese dip. Soup nuts are made with flour, salt, eggs and oil made into a dough, then rolled into ropes and cut in pieces which are then baked.
The minestrone is, of course, of Italian origin and actually dates back to the ancient Roman civilization It was not thick, very nutritional and had more vegetables than we could identify, all uniformly cut. The tomatoes were fresh, and the oregano and basil were subtle.
This was my first taste of fennel soup, although I have used it in my soups and stews and tasted it in salads.
Fennel is a plant in the carrot family, indigenous to the Mediterranean area and traditional in Sicily. I found this pureed version very tasty, which only a slight licorice (anise) taste. I would think it would be a good winter soup.
The mushroom soup was a delight for my companion who adores mushrooms, as this version is made with portobello and champignon mushrooms. I quite enjoyed and the kitchen staff said potatoes, onions and milk are added.
I always love onion soup, and it is a classic I make all winter. This is the only soup where onion soup powder is used as part of the base, although Chef Elkayam said they also use a natural powder, made mostly with mushrooms called umami to enhance flavors. Although it was scientifically identified in 1908 by a Tokyo University professor, it was not until 1985 that umami was declared a basic taste, along with the other four--sweet, sour, bitter, salty.
If you want a nice evening dinner out or an afternoon lunch, or a light supper after an event, try the Inbal Hotel Soup Festival; it is not expensive, not heavy and good for Jerusalem.
The author and photographer were guests of the Soup Festival.