Though Edy Koehler has lived in Port Washington 20 years, she never realized how many restaurants the hamlet actually had until she tasted some of their best soups.
Sipping on kale, bean, sausage and chicken soup from Gino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, Koehler thought it was her favorite until she tried another, and then another Saturday, during the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce’s seventh SOUPer Bowl.
“I work in Manhattan, so I usually eat there. I had no idea these restaurants were so good and had such delicious soups,” said Koehler, 48. “This event really opened my eyes to the food I can eat right here at home in Port Washington.”
Koehler was among the hundreds invited to taste soups from 15 local eateries and vote for their three favorites at United Methodist Church of Port Washington. She described the kale, bean, sausage and chicken soup as “delicious, with great flavor. The beans cooked perfectly, chicken and sausage moist and having an excellent balance of spices.”
The Chamber of Commerce collected nonperishable food items at the event. They will be donated, along with a portion of proceeds from admission (adults paid $7; kids younger than 12, $3), to the Twin Pines Food Pantry, chamber executive director Bobby Polay said.
Polay, of Port Washington, said the group raised about $6,500 last year and expected about 500 to attend Saturday’s event. She said it gave people “an excuse to get out after being cooped up for weeks due to the cold weather. And who could turn down soup?”
After casting the ballots, the People's Choice Award went to the Jamaican sweet potato soup from Wild Honey on Main, which took the 2014 SOUPer Bowl title. Finn MacCool's potato leek soup came in second, with Ayhan's Mediterranean Marketplace Tex-Mex turkey chili soup finishing third.
In addition to the public vote, a panel of judges donated their taste buds and determined the Judges’ Choice Award. the judges included Emmy Award-winning sports anchor Len Berman, news anchor and celebrity chef Julian Phillips and Oscar-nominated actor and artist Burt Young, best known as “Paulie” from the “Rocky” movies.
Judge Anne Arter, a real estate agent at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, said she made her choice based on taste, texture, overall flavor and balance of spices.
“We’ve had some very good soups this year,” said Arter, who has lived in Port Washington her entire life. “I love soup, but I wouldn’t say I’m a food person. But, man, are these soups fantastic tasting. There’s just so many different flavors in your mouth.”
The top judges choice award went to the potato leek soup from Finn MacCool’s. It was followed by Ayhan’s Fish Kebab New England clam chowder, second; and Sullivan’s Quay seafood gumbo, third.
Catherine O’Neill, a manager at Sullivan’s Quay who helped prepare the gumbo, said though they were expecting to get first, they had a lot of fun and were glad people liked it.
“This type of thing brings the whole community together,” O’Neill said. “And we do find that new people come into our restaurant asking for the soup they tried at this event. It’s perfect soup weather, so people are happy to have so many choices to choose from.”