May 11, 2011
Soup's on, from the Original Soupman. So, what's not to like?

Rain or shine, cold or hot, stormy or calm. No matter what the weather or the season, the time is always right for a bowl of soup. (Or a glass of champagne, but that's another issue.)

Now that two of downtown Sacramento's top soup destinations have regrettably closed - Fog Mountain Cafe and La Bonne Soupe - that leaves Muntan's Soups and Salads (1225 J St., 916-498-9340) for excellent steaming bowls.

However, if you want good soup without leaving home or office, try the microwavable Original Soupman line. If you do want to get out of town for soup, the Original Soupman restaurant is scheduled to open May 19 on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco (the chain's first West Coast site). The menu will offer soups, sandwiches and - a first for the company - cioppino. Baseball legend Reggie "Mr. October" Jackson, an "advisor" to the company, will be present for the grand opening.

Anyway, there's a lot to like about the frozen soups, starting with the packaging. Each of the five flavors is in a plastic tub encased in a cardboard box. On the front you'll find a picture of Al Yeganeh, with some clever text, such as, "The soup that New Yorkers (who don't wait for anything) line up around the block for."

Some context: Yeganeh opened the doors to his New York City soup cafe in 1984, and became so iconic that he was parodied on TV's "Seinfeld" (the "Soup Nazi" episode, Nov. 2, 1995). Now, with 15 Soupman restaurants around the country and a quality product in some supermarket chains, obviously Yeganeh has had the last laugh.

We recently sampled three of the five flavors - seafood bisque, chicken vegetable and tomato basil (the other two are broccoli and cheese, and Italian wedding). The tasting panel agreed: four stars for the tastes, textures and quality ingredients.

The seafood bisque was chunky with whole bay shrimp and bits of lobster meat, scallop, crayfish and mussel. Among the other ingredients: sherry, cream, butter and curry powder.

The broth in the chicken vegetable soup held pieces of chicken, carrot, brussels sprouts, squash, onion, celery, tomato and more.

"Silken" is how one taster described the tomato basil soup, which contains an array of veggies in vegetable broth spiked with sherry, butter, vinegar and more.

The soup is not yet available in area supermarkets, but the company is negotiating with a major California chain to stock it within a month. Stay tuned for that announcement.

Meanwhile, 10-ounce servings of Original Soupman soups can be ordered at Seafood bisque is $4.49; other flavors are $3.49.

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