Does a bowl of steaming, savory, hearty French lentil soup with bacon sound appealing? How about chicken cilantro bisque or vegetable garlic split pea or a cool cup of gazpacho?

And the variations keep coming. There’s Thai chicken and vegetables. Spicy chourico sausage with kale. Tangy Senegalese peanut. And southwestern corn chowder.

Add a custom-made, brimming wrap or a salad and you have the elements that have carved out a reputation for Soup for You! Cafe at 222 Broadway in downtown Farmington.

Chef and co-owner Emmarie “Em” Reeve has been developing her soup repertoire over the past 10 years ever since she started managing the eatery for its first owner, Dave Johnson. She and her husband, Brian, purchased it two years later and now operate it with their son, Nathan, and his wife, Buffy, who oversees the front of the operation.

Early one recent morning, while she chopped vegetables for her proprietary potages for the day, Em Reeve reflected on what it is about soup that seems to feed one’s soul.

“People like it because it is so satisfying. It is a real comfort food,” she said.

The soups there also appeal because they are so fresh and are made from scratch, with recipes that range from international cuisines to familiar favorites.

Reeve avoids processed foods, uses high quality ingredients and goes for healthy beans, grains, vegetables, meats and chicken she prepares in-house.

Regulars never seem to tire of their favorites and some loyal diners even have their own bowls.

The all-time top selection is her three-bean chicken chili, with cheese tortellini in curry cream a close runner-up. The occasional lobster bisque and clam chowder also fly out the door, she said.

Nathan Reeve, 33, swears by the medicinal quality of his mom’s chicken barley. And he’s not alone.

“When people are sick, they come in and buy it by the quart,” he said.

His mother hints at a secret spice ingredient she adds that boosts the soup’s curative properties and adds a subtle, elusive flavor to the mix.

She said she loves what she does because cooking is a way for her to be creative.

“It brings out the artist in me. I used to paint, and I guess my artistic side re-emerges in my soup,” she said.

“Sometimes I amaze myself,” she laughed.

As for advice for home cooks, she suggests: “Don’t be afraid to add 10 times more spices or herbs than what a recipe calls for. Play with it, but go slowly. But add tons of garlic. Don’t hold back with that.”

She also suggests trying a tablespoon at a time of red balsamic vinegar or red wine before serving to boost flavor. And add salt at the end after the herbs and spices have had time to meld.

Customer service is another priority that seems to encourage repeat customers, said Buffy Reeve, who monitors the take-out and eat-in operation.

“People are very respectful to each other here. They feel comfortable. It is really mellow,” she said.

The cafe also caters to people with food allergies and intolerances to things like wheat and dairy. The daily menu always has gluten-free soup selections as well as choices for vegetarians and vegans, and there is a homemade gluten-free bread available. Utensils and cutting boards are also separated to prevent cross-contamination of wheat products.

Soup for You! also offers all-fruit smoothies, and has an espresso bar for a wide variety of lattes, cappuccinos and iced coffee. There is also chai and other imported teas, cocoa and locally baked pastries.

Recipes:

Jonathan’s Pizza Soup (serves 12)

1  pound spicy Italian sausage

1  cup chopped onions

2  teaspoon minced garlic

3  cans beef broth

1/2  cup dry red wine

1  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1  28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  cup sliced carrots

1/2  teaspoon each basil and oregano

1  tablespoon parsley flakes

1  cup diced zucchini

1  9-ounce package of fresh cheese-filled tortellini

1  diced green pepper

Parmesan cheese

Remove casing from sausage, brown in 6-quart pot. Set aside. Add onions and garlic, and saute. Add sausage, broth, wine, tomatoes, carrots and spices. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in zucchini, tortellini, green peppers and cook another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan.

Hearty Mushroom Barley Soup (serves 8 to 10)

1  cup diced celery

1/2  ounce dried wild mushrooms

3  tablespoons unsalted butter

1  onion, finely chopped

1  carrot, finely chopped

1  12-ounce package fresh mushrooms, sliced

10  cups stock (chicken, beef, vegetable)

1.5  cups pearl barley

1-2  bay leaves

1/2  teaspoon celery salt

Salt and pepper to taste

2 to 4 tablespoons dry sherry, not cooking sherry

Soak dried mushrooms in hot water to cover, 15 to 30 minutes, then strain, chop, and reserve liquid. Melt butter in 6-quart pot and saute onion, celery and carrot. Add and saute for two to three minutes the fresh mushrooms, then add stock, barley, bay leaves, dried mushrooms and liquid. Bring to boil, lower heat and cook 50 to 60 minutes. Discard bay leaf, add sherry, salt and pepper.

In the soup

What: Soup for You! Cafe

Where: 222 Broadway, Farmington

Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with only take-out available from 6:30 to 7 p.m.

Phone: For take-out, call 779-0799.


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