The combination of unpredictable winter weather and an unwavering pandemic has some New Yorkers looking for hearty pick-up options instead of braving an outdoor set-up or making the more charged decision of dining indoors. Enter Soup Shop, which hopes to fulfill that need with a new pop-up series held at various wine shops where customers can pick from a selection of soups each week. It launches this week in Brooklyn.
“There’s the stereotype of ‘chicken soup for the soul,’ but there’s truth to that — it’s nourishing and it’s something that spans a lot of dietary needs and culinary traditions,” says Soup Shop founder Ken Farmer. Prior to launching Soup Shop, Farmer ran a creative studio called Wild Dogs International, which often involved collaborations with local chefs and restaurants, though not exclusively so (they’ve also done creative direction for fashion shows and events). But after watching the pandemic decimate the hospitality industry, he wanted to figure out a way to lend his event-producing skills.
Soup Shop’s first pop-up is on February 18 with Marlow & Sons’ Caroline Fidanza. The chef behind Saltie is offering three soups for purchase: a lemony chickpea soup, a chicken soup with sage and leeks, and a turmeric chicken broth with ginger. Each order costs $25 and comes in a 32-ounce jar with a loaf of bread by Nick & Sons bakery—a combo which is intended to be enough for two people to share. “It’s rare that there are opportunities for moments of sharing during the pandemic,” Farmer says.
The following weeks will spotlight signature soups from For All Things Good (a posole verde or tortilla soup), Adda (chicken mulgatwani or a tomato shorba), Le Succulent (carrot and ginger soup, creamy cauliflower, or a butternut squash version), Tanoreen (pureed lentil soup, lamb and mixed veggies, or a chicken broth) and The Islands (chicken pumpkin soup or a pepper pot with dumplings and coconut milk). For most of the participants, these dishes are entirely new concoctions that have never appeared on their restaurant menus and gives them a chance to experiment. Preordering is available for the future restaurant collaborations, however, pick-up for your soup will only be available the week of the collaboration.
“The opportunity to do this when the restaurant is struggling was extremely welcomed right now,” says Tanoreen co-owner Jumana Bishara. “I was impressed with Ken’s all-inclusive take on it — giving a chance for the wine shop, bakery, and restaurant to showcase themselves; and, overall, how multicultural the restaurant selections are.”
In addition to the soup and bread combos being offered, each restaurant also shares a playlist or movie recommendation on the Soup Shop site as a way to “get a bit more insight into the inspiration of the restaurant,” Farmer shares.
For the first week, Fidanza’s recommendations include Desperately Seeking Susan, the late Kenny Shopsin’s book, and a playlist she made for her goddaughter’s 15th birthday, so that “she could listen to what I listened to at 15,” she writes on the Soup Shop site.
Orders must be placed by Mondays by 9 p.m. Pick-ups are available on Thursdays between 4 to 8 p.m. at one of their neighborhood distribution spots, all of which are wine shops.
“Wine shops fared better during the pandemic, and just have more of the capacity to take this kind of thing on right now,” says Farmer. It’s also meant to encourage people to grab a bottle to go with their meal; each wine shop carries suggested wine pairings for the weekly soups.
Participating wine shops include ones in Long Island City, Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Downtown Brooklyn, and Clinton Hill — with possibly more locations to come. Currently, some wine shops involved include the newly-opened Radicle Wines, Duke’s Liquor Box, Henry’s Wine + Spirits, among others. There is no delivery option currently available.
It’s also worth noting that Soup Shop is not the only soup pop-up available during the pandemic. Caitlin Hubner of Cait’s Key Lime pies, for instance, also operates Soupernatural, out of her apartment in Bed-Stuy.
Though Farmer isn’t sure what’s in-store with Soup Shop in the long term, he hopes that in some way, Soup Shop takes “a small step toward the bigger picture — the well-being of our community in a broad sense — our food systems, our hospitality networks, the ecosystems that enable inventive, delicious, and sustainable nourishment.”
The majority of proceeds from sales go back to the restaurant and Soup Shop handles dropping off of the mason jars to each business and then delivers them to the participating wine shops. Sustainability is important, too. Soup Shop is only taking pre-orders so that the restaurants can prepare the right amount so there’s no waste.
Ultimately, though, Farmer hopes what customers take away from the experience is a sense of needed “warmth.”