23 September 2009

The Holy Grail of Soups

From the very first time I visited Eugene, OR on my college-scouting mission, I knew I'd end up in school there. Sure, the town was cute and not too far from home. Yes, I had family living there, which made it feel not so lonely. The college itself was pretty great as well. But it was the tomato-cheese soup that sealed the deal.

Just off campus from the U. of Oregon sits an inconspicuous old home converted into a restaurant, sandwiched between a sorority house and a 7-11. It's really unassuming, yet is always jam-packed with students and town-dwellers waiting in line for a seat while discussing the latest Ducks game, or crowding around a table full of coffee-cups and intense, eager-freshman existential debate.

To be frank, alot of the food is quite mediocre. It gets the job done -- relatively cheaply and with large portions to boot. But overall, most of us could whip up a garden burger slathered in avocado and mayo, or a scramble of sun dried tomatoes/feta/and spinach.

But that tomato-cheese soup, oh my! It seems so simple - a tangy tomato base flecked with ribbons of basil or an occasional whole bay leaf. There's a tinge of fresh-pureed-tomato texture, though it's not at all what I'd call chunky. Except for the strips of cheese, this soup doesn't have a lot of texture. Yes, the cheese has a toothsome bite - it doesn't go all melty once it hits the hot soup. This fact -- that cheese -- kept me up at night for many an evening in Eugene (well, that and the 20-course-hour load of homework and a healthy tendency toward being a night owl). How does it stay intact?

Last weekend, my guy and I took a roadtrip back to Eugene to watch the Ducks vs the Utes and drum up a little nostalgia. We met up with another alumna friend of mine for the game as well as a post-victory stop at the Glenwood. (We actually went for breakfast, too, but I didn't get my soup so had to hit up the cafe again before leaving town.) The same mystery prevailed: That darn cheese was not melted. It swam daintily alongside the herbs in a pool of tomato bliss. In shreds.

It's driving me crazy.

So, I am taking the mystery to the blogosphere. If anyone out there can help me sort out this quandary -- better yet, provide me with the recipe, I may actually, finally get some sleep.


  1. Hello. I found your blog while trying to find a recipe for the Glenwood's tomato cheese soup. After I'd invented my own recipe and given up on copying theirs, a friend suggested that soaking the cheese in vinegar overnight before you make the soup changes the cheese's protein structure so it doesn't melt. He didn't say what kind to use, but I bet balsamic would taste good. If you read this and try that method, please, please post a blog with your recipe!

  2. @ Copy Editor - Oh my! What a delight to find a possible discovery in the case for the Glenwood tomato soup. I will definitely have to try this tactic and get back to you. Thanks so much for the post!

  3. A friend of mine thought perhaps they used grated cheddar cheese curds. They don't melt as readily as regular grated cheese.

  4. Ooh, another great tip. Thanks, @Anonymous!