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Now Playing: Soup and Bread

Swing by the Hideout for free soup on Wednesday nights.
Tuesday Feb 03, 2009.     By Stacy Warden
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

From left to right: Martha Bayne, Judy Cohn, Hugh Amano and Celia BucciFrom left to right: Martha Bayne, Judy Cohn, Hugh Amano and Celia Bucci.

Every Wednesday this winter, the Hideout is serving up free soup and bread with its regular lineup of affordable drinks. Instead of cooking on site, the soup is brought in by local chefs, Hideout staff, the bar's regulars and other food enthusiasts. Each week showcases three different recipes, from three different guest cooks, who volunteer their time to help the Hideout raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Hideout bartender Martha Bayne came up with the idea, after thinking up different ways that the place could serve food. "We have a food license, but no kitchen," she said, "so it had to be something that we could bring in, like crock-pots." She said that, despite the cold weather, the turnout for Soup and Bread has been decent. After just two weeks of crock-pots, ladles and mismatched bowls, the Hideout raised over $400 in donations. Thanks to the positive response from patrons and volunteer cooks, those numbers, along with the varieties of soup, will continue to increase until the event ends on April 1.

The soup dinner usually kicks off between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., when a small sidebar stacked with hot crock-pots and hand-written labels waits for the first taste-tester. The whole process is very much in-line with the Hideout's informal style. Guests are free to grab one of the bar's mismatched bowls and help themselves to the free soup at any time, so there's no pressure to arrive early. Although, there are no promises that the stuff will still be hot when you do finally make it over. Once everyone is good and full, the bar's staff passes around a donation bucket.

After hearing about the creative culinary feats taking place at one of our favorite music joints, we stopped by on a Wednesday to see what all the hype was about. As promised, there were three different soups to choose from, along with a few baguettes from the local market. First, there was a vegetarian-friendly split pea with cumin, coriander and lemon soup from local librarian Judy Cohn, who revised the recipe from "The Tassajara Recipe Book." Following Cohn's spicy, Indian-inspired concoction was a traditional Italian soup (also meat-free) called stracciatella (a mix of egg, cheese, greens and water), prepared by massage therapist Celia Bucci. Finally there was Food on the Dole's Hugh Amano, who found a way to make cabbage pop with a helping of kielbasa. Picking a favorite was difficult, and thankfully not required.

Fortunately, Bayne keeps a Soup and Bread blog, where she posts recipes and photos of each soup, along with interesting tidbits from the evening. So if you didn't get your fill of, say, stone stoup, you can recreate a pot in your own kitchen. So far, the blog has seen tales of a missing penguin mug, homemade banana bread (instead of baguettes) and cold soup (crock-pots can be slow as molasses when it comes to reheating). Realizing that the Hideout isn't the only local joint hosting soup dinners, Bayne also makes it a point to mention other worthy causes like InCUBATE's Sunday Soup program, which supports local artists, and the Hull-House Kitchen's Re-Thinking Soup (every Tuesday at noon).

Mike Gebert's hummus soupMike Gebert's hummus soup
The Hideout may not be the only place doling out free soup, but it's certainly doing something right, as the lineup of guest chefs is already set through April. Recently, the bar made room for a group of local food writers including Mike Sula from the Chicago Reader, Sky Full of Bacon's Michael Gebert and Co-Moderator of LTH Forum, David Hammond. The guys put old standbys like tomato, vegetable and chicken noodle to shame with inventive ethnic concoctions like kimchi chigae, mulefoot (pork) pozole and hummus soup. It's kind of like the Iron Chef of soup, and while there may be no title at stake, you can certainly judge your favorites.


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