Good things need to be tested. That is usually why Aki and I balance so well. Yet, in a recent dinner we did an artichoke soup fell under fire. The reason for the critiques was not the soup proper, rather it was that the soup was served cold. In constructing the menu for the dinner I felt a cold soup would work well where we served it. Also, the night of the dinner was quite warm so the cold soup would be a refreshing point in the meal. Regrettably, I did not pick up an early warning sign; Aki saying that cold soups are fine in August, though off putting in April.
We served the soup chilled and the responses were mixed at best. The chilled artichoke soup with lump crab meat and horseradish (three flavors which I love together) received ho hum responses and notes of flat flavors. I really liked the soup and thought it spoke of the flavors of artichoke and while letting the crab shine. The guests commented on the fact that they do not really like cold soups. Now we (I, should have listened to Aki) had three people telling me that cold soup just does not fit the bill. Time to take a closer look at the dish.
The following evening we served the soup again. This time we served it as a cappuccino; the now over used concept of soup as a cappuccino. Actually, I really enjoy the idea of soup as a cappuccino. Especially now that we can make more flavorful foams, rather than aerated infused milks which we used to make. Yet, it worked, quite well. In this instance the soup was a canape and so we treated it like a cappuccino proper, base and foam, no ragout of artichokes and crab. The soup was a hit, mostly. The artichoke flavors became more pronounced in the hot version and the whipped horseradish mimicked a light and frothy head on a great cappuccino, soft and melting, not hot, not cold, just soft ethereal foam. The one critique came in two parts. First, artichokes supposedly do not pair well with wine. The second, another sipped drink is difficult to consume during cocktail hour. While we accepted these comments, our reasoning for serving the soup as we did was so the host of the party would be treated to more courses of food without having them served formally at the table. As far as artichokes and wine, yes there are many difficulties in that culinary marriage, though I do not believe all hope is lost, it just takes a bit more thoughts. Similarly, artichoke soup served with cocktails like vodka tonic works out just fine.
When we returned home after the second party we discussed the soup comments some more. While constructive criticism can seem more like criticism, we fine tuned the soup once again. We prepared the soup hot, with a warm ragout of crab and artichokes. We also integrated a bit of our Meyer lemon-cayenne puree to balance the warm richness in the soup. Finally, we added the whipped topping, horseradish. The final dish really came together, an expression of Spring, hot and cold, bracing and smooth, each bite a little different.