February 26, 2010

Kamasouptra: Soup makers who deliver on their promise

— PORTLAND — With the snow piling up and the wind howling around the house, who couldn't use a steaming bowl of soup? Even better if it's delivered piping hot to your door.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. A bowl of vegetarian chili. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome stir vegetables while making soup. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

Additional Photos Below

Enter Kamasouptra, the Portland-based vegetarian soup purveyor which makes house calls.

The business was started in March by chefs Mike Jerome and Drew Kinney, who had worked together at the landmark Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, before moving to Maine to start the soup company. That's when Mike called his cold-adverse sister Sarah Jerome and, with promises of soupy goodness, somehow persuaded her to leave Memphis and move to Portland, where she handles the accounting side of the business.

''I also peel and chop onions,'' she said.

Both are useful skills to possess when working for a small food service business that crafts all its soups from scratch and makes twice-weekly soup deliveries to Novare Res, Bard Coffee, Portland Pie Company and the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth. If you've enjoyed a vegetarian soup at any of these restaurants, more than likely you've eaten a Kamasouptra original.

In addition to its wholesale clients, the company offers soup delivery to homes and businesses. This signature service makes a perfect gift for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and new moms. Making the gift particularly special is the handcrafted ceramic bowl created by artist Seth Amoroso in which the soup is delivered.

The price, including delivery in the Greater Portland area, is $22 for an eight-ounce cup and $28 for a 14-ounce bowl. Or you can order a gallon or a quart when you need to feed more than one.

If you'd like the soup delivered in a bowl of a particular color, you'll need to order at least two weeks in advance. However, should you be unconcerned about the color of the bowl, you can arrange to have it arrive much sooner.

Right now the company operates out of the community kitchen in the basement of the Public Market House. Plans are in the works to open a retail soup shop within the next month on the newly expanded second floor of the Market House.

I stopped by the community kitchen on New Year's Eve when Mike was busy whipping up a vegetable tortilla soup for Portland Pie, a Scotch broth for Bard Coffee and a chili for the company's home delivery customers. Since the day I visited was a prime dining holiday, Drew was hard at work at The Grill Room, where he serves as the sous chef when he's not busy making soup.

''It's never an exact science,'' Mike said of Kamasouptra's recipes, which rely on locally sourced ingredients as much as possible. ''We try to do everything to taste.''

Depending on what type of soup they're making, Mike and Drew tweak the ingredients they add to the stock.

''The stock's the most important thing,'' Mike said, explaining that he typically starts with carrots, celery, onions and thyme. ''The better your stock is, the better your soup is going to be.''

After tasting the chili, I can tell you they're definitely doing something right with both the stock and the follow-on ingredients. The chili had a spicy taste but was not overly hot, and included a refreshing hint of cilantro and lime. It was chock full of toothsome beans and vegetables and really hit the spot on a cold, blustery day.

Because there is strong demand for vegetarian soups in the local community and the trio didn't want to deal with possible contamination issues caused by working with meat in the community kitchen, they decided to focus their efforts on vegetarian and vegan soups. Once the retail operation opens, the team may add seafood and meat-based soups to the Kamasouptra repertoire.

The Kamasouptra team cooks on Mondays and Thursdays and delivers to its wholesale customers on Tuesdays and Fridays. After opening the shop, the crew plans to fire up the soup pot every day.

''Drew and I both cooked in lots of restaurants and learned you can make a soup out of anything,'' Mike said, mentioning Southwest vegetable, beet and blue cheese, roasted red pepper and Gouda and beer and cheddar as some of his personal favorites.

''I worked for a guy called The Soup Peddler in Austin, Texas,'' Mike said. ''He taught me a lot of different soups.''

But he's always up for a challenge, such as when someone recalls a favorite soup from childhood.

''We'll make it,'' Mike said, ''and make it better than your grandma.''

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

akamila@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome stir vegetables while making soup. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome fills a bowl with vegetarian chili. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome adds salt to his stock while making soup. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome adds ingredients to his stock while making soup. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome stir vegetables while making soup. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

click image to enlarge

Photo by Derek Davis: Kamasouptra, a vegetarian soup delivery business run out of the community kitchen at the Public Market House in Portland. Michael Jerome fills a bowl with vegetarian chili. Photographed on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009.

  


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