According to chef Amy Caplan, The Gourmet Soup Kitchen has been selling frozen soups at the Palisades Farmers Market for 10 years. Hang out with Caplan a few minutes and the busy stand is besieged by regulars who come to pick up their weekly supply of soups.
She greets them all by name. “Paula, hi, sweetie,” she says to one customer as she says goodbye to another.
With 30 soups, there’s something for everyone, except meat-eaters because The Gourmet Soup Kitchen only serves vegetarian soups.
All natural with only half a dozen soups using low-fat milk, the Soup Kitchen caters to customers who want vegan soups free of animal by-products. Anyone who thinks vegetarian means boring should read the menu of soups online or in the brochure at the market stand.
Chef Caplan and business partner, Daniel Tout, borrow freely from cuisines around the world to give their soups spice and depth.
Africa, the Mediterranean, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, Morocco, even Nepal and Tibet influence the offerings. Those exotic flavors sit happily side-by-side with American classics like mushroom barley, corn chowder, split pea and tomato and rice.
A native Californian, Caplan studied at New York’s Natural Gourmet Cookery School. After her training, she lived in Europe, continuing to study and taste how other cuisines added herbs and spices to transform familiar ingredients into new wonders of flavor.
Returning to California and settling first in San Diego to run a café, she met Tout when he was working as a personal trainer and professional cyclist. They shared a focus on healthy living and decided to combine their talents and form a business.
Delivery is available on the Westside for an additional $10 charge. Otherwise, their soups are available for pick-up on Sundays in Pacific Palisades (1037 Swarthmore Avenue, 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), in Brentwood (741 S. Gretna Green Way, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and in Larchmont Village (209 N. Larchmont Boulevard, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) and also Thursdays in Century City (1800 Avenue of the Stars, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
The website identifies soups with lentils and lists their tomato-based soups.
According to Caplan the most popular soups are the African peanut and the mulligatawny. Both are spicy with a rich mix of vegetables including lentils and carrots, the mulligatawny sweetened with apples and coconut milk.
A regular customer, Christine and her three daughters stopped at the stand to pick up her weekly order of soups.
“When I was pregnant with Rose I came here every week,” said Christine. Now 7-years-old, Rose has “loved the soups since she was a baby."
All three girls love the carrot ginger and rustic potato leek soups.
As Christine gives Caplan her order, she makes sure to ask for the country vegetable, another favorite. While they talk, Tout offers the girls hot samples. 5-year-old Kyra and Zoey, who will be 2 in June, quietly eat theirs as Christine, Caplan and Tout talk soup.
Christine suddenly remembers she wanted the Mediterranean chickpea as well. By the time the soups are packed up, the girls have finished eating and it’s time to go.
With a wave and goodbye, everyone knows they’ll see each other next Sunday.