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Soup-er Bowl: A celebration of soup in Red Wing

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Made from scratch soups at Staghead Gastropub. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 25
Mandy Cardinal serving a local favorite, tomato basil soup, at Mandy's Coffee & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 25
Soup gets plated at Staghead. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 25
Andouille sausage with cannellini beans at Staghead. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 25
Rita Dassner plating a cup of soup at Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 25
John Flicek adds the finishing touch to a bowl of soup at Staghead. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 25
Single portion of French onion soup heating up over a flame at The Port Restaurant. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 25
Soup and sandwich pairing at Mandy's. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 25
Hearty soups made from scratch at Staghead Gastropub. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia10 / 25
Lunch is served at Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia11 / 25
John Flicek plating a bowl of soup at Staghead. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia12 / 25
Luscious French onion soup at The Port Restaurant in the St. James Hotel. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia13 / 25
Sue Diercks enjoys a soup and sandwich pairing at Mandy's on Jan. 25, 2018. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia14 / 25
Decorative St. James charger. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia15 / 25
French onion soup ready to be enjoyed at the St. James Hotel's Port Restaurant. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia16 / 25
Chicken stock in the works at Staghead Gastropub. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia17 / 25
"Hot homemade soup" advertised outside Staghead. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia18 / 25
Rita Dassner, owner and creator of delicious things at Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia19 / 25
Dining room at Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia20 / 25
Soup and sandwich pairing at Mandy's Coffee & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia21 / 25
Soup trio at Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia22 / 25
Roasted yam, cauliflower and broccoli puree topped with creme fraiche, fresh herbs and pumpkin seed oil — made from scratch at Staghead Gastropub. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia23 / 25
Bowl of soup at Mandy's. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia24 / 25
Wisteria Twig dining room. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia25 / 25

Warm, savory and laid back. A cup of soup in winter is a perfect retreat from the chilly world outside.

Red Wing diners are fortunate to have an overwhelming number of soup options available all across the city, and restaurants agree they're popular year long, not just after the snow falls.

"People like soup, man, I don't know what to tell you," said John Flicek, head chef and co-owner at Staghead Gastropub.

Flicek spends anywhere from 2-3 days making his original from-scratch soups. A chicken stock simmering on the backburner will take 8-10 hours to meld, then it gets strained and cooled overnight, the fat is skimmed off, then the liquid is boiled down to a flavorful reduction that sets the stage for whatever Flicek has in his imagination — or store room.

"It can be pretty playful," Flicek said. "I've been making soup for 15 years and I keep getting better every time I do it.

"... Good people can turn scrap into a beautiful soup, you know, versus throwing it in a garbage can."

For Rita Dassner, who owns Wisteria Twig Tea Room & Cafe, a good soup starts with the ingredients.

"I try to buy organic as much as possible," Dassner said. "... When I make soup, I try to make it with the same ingredients I would do at home. I don't skimp on anything. If I won't eat it I'm not feeding it to you."

She offers about 50 homemade varieties at the restaurant's new location — which moved from inside Pottery Place to a storefront on Old West Main Street in 2016 — and she will happily make up a special batch for any regular who asks.

"That's really the hardest part of my job is figuring out what soup to make every day," Dassner said. "... So it's fun when at least someone has a suggestion for you."

Dassner serves at least 10 quarts of soups a day in the wintertime. Wisteria Twig offers a popular soup and sandwich combo for lunch as well, all homemade, down to the mayonnaise in the ham salad sandwich.

Another favorite place for soup is Mandy's Coffee & Cafe, where the soup isn't homemade, but owner Mandy Cardinal said it's selected for quality and served with love.

Mandy's offers seasonal soup options like squash in the fall, chili in winter and lighter options for spring and summer. Mandy's also partners with local and regional businesses to offer bread from Hanisch Bakery, snacks from Jenny Lind Bakery, beans roasted with Tiny Footprint in Minneapolis and more.

"I tell people you're not only supporting this local business but you're supporting other small businesses as well," said Cardinal.

"I think a lot of it is in the service and how you make people feel and how you present things," she continued. "If the staff is having fun working together I think people feel that."

As chef de cuisine at the St. James Hotel, Adam Fredrickson would agree that having a great team is key to delivering quality food.

The process of building The Port Restaurant's famous French onion soup begins with a good veal stock, he said, simmered slowly for 24 hours. Veal bones, mirepoix, garlic, red wine and tomato paste makeup the backbone of this dish, which is then filled with caramelized onions and finished with crisp bread and bubbling cheese. The complex process of building the stock is something Fredrickson makes sure to teach his line cooks right away to help ensure consistency in the final product.

"We take the time and the care and the effort to make sure that each guest is really going to enjoy what we're putting out there for them," Fredrickson said.

For these chefs and tastemakers, the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to make a simple bowl of soup is all worth it.

Cardinal said that it took her almost a year to sample available soups from her vendors to find the best tastes to offer at Mandy's. And Dassner said she's been working to develop her library of soups for her whole life, though she's only been sharing them with the public at Wisteria Twig for six years.

The rich and diverse flavors of soup that are available to Red Wing diners is astonishing. Layers of flavor and hours of work come together to create a meal for guests that costs less than $10 anywhere you go.

"I like soup a lot, man, I spend a lot of time making soup," said Flicek. "... I enjoy making it, people enjoy eating it."

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