Monday, 17 September 2012

Monday Feature: Primal Soup Company

Good Morning and Happy Monday! Feels like fall today, cool and cloudy, but it's still a great day to be alive, wouldn't you agree? I've already done some laundry and grocery shopping, and it's not even 11 yet! Life sure is different when you have a wee one. Anyway, I now give you your Monday Feature! Enjoy!

Frozen soups to go, frozen soups to eat :)

It was a crisp, fall afternoon that found me driving through Calgary, heading South to the Kingsland Farmers Market on MacLeod Trail, where Margaret Nemeth, owner of Primal Soup Company, has her small, cozy kitchen filled with giant, silver pots of simmering soup. As I walked through the door I was greeted with intense, vibrant aromas that instantly transported me back to my childhood and my mom's home made chicken soup. The saliva glands began to work overtime as my senses were overloaded with fragrant soups.

Margaret greeted me with her ever present smile, bubbly personality and warm laugh. You feel you've found an instant friend when you meet Margaret, with her openness and honesty, and yes, with her amazing soup! Once you try one, you'll keep coming back for more, but more on that in a moment.

As we began chatting about life, art, cooking etc, Margaret made us some gluten free nacho's. We then sat at a cute, round table, reminding me of a street cafe in Europe somewhere, with a plate of nachos and cup of coffee in hand, and I was ready to learn more about this woman sitting in front of me and her awesome business, Primal Soup Company.

Margaret started down the food business road over 20 years ago, when she opened up Primal Grounds Cafe, on 37th St SW, in Calgary. This was a lovely cafe that offered a menu that was 1/2 gluten free and 1/2 regular. Over the years, Margaret would estimate that about 60% of the people who ate gluten free at her cafe, ate it because they preferred it, not because they had to eat it. 30 years ago, only people who were celiac, or had a need, would buy gluten free. About 5 years ago gluten free took off. Her cafe always offered both options, but she sold way more gluten free food. I can't wait to sample some of these gluten free goodies.

Throughout the years, Primal Grounds Cafe won the "Best Cafe" award for several years, "Best Soup" awards, Margaret was featured in different magazines, including Readers Digest, and she also submitted several recipes to the Calgary Herald over the years. It didn't take a genius to realize this cafe was amazing and it was always hopping.

Margaret opened up a 2nd Primal Grounds Cafe location in West Side Rec Centre, however the two cafe's were just too much. She closed the West Side cafe in Nov 2010. Margaret then decided it was time to downsize, and thus she closed the 37th St Primal Grounds Cafe in the Spring of 2011. She sold the property, which was near Mount Royal College, and then realized she had to either retire and do something. Retirement wasn't an option at this time in life, so Margaret decided to open up her soup division, and Primal Soup Company was born. She wanted something small, over another cafe, and Primal Soup Company was supposed to be just that, a part time job. However, because of her reputation and the vast love of her food by patrons abroad, what was supposed to be a small business grew, in a mere 3 months, to be a 7 days a week job for Margaret, with 5 employees along for the ride.

Within the first year, Primal Soup Company became part of Kingsland Farmers Market and also was a regular at Millarville Farmers Market. She finished up 2011 with Christmas, and decided to start fresh in 2012. It's been quite the success.

Margaret is pleased to announce, that as of Nov 1st, 2012, Primal Grounds is re-opening at the Kingland Farmers Market with her original staff! She can't wait, and neither can we! Margaret will be offering both her regular and gluten free options once again. This news is worthy of celebration indeed.

Home made chicken stock being prepared

So let's talk about Primal Soup Company (PSC) now, as that is the main focus of this feature. :) You may be wondering, "What makes PSC's soup so special?" Well let me tell you!

First off, PSC is credited and certified gluten free! Can all my gluten free readers give a high five! This fun, cozy kitchen, decorated with art and with a wall of windows looking out onto Calgary, is a special kitchen that is completely gluten free, so there is absolutely no cross-contamination. As Margaret herself is Celiac, she understands the importance of being absolutely strict about this, for her well-being, as well as ours.

Secondly, all of PSC's soups are made from scratch! No recipes, no additives, no preservatives. The soups are thickened using a pureed vegetable that is already existing in the soup. For instance, if the soup has chunks of yam in it, Margaret will take some cooked yams, puree it and use it as her base, her thickener. Then she will begin to add the layers back into the soup, adding water and/or stock, and then adding the chunks, or texture, back in. It's time consuming but it creates absolutely perfect layers, and on top of it, tastes oh so good. *smack lips*

Third, All of PSC's soups are flash frozen. This is probably the most important feature of this soup. Once soup is cooked, you have a magic window of 2 hours before bacteria begins to grow. After 2 hours bacteria will being to appear in the soup and with each passing hour the bacteria doubles, then triples etc and you can run the risk of people getting sick from the soup, especially if they keep it in their fridge for another 3 days after heating it at home. This is the case, even when soup is ladled hot and put into a normal freezer right away. The soup takes too long to cool and freeze and bacteria will have started to grow.

BUT, such is NOT the case with PSC. Once Margaret has finished preparing and cooking a soup, she sets it aside and places a large ice paddle in the soup, occasionally stirring the soup with it (see below picture). This cools the soup down at expedited rates. You should never ladle soup until it's under 70 degrees Celsius, and these ice paddles cool her entire pot of soup to below 70 degrees in about a 1/2 hour to an hour, well within the magic time window. She then ladles the warm soup into BPA free containers (so there's never a risk of contamination from the plastic) and places it in a flash freezer where it solidifies almost instantly. The process from cooked to frozen all takes place in well under 2 hours, so bacteria has no chance of even beginning to grow. This is great for us, because when we take our delicious soup home and warm it up, it's like it was just made fresh an hour ago, and it's absolutely safe to keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Red Thai Coconut Lentil soup getting the ice paddle treatment

Primal Soup Company has 30 different soups to choose from and they're ALL gluten free! The soups are either meat based, vegetable based or cream based, thus some are dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan. So there's something for us all. *Sigh of relief* I don't have a list of all the soups available, so that just means you're going to have to head out to the market and see what scrumptious soups are waiting for you. But I can share a few with you.

Margaret's favourite flavour is "Spinach, Artichoke & Feta" soup. Sounds incredible doesn't it? If it's the creators favourite, then it's got to be a "must try". 

PSC's top 3 sellers are:
#1 - Thai Coconut Chicken, which I had and was A-MA-ZING! It's got a spice kick to it and for those of you who know me, you know I have severe pansy mouth. My mouth was flickering with flame, (so it would probably be hardly spicy for you :) ) but the soup was so good, I had to finish it! And I even consumed the leftovers the next day. It's just THAT good!

#2 - Italian Wedding Soup. This soup is so sought after that a woman, who wanted this soup for a dinner party, drove to Kingsland Farmers Market, bought what they had left, and as they didn't have enough for her party, she then drove all the way out to the Millarville Farmers Market, just to be sure she had enough containers of soup. If that doesn't tell you something, I don't know what will. This is a must try for sure.

#3 - Red Thai Coconut Lentil (a vegan soup and the one pictured above with the ice paddles). Margaret gave me a container of this soup to take home to my hubby. It also has the same kick as the Thai Coconut Chicken. Again, I finished my bowl of deliciousness and kept the leftovers for myself the next day. My excuse, there wasn't enough there to satisfy a hard-working man at lunch ;). 

Margaret has to make 4 batches of these 3 flavours as they sell out so fast. People specifically seek out these flavours, so when you go to get some, be sure to arrive early if you hope to bring one, or all, of them home with you.

I asked Margaret how she comes up with her flavours, as she doesn't use any recipes. She said that she "creates soups based on a cool dinner I've had". She tries to re-create the dinner in a soup! In fact, most, if not all, her soups are versions of dinners she's eaten. She's always inspired by other dishes and she ALWAYS makes what she likes. That's probably why we love it so much. 

Margaret went on to say, "My taste buds are from years and years of cooking for a European (Hungary and German) family, where soup was served three times a day." *she chuckles*

Margaret also has another small business that she runs in conjunction with Primal Soup Company, at both markets. Hold The Mustard is a specialty hot dog stand (with gluten free options as well!) with around 8 different hot dogs to choose from, heaping with fresh ingredients. A must try for all you hot dog lovers, while you stroll around and enjoy the market.

Check out and "like" Primal Soup Company's facebook page here and Hold The Mustards facebook page here.

You can find Primal Soup Company at the Kingsland Farmers Market, in Calgary, at 7711 Macleod Trail S, year round, Thursday - Sunday. Check out Kingsland's facebook page here for more details.

Primal Soup Company is also at the Millarville Farmers Market on Saturdays, 9am - 2pm, until the end of the season, which is Saturday, October 6th. Check out Millarville's website or facebook page here for more details and directions.

PSC will also be at the Millarville Christmas Market, Fri-Sun, Nov 9-11th. See the above website for details. This is one event you won't want to miss!

And now, a little something for you, my readers, from Primal Soup Company, found on this blog only...

give the PROMO CODE: Growing Green at any of Primal Soup Company's locations and get $1 off 1 litre of soup! Now's the time to stock up on all your favourites, whilst discovering some new favourites.


What's your most favourite flavour of soup and why?

Mine, I just love Lobster Bisque and Clam Chowder. I know that's two flavours, but food from the sea, in a soup, is like the best thing since sliced bread :) A perfect meal on a rainy day.

Next week's feature hint: snap snap snap

Till next time!

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