The lobby of the First National Bank of Durango was fragrant with enticing aromas and awash with slow cookers at its eighth annual Sip to Soup-port benefitting United Way of Southwest Colorado on Oct. 26.
The 70 or so people who lent their taste buds to judging took it quite seriously, discussing the fine points of various entries and steering others to their favorites.
This was the first year I was able to make it, and it will definitely be a priority in future years, mostly to see what the creative cooks, both professional and talented amateur, will prepare.
If I have any complaint, its that no one brought a great chicken-noodle soup, a classic for a reason. Of course, it would have had to be a stellar chicken noodle to be a contender against this years great entries.
The professional category included wild salmon and green chile chowder from College Drive Café; acorn squash soup from Natures Oasis; pork posole from Iron Horse Pizza; chicken posole from Zia Taqueria; Hatch green chile-pork stew with purple potatoes courtesy of the Ore House; butternut squash soup from Guidos Favorite Foods; chicken-calabacitas soup prepared by CJs Diner; harvest pumpkin bisque courtesy of Nortons Catering; the Lost Dog Bar & Lounges Southwest corn chowder; Kassidys Kitchens pumpkin, acorn squash and white bean soup; Sopa Azteca from Carver Brewing Co.; and Raiders Ridge Cafés James Ranch ham hock and great northern bean soup.
But the bragging rights in the professional category go to the Strater Hotels cream of porcini with rosemary and port. Since Im allergic to mushrooms, I couldnt sample that one, but I heard one woman say shed never think of mushroom soup the same way again.
The amateurs were no slouches, with Moni Grushkin preparing green chile-chicken posole; Eliza Brown making a tortilla soup; Lacey Meador weighing in with spicy potato-corn chowder; Cathy Wilson providing white bean-and-chicken soup; Rachael Travis offering green chili: both Jessi Scavo and Robert Mazur throwing down with a version of hot n sour; Sonya Meador entering a baked potato soup; and the shy Kelsey and Amy, who both preferred not to give a last name. Kelsey contributed a spicy, creamy butternut soup, and Amys contribution was a rich dark lager-onion soup with smoked cheddar cheese.
The amateur winner of the Golden Ladle was Brandon Schwartz, whose butternut-apple bisque with bratwurst literally tasted like fall.
United Way spends about five months working toward a goal that will help it support 80 programs vital to the well-being of five counties in our part of the state. This years goal is $764,000, and United Way President and CEO Tim Walsworth tells it had reached 37 percent of the total as of Oct. 31. (The organization had reached only 33 percent of the goal by the same date last year, and the goal was smaller, so thats a great sign.)
That doesnt mean, however, that theyre home free, because they have almost $500,000 left to go. The organization raises that money through a three-pronged approach.
The first is fundraisers, such as the Four Corners Broadcasting Radiothon, two golf tournaments, the San Juan Brewfest, the Michael Franti concert and the Durango Wine Experience. The second is payroll deductions, with most of the major companies in town offering that option to their employees.
And, finally, anyone can make a tax-deductible donation by mailing it to United Way of Southwest Colorado, P.O. Box 3040, Durango, CO 81302.
Many people have told me there are so many good causes in Durango, they have a hard time deciding where to donate, and often end up donating nothing at all. My advice is always to start with United Way, which supports so many programs, all vetted by a committee, so theyve done all the groundwork for you. You can pick some favorites to go from there.
Well learn in February how much the campaign has raised, but we can all do our part now in making sure that news is splendiferous.
Heres wishing the best of birthdays to my fellow Scorpios Patricia Beard, Price Bryant, Denise Noble, London Blalock, Lane Joseph, Debra Pene, Wayne Kjonaas, Katarina Seibert, Sofia Walt, Susan Terrill-Flint, Kalli Fassett, Michelle Unterberger, Dale Strode, Michelle Rabouin, Carolyn Bowra, Sean Jackson, Whitney Burns and Bonnie Flores.
Heres hoping one of my favorite people enjoys all the best for her big birthday, Karren Little!
And because readers in the know have given me a hard time for not putting my birthday in Saturdays column I celebrated Monday thanks for all the cards and good wishes.
Like many La Plata County residents, I recycle, try to limit my water usage and, were I not on crutches, would be using alternative modes of transportation a few days a week.
But there are many people who are doing more, and the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center is on the front lines.
At 5:15 p.m. today, the doors will open at the Smiley Building for the centers 11th annual REEL Environmental Experience fundraiser. The evening will begin with a community trash-art project and a panel of community members discussing whats going on in our area on the green front.
The main attraction is at 6:30 p.m., the screening of the Sundance Film Festival and Academy Award-winning documentary Waste Land, followed by what Rachel Landis is billing as a rowdy live auction.
A suggested $10 donation will get you all that plus food by Zia Taqueria and beer and root beer floats thanks to Carver Brewing Co.
David and Julie Downs are looking forward to an anniversary free of political advertising.
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