Café Palladio continues to be a favorite midtown Memphis lunch destination, and lately the soup selections are increasingly popular. Cream of mushroom soup, butternut squash & bacon soup, and Tuscan vegetable soup, have all been customer favorites. Every soup at Café Palladio is made from scratch, and you can taste the freshness of their flavors melding. Recently, with the heat of summer going full blast, the kitchen staff have undertaken the creative challenge of keeping it cool in the café kitchen.
Memphians have been beating the heat with gazpacho for years, and Café Palladio has their own twists on the cold soup. Chilled cucumber and watermelon gazpacho have both made quite a splash on the menu this summer. I caught up with soup recipe specialist Daniel Pipkin to find out what has the Café Palladio yelp page rising in the restaurant rankings.
The chilled cucumber soup has a pleasant zing, of which Daniel says he drew inspiration from the cool, creamy zip of tzatziki in Greek cuisine. He explained the layering of flavors, starting with the savory umami flavor of the chicken broth. For the salt component, he cuts the traditional gazpacho celery salt proportion in half, and makes it a mix of celery salt and kosher salt. Sour cream yields the creamy flavor of fat and serves as a balance to the acid of the apple cider vinegar, another departure from gazpacho’s usual white wine vinegar.
Of course, the star of this dish are the fourteen English cucumbers that go into each batch. Chopped garlic and a toasted almond garnish are all that’s left to round out the cool concoction that Pipkin recommends pairing with roast beef. The Café Palladio menu obliges with two delicious sandwiches featuring roast beef: the river-city panini and the market roast sandwich.
The care with which Daniel prepares soups piqued my curiosity, so I had to find out what inspires him in the kitchen. “Italian, French and soul food techniques are all influential,” he continued, “Italian, for the use of fresh, on-hand ingredients, French, for rich flavors like butter and cream, and soul food, for the beans and greens, and strong flavors like bacon and lard.”
For Pipkin, a father of three, green bean potato bacon soup recalls the childhood joy of dragging green beans through mashed potatoes to achieve the perfect bite. This savory soup starts with caramelizing onions and bacon, as the basis for the roux. Chicken stock and half and half are added along with garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Only a couple of soups are on the menu at any one time, so I’m anxiously awaiting the next appearance of green bean potato bacon soup!
What else we can we expect to see on the menu? Daniel listed a few favorites: roasted corn & tomato soup, tomato basil soup, and chicken corn chowder. “Chicken corn chowder is comfort in a bowl, it transports you to a cozy spot by the fire,” Pipkin sparked, “by way of house smoked chicken, fresh corn, butter, cream and the classic mirepoix trifecta of celery, onions, and carrots.” The heat of Memphis in August has me longing for cooler days, and when they arrive, I know chicken corn chowder will be in my lunch plans.
See you soon at Café Palladio where they’re keeping the made from scratch soups, and the health inspection scores, 💯!