Taste Test Tuesday: Tomato Soup
Just in case you weren’t aware, April is National Grilled Cheese Month. Our food editor interviewed four local chefs, who told us about their fantasy grilled cheeses here, and a couple chefs suggested pairing their magnificent creations with the obvious choice—a bowl of tomato soup. Just the thought of this perfect combination gave us quite the hankering for tomato soup, so we decided to try five varieties in our second Taste Test Tuesday.
A few of our staff members spooned and slurped our savory soups, all blindly, of course, and voted on each one—paying special attention to the appearance, aroma, texture and flavor of each one. Several of us discovered some new favorites during this week’s test, but all of us found out one very important fact: not all tomato soup is created equally. Here are the results:
1. Press 626 Café & Wine Bar | Overall Score: 7
626 W Olney Rd., Norfolk
A. Canned crushed tomato color and look, very chunky and almost resembles a chili. Non-appealing smell and a very strange aftertaste that I can’t quite identify, but it’s not a tomato. Flavor not developed enough—seems like the ingredients were just thrown in a pot and heated for a few minutes. Score: 2
B. Chunky appearance and texture with dark red color. Tastes more like vegetable soup but heavy on the tomato. Flavor is kind of bland like soup out of a can. Score: 2
C. Dark, chunky with large pieces of what looked like spinach. Had a spicy flavor I could not recognize, strong spice smell. Score: 1.5
D. Much darker than the rest of the soups and extremely chunky. Vinegary, smoky flavor with more heat at the finish than I care for in a tomato soup. Not crazy about the texture. Not a fan. Score: 1.5
Although we weren’t the biggest fans of their tomato soup, Press 626 does an outstanding job of creating an Award Winning Grilled Cheese. Try it during National Grilled Cheese month (or any time!)
2. Carrot Tree Williamsburg | Overall Score: 12
1782 Jamestown Rd., Williamsburg.
A. Medium-hued orange appearance with flecks of herbs. I like the smooth texture—pretty rich and silky but not sure if I could handle a ton of it. Must have lots of heavy cream. Nice appealing smell but definitely think it could have a more prominent tomato flavor. Overall, I could easily eat a bowl of this soup. Score: 4
B. Thick and creamy texture with mild flavor. Golden orange in appearance, unlike traditional tomato soup but excellent complexity. Score: 3.5
C. Color of SpaghettiOs, lots of green flakes. Smooth, but a bit thick. Not much flavor—bland with little to no smell. Score: 1.5
D. Creamy in appearance with bits of herbs (basil or oregano, perhaps). A little thicker than I’d prefer. More vegetable flavor than tomato. Pretty good. Score: 3
3. The Grilled Cheese Bistro | Overall Score: 12
345 Granby St., Norfolk
A. A redder appearance with a pleasing tomato scent. The texture was smooth with some chewable pieces of vegetables, but it was a bit thin and watery for me. It had a fairly developed tomato flavor and a slight spice at the end, which I enjoyed. Score: 3.5
B. Thin texture and consistency with a dark orange color. Bold flavor with a spicy kick that hits the back of the palate. Interesting. Score: 3
C. The appearance of this soup is not inviting, although it is smooth and creamy with a bit of spiciness. Spicy smell with little tomato. Score: 2
D. Smooth texture, tomato smell. Definite basil hint. A little heat on the finish. Nice flavor. Tiny red flecks; maybe chili powder? Score: 3.5
4. Cobalt Grille | Overall Score: 14
1624 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach
A. Solid red/orange color and smell. Shredded cheese is a nice touch, but the croutons got soggy quickly. Good texture, but the flavor is a bit off for my perfect tomato soup—perhaps too much garlic. Though it does get better and better with each spoonful I take. Score: 3.5
B. Deep orange-red color with nice, creamy consistency. Smoky-bold flavor with croutons and cheese mixed in. Not very tomato tasting but interesting flavor. Score: 3.5
C. Thick with chunks of bread cubes and some other pieces that looked similar to shredded mozzarella cheese. Thick with an unknown spice and nice tomato smell. Score: 3
D. Croutons and a bit of cheese make this soup stand out among the rest. It’s chunky…but not too chunky. Nice, smoky flavor, which makes it comforting. A little salty for my taste, but it would go perfectly with a grilled cheese. Score: 4
5. Winner: Fellini’s | Overall Score: 14.5
3910 Colley Ave., Norfolk
A. I love fragrance and the brighter red hue—like a pretty/orange fiery summer sun. This had a ton of flavor. It may be a bit heavy on the salt, but lots of tomato flavor and a great smooth, silky texture. There is no doubt my grilled cheese pieces could take a very long swim in this luscious soup. Score: 4.5
B. Mellow tomato flavor with smooth and creamy texture. Golden orange color, Slight spice and hint of parmesan cheese. Very comforting. Score: 4
C. Darker in color with a grainy look, thick texture, burnt parmesan cheese taste and very little tomato flavor with a slight sour finish. Score: 1.5
D. Creamy texture. Basil strands rather than the traditional flakes. Love the flavor! It’s salty but not overpowering. I want more of this. Score: 4.5
Read about Fellini’s Barbecue Chicken Pizza, our food editor’s choice for Best California-Style Pizza.
Want to know who makes the best doughnuts in Hampton Roads? See the results from our first Taste Test Tuesday here.
Have an idea of something we should taste test? Comment below!