Food & Drink: Soups from grocery stores a mixed bag

Chuck’s, Whole Foods provide tastiest options

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Rachel Pinsky

If You Go

Chuck’s Produce

 Address, phone: 13215 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver, 360-597-2700.

 Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; closed Saturday.

 Soup prices: Small $3.79, medium $4.79, large $7.79.

New Seasons

 Address: 2100B S.E. 164th Ave., Vancouver.

 Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

 Soup prices: Small $3.99, medium $5.99, large $9.99.

Whole Foods

 Address, phone: 815 S.E. 160th Ave., Vancouver, 360-253-4082.

 Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

 Soup prices: Small $3.99, medium $5.99, large $9.99.

During a recent trip to New Seasons, I lingered over the soup island, assessing the different options and wondering if I should get a cup of something warm and comforting.

Another woman named Laurie was doing the same thing.

“Grocery store soup isn’t very good,” she said as she looked at our options, then relented, grabbing a bowl of soup and heading to the cafe.

Hmm, I thought. Could she be right?

That question nagged at me for days, so I recently set out to see if she was right, making stops at Chuck’s Produce and Street Market, New Seasons and Whole Foods, seeking good grab-and-go soup. Here’s what I found.

• CHUCK’S PRODUCE — I started at Chuck’s Produce and Street Market on Mill Plain where I could choose from six different soups: beef chili, Hungarian mushroom, black bean and turkey ham, fish chowder, split pea with ham, and vegetable barley with mushrooms.

I tried the fish chowder and the beef chili in the little plastic tasting cups for sampling. I followed up with a medium-size split pea with ham and a small vegetable barley with mushrooms. On another day, I tried the Hungarian mushroom soup.

My overall impression was that these are hearty, old-fashioned soups that taste like they’re from grandma’s kitchen. This is food that fills the belly and sticks to the ribs; soup that will get you through the long, cold nights of winter.

• NEW SEASONS — When I returned to the soup island where Laurie had made her observation, the store offered three choices: chicken turmeric, broccoli cheddar and roasted tomato.

Ingredients are listed on the lids of the soup pots. In addition, there is a warning for people with food allergies that the soup has come into contact with potential allergens.

I tried all three soups in the sampling cups. All of them were light broths with some bits of things in them. My favorite was chicken turmeric, which had a flavorful broth and chunks of sweet potatoes, though I would have liked more of them. My least favorite was the broccoli cheddar with a mass of pulverized broccoli swirling around the cup that wasn’t appetizing to look at and didn’t taste good.

If you want light broth-y soups that you could sip from a mug, this is your place.

• WHOLE FOODS — Here I found the most variety with six soups on the menu — mushroom barley, turkey chili, chicken tortilla, chicken penne, roasted tomato and New England clam chowder.

Like New Seasons, the store offers a list of ingredients and a warning note about allergens, but they made it a little tougher to sample things with soup spoons in the cafe and no tasting cups available.

I tried the chicken penne, New England clam chowder, and mushroom barley. The chicken penne was chicken noodle soup with penne noodles instead of the traditional egg noodles. The New England clam chowder had generous knobs of clam swirling around a creamy broth. The mushroom barley soup had a dark, meaty broth studded with barley, mushrooms, carrot and celery. The mushrooms seemed to come from a jar, which was disappointing. Overall, I liked that Whole Foods offered a good variety of soups with balanced flavors that weren’t aggressively salty.

I don’t know if Laurie would approve, but I think you can find tasty soup at the grocery store. But I will admit this journey has taught me something about eating grab-and-go soup.

First, how are we supposed to eat soup with those little plastic spoons? Plastic cutlery design has not advanced much from the sporks handed out at my school cafeteria in the 1980s. And then there’s the challenge of slurping our soup at a desk or in a car.

In my mind, soup should be consumed — with proper utensils — in a comfy chair by a roaring fire. But, as a wise man once told me (OK, it was Wally Wakeman from Brother Ass Brewing), “Life is like that sometimes.”


Rachel Pinsky can be emailed at couveeats@gmail.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @couveeats.