Wednesday, December 15, 2010

French/Italian Onion Soup

Hi All! Sorry for the hiatus - I've gotten many complaints and I hope to be blogging much more often now that the semester is officially over! Consider yourselves warned about the inundation of blog posts that are to come!

Speaking of the end of the semester, it has become a tradition for a few of us in my program to go out for a brewski or two (or three, or four) with one of our beloved Professors, let's call him Charlie. After class last Wednesday Charlie led the way up the street, just off campus, to the new pub-style bar and restaurant on Main Street called Catherine Rooney's. I've been there before for drinks, but never to eat, so I was excited to give it a try.

I was hungry, but not famished, and being that it was about 9pm I wasn't in the mood for anything too heavy, but I knew a salad wouldn't cut it either. So, I decided on one of my favorites: French Onion Soup. This is an Irish place with a pub feel, so their French onion was likely to be a decent choice, if not a great choice. Well, folks, this is my first negative blog post: I was extremely disappointed in the French Onion Soup. 

Main Street has a number of great places to eat, and being a lover of French Onion Soup, there are a few places to pick from that do a great job with the recipe: Iron Hill Brewery, Kildare's, and Deer Park Tavern. Well, I was wrong to include Catherine Rooney's in this list.

First of all, for those of you who don't share my love for this soup, a little background information. The modern day version of this soup came about in 18th century France and is composed of onions, beef broth, a large crouton, and gruyere cheese. The soup is poured in to a crock or ramekin, then a large crouton is added (crouton chosen over bread so that it can handle the broth without getting too mushy), topped with cheese, and placed in the oven or under the broiler in order to melt and lightly brown the cheese.

Secondly, I have a few personal criteria when it comes to French Onion Soup:
1. The cheese must be a mild white cheese (preferably Gruyere) and it must be melted over the edge of the crock.
2. It must be served in a crock (Not in a bowl, sorry Panera Bread).
3. The crouton inside must not be too mushy.
4. The  onion soup needs to be chock full of onions and super tasty.
5. There should never, under any circumstances, be Italian seasoning on the top. (this one is new)

As the waitress carefully reached across the table to place the piping hot crock (#2- check) of soup down in front of me, I noticed the mild white cheese, (#1- check) but after she placed it down I noticed that the cheese was not melted over the edge of the crock (just kidding, #1 - fail!).  Any French Onion Soup Connoisseur like myself knows that one of the best parts, whether you prefer it first or last, is picking the cheese off of the side of the crock and eating it. This crock was clean around the edges. Not a good look, Catherine Rooney's, not a good look. 

Please notice how the edge is cheese-free and the heap of "seasoning"
Being that the cheese was still completely covering the top of the soup, I let that one slide. As always I slid the spoon between the closest edge of the crock and the cheese to make a hole for some of the steam to escape. I tasted the cheese, which was perfectly, slightly browned on top, and it was delicious. As I waited for the soup itself to cool down I took a second bite of the cheese and... what's this? Is this some kind of seasoning? I look down and notice that there is a spice resembling parsley sprinkled on top of the cheese layer. AND I could taste it. With that second bite of cheese I had forgotten whether I was eating French Onion Soup or Chicken Parmigiana. Again, not a good look.

I ate some soup, sipped some water, and decided to try again with a clean palette. Same thing, still left me thinking about Italian food, which is NOT something I want to be thinking about while eating French Onion Soup.

I do not know what the seasoning was. (Here's where my lack of any culinary expertise really shows). But I do know that it is not the normal seasoning used on a French Onion Soup. If it wasn't for this seasoning, which could have been a mistake, it would have been just fine (still not great). 

Catherine Rooney's has a great atmosphere for those of us who are post-undergrads and looking for a fun place to hang out and enjoy a few drinks. But their French Onion soup is confused and confusing. It is safe to say that I will not be ordering the French Onion Soup from Catherine Rooney's again. I'll leave that one to Iron Hill and Kildare's. 

A bit of a side note: Before the soup I ordered a Hot Apple Cider drink, the Spiced Cider to be exact, which was hot apple cider and Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum. Not so good. I think spiked hot apple cider should be left at home where there is enough time and space to be made in a large pot on the stove mixed with whole apples, cinnamon sticks and slices of orange.

Although I am not new to French Onion Soup, I was new to Catherine Rooney's and, as you can see, sometimes an old favorite at a new restaurant is all you need to have a new food experience. And new isn't always better, but no regrets, just lessons learned! And the lesson here is no French Onion or Spiced Cider from Catherine Rooney's.

1 comment:

  1. I recently ate the Catherine Rooney's in Wilmington in Trolley Square. It was my first time eating there and I was pretty disappointed. The nachos were awful and the Irish coffee I ordered wasn't that great. I concur with it being a fun place to hang out and for some drinks, but not so much with the food.