Soup is the ultimate comfort food. It can warm body and soul on a cold winter night or provide a light, satisfying meal on a sunny summer day. When we first opened our restaurant more than 25 years ago, we knew two things for certain: we had to have soup on the menu, and it had to be great.
Creating A Signature Soup
So our chef went to work, creating a signature item that relied on ingredients native to Appalachia and the South. The result was a delicious soup that could be enjoyed in any season, as a starter or a meal in itself: our famous Southern Style Corn Chowder. Creamy and full of flavor, it was a hit from the very first bowl. We then paired it with our legendary corn fritters and served it daily with every meal at lunch and dinner. Locals, visitors, and regulars have been going crazy over it ever since.
To this day, many Old Mill Restaurant diners tell us they came to see us specifically to satisfy a craving for our Chowder, and some have even driven hours to do so! In addition to the countless portions we ladle into cups and bowls for visitors to our restaurant, even more leaves the premises in quart-sized takeout containers. When you tally all that up, 120 gallons of freshly made Southern Corn Chowder are being enjoyed daily here at The Old Mill!
Recreating A Classic At Home
With diners visiting from all over the country and all around the world, our Corn Chowder fans soon began asking for a home version. We simply received too many requests to ignore, and in 2002, we began working on a home version in earnest. Capturing the beloved restaurant flavor in an easy-to-prepare product that would be treasured by both beginning and experienced home cooks proved to be quite a challenge.
Old Mill Historian and Marketing Team Member, Jimmy Proffitt, remembers it well. “A dry mix proved to be the best option. There were a lot of versions, and all of us on staff did a lot of taste tests. It took over two years to perfect. When we all felt it matched the restaurant version for flavor and texture, we went with it. We knew we had a winner after it appeared in our 2005 Christmas Catalog. The customers loved it!”
New Restaurant, New Favorites
The “souper” success of our Corn Chowder loomed large when we opened The Pottery House Cafe in 2002. All of us were well aware that the soups we created for the Cafe would have to match the fabled reputation of The Old Mill’s yummy favorite! And we’re proud to say, we rose to the occasion. Like The Old Mill’s Chowder, the Cafe’s soups were a hit right from the start. The Loaded Baked Potato is the most popular, and rivals our Corn Chowder for diehard fans. In addition to the Loaded Baked Potato soup, Tomato Basil and French Onion soups are served daily, and have developed their own followings. The tantalizing soup line-up is rounded out with a rotating Soup Of The Day option that includes favorites like Broccoli Cheddar and Creamy Vegetable.
As soon as the Cafe opened, we began receiving requests for home versions of its signature soups as well. Making the most of the experience gained from creating a dry mix for our Chowder, we took on the task. There were still plenty of versions and plenty of taste tests, but we managed to perfect those wonderful restaurant flavors in home versions sooner rather than later. The rave reviews we received from customers inspired us to further expand our home soup line under our Farmhouse Kitchen brand. Most make 8 cups (2 quarts) or more of soup.
Something For Everyone
With so many soups to choose from, you may not know where to start. If you can’t make it to our restaurants to try our soups before you order one our soup mixes, our Signature Soup Sampler is a great choice. It includes our Corn Chowder, Loaded Baked Potato, Broccoli Cheddar, and Creamy Vegetable mixes in sampler sized packages, each of which makes four cups of soup. Our Winter Soup Gift Set is also an excellent option. It includes full-sized packages of both our Corn Chowder and Loaded Baked Potato soups, plus four fresh-baked bread bowls from our bakery in an insulated Old Mill tote.
Advice From An Expert
Old Mill Restaurant Manager Tim Fulton is a man who knows his soups. Every year, he sources and supervises the use of more than 37,000 pounds of potatoes, 15,000 pounds of corn, 15,000 pounds of onions, 2,250 gallons of half-and-half, and 1,600 gallons of clam juice to create Old Mill Corn Chowder. Tim’s impressed by the many ways home cooks “soup up” our convenient mixes by adding meats such as glazed or country ham, sausage, or smoked chicken, or seafood, like oysters or shrimp.
Tim has some advice for all soup-makers, whether they’re using one of our mixes or cooking up a soup from scratch. “The secret to a great soup is in the simmer. No matter what kind of soup you’re making, let it simmer for as long as you can. That’s what transforms all those ingredients into comfort in a bowl.”
January Is National Soup Month.