Yes, soup for you
New delivery service ‘puts the pedal to the kettle’
The next time a guy on a bike drops off a pint of Bidwell Borscht or Monkey Face Mulligatawny on your doorstep, be sure to thank Regis Philbin.
Well, thank Dori Moura and Sally Keenan—owners of Cycle City Soup Company—first, but Philbin also had a little something to do with it. Had it not been for a shared love of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, the two women may have never met and gone on to start one of Chico’s most innovative new ways to enjoy a meal.
“I was obsessed with the Millionaire show, back when Regis was the host and it was on every night, and I would talk about it and how bad I wanted to be on it on the air,” said Moura, a former on-air radio personality at KALF and The Point. “One day I saw Sally’s name [on the TV screen] and that she lived in Red Bluff, and put out a call over the air that I wanted to meet her.”
It worked, and the women struck up a friendship through a series of on-air interviews. They kept in touch and became fast friends when Keenan (who won $64,000 on the show) moved to Chico a few years later. Eventually, they started talking about going into business together, doing something that would capitalize on Keenan’s kitchen skills and Moura’s background in marketing and writing. What they came up with was homemade soup, delivered to customers once a week, by bicycle.
The best way to describe how the Soup Charmer (Keenan) and the Soupinatrix (Moura) operate is to walk through the women’s week. They take orders up until Friday afternoon, then go to the farmers’ market on Saturday to buy the ingredients.
On Sunday they cook and package the soup in a commercial kitchen space and prepare the orders, with some assistance from Moura’s eldest daughter, Aislinn Martin. Tuesdays, the soup is packed into carts and delivered by an electric motor-assisted bicycle all over Chico. Until recently Keenan’s son, Tim (aka The Soupinator), was their sole delivery cyclist, but rapidly expanding business and the desire to extend their service area led to a second bike.
The women use fresh, local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and the soup is delivered in recyclable containers. They credit the versatility of soups as a main reason they chose to focus on it, as there are ingredients for some type of soup ready and available year round. Furthermore, certain soups can be hot, cold, hearty, creamy, sweet, chunky or prepared any other way. Cycle City has even offered a dessert soup with cherries called Cherry Street Jubilee.
“Plus, everyone loves soup.” Keenan added.
The Cycle City crew also finds inspiration while at the farmers’ market: “Several times we’ve had something planned for the week ahead and then gone to the market and find something completely wonderful and unexpected,” Moura said. “We’ve gotten to know a lot of the farmers and are always learning what new ingredients will be available, and when.”
For this reason, Cycle City’s menu changes weekly and offers three soups—a meat soup, a vegetarian soup and a vegan soup. They have also more recently begun exploring soups geared toward the emerging Paleo diet. Examples from each of the first three categories include the Big Albondigas (Mexican meatball soup with beef, rice, mint, parsley, cayenne pepper, tomatoes and seasonal greens in a chicken broth), Cornhasset Chowder (sweet corn off the cob simmered in organic milk with red bell pepper, russet potatoes and fresh thyme) and Cedar Grove (vegan sausage, tomatoes, fennel and a splash of white wine in vegetable broth).
Keenan and Moura both agree the Silver Dollar, a vegetarian Hungarian-mushroom-style soup, is their most popular so far. Soups average $10-$11 dollars for a quart, which is enough for two large, meal-sized bowls.
Cycle City also offers baked goods, some dreamt up by Keenan ($2 Accidental Brownies were featured recently) and some from Chico Baking Company. They also recently added fresh-ground coffee from Cal Java ($13.95 per pound for a blend developed for Cycle City, other flavors also available) and garlic asiago breadsticks from Great Harvest Bread Company. Visit www.cyclecitysoup.com to make an order.