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The soup scoop in Montpelier


Published October 25, 2006 at 2:54 p.m.

That's Life Soup in Montpelier has been open for more than 45 days, and as far as host and business consultant Mark Belcher can figure, they haven't made the same soup twice. That's more than 100 different concoctions, including "Cream of Mmmmmmushroom with Gorganzola," "Ridiculously Healthy Ukrainian Borscht" and "Braised Beef with Onions and Ziti," all accompanied by slices of baguette and butter. "French Grille Sandwiches" and salads are also on the menu. Beverages include beer from Montpelier's Rock Art Brewery and Grown-up Soda, otherwise known as GuS, which comes in serious flavors such as Dry Meyer Lemon and Dry Crimson Grape. That's Life Soup is open weekdays, and serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Owner Pam Root aims to have "food for meat people and for veggie people." Asked about the full flavor of the "Vegan Seven Bean Soup," she confides, "I don't cook bland." The "Chicken with Lemon and Orzo" is a testament to that - the just-so lemony broth is chock-full of irregular-sized chunks of white and dark meat that clearly came from a whole chicken; the garnish of minced parsley harmonizes perfectly with the citrus. One tasty salad is a combination of mixed greens, roasted red peppers, manchego cheese and spiced nuts in wasabi vinaigrette.

Archived menus from September describe each soup in loving and sometimes humorous detail. The "Lamb and Barley" reads, "The kitchen smelled incredible yesterday as I made the rich double stock of beef and lamb . . ." "Sweet Potato with Lime Jalapeño Cream" claims to be ". . . sweet, hot and tart. Reminds me of a friend." The "Tomato and Israeli Couscous" gets more opinionated. The vegetarian blend "embellished with lots of garlic, mint, cumin and coriander" is "very political . . . promotes clear thinking."

The décor is just as purposeful as the menu descriptions. Root, who met Belcher when they both worked at Ben & Jerry's, was inspired by the Arts & Crafts period. Frank Lloyd Wright would feel right at home here, with the warm wood, glass lamps, and the non-matching cloth napkins on each table. A bookshelf with a few cookbooks stands between the bathroom and the drink cooler, and a complement of copper pots are arrayed above the stove. The whole experience - service, food and ambiance - is best summed up as "charming." Just don't get too attached to any one soup.