Last week, the two tastiest things I ate came out of to-go containers. They were Moroccan sweet potato soup and green chile macaroni and cheese, which I ate off the hatchback shelf of my car while standing in a parking lot, pausing between bites to appreciate the clear midwinter sky. A cold breeze was blowing, but as I spooned up soup and wiped my chin with a crinkled paper napkin, I felt warm and satisfied.
This yummy, comforting food had emerged from a window in the 1960s-era Airstream trailer that houses Slurp, the new “itinerant eatery” parked on Galisteo Street, just across the from the State Capitol parking deck. Though Slurp’s home is a trailer, it isn’t actually mobile — its location is semipermanent, but it’s also prime. Situated a short walk from the Roundhouse and the Bataan and Pera buildings, it’s an easy lunch destination for government workers and other downtown professionals. Tourists who dare to wander away from the Plaza might meander by, and many may welcome a lunchtime alternative to tacos and burritos.
Slurp co-owners Jean-Luc Salles, Frances Salles, Rebecca Chastenet, and Carlos Briceno have done an admirable job of converting the interior of their iconic Airstream into a commercial kitchen. They cook up three big pots of soup there each day and also bake croissants, focaccia, and a selection of sweets. Food trailers and trucks in other cities across the country use Twitter and Facebook to keep fans abreast of their current location; since Slurp doesn’t move, it uses the social networking sites to broadcast each day’s soup selections.
The fact that everything here is served to go translates to a lot of container waste. Slurp compensates by using recycled paper and containers that are both compostable and petroleum-free. The owners source many of their ingredients locally — vegetables from Gemini Farm and eggs from Flying E Ranch, for example. They’ve plugged into a power pole at the end of the parking lot, which allows them to run their kitchen off electricity rather than a cacophonous diesel generator.
For the record, the second-best thing I ate last week was a rich, thick, mildly spicy curried cauliflower soup, which my sister and I shared as we hovered around the trunk of her car. We sopped up the last of it with the hefty wedge of focaccia that accompanies every bowl of Slurp’s soup. Don’t let the bread’s plain-Jane looks fool you; I’ve had more glamorous-looking breads in swankier environs that had far, far less flavor. Slurp’s has an easy chewiness, a substantial crumb, and a hearty savory quality boosted by a moderate sprinkling of coarse salt. Somehow, after all is slurped and done, you might have (or find) room for dessert, like a bread pudding studded with raisins and drowning in a milky-sweet, buttery caramel sauce.
Slurp opens early, serving coffee, croissants, and a tortilla Española. Soup’s on by 11 a.m. and is served until 3 p.m. This is a workweek affair, so plan accordingly: on Saturday or Sunday, no soup for you! The butternut squash soup made a splash at the Souper Bowl last month; it’s usually available on Fridays, so mark your calendars (or check Facebook or Twitter).
The green chile stew and tortilla soup, both chockfull of tender, flavorful chicken, were satisfying in a chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of way — silver bullets from a silver bullet. But despite emerald nuggets of chile in every spoonful, the stew had no heat, and though almost an entire wilted chipotle floated in our cup, this held true for the tortilla soup, too. The vegan soups we sampled were underseasoned and acidic, and they suffered from a strange consistency that was simultaneously watery and unpleasantly pulpy. We found several seeds in our roasted red pepper soup.
Slurp opened in November, so the owners have had a few months to work out the kinks in their hearty, cold-weather repertoire. I can’t wait to see what happens come summer, when they can ply us with cool, refreshing selections and use the warmweather bounty to experiment with new flavors. The parking lot could easily become, not unlike the farmers market, a summertime place to see and be seen. Hey, I’ll eat standing up behind someone’s car any day if it means enjoying a relaxed, affordable meal under a cerulean Santa Fe sky.